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?

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!

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