Devotions
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May 30, 2017, 5:00 AM

Which trait found in The Beatitudes is the most challenging for you to display?



Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12

 

The words of Christ found in The Sermon on the Mount were a revolutionary rallying cry that confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day. Jesus’ message set the tone for all that would come afterwards. He came to not only fulfill the law, forgive our sins and restore our relationship, but to turn our world upside down.  With each word He spoke, Jesus contrasted the way of God with that of the world. He challenged the status quo of the religious establishment. Obedience of the heart meant more than mindless legalism. The last would be first. Love would replace hate and indifference. Forgiveness would win over judgment and vengeance.

 

Jesus didn’t sugar coat His message or lower the bar of His expectations in hopes of watching His numbers grow. In some regards, Jesus was giving people every reason not to follow Him. Jesus knew the road that lay before Him and what it would ultimately cost those who committed to leave life as they knew it behind.  They were committing to a cause much bigger than themselves, which meant an end to their comfort, convenience, safety and security. Rather than fight for position, authority and recognition, Jesus was looking for individuals willing to lay their agenda down. He desired people who were authentic, people who didn’t fit the typical mold. Jesus wasn’t drawn to power hungry individuals, but to those who made much of other people and brought value to their lives.

 

Every single trait listed in the Beatitudes conflicted with the worldly values of the times.  Nothing has changed over the years; the same agenda pushed by culture in the days of Jesus is present today.  Jesus let them know they were looking for life in all the wrong places and so are we.  Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 Life is found when you make the decision to pick up your cross on a daily basis.  In essence, Jesus is saying the only way to truly find your purpose and passion is through the act of dying to yourself. By sacrificially giving yourself away, you are actually receiving much more in return. Which trait found in The Beatitudes is the most challenging for you to display?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, I confess I wrestle with the act of self-denial.  Lord I know I look like everyone else who fights for their own agenda and demands their needs are met first. Jesus help me to lay down my wants and demands, and pick up Your cross.  Lord teach me live out the traits demonstrated in the beatitudes.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.




May 29, 2017, 5:00 AM

Pride and religion can be a dangerous mix when confronting the challenging issues the world faces.



For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.  Ephesians 2:14

 

Pride and religion can be a dangerous mix when confronting the challenging issues the world faces. The greater our passion towards an issue the higher the stakes we feel. When this is our mindset, conversations quickly turn into debates we want to win at all costs. Trying to get God “on our side” often brings out the worst in us. Why? Because pride yields superiority.  Rather than looking for commonalities, we cling to our differences.  It’s us vs. them and right vs. wrong.

 

If we allow the person on the other side of the issue to get a word in edge wise, we quickly scoff and wonder, “How could they think like that?” But that’s as far as we go in searching out answers to that question. When pride dictates our perspective, we see no value in being curious about their story, their side, or their thoughts. It’s much easier to craft a story in our mind that fills in the blanks. Crossing the aisle only occurs when we attempt to drag others to our side. In our mind, the only way for this insane world to become sane is for everyone to see things from our perspective. They have to think, act and believe exactly the way we do.

 

Only when people rally around the issues we are most passionate about will true peace, unity and freedom be felt. Yet, for a moment lets imagine this scenario actually comes true. Everyone sees eye-to-eye on a specific issue – no arguments, only agreement. Instead of getting utopia, we’d be falling for a trap. We’d be settling for second best and living short sighted.  If the enemy can’t keep us divided, he will settle for us unifying around anything other than Christ, including our issues.  Without us even realizing it, unity around the issues becomes idolatry and the thing we truly worship.

 

I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. John 17:23 When Jesus prays in John 17 that the church would be one He is speaking of a different type of unity. It’s a unity centered on the person of Christ, not a robotic agreement of every single issue. As we grow more into the image of Christ individually, we become one collectively.  We can all agree the system we’re currently using isn’t going to solve the issues in our country. A different way of thinking about the world around us and our role within it is required. We need to bring our issues to Christ rather than Christ to our issues.

 

The more passionate we are about an issue, the more submissive we need to be. We must look within ourselves and be honest about what drives our behavior and our response to others. What fuels our passion? Am I influenced by pride? Have I taken Truth and made it all about myself? Am I twisting Scripture to fit my agenda or to make His name known?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, let me lay the issues that stir something within me at Your feet. Lord help me to respond to the needs and issues around me with humility and grace. Jesus let me love others on the other side of the aisle, the way You love them.   Lord teach me to let understanding and compassion define my actions. In Jesus’ name, Amen.




May 27, 2017, 11:29 PM

How can you love those who live on the opposite side of an issue you are passionate about?



How can you love those who live on the opposite side of an issue you are passionate about? I remember several years ago I was really hooked on one of those reality TV shows.  I watched it intensely.  So I thought that everyone should be watching this show, but my feelings were not shared by my friends.  Go figure!  All I got was yeah I watched it and it was OK.  “OK”, What do mean just OK?  As I hovered over the un-friend button on facebook, I tried to come to grips with how someone that I care for could be so wrong in so many ways. Who didn’t love the people from show?  Was their soul dead?  Seriously, what was wrong with this person…how could they not love this show?

 

Along with breaking my heart and witnessing the error of their ways, I experienced a different emotion. Anger and disgust. Their utter disregard for the best show on television infuriated me. They were blind to the greatness of this show. At that moment, clarity came over as I finally understood my life’s purpose – to give this blind person sight and show them why their life was incomplete without this show.  Gripping tightly to “the truth” that was on my side, I began to respond to their Facebook post. The keyboard started to smoke as I feverishly typed a manifesto in defense of the show. However, for whatever reason, my snarky retort did nothing to change my friend’s mind. Instead, we engaged in an hour-long heated debate over what truly constituted “Must See TV.”

 

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18

When it comes to the things we love, are passionate about and believe in, we can very easily lose perspective on what truly matters. Our emotions dictate our response when we encounter disagreement and push back. Instead of thinking about others, we make everything about us.  We believe that our viewpoint is the only way to see the world around us. Whether it is musical taste, movie choices, parenting style, political views, or religious stances, we can construct walls and burn bridges that prevent connection.  If you don’t reside in our camp than you’re an outsider.

 

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

In those places where disagreement or tension exists, as believers we should fight. But, not in the way one would think when people don’t see eye-to-eye. We fight for the relationship and connections to remain intact. We battle to truly understand the other side. We wrestle with wanting the best for the other person. We combat our pride and arrogance and look for ways to display humility. We resist our tendency to think “me first” and instead try to live peaceful lives that glorify God. Where do you need to fight for connection in the midst of disagreement?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to not lose sight of what truly matters. Lord you’ve given me a voice, but You didn’t intend for me to use it to diminish or belittle others. Jesus I desire for my words and my actions to spur on the connections You have arranged for me. God help me to pursue peace where discord is present. In Jesus name, Amen.




May 26, 2017, 5:00 AM

What conversations are you having over and over again?



What conversations are you having over and over again? Why do these conversations continue to arise? The issue isn’t always “the issue.” Sometimes we spend all of our emotional energy and focus discussing problems while completely missing the point. An argument might break out over someone coming home late when the real issue that goes unaddressed is a lack of trust. A parent frustrated with their teen for not cleaning their room turns into a conflict over skirted responsibilities, however, in the eyes of the teen it is really about how they feel inadequate.

 

Because the deeper heart issues don’t get touched upon, it often feels like we are engaging in the same conversations over and over again with little to no resolution. So, how do we stop having the conversations we don’t need to have and engage in the ones that we do? It starts with listening, validating, and then responding to the individual. We are so quick to respond or offer up a rebuttal that we seldom hear what the other person is really saying. True understanding requires listening to take place.

 

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20

This is a challenge many of us face because when there is tension and we feel misunderstood we either become defensive or go on the offense. The words of others begin to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown. All we hear is “wah wah…wah wah wah…” We take everything so personal, which leads us down a path of defensive insecurity. Then there are those times when we feel backed into a corner and we can’t help but lash out. We respond in anger and cynicism. We point out everyone else’s flaws regardless of the response.

 

This is why some of us tip toe around the issues. We are afraid that if we ‘go there’ we might not be able to get back. As I have said before it’s possible to win a lot of arguments while, losing relationships. The depth we long for in our relationships depends on learning the lost art of seeking to understand before being heard. This can only occur if we are willing to pause, to be quiet, to listen and to empathize. It requires us to understand there is a weight to our words. The things we say make a difference. But, what has the greatest impact on another person is when they know they are being heard. We need to practice the discipline of not having the last word. Our words are to be used to bring life and not prove a point. In the space between listening and speaking, we suspend judgment, focus on the person and mine for meaning.

 

When we do speak, it is essential that we listen to our own words. They serve as a great revealer. They shine light on the health of our heart. The connection between our mouth and our heart is seen throughout Scripture. “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.” Matthew 15:18 Our mouth has the capacity to affect our heart. Our mouth speaks based upon what the heart is full of. In our quest to engage our relationships and the world around us, tending to our hearts is necessary. The goal is for God’s love to flood our heart in such a way that our mouth becomes a fountain of life.

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, may I be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Lord help me to reflect on what I am hearing, rather than respond.  Jesus help me to display Your heart in my relationship with others. In Your name Jesus, Amen.




May 25, 2017, 5:00 AM

Is it hard for you to ask for help? 



“For I hold you by your right hand, I the Lord your God. And I say to you, don’t be afraid, I am here to help you.” Isaiah 41:13

 

Is it hard for you to ask for help?  Help is such a simple word, but it brings about many feelings and attitudes from within, many of which are not entirely favorable, especially when you’re me.  My feelings run all over the place.  They go from gratefulness to guilt, from frustration to humility.  My mind goes crazy with questions.  Like, how do I deal with this? How can accept help and assistance with grace? How do I kill the guilt that I feel when I have to ask for it?

 

My preferred route is to just bear down and tell myself everything’s fine, isolate, and throw myself at problem.  Life experience has taught me, that I have to take care of things myself.  I have been doing it all my life.  I’ve always taken care of myself, my family, and even my church. I do whatever it takes.  I get it done one way or the other, whatever sacrifice I need to make.  But what I have begun to realize lately is that I have attached “my” to those things in my life that are HIS, I’m HIS, it’s HIS family, and HIS church.  I bet if you were to examine your response to that first question that I would be in very good company.

 

I tell myself things like: “I should be able to handle this. I don’t need to talk to someone about this.  I don’t want to burden anyone else with my issues.” I’m certain I’m not alone in this unhealthy pattern. But in doing this, we’re actually missing God’s design for our needs. God wants us to acknowledge our needs, not hide from them. We are to seek help, even encouraged and commanded to do so!

 

“and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through.” 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

Consider this scripture, when Paul was unable to go to the church in Thessalonica, sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them in their faith. Shouldn’t we look at this also as God using others to be His hands and feet, just as he uses us? What about Timothy? He chose to be obedient to God’s call, not only to serve God but to serve both Paul and the Thessalonians.  When God calls an individual to assist us, be it family, friend, or acquaintance, that person is being used directly by God to be His helper, to answer our prayer.  Even if it is not exactly the way we would prefer it to be answered!  God’s call on our live sometimes requires many tasks and duties that we need help with.

 

In Exodus 18, When Moses was called to be the leader of God’s nation he too had many duties. His tasks were never-ending, and when his father-in-law came to visit he encouraged him to utilize others to relieve some of the burden from his own shoulders.  In the end Moses did so. He was still doing as God desired, yet the burden was not as heavy.  We also can see that in Jesus, even though he is God and could do all things. He chose to call men of every background and intellectual level, to be His disciples, His friends, His helpers. Why? Perhaps to show us that the gift of love is demonstrated not just by serving, but being served. Are you willing to accept His gift of love, His Help?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to be willing to say, "I need help".  Forgive me for not recognizing when You send someone to help me and I in my pride or feelings of guilt, choose to not accept it as I should.  Lord, help me to be truly humble, accepting the assistance You so graciously give me, and to be grateful for Your provision.  Jesus bless those who so lovingly offer that help and are allowing themselves to be used by You. In Your name, Amen.


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