Devotional Thoughts: A Great Cloud

One of my favorite verses! I love knowing I’m surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering me on to do right in faith. There’s controversy, however, about who these witnesses are. Some say they are angels. Others say they are the citizens of Heaven who lived before us, some of those our deceased loved ones. While I prefer the second choice I’ll never know until I pass on from this world. Both options are greatly encouraging in my walk with God.

Life is a race. Some of us are carrying around things that weigh us down. When we choose to live weighed down we can barely take a step. When we choose to throw off that weight, confess sin and commit to live differently we can run like the wind! Our cloud of witnesses gets excited and cheers! What’s happening in with the crowd that’s watching us? Are we disappointing them? Are they proud? Are they wanting us to get up and get moving? Whatever the case, today is a new day, a fresh opportunity to live differently. Throw off the weight of sin! Let’s run together my friends!

Devotional Thoughts: Stars

Daniel, a prophetic voice speaks truth that rings out through generation to generation! Those who turn many to righteousness… who are these? The wise? Who is wise among us? My thoughts turn to Billy Graham who God used to bring so many to faith in God. Each one’s life a burning flame, a star! The wise who turn others to God and God’s ways are electrifying people! I think of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther and other famous Christians who lived out this prophecy. The baton is now handed to us. Our time is now. Will we commit to be wise by living in righteousness and turning others to do the same! Will we burn like stars? Please Lord! May it be so!

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” ESV

May we awaken those who are asleep towards everlasting life! We are the wise when we turn someone towards righteousness. What is righteousness? Merrimack-Webster says, “acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin.” Our human sinful nature prevents us from following divine law. We cannot even live this way without giving ourselves over to God. May we let go of the things that way us down so our load is lighter and our flame is brighter. This is how we become stars. We won’t be a Hollywood Star but much greater! Stars that pierce darkness and shine throughout eternity. We are only a star because we reflect the Holy One, this isn’t even our doing. It is the work of God in us if we allow it.

It’s an awesome experience to lie down and stargaze. How do we look to God? Some stars are alone where there’s not many other stars. Other parts of the globe have multiple stars. It’s important we meet together and encourage one another as we all live in darkness. Wherever you are burn bright today!

Devotional Thoughts: Sadness & Joy

We all know people who are easy to be around and bring us joy. This doesn’t mean these people don’t have struggles. They do. I believe their recipe for success is they take their concerns to God first instead of burdening other human beings with them. Yes, we were made to live in community together and to support one another. I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever share our struggles. We just should approach God first. What good is it to seek out from another human what only God can give?

Another thought on this verse is I know what it feels like to visit the crushed spirits. I feel I’ve been crushed too. Emotions are heavy especially when we love people and enter into their pain and suffering. This is hard but it’s ministry.

I’m reminded of Robin Williams who made us all laugh while he was alive. He lived with a crushed spirit and took his own life. I remember the shock I felt that the man who yelled out, “Good Mornin Vietnam!” over the radio in a movie that bears that title. The whole movie was about how we have the power to lift someone’s spirit and boost morale or crush people. There’s many we can name who make us laugh but are depressed inside and hide it well because they are so funny. So those who seem to have joy can be the saddest among us.

Joy is so different than happiness. Happiness comes and goes but joy is a gift from God that remains in the heart no matter the circumstance. We know even on the saddest days that we will be ok when we have given our lives over to God. God frees us from the never ending chase after happiness. Joy and contentment only come from God. What a fool I am when I trade negativity for joy.

Let’s allow God to give us joy despite our crushed spirits because this is contagious! It’s like medicine. Who doesn’t love a giant belly deep laugh with friends and family? Who doesn’t love noticing the sweet small things that we’d otherwise miss like a butterfly? Can we commit to being joyful hearts? I think we like to fake it till we make it but I wonder if Robin Williams might tell us that won’t work?

Devotional Thoughts: God Doesn’t Change

I’ve heard people talking. Many seem to think God will conform to our culture and if God doesn’t, then to them, it means God must be mean, unloving or out of touch. This isn’t the case at all! It’s hard for us to even imagine something that doesn’t change because almost everything we know changes or doesn’t last. My car changes as it ages, mountain ranges change as erosion or other natural acts of weather move in, I even change as I learn more and become more wise or stupid.

God never changes as this verse teaches us. It’s not even risky to depend on God but some seem to live like they don’t know God is so much more dependable than the newest vehicle on the market. God is more loving than the most loving human we can fathom. We have so many promises in Scripture teaching us who God is so by now we should know God remains the same. There’s none more faithful, powerful or loving than God. There’s something peaceful knowing God doesn’t contradict himself. God is the same. The same God Moses followed is my God! I follow the same God that blinded Saul on the road to Damascus and then called him Paul. I serve the same God the Psalmists address in laments and praises.

God has not changed and will not change. People haven’t changed either really, as the same kind of people we have today are just reflections of the people we read about in the Bible. there’s not any new sin. All the things we do today fall under the same categories they did long ago. There’s nothing new under the sun. How refreshing to know God is the same!

Devotional Thoughts: The Hills

I’m asking this question today. Everywhere I turn there’s a frustrating challenge. My son’s college classes have been dropped for the second time and he is fully covered through a grant and a scholarship! Lord Jesus Help! How could this have happened?

Health issues at hand and decisions that have financial repercussions on our family need to be made…

I could make a list a mile long! These are the struggles of life. Thank goodness for the verse that follows this one that clarifies for us where our help comes from:

“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalms ‭121:2‬

Today someone shared with me about laying down the idol of money. Why do I worry so much about money when I serve a great King who owns the cattle on a thousand hills!! (Psalms 50:10). Today the price of a steer or cow can range from $60-$130 each. I cannot even add up what that would be. Ok, all you detailed brains out there can stop guesstimating the size of the hill and how many cows each hill might hold! That’s not the point! The point is God’s resources are never ending. There’s plenty. When I’m in need my help comes from the Lord. I shouldn’t even look at the hills. I need to look beyond them. God will provide. I just need to do my part: reach to God for help, trust and obey.

Devotional Thoughts: The Search for a Friend

Things are not always what they seem. I think about my teen years and my kids in their teens now. The one who seems to have the most friends might be the loneliest one. My youngest will turn 17 next week. She has severe ADHD and High Functioning Autism. She’s super impulsive. I have to supervise her internet usage because she will add numerous people on social media sites she doesn’t know. Her different mind doesn’t pause to grasp the dangers that can come from this.

There’s a show called Catfish we enjoy watching where people talk to people they met on the internet and claim they’re in love with this person they’ve never even met. It shouldn’t be surprising that when they finally meet they’re very rarely the person they thought they were. They’re devastated and disappointed when they learn the truth and aren’t even interested in that person anymore. Really? People present themselves as something they’re not on the internet? Haha…

Some people create social media accounts and strive to project to everyone a certain image or life. This can enslave us! There’s a constant pressure to uphold a certain image when really people desire authenticity and transparency more than anything. A true friend accepts us for who we really are. We don’t need to strive to be cool or fake our way in life. Our culture seems to be intoxicated by attention on social media.

I’m not even sure we’re capable of deep friendships in our teen years. Our brains aren’t fully developed yet and teens strive for acceptance and are forming their identities. They accept their friends only of they’re a certain way and walk away if someone is different.

The subject of friendship can be a hurtful one for adults too because we’ve all had someone betray us. Sin destroys relationships and we’re all sinners.

The only way I’ve found true friends is by loving people despite their faults and I can certainly improve in this area. If you’ve found a friend that sticks closer than a brother please know you’ve found a precious thing! So many search for this and endanger themselves looking for this. Getting noticed isn’t the same thing as having deep satisfying relationships. We can get a million likes on social media and feel very lonely.

The only thing that will truly satisfy the human soul comes from the One who created each one of us. We are wired to seek God. Sometimes we seek people instead of God and this messes everything up. People aren’t meant to be our God. Once we allow God to fill us we are satisfied and have the capacity to love others despite their shortcomings. This also removes a feeling I’m lacking something in my life and prevents me from searching for something or someone online. Thank your friends today. If you’re lacking a friend, serve God today and your relationships will begin.

Devotional Thoughts: This is What We’re Made for!

This command should fuel us! So many keep this as an option stored away for another time but this verse is the essence of our purpose here on earth. We are to go. Where? Everywhere! To all nations! Those who believe to each his own, or relativism, have a hard time with this verse. If we just want everyone to believe what they want we’d never go. Yes, a Baptist distinctive is we believe freedom should be given to all to choose their own religious beliefs but we also believe all should be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Everyone is still free to choose.

The more we share the Gospel and seek to disciple people the more and more we want to keep doing this. “This is what we’re made for!” A young lady said this after coming home from sharing the Gospel in NYC. It’s contagious to share and disciple people because you see God at work and there’s nothing more beautiful!

This gets fleshed out is so many different ways. It can happen over the dinner table, in a small group, at work, in secret, in a hospital, online, in prison and in so many ways and settings! The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity in discipling people. I’m amazed at what missionaries share with me about how they’re developing relationships with people who inquire about their faith.

All these ways, no matter how diverse come together in unity of what’s happening. Lives are being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the sharing of the Gospel by those who obey this little word, GO. Those transformed seek to obey through baptism, the symbol of our faith. This goes on and on and on and on! Let’s go! Share our faith with one another, grow deeper! There’s no greater satisfaction in life.

Perhaps baptism is a better symbol for our faith than the cross? The cross was a place of death. The tomb is the place of resurrection! Irony that something like a tomb that communicates death and confinement has set us free! Share how God set you free with someone today!

Devotional Thoughts: Will You Go?

I took this verse seriously as a teenager. I gave my life to God. I surrendered and vowed I’d go anywhere and do anything God wanted me to do. As a college student I traveled what seemed like everywhere. A man named Charles Shelton was the leader of my first international mission trip. God sent Charles into my life at the right time. Charles gave his life to the Lord the day he retired from Coca-Cola. He led mission teams everywhere. He was like a grandparent to me. Sometimes we were traveling to encourage and revive a small church somewhere that was struggling. We planted a church together. We traveled overseas and I was able to speak what God laid on my heart. Every summer I served as a summer missionary. I worked for peanuts but God took care of me. Charles was instrumental in setting up a summer I worked in Puerto Rico. Charles became a great mentor to me. He hosted my friends and I in his home on the weekends sometimes. Charles took this verse seriously and so have I.

In 2001 I was in my last year of seminary and I had just been voted in as associate pastor for youth and families. Charles passed away right before. He was in his office planning more mission trips and an aneurysm burst in his brain. My first Sunday at work I sat in the pew thinking I wish Charles knew all of this. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “He knows.” Tears streamed down my face as I expressed my gratitude to the Lord for Charles, an old man who led me to serve God. Charles put me in circumstances I was even afraid of at times but I grew in my faith and ministry.

Odd that an old man would lead college students everywhere sharing the Gospel. Charles and I committed to go. We surrendered. What a wild ride we experienced together! I’d do it all over again! How about you? Will you go?

Devotional Thoughts: A Holy Purge

Oh man, this one speaks volumes! We who have given our lives to God have this amazing gift of the Holy Spirit who resides within us. Our bodies are temples. Just like an earthly building we should strive to keep our temples clean and healthy. I’m convicted today. I need to choose healthier foods, exercise and rest. I don’t need to drink too much caffeine. I need to take care of this body the Holy Spirit indwells.

This verse can also speak to why we should steer away from anything addictive. Nobody plans on becoming an addict, but once I do something once and then again, I become number and number to what I’m doing. Illegal substances are illegal for a reason. There’s a lot of legal things that can destroy our bodies as well: fast food, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, fat, and the list can go on and on. Then there’s those things we allow to creep into our minds. What we read, watch and listen to matter. This affects my attitude and can cloud up my mind and get in the way of the Spirit’s plan for my life. These things are addictive as well.

Each of us know ourselves well. We know what kinds of things we struggle with and frankly some of these things have a power over us. Before we know it we are giving these things our money, our time and eventually ourselves. Only God deserves this kind of worship. Maybe you’ve never thought about it this way but what we pour our time and money into we elevate to a status in our lives that we never intended. We can spiral out of control pretty quickly. I’m thinking the cell phone might be the most worshipped thing in our culture? Games, videos, music… we are mesmerized. It separates family members from one another as they all sit in the same room but don’t communicate with one another. The phones reign supreme!

Nothing deserves our attention more than God. Let’s clean up our bodies and minds. A holy purge is in order! Let’s make room for the Holy Spirit. Let’s unclutter our lives and breathe in sweetness. What’s this look like for you?

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