Devotional Thoughts: Persecution

This verse is spoken in regards to persecution. Sadly, we know persecution for faith in our time period. Christians around the world experience persecution in ways we do not know on American soil. God is against evil and sin. The one who walks in righteousness gains God’s attention and protection. There’s evil all around but God will prevail! God hears the prayers of his people. To become one of God’s people all you need to do is turn to God, confess sin and repent. God will walk with you. This is so much better than being in the hands of evil. Here’s the context of this verse:

9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life

and see good days,

let him keep his tongue from evil

and his lips from speaking deceit;

11 let him turn away from evil and do good;

let him seek peace and pursue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

Those who endure persecution receive a blessing the rest of us do not know. In China being jailed for your faith is considered a seminary experience. Suffering draws us near to God. There are so many unknown warriors in our army of faith. They need our prayers and advocacy. I recommend learning about Voice of the Martyrs, a non-profit that stands with the persecuted and tells these stories at persecution.com. Anyone hindering the work of God in anyone’s life is doing the work of evil.

Devotional Thoughts: Cleansing

This is a vital prayer for the survival of every Christian. Our faith began in the very moment we humbled ourselves, confessed our sins, repented and gave our lives over to God. I find myself having to pray this kind of prayer often just as this psalmist did. I have a wrong attitude frequently and have a great need to ask for God to cleanse me and give me God’s attitude.

As I grow older I’ve become more and more aware that our culture sees this as weakness. Here’s another one of those ironies because we know in moments likes these we gain strength. It’s the warrior who can apologize and make things right with God and other people. The weak pretend they weren’t in the wrong and do everything they can to protect or cover themselves. While this strategy may work for a time here on earth God sees. It’s imperative we confess our sins. If we to not practice this Christian discipline we yield to the sins of pride and selfishness disregarding God and others.

Asking God to sanitize me prevents spiritual illness from overtaking my soul. It helps me become who I’m meant to be. If I allow sin to preside I miss out on pure joy. Sin hinders, wounds and eventually destroys. God will not bless our sin. God desires to bless us and great blessings come from prayers and actions like these. What will we decide today? Will we tarry on in our sin? Will we confess and be healed? Right spirits within us can only be formed with God’s hands.

Devotional Thoughts: Love and Sin

www.bible.com/111/1pe.4.8.niv

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!

Devotional Thoughts: The Spirit

This verse comes from such a rich chapter in John. Jesus is trying to give his twelve disciples what they need before he is gone.

The Spirit, the part of God that summons us to faith, is vital for our survival in this world. Yesterday’s verse alluded to the Trinity. Today’s verse is about the Spirit that is our advocate and teachers us. I first met the Holy Spirit through conviction. I grieved over my sin. Without the Spirit pointing this out to me I would have never come to to God.

The Spirit guides and directs me in the deepest parts of my soul. My job is to trust and obey. The Spirit gives us what we need to live the lives God has willed.

I have mostly experienced the Spirit through discernment and leadership. As a single foster parent I’d get calls about kids and I’d have to say yes or no pretty quickly. I remember trotting down to the office of a co-worker for advice. While I have an excellent team of co-workers, I should have just paused and listened to God. Instead I went to another human. This human once said to me he didn’t understand why I’d come to him when I never needed his advice. He generally told me my plate is full and I shouldn’t take on another yet I’d sense God saying something else.

I’d go back to my office and pray. Then I’d call back and give my answer. Those who came into my home were able to hear the Gospel. Those I said no to maybe didn’t. I’ve not pushed my faith on any of my kids but they had the opportunity to learn about what a life of faith looks like.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

An orphan doesn’t even have to be an orphan. Once we step into the Kingdom of God we have this great Advocate! The Holy Spirit prompts us, guides us, comforts us and teaches us. Jesus’ twelve men were ordinary fishermen trying to make a living. It’s time spent with Jesus and later the Spirit that made them so great that I’m a believer today because of their ministry. That’s mind blowing! Someone’s actions over two thousand years ago have made a difference in my life today!

The disciples knew the feeling of being an orphan well when Jesus died. They were there. They saw it. It tore them to pieces and they didn’t understand. Confusion sent them into hiding. Little did they know it wasn’t over, this wasn’t the end. Jesus rose from the grave, defeated death and now His Spirit hovers over all the earth calling us to follow. We are not forsaken. We are adopted. The Spirit intercedes for us in ways we do not even see! The Spirit can deal with our enemy without us even being aware that happened! The Spirit will give us all we need. We need only to obey and lead others to God.

Let’s become more aware of the Spirit today. This requires us to stop, pause and listen, connect and converse with God. A believer who doesn’t do this is withering away. Listen. Hear the voice of God. God is always wanting to speak. We need to just turn our heart towards Him.

Devotional Thoughts: Time, Trinity and a Life of Holiness

Before the beginning of time… I can hardly wrap my head around the beginning of time. God is not bound by time like I am. If time were a line, God can see it from beginning to end. God sees yesterday, today and tomorrow all at the same time; I cannot. I can only live in the here and now.

Paul teaches here that God had salvation in mind before the beginning of time. He says we didn’t do anything but God did. God is at the center of this verse, we are not. I think many become confused about God because they cannot fathom that they themselves are not the center. It’s not about me but about God. Yes, this brings us to a place of humility.

Grace was extended to us even before time through Jesus! Jesus Christ was there before time. How do I know this? Scripture teaches us Jesus was God in the flesh.

Genesis 1:26a says,”Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” Do You see the word “us” in that verse? God is singular and plural all at the same time. There is no perfect description or analogy for God so we resort to telling others how God saved us, how God has worked in our lives and in the lives of others. All these stories have God at the center and point others to God. I’m not the central figure, God is. Here’s two verses that support the concept mankind has created called the Trinity. The word trinity doesn’t appear in scripture. The concept of the Trinity is in many places and I’ve given you just two.

Lastly this verse gives us our purpose, our calling: to live a holy life. Once again this cannot be accomplished if I’m placing myself at the center. I do not have the ability to be holy without God. I’m not even close to holy but by surrendering to God I’m given a new purpose, a calling and grace. It’s God who saves and extends grace. I’m only something if I have accepted the gift of God’s grace. God had this in mind before time.

While I’m not totally certain about what I’m about to say, I believe when a believer dies they go to be with God and they can see as God sees. So, my loved ones could be seeing my life as God sees it: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Maybe the cloud of witnesses are the people of faith that came before us mentioned in Hebrews? Some say they’re angels. We aren’t sure really.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

Let’s live holy lives that cause this cloud of witnesses to celebrate! Let’s run this race!

Devotional Thoughts: Instant Peace

Perfect peace, there’s a lot of misconceptions about this concept. I’ve heard some say believers should have this instantaneous perfect peace no matter what transpires. Even Jesus wept. Jesus wasn’t totally at peace while here living among us. I think this verse is probably talking more about something I feel way deep inside. It’s indescribable. It’s an inner voice or eye that speaks and sees the world in a different way. It looks at everything in the span of eternity. Its the way God sees and this only comes from God himself.

Jesus was the great champion of staying the course even while beaten and spat upon. His mind was steadfast. He knew to keep going. I’m certain his circumstances didn’t feel peaceful. It was violent. He overcame and so can we.

Thank goodness we have the Holy Spirit to guide us IF we choose to fix our minds and thoughts on God. There’s a war that begins in our heads. I can choose to fixate on bad thoughts or I can fight them. I’m in one of those battles right now. Bad thoughts and memories clutter my head. They scream out to me and what they say is painful.

I need my mind focused on God and what I’m here for. I trust God, the only being worthy of my full trust. I will keep going and God will walk with me. I am not afraid. Thoughts of fear arise and try to cripple me. Fear is not from God.

Searching for peace? It only comes from God. I can go to the most peaceful place in the world but this will not give me peace. Why? I brought myself, my brokenness and my thoughts. While I’m still here I’ll never have perfect peace but I can see it and know I’ll have it when I meet the Great Giver of perfect peace. Yes, we can experience peace here too but not in its purest form.

For now I try to keep my mind fixed on Kingdom things and trust in God. This has already brought me peace.

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