Devotions

  • Lukewarm

    By in Devotions on

    “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

    Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

    To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:14-22

    Insight

    After each of His letters to the seven churches in Asia, written by the apostle John in the book of Revelation, Jesus implored all believers everywhere to listen to His Spirit and issued a call for repentance.  His words were not only important for the church of the first century, but they are crucial for us as the present day church.

    Without ears to hear and a heart of repentance, we will not be the living organism that we were purposed to be: the body of Christ.

    His letters beg the question, What is the Spirit of God saying to our church?  In order to understand where He is leading us collectively, we must be willing to examine our hearts, listen to the Spirit of God and repent individually.  If God can work through one sincere and repentant heart, imagine what He could do with thousands of sincere and repentant hearts.

    Jesus was specific in His rebuke to each church He highlighted. If we sit still long enough to listen to God and search his Word, He will make it clear what changes He would like to see in us.  He said in Revelation 3:15-16 to the church of Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

    There is interesting imagery in this passage.  Upon first reading it you may draw the conclusion that Jesus wishes for us to either be “hot” in our faith, conjuring up an image of a super saint, or “cold” in our faith neglecting to do anything for Christ or perhaps He’s speaking to unbelievers.  But as we come to understand Laodicea and its topography, we learn that it had a deficient natural water supply.  Yet, it was close in proximity to the hot springs of Hierapolis (which had medicinal uses as the temperature of the water reached 95 degrees) as well as the naturally cool waters of Colossae, both of which were very useful for someone living in Laodicea.

    Hot or cold — those are extreme!  What is wrong with lukewarm water?  Lukewarm water is equated to a lukewarm faith and lukewarm faith is useless to God.  A disciple of Jesus is not called to a half-hearted, lackluster commitment to follow Him.  The call is to offer all of our hearts in an unwavering devotion and obedience to the values of His Kingdom.  When we take the time to listen to the Spirit of God and ask His forgiveness for specific sin in our lives, God will strengthen our faith and devotion.

    We are not simply called to be believers or attenders of church, we are invited to be participants in His Kingdom as Christ’s ambassadors. God is making His appeal to the world through us. A lukewarm faith is guaranteed to garner a lackluster response from a culture searching for the hope, forgiveness and life only found through the Gospel. Instead, our lives transformed through an encounter with God’s grace should influence everything about us – our words, our actions and the way we engage with others. Eventually true faith leads to Spirit-led action, and as each one acts, the church becomes a living and active body that the world notices.

    Reflection

    • Take some time to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal specific sin in your life.
    • Describe the current temperature of your faith: hot, cold or lukewarm. What makes you answer in the way that you do?
    • What area of your life is God calling you to whole-hearted obedience?  

    Prayer

    Lord, please forgive me for my lukewarm faith and commitment to You.  Help me to hear what Your Spirit is saying so that I can live the life You desire for me.  Thank you for loving me enough to correct me and for giving me Your Holy Spirit to guide me.  I don’t want to live a life of boring, religious obligation and half-hearted devotion, but I want to live as an active participant and ambassador of Your Kingdom. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Strategic Shrewdness

    By in Devotions on

    1Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

     3“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

     5“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

     6” ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’

     7“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ” ‘A thousand bushelsof wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

     8“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

     10“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

     13“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” LUKE 16:1-13 

    Insight

    At first glance, to be labeled a shrewd is a title few would want. The word carries with it some negative images like the shrewd businessman who is cutthroat and will not let anything stand in the way of what he wants. The ultimate goal for him is personal success, and every decision is seen through this lens, even if the end results leave hurting people in his wake. Many feel this word resides in the place where manipulation, crookedness, and deception call home.

    For this very reason, we struggle to understand the truth Jesus was trying to convey by telling the parable of the shrewd manager found in Luke 16:1-13. Chances are good it caught some of His listeners off guard because it appears that Jesus is praising a crook for his actions. Why would Jesus want us to emulate a man whose boss labeled him as not only dishonest (v.8) but incompetent (v.1) as well? Some translations go as far as stating the shrewd manager was a thief (v. 2). Should we take this to mean He is condoning this biblical Robin Hood’s approach to money management?

    We know and trust that a Holy God would never applaud deceptive behavior. So what exactly does He want believers to emulate in the shrewd money manager? Believe it or not, God desires us to be shrewd. Our hang-up with this parable comes from the motives that drove the manager’s actions. They were purely self-serving. Having been busted by his boss for squandering the resources he had been given, the manager goes into resource mode to save his own hide.

    Slashing debts left and right suddenly placed the manager on solid footing because through his actions his boss was seen as generous in the eyes of others. The boss is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. He either commends his manager and accepts the label of being generous or fires his manager and appears greedy. This would cause sympathy from the debtors, and the manager would have a place to stay when his mean, greedy boss fired him.

    Realizing he had just been the victim of a fast one, the boss could not help but chuckle and applaud the manager’s quick thinking and resourcefulness. Shedding his incompetent and lazy label, the manager was now constantly alert, looking for angles, and skillful in his adaptation. Shrewdness is a middle term that is neither good nor evil. Instead, the motives that lead a person to be shrewd are what determine the word’s morality. Synonyms for being shrewd are astute, calculating, discerning, and perceptive. When it comes to your relationships, would you say you are discerning and perceptive?

    In Matthew 10:16, Jesus encourages His disciples to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This statement drives to the heart and shines light on the truth of the parable, which is to leverage everything we have for God’s kingdom, including our relationship with others. It would be easy to dismiss the strengths the manager possessed because they were done with an impure heart. Yet, the key to this parable is found in verse 8: “For the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” In other words, if a crook only looking out for his own can understand that his life is better when he gives away money to benefit others, then why can’t the people of God manage to get it right?

    What if we focused on the servant’s resourcefulness and his ability to think outside the box and imagine what it would look like if they were done with pure motives? Shrewdness becomes strategic when we use our influence for God’s kingdom. How can we be shrewd in our relationships with others? How can wisdom drive the way we speak into their lives? The execution comes when you use your life. It begins by paying attention to the things that are going on around you. We need to think of how we can use our resources and abilities to make Him known. Use the opportunities you have been given to enhance God’s reputation.

    Reflection

    • When it comes to your relationships, would you say you are discerning and perceptive?

    Prayer

    God, help me to be shrewd in the opportunities You present in order to further Your kingdom. Allow me to act with purpose. May I act and speak with pure motives so You may be glorified. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Step Into The Unknown

    By in Devotions on

    Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1-3

    These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40

    Insight

    When we let comfort and convenience overpower our willingness to step into the unknown, we choose to sit on the sidelines. If our eyes focus solely on whether our tiny, individual kingdom is comfortable, we will miss out on opportunities to be used by God. There is an incredible cost associated with making this decision.

    In order to tell a great story with our life, we must choose calling over convenience.

    The life and meaning we desire is found when we sacrifice for something bigger than ourselves. God’s vision for the person we are becoming has little to do with our peace and pleasure. It gives little regard to our comfort and convenience.

    There are no epic Bible stories about a man or woman who settled for comfort. The people God utilized were those willing to be inconvenienced and sacrifice their needs and wants for a greater good. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in Hebrews 11.

    This passage is often dubbed “The Hall of Faith.” The individuals mentioned were driven by faith and convictions and refused to settle for comfort. They trusted in God’s character as well as His promises.

    Imagine for a second if they took the easy route and choose convenience instead. Noah never would have built an ark in the middle of a barren land. Abraham would have missed the opportunity to see God’s promise fulfilled in Isaac. Moses and the Israelites would have never left Egypt or crossed the Red Sea.

    This list, doesn’t even mentioned those from the New Testament who exhibited incredible faith – people like the apostle Paul, Peter, John and the rest of the disciples. If they settled for security, the early church, along with the life-changing message of the Gospel, would never have dispersed to the ends of world.

    Yet, they did answer the call and many heard their radical message of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. In the face of fiery opposition, they spoke of God taking on human form, being vulnerable, and willingly dying on a cross to bridge the divide that our sin created. This message has been changing the world ever since.

    Reflection

    • What type of story are you telling with your life? Where does faith make an appearance in your story?

    Prayer

    God, I want to tell a great story with my life. I want my days to count. Yet, this won’t occur if I’m consumed with making a name for myself. Help me to live for something bigger than myself. May Your name be praised through the way I live my life. In Your name, Jesus. Amen. 

  • Seeds

    By in Devotions on

    Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

    Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

    “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

    Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

    Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:20-33

    Insight

    Seeds in a bag sitting on a shelf in a garage are pretty useless.  Safe?  Yes.  Useful?  No.  Think about what a seed has to go through, though, to be useful – to bear fruit.  It has to leave the safety of the packaging, enter the harsh, cruel world, get buried alive, spend days dying alone in the dark, have cold water poured over it seemingly drowning it, and ultimately it dies! Anyone want to sign up to be a seed?

    This is what Jesus is calling us to, though.  To be planted.  To give up our lives.  To give up our dreams.  To give up the safety of the sterile packaging.  To leave the comfortable structures of our lives.  To die.

    It’s what Jesus did.  He left the safety and comfort of heaven to be planted for a time amongst us.  He did the will of His Father.  He gave of Himself.  He sacrificed His desires and put others first.  He spent himself.  He died.

    But the story doesn’t end with death – not Jesus’ story.  Did Jesus suffer?  Yes.  Did Jesus go through excruciating amounts of humiliation and pain?  Yes.  Was Jesus raised from the dead and given new life?  Absolutely, and we celebrate that!

    The story doesn’t end with death for a seed, either.  Because when it dies, new life springs forth!  When a seed dies, it can have true life, and others reap the benefit of the fruit it produces.

    The same can be true for us as well.  Jesus calls us to follow Him (John 12:26), and following Him means, first and foremost, to die.  To lay down our desires.  To lay down our hopes and dreams.  To put aside anything other than full devotion to Him and His plan for our lives.  To be willing to part with the things that we so easily cling onto for life and to say to God, “I’m willing to destroy these things if it means I can be used by You to bring You glory and bear fruit so that others may know You as God.”

    And in the end, what is promised is life – both here on Earth and eternally with Him.

    We are seeds, and we’re either sitting on a shelf alone and useless or we’ve died so that Jesus can give us life and use our fruit to bring nourishment to those around us.

    Reflection

    • Where have you been planted? Who are you impacting?
    • Where are you seeing new life bloom in your actions, thought life and words?
    • What causes you to go “all in” when it comes to following Christ?

    Prayer

    Lord, reveal to me the areas of my life that need to be put to death so that I can be fully alive.  Give me courage to do the things You’ve called me to do.  May I see myself as planted where I am so that those around me can receive nourishment from the fruit that You bear through my life.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Cultivating Compassion

    By in Devotions on

    Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38 

    Insight

    Division and discord seem like apt descriptions for the world we live in right now. Name an issue and almost instantly fights, quarrels and arguments break out. An “US vs. THEM” mentality has taken over our culture. To get everyone to agree on just a single point feels like an impossible task. Yet, there is one reality that brings both sides of the aisle together. We can all nod our heads in agreement and concede that there are significant issues facing out world.

    People in our world are hungry. They are sick and impoverished.  They are sold into slavery. Education is deliberately withheld. People are stolen, sold, manipulated, and oppressed. We have a crisis of refugees, widows and orphans. We have a crisis of integrity, education, decency, hygiene, and leadership. There are issues of hunger and homelessness. There is a lack of hope.

    Everyday, all around us, we are confronted with brokenness. We see needs in our neighborhood, our city and our world. We may even feel a nudge to get involved, do something and take action, but fear, doubt and inadequacy win out. We shrink back, turn away and hope someone else will rise to the occasion. Some of us allow our convenience, comfort and complacency to justify our inactivity.

    If we don’t lean in to understand, we turn away and ignore. We look for things that entertain or distract us in order to find relief from the jarring issues that seem to interrupt our attention. This reaction is a defense mechanism. It serves as a way to protect our hearts. But, rather than guarding our heart, indifference damages it. We naturally drift towards indifference because of our capacity to care. We hope our hearts will grow and then we will display compassion. But, compassion begins when we start to care. Compassion is a quality that must be cultivated and only takes root when we take action. Concern expands our capacity to care. When our heart breaks with the compassion of our God seen in the Gospel, our soul expands to match this growing concern.

    The significant issues facing our world require significant people. Many of us don’t see ourselves as significant. We think if we can barely handle our own issues, how could we possibly tackle and take on those significant issues? We feel completely inadequate and overwhelmed. We don’t know how to begin, where to start and what we could possibly do to make a difference. We convince ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to make an impact. But, what if our gifts, our experiences, and our passions are exactly enough? Maybe God only needs the little we have to make big things happen, if we would only lean in and start somewhere. Leaning in begins by being curious about the unique expression we have to offer the world and what God wants to do through us.

    Reflection

    • Where have you felt a nudge or a prompting to get involved? Instead of turning away, what would it look like to “lean in” and become curious about ways you can help? How can you put yourself in experiences that will impact your heart?

    Prayer

    God, when my heart breaks over the state of the world, rather than turn away from the discomfort, may I lean in. Instead of hiding, may I look for ways to help. Give me the courage to trust that You are doing something in me in order to something through me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Our Highest Value

    By in Devotions on

    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

    Insight

    The constant chase for peace only lets up when we are willing to die to ourselves. Comfort might distract us and provide relief for a moment, but it eventually gives way to boredom and apathy. Living a life of convenience proves to be a lonely venture. In some regards, convenience is tolerated self-centeredness. When one is thinking solely about themselves and their own-well being, it leaves little room to care for anybody else.

    Unfortunately, many of us take the easy route by devoting a large portion of our energy towards taking care of our own comfort and convenience. Just as long as our personal kingdom is well maintained, we ignore the fact that there are needs all around us. With an individualistic mindset, our greatest concern will always remain inward. When we become lazy in our spiritual life, we make ourselves vulnerable towards letting status quo, convenience and our feelings direct our actions.

    We don’t understand the devastating effect this causes to our hearts. Our soul shrinks or expands to our greatest concern. When our highest value is our own comfort and well-being, our soul becomes minuscule and unusable. But, when our heart breaks with the compassion of our God seen in the Gospel, our soul expands to match this growing concern. Purpose and meaning are only found in Christ’s call to pick up our cross.

    We desperately need a growing soul so we are energized to pray for opportunities to impact our world. Everyday as we go about our business, normal, seemingly mundane opportunities will present themselves. We’ll be faced with a choice: will we choose our agenda of comfort and convenience or will we be an instrument God can use to make His name known?

    Having been called to express the love of Christ through our words and actions, we cannot afford or survive being obsessively concerned about ourselves. Settling for a convenient life is admitting you want to live a mundane story. Instead, choose impact over comfort. Don’t put fleeting happiness before holiness. Embrace a call greater than our own comfort.

    Reflection

    •  Based upon where your current energy and focus reside, would you say your soul is shrinking or expanding? What makes you answer in the way that you do?

    Prayer

    God, I’ve allowed my soul to shrink by being so consumed with my little world. My biggest concern is often myself. Instead, may I turn my attention outward to those around me. Give me eyes to see the needs of others. Break my heart for what breaks Yours. In Your name, Jesus. Amen. 

  • Building A Bridge

    By in Devotions on

    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

    Insight

    Each one of us finds ourselves on a bridge at some point in our journey. As we go though life and our days, we are building the bridge as we walk on it. Every situation in our lives is a bridge we can cross if we choose. But, more often than not, we resist taking another step and instead allow the unknown and the fear of meeting resistance to stop us in our tracks.

    We begin to question the direction our bridge might take us. Where is this going to lead? How am I going to navigate my way? What lies on the other side? Should I cross this bridge? Is it even safe? Is this bridge the right bridge to cross?

    As a result of these questions, we settle for certainty and the illusion of control while missing out on the transformation that lies on the other side of the bridge. Often in life we don’t desire deep change because it can be hard, it can hurt, and it can ask us to move out of our comfy confines of status quo.

    In his book Building the Bridge As You Walk On It, Author Robert Quinn says, “At both individual and organizational levels, we tend to choose slow death over deep change. This slow death is the consequence of remaining in the normal state. To be in the normal state is to be externally driven, internally closed, self-focused, and comfort centered.”

    If we stay in the normal state, avoiding deep change and trying to maintain control, if we do that as individuals and if we try to do that as a church, it leads to something none of us wants – a slow death. What we do with our individual bridge matters to the overall influence we have as a community of believers.

    Our individual transformation serves as the key to deep organizational change. When it comes to the life and vision of our church, we have to start with our own deep change. We do this by paying attention to our heart and our mind.

    It’s easy to cruise through life and not notice what your heart is set on and where your mind tends to gravitate. We need to set our heart and mind on things above and not get distracted by earthly things. If we take inventory on our heart and our mind, we set the direction for our lives.

    We experience deep change by walking on the bridges that we are building with ever increasing integrity. However, it’s not enough to just walk and build the bridge. We have to verbally acknowledge the one who is doing the building through us.

    As we walk by grace and faith, we give glory to God. It is His Gospel and saving grace that must be a part of what we talk about all the time. Where these bridges are going are of minor importance. It’s not where the bridge is taking us, it’s how we build the bridge as we walk on it.

    Reflection

    • It’s not where the bridge is taking us, it’s how we are building the bridge as we walk on it. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?

    Prayer

    God, my tendency is to want every detail about the path before me to be laid out. Yet, You ask me to walk by faith. Regardless of the bridge before me, may I take each step fully confident that You are guiding my feet. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • I’m Asking You

    By in Devotions on

    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

    Insight

    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?”

    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?

    Reflection

    • What parameters do you place on what you are willing to give up for Christ? Why are you reluctant to give up control in this area?

    Prayer

    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. Allow me to be strong when You ask me to step out in faith. Give me the courage to be bold in response to the personal call You have given me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

  • Every Right

    By in Devotions on

    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

    Insight

    As of late, parenting my five-year-old has been a mammoth challenge.  As much as she was excited about kindergarten, the reality of an early alarm and the need to be still for long periods of time means that, while fine at school, she comes home and unloads her frustrations on everyone around her.  She screams, cries, wails, and throws things.  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.

    Reflection

    • 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.  Reread Philippians 2:3-8 and think about how Jesus defined and used His authority.
    • 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?

    Prayer

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

    PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.

  • Not The End…The Beginning

    By in Devotions on

    You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Psalm 118:68

    You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done. Genesis 50:20

    When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:17-20

    Insight

    Submitting to God’s authority isn’t just that we’re supposed to let God be our King. It means that we give Him authority over everything. (Which is almost silly because as Christians, we believe that He already is in authority over everything. Shouldn’t we already trust that He is good and we should submit to Him? It’s not always that simple though.)

    When I was younger, I got really sick. Not just the stay home for a week with a cold sick, but scary sick. The unknown kind of sick. I spent months in and out of the hospital, going to different specialists, getting test after test done to try and figure out what was wrong. I was just a kid. Being that young and dealing with that kind of uncertainty was so scary and painful. But God used it.

    I learned to submit to His authority through this experience. The fact that I was in the hospital for weeks at a time with no diagnosis, just tests and procedures and more tests and more medicines and more bad results shook me. But instead of letting the negative circumstances drag me away from God, I held on to Him. I trusted that He is God and He is good and He is for me.

    God used that situation to focus my heart on Him, to teach me that when I try to grasp for control of things in my life there is a glass ceiling that I will hit every time. But, when I let go of control and hold things with open hands submitting the authority to God saying, “Here you go God, I trust that you will work in this,” the ceiling disappears and God can transform a situation that I’m trying so hard to work out into something I never could have imagined. He transforms it into something so much more meaningful.

    God is God in every area of our lives. He is God when we don’t have enough money to pay the bills. He is God when we let bitterness take root in our hearts for that job we didn’t get. He is God when we lose someone we love. He is God when we get that bad news from the doctor that we were praying not to hear. He is God. The end.

    But it’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

    I can see how easy it is to look at what the Bible says about God being good and then look at our circumstances and think, but really? Even in this is He good? Even in my pain and in my struggle and in my doubt. Is He still good? The answer is YES. It’s absolutely not the end. God created life so He gets to define it. Like Mike preached in his message to start out the series: God is our foundation for hope and He is solid. If we build our life on the promises of God, we can know that He is there when everything else crumbles and falls away. He is God. Trusting that He is always God and He is always good does allow hope to rise in our hearts in the midst of the hardest stuff that we deal with.

    When I first got sick I felt hopeless and heartbroken. Was this what God had planned for me? If so, how is He still good? But through drawing near to Him in that circumstance God taught me not only that He provides for me, but that He loves me and that He blessed me with this struggle to give Him glory.

    Reflection

    • What area of your life are you not submitting to God?
    • What negative circumstance has God placed in your life to use for good?

    Prayer

    God, I trust you. I choose to submit to your authority in all areas of my life—even the confusing and painful areas. I ask that you would give me comfort and strength as I lay down these struggles at your feet. You are God and you are good. Thank you for teaching me to trust you with everything. In your name, Jesus. Amen.

    PC3 writer Kayla Hohos wrote today’s devotional.