Devotions
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June 21, 2017, 5:00 AM

Would you say you are a person of integrity?



The man of integrity walks securely. Proverbs 10:9

When you were a kid you never understood why sweets were off limits before dinner or how a chocolate chip cookie or two could ruin your appetite. In your young mind, parents were cruel dictators who forced you to eat your vegetables. With your belly growling, mom distracted by another sibling, you just happen to stroll into the kitchen.  Your eyes instantly lock on the cookie jar. Your heart starts beating a million miles a minute. Your mind goes through all the different scenarios that could take place.

 

It might be your sugar deprivation, but you swear those cartoon characters appear on both shoulders giving you differing advice about what to do. From what you can tell, it all comes down to two choices:  be patient and wait until after dinner for your delicious treat or sneak in when no one was looking, devour it quickly and pray that you don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar. If you were like me, you took the advice of the oh-so-wise Cookie Monster and thought that “C is for cookie and that is good enough for me.”

 

The choices that seemed like a matter of life and death as a kid (glue your mom’s vase back together or come clean, tell your dad you spilled Kool-Aid on the brand new carpet or blame your sister, cheat on a test or get the grade you deserve) seem almost trivial now as an adult. Yet, what we have failed to realize is that as the choices we are faced with become greater so do the consequences for our actions. Often we aren’t faced with choosing between good or evil, but rather better or best. These gray areas make it increasingly difficult to take the right course of action because we can justify in our minds that we will be the only one who knows, that it is not that big of a deal, or we can get away with it without anyone having the slightest clue.

 

Instead of taking the time to examine the hole in our heart, we become experts at hiding our real selves. Integrity sounds good in theory, but if we are honest we see it more as an inconvenience. After all, we deserve what we want when we want it. Life becomes more about our immediate gratification than the condition of our heart. What it comes down to is a lack of trust in God. We think that just like our parents were holding out on us with the cookies before dinner, God might not come through. We take matters into our own hands and our actions become just reactions rooted in fear and insecurity. Would you say you are a person of integrity? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the ways that you? How do these “gray” areas complicate the everyday choices you need to make?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to be the same person when I’m in a crowded room or behind closed doors all by myself. Lord open my eyes to those places where I exchange my character and influence for immediate gratification. Jesus teach me to walk in such a way that people see Your reflection in everything that I do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




June 20, 2017, 5:00 AM

How would you describe your receptiveness to God’s Word?



The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who HEAR IT and TAKE TO HEART what is written in it, because the time is near. Revelation 1:1-3

In today’s passage Jesus, through the apostle John, is talking to seven churches in Asia about what He sees taking place in their body. In each letter, Jesus challenges and encourages every community. He calls them to greater things and reminds them to not lose sight of their mission. It would be very easy to think that these letters to ancient churches have nothing to say to you or us as a body of believers.  But, you’d be mistaken. Time goes by, but the human heart remains the same. Old issues often reappear. One can’t help but notice these truths when they read the first three chapters of Revelation.

 

Even though this book was written over 2,000 years ago and was speaking to the first century church, if you took the names off the letters you might mistake them for Jesus addressing the church of today. As a community of believers, we can’t rest on what we’ve done in the past and grow comfortable. We must not lose sight of the mission that still lies before us. A growing relationship with Christ requires increasing submission.  Each one of us must tune our ears and listen carefully and attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us individually and as a church body.  Maybe this is why John opens his letter with a promise of a blessing to those who hear the words of Jesus and take them to heart.

 

The fact is that the phrase “whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” appears 7 times in the first three chapters of Revelation.  Let me ask you some big questions: How would you describe your receptiveness to God’s Word? If God were to write a letter to you, what would He say? What would God commend you for? What issues would He point out that you need to work on or are lacking?  Let’s make these questions a bit more personal. What is God doing in your life for the sake of what He wants to do through the church as a body? How are you leaning in to the issues of the church? Where are you contributing? Could God be talking to you in what He is saying to the church?

 

Everyone contributes something to everyone. Every person who is welcomed into the body of Christ contributes something to the body. Every part matters. It will be impossible for us to become a truly great church without a shared sense of ownership. God has delegated the responsibility of displaying His love, to the body of Christ. 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 for a purpose.  That purpose is to reach those you know and help them walk with God.   

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, in the chaos of this world, I often don’t slow down long enough to quiet my heart and listen to Your Spirit. Lord help me to be intentional about doing this today.  Speak to those places in my life where I am resistant towards change or growth. Jesus give me the courage to submit them to You. Allow my life to bring glory to Your name. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




June 18, 2017, 5:00 AM

There is a danger in our focus being on what we can do for God rather than what He has done for us.



When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear. Hebrews 8:13

There is a danger in our focus being on what we can do for God rather than what He has done for us.  Even though God’s grace provides freedom, many of us live our lives exhausted. A sense of relief is nowhere to be found. Culture tells us to earn our love, and prove our worth.  When we try to rid ourselves of the performance mindset it feels like an impossible task.  We know that grace saves but we struggle to understand that grace is enough. We spend our days trying to show God that He made the right decision by saving us. We run ourselves ragged attempting to “convince” God we are valuable.

 

We get bogged down with the rigidness of religion instead of relaxing in the grace that provides the security of the relationship. Our attention gravitates towards what we can do for God rather than being blown away by what He has done for us.  Without even knowing it, this influences the intimacy we feel with God. The impossible standard of the law has us walking on pins and needles. We worry that if we mess up or drop the ball, He will be angry or disappointed. This stifles the value of discovery. On the flip side, if we jump though enough hoops performing good deeds then we will receive His affection. This leads us down the dangerous path of “look what I did, now you owe me.”

 

Our effort becomes our sacrifice.  Under the old law sacrifices were necessary to ensure our favorable standing with God. However, under the new law Jesus’ death on the cross served as the ultimate sacrifice, once and for all.  We now operate not on a scale of checks and balances, but under an umbrella of grace.  If we still operated on a scale of checks and balances none of us would be in good standing with God.  “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” James 2:10

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, today I will rest in Your grace knowing it is the only thing that can truly set me free. Lord release me from the bondage of my self-effort that is fueled by stubborn pride. Jesus help me to trust that the cross changes everything. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




June 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you with Christ these days?



Peter was the overzealous one of the bunch.  Out of the 12 apostles, Peter was on multiple occasions the one speaking for their cause, as well as taking on important responsibilities Jesus delegated such as preparing the Last Supper with John. Although Peter was a disciple in Jesus’ inner circle, his audacity at times cast him out into the confinement of his own emotions.  Peter, originally Simon but called Simon Peter or Cephas by Christ, is a figure in Scripture who frequently found himself having to be put in his place by Christ. He is well-known for his rash behavior.

 

When Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration in the presence of Moses and Elijah, it was Peter who giddily blurted out he would build three temples honoring each of them. Immediately God said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Put in his place. Peter cowered in silence. He realized it was not elaborate constructs that mattered to God. Like Peter, some of us warp God’s will for us. We grasp at ways to serve or just act somehow. We worry we are not doing enough. And although doing works can be a good thing, it is not exactly what God wants from us.

 

We all at times confuse God’s purpose for how to serve in His kingdom. But just like Peter at the transfiguration, God says listen to Jesus. That’s it. Peter appeared the overachiever in some cases, but he also had his fails. It was Peter who famously denied knowing Christ three times. It was Peter who Jesus told to sheath his sword when he attempted to defend the Christ by attacking the servant of the high priest. His brashness was his downfall.  Peter was the one attempting to meet Jesus when he walked on water. When he did, he let fear cause him to take his eyes off Jesus, and he began to sink. Of course Jesus saved him then chastised him for his lack of faith. Put in his place again. 

 

Ever feel like Peter? God, from time to time, puts us in our place. Maybe you are someone reaching for ways to serve. Maybe you are simply looking to find your niche in some circle. Perhaps you are searching for identity. By walking in a relationship with Christ, it is certain He will use you specifically. As Scripture reveals to us, Christ appeared to Peter and others after His resurrection. He reassured Peter of His mission and His presence, sending Peter to preach this to the people.   It was Peter who later spoke at a Pentecost gathering. He made known to those in attendance who were hearing the tongues of many languages that this was indeed the Holy Spirit (not drunken behavior or something else). Shortly after, he and John healed a lame beggar, saying “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have, I give to you.” He had the Holy Spirit.

And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ Acts 3:4-6

 

Christ used Peter for some big things. Recall however that Peter was just an ordinary fisherman with no real claim to high society. When Jesus called Peter, which means “rock,” He said He would make Peter a fisher of men. Imagine the discomfort followed by a long strand of burning questions! Yet, Peter dropped everything and followed Him still. As an apostle, Peter had his ups and downs. As human beings, we have our ups and downs. We do too much sometimes, and it causes us to question our place with God. Jesus Christ redeemed Peter from his fumblings. He became a key voice for Christ simply because he was with Christ.  Where are you with Christ these days? What is a pressing need for you? How are you interfacing with God?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for who You are and how You are. Lord You are steady and unchanging and I know You are at work in my life. Show me how You might use me for Your will. Jesus I give to You my longings and worries.  Strengthen me to follow You further. In your name, Jesus, amen. 




June 16, 2017, 5:00 AM

A new perspective can change everything about our relationships!



When we take the time to get to know people, it will transform the way we communicate with them.  If we choose to spend time learning about someone and their needs, we will relate to them differently.  The best and most effective conversations happen in the contexts of authentic relationships.  That may seem obvious, but I am saddened at how often Christians claim to be “speaking truth in love” while using this phrase as a weapon to ambush someone they have little to no relationship with.  I also find it ironic that this phrase, “speaking the truth in love”, originally intended for believers in Ephesus in regards to how they relate to one another (believer to believer), has become one that shapes how we relate to the world (believer to unbeliever).

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:15-16

 

We are called to be wise in the way we act toward those outside the faith.  This doesn’t mean showing how much truth we know.  It means relating to and communicating with others considerately, sincerely, and mercifully while loving peace.  These are extremely valuable Biblical principles given to help us relate to one another.  We do not have to shy away from the truth but we are called to be sensitive to the ones to whom we are communicating.  I believe we often feel pressure to share truth because we are passionate about our convictions and the freedoms we find in Christ.  This is a beautiful thing! 

 

However, we are instructed to be submissive, prayerful and wise in how we share.  Valuable and eternal communication happens over coffee, shared meals, and most often face to face.  Trouble and relational strain most often come when we are not willing to share our lives but we jump into sharing our truth.  Certainly, truth is not relative and we are asked to be brave in sharing the truth of Christ. Yet, I do not believe that it is necessary for everyone to know my opinion about every hot button issue in our culture.  When I have felt what I know to be actual nudging of the Holy Spirit to speak truth, it has mostly been in the context of relationships, ones in which I have been willing to share my time, myself, and my life.  If we are not willing to share these things, then we must ask ourselves if speaking the truth is the wise thing to do.

 

The Bible tells us that truth is best seen through the frame of a relationship and its goal is maturity, unity and love.  “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” Proverbs 25:11.  If we care about someone and our true desire is to share the truth of Christ with them, He will provide the right time and circumstance.  Ask God to show you when the time is right.

 

This is my Prayer: Father God You know I have messed this up more times than I like to think about, and I’m sorry for that.  Lord help me to be more dependent on You, especially when I attempt to speak truth to others. Help me to be wise and considerate and most of all loving.  Jesus thank You that Your law is simply summed up by loving You and loving others.  Teach me to communicate better so that others see Your love.  In Your name, Jesus.  Amen.     


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 58   Entries 151-155 of 286