Devotional Thoughts: Slavery, Faith & Healing

Some passages in the Bible can be disturbing. This verse by itself isn’t disturbing. It’s praising the faith of a Roman centurion. Centurions were leaders who had responsibility. This story appears in Matthew 8:5-13. The centurion approaches Jesus with concern for his servant. He says his servant is suffering at home and is paralyzed.

Now, I don’t know if this man is compassionate towards his servant, or if he wants him healed because his servant obviously isn’t able to work for him while paralyzed. We will never know. Slavery disturbs me! One of my daughters lived as a slave for a time period. It’s taken years for her to work through numerous traumatic experiences. God set her free.

The centurion had such power that he explained to Jesus that he didn’t need to go to his home to heal his servant. Just like the centurion gives orders and things happen this centurion did understand the power within Jesus. Jesus praised him for his great faith and understanding of Jesus. This centurion may have been compassionate towards his servant. It’s interesting to note the word for servant here in Greek is pais. It’s not the Greek word for slave: doulos. Ancient times presented different agreements than we have in our American culture. Slavery is illegal. I can certainly agree to work for someone in exchange for housing or something else if I choose. Exactly what the relationship was between the centurion and the servant was, we will never know.

What we do know is the centurion believed in Jesus. Belief affects our actions and this centurion believed in such a way that he sought out Jesus and knew Jesus could heal his servant. the servant was healed. Faith certainly affects the direction our life goes if it’s strong enough to affect our actions. I hear James whispering, “Faith without works is dead,” in my ear.

Devotional Thoughts: Anxiety

Anxiety… some become crippled by it. Some can hardly function because it overtakes them. Some things seem just too large to tackle. Life is overwhelming. The remedy given to us is to just focus on today. All we can do is make headway by being faithful to press on today. What we do today affects tomorrow. What’s important today? Feed my family, set up health appointments, visit my disabled veteran uncle, grocery shop, get the house in order so I can relax some this weekend. But according to this verse I shouldn’t even be thinking about the rest of the weekend. I should just focus on today, what I can accomplish today because tomorrow will present its’ own troubles.

One thing about life that’s for sure is it will bring troubles. Some seasons of life bring more troubles than others. So, this reminder here sounds like our Heavenly Father telling us not to worry and just focus on today. After all, worry shows our lack of faith that God will take care of us. Of course sometimes Gods ideas of taking care of us don’t always look like what we had in mind. Keep walking, God is good. Fight anxiety and worry by focusing on today.

Devotional Thoughts: Love Your Enemy!

Missionary friends tell me what Jesus taught here has rocked lives in the Muslim world so much that this teaching of Jesus has brought Islamic believers to faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses this to draw people into A conversion experience of salvation and a lifetime and beyond of walking with God.

Loving your enemies… this is such a wild concept! Jesus certainly modeled this for us when he prayed for those crucifying him on a cross. This is something only the godly think about and do. This is the opposite of what comes naturally to all of humanity. Holy Spirit power is essential to love our enemies.

In practice this means we do not seek retaliation. We pray for the one who has offended us. We’ve all heard stories of families who have lost loved ones who in turn forgive the one responsible for their loved one’s death. Taking someone’s life is way at the top of what we consider terrible sins. Lives have been transformed through the power of forgiveness and loving who is supposed to be our enemy. This is how God works.

I think Americans are so consumed with political differences they have taken differences to the extreme and consider the other political party to be the enemy. This is so immature, uneducated and off base. An example of taking this to the extreme is a white supremacist shooting up a group of people from another race, an attack on an abortion clinic, and all the lies we hear politically. Evil leads us down roads we don’t want to be on. If we take the advice of Jesus in this instance we will never find ourselves on that road! We don’t even need an outside enemy because we are killing ourselves. I’m already hearing dread of the upcoming political season. Evil eventually destroys itself. We are starting to see this on American soil. We are so far away for living God’s principles!

Lord, have mercy on us! Lord forgive us! Lord, may we turn and follow You! May we each love our enemies so where we live is a greater place!

Devotional Thoughts: God Walks with Us

We are always walking through waters in this life, waters of death, waters of grief, waters of disappointment, waters of pain, waters of violence, waters of anger and the list goes on and on… The comments I hear inside our loving church family are many on how we don’t even know how people survive without God in their lives. What a sweet message for us today in this verse from the One who always keeps promises and is always faithful.

God is with us. These things that seem so engulfing will not overcome us. Some feel like waters will sweep us away. Others feel like hot burning fire. The flames will not burn us out! God grants us what we need to press on. I know many inside the church who have experienced horrific things. A child is rebelling, a child is missing, a child is in prison, a child is addicted. A spouse is abusive, a spouse is cheating, a spouse is lying. I could fill up this post with things that are deep waters and fiery flames in this life. People wonder how those in these circumstances are still standing. They still stand because God holds them up. They choose to keep walking. the Faithful One will see us through.

This verse reminds me of Isaiah 40:31. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Sometimes we are soaring on wings like eagles and other times in life we are just trying to walk without fainting. God is good, faithful and walks with us through all these times. To the one who doesn’t know this or understand this, reach out to God today. God loves you and will give you what you need to carry on. Not only just carry on but God will use your suffering for good! You will shine! I hear Romans 8:28 echoing through my thoughts: “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

The one whose child is in prison started a prison ministry. The one whose child is an addict now ministers to women who struggle with addiction. The widow was lonely and started a place for people to be on Christmas Day. What will you do with life’s hardships?

Devotional Thoughts: How to Love God

I struggled as a young person because I wasn’t sure I loved God. I’d sing songs of love to God in church but I knew I didn’t love God like I love my family, friends or my teen crush. How do we love God.? What’s love for God look like?

This verse hits the nail on the head. Love for God is obedience. Love for God is keeping the commandments God has given us. Obeying God is expressing my love and commitment to God. When I learned this my heart settled. I learned God’s love language!

God promises those who love Him will receive God’s great love in return. God loved us even before we even thought of loving Him. He pursues us. We ask for forgiveness, repent and commit to living our lives God’s way. What we receive in return when we do these things is so much greater than anything this world has to offer.

We cannot begin to experience this love until we begin to obey. Just like when a child lives in disobedience, going against their parents; this brings strife into the home. All who live under that roof feel it. An obedient child brings peace. When we disobey God we bring discord into our lives. When we obey we invite a flowing stream of God’s love into our lives and this too affects those around us. God desires to bless our obedience. God will not bless our sin.

This verse also says God will reveal himself or manifest himself to those who obey. What we lack when we choose disobedience! Yes, there should be an element of fear and respect when it comes to seeing God, having a deeper understanding of God or a leading of God in our lives. Do not fear! God is safe. God is loving. God is fierce. I dare you to obey!

Devotional Thoughts: Work

Our jobs and careers look very different when at the center of its core is we are working for God and not mankind. I think Brother Lawrence has probably led more people to embrace this concept through his writing, “Practicing the Presence of God.” If you’re not familiar with this little book I recommend it. Brother Lawrence found great joy in life’s simple, menial jobs like washing the dishes because his mindset was that what he was doing he did for God. This gives us such a different perspective than most of us have about our workplaces.

When I clean my home I need to tell the Lord I do it for him. When I do the paperwork I dread I need to do it for God. I know I do a much better job when I do something for God than if I do it for myself or for someone else.

Emptiness is everywhere and it will engulf us if we allow it. Doing my job for God looks very different than if I do it myself. It’s like someone who’s mopped the floor at work for years and complains in their mind that they deserve better. Better doesn’t even generate happiness in this life. Better happens when we receive our inheritance, our heavenly reward as this verse points out.

As employers we should absolutely do our job for God as well. This message isn’t just for those earning minimum wage. When we serve God through our work our view is so different! I’m no longer bitter I’m not being promoted; I’m not appreciated. When I work for God I’m not sloppy. I strive for excellence. I push the ball and get things done. I am also content to clean the toilet, take out the trash and mop the floor. My value no longer is defined by the work I do or the job I have.

My identity is found in Christ. Jesus Christ changes everything.

Devotional Thoughts: Plans

We can plan and plan and plan, but some things God has already decided. Yes, we can walk away from God’s plan for us but God’s plan will still happen with or without us. God doesn’t even need us to fulfill His plan. We can choose to be a part of God’s plan or not.

The greatest plan is to follow God, to obey God. Some things we already know should be in our plan. We learn these by reading God’s Word, the Bible. Lets read the verse that comes before this one:

“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:20‬ ‭

Our plan should Also include discipline and wisdom we’ve received from the wise.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. So what’s right? Planning or not planning? Is the greatest way to follow God to plan nothing?

I think the point here is we plan but we should heed the movement of the Holy Spirit as we plan and go about our day. Sometimes our plans don’t work out or come to fruition. This is ok. God will open another door. The door God has for us is so much greater than the door we had planned! When I find myself behind a really slow car I wonder if that’s God’s protection over me. Maybe I was headed towards a collision ahead but because I’m behind a slow car it doesn’t happen? God can see things we cannot see.

It’s time to trust. Let’s lay out our plans on God’s table, hand them over and grant God permission to do as He pleases. Keep on hiking! Trust and obey. You’ll look back over your life and say, “Wow! Look what God did!”

Devotional Thoughts: Be Like Me

Paul writes from prison. Getting a letter from prison from someone you love who is imprisoned for their faith is like… well, For example, my water heater busted this week. Of course we had no water for a time while a new one was installed. We take for granted the water we use every day. When we don’t have it, it’s scary. I feel dry. I feel I’m lacking and I have to stop and think more about how to do things. Paul was in prison. Their leader was gone. I’m sure getting a letter from him was much greater than having our water turned back on!

When we have a good leader we feel at ease just like when we have our running water to depend on. With Paul in prison the churches probably felt like their water was shut off. Paul’s words to the believers here are to remember what he’s taught them and for them to keep doing what they’ve learned.

Other versions put it this way:

“9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.” NIV.

Be like me. Wow, that’s a large mantle of leadership when you instruct people to be like you. Paul was striving to be like Jesus. He traveled around planting churches, preaching and sharing the Gospel. Paul endured great hardships and remained so firm in his faith. From his prison cell Paul is still instructing the followers of Jesus. As a leader in the faith we should live our lives in such a way that we too can say, “be like me.” When we are striving to live a life of faith, “being like me,” should come as close as we can to being like Jesus. The bar is high. Let’s all strive to be like Jesus so much that we can say to each other, “be like me.”

We are all leading someone whether we recognize it or not. We lead people towards or away from God. Let’s live in such a way that we feel ok saying, “be like me.”

Devotional Thoughts: Our Life Benediction

This is one we use as a benediction, if you’re not the church going type, a benediction is a blessing uttered as the congregation is sent out that finishes the service. These verses say so much and are such powerful words. To him who is able; obviously it’s talking about God, The One whose abilities surpass all other beings. God’s capabilities go far beyond the creativity of our human minds! To God be the glory, it says! Glory is a word we don’t use in our culture. Glory is defined as, “high renown or honor won by notable achievements, magnificence or great beauty.

John Piper says, “God is in a class by himself. He has infinite perfections, infinite greatness, and infinite worth.” Piper also says, “The glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going-public of his holiness.” When we say, to God be the glory, we take all eyes off ourselves and point them to God. We declare with our lives who God is to the world in our lifestyle and choices. One who says, to God be the glory, takes all significance off of themselves and places it on God, the most holy and powerful One.

This is important! It’s not about me! God is God and I am not! This is a great step in the life of a Christian believer in the journey of spiritual growth to shift all significance onto God. Nothing else matters, so to God be the glory throughout all generations, forever and ever! Over and over May God receive the glory. If I’m not connected to God I lose all significance throughout eternity.

In high school we admire the popular crowd but later we discover many of them didn’t amount to much. Their glory days are over, gone. God’s glory will echo throughout eternity! It will never end even if mankind chooses to step away from God. May we all step into significance today by glorifying God in all we do!

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