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.

Devotional Thoughts: Painful Things

Suffering and pain,Job endured more than anyone I know. Loss of loved ones, physical ailments, loss of all he worked hard for is just naming a few of what he endured. To make matters worse when he needed to be supported and loved the most his closest friends and family turned on him. They said hateful things

“How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?”

Job 19:2

“My relatives have failed me,

my close friends have forgotten me.” Job 19:14

Here online I’m in a group for moms who have kids with special needs. I have an adopted daughter who has disabilities. I’ve heard the things people say to them. One parent of an autistic child’s sister asked to pray to cast out what she thought was a demon. The group responded in rage saying the demon of ignorance needed to be cast out of the sister! Parenting a child with special needs is a marathon. There’s something difficult each and every day. These parents need loving support, not criticism. Job didn’t walk this road but this is a suffering many know in this day. Suffering because you love your child and want them to be included but people don’t understand.

Onlookers observe and try to make sense of our lives. In their own process of evaluating judgment comes. This is what happened to Job and it still goes on today.

People didn’t understand Job. They didn’t understand God. Job didn’t even understand but he knew one thing that he declared in verse 25: my redeemer lives! Job knows God will reign in the end. I honestly don’t even know how people endure suffering without God. I press on because I know this won’t be forever. This too shall pass.

I do what’s right for my child and my family no matter what others say or think. My declaration for today is it matters most what God thinks. This is how Job endured. This is how I can endure when trouble comes whether it be surgery, hurtful words, or death. I’m not responsible for the actions of others but I can certainly control my reaction to anything that comes. When we find a supportive person we need to remember that’s a gem to be cherished. Job didn’t have any, not even one! God can fill that place and see us through. I’m grateful to have many to talk to and many who care. Job made it and so can we. Press on today my friend whatever your suffering may be. You can do it.

Devotional Thoughts: Approach God’s Throne Boldly?

Jesus the Great High Priest is the title of this passage in Hebrews. Hebrews is written to Jewish people so it is full of rich history from the Old Testament. Verses in the Bible aren’t really meant to be read alone. If we do that we can step away from the context and can lose the intention of what’s written. Here’s the context of this verse that brings this passage into clarity:

“14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

How in the world can we approach God’s throne with confidence? Jews were well aware that even some high priests were struck dead when they entered the Holy of Holies, God’s presence. This only happened once a year but as a measure of prevention they’d tie a rope around the priest’s waist to save the lives of others so they could pull him out in the event he died. Nobody was confident going into God’s Presence. Saying we can approach God’s throne with confidence was something radical!

I too am human, I’m a sinner. How can I approach God confidently?

Without Jesus I’d be stamped out because God cannot be in the presence of sin. It’s only through Jesus I can come boldly and confidently to the throne of God. Verse fourteen says to hold fast to confession. This makes us clean, not something we ourselves did, but a miraculous act of God Himself. It’s only because of God anyone can find themselves boldly speaking to God.

The greatest beauty in this verse is what we discover at the throne: mercy, grace and help. Who doesn’t want mercy? Who doesn’t want grace? We all need these tremendously in our lives! More irony here that people died in God’s presence. The Holy of Holies isn’t any longer. It’s destroyed. Yikes! God is now omnipresent! Everywhere! It feels ironic.

I’ve heard many say if they stepped foot into a church it would blow up. Might this be Old Testament thinking? Now should one be brave enough to enter a church building where the people of God gather to worship and honor God many would be amazed at what they’d discover. Lead someone to God today. It’s the most beautiful place!

Devotional Thoughts: Sin

Some seem to think sin is no big deal. God will forgive over and over. They know in their hearts they’re not trying to follow God. They think they have it made. They can have their cake and eat it too. The one who thinks this way doesn’t understand. They have heard a few things but do not respect God. Or maybe some understand and know exactly what they do. I don’t know. I’m responsible for myself and how I lead others.

Here’s words from Spurgeon in regards to these verses today:

“O child of God, as thou wouldst fear to drink poison, as thou wouldst flee from a serpent, dread sin! Holiness of life is the best proof that we know God. It matters not how readily we can speak about God, nor how much we suppose that we love him, the great test is, do we keep his commandments? What a heart-searching test this is! How it should humble us before the mercy-seat!”

The one who loves sin does not love God. Do not be deceived. What God offers us is new life. Forgiveness is part of this but it’s not the whole. Even if I say it’s a lifestyle I’m not fully expressing what happens when I give myself over to God. There’s nothing that perfectly describes what this looks like so we struggle to give examples like, I went from selfish to serving others, a man from prison, an addict, is now a deacon. A gang banger is now in God’s gang. Their old ways are gone, stamped out! When I see these people I barely think about who they used to be. Their old self is so far gone!

Those who think they take advantage of God will have a rude awakening. Turn to God and repent today. Don’t have the blood of others on your hands because you led them away from God. Some can’t see God because of the way we are choosing to live. Let God do a great work in your life.

Dear children, we have an advocate. Anyone who has an advocate who loves them appreciates them. We listen to and respect the guidance of our advocates.

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