Devotions
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September 15, 2017, 5:00 AM

Do you need to ask God to open your eyes to areas where you are struggling to exhibit stability, gratitude, and generosity?



For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12

 

Everybody prays when they are freaking out, in a difficult situation or dealing with a tragedy. We naturally lift up our concerns during those times when we face weakness head on. Unfortunately, if one were to look at the prayers of most Christians during these moments, they would see something surprising. We tend to think that God should strengthen us so we get what we want. God give me the strength to control my kids, my husband, my finances, etc. God let this situation pass so I can get back to my normal routine. We want God’s power in our life so we can control the situations we don’t think God is doing a good enough job controlling. We ask God to change our circumstances rather than transform and shape our heart.

 

Stability, gratitude, and generosity are markers of spiritual maturity. God never promises for a believer’s life to be easy and free of troubles. The purpose of a walk with God is not status quo. Stability shouldn’t be mistaken for predictability, the absence of difficulty or a life void of weakness. Rather, we can witness if stability is taking root in our character by judging how we react, or in some cases overreact, to the circumstances around us. Do we rely on God’s grace when our strength isn’t enough? Stability measures the way we walk by faith and not by sight. The emotions we feel towards the circumstances we face are very important. They can serve as markers towards our growth.


This in no way undermines the legitimate emotions of worry, grief, anger or disappointment, but instead, it helps us measure the condition of our hearts in response to the circumstances that often damage it. We think self-control happens as a result of sheer will power and is not a fruit of the Spirit. But, today’s Scripture reminds us that sober mindedness and self-control are needed for our prayers. There needs to be a level of endurance in the situations we face. Controlling yourself is critical for surrendering yourself. Do you need to ask God to open your eyes to areas where you are struggling to exhibit stability, gratitude, and generosity?

This is my Prayer: Father God, I want my life to be marked by stability, gratitude, and generosity. Lord please do the work on my heart in order to get me there. Jesus help me to realize I sometimes cannot control my circumstances, but I can take ownership in regards to my response to those circumstances. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 14, 2017, 5:00 AM

Forgiveness is releasing our fate and the fate of others to a power higher than ourselves.



But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21

 

Before Joseph asked this question of his brothers, “Am I in the place of God?”, a long history preceded.  His brothers, jealous of him since the time of his birth, sold him into slavery and left him for dead.  Before eventually rising to power in Pharaoh’s court, Joseph endured long imprisonment and was even punished for doing the right thing.  His story, filled with suspenseful twists and turns, is one wrought with hardship and suffering. If anyone deserved to withhold forgiveness, it would have been him.  Instead, when finally coming face to face with his betrayers, his own brothers, Joseph understood his place.  He understood that he was not God.  Now that he was in power, he could have treated his brothers harshly.  He could have taken vengeance into his own hands.  Yet instead, Joseph left room for God to work asking,  “For am I in God’s place?”

 

This simple question reveals a lot about how God desires us to see forgiveness. A healthy view of forgiveness can dramatically shift the course of our lives.  Rather than being weighed down by anguish and bitterness, we can choose to live a different way. Forgiveness is a cornerstone of our faith.   The entire life of Jesus assumes that God does, in fact, hold the guilty accountable.  This is both scary and a little satisfying, depending on whether or not you see yourself as the offender or the offended.  When I am the offended I easily forget that I too have been an offender. The truth is that all of us are both.  To give forgiveness, we must first truly receive it. Ultimately, forgiveness is releasing our fate and the fate of others to a power higher than ourselves. This does not absolve responsibility but leaves justice and consequence in its proper place – with God. Imagine Joseph’s story with a different ending. 

 

Instead of forgiving his brothers and releasing their fate to God, imagine that he decided to pay back evil for evil.  The temporary satisfaction Joseph may have felt in “paying back” his brothers would have paled in comparison to experiencing the power of God and His capacity to bring good from evil.  Because of God’s work through Joseph, many Israelites survived a famine. We have not been deserted.  Like Joseph, we can trust Him enough to forgive. Is there someone you need to forgive today? Often the most difficult person to forgive is ourselves.  If we deny ourselves this grace by continuing to live under a heavy weight, we deny God’s work for us on the cross.  Do you need forgiveness?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you for freeing me from the bitterness of vengeance and vindication.  Lord thank you for Your grace. Jesus help me to live in a posture of forgiveness and humility.  In Your name Jesus.  Amen




September 13, 2017, 5:00 AM

Do you view forgiveness as an act of liberation?



Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:16-19

 

Forgiveness doesn’t seem fair. Instead of forgiveness, we’d rather have justice. The person who caused us pain must be held accountable for their offense. Our desire for the offender to accept responsibility before we extend forgiveness holds our freedom hostage, unable to live life fully and freely. Forgiving others without witnessing what we believe to be vindication for the offense feels oppressive and even unjust. We don’t see forgiveness as liberation; we see it as an escape clause for the offender.

 

However, extending forgiveness to those who have offended us is a true act of liberation, not for the offender, but for us. When unforgiveness remains in our heart, we wound ourselves all over again.  We are bound by our past. It is impossible to walk in freedom when we are shackled to the need to vindicate ourselves. By understanding the implications forgiveness has on our own lives, we are able to deal with the implications it has on our relationships. Forgiveness is where freedom is found. His wounds bring us wholeness. When we separate forgiveness from reconciliation, we can look at forgiveness long enough and close enough to experience the freedom and the healing we find through it.

 

But, many of us don’t get to this point. Because we don’t know how restoration is going to look, we wonder if forgiveness is even possible.  This is why we must focus on forgiveness first. The restoration of the relationship is secondary. Forgiveness paves the way to trust but it doesn’t guarantee it. It also doesn’t eliminate the cost or the consequence. At its core, forgiveness frees us from the need for vengeance and vindication. We no longer hold the offense against the other person. We wish them no ill will. There will be some relationships where restoration and reconciliation are unattainable. There are others where boundaries must be established. Yet, in all cases forgiveness is available. Where are you seeking vengeance and vindication? Why do you want to be right in this situation? Do you view forgiveness as an act of liberation?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to no longer demand vengeance, seek vindication, or let my past wounds define my present and determine my future. Lord teach me to lay the burden of unforgiveness down at Your feet. Jesus show me how much forgiveness You have given me and remind me that the same grace You extended to me is given to all. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 12, 2017, 5:00 AM

Regardless of what people might say, to forgive is not to forget.



No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34

 

Regardless of what people might say, to forgive is not to forget. There is no magic in forgiveness where the moment it is accepted that the memories of hurt are instantly erased from the hard drive of our memory and our deep wounds suddenly disappear. But, what do we do with passages like Jeremiah 31:34? If God forgets our sins when He forgives us, shouldn’t we do the same to those that hurt us? The word “remember” in Jeremiah 31 is not dealing with a memory issue, but rather a promise. God doesn’t suffer from amnesia. He made a covenant not to treat us as our sin deserves. Jesus took the cost of our sins on His shoulders when He was nailed to a cross in order to fulfill that covenant. Debunking this idea that forgiveness is forgetting helps one to better see forgiveness as an event and process.

 

When we show grace to someone it is an ‘event’ as words are expressed in “I forgive you.” There was a time and place when the original act of forgiveness occurred. Yet, every time their hurtful words or actions get brought back to our attention we must continue to forgive and not give in to any desires for revenge or anger. This touches upon the ‘process’ of forgiveness. Failure to see forgiveness through the lens of being both an event and process will cause considerable frustration, disappointment, and guilt for an individual.  A chain reaction will be set off where they try even harder, using sure will power, to erase whatever sin they’ve forgiven from their memory completely. Flipping the off switch on a hot oven doesn’t instantly turn it back to room temperature. Stand anywhere near the oven you can feel the heat radiating. However, over time the warmth of the oven lessens. The same is true with forgiveness.

 

 It does not eradicate the hurt, lack of trust, or anger you hold towards the person you have forgiven. By forgiving someone, you are absorbing the cost of their offense against you. This transaction comes with some requirements on your part.  By counting the sin no more, you are also committing to uphold three promises to the individual whom you have forgiven. These promises are: “I will not bring up this offense again or use it against you.” How easy would it be for us to keep the guilt of their sin in our arsenal for a fight in the future. We very well could use it time and time again as our trump card in an argument: ‘remember the time when you…’ This does not mean it cannot be talked about again.

 

Instead the promise you are making is not to bring the sin up anytime you are angry or bitter as a way of getting back at an individual. “I will not bring it up to others in gossip or bad mouth you in front of others.” Depending on the gravity of the sin, appropriate care may help you handle an offense against you. This promise deals more with not having loose lips around others. We put a clamp on our mouths and do not play the blame game as we gossip about the person to others. “I will no longer personally dwell on this offense.” This promise is at much for your benefit as it for anyone else. You no longer replay the sin on videotape that shows the transpired events on a continual loop inside your head.

 

Rather than dwelling on the past, you look to the future and the change God has in store for both you and the individual. One has to trust they have forgiven even if there is some warmth coming from old wounds. This awareness forces you to have consistent motive checks where you ask God to reveal your attitude towards this person. Of the three promises above dealing with forgiveness, which promise do you most often break? Which one do you believe people find the hardest to commit to upholding?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, open my eyes to the places where unforgiveness resides. Lord  help me to trust that true forgiveness has occurred in other areas even when I can feel the sting of old wounds. Jesus it brings me comfort knowing that You identify with my pain and comfort me when I am weak. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 11, 2017, 12:02 AM

How has God used moments of loneliness to shed light on your need for Him?



The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18

It’s funny how God brings two complete opposites together. I am a morning person. Wide awake and ready to go as soon as my feet hit the floor. Not my wife, most days she’s like a groggy grizzly bear who has just risen from a month long hibernation. The slightest noise will wake me up. Not her. She has slept through tornados, fire alarms, thunderstorms, barking dogs, and crying babies.  If heavy sleeping were an Olympic sport, she would be a lock for a gold medal. Being a deep sleeper, she devised a trick to see the light of day at a reasonable time. Her iPhone has 5 alarms set and I have mine set as a backup. Those screeching sounds are the only way to shock her system into wake up mode. Without them, she’d sleep right through the day.

 

In some regards, loneliness serve as a similar wake up call. When life is going well, we can sleep walk through our days not realizing our desperate need for connection with God and others. The pain of loneliness rouses us from our slumber. It awakens our eyes to see our brokenness and separation. Colliding with pain forces us to come face-to-face with our deepest spiritual needs. Our natural tendency will be to hit the snooze button, roll over, and try to go back to sleep. But, the alarm ringing again is inevitable.  We’ve got to get out of bed and answer the call. But, more importantly, we have to realize there is a beauty and purpose behind the pain. God is not so much concern with changing our circumstances. He is more focused on mending our heart.

 

God desires to redeem our loneliness. If we lean into the pain, God can use our loneliness to transform our heart and mind as well as bring us in a deeper intimacy with Him. C.S. Lewis  said, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  God wants to speak to us through the pain. The alarm is ringing, are you going to answer it?  How has God used moments of loneliness to shed light on your need for Him?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, often I struggle to hear Your voice or sense Your presence. Yet, in those lonely moments when I can no longer ignore the pain, I can feel You are with me. Lord during these times when I am all alone I can sense You shouting to me, reminding me that You will never leave me nor forsake me. Jesus redeem my loneliness and let the pain bring me closer to Your side. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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