Devotions
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August 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

Perfect strength is found in dependence on God


Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

We all have weaknesses. None of us are immune to struggles. This statement is often received in two vastly different ways. There are those who relate immeasurable more to weakness than strength, some to the point where they define themselves by their weaknesses. This mindset, where all you can see is your faults and shortcomings, leads to despair. On the other side, there are those that define their lives by a lack of weakness. They never want anyone to see a chink in their armor. They run themselves ragged keep up the charade of invincibility. Pride begins to creep in and the ultimate end of pride is also despair.

 

Neither approach is how God calls us to respond to our weaknesses. Falling for the cultural trap of ignoring, covering up or overcompensating for our weaknesses has kept us from experiencing God’s strength in our lives. Weakness is any place in our lives where our strength is not enough. If you feel boxed in, pushed down, held back, beat up or spread thin, you’ve collided with your weakness. Weakness can be spiritual, intellectual, emotional, circumstantial, relational and physical. Even the strongest of us has weaknesses. In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul addresses a few issues taking place in the church of Corinth. Some individuals in leadership positions within the community were bashing Paul and boasting about themselves. Unlike the “weak” Paul, these “Super Apostles” were strong leaders worth following, or at least this is the message they were attempting to sell to others.

 

How does Paul respond to these charges against him? Rather than listing off his accomplishments and making much of himself, Paul speaks about a “thorn in his flesh” a place where Paul’s strength isn’t enough. He doesn’t shy away from his struggles, but admits his weakness. Paul’s “thorn”, his weakness, was difficult to handle and he was desperate for it to be gone. Paul was at the end of himself. He was tired of the struggle, he was out of options, and he was desperate. So Paul pursued God three separate times asking God to do what only God can do, take this place of weakness away. God answers Paul’s prayer but not in the way one would expect. This answer was not what Paul was looking for, it’s not what he wanted, and it’s not what he was asking for. Instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul grace. He tells Paul that His power is made perfect in weakness.

 

Instead of being bitter and jaded, Paul begins to boast and openly acknowledges his weakness. If the power of Christ would rest upon his weakness, Paul was willing to expose his struggles. He understood that when others saw him being strong in his weakness that Christ would be seen as strong. The same is true for us. God gets the glory when we are willing to let Him be strong in our weakness. Weakness leads us to the point of desperate dependence on God. Without weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities we will be, just like Paul, prone to think we’ve got everything under control and don’t need any help. Without weakness and difficulties we are all prone to become prideful.

 

The grace of God in the midst of our weakness is that we are brought to a point of dependence on His strength. Perfect strength is found in dependence on God. His power is fully realized, fully seen and fully experienced in our weaknesses. God wants to be strong for us in ways that we could never be strong for ourselves. Let’s stop defining our lives by weakness or by a lack of weakness and instead let’s define our lives by dependence. Where do you need to confront and admit your weakness before you can begin to depend on God?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, where I am weak, You are strong. Lord rather than hide from or define myself by my weaknesses, help me to freely admit my struggles. Jesus give me the faith to depend on You for every circumstance that I face. Show Your strength in ways I could never imagine or hope for. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 16, 2017, 5:00 AM

When people follow you, where do they end up?



Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

Everybody is leading somebody somewhere. Yet, we rarely stop and consider where people end up when they follow in our footsteps. Contrary to what we might think, leadership isn’t reserved for an elite few or determined by a job title or position. How we see the world, and our part in it, determines our willingness to take action. Leadership isn’t a destination we arrive at, but rather it’s something that gets formed in us in every moment of every day. We all have been given influence and have the power to make a difference in this world. Opportunities to influence are all around us. During the normal course of our day, we must pay attention or we’ll miss them.

 

Understanding the significance of the small things is something we underestimate.   Because they aren’t seen on a big stage we don’t think they carry any weight. But, they do. The small things matter. These “as you go” moments of influence serve as the building blocks of leadership. Big things are just a pile of little things done really well over time. The pile begins to grow when we continually do what we can with what we have where we are. The reality is that God doesn’t need us to do “big things” for Him. He would manage just find on His own. Yet, through His love for us, God graciously invites us to have a role in the bigger story He is telling in this world. We get to play our part in making His name known. By displaying humility, obedience, and faith, we can boldly step into opportunities that are presented to us.

 

We find our calling by leveraging our lives for the benefit of others. The weight of His image is seen in us today while the weight of His image is seen in them tomorrow. This type of investment can’t be done at arm’s length. It’s impossible to lead from a distance. Impact only happens through investment. As we pursue Christ with abandon and try to reflect His character, people encounter the love of God. Everybody is leading somebody somewhere. When people follow you, where do they end up?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to not take the influence I’ve been given lightly. Rather than being focused on making a name for myself, may my words and actions bring glory to Your name. Lord open my eyes to the opportunities to love and serve others that happen as I go about my normal day. Jesus give me the courage and boldness to respond when I see a need. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 15, 2017, 5:00 AM

Is there something you need to share with someone about your life today?



The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel, Samuel!”  Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10

I have often wished that God were not invisible.  We may easily see the handiwork of God in nature or perhaps glimpse the peace of God in others.  But God Himself…He remains invisible.  As a child, I would stare in wonder and confusion as adults held hands and prayed to someone or something, so real to them and yet invisible to me.  As a child, we used to sing a song that said, “He walks with me and He talks with me.  And He tells me I am His own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  But I could not hear God talking.   I did not see Him walking beside me.  As far as I was concerned, if I were His, He was silent on the matter.  Did God have a voice?

 

I can really relate to a man named Samuel.  In the Bible, Samuel was the longed for child of Hannah.  To give thanks to the Lord for his life, she dedicated her son to the service of God by sending him to the tabernacle at an early age to train under a priest named Eli.  Samuel’s story picks up in the third chapter of 1 Samuel.  It was night time and Eli and Samuel had laid down to sleep.  Samuel hears a voice calling him so he goes to Eli to find out what he needs.  Eli had not called.  Again, Samuel hears a voice calling, and again, after seeking Eli, he learns that Eli had been silent; “My son,” Eli said [to Samuel], “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

 

The third time Samuel hears a voice calling him he goes to Eli and says, “Here I am; you called me.”  The Bible says, “Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.  So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if He calls you say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’  So Samuel went and laid down in his place.  The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel, Samuel!’  Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”  Samuel was surprised by the voice of God.  He did not yet understand the language of the Lord.  He had trouble discerning the voice of God from the voice of man.  Do you relate to that? I sure do. As the boy Samuel grew into the man Samuel, he learned to better understand the language of God. 

 

Most often, God’s way of communicating to us is different than the kind of communication that we are accustomed to.  Just like the words of a new song, we need to learn the rhythm and words of the Holy Spirit until it becomes intimately familiar.  We do this by approaching God and listening – over and over – until we begin to recognize the Spirit’s voice.  Over time, we will come to know God and the voice of His Spirit teaching us, reminding us of truth, and guiding us. In the beginning, it took someone wiser than Samuel to help him recognize God’s voice.  Who do you allow to speak into your life?  Are they wise in the ways of God or wise in the ways of the world?  Sometimes it takes someone else to see what we are not yet capable of seeing.  This is true no matter how long we have walked with God.  The fact is, Eli needed Samuel just as much as Samuel needed Eli.  As their story continues, God ended up speaking to Eli through Samuel.  We need each other as we walk toward Christ.

 

So, how does an invisible God speak?  I imagine this answer is as diverse as His creation.  God knows His children best and He knows how to best communicate with them.  But primarily, He speaks to us through his Word.  God will never ask you to do something that is outside of His character as we see Him in the Bible.  If you feel like God is silent in your life, maybe you need to pick up your Bible and say “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  Those became powerful words for Samuel and ended up having a powerful impact on the lives of those around him.  God’s primary way of speaking to us is through His word yet He does use others to reach us.  Is there something you need to share with someone about your life today?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you for speaking to me. Lord thank you for putting people in my life that recognize Your voice and speak truth into my life. Jesus please give me the ears to hear Your voice and Your word, speak, for your servant is listening.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.




August 14, 2017, 5:00 AM

What secrets do you keep to hide your insecurities?



Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. PROVERBS 29:25

Olly Olly Oxen Free! This expression is familiar to anyone who has spent anytime on a playground. It is used in children’s games to signal that the game is over. Seeing a group of children play hide and seek is charming. However, watching grown men and woman still playing this game is nothing but depressing. The sad truth is that there are some of us who are still hiding behind that bush waiting for someone, anyone, to make that call: Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!

 

The game is the same, we’ve just come up with different hiding places and we have perfected the craft of disappearing. True spiritual friendships will never take place if we remain hidden behind our jobs, fake appearances, social status, or pat Christian answers. The game of hide and seek will continue on from sun up to sun down. Somebody has to have the courage to make the call: Olly, Olly, Oxen Free! It only takes one person who is willing to lay down their agenda for others to realize they can come out of hiding.  There is no longer the pressure to hide and deal with shame, struggles and sin on your own.

 

Most friendships don’t get to the point where vulnerability and transparency take root.  We’re too afraid of abandoning our pride or acknowledging our fear of being known. Instead, we settle for projecting an image and keeping people at a distance. We construct walls and largely go at it alone. This isolation goes against our hard wiring as humans. We were made to connect with one another. The critical component of connection is vulnerability. Researcher Brene Brown has devoted the past decade to the study of human interactions and the power of human connections. From her research, she concluded, “You can’t connect if you are not seen.”

 

When we take this academic research and relate it to faith and friendships, we realize that we have to be willing to acknowledge our shame, brokenness, struggles and insecurities to others. We have to possess the courage to admit that we are a work in progress and that God is shaping us into His image.  So, pause for a moment and consider this question: What secrets do you keep to hide your insecurities? The question isn’t whether you have them (we all do); it is how do you conceal them?  This is where the Gospel truly lays the foundation for friendships. Due to the cross and God’s grace, we are free from all those things that push us to hide. Sin, shame and guilt are no more.  

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, may I not hide my true self from others. Lord instead of masking my weakness, allow me to admit my faults and shortcomings to those who care about me. Jesus help me to reflect Your heart and push others to see You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 13, 2017, 8:29 PM

Where do you feel the weight of the world placed on our shoulders?



The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25

 

Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to deal with our mindset by paying attention to what our mind is focused on.  This is where we get ourselves into trouble.  We don’t set our minds on anything so it is free to drift on whatever seems to deserve the most attention. When we are faced with a difficult decision or things we cannot control, we get consumed with pressure.  Sometimes this pressure comes from within. The pressure is fueled by believing two destructive myths. First, we believe we can control more than we think. We get angry and frustrated from trying to control the things we can’t. Then there is the “messiah” myth that leads us to believe we contribute more than we actually do. If we don’t act, no one else will. If I don’t spring into action, nothing will get solved. If I don’t make the right decision, then everyone is doomed for failure.

 

Too often when we consider faith or trust we tend to wait and see if God will do something.  Then, and only, then will we respond to the thing that He has done.  We think of faith as “observe and decide.” This is why we are often frustrated and paralyzed in our walk with God. Why? Because He doesn’t invite us to observe and decide, but rather to taste and see. Psalm 34:8 says,”O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” It is an interesting connection.  You don’t see with your tongue and you don’t taste with your eyes.  Taste and see is an invitation to experience.  You see because you have experienced.  This is what God is drawing us towards.  This is exactly how faith is described in 2 Corinthians 5:7. We are told to “walk by faith, not by sight.”

 

According to this verse, we are called to walk by faith, at the expense of seeing with our eyes.  When the pressure is on you, you are not going to be able to sit and observe.  You have to step out and taste – then you will see.  Faith operates as the way you perceive the world around you and sense God’s work in that world. When we walk with Him, we find Him to be a blessing to us as we take refuge in Him.  So walk by faith — taste and see. We need a new perspective in those moments when pressure is consuming us. When we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders and all we want to do is freak out, we must taste and see that Lord is good by casting our cares on Him. Where do you feel the weight of the world placed on our shoulders? What pressures are you facing? How can you tell whether they are internal or external pressures?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, all too often I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. Lord you know that is not what I was meant to bear. Jesus help not to crack under the pressure, but to lay everything down at Your feet. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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