Devotions
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August 22, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where do you need to “lean in” and respond to the nudges you feel to love God and love others?



“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

 

Jesus summed up the entire law with the simple command of love God and love others. In this single statement, Jesus revealed humanity’s greatest need as well as the highest call for us as Christians. Yet, for whatever reason, whether it be fear, selfishness or just plain laziness, this weighty issue of faith sometimes does not sit well with our stomach. Being independently dependent upon Jesus Christ involves understanding the true source for sustainability in our walks. We must be fueled by the love of God. There is nothing else strong enough to motivate us to care for one another by extending a hand.

 

If we are shallow in our walks with God we will continue to be shallow with others. Our willingness to “go there” and invest in the lives of others is an expression of the health and vitality of our walks with God. Like Christ, we must be willing to move into relationships and help those that are in our sphere of influence. It is our responsibility to engage, invest, and encourage them. Helping someone walk with God requires taking the time to get to know him or her. This can only occur if we are willing to lean in, listen to their story, and try to understand their heart.  Yet, the first step is making room in our own lives to know more of God’s heart. Inviting Him into our heart allows us to show the heart of God to others as we enter their world.

 

Through our attempts to love others, God stretches us, teaches us, and reveals to us more of His character. The depth we crave in our walk with Him develops as our hearts slowly become His own. Giving ourselves away is the most powerful way to live. It is the cure for a lot of the problems we face in our individualistic culture.  Matthew 16:25 reminds us that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for God will find it”. This takes place by following a simple command: love God and love others.  Where do you need to “lean in” and respond to the nudges you feel to love God and love others?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, allow me to take the call to love others seriously. Lord enable me to see that my willingness to help others means nothing if it isn’t grounded in love. Jesus may the love I extended to others come from the overflow of love You have given me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 21, 2017, 5:00 AM

Good conversations build and strengthen people, they never destroy.



We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

The Bible tells us that, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”  Quite honestly, sometimes I can’t believe that God trusts His image with people.  People are crazy!  I mean, does He see what people are saying on His behalf on street signs and social media? Of course He does.  That was an obvious and rhetorical question.  A question prompted by the repeated observation of Christians trying to make a valid point in an invalid way.  I am guilty of this too.  However, I am learning that the way we say things is just as important as what we say.

 

The way we present ourselves and the way we talk about God is crucial. The fate of people hang in the balance.  The way we speak truth is either repelling or alluring.  It is rarely, if ever, neutral. Not only is it important to know what we believe, but it is important to learn how to communicate our beliefs with grace and wisdom.  When it comes to hot-button issues in our culture, we are to be wise in how we have conversations and communicate God’s truth.  “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” Colossians 4:5-6.

 

Full of grace and seasoned with salt.  We do not have to be an expert in theology or even skilled in conversation to be full of grace.  What does it mean to “season with salt”?  To answer this we need to consider how salt was used in biblical times.  It was not your modern-day, refined table salt.  Salt was used to preserve the life of fresh fish and vegetables so they wouldn’t spoil.  It was also used for healing as unrefined salt has beneficial trace minerals.  Seasoning a conversation with salt means that we are to be an instrument of life and healing.  I don’t think we can do this by having a heated “conversation” over social media.  We need to have difficult, grace-filled conversations face to face and eye to eye and always in the context of a relationship.

 

Taking stands on issues is not more important than the people living them.  Our only goal should be to help people know Christ. Instead of using the Bible to destroy or prove a point, use it as a basis of conversation within the framework of a relationship.  Learn to ask good questions of those who live differently than you (open-ended ones are best).  Be willing to listen more than you speak.  Understand that you can learn something even if you vehemently disagree with someone. 

 

Good conversations build and strengthen people, they never destroy. Our words should affirm the truth about God but also the value of the people He created. One of my favorite things about God is that He has not dumped the entire box of His Truth on my lap at once.  He has revealed Himself, little by little, in the context of our relationship.  He has loved me through my dumb choices and outright disobedience.  He even died for me while I was still a sinner.  Truly believing this truth will change the way we speak to and love others.

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you for sending your son to die for me while I was still a sinner.  Lord thank you for loving me, a sinner, now.  Jesus please give me wisdom when I speak to others about You.  Help me to pause before I speak and ask for Your help.  I want to be better at conversations because I want people to know You better.  In your name Jesus.  Amen.




August 20, 2017, 5:00 AM

How does your mind control your actions?



Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13

 

Proverbs 25:28 says that a person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls. Each one of us must have a way of dealing with the world when it doesn’t make sense. This is why resting, renewing our minds and capturing out thoughts is so critical to our spiritual formation and battle over freaking out. Captive thoughts prepare one to see correctly. Scripture spends a great deal of energy focusing on the importance of conquering our mind: setting our mind (Colossians 3:2), renewing our mind (Romans 12:2), submitting our mind (Psalm 26:2), and preparing our mind (1 Peter 1:13). Our thoughts and what controls our mind determine the way in which we experience God.

 

Yet, the importance of capturing our thoughts and renewing our mind are rarely stressed in Christian circles and even more rarely practiced as a spiritual discipline. We let our thoughts run wild in our mind with little to no self-control. This, in turn, causes us to struggle to experience an intimate relationship with Christ and trust in Him when our world is thrown off kilter. We don’t realize their is a battle going on for our heart and mind.  The struggle over our mind is really a struggle over who we are. Beginning to live in the knowledge that we are His beloved will help us in any struggles that we might face in life. In this war we find ourselves in, we must replace all those lies we focus on with the truth of who we are in Christ.

 

What controls our mind often determines our actions. We become what we set our minds on. The first step in renewing our minds is remembering who we are in Christ. It is crucial we align our perspective with what it is true, solid, good and right. Only then will we begin to realize that God is ultimately in control of every situation we face. How does your mind control your actions?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, often when I am freaking out my mind is all over the place. Lord help me to renew and prepare my mind for those moments when I am tempted to worry or overact. Jesus may I see the situation I am facing through a different lens, one that is guided through Your love for me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 19, 2017, 5:00 AM

If you were to wake up tomorrow and all you had was what you were grateful for today, what would that look like?



All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:6

Relationships and faith are two of the bedrock terms of a Christians life. I always find it somewhat amusing to hear a Christian say, “I’m ready for my Father to take me home, I put my faith in Him,” when they are going through a particularly difficult time in their lives. Yet, as soon as a fortunate blessing enters into this struggle, their attitude shifts to more of, “The Lord has rewarded my faith with this blessing and He wants me to stay here and enjoy it!”  While there is an ironic source of amusement in our ability to check in and out of faith as if it were a hotel, I believe that there is a much deeper issue going on here. Where does faith come from? What is the source and who sustains it?

 

If I address any relationship in my life, I can pretty quickly capture how it stands. Is this a person that I would rely on to drop me off at the airport on time? Would I lend them money? Would I leave them alone in my home without worry? Without even realizing it, we have an ongoing relationship checklist that we are constantly engaged with. Over time and experience in this personal interaction, we gain firsthand knowledge of this person and some fruits, both good and bad begin to bear. Issues of trust, character, integrity, and faith, begin to emerge and solidify our more knowledgeable understanding of both the other person involved in this interaction and also the ultimate reward of every relationship that we encounter, a greater understanding of ourselves.

 

It has occurred to me that my faith in God is based on a similar process. The presence of faith in my life can only come from my relationship and knowledge that I gain from my personal interaction with my Savior. I simply cannot rely on self-willed faith or someone else’s understanding and explanation of God. The strength of my faith is born out of how well I truly know my Jesus. It must be first hand and it must be face-to-face. This pursuit is seeking to know our Savior. This is on us, something we can and must do if we are to be truly Godly people.

 

If you truly desire to strengthen your faith in Christ, you simply must get to know Him as you would the closest personal friend you have. By doing so, the fruits of His Spirit will bud in your life in Him and bloom in the relationships that He has blessed you with in this earthly life.  What is your faith based on? Is it fashioned out of your changing fortunes in this world or out of your personal knowledge of God? If you were to wake up tomorrow and all you had was what you were grateful for today, what would that look like?

 

This is my Prayer:  Father God, I want to know You in a way that quiets my intellect and fills my heart with desire for You. Lord I want to welcome You with uncontainable joy and be Yours in this life. Jesus teach me who You made me to be and enable me to recognize Your love, so I seek no other love, as my heart has no more space to give.  In your name Jesus. Amen.




August 18, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you planting the wrong seeds?



Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10

 

The light and the dark. It’s the epic struggle we’ve seen depicted in our stories since the beginning of time. The hero of light struggles against the villain of darkness. We love these stories because they seem to reflect our world. They reflect our own desire that the light will win out over the darkness. But what if the tension between light and dark isn’t just a struggle happening out there? What if it’s one that’s going on in our own hearts? God says that it is. Even crazier He says that we have a role to play in the battle. We get to choose which side we’re going to sow into our lives.

 

Jesus is inviting us to sow the light, and our decision to do so just might make the difference between living life to the fullest and missing out on it. In order to live the full life, we must confront the dark side. Darkness needs isolation in order to thrive. We separate ourselves from not only the life and love of God, but the people He has placed around us as well. Sin loves the darkness. It requires an element of isolation to pursue the lusts that we desire. The reason for this is very simple.  Darkness requires one to forsake wisdom. Instead we take on a posture of hiding, isolation, indifference and even hostility towards the truth. Choosing the dark side pushes us to be defensive and use deceit to justify our behavior. It clouds our judgment and makes us believe we are entitled to the desires we are trying to fulfill.

 

Don’t be deceived. Everyone is vulnerable to the allure of darkness. No one is immune to the dark side. Falling away from God and losing sight of the full life He promises happens through a series of bad choices. Today matters, right now matters, and your next decision matters. What we plant is what we harvest. What we sow today, we reap tomorrow. We have a responsibility for what we plant and this is why we need to consider what we are planting. It is impossible to live life to the fullest when we are making dark side decisions. We mock God by doing one thing and expecting different results. We are foolish if we believe we can plant dark seeds and expect to get light in return.

 

When we are tempted and are struggling, we should press into the truth and pursue wisdom. It’s not enough to simply be available, we must fight for freedom. Sharing the struggle lightens the load. It is in isolation that our unchecked desires run free.  Wisdom brings the necessary boundaries to ensure that the freedom of our souls remains protected. It also provides perspective. One doesn’t get into a mess overnight which means one doesn’t get out of it overnight.  There comes a point when we must stop hiding and pretending. 

 

“Receiving Christ” is not some compartmentalized decision.  It requires coming into the light.  It involves being exposed and vulnerable. This can only occur if we are willing to break the silence and be honest about our sin. The invitation is to bring it to Christ to be exposed and forgiven.  Why? So our lives will serve as an expression of God. Where are you planting the wrong seeds? What different seeds do you need to start planting?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, let me not lose sight of the battle taking place inside me. Lord help me to realize that with every decision I make I can choose to stand freely in the light or isolate myself in the darkness. Jesus I desire to make choices that bring You glory. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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