Devotions
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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.




October 18, 2017, 5:00 AM

What action steps will you take going forward that will enable you to make wiser decisions?



When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood like a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away my childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

 

I can’t recall all of the many words of wisdom provided to me by my father. I can tell you that at the age of 16 I thought he was kind of old fashioned and unimaginative. I can also tell you that now I fell like a total idiot for not absorbing so much of the godly wisdom that he poured into me. I working on things with dad. From the time I can remember anything I remember the thrill of fixing a problem on a car, repairing something on a house, and how impatient I would get when things weren’t going like I thought they should . I also remember getting frustrated as a young boy and complaining to my father of what a fixer I was. His reply: “Son, if you want to be a good, find someone who knows what they are doing and watch them.” From that point on, I watched mechanics and carpenters, studied their tool selection and repair strategies, and mimicked whatever I saw them do. The result, I became pretty good at building and fixing things.

 

Dad gave me other advice. Limit your alcohol consumption, treat people with respect, honor your mother, and study the Word. He also gave me incredibly good practical advice. Finish what you start, change your motor oil every three thousand miles, and go to college.  Some of dad’s advice came naturally to me. I innately wanted to follow it. Others, not so much. I ran with a group of friends who also gave me advice, who wanted to influence me, and to shape my thinking and view of the world. And while their intentions were good, they lacked the salt that my dad’s wisdom had.  The result, is a lot of regret, a lot of lessons learned the hard way, and too much separation from the man God wanted me to be.

 

You are the company you keep. Have you ever heard that? Pray about those you surround yourself with. Does that mean that you abdicate your responsibility to love and influence your close friends? Absolutely not. But it does mean that a godly person understands that iron sharpens iron, and that we need to keep our Christ following friends, very, very close to us.  I do not have a silver bullet that will eliminate all of my bad decisions.  For what it’s worth neither did David, Solomon, or the disciples. We’re all in a battle between heaven and hell, and simply knowing that can frame our decision-making process in a more godly light.  Author John Eldridge says that “God is a God of process.” I think what he means by that is that a follower of God is on a never-ending pursuit of Him.

 

Every moment can be a longing to learn more, to love Him more, and to understand Him more. Draw near to God; and He will draw close to you (James 4:8). I think if there is a silver bullet, this would probably be it. What action steps will you take going forward that will enable you to make wiser decisions? Who has God placed in your life to speak wisdom to you?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, keep me in Your company this week.  Lord please pour Your wisdom into me, and allow this wisdom to become a part of the fabric of who I am. I pray that I learn to listen and adhere to the wise advice of friends, colleagues, and even strangers that You put in my path to shape me into the person You want me to be. I am yours Jesus, and I seek Your wisdom, Your love, and Your forgiveness today. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

What are you spilling onto others critical or life giving words?



“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” Luke 6:45

 

According to one of Aesop’s fables, a man and his grandson were traveling to town. The old man walked while his grandson rode their donkey. But some people said, “Would you look at that? The old man is suffering on his feet while that strong, young boy, who is totally capable of walking, sits on that donkey!” So the old man, hearing this, switched places and began to ride the donkey while the boy walked. Now he heard people saying, “Would you look at that? A grown man taking advantage of that little boy. Can you believe it?” So the man and the boy both rode the donkey. Then they heard people saying, “Would you look at those heavy brutes making that poor donkey suffer?” So they both got off and walked until they heard some people say, “How pitiful, a perfectly good donkey not being used!” In the final scene of the story, the boy and the man stagger along as they carry the donkey.

 

The point of the story is this: If a person’s heart is to criticize, if their intention is to find fault, there is absolutely nothing that can satisfy them. Beneath the petty, surface issue is a real, heart issue. Our words reveal what’s in our hearts. Our words are merely the spillover of what is in our hearts.  Usually our criticism stems for one of three things: unforgiveness, envy, or personal comparison. Unforgiveness and the bitterness that goes with it fuel criticism. The criticism is not the real issue; it only covers the deeper issue and causes wounds to fester rather than heal. The second heart issue fueling criticism is envy. Criticism masks envy, jealousy, or resentment. Envious of another’s success, people grow critical to pull the other down. As they dwell on the other person’s good fortune, they begin to be overcome by resentment and start to find fault with what that person is doing. A third heart problem that lies under the covers of criticism is personal comparison. People can become critical of others because they’re living in defeat themselves.

 

Maybe you’re discouraged about the direction of your life or what you have been able to accomplish so far. Maybe you’re struggling with a personal sin that has you consistently defeated. How easy it is to become critical of others to try to level the playing field. Comments deflect the attention from your own struggles to another person’s: “Well, she doesn’t have it all together, either,” or “Maybe I’m struggling, but he’s not perfect.” Criticism elevates you as the highest and best. Criticism can seem to reduce the pain of being under scrutiny and give you the satisfaction of scrutinizing someone else instead. People find it much harder to see your life if you are shining a critical spotlight on others! Criticism takes the focus off you and your faults and makes you feel superior, which is destructive to your spiritual life.

 

We often utter careless, thoughtless words that strike others like a slap in the face. Our verbal missiles may or may not be targeted for intentional injury, but we cause deep damage with our critical words. On a better day, filled with the Spirit and focused on what’s right, we would never choose to say those things. But when our hearts are overflowing with unforgiveness, envy, or personal comparisons, criticism spills from our lips.  What is fueling your criticism of others unforgiveness, envy, personal comparisons, or some other motive lurking in your heart?  What are you spilling onto others critical or life giving words? What does that suggest about the abundance of your heart?

 

This is my Pray: Father God, my criticism of others is a decoy from my real heart issues. Lord help me to see clearly the messy motives of my words. Please show me my unforgiveness, envy, and areas of defeat. When I start to deflect the attention from my own soul onto others, please remind me of my real heart issues.  Jesus please forgive me, please heal me, and fill my heart with good treasure so that when I speak, my words would spill good onto others. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 15, 2017, 5:00 AM

The way we think about authority is inextricably linked to how we think about God.



Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Philippians 2:3-8

 

As of late, with all the things going on in my life, parenting a high school kid has been a mammoth challenge.  As much as he was excited about high school, the reality of an early alarm, the need to spend long periods of time doing homework, while fine at school, he comes home and unloads his frustrations on everyone around him.   To say this has been a challenge of my patience is a monumental understatement. Some days I preach to myself, “Remain calm.  Be king and loving yet clear about my authority and expectations.”  Other days, I can only muster, “Jesus, help me!”   And sometimes, regretfully, I have given myself over to the frustration and found myself jumping on her crazy-train, becoming angry and threatening my hand. But the truth is, if at any particular moment the only power I have over my children are my hands, then I really have nothing at all.

 

Where do we draw our motivation for surrendering to the authority of God?  If it is fear of a heavy hand looming over us, we are missing the essence of what it means to live under His authority and in a real, active relationship with Him.  In the short-term it may control our behavior but it has no sustaining power to shape our hearts.  I think this is why Jesus set aside His power and control when He walked the earth.  He knew that the motivation of obedience springs from a relationship.  Scripture teaches us that He “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” Jesus could have asserted His authority yet He humbled Himself and set aside His privilege, power, and control to the point of death.  Most people grasp desperately to hold onto to those very things, but Christ is asking us to let them go.

 

His authority was not demonstrated through threat and coercion but through humbleness, servanthood, and considering others as better than Himself.  These values make up the foundation of a healthy and God-honoring relationship. He had every right to assert power and control, yet He chose not to.  He was teaching that our motivation for obedience must flow from a deeper well.  An attempt to keep (or enforce) rules will prove hollow without the reliance on a relationship.  As we come to understand more about the ways of God in the Bible, we can see that He values freedom.  He never intended our robotic obedience but asks for our deep-rooted trust in His will and rule.  As we grow in our relationships, we will see that the more we are willing to submit to the rule of God the more we will experience the peace of God.

 

The way we think about authority is inextricably linked to how we think about God. If our understanding of authority has been shaped through coercion, threat, and control, then our temptation is to see God in the same way and to use our authority in the same manner. We carry forth a God-given mission to reflect God’s image.  Claiming Christ is a large responsibility because He desires that we model what it means to live under His rule upon the earth.  He has given us authority over our lives, our bodies, our affections, and our little corners of the world.  How will we use it?  Will we use it to exalt ourselves beyond our places as creatures of God or will we follow Christ and use it to exalt others, exalt our Creator, and the values of His kingdom?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to wisely use the authority You have given me. Lord help me to stop seeing authority as a way of controlling behavior. Jesus help me to see it as a way to empower others, especially my children, to live free and full. In Your name, Amen. 




October 14, 2017, 5:00 AM

How has living for Christ affected your relationships with people around you?



“But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

 

I took a yoga class many years ago. One day before we started, I was telling this lady next to me that I enjoyed the exercise, but as a Christian I didn’t subscribe to the new-age beliefs that the teacher shares during class. The lady smiled condescendingly and said, “Maybe you can be open-minded. All religions work together.” In great fashion I replied, “Well, you have to be careful not to be so open-minded that your brain falls out!” I had just met this lady, and I launched into a lecture right then, and I lost her. Later while praying about it. God revealed to me that there is a time for a lecture and a time for love.  I should have earned the right to speak truth to her by loving her in the present.  You see there is a difference between knowledge that puffs us up and love that builds up.

 

I can remember when I had wrapped myself in the world’s prideful lies that made it easy to dismiss the fact that I needed a Savior. Lies like: There are many paths to God. People who do more good than bad will wind up in heaven. Jesus may be real for you, but not for me. Sin is a made-up concept used to make me feel guilty. There is no absolute truth. This, by the way, is an absolute statement!  When we invest in loving people as Jesus invested in us, we will discover that meaning and purpose is only found in relationships, and relationships give us opportunity to share the truth of God.  They also give us insight into our relationship with Him, and just how much we need His love. What lies have you believed about God in the past? As you got to know Him better through His Word, what truths have you discovered? How has living for Christ affected your relationships with people around you?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, the world is full of vague, fluffy lies meant to distract us from the only truth that leads to a meaningful life here on earth and eternal life in heaven with You. Lord fill my heart and mind with the truth of Your Son.   Jesus help me to take things in Your time and love people as You loved them. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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