Devotional Thoughts: Asking & Abiding

Asking, prayer, abiding… only those who abide in Christ know how to ask. Of course, anyone can ask but those who abide share God’s desires. They are called to live the life God has laid out for them. This kind of praying is deep. It’s connected to the Kingdom. It’s not even from this world. Those who abide know this place. They have experienced the deep pain that only God knows and sees. Those who abide also know God is alive and well and listens. God guides and directs those who abide. Those who choose not to abide do not understand. Here’s the verse that precedes this verse:

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. ESV

Those who abide are like a flourishing greenery. Those who do not abide are withering away, dry. They seek what those who abide have without even knowing it. God loves each one. Life is a supernatural gift given by God. We cannot waste this gift. It’s short, our time here.

Abide, draw near to God. Listen to the soft, holy voice waiting to speak into your soul. This feeds the soul like nothing else can. This gives peace. This gives purpose and this gives a life that flourishes by God’s standards.

So, when I ask I first need to abide. Then my asking is aligned with God and is granted. When I’m able to see this in this life it’s amazing and confirms I belong elsewhere. Our asking truly reflects our faith. God is faithful.

Devotional Thoughts: Ask for The Gift: The Spirit

God desires to give us the gift of His Holy Spirit. This verse instructs us to ask for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is our Guide our Comfort, our Strength. Yes God will grant this indescribable Gift to us! We need only to ask and follow. Those who do not follow don’t even have it in their heart to ask. they need to know and it’s up to us to tell them.

Verses 9-12 that precede this verse say,”9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”

We do not have because we do not ask. Those shallow in faith ask for success, personal advancement, material things and selfish wants. What could happen if we all just prayed for the gift of the Spirit this week? Ask! Knock! Our Heavenly Father has a great Gift! It’s the gift of Himself! There’s no greater Gift. Without the Spirit I am nothing.

Even the most horrible people can be good to their child. God is lightyears greater than any gift I can give my child. So then we can conclude the greatest thing we can pass on to our children is God Himself who will walk with them long after we’re gone.

The Spirit is just as much God as God is God. Three in One. I don’t know about you, but I will ask, seek and knock so I can be all God wants me to be. God loves us in an unfathomable fashion. No, none of us deserves this. We are unworthy but God is so good to us anyway.

Devotional Thoughts: Fathers & God

Happy Father’s Day! I know there are many compassionate fathers in the world. For them we are all grateful. They reflect for us the love God has for us. They help us know love so we can in turn love others.

For many others Father’s Day is a painful reminder their father abandoned them, abused them or simply has passed away and the void of their presence is deeply felt. It can be bittersweet.

No matter what our circumstance is, please know God is tender towards his children. God desires to bless us. If we lack blessing it’s because we choose to live our lives apart from God’s ways. Yes we all reside in this sinful world but we have the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us, sustain us, empower us and walk with us if we choose. A compassionate father does not force himself upon us and neither does God.

We subconsciously see God as like our earthly fathers. This needs great evaluation as no human can measure up to God. It’s so easy to be misguided. Read the Bible and let God speak for Himself today.

Devotional Thoughts: Children & Parents

Ephesians 6 is about submitting to authority. It begins telling us to honor our parents. Other translations use the word obey instead of honor. To obey is to honor our authority figures. After this verse it says those who do this live long upon the earth. Yes, those who submit to authority live longer. They get into less trouble. If children can submit to authority at home they can also do this at school and later on in the workplace and in society as a whole.

This verse doesn’t address what to do if our parents lead us to do illegal things. It doesn’t address situations of abuse. It’s assumed here that the child has good parents. This is a letter to the church who should be made up of believers, followers of Christ. Those who follow Jesus should be good to their children and lead them in the ways of God. No parent is perfect. Our job is to submit to Christ. In doing this we model for our children this command given to them.

There’s a domino effect I see in families. Disobedient parents probably had disobedient parents. What we experienced as a child has an incredible influence over us. This is so powerful that some say we even view God through the lens of our fathers. This is dangerous! If my father was stern I think God is stern. It’s best to consciously recognize this, set it aside and try to see our fathers through the lens of God. This is a whole new outlook on life. It can set us free from the shortcomings of our parents. Or, we can just move along in life and repeat the sins of our parents. We do this without even knowing it’s happening, or we can evaluate with God’s help how we parent. This is hard.

No matter who our parents are we are told to honor and obey, but if a parent is pushing a child towards sin, of course God stands with the child to disobey the parent.

I’m wondering if the commandment here is referring to the Ten Commandments? If so, the first commandment is, “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” This is from Mark 12 but quoting Deuteronomy 6. This commandment covers everything. If we can obey this one all else falls into the proper perspective.

Devotional Thoughts: Fatherless and Widows

God fills in the deep gap for the orphan and the widow, the segment of society who has no advocate. I’ve had teens tell me God is their Father because there’s no presence of a father in their lives. Scripture is full of commands for us to speak up for the weak and to be an advocate for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Orphans and widows certainly fit this category.

Widows today in the U.S.A. aren’t in the same situation they were in when these words were written. Women were so oppressed they were close to nothing without the help of a man. Sadly, this is still true today in many other countries. Gender equality is at the heart of the widow not being able to care for herself. Women are paid less than men to do the same job for example, even right here in the United States. In another countries there’s many jobs women wouldn’t even be considered for.

Still today there are numerous orphans in need of care all over the world. While this verse says fatherless and doesn’t use the word orphan, orphans are certainly included. Fatherless also embraces those growing up with single mothers. This is so common in our culture. The single mother might have the most difficult place in our culture today. She works hard, gets paid less than a man would and goes home to care for her children all alone. She is tired. She is weary. She is afraid of missing work because of a sick child. Who is her advocate?

If we are following the narrow way that leads to eternal life we should be advocates as well. Here’s a verse that speaks even more deeply on this topic:

James 1:27

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Every single one of us should have a widow and an orphan we advocate for, at least one of each! I don’t even want to hear any more selfish excuses of how that would break your heart to get involved and that your own self comfort reigns supreme in your life! I’m tired of listening to weak reasons and excuses.

Stand up Church! Step up to the plate Body of Christ! You are lacking in your faith if you’re not caring for the orphan, fatherless and the widow! I don’t know how, you say? Here’s a few ideas: become a guardian ad litem, foster, adopt, get involved in your local group home, support a single mom and her children, help widows fix things in their homes, spend time with them and there’s so many more ways! Call me!! I will connect you! Do not neglect the weak. It’s the weak in faith who do this. The strong set aside excuses and fear and engage in the lives of the struggling. What will you choose today?

Devotional Thoughts: Love and Sin

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

What a beautiful thing. Our love for one another can cover our sins that divide us . I believe this verse is referring to the relationships we have with one another. The verse that comes before this one, verse seven, says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” Verse nine then says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

I’ve learned that I cannot genuinely love some people without God’s help. Some people have hurt me, offended me and it doesn’t come naturally to love them. I cannot do this without God. Only God can change my heart. Yes, sometimes we need to pray and ask God to help us love someone. Love is doing what’s best for that person, not what’s best for me. Love apologizes. Love sacrifices and eventually love heals.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that verse seven, the verse that preceded this one tells us to be self-controlled. Self control will keep us from sin. It also commands us to be sober-minded. There’s a lot of terrible things that can happen when I’m not sober. I can neglect my children and something bad can happen to them. I can hurt myself and someone else when I’m not sober-minded. Clear mindedness is the best place to be where I’m well-aware of my words and my actions towards others. The sober-minded sin less.

I think the point of this verse today is that we have all hurt someone and we’ve all been hurt as well. Love heals what our sins have done to one another. If I choose to love I choose to do the hard thing that sometimes feels very unnatural. Our minds tell us to place ourselves above others but this isn’t the way of our Lord. We are to love, even when it’s hard. Verse nine tells us we are not to even grumble about loving or showing hospitality to others.

Love, the kind that comes from God can stay the course, finish the race and even bring others into the Kingdom. What sins are we aware of today in our relationships with our fellow believers? Choose to love them today. If we don’t know what to do we need to give that to God and ask for guidance, commit to obey and keep walking.

Devotional Thoughts: Love

“What is Love?” she asked me. “I don’t know what love is,” she said. Some have been so mistreated they don’t even know love. She saw my love for my cats and said I have a big love for them. Little did she know I love her too. No matter how much I can love her with my imperfections I know my love is lacking but I also know God loves her so much more.

Love is a verb that requires action. There’s many actions here in this famous love passage that’s quoted over and over in wedding after wedding. Have you lived a life lacking love? Love is defined for us here. Living out these things isn’t easy. I struggle with patience. Sometimes I keep a record of wrongs because I’m hurt.

Love isn’t just words. Love is the actions that accompany what’s said. Love doesn’t envy when a colleague advances. Love celebrates and can take a back seat. If you’ve been dishonored, disrespected or someone’s been rude, this wasn’t love.

No matter where we are we find ourselves around people. We can love or not. I can measure myself by these ancient words that speak into my life. Love doesn’t place myself first. Love doesn’t boast; we all know that person that inflates stories and always has to tell one more amazing than the one that was just told. As if anyone is impressed? Who are we fooling? Probably ourselves!

Love can reign supreme if we let go live by these descriptions or elements of love. Life can be deeply fulfilling. This comes as we love others. When we love them they can see God.

Devotional Thoughts: Jesus ‘ Ethics, Peacemaking

This verse comes as a part of the Sermon on the Mount. Teaching on the top of a mountain was significant. God revealed vital things to Moses on a mountain top. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us the ethics of Jesus. Jesus teaches us what His people are like while seated high on a mountain As this verse indicates, God’s people are to be peacemakers, not those who seek to stir up dissension.

There’s an entire peacemaking movement evolving in our time. Believers are bravely crossing over lines society has drawn to make peace so those hurt can see God. Peacemakers set themselves and their own desires aside and make peace for the greater good. The greater good is not a what I want but what will best reflect the Kingdom of God. Those who do this are recognized as God’s children.

I’ve heard people say, “We’re all God’s children.” No, we’re not all God’s children. Yes, God crested each and every one of us and loves us all the same but God’s children are those who give up their own way of living to follow God. God’s children are those who have been transformed by God and even have a God-granted desire to live by Jesus ‘ high ethical standards.

This small verse says so much! It teaches us when we live as a peacemaker we are blessed. Other translations use the word happy. Lots of happiness seeking in the world today in many directions. I’m blessed when I obey God and seek to be a peacemaker. Peacemakers value all people involved. Peacemakers listen. Peacemakers love. Peacemakers forgive and extend the olive branch.

While there’s still sin there will never be peace so we have to work hard at this. Here’s one way to accomplish this from Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” The fight is in our minds. Keep our minds on God and we can have peace. When disunity swirls all around me I self evaluate and see if there is any sin in me. If so I confess and repent so I can have peace. If not I at least have peace of mind that I’ve not sinned. I can then work on cultivating peace among others.

Pastors should be good examples of peacemakers, however this is an emotionally draining work. We call this putting out fires. There’s nothing fun about seeing someone’s sin hurt someone else and helping to clean up a mess. We cannot clean up anything really but we can just encourage others to apologize and forgive. I think we’re all aware that forgiveness doesn’t mean that relationship will be the same. God is the only true redeemer.

Peacemakers do not sin in their anger. This makes matters worse. Let’s ask God where we can be bearers of peace today. Maybe that means I need to extend an apology. Maybe this means I stop combatting someone and seek to listen to and understand them. Maybe this means I cross over a societal boundary and make friends with someone who appears to be an enemy. Humans aren’t the Enemy. The enemy seeks division, destruction and death. God gives harmony, love and peace. We can be good representatives of God without denying ourselves and choosing to live by the ethics of Jesus as taught here in The Sermon on the Mount.

Devotional Thoughts: Balanced Missions

This is a verse we use for missions. We have the Spirit of God and we are to share who God is with others locally, nationally and internationally. Some ask, “Why are we using our resources to send people so far away when there are people who need to know God right here?” This verse right here! We are to be balanced in our approach to missions. We are to do missions at home and abroad. I recently made a chart of what our people are doing here at home, on our continent and abroad. It’s amazing! To the one who thinks we don’t do enough locally, we are doing more here at home than we are anywhere else.

Our people go on mission and get so excited and passionate about being a part of what God is doing. Sometimes one returns home thinking everyone should do what they did. This is an immature missionary view. One struggle I experience as a missions pastor is to teach that one mission effort isn’t greater than another. Once someone experiences God somewhere, sometimes people start thinking they have been enlightened more than others have and they think others who aren’t involved in that ministry are lacking. They get frustrated.

When we think our ministry is above another we aren’t getting it right. 1 Corinthians 12:12 “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

12:14 “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. “ 12:21 “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

God isn’t calling us all into the exact same thing. Yes we are all called to share the Gospel. I love the excitement when someone experiences praying with someone to become a believer for the first time. It’s contagious! Eyes are opened. All followers are commanded to share the Gospel. Some of us are more front and center than others. Some serve an organization that shares the Gospel behind the scenes.

I’ve learned missions is a form of discipleship for our people Sometimes I even see the mission field does more for us than we do for it. Having the attitude that what God has done in me is greater than what God has done in another is way off base. Everyone should be passionate about what God is doing in their life. I have the challenge of highlighting what God is doing.

This verse should make us passionate about being witnesses for God everywhere. We cannot even do this alone. Having the Holy Spirit in my life is essential. Without God I’m not even on mission. I’m just doing a good work and even an evil person can do a good work every now and again.

Wow, I could write a chapter in a book on this verse! I’ll spare you today and stop right here as I’m also thinking so many other thoughts! Thoughts like, some approach missions with a spirit of paternalism. I could go on and on. So, for today let’s ask how I’m advancing the Gospel here at home, nationally and internationally. Godspeed!

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