Devotionals
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August 25, 2017, 5:00 AM

What would your life look like if you oriented it around loving other people?


Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

In a culture littered with dishonesty, hype, and confusion, people are crying out for leadership they can trust. They are looking for people who walk with integrity and embody the message they proclaim. Without trust being present in our relationships, influence and impact are incapable of taking root. When trust has been eroded people hesitate to respond. Instead, the other person calculates the walls to erect and the boundaries to set out in terms of connection. People long to trust, but, living in a broken world, their default is to hesitate and withhold. They silently wonder the other person’s motives and whether they practice what they preach. They halt in their tracks, unwilling to follow someone they don’t trust. Distance and disconnection define the relationship.

 

With this being the case, there has never been a bigger opportunity to make an impact in this world and fill the void of humble, selfless, and outward focused leadership. We leverage the influence we’ve been given by serving others rather than trying to make a name for ourselves. We consider those around us before ourselves. We pay attention to the needs that present themselves and respond with love. Love is simply looking out for the good of another. We do this not to please others or for them to think well of us. Our motives aren’t for applause, power, recognition or fame. What drives our words and actions is that people would see Christ in us and be drawn to the love of their Savior. Everything we do needs to bring His image to bear on the world around us. Our lives should look like Jesus who laid His life down so we could experience a full life and never feel the sting of death.

 

The only way this is possible is abiding in Christ and staying connected to Him. His love fuels our love for every person that crosses our path. Knowing we are loved completely by Him enables us to not seek the love and approval from another person. This allows us to love and serve others without condition. The ability to love others is not complicated. It doesn’t require education or training. Love doesn’t care about the size of our platform or how many social media followers we have. It’s not reserved for some elite few. Everyone has the power to love and serve others. Often, we get so caught up in our purpose and calling as believers. We obsess over it. We long for clarity and when it supposedly doesn’t come we don’t move and we become disheartened.

 

In essence, we become paralyzed by purpose. But, here’s the thing: we don’t find our purpose by obsessing about it, but by orienting our life around other people. The excuses for why we don’t use our influence has to stop. At some point, our lack of leadership becomes bad stewardship. Everyday leadership begins today. Don’t get bogged down by what you should’ve done in the past, focus on what you can do today to make a difference.  How do you suffer from destination thinking when it comes to your leadership capacity? Are you paralyzed by your purpose? What would your life look like if you oriented it around loving other people?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, may I live a life of integrity and purpose. Lord the calling You have placed on my shoulders is simply to pursue Your heart while loving and serving others. Jesus help me to  lead in such a way that people see You in everything I do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 24, 2017, 5:00 AM

How are you setting the tone for critical conversations to occur or be avoided?


Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

At the college I attended, every freshman was required to take a speech class. When I first heard the news, I was a bit apprehensive because I didn’t do well with crowds and I especially speaking in front of them. The news got worse.  My professor informed me that he would be videotaping our speeches and sitting down with us afterwards to dissect them. Knowing all eyes were going to be on me, I buckled down and practiced non-stop. I rehearsed any chance I got, practicing in front of the mirror and even in the stairwell of the dorm.  When the day finally arrived, I felt like I was prepared and ready. I stood behind the podium, took a deep breath and just went for it.

 

The next 3-5 minutes were a complete blur, but I didn’t pass out and everyone clapped after I was done and, because of that, I felt like I did an awesome job.  However, the replay told a different story. I looked on in horror as I watched myself fidget with my papers, my feet nervously tapping against the floor, and my eyes looking like a deer in headlights. I lost track of how many times I used the words “um,” “you know” and “stuff like that.” My professor gently said there was ‘room for improvement.’ That day in speech class I got a firsthand look of what it was like to be on the other side of me. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pretty picture. 

 

Pause for a moment and ask yourself: what’s it like to be on the other side of you? When someone approaches you today, what will they encounter? How are you setting the tone for these conversations to occur or be avoided? If something doesn’t go your way at work, what will your response be and how will others receive it? When your kids don’t listen or decide to act up will you act out in anger? Will you be more concerned with their actions or their heart? When people follow you, where do they end up? 

 

Let’s take it a step further and not just think about today. How would people describe you? Do you tend to be judgmental? Do you make people feel less than? Does your demeanor give off the impression of being closed off? Are you quick to speak but slow to listen? Are others scared to tell you bad news because they know you’ll worry yourself sick? Just like with my speech, sometimes our perception of things isn’t reality. Sometimes we just don’t know how we come across. It’s not that we want to be a difficult person. No one desires that label. We all have our blind spots. We also tend to give ourselves grace with our weaknesses and shortcomings while expecting others to be perfect. We embrace grace for ourselves but pronounce judgment on all the difficult people who cross our path.

 

So how do we come face-to-face with how we really are? First it begins by asking God to search our heart. This can be a scary venture. Scripture has the ability to reveal where we are resistant to faith as well as exposing our heart. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Tucked away in that verse is a promise. Scripture can change us. It can make us competent and equipped for every good work. Christ’s heart can become our own.  But, we don’t just stop there. We surround ourselves with others who can spur us on towards growth. We must be known by others and give them access to speak into our lives.

 

Every one of us needs a few people to tell us the truth about our heart, point out our weaknesses, and check our blind spots. As difficult as it might be to hear, you need to ask a few close friends and family members – what is like to be on the other side of me?  Today take a moment to look in the mirror. You might not like what you see at first, but it is the beginning point towards change. Only through vulnerability and transparency can true heart change occur and those critical conversations take place. How are you setting the tone for critical conversations to occur or be avoided? What are you doing with the influence you’ve been given?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to ponder today what it’s like to be on the other side of me. Lord I desire for my words and actions to serve as a reflection of Your heart. May Your Spirit speak into those parts of me that have rough edges. Jesus soften them with Your love so that I can be transformed to bring You glory. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 23, 2017, 5:00 AM

God asks for confession so that we may release our sins to Him. 


Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

For the first time in history, we are living in a world saturated with technology edited and filtered to perfection.  Social media can be fun, but it can also be dangerous.  With each photo on Instagram or status update on Facebook, we are creating an image of how we want the world to see us.  Naturally we want to show our “best selves” to the world.  But the truth is that if we exposed what is behind the filtered photograph, we may see a very different picture.  Our culture does not place a high value on vulnerability.  We edit and we filter and we often create appearances that cover the truth of who we really are. 

 

Being vulnerable simply means to be exposed.  It is uncovering the truth about who we are and what we are struggling with.  This does not mean airing our dirty laundry on social media or to anyone who will listen, but it does mean trusting God and His faith family enough to be real about our struggles. From an early age we are taught not to be vulnerable.  In fact, our culture often glorifies being the opposite of vulnerable.  We are rewarded when we show strength, not weakness.  Basically, the world wants us to have it all together, hold it all together, and document our amazing ability to keep it all together on social media!  This societal pressure can make us guarded and protective of our real selves.

 

But God asks us to do just the opposite.  He asks us to acknowledge our sin, pour out our hearts to Him, and confess our sins to one another. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 We can live in secret shame and try to hide our sin from others, or we can do what God asks us to do and be vulnerable.  As we learn to walk with God and trust Him, our vulnerability will increase.  We can be vulnerable precisely because He can be trusted.  The vulnerable acts of acknowledgment and confession are the first steps in moving from shame to healing.  Confession does not necessarily have to be admitting our sins to God or others, but it can also mean talking about something that causes embarrassment or shame. 

 

Sometimes our greatest shame stems from the sin of others. God wants to make us whole.  But unless we are honest about the whole of who we are, He cannot change us.  Jesus did not wait to die on the cross until we had it all together, He died while we were still sinners.  We must believe that He is more powerful than our shame or any consequence that might come from telling our truths. No one likes to feel exposed or weak, but as we risk being vulnerable in the way that God asks us to be, our trust in Him will deepen.   God takes the shadow of our shame and shines a light on it.  As we share our secrets, when we find the bravery to confess to God and to each other, secrets lose their power over us and God reclaims His proper place in our lives.

 

It is scary to risk being vulnerable with others, but God wants to use our vulnerability as an avenue for healing.  Can you think of an area of your life that God may be calling you to confess to someone in His family that you trust?  Our identity is not found in our sin, but in Christ alone.  God asks for confession so that we may release our sins to Him.  Otherwise, we hold onto sin and its load becomes a heavy weight to carry.  What do you need to unload today?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, I want You to have the power in my life, not my my secrets.  Lord help me to believe and live like You are more powerful than my secrets.  Increase my bravery to confess where there needs to be confession and to trust where my trust is weak. Jesus thank you for giving me Your family to walk beside me as I confront sin in my life, but most of all, thank you for giving me Yourself.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 22, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where do you need to “lean in” and respond to the nudges you feel to love God and love others?


“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

 

Jesus summed up the entire law with the simple command of love God and love others. In this single statement, Jesus revealed humanity’s greatest need as well as the highest call for us as Christians. Yet, for whatever reason, whether it be fear, selfishness or just plain laziness, this weighty issue of faith sometimes does not sit well with our stomach. Being independently dependent upon Jesus Christ involves understanding the true source for sustainability in our walks. We must be fueled by the love of God. There is nothing else strong enough to motivate us to care for one another by extending a hand.

 

If we are shallow in our walks with God we will continue to be shallow with others. Our willingness to “go there” and invest in the lives of others is an expression of the health and vitality of our walks with God. Like Christ, we must be willing to move into relationships and help those that are in our sphere of influence. It is our responsibility to engage, invest, and encourage them. Helping someone walk with God requires taking the time to get to know him or her. This can only occur if we are willing to lean in, listen to their story, and try to understand their heart.  Yet, the first step is making room in our own lives to know more of God’s heart. Inviting Him into our heart allows us to show the heart of God to others as we enter their world.

 

Through our attempts to love others, God stretches us, teaches us, and reveals to us more of His character. The depth we crave in our walk with Him develops as our hearts slowly become His own. Giving ourselves away is the most powerful way to live. It is the cure for a lot of the problems we face in our individualistic culture.  Matthew 16:25 reminds us that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for God will find it”. This takes place by following a simple command: love God and love others.  Where do you need to “lean in” and respond to the nudges you feel to love God and love others?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, allow me to take the call to love others seriously. Lord enable me to see that my willingness to help others means nothing if it isn’t grounded in love. Jesus may the love I extended to others come from the overflow of love You have given me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 21, 2017, 5:00 AM

Good conversations build and strengthen people, they never destroy.


We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

The Bible tells us that, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”  Quite honestly, sometimes I can’t believe that God trusts His image with people.  People are crazy!  I mean, does He see what people are saying on His behalf on street signs and social media? Of course He does.  That was an obvious and rhetorical question.  A question prompted by the repeated observation of Christians trying to make a valid point in an invalid way.  I am guilty of this too.  However, I am learning that the way we say things is just as important as what we say.

 

The way we present ourselves and the way we talk about God is crucial. The fate of people hang in the balance.  The way we speak truth is either repelling or alluring.  It is rarely, if ever, neutral. Not only is it important to know what we believe, but it is important to learn how to communicate our beliefs with grace and wisdom.  When it comes to hot-button issues in our culture, we are to be wise in how we have conversations and communicate God’s truth.  “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” Colossians 4:5-6.

 

Full of grace and seasoned with salt.  We do not have to be an expert in theology or even skilled in conversation to be full of grace.  What does it mean to “season with salt”?  To answer this we need to consider how salt was used in biblical times.  It was not your modern-day, refined table salt.  Salt was used to preserve the life of fresh fish and vegetables so they wouldn’t spoil.  It was also used for healing as unrefined salt has beneficial trace minerals.  Seasoning a conversation with salt means that we are to be an instrument of life and healing.  I don’t think we can do this by having a heated “conversation” over social media.  We need to have difficult, grace-filled conversations face to face and eye to eye and always in the context of a relationship.

 

Taking stands on issues is not more important than the people living them.  Our only goal should be to help people know Christ. Instead of using the Bible to destroy or prove a point, use it as a basis of conversation within the framework of a relationship.  Learn to ask good questions of those who live differently than you (open-ended ones are best).  Be willing to listen more than you speak.  Understand that you can learn something even if you vehemently disagree with someone. 

 

Good conversations build and strengthen people, they never destroy. Our words should affirm the truth about God but also the value of the people He created. One of my favorite things about God is that He has not dumped the entire box of His Truth on my lap at once.  He has revealed Himself, little by little, in the context of our relationship.  He has loved me through my dumb choices and outright disobedience.  He even died for me while I was still a sinner.  Truly believing this truth will change the way we speak to and love others.

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you for sending your son to die for me while I was still a sinner.  Lord thank you for loving me, a sinner, now.  Jesus please give me wisdom when I speak to others about You.  Help me to pause before I speak and ask for Your help.  I want to be better at conversations because I want people to know You better.  In your name Jesus.  Amen.


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