Devotions
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October 26, 2017, 5:00 AM

Are you heartily serving Christ right now or stuck in a rut of thinking about it but not doing it?



Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23–24

 

Paul’s exhortation about working for the Lord is so practical we may gloss over its radical nature. In fact, other than your decision to believe in Jesus Christ, the choice to serve Him will be as formative in your spiritual life as any other decision. Serving Christ isn’t just about doing overtly spiritual tasks. No corner of our lives is ever empty of opportunities to serve the Lord, regardless of how menial or seemingly inconsequential the job He places before us. Consider the way you’re to work for Him. The word heartily doesn’t mean frantically. It refers to an all-in attitude. It also anticipates the joy you can experience when you serve Christ wholeheartedly in things He has actually wired and gifted you to do. And the commitment to serve heartily requires you to be in God’s Word regularly. You cannot afford to wander away.

 

Time in Scripture is like a briefing for the days’ activities in the place the Lord has called you. People are counting on you to be a faithful servant, whether they realize it or not. You have an awe-inspiring privilege to work in Christ’s kingdom. If you open your heart to this, you will begin to see an array of service opportunities set before you each day. Serving Christ also tethers your heart to the cross. As you begin to take steps of service, you will find it’s not necessarily a lighthearted or carefree endeavor. There will be times of intense joy, deep camaraderie, and great fun—but also times when fatigue and discouragement are part of the experience. Humbling yourself and serving is tough, and it’s easy to want to throw in the towel when things don’t go as planned.

 

When we start to feel weary, we must fix our eyes again on Colossians 3:24: “You are serving the Lord Christ.” Especially when we get discouraged, we can rest in the truth that our lives and what we do aren’t about us—they’re about serving the Lord. Now some will consider this choice to serve but do nothing. They’ll feel the tug of possibility, the longing that could lead to great things, but think, not for me, that sounds too much like work. What a tragic waste of opportunity. Others may have experienced burnout after an intense season of serving. That happens, but don't stay on the sideline forever. Ask the Master what He has next for you, and over time (and sooner than you might imagine), He will empower you for a new season of serving that flows from your deepening love for Him. Choose again to serve Him.

 

Do you want a life guided by the Lord, encouraged by His blessings, and marked by a sense of purpose? The life you were designed to experience begins with a decision only you can make: Choose to serve Jesus Christ. Are you heartily serving Christ right now or stuck in a rut of thinking about it but not doing it? If you have worked for Christ wholeheartedly, what unexpected blessings and benefits have you experienced?

 

This is my Pray: Father God, I trust Your Word, which instructs me to work heartily for You. Lord forgive me for so often revolving my days around myself and my desires. I don’t want to squander this short life or neglect the great privilege You’ve given me to work for You here on earth. Jesus please open my eyes to opportunities to serve You.  I pray that my service for You would be diligent and honorable in Your sight. In Your name Jesus, amen.




October 25, 2017, 5:00 AM

If we don’t ask what is wise, small decisions can train wreck the futures we’re imagining.



Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel that will stand. Proverbs 19:20-21

 

We’ve all had numerous people who gave us advice that went “in one ear and out the other.” To take this to another level, we’ve probably caught ourselves giving the same advice to someone else and as we hear it come out of our mouths we’ve realized that we don’t even heed what we’re saying. Our greatest regrets could’ve been avoided is we asked, “What is the wise thing to do?” and acted on our conclusions. If we would’ve sought wisdom, we could’ve spared ourselves years of chaos, brokenness and hurt.  Yet, sometimes the decisions we face aren’t so clear. They don’t involve a matter of right or wrong. Rather than being black and white, the choice we make resides in a grey area.

 

Our hearts don’t do too well with the shade of grey. We wrongly assume that if something isn’t illegal, unethical, or immoral, then it qualifies as a legitimate choice. We reason as long as there isn’t a law against it or there isn’t a Bible verse prohibiting it, then we are in the clear. But, not every decision is a moral decision. If we can deem that something is not morally wrong, then we often conclude that it’s the right decision. We say things like, “there’s nothing wrong with going to dinner with her or one date with him….there’s nothing wrong with comparing ourselves to our friend’s post on Instagram…there’s nothing morally wrong with spending that much on a car lease.”  It is true that there’s no law telling us it’s wrong to eat unlimited amounts of ice cream or wasting endless hours tuning into our favorite sitcom. Yet, this doesn’t make it wise to polish off a gallon of cookie dough ice cream while lounging on the couch binge watching Netflix.

 

Sometimes the grey area has us facing choices that can have more devastating effects than an upset stomach and tired eyes. We’re experts at rationalizing decisions that we know are wrong. No one is better at deceiving us than ourselves. We tell ourselves we can handle it, that it won’t hurt anybody and that we can quit when we want to. We’re well aware of the games we’re playing. And even if we’re not, the fact that we have to give a reason or excuse should tip us off. We never have to rationalize good decisions like eating vegetables, exercising, saving money, or avoiding bad company. Asking, “Is it wise?” takes our issue out of the arena of right and wrong by entering it into the world of wisdom. This question leaves less room for rationalization. We all know from experience how easy it is to stumble. This is why we have to be careful about the decisions we make.

 

We not only need to ask God for wisdom, but we must be proactive in surrounding ourselves with individuals who walk with integrity and provide insight. We also have to take it a step further and grant both parties access to speak into our situation and expose our hearts.  We all have a picture of our futures and what we want them to be. If we don’t ask what is wise, small decisions can train wreck the futures we’re imagining. When making a wise decision we need to consider our past experiences, present circumstances, and future hopes and dreams. Of the three, which one do you tend to lose sight of when making decisions?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, give me wisdom and insight into the decisions I face. Lord help me to make choices that set me up to become the person I desire to be in the future. Jesus show me how to surround myself with others that are pursuing Your heart and who desire to reflect You in everything they do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 24, 2017, 12:00 AM

Would you say you are able to navigate through life with stability and gratitude?



Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction. All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly. A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing. Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil. Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. PROVERBS 13:8-20

 

Solomon speaks to the influence others have on our walk with God. Contained within this single verse are both a promise and a warning that we should take seriously.  Let’s start with the promise. If you surround yourself with wise people, you will in turn become wise. Throughout the book of Proverbs, Solomon goes into great detail highlighting the differences between the wise, the fool and the scoffer. Time and time again, he highlights the benefits of pursuing wisdom. The wise are able to navigate through life with stability and gratitude. They walk with integrity. There is a consistency in their character. But, wise people rarely become wise on their own. They have friends who have the same focus and foundation. Their wisdom rubs off on one another as they pursue a common goal: reflecting Christ in their lives. They are driven by convictions.

 

On the flip side, if you surround yourself with fools, their foolishness will eventually rub off on you. When Solomon refers to someone as a fool, he isn’t saying the individual is ignorant. Rather, these individuals are indifferent to the Truth and focused on their own satisfaction. They foolishly believe they know what is best for their life. Their search for fulfillment in all the wrong things causes them to overact to their feelings and circumstances. This only leads to disappointment and regret. Gratitude is nowhere to be found. Stop and think for a moment: are these the individuals you want influencing the direction for your life? Do you want their advice and suggestions to guide your footsteps? How are they impacting your ability to be grateful?

 

Today, reflect on who you are letting into your inner circle and giving the ability to influence your heart. Who are influencing the direction of your life?  Who do you look to for wisdom and guidance? Why do you look to these individuals for words of wisdom? Would you say you are able to navigate through life with stability and gratitude?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, I thank You for the people in my life whose greatest concern is my character. Lord teach me to surround myself with people who are pursuing Your heart. Jesus help me to spur others on to experience more of You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 20, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you currently being stubborn when it comes to giving something over to God?



“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:14-18

 

The imagery of a shepherd tends to get lost on us in our modern world. However, this metaphor would’ve resonated deeply with Jesus’ audience. Not only was this a job present in their culture, the image of a sheep and shepherd were also used throughout the Old Testament. Jesus utilizes this imagery to describe Himself. The job of a shepherd gives us a glimpse into His heart as well as shines light on our human tendencies. In a way, these passages should cause two different reactions to well up within us, comfort and humility.

 

We are cared for and protected by a God who knows us intimately. Every day the Shepherd makes sure that the needs of His flock are met. The Good Shepherd guides them through danger and rescues them when they’re lost. But, Jesus takes it a step further to a point that would appear crazy to His listeners. This shepherd was willing to lay down His life for some sheep. These animals are a dime a dozen. Why go so far as dying for them?  The shepherd’s actions show how valued we are in His eyes. However, think about the implications on what Jesus is saying about us. If He’s our shepherd, than what does that make us? DUMB SHEEP. That’s what we are.

 

Sheep are notoriously stubborn, stupid and helpless. We are lost and helpless. Without the protection of a caring shepherd, we startle easily when we are in danger or faced with uncertainty. We can be prideful and think we know the right direction for our lives, but just like sheep, we often don’t see the steep cliff that awaits us on the other end. For as clueless as sheep are, there is one thing they do very well: they know their shepherd’s voice. During Jesus’ time, at night shepherds would bring their flock to a common stall with only one gate in and out. All the sheep would spend the evening there, but no shepherd worried about their flock getting mixed up over night. Why?

 

When the sheep heard the voice of their shepherd, they’d separate from the rest of the pack and follow his lead. A sheep instinctively knew who his or her shepherd was just by their voice. Even though other shepherds would call to the sheep, they only responded to the call of their owner. This is why we must humbly tune our ears and listen to His voice. We must know His voice because there are others who are vying for our attention and affection. Discernment only comes when we immerse ourselves in His Word and surround ourselves with others who are also pursuing God’s heart. Recognizing His voice and His leading enables us to confidently take our next step of faith.  Where are you currently being stubborn when it comes to giving something over to God?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for being a loving shepherd who guides and protects me. Lord help me to hear and trust Your voice. Jesus let me see myself as a sheep that is utterly helpless and vulnerable without You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 19, 2017, 5:00 AM

In what ways have you discovered the truth that following Christ isn’t easy, just the best?



Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”  John 21:18–19

 

Today’s passage is an intense private conversation between the Lord and Peter that the apostle John was allowed to overhear. Even though Peter was still very tender from his devastating failure during the events leading up to the crucifixion, when he denied knowing Christ, Jesus welcomed him back.  But it was a welcome accompanied by truth. Jesus had work for him to do. He refused to sugarcoat the reality of the life to which Peter had returned. Jesus basically let him know, “This is going to be hard, Peter. If you’re going to follow Me, the way won’t be easy. Feeding My sheep is going to take everything you’ve got.”

 

When Jesus said, “Where you do not want to go,” we know what He meant because of John’s side note: “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)” Jesus could see what Peter would face in the future and He knew His disciple would endure. Church history records that in about AD 65 Peter was executed in Rome under orders from Nero. By the end of his life Peter had been on the road for several decades proclaiming the gospel. He had penned a couple of New Testament letters and probably been Mark’s main source for the second gospel. Peter had a great life of serving God, but he had a tough finish. Following Christ is not easy. Our Lord never hid that fact. But following Him is best.

 

We’re not sugarcoating anything here. The Christian life is not always smooth going, but it is exactly what we were designed to do and be. It’s the real life. It’s the best life you can possibly have: giving your life to Jesus Christ, living for Him, obeying His Word, fellowshipping with His people, and serving in His kingdom.  You don’t know what lies ahead for you. Jesus does. He probably won’t tell you beforehand, except to assure you that whatever happens, He will be with you every step of the way. He has made that promise (Matthew 28:20) and He will keep it. That’s all you really need to know as you follow Christ. Tell Him you fully intend to let Him lead you as you step out in faith. How do you relate to the way Jesus welcomed Peter with more responsibility? In what ways have you discovered the truth that following Christ isn’t easy, just the best?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God I realize You demonstrate who You are by asking me without apology to do hard things. Lord You promise to help, but You never minimize the difficulties. Your Son offered us an easy yoke, but it’s still a yoke, and our weaknesses mean we can’t afford to ever forget who is sharing the yoke with us. Jesus thank You that we never have to go through a hard or easy thing apart from You! In Your name Jesus, amen.


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