Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57   Entries 116-120 of 285
August 1, 2017, 5:00 AM

When it comes to your relationships, how are you dying to yourself?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17


Author Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in our society.” Clothes are important. They not only cover us, but also in many ways are used to identify us. Maybe you were a prep, goth, grunge, jock, hippie, skater, tomboy, nerd, jock, or even a wannabe. Growing up, you were placed in different social circles depending on what you wore. People labeled you based on your labels. In today’s passage, Paul speaks of a different type of clothing and how wearing it shapes the way others perceive us. According to Paul, clothes make the relationships.


Paul isn’t referring to physical clothes like jeans, a sweater, or a hoodie. Rather, he is encouraging his readers to clothe themselves with Christ’s character. In essence, Paul is saying if we want to invest in the lives of others we better come dressed for the job.  This isn’t about becoming perfect, achieving some level of moral superiority or getting all our ducks in a row before we can speak words of wisdom to others. Putting on Christ has more to do with our actions and attitude towards the person who we are trying to help. How were our words delivered? Were they clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and above else, love? Take it a step further, if those words weren’t received well by the other person, how did we react? How compassionate were we as they talked more openly about their struggles? Did we respond in love? Were we patient when they pushed back on us?


Sometimes we can answer those questions with a resounding yes. We served as Christ’s ambassador. We died to ourselves. We picked up our cross. We reflected His heart in that moment. However, if you’re like me, there are times when we drop the ball and fail. We respond in anger. We lose our patience. We speak harshly. We pursued our own agenda. Please understand those moments aren’t a lost cause. Believe it or not, they serve as another opportunity to minister to that person. It all depends on how we respond. Will we have enough humility to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness from God and the individual? Rather than hide our shortcomings, what if we were transparent about needing God’s grace and being a work in progress? How do you think the other person would respond?


Our lives should serve as evidence of God’s power to transform the human heart. Without evidence of transformation, our words will fall on deaf ears. God uses not only our words, but also the way we live to speak His truth to others. We’re not just called to speak the truth in love, we are charged with living it out as well. So, today as you go about your business building relationships, clothe yourself with Christ’s heart. When it comes to your relationships, how are you dying to yourself?


This is my Prayer: Father God, may I clothe myself with compassion and kindness.  Lord allow me to exhibit humility in my relationships. When I’m reaching out to others, let kindness, gentles and self-control define my effort. I pray that I am quick to forgive and seek forgiveness when need be. Jesus, above else, may Your amazing love serve as the foundation of my words and actions. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

July 30, 2017, 5:00 AM

What parameters do you place on what you are willing to give up for Christ?

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 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.”  Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”  JOHN 21:17-23


Did you catch the bombshell Jesus just dropped in the lap of Peter? Do you understand the magnitude of what Peter is finding out? Jesus is telling Peter how he is going to die. Right after confessing his love for Christ, Peter gets the startling news that there is a cross awaiting him in the future.  In essence, Jesus is saying, “Peter, if you truly love me, I want you to be aware of something. It’s going to cost you greatly. Life isn’t going to be easy. In fact, you are going to give up your life to obey me.”  Peter’s reaction to this news is priceless. I don’t know about you, but it helps me to see the human side of Peter. Probably in a daze, Peter looks around and sees John following after them. You can almost feel his mind working. After hearing those hard words, Peter plays the comparison game.


So, he speaks up and asks, “Alright Jesus, I get it…I’m going to be crucified. But, what about him? You know…the one you love. Does he get the same deal? Or did I get the short end of the stick? If I am going to get crucified, it’s only fair that he joins me.” And just like a parent, Jesus responds, “Don’t concern yourself with John. I’ll deal with him. It’s none of your business anyway. If I want him to live forever, WHAT IS THAT TO YOU? Right now, I am asking if you will follow me?”


You can’t blame the way Peter reacts. It’s not the greatest news to hear that your faith can at times be painful. Wouldn’t you halt in your tracks if you got the same news? Wait a minute Jesus; no one told me sacrifice was part of this Christian deal. Isn’t the purpose of my faith just about making my life easier, to give me better self-esteem and so all of my plans go exactly the way I want? Be honest for a moment: How do you respond when you hear Jesus say in Luke 9:23 that “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me?”


What parameters do you place on what you are willing to give up for Christ? The reality is we often place parameters on what we are willing to give up for Christ. We desire faith on our terms. But, what is just as devastating to our faith is the comparison game. We constantly look to see how we stack up against everyone else. And while we are busy comparing, God is trying to get our attention and remind us that he has given each one of us a task to do. He’s given you a job tailored specifically for you. The question you must ask yourself is are you willing to trust Him and do the job He has given to you, regardless of the cost?  Why are you reluctant to give up control in this area?


This is my Prayer: Father God, enable me to see that the cost of living for You pales in comparison to the grace and love You’ve poured out for me.  Lord allow me to be strong when You ask me to step out in faith. Jesus give me the courage to be bold in response to the personal call You have given me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

July 29, 2017, 5:00 AM

What in your life bears witness to God and the gift of grace in Jesus?

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” He said to him, “Go in peace.” 2 Kings 5:15-19


Today’s scripture passage tells the story of Naaman, the Syrian general and his encounter with the prophet Elisha in the land of Israel.  Naaman was a ‘great man’ in ‘high favor’ in his home country of Syria where he served the King.  He was also a leper.  Naaman learns from one of his wive’s servants that he might find healing in Israel from a prophet.  So Naaman gets permission from his king, loads up a convoy full of gifts, and heads to Israel seeking the prophet and his healing.  The King of Israel admits that he is unable to heal Naaman and instead, points him to Elisha who instructs him to dip into the Jordan river seven times to ‘wash, and be clean’.  Naaman, after some grumbling, eventually obeys and behold, he is cured of his leprosy and made clean!


But what happens next is interesting.  Now clean, cured from his awful plague, Naaman has a decision to make.  Acknowledging that the God of Israel, the one true God, is real, all powerful, and capable of healing, he can choose to stay in Israel and worship or return to Syria and be forced to pray in the temple of Rimmon where his king bows down.  Naaman can remove himself from society and the life he had with high position and favor, or he can return with his healing and privately acknowledge the God of Israel.  Yet, there is a third way!  Perplexing as it seems to us, Naaman loads up with ‘two mule loads of earth’ and vows no longer to worship false gods or pray to Syrian idols, and then he heads home.


So, what’s with the dirt?  Scripture doesn’t spell out exactly how Naaman intends to use the dirt from Israel.  Some commentators speculate that he will spread it before he bows down as a symbol of the God in Israel to whom he has pledged his faith.  Or maybe he intends to always keep some nearby as testament to his new life with God, but however the expression, it is radically unique to Naaman and his experience with God.   We offer our gifts, we lift up our positions, we humbly posture ourselves to be instruments of His grace in this place where God has put us.  Doing so requires a deep connection to our Father in prayer and a spirit that is willing to obey, no matter how ‘outside the box’ the expression may look.  We take our direction from our loving Lord and trust that He will use us in His great plan to reach others for Christ. We just have to be willing to listen to Him, to look outside the box, and to step in faith into our world.


The expression of Jesus in us and through us is unique to all of us.  So, what’s your dirt? How does your faith express itself?  What in your life bears witness to God and the gift of grace in Jesus?


This my Prayer: Father God, help me to be public in my faith.  Lord help me to integrate my private life, full of Your joy and truth, into the world where You have placed me.  Jesus give me ears for Your voice, eyes for unique opportunities, and the willingness to take them, so that more people would come to know You.  In your name Jesus, Amen.

July 28, 2017, 5:00 AM

How are you seeking the welfare of your city?

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:7,10-11

How are you seeking the welfare of your city? You cannot seek the welfare of the city from a distance. It requires personal investment where you are allowing walls to be broken and individuals to be known and loved. Rather than pushing inward, a Christ-centered community reaches out. The imagery of true community is an extended hand. The object of our mission is people.  The fuel to love others and seek the welfare of the city comes from knowing we have been trusted with the integrity of His image and influence of His love. This takes place when we see our personal life change as a part of the bigger picture. Having felt the amazing love of Christ firsthand, we desire for others to experience the one thing that has transformed our lives.


As God molds our individual heart, He invites us to bring His message of hope to the places where we have been planted. The love we have experienced demands the response of making room in our lives to come alongside others who are hurting, lost and without hope.  Reflecting a personal God requires entering people’s worlds. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul speaks of this relational aspect of change when he says, “we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our very own selves.”


Each part of the body participating in this effort is critical in reflecting His image. If one part is not fully engaged it lessens the overall influence and impact of the body. He has drawn you to Himself and placed you in this body to participate in reaching those you know and helping them walk with God. This makes reaching and helping people in the places where you have been planted all the more important. For you, this might mean raising children in a way that honors God, being a light in the secular workplace, or caring for a friend who is wrestling with some difficult issues. God has placed you where you are for a purpose. It is our job to pray for eyes to see where we have influence and impact in the lives of others. In what ways are you impacted those around you?


Like Christ, we must be willing to move into relationships with those that are in the places where you are planted. Yet, a surprise twist comes at the end of our efforts to impact others and affect change in their lives. God uses our obedience in moving into other people’s lives to produce change in our own and breathe life into our small group communities. This is where He stretches you and molds you into His image. Through our attempts to love others, God stretches us, teaches us and reveals more of His character. The depth we crave in our walk with Him develop as our heart slowly becomes His own. This takes place all by following a simple command: seek the welfare of the city.


This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to see the needs of those around me. Lord give me the eyes to notice where I can be used. Jesus teach me put my faith in to action. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

July 27, 2017, 5:00 AM

What does it mean that you are God’s workmanship and that you’ve been created to do good works? 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10


What does it mean that you are God’s workmanship and that you’ve been created to do good works?  It means that God’s major objective for our life is to be conformed to the image of His Son, our lives should be a reflection of what Christ was all about, serving others.  The reason for living a life of service is not to help God; He would manage perfectly fine without us. We serve to reflect His love.  We have been given a great responsibility and it is important we steward this influence well by becoming servants.  Someone who is active in service has a shared sense of success and failure. The thrills are to be celebrated, but the obstacles are to be faced head on. Someone who is active in service has a mindset that they are ready to roll up their sleeves and become part of the solution. They look for ways to give and not get.


God stretches us, teaches us and reveals more of His character when we serve. The depth many crave in their walk with Him develops, as their heart slowly becomes His own in the midst of service. This takes place by following a simple command: love God and love others.  Don’t let excuses and fear prevent you from jumping in.  Don’t wait till you feel like serving to serve.  Taking those first tentative steps towards service is one way you exercise your faith. You might be unsure and wonder how God will use your part to make a difference in the life of another. Yet, through that act of faith, you are placing yourself in an environment where God can stretch you and develop your character.  You don’t gain an understanding of what faith is without acting upon it.


Acting on your faith is what builds your faith. Your single, simple step of faith becomes a part of the river of God’s work that brings about God’s kingdom here on Earth. When Jesus prays for more workers  in Matthew 9:35-38, in essence, He is praying that people would respond to the invitation to “jump in.” Why? Because the fields are ripe for harvest.  Look around at the people who are in your sphere of influence: family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends from the gym, etc. They are waiting for someone to walk beside them and introduce them to the amazing love of a Savior.  This is the field you are in charge of cultivating.


These people are desperately searching to find significance and meaning for their lives. They are waiting for someone to walk beside them and introduce them to the amazing love of a Savior. God has given each person all the equipment they need gifts, talents, passions for the leap of a lifetime.


This is my Prayer: Father God, may I lay the excuses aside and not let fear, inconvenience or doubt get the better of me. Lord instead, may I take those tentative first steps into service.  Jesus help me to trust that my faith will be stretched as a result of that step. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.  

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