Devotional Thoughts: Fear & Anxiety

I like how the Amplified Bible translates this verse:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”

‭‭2 TIMOTHY‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭AMP

I’m reminded the Scripture tells us not to be afraid numerous times throughout, around 365 times. That’s one verse for every day of the year. We live in a time period stricken with anxiety. Some cannot even function their anxiety is so high. This is not God’s plan for us. God will give us the power we need to cast fear aside. God desires this for us. Fear cripples and disengages us from what God has planned.

Stories of incredible courage inspire us. People of faith who went against the grain to hide slaves as they traveled the Underground Railroad on their way to freedom, people who hid Jews during the time of the Holocaust, and today those who choose to help the vulnerable even if it might affect their job or family are examples to us of casting out fear and following God’s plan. If we cower in fear the enemy wins. The enemy’s job is to make us ineffective.

This verse also is a reminder today that we are to be a people of self-discipline. God is a God of order not of chaos. God brings order into our lives when we invite Him in. Some things we are to give to God so we cannot be crippled by them. Some days I give certain people back to God because I need to release whatever situation I’m in to God and allow Him to handle it. If I seek to control things I will fail over and over. Trust means I’m not in control, God is.

The term self-discipline has a negative connotation in our culture. Discipline insinuates I’m in trouble and have done something wrong. Self-discipline actually produces the things above the Amplified Bible states: calm and a well-balanced mind. Who doesn’t want that? I know I do! A calm, well-balanced person doesn’t get rocked by much. It’s a tool for success in all areas of life.

May God grant us all a spirit of love, sound judgment, power and self-discipline today. May we cast out fears in Jesus name and give them all to God, the sustainer and giver of life. Without this we are all crippled in one way or another.

Devotional Thoughts: Pride is Evil

Yikes! I think we’ve all known someone who provided us an example of this small piece of scripture that says so much. We’ve seen leaders develop egos that lead to their downfall: pastors who engaged in sin, football players who beat their girlfriends, and actors who pass away from an overdose. Pride is a great temptation. We all want to be noticed. We all want to be great. Yet, elevating ourselves only separates us more and more from God. The one who chases fame and importance may actually find it for awhile. That’s a great danger for when we find it, the very thing we thought we wanted will destroy us.

Why do we all seem to strive for this? We want to be noticed? We want to feel important? We live in a place where inequality is one of the greatest injustices. In fact, I’m learning it might even be at the root of any issue we consider injustice. Economic inequality, gender inequality, racial inequality just to name a few. Pride is a demon that tells us we are better than those people in that neighborhood. Pride says being wealthy is better than being poor. It tells us to prefer our own skin tone. Pride is evil my friends.

“Never listen to the praise of men,” a wise man once told me. This man fell high from his throne of leadership. I think he handed me advice he was struggling with. The compliments of others can be dangerous if we put them in the wrong place.

As a follower of Jesus I know the playing field will be leveled. The crooked will be made straight. The weak will be strong. Irony will triumph and many will be shocked they aren’t first.

Forget being noticed! Let’s entertain angels as we live this life! Let’s choose humility and serve one another. Let’s live in equality! I don’t need the law of the land to live out God’s commands. Brothers and sisters, we are not great. We serve the Great One: God Himself! May our lives proclaim the greatness of God!

Devotional Thoughts: Everlasting Love

Everlasting love, it’s the kind that settles your heart and is only found in God. Without it we search high and low but come up short every time. With this love nothing else matters much. This love changes us. We are never the same. It’s inexplicable. It’s warm. It sustains in the midst of chaos. It gives us the ability to see into another world. This Love pursues. This Love protects and guides. It’s the greatest anyone can ever imagine yet mankind runs from it. When we are loved like this it reveals all shortcomings, sin and brokenness within us and that’s just more easily avoided than faced. Only the brave stand and face God. The weak run away. The courageous reach out and become free through this love. It’s lavish. It’s strong. It never waivers. How foolish to reject God’s love for us.

Devotional Thoughts: Superpowers!

Do justice while being kind and humble? Has anyone ever seen this? I see lots of people thinking they’re fighting for justice but not with humility and kindness. This says to DO justice, not to fight for it. There’s a difference.

This means I make things right that I have the ability to make right. I cannot change everything but I have the opportunity to affect the small space I occupy in the world. I can volunteer in my community to make something better. I cannot help everyone but I can help the one that’s right before me.

Our help doesn’t always turn out the way we’d like. Living like this, doing justice, loving kindness and walking in humility with God puts God on display in our lives for others to see. These things seem mysterious to those who do not know God. It peaks their interest and when this happens we have the opportunity to make a mark on eternity by sharing the Gospel message.

Doing justice with an ego only produces an argument. It separates and divides. We have the opportunity to walk humbly and to show kindness as we live out what God has called us to do. Living in these things has the power to change the world. We are only able to achieve them when we walk with God. I can only be kind and humble if I walk with God. It’s another irony. True power comes in kindness and humility! It’s our superpower!

Devotional Thoughts: True Love

If we do not know who God is we cannot be imitators of God. I’d even go as far to say that if we do not know God we do not know love. We only know something that falls very short of true love like some grand emotion our culture calls love that isn’t love at all. Some are even addicted to this rush of emotions when they meet someone new. They are mistaken. This is not love. Love is commitment. Love is sacrifice. These are not fun rushes of emotions.

Others mistake sex for love. Sex is not love. Those seeking sex before marriage seek to satisfy themselves. This is not love. This is selfishness, the opposite of love.

Jesus Christ shows us what true love is. This love cannot be understood by someone who hasn’t surrendered their life to God. All other things we call love in our culture fall short of this true love, sacrificial love, the kind that cannot even be explained. To the one who doesn’t know God this probably sounds like you’re setting yourself up to be taken advantage of: “giving yourself up as a sacrifice.” As a follower of God, as one who seeks to walk in God’s ways sacrifice actually brings joy.

To know God is to know love. Without this relationship we cannot walk in love or be an imitator of God. All other attempts at love will fail and fall short of this great love God has intended for us.

Devotional Thoughts: Community, Friends & Brothers

This little verse is tucked away in Proverbs 17 in the midst of fools, strife, quarrels and evil. What a comfort in the midst of these things to have a friend and a brother to walk with us throughout all times and especially those times that we would call adversity.

There is a lot to learn and Proverbs is full of wisdom. I’ve heard it said that everyone needs at least five people they can confide in when difficult times arise. I can count many more than this; I know I’m blessed.

In our individualistic culture we do not understand how important community is. Listening to our Armenia mission team share about their experience in Christian community last night I’m reminded we are the culture that leans farthest towards individualism and it’s killing us. The more time we spend with screens the lonelier we feel. God created us to live in community with one another. This takes effort to accomplish. We must choose people over things. A friend who loves at all times and a brother that sticks by us at all times is extremely valuable. God and people should come before anything else.

Adversity will come. Am I a friend at all times? Am I a sister in the midst of adversity? We need God and we need each other.

Prayers: The Spirit

Lord, I thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit! Without You, Spirit, I’d be so lost. I’d be at a loss for words sometimes and as this verse in Romans points out, having a loss for words is okay because You stand in that gap where pain so deep resides.

Where I’m weak, You’re so strong! Today I ask You to intercede for me in the areas I’m even unaware of. Pray for what You know I need. Incline me towards all things that are of You. Bend me, mold me, point me in the direction You have laid out for me.

Holy Spirit I pray for You to pay a holy visit, the kind only You can, to those enduring so much suffering they are groaning today. Comfort like only You can. Pour out Your love on each one. May they know You, the Great One, are near.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen

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.

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