Daily Devotional

  • The Impact of the Resurrection – Christ Secures Genuine Spiritual Life - Tuesday, April 23rd

    For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

    Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:1-3

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Ephesians 2:4-5

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Jesus died for the sins of the world. The judgment of sin due to all of us was placed on Him. The judgment of sin is death and death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body. And spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. Jesus experienced both of these for us. When the sins of the world were placed on Jesus during His crucifixion on the cross, He was separated from the Father. This is why Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” After that He said, “It is finished” and then when He, “gave up His spirit,” His double dying was completed. Through His resurrection, Jesus overcame His own death and secured victory over physical death for the rest of us, but in addition, His resurrection validated that His crucifixion truly did secure victory over spiritual death for all of us as well. So, Christ has secured spiritual life which brings a wondrous outcome for all who are willing to embrace His eternal provision.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, as a human being it is hard to grasp that I was truly spiritually dead apart from faith in your saving grace. It is equally hard to grasp the fullness of what it means to have been made spiritually alive. I grasp these realities enough to know that I am forever indebted to you for the gift of genuine spiritual life. Help me grasp even more the supreme gift bestowed on me that makes all the difference in the world. Amen!

  • The Impact of the Resurrection – Christ’s Restores Our Divine Connection - Monday, April 22nd

    But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also, the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. Luke 24:1-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the son of Man is?” After several answers, Jesus says, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Indeed, Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed One, the Christ. After the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, the words of Peter are recorded in Acts 3:18 where he says, “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” The idea of a suffering Messiah was a foreign concept even though it had been announced beforehand. Peter went on to say in Acts 3:19-21, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”

    So, Jesus Christ came once as the suffering Messiah, but He will return someday as the ruling Messiah when He will restore all things. But, in addition to him coming to sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world in the past and His coming again to rule and make all things right in the future, He comes in the present to those who repent and return and when they do, he wipes away their sins, he restores their Divine connection, and he refreshes them from within with His healing presence. There is a personal impact that the living, resurrected Jesus brings to those who truly experience Him and that is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for coming to me in the present as my suffering Messiah. I am so blessed to have my sins wiped away, to be reconnected with you, and to be refreshed from within by your healing presence. May it be that I experience the full impact of all that you have in mind for me as my living, resurrected Savior. I am here to receive all that you have for me going forward. I praise you and bless you, Lord. Amen

  • "The Fabric of Life" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, April 21st

    The Fabric of Life

    My life is but a weaving
    Between my God and me
    I may not choose the colours
    He knows what they should be
    For He can view the pattern
    From the upper side
    While I can see it only
    On this the under side

    Sometimes He weaveth sorrow
    Which seemeth strange to me
    But I will trust His judgement
    And work on faithfully
    ‘Tis He who fills the shuttle
    He knows what is best
    So I shall weave in earnest
    And leave with Him the rest

    At last when life is ended
    With Him I shall abide
    Then I may view the pattern
    Upon the upper side
    Then I shall know the reason
    Why pain with joy entwined
    Was woven in the fabric
    Of life that God designed

  • "Scatter Seeds of Kindness" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, April 20th

    Scatter Seeds of Kindness

    If you have a friend worth loving
    Love him. Yes, and let him know
    That you love him, ere life’s evening
    Tinge his brow with sunset glow
    Why should good words ne’er be said
    Of a friend till he is dead?

    If you hear a song that thrills you
    Sung by any child of song
    Praise it. Do not let the singer
    Wait deserved praises long
    Why should one who thrills your heart
    Lack the joy you may impart?

    If you hear a prayer that moves you
    By its humble, pleading tone
    Join it. Do not let the seeker
    Bow before his God alone
    Why should not thy brother share
    The strength of ‘two or three’ in prayer?

    If your work is made more easy
    By a friendly, helping hand
    Say so. Speak out brave and truly
    Ere the darkness veil the land
    Should a brother workman dear
    Falter for a word of cheer?

    Scatter thus your seeds of kindness
    All enriching as you go
    Leave them. Trust the Harvest-Giver
    He will make each seed to grow
    So, until the happy end
    Your life shall never lack a friend

  • The Suffering Messiah – A Kingdom that Reaches - Friday, April 19th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story and be a blessing to you.

    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There will come a day when Jesus will rule the realm of mankind as well as the hearts of mankind. Today is not that day just as it wasn’t when Jesus entered Jerusalem as the suffering Messiah on that first Palm Sunday so very long go. Some day he will return and become King of kings and Lord of lords here on earth. So, we must be about the business of influencing the hearts of the people God brings our way. We do this by serving them and seeking to be a blessing to them in every way possible. With this touch on their lives from us, which runs counter to a culture that dominates and exploits so many, they will want to know the God who empowers us to live so differently and so lovingly. We will then introduce them to Christ and His saving grace and we will know the joy of a person who is reached and transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you are king of my heart, king of my life, and king of my world. Thank you for the miracle of being transferred from the domain of darkness to your kingdom of light, love, and blessing. May your light, love, and blessing overflow from my life to everyone around me. What a joy and privilege it is serve you and your ever expanding kingdom. Amen!

  • The Suffering Messiah – A Kingdom that Blesses - Thursday, April 18th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story and be a blessing to you.

    Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:17-21

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

    For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.  Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now, salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. Romans 13:6-11

    Therefore, Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore, Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:33-37

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    How easy it is for us to slip into a pattern of living that is driven by the pursuit of our rights in this world. Some people lend a hand to Caesar as a way of achieving this pursuit. Some raise the hand against Caesar in defiance when there is interference with this pursuit. Some evade Caesar by living under the radar of Caesar’s influence and interference. Christians are called to something altogether different. This world is not our home we are just passing through. Therefore, our life focus is to give to God what is His and not be in the grip of what the world offers. Salvation has been given to us in Christ. Our mission is to bless the world with the kind of love and care God gives to us as His children. When the opportunity comes, we share the message of salvation with those God is using our lives to bless. When we are wrapped up in the powerful experience of kingdom living and kingdom pursuits, we will find that we will take in stride whatever power Caesar exercises over our human lives.

    Jesus makes it clear that His Kingdom is not of this world. But this does not mean it is not operating in this world. What an exciting thing it is to be a part of a spiritual kingdom that is influencing and winning the world one person at a time as individual lives are touched and reclaimed for God. With this as our focus we seek to be good citizens in this world rendering to it that which is required. We really do have a debt of love due to God for the gift of salvation and we take care of that debt by truly loving our neighbor as ourselves.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for suffering for me that I might be redeemed and serve your kingdom. I see that it is out of the blessing of my intimate love relationship with you which I have through redemption, that I can live to bless the lives of people all around me. Lord, please help me get my eyes off of myself and onto you and everyone my life can bless day after day as I live fully for you. Amen!

  • The Suffering Messiah – A Kingdom of the Holy Spirit - Wednesday, April 17th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story and be a blessing to you.

    Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me …. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven …. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10-11, 14-16, 20

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:9-17

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    What does the world see when they view those who name the name of Christ. Do they see our light shining in such a way that our good works cause them to give glory to God. As we yield to the Holy Spirit living in us so that we live for Christ and others rather than ourselves, our righteousness will exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees by a long shot. Holy Spirit living is what Christ’s kingdom is all about today. When we walk in step with the Holy Spirit we will have consistently righteous behavior and we have an inner peace and joy that pervades our inner being and flows out and touches those around us. The impact of this kind of kingdom living on earthly kings and kingdoms must not be underestimated. God is powerfully working through His Spirit to touch the world through His people.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you are amazing. Your plan, your provision, and what you are doing in this world is so much bigger than just me. And yet it includes me and it is a thrill to have you at work in my life through the Holy Spirit. Your kingdom is all about the Holy Spirit touching the world through my life and the lives of your people everywhere. Lord, I praise you and glorify you for who you are and all you are doing. Amen!

  • The Suffering Messiah – A Kingdom that Serves - Tuesday, April 16th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story and be a blessing to you.

    A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:8-9

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse …. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14 & 21

    For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:21-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Christ’s spiritual kingdom operates from a dynamic that is foreign to human kings and kingdoms. Christ and His followers operate from a position of being under rather than over. We offer ourselves to others in order to be able to support and hold them up rather than to dominate them so they will do our bidding. Mistreatment is just further opportunity to bless those who need Christ’s touch the most. It is interesting that such a display of honor when Christ entered Jerusalem was followed so soon by the ultimate mistreatment of a person. Certainly, Jesus freely offered Himself up for us and all the while He did not curse but blessed. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was the ultimate act of overcoming evil with good. We have been called to overcome evil with good and so follow in His steps.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I choose the path of humility and service. Help me truly follow in your footsteps by living sacrificially for others. It is hard to bless and not curse. It is difficult to return good for evil. I will trust you, Lord. I know you will give me the victory. Thank you for sacrificing yourself for me. I love you and worship you. Amen!

  • The Suffering Messiah – A Kingdom of the Heart - Monday, April 15th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story and be a blessing to you.

    For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14:17-18

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We will be celebrating communion this week as a church body. The inaugural communion took place in an upper room many, many years ago as Jesus gave His disciples the bread and the cup as a Divine object lesson of the sacrifice He was about to make. Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and subsequent resurrection formulate the culminating point of the difference Jesus came to make. Jesus prefaced His giving the cup to His disciples with these words: “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you I will not drink of this fruit on the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” I want to combine covenant and kingdom in this passage with kingdom and the Holy Spirit mentioned in our opening passage. It is the new covenant (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 37, Hebrews 8) that is being referred to here and this covenant focuses on the role of the Holy Spirit. Through the forgiveness of our sins God comes to dwell in us by the Holy Spirit and works to produce the righteous life in us that was not possible through the old covenant.

    All those who enter into this Divine enterprise are members of God’s kingdom. Kingdom in our opening passage is referring to the features of God’s kingdom that are of a spiritual, inward, and personal nature – that is, the heart. This is the kingdom in view from His first coming until His second coming. The use of kingdom by Jesus in the upper room speaks of a future kingdom that will include added features that are of an earthly, outward, and universal nature. As we move through this week’s Devotionals we will see Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) both as a peak at the future when He will rule and reign on earth as King and as a hint of the more immediate rule over the hearts of willing people that will become available through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am a willing person who has experienced the forgiveness of sins. You live in my heart through the Holy Spirit and I am learning to let you rule over my heart. Thank you for coming and being our Suffering Messiah. Thank you for sacrificing yourself on the cross and rising from the dead to become our living Savior and Lord. May your people everywhere let you rule fully over their hearts and lives. Amen!

  • "Keep On" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, April 14th

    Keep On

    I’ve dreamed many a dream that never came true
    I’ve seen them vanish at dawn
    But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God
    To make me want to dream on

    I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came
    Though I waited patient and long
    But answers have come to enough of my prayers
    To make me want to keep praying on

    I’ve trusted many a friend that failed
    And left me to weep alone
    But I’ve found enough of my friends true blue
    To make me keep trusting on

    I’ve sown many seed that fell by the way
    For the birds to feed upon
    But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hands
    To make me keep sowing on

    I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain
    And gone many days without song
    But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life
    To make me want to live on

  • "Heaven’s Special Child" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, April 13th

    Heaven’s Special Child

    A meeting was held quite far from Earth.
    "It's time again for another birth"
    Said the angels to the Lord above
    "This special child will need much love
    His progress may seem very slow
    Accomplishments he may not show
    And he'll require extra care
    From the folk he meets down there

    He may not run, or laugh, or play
    His thoughts may seem quite far away
    In many ways he won't adapt
    And he'll soon be known as handicapped
    So let's be careful where he's sent
    We want his life to be content

    Please Lord, find the parents who
    Will do a special job for you
    They will not realize right away
    The leading role they're asked to play
    But with this child sent from above
    Comes stronger faith and richer love
    And soon they'll know the privilege given
    In catering for this gift from Heaven
    Their precious charge, so meek and mild
    Is Heaven's very special child"

  • Good Stewards of God’s Grace – Leading the Way, Supporting Others, Blessing with Love - Friday, April 12th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Mustard Seed” helps us “picture the kingdom of God” in good and helpful ways through the image of the tiny mustard seed growing into a great tree that increasingly influences and blesses the world. Our mission is to bless the world with the kind of love and care God gives to us as His children. When the opportunity comes, we share the message of salvation with those God is using our lives to bless. What an exciting thing it is to be a part of a spiritual kingdom that is influencing and winning the world one person at a time as individual lives are touched and reclaimed for God. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Mustard Seed” and be a blessing to you.

    _____________________

    We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father …. you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, 7-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It bears repeating: the centerpiece of God’s kingdom building plan is His people. God chooses to use those who are already reached for his kingdom to advance his kingdom. With every individual participating, God’s people function as a support system for each other that develops them into ones who reach additional people for His spiritual kingdom. There is no special class of people in God’s kingdom. Everyone is called to participate in the building of God’s kingdom. Being used by God for the building of His kingdom is our primary calling in life and it is a stewardship from Him that is incumbent upon us to fulfill. It is essential that we pursue with our entire heart and soul becoming good stewards of the grace of God so that in the end we are found trustworthy indeed.

    It is interesting to note that whenever our lives individually or collectively impact those around us for the kingdom of God, we are exercising leadership. Every kingdom member leads the way for others to respond to the Lord. We do this when we support other kingdom members by helping them stand tall or when we reach out to others who need to be reached for the kingdom. Either way we bless those around us with lives and words filled with love that tell the story of what great things God is doing for us. This is the heart of the stewardship God has given to us and we must embrace it and faithfully fulfill it more than ever before. God is doing great things for us as a church as well. His kingdom is being advanced in wonderful ways in our midst. Going forward, we have a developing stewardship that will increase our ability and responsibility to lead the way in our region for doing kingdom work that is truly in harmony with God’s kingdom ways.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I thank you again for your amazing grace that has provided and bestowed on me eternal salvation. What a blessing it is to be both a beneficiary and an agent of your amazing grace. Thank you for helping this reality become more central in my life this week. I am truly trusting that when all is said and done, I will be found to be a good and trustworthy steward who served the kingdom fully. Amen!

  • Good Stewards of God’s Grace – Standing Tall, Sharing Your Story, Having an Impact - Thursday, April 11th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Mustard Seed” helps us “picture the kingdom of God” in good and helpful ways through the image of the tiny mustard seed growing into a great tree that increasingly influences and blesses the world. Our mission is to bless the world with the kind of love and care God gives to us as His children. When the opportunity comes, we share the message of salvation with those God is using our lives to bless. What an exciting thing it is to be a part of a spiritual kingdom that is influencing and winning the world one person at a time as individual lives are touched and reclaimed for God. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Mustard Seed” and be a blessing to you.

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    Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them. But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. Numbers 14:9-10

    Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey--I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. I, the LORD, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die. Numbers 14:30-35

    They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Therefore, some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them …. So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” John 9:13-16, 24-33

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Caleb and Joshua stood tall in the assembly of Israel by choosing to be faithful stewards of God’s promises even in the face of the opposition leaders who opposed them and the promises of God. God promised that the inhabitants of the land would become prey to the people of Israel if they would be obedient and enter and take possession of the land. Under the influence of the opposing team of ten, the people were terrified that their wives and children would become prey to the inhabitants of the land if they were to enter in and try to take possession of it. And in an ironic twist, an entire generation of Israelites, except for Caleb and Joshua, became prey to the wilderness because of their direct opposition and disobedience to God to enter and take possession of the land He had given to them.

    The blind man from the New Testament spoken of in the John passage above was faithful to the stewardship entrusted to Him as one who encountered Jesus Christ and had his sight restored by his healing touch. The blind man stood tall in the midst of opposition and had an impact on them and others around him as he carefully and simply told his story as a faithful kingdom member. How was he able to do all this so readily? It is because the reality of both his encounter with Jesus Christ and his miraculous healing dominated his mind, heart, and soul. In redemption we encounter Jesus Christ and receive the miraculous healing touch of his eternal forgiveness.

    This salvation experience with Jesus Christ could not be any more powerful and real an experience than if it had come about while being face to face with Jesus Christ like the blind man in our story. And this is just the beginning for us. Our salvation experience with Jesus Christ allows him take up residence in the core of our being where we encounter him and receive his healing touch over and over again. When our encounter with Jesus Christ and his miraculous healing touch (initial and ongoing) dominate our mind, heart, and soul, we will readily stand tall, share our story, and impact the people around us (opposition as well).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you again for your amazing grace. Fill me with an awareness of your presence and healing touch that is full and all-encompassing. May I be a good steward of your grace this very day as I more readily than ever before stand tall, share my story, and impact the people around me. May you be honored and glorified in full. Amen!

  • Good Stewards of God’s Grace – Co-operating with What God is Doing - Wednesday, April 10th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Mustard Seed” helps us “picture the kingdom of God” in good and helpful ways through the image of the tiny mustard seed growing into a great tree that increasingly influences and blesses the world. Our mission is to bless the world with the kind of love and care God gives to us as His children. When the opportunity comes, we share the message of salvation with those God is using our lives to bless. What an exciting thing it is to be a part of a spiritual kingdom that is influencing and winning the world one person at a time as individual lives are touched and reclaimed for God. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Mustard Seed” and be a blessing to you.

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    Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us--a land which flows with milk and honey.” Numbers 14:6-8

    Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.” Joshua 1:1-2

    So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt …. Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you. Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.” Exodus 3:8-10, 34:10-11

    Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” …. “We hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day” …. “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know -- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” … “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:5-8, 11B-15, 22-24, 36-38

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The opposition team of ten through their impact of disobedience to God’s promise caused a delay in God’s people being established as the nation of Israel in the land. On the other hand the team of two through their impact of obedience to God’s promise was instrumental in eventually bringing God’s people into the land. In establishing His church on the day of Pentecost, God used a team of people to reach thousands of other people for His spiritual kingdom because they were obedient to God’s promises. God is wonderfully at work today clearly calling His people to join him in building His Kingdom. Wherever His people join together with Him as co-operative teams and engage in kingdom ways for building His Kingdom, great things take place. Unfortunately, many of God’s people are a part of opposition teams who are disobedient to God’s kingdom ways for building His kingdom, and the results are devastating.

    Notice the last part of our Acts passage above. It speaks of repentance, baptism (in the name of Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The kingdom is all about teams of people (churches) who pursue together a lifestyle of (1) repentance where they consistently renounce sin and self, (2) being immersed (baptism) in Christ where they consistently do everything in the name of Christ, and (3) walking in the power and control of the Holy Spirit where they are consistently led and enabled to do God’s bidding instead of their own. Unfortunately, there are churches everywhere who have forgotten that this is what the kingdom is all about. They, instead, go forward selfishly pursuing their own ideas of the kingdom, desiring their own satisfaction, and relying on their own wisdom and strength. The book of Acts was all about what God was doing and his people joining him in the amazing adventure of kingdom building. This is still what it’s all about and what a wonderful thing it is join God in the building of his kingdom in the middle of the world today.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your patience and for the opportunity to join you in what you are doing. Grant me a spirit of co-operation. Help me to renounce sin and self. Help me to be immersed in Christ. Help me to walk in the control and power of the Holy Spirit. Please surround me with others who are pursuing you and your kingdom in the same ways. Amen!

  • Good Stewards of God’s Grace – Embracing the True Kingdom of God - Tuesday, April 9th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Mustard Seed” helps us “picture the kingdom of God” in good and helpful ways through the image of the tiny mustard seed growing into a great tree that increasingly influences and blesses the world. Our mission is to bless the world with the kind of love and care God gives to us as His children. When the opportunity comes, we share the message of salvation with those God is using our lives to bless. What an exciting thing it is to be a part of a spiritual kingdom that is influencing and winning the world one person at a time as individual lives are touched and reclaimed for God. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Mustard Seed” and be a blessing to you.

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    Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!” Numbers 13:30–14:2

    On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite …. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” …. Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him, “your name is Jacob; but you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel. God also said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.” Genesis 15:18-21, 17:7-8, 35:9-12

    But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:9-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    With Israel of old God worked to build His kingdom by seeking to establish them as a model nation for all other nations. With the church God works to build His kingdom by taking individuals from all nations and uniting them in the body of Christ and using them individually and collectively to reach the world. Through the ages whenever and wherever God is at work building His kingdom, there will be those who co-operate with it and those who oppose it. One might suppose that all those who are in opposition are outside God’s kingdom and against it. However, often there are those within the kingdom who oppose the advancement of God’s true kingdom. Such ones don’t usually realize how they are coming up against God’s true kingdom while all the while supporting poor substitutes for the real thing. Also, it is interesting that there are sometimes those who are outside God’s true kingdom who are more in tune with features of the kingdom than many who are on the inside.

    We will explore more of all of this later. In the meantime, every one of us must realize that we will have an impact, but the question is will our impact be one of co-operation or one of opposition. Sometimes it is not clear how God is at work. For Israel God had made Himself very clear and there was nothing left to do but go in and possess the land. The author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament speaks about this event and says that they failed to enter because of unbelief and disobedience. Every one of us needs to enter fully into to the true kingdom of God with its many amazing features (we will explore later) and then help additional people enter the kingdom as well. It is truly a matter of belief and a matter of obedience.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to be a believing and obedient member of your true kingdom. Show me the reality of your true kingdom with all its amazing features. Help me willingly abandon all the poor substitutes I have settled for and help me embrace fully every part of the real thing. Without this help and my good response to it, I can never serve your kingdom fully as a good and trustworthy steward of your amazing grace. Amen!

  • Good Stewards of God’s Grace - The True Calling of Every Believer - Monday, April 8th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Mustard Seed” helps us “picture the kingdom of God” in good and helpful ways through the image of the tiny mustard seed growing into a great tree that increasingly influences and blesses the world. Our mission is to bless the world with the kind of love and care God gives to us as His children. When the opportunity comes, we share the message of salvation with those God is using our lives to bless. What an exciting thing it is to be a part of a spiritual kingdom that is influencing and winning the world one person at a time as individual lives are touched and reclaimed for God. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Mustard Seed” and be a blessing to you.

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    Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

    As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    One of the great and overarching spiritual realities of existence is the fact that all down through the ages God has been building a spiritual kingdom. The centerpiece of God’s kingdom building plan is His people. God chooses to use those who are already reached for his kingdom to advance his kingdom. With every individual participating, God’s people function as a support system for each other that develops them into ones who reach additional people for His spiritual kingdom. This calling God has for his people is often called the priesthood of all believers. There is no special class of people in God’s kingdom. Everyone is called to participate in the building of God’s kingdom.

    The impact God has for His kingdom people happens both on an individual and collective basis and has everything to do with why we are called the body of Christ. While each individual is used to build the kingdom, there are a multitude of ways that we do that in partnership with fellow kingdom members. Being used by God for the building of His kingdom is our primary calling in life and it is a stewardship from Him that each of us must embrace and fulfill. The apostle Paul reminds us that it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. Being helped to become good stewards of the grace of God is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your amazing grace that has provided and bestowed on me eternal salvation. I need to have the reality that I am both a beneficiary and an agent of grace become central in my life. Please bring this about this week, Lord. When all is said and done, I want it to be found that I was truly a good and trustworthy steward who served the kingdom fully. Amen!

  • "A Special Teacher" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, April 7th

    A Special Teacher

    Years ago a John Hopkin’s professor gave a group of graduate students this assignment: Go to the slums. Take 200 boys, between the ages of 12 and 16, and investigate their background and environment. Then predict their chances for the future. The students, after consulting social statistics, talking to the boys, and compiling much data, concluded that 90 percent of the boys would spend some time in jail.

    Twenty-five years later another group of graduate students was given the job of testing the prediction. They went back to the same area. Some of the boys – by then men – were still there, a few had died, some had moved away, but they got in touch with 180 of the original 200. They found that only four of the group had ever been sent to jail.

    Why was it that these men, who had lived in a breeding place of crime, had such a surprisingly good record? The researchers were continually told: “Well, there was a teacher…” They pressed further, and found that in 75 percent of the cases it was the same woman.

    The researchers went to this teacher, now living in a home for retired teachers. How had she exerted this remarkable influence over that group of children? Could she give them any reason why these boys should have remembered her? “No,” she said, “no I really couldn’t.” And then, thinking back over the years, she said amusingly, more to herself than to her questioners: “I loved those boys…”

    – Author – Bits & Pieces

  • "Don’t Hope… Decide!" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, April 6th

    Don’t Hope… Decide!

    While waiting to pick up a friend at the airport in Portland, Oregon, I had one of those life-changing experiences that you hear other people talk about -the kind that sneaks up on you unexpectedly. This one occurred a mere two feet away from me. Straining to locate my friend among the passengers deplaning through the jetway, I noticed a man coming toward me carrying two light bags.

    He stopped right next to me to greet his family. First he motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They gave each other a long, loving hug. As they separated enough to look in each other’s face, I heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” His son smiled somewhat shyly, averted his eyes and replied softly, “Me, too, Dad!”

    Then the man stood up, gazed in the eyes of his oldest son (maybe nine or ten) and while cupping his son’s face in his hands said, “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!” They too hugged a most loving, tender hug.

    While this was happening, a baby girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half) was squirming excitedly in her mother’s arms, never once taking her little eyes off the wonderful sight of her returning father.

    The man said, “Hi, baby girl!” as he gently took the child from her mother. He quickly kissed her face all over and then held her close to his chest while rocking her from side to side. The little girl instantly relaxed and simply laid her head on his shoulder, motionless in pure contentment.

    After several moments, he handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last!” and proceeded to give his wife the longest, most passionate kiss I ever remember seeing.

    He gazed into her eyes for several seconds and then silently mouthed. “I love you so much!” They stared at each other’s eyes, beaming big smiles at one another, while holding both hands. For an instant they reminded me of newlyweds, but I knew by the age of their kids that they couldn’t possibly be.

    I puzzled about it for a moment then realized how totally engrossed I was in the wonderful display of unconditional love not more than an arm’s length away from me.

    I suddenly felt uncomfortable, as if I was invading something sacred, but was amazed to hear my own voice nervously ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?” “Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those.” he replied, without breaking his gaze from his lovely wife’s face. “Well then, how long have you been away?” I asked the man finally turned and looked at me, still beaming his joyous smile. “Two whole days!”

    Two days? I was stunned. By the intensity of the greeting, I had assumed he’d been gone for at least several weeks – if not months. I know my expression betrayed me, I said almost offhandedly, hoping to end my intrusion with some semblance of grace (and to get back to searching for my friend), “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!”

    The man suddenly stopped smiling. He looked me straight in the eye, and with forcefulness that burned right into my soul, he told me something that left me a different person. He told me, “Don’t hope, friend… decide!” Then he flashed me his wonderful smile again, shook my hand and said, “God bless!” With that, he and his family turned and strode away together.

    I was still watching that exceptional man and his special family walk just out of sight when my friend came up to me and asked, “What’cha looking at?” Without hesitating, and with a curious sense of certainty, I replied, “My future!”

    – Author Unknown

  • How God Communicates – The Decision Maker of Peace - Friday, April 5th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Sower and the Seed” is all about God communicating and our responding to him. We are borrowing a Devotional set from the past that similarly deals with God communicating with us. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Sower and the Seed” and be a blessing to you.

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    Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:15

    Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

    These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In the Colossians verse the word “rule” means to arbitrate. So, in other words “peace” is the decision maker – it seals the deal. If we have the peace of Christ in a matter we can go forward and if we don’t have it we cannot go forward. However, there are several things we need to keep in mind. First, a “good feeling” is not necessarily the same as the “peace of Christ.” Such feelings are very subjective and can be extremely deceptive because our desires can dominate our decision-making endeavors. Second, the Lord does not separate Himself from His peace either. He doesn’t just disperse peace to you when your decision-making process lands you on the right decision. As you commune and fellowship with Him and your connection with Him leads to His revealing His will to you in a matter, His peaceful presence fills the core of your inner being. Third, His peaceful presence is an affirmation (seals the deal) that concludes a process He has guided you through as you have walked in communion and fellowship with Him.

    We have looked at “communication between God and us” in terms of the foundation on which it rests: our “relationship” with Him. “Being” with Him is the key to “hearing” from Him and this is what communion and fellowship with God is all about. This is not only the foundation for “communication between God and us,” it is the foundation for “living fully” for God because all true spiritual life is built on this foundation. And of course this includes the spiritual living we do in our relationships with other people. It is my prayer that God will wonderfully help us seek Him like never before and rely on Him to teach us how to “be” with Him – how to be vitally connected to Him in our actual experience so that we live the rest of our days in true “communion and fellowship” with Him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to want you more than what you can do for me. I know that I often look to you merely for the answers I hope you will communicate to me about how to proceed in some area of my life. I come to you today just to “be” with you in communion and fellowship. I do believe that everything else will flow out of our being together. I believe that in waiting for you and your special peace I will be led triumphantly. Lord, I exalt you and praise you. You are beautiful beyond description. You are mighty, wonderful, and amazing. I trust in you, yield to you, and rest in you. Amen!

  • How God Communicates – The Provision of Genuine Spiritual Counsel - Thursday, April 4th

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Sower and the Seed” is all about God communicating and our responding to him. We are borrowing a Devotional set from the past that similarly deals with God communicating with us. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Sower and the Seed” and be a blessing to you.

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    Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory …. Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed …. Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 19:20

    Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear …. Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. Proverbs 25:11-12, 19

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    If you were a participant in the religious system that existed when Jesus came into the world and you were looking for someone to help you hear from God, you would likely go to a religious expert steeped in God’s word and religious matters. However, if you recall, it is possible for someone to be extremely steeped in Scripture and religious matters and at the same time to have missed God. It is a person’s connection to God Himself that makes all the difference. I would rather find spiritual support from someone who is newer on their journey with Scripture and religious matters but has at the same time entered into the realm of communion and fellowship with God than with someone who has had a lifetime of involvement with Scripture and religious matters without a significant “communion and fellowship” connection with God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I do not want to end up being pseudo-spiritual like the Scribes and Pharisees. Please guard me from the counsel of other people who are already in this boat and connect me to those who truly know and experience your presence consistently. I know that spiritual counsel from others is a part of how you work in my life. I know you will help me to be open, discerning, and receptive to the godly counsel of others. Amen!

  • How God Communicates - He Reveals His Open Doors - Wednesday, April 3rd

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Sower and the Seed” is all about God communicating and our responding to him. We are borrowing a Devotional set from the past that similarly deals with God communicating with us. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Sower and the Seed” and be a blessing to you.

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    And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: I know your deeds Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” Revelation 3:7-8

    When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27

    For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:9

    Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:12-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There are many directions we could choose to take that the circumstances of our lives open up to us. We often think of the opportunities that are open to us as open doors and opportunities that are closed to us as closed doors. However, our walk with God is a spiritual one and He is the one who opens and closes doors. The door to an opportunity is open when He tells us it is open and it is closed when He tells us it is closed. With God, an opportunity that opens up is not necessarily an open door and an opportunity that closes is not necessarily a closed door. As we grow in our relationship with God, whereby we commune and fellowship with Him on an ongoing basis, we will learn to see how He is at work in the world around us. We will see Him in the circumstances of our lives and He will guide us in the way that we should go as we remain close to Him and hear from Him in the midst of our communion and fellowship with Him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to recognize more readily how you are at work in the world. Draw me closer than ever to yourself and help me increasingly be in tune with you so that I hear your voice of direction in the circumstances of my life. I choose to live my life in a spiritual way under your full guidance and control. Amen!

  • How God Communicates – His Presence in Scripture - Tuesday, April 2nd

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Sower and the Seed” is all about God communicating and our responding to him. We are borrowing a Devotional set from the past that similarly deals with God communicating with us. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Sower and the Seed” and be a blessing to you.

    _____________________

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    But He answered and said, “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4

    For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8:14-17

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Scriptures play a vital role in how God communicates wisdom for the life he has called us to. While the Scriptures are absolutely essential, they are not an end in themselves. They point us to Christ, the “Living Word.” Jesus once chided the Scribes and Pharisees about searching the Scriptures while thinking that such involvement would save them. He told them that the Scriptures spoke of Him and they were not willing to come to Him. God never separates Himself from His Word and we must not do it either. We easily fall into this trap when we merely use the Scriptures as a guidebook to help us with “our” decision making day by day. When we do this, we miss God Himself. We must learn to meet God in His Word for precious times of communion and fellowship. Communication between God and us – including instruction, guidance, correction, etc. – flows out of communion and fellowship with God and is the perfect blend of the relationship we have with both the living and written Word of God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, keep me from becoming one of those people who have more of a relationship with Scripture than they do with the you, the one whose Scriptures they are. Help me to always meet you in your Word. You are in charge of my life and the one who manages my growth as a Christian. Forgive me for all the times I have missed you in your Word as I have been busy using Scripture to manage my own Christian development. I bow before you in surrender and dependency. Amen!

  • How God Communicates – The Foundation of Relationship - Monday, April 1st

    Note: At church and in these Devotionals we are on an adventure called 90 Days with Jesus that will culminate at Easter. Throughout this adventure we are considering the amazing stories of the Master Teacher and Storyteller, Jesus Christ. This week’s Devotionals will not specifically deal with this week’s story. The story of the “Sower and the Seed” is all about God communicating and our responding to him. We are borrowing a Devotional set from the past that similarly deals with God communicating with us. We hope this week’s Devotionals will serve to compliment the story of the “Sower and the Seed” and be a blessing to you.

    _____________________

    What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 1 John 1:3-4

    Now we have received, not the spirit of world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:12-13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our Devotionals are an attempt to help those who use them to explore Christian truth and go further in their walk with God. The idea of going further is particularly significant for this week as we explore foundational truth about communication between God and us. There is a foundational matter on which the communication between God and us rests: the “relationship” that exists between God and us. We have an inner connection with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for us to “Be” with God in communion and fellowship. The pursuit of communication between God and us wonderfully opens up when we enter the realm of “Being” with God in communion and fellowship and give ourselves to it fully and completely. Not only does communication between us and God open up as we learn to be with him in communion and fellowship, but as we give ourselves fully to this pursuit our lives are transformed. The quality of our relationship with God and the communication that flows from him to us is the key to the quality of our relationships with others and the communication that flows from us to them.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I have so much to learn about how you communicate wisdom for life to your people. More and more I am learning to be with you in an actual relationship of prayerful communion and fellowship. It makes a lot of sense that my relationship of being with you is the key to hearing from you. I am here before you with open ears, mind and heart. I want to be with you and hear from you more fully than ever before. Wonderfully transform my relationship with you and all my relationships with other people. Amen!

  • "Your Good Deeds Could Change the World" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, March 31st

    Your Good Deeds Could Change the World

    Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home. There’s a lake located in one corner of the park. Each time I jog by this lake, I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her.

    This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her. As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was in fact a small trap. There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap. She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.

    “Hello,” I said. “I see you here every Sunday morning. If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”

    She smiled. “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied. “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim. It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.”

    “Wow! That’s really nice of you!” I exclaimed.

    She went on: “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out. It’s my own strange way of making a difference.”

    “But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked.

    “Yep, sadly, they do,” she replied.

    I scratched my head. “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent? I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are fresh water turtles living in lakes all around the world. And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells. So, no offense… but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?”

    The woman giggled aloud. She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell, and said, “Sweetie, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”

  • Our Heavenly Destiny – Spreading the Glories of Heaven on Earth - Saturday, March 30th

    You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created them for your pleasure. Revelation 4:11

    Do not be afraid—I am with you! From the distant east and the farthest west I will bring your people home. I will tell the north to let them go and the south not to hold them back. Let my people return from distant lands, from every part of the world. They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory. Isaiah 43:5-7

    We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us! Isaiah 53:6

    For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn .... Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. Romans 11:29, 33-36

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our theme this week has been “Our Heavenly Destiny.” It expresses the wonderful reality that heaven is our final destiny, but it also expresses the challenging reality that our destiny includes our thorough participation in God’s kingdom work of greatly influencing life on earth with the glories of heaven while we are here. We have been entrusted with the kingdom of heaven and as such we are truly called to be good and faithful stewards who work to advance it.

    As true followers of Jesus we have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the heavenly kingdom of Jesus Christ. As true followers of Jesus Christ we are like the first two servants of our story from last week who advanced their master’s interests. It really will come about that we will advance the kingdom of heaven and someday enter into the joy of our Master as good and faithful servants. As true followers of Jesus Christ we are not like the third servant and will never receive the dire consequences of Matthew 25:30, which is in reality a description of the ultimate consequence of hell. This the destiny of those who dismiss altogether the treasure of Jesus and his glorious heavenly kingdom because they are in reality rejecting Christ. Those who reject Christ and never embrace the Savior of the world in this life, will pass into eternity and go to the place of outer darkness where there is great misery and anguish.

    To help us with the challenge of being ones who thoroughly participate in God’s kingdom work we have examined over the course of this week what it means to be a new person with a new life through our relationship with Christ in terms of three words: surrender, identity, and vocation. Today we seek to wrap all this up with some very interesting but very challenging considerations.

    The Revelation passage above says we were created for God's pleasure. The Isaiah 43 passage above says we were created for God's glory. The fact that we exist for God and that which brings pleasure and glory to him brings us face to face with two extremely important truths: we do not exist for ourselves and God does not exist for us. How do we exist for God and bring pleasure and glory to him? The Isaiah 53 passage tells us that all of us have gone astray and gone our own way. So the first thing that brings God pleasure and glory is our return to him (there is no one who does not need to return). As we see from Isaiah 53 it is Christ's sacrifice for our sins that facilitates our return. Our return brings us back into to a full relationship with God. So, the second thing that brings God pleasure and glory is the intimacy of the love relationship he is able to begin sharing with us upon our return. The third thing that brings God pleasure and glory is the transformation he is able to bring about in our lives through the intimate love relationship he shares with us. The fourth thing that brings God pleasure and glory is the blessing our lives become to other people as he manifests himself through us and uses us to reach and touch other people for him.

    The notion that we can somehow live for ourselves is an instrumental part of our going astray from God and doing our own thing with our lives. The notion that God exists for us is an instrumental part of why so many people struggle in their relationship with God after they return to him through Christ. Is it not true that we tend to view Christ's sacrifice for sins (that enables us to return to God) as something he does for us. Have you ever considered that God did this for himself more so than for us? If he created us for his pleasure and glory and we live life for ourselves as we go our own way and do our own thing, then God does not have us available to live for his pleasure and glory. So, God's provision of redemption is something he does for himself before it is something he does for us. It brings us back to himself so that he has us available to live for his pleasure and glory. Would it not make a huge difference if when we initially responded to Christ and his provision of forgiveness for our sin, we were viewing it as the means for God to have us back so he could do with us whatever he wanted and not so that we could get in on all that he could do for us?

    To come to Christ in this way would mean that we were repenting of the independent, selfish, and sinful use of our lives that kept God from having us available to exist for his pleasure and glory. And then it would mean that we were trusting Christ for the forgiveness of sins (our wayward and rebellious life) so he could live in us and produce a life lived for God's pleasure and glory. Coming to Christ in full repentance and faith would mean that right from the start our surrender, identity, and vocation would be in place and we would be a new person with a new life in the full and powerful way God intended. We are looking at the way it might have been in order to see the way it can be. Regardless of the struggles we have had in our relationship with God in terms of being a new person with a new life, we can begin anew this very moment. In the light of today's considerations, go back and read again the devotionals on surrender (Wednesday), identity (Thursday), and vocation (Friday).

    God is waiting and longing to do amazing things in our lives . He does act on our behalf in so many wonderful ways, but he does this most easily and most fully when we are wrapped up in him and that which brings him pleasure and glory rather than our being wrapped up in ourselves and what he will do for us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Once again it only seems fitting today that you put together your own prayer response to God for those ways he has been working in your life this week to help you become one who spreads the glories of heaven on earth more fully. God Bless! Ken Hart

  • Our Heavenly Destiny – Faithfully Working to Advance Christ’s Kingdom - Friday, March 29th

    When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:36-38

    Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:3-6

    In our prayers we always thank God for you. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank him because we have heard about the faith you have in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all of God’s people. Your faith and love continue because you know what is waiting for you in heaven—the hope you have had since you first heard the true message, the Good News that was told to you. Throughout the world, this Good News is bringing blessings and is spreading. And that’s what has been happening among you since the first time you heard it and understood the truth about God’s grace. Colossians 1:3-6

    We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people .... As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia. And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, 7-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    When God raised up Israel to be his special people in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he had great intentions for them. Through Israel, God wanted to show the world the good things that come from being under his authority and care. Overall, Israel failed to live for God as his people and the intentions God had for the world through Israel were not realized. Jesus, as the Messiah, came to set things right for Israel and the world. In the Gospel of John we are told that he (Jesus Christ, the Messiah) came to his own (Israel) but they received him not. Now keep in mind that almost all of those who responded on an individual basis to Christ and became his followers when he was here were Israelites. However, he came as the Messiah of Israel, but as a nation they did not receive them.

    Israel had a stewardship to the world that was not fulfilled in Old Testament times nor in New Testament times when they had the opportunity to embrace the Messiah and his heavenly kingdom. Look at what we find in Matthew 8:11-12, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be great misery and anguish.” These are the same words we saw in Matthew 25:30 from last week’s story and have been examining more closely this week. We have seen that these words are reserved for those who dismiss altogether the treasure of Jesus and his glorious heavenly kingdom. This was the plight of those in Israel who rejected Christ when he was here on earth and offered himself and his heavenly kingdom to them.

    We, on the other hand, are those who don’t dismiss the treasure of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom and have become true followers of Jesus who help with the advancement of his heavenly kingdom. We will hear him say someday, “enter into the joy of your Master as good and faithful servants.” We will not hear those words of dire consequence, “Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!” This is because we have embraced the suffering Messiah, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for Israel and the world on the cross of Calvary. We are the redeemed who are forever his and are seeking to live fully for him and his heavenly kingdom.

    To help us with this we have been seeking to gain a fuller understanding this week of what it means to be a new person with a new life through our relationship with Christ by examining three words: surrender, identity, and vocation. These three considerations wonderfully help us experience “Our Heavenly Destiny” as fully as possible while we are here on earth. Surrender has to do with our commitment to Christ who is in charge of producing the "new person" and "new life" he has in store for us (See Wednesday's devotional). Identity is all that we are in Christ as he makes us into a new person with a new life (See Thursday's devotional). Vocation is our calling (central purpose for why we are here) to the life-long pursuit of letting the new person we are becoming and the new life that is unfolding have an impact on the people and world around us.

    Let's begin our focus on "vocation" by pointing out that it is not really possible to separate vocation from identity. We might say that identity is who we are and vocation is what we do. When we explored identity yesterday we did so with the focus being more on who we are, but it would not be inaccurate to say that our identity includes both who we are and what we do. This is because what we do is the outworking of who we are. So, in this sense identity includes vocation. It is interesting that when we meet someone new, conversation almost always turns to the question, "what do you do (for a living)?" and not "who are you (as a person)?" So, generally what we do is very much a part of our identity.

    Vocation on the human level almost always has to do with one's career. Some people have a sense of calling to their careers, but many do not. Spiritually, we are all called to a career of serving the kingdom. Serving the kingdom is our primary vocation, just as our primary identity is who we are in Christ (at least in the way we considered it in yesterday's devotional). Take some time to go back through the passages above, both reading and thinking about the highlighted portions. These are the kind of expressions about spiritual vocation that need to shape how we view ourselves in regard to vocation so that we can move more and more toward it really being true that our primary vocation is serving the kingdom.

    It is important to keep in mind that it usually does not necessitate a change in career and calling on the human level to make serving the kingdom your primary vocation. As a matter of fact, God is particularly interested in showing his people how to make an impact for the kingdom right where they are in the middle of all they are already doing. Remember, our spiritual vocation is all about letting the new person we are becoming and the new life that is unfolding have an impact on the people and world around us (right where we are). We really are ones who don’t dismiss the treasure of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom and have become true followers of Jesus who help with the advancement of his heavenly kingdom.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for the calling you have on my life. Teach me more and more of what it means to make serving you and your kingdom my primary vocation. Continue to help me surrender. Continue to shape my identity in Christ. Continue to accomplish your purposes by making my life a blessing to the world around me. Amen!

    Note: there will be a Saturday Devotional this week

  • Our Heavenly Destiny – Letting Our Christ-like Identity Define Us - Thursday, March 28th

    But God is rich in mercy, and he loved us very much. We were spiritually dead because of all we had done against him. But he gave us new life together with Christ. (You have been saved by God’s grace.) Yes, it is because we are a part of Christ Jesus that God raised us from death and seated us together with him in the heavenly places. God did this so that his kindness to us who belong to Christ Jesus would clearly show for all time to come the amazing richness of his grace. Ephesians 2:4-7

    With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:17-24

    Do you need reminding that the unjust have no share in the blessings of the kingdom of God? Do not be misled. A lot of people stand to inherit nothing of God’s coming kingdom, including those whose lives are defined by sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, sexual deviancy, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, and swindling. Some of you used to live in these ways, but you are different now; you have been washed clean, set apart, restored, and set on the right path in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Anointed, by the Spirit of our living God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Yesterday we said that many Christians who struggle to feel good about how they are doing at living the Christian life are quite troubled by the words we have been looking at this week from Matthew 25:30, “Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!” We have claimed that these words are reserved for those who dismiss altogether the treasure of Jesus and his glorious heavenly kingdom because in doing so they are in reality rejecting Christ. And of course those who reject Christ and never embrace the Savior of the world in this life, will pass into eternity and go to the place of outer darkness where there is great misery and anguish.

    We also said there is more to this week’s theme, “Our Heavenly Destiny,” than arriving safe in heaven someday. “Our Heavenly Destiny” includes a lifetime of embracing and serving Christ and the true kingdom of heaven while we are here on earth. Yesterday we focused on surrender, today we focus on identity, and tomorrow we focus on vocation. These three considerations wonderfully help us experience “Our Heavenly Destiny” as fully as possible while we are here on earth.

    We have been exploring our Christian faith in terms of what it means to be a new person with a new life. When we looked at surrender yesterday we saw that unless we allow God to be in charge of producing the "new person" and "new life" he has in store for us we will travel a very rocky road in our Christian faith. This is why it is extremely important to make the commitment to always pursue being surrendered to God as fully as possible. Today we look at identity (tomorrow, vocation). When we talk about identity in regard to our Christian faith we are talking about who we are in Christ. Having the correct view of ourselves is essential for going forward in our Christian faith in ways that are healthy and successful.

    We have an old identity from before we became ones who put our faith in Christ and we have our new identity as ones who have put our faith in Christ. While a new picture of our person and life is being painted by God in accord with our new identity, our picture is not yet complete and perfect. If it were complete and perfect we would have no need to stay here living out life on earth. Rather, the picture God is painting of us will not be complete until we are home with him in Heaven someday. Here is where it gets tricky. Becoming the new person God wants us to become and living the new life he wants us to live is a progressive thing. The level of progress we make, however, has a great deal to do with how we actually view ourselves. There will always be old stuff in our lives but we must not let that define us. We need to define ourselves by our new identity and the new picture God is painting of us.

    Let's look at our passages above and some of great things that are said about identity. From Ephesians 2: "We were spiritually dead .... but he gave us new life." From Ephesians 4: "Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life .... put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." From 1 Corinthians 6: "Some of you used to live in these ways, but you are different now; you have been washed clean, set apart, restored, and set on the right path in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Anointed, by the Spirit of our living God." We see in each of these the contrast of our old identity and our new identity. The more consistently we focus on and live in the reality our new identity, the more who we are and how we live will be defined by the new and not the old.

    It is this consistent focus that is the hinge on which all this hangs. We must meditate on God's Word day in and day out. To help you do this, take a piece of paper and make two columns. Write "I am not ...." above the first column and write "I am .... " above the second column. Then go through the three passages and write things in the first column that pertain to the "old" and things that pertain to the "new" in the second column. As often as you can over the course of this month, but at least once a day, mediate on these columns. Prayerfully seek God's presence and with a great sense of surrender and dependence, renounce "the old" from the first column and embrace "the new" from the second column. You will be amazed at how much this will foster your connection to God, your connection to his Word, and your connection to your true identity in Christ.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you so much for your commitment to me. The love, mercy, grace, and plan you have for me are all truly amazing gifts. Help me to believe, receive, and rest in your provision. I commit myself to doing what it takes to focus consistently on my true identity in Christ. I look forward to the fuller way you will be painting the picture of the new person and new life you have for me as I go forward with the fulfillment of my heavenly destiny. Amen

  • Our Heavenly Destiny – Traveling the Pathway of Surrender - Wednesday, March 27th

    And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Romans 12:1-3

    Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me .... Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you .... My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. Psalm 51:10, 12, 17

    The Lord said: Heaven is my throne; the earth is my footstool. What kind of house could you build for me? In what place will I rest? I have made everything; that’s how it all came to be. I, the Lord, have spoken. The people I treasure most are the humble—they depend only on me and tremble when I speak. Isaiah 66:1-2

    Since we have a Kingdom nothing can destroy, let us please God by serving him with thankful hearts and with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

    Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We having been looking at Matthew 25:30 this week where it says, “Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!” Many Christians who struggle to feel good about how they are doing at living the Christian life are quite troubled by these words. Here is what we said yesterday about them: “So then, we are those who don’t dismiss the treasure of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom and have become true followers of Jesus who help with the advancement of his heavenly kingdom. We will hear him say someday, “enter into the joy of your Master as good and faithful servants.” We will not hear those words of dire consequence, “Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!” These words are reserved for those who dismiss altogether the treasure of Jesus and his glorious heavenly kingdom.”

    While there are consequences associated with not living as fully for God and his kingdom as we should, they are not the dire consequences of Matthew 25:30. The dire consequences of Matthew 25:30 are in reality a description of the ultimate consequence of hell. Those who dismiss altogether the treasure of Jesus and his glorious heavenly kingdom are in reality rejecting Christ. Those who reject Christ and never embrace the Savior of the world in this life, will pass into eternity and go to the place of outer darkness where there is great misery and anguish. Let the words of John 3:16-18 ring in your ears, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 5:24 says “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

    This week’s Devotional set is entitled, “Our Heavenly Destiny.” Be assured that all true believers in Christ are redeemed and are destined for heaven someday. This assurance is vital, but “Our Heavenly Destiny” is more than arriving safe in heaven someday. “Our Heavenly Destiny” includes a lifetime of embracing and serving Christ and the true kingdom of heaven while we are here on earth. The rest of today’s Devotional and the Devotionals for Thursday and Friday are devoted to helping us experience “Our Heavenly Destiny” as fully as possible while we are here on earth.

    The verses at the start of today’s Devotional are all about surrender. Read them over again. Surrender is one of the three words we are focusing on this week to help us gain a full understanding of what it means to be a new person with a new life. The other two are identity and vocation. Yesterday we equated surrender with commitment. When we commit ourselves to God we are surrendering to him. But no one can be perfectly surrendered to God. It is a life-long commitment and pursuit. So in reality the surrendered person is not one who is perfectly surrendered but one who has made the commitment to always pursue being surrendered to God as fully as possible. This distinction is important for two reasons. First, if we view surrender as something absolute, total, and perfect, we will give up on it as unattainable. Second, when we view surrender as a pursuit, then the initial commitment we made to pursue surrender becomes a milestone in our lives to which we can look back in those times when our surrender is lacking and this helps us to go forward restored and renewed in our pursuit of surrender.

    It is important that we have a solid grasp on what it means to make a commitment to the lifetime pursuit of surrender to God. When we make this commitment we are saying to God: I want you to be in charge of my life. I want to be the new person with the new life that you have in mind for me. I want your will and not my own. I am willing to be anything you want me to be, go anywhere you want me to go, and do anything you want me to do. I am willing to give up anything you want me to give up and to steer clear of anything that does not fit in with your will for my life. Perhaps the real question for us is: can we trust God with our lives. If we can trust God, then it would seem that surrendering our lives to him makes all the sense in the world.

    Living for God’s kingdom is a high calling and God is devoted to seeing that calling fulfilled in our lives day by day. Responding and yielding to God in surrender is the pathway to our actually living lives as good and faithful stewards of the kingdom of heaven. Making the commitment to the lifetime of surrender that we have been talking about today is the response God is looking for from us. Perhaps you have never made the commitment to pursue a lifetime of surrender to God or perhaps you find yourself at a spot where the commitment you have made is severely lacking. Either way, now is a great moment to come before the Lord in full commitment to a lifetime of surrendering to him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, Thank you for the gift of heaven and eternal life and the assurance that I am yours forever. Here I am, take my life and all that I am and make everything new and right. Help me not to be afraid of anything that might happen as a result of surrendering to you. Help me to let go of everything. Help me to take hold of you completely. I release myself into your arms of love for the blessed life in you that I need and long for. Amen!

  • Our Heavenly Destiny – Pressing Onward with Christ - Tuesday, March 26th

    I waited patiently for God to help me; then he listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path, and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God. Now many will hear of the glorious things he did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in him. Many blessings are given to those who trust the Lord and have no confidence in those who are proud or who trust in idols. Psalm 40:1-4

    But .... you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

    Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:8-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Being a new person with a new life because of Jesus Christ is part of what we are exploring this week. There are three words that help us with the amazing change God has for us in our transitioning from our old life to our new life in Christ. They are: surrender, identity, and vocation. Surrender has to do with our commitment to Christ who is in charge of producing the "new person" and "new life" he has in store for us. Identity is all that we are in Christ as he makes us into a new person with a new life. Vocation is our calling (central purpose for why we are here) to the life-long pursuit of letting the new person we are becoming and the new life that is unfolding have an impact on the people and world around us.

    Take some time and go through the passages above and find things that have to do with surrender (commitment and trust), identity (releasing the old and embracing the new), and vocation (calling and purpose). Here is an example of each: Surrender - "Many blessings are given to those who trust the Lord." Identity - "Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy." Vocation - "Now many will hear of the glorious things he did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in him." If you have the time make a list of things you find for each of three words. It would be great to rewrite the things you find in your own words. But at least, take one item you find for each of the three words and meditate on it for a while. Talk to God in prayer about each one and ask him to take the things you have discovered and learned and use them in your heart and life today.

    We really do have a heavenly destiny orchestrated by God who faithfully and diligently is at work aligning us with his glorious heavenly kingdom. Like the first two servants in our Matthew 25 story from last week, our lives will help with the advancement of God’s heavenly kingdom and we will someday enter into the joy of our Master as good and faithful servants. We said yesterday that in the third servant we see what the kingdom of heaven is not like. The kingdom of heaven is not like what his listeners are used to. Jesus wants his listeners to see that the kingdom of heaven stands in contrast to and in confrontation of conventional life on earth and the troubling religious system of the day that did more to draw its adherents away from God than it did to bring them closer to him. Jesus is a threat to conventional life on earth and to the troubling religious system of the day. What Jesus has to say about the third servant serves as an indictment against those in his audience whose response to the treasure of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom is one of complete dismissal. They are like the third servant who buried his master’s treasure.

    Unlike those who dismissed Jesus and his heavenly kingdom, those in the audience who became true followers of Jesus dismissed, rather, conventional life on earth and the troubling religious system of the day in favor of a lifetime of embracing and serving the true kingdom of God. So then, we are those who don’t dismiss the treasure of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom and have become true followers of Jesus who help with the advancement of his heavenly kingdom. We will hear him say someday, “enter into the joy of your Master as good and faithful servants.” We will not hear those words of dire consequence, “Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!” These words are reserved for those who dismiss altogether the treasure of Jesus and his glorious heavenly kingdom (we will learn much more about these words throughout the rest of the week).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for the work of grace you are doing in my life. I am grateful for your patience and gentleness with me. Fill my heart with hope and confidence that you are at work in my life and will never let go of me or give up on me. Cleanse me, renew me, fill me, and use me. May you be honored and glorified in my life today. Thank you for drawing me to yourself and helping me become your true follower. You and your heavenly kingdom are the only treasure for me. I choose to press on in faithfully serving you and the advancement of your glorious kingdom. Amen!

  • Our Heavenly Destiny – Totally Secured In Christ - Monday, March 25th

    This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

    You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you. In this new life one’s nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. Whether a person has Christ is what matters, and he is equally available to all. Colossians 3:10-11 

    As you live this new life, we pray that you will be strengthened from God’s boundless resources, so that you will find yourselves able to pass through any experience and endure it with courage. You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light. For we must never forget that he rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, that is, in the kingdom of light. For it is by his Son alone that we have been redeemed and have had our sins forgiven. Colossians 1:11-14 

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Word of God emphasizes powerfully and clearly that a Christian is a new person with a new life. On the one hand this can be a very attractive prospect for a person when they are in the exploring stage of the journey of faith. Some of what is said to be "bad" has been bad in our lives and we want these bad things "out" of our lives. Some of what is said to be "good" we know has been missing and we have a desire for it to be "in" our lives. On the other hand some of what is said to be "bad" we have a hard time viewing as bad and some of what is said to be "good" we have a hard time viewing as "good."

    But in order to move beyond this exploring stage of the journey of faith we need to recognize that there isn't a menu from which we get to make selections for what will be in and what won't be in our lives. We are called to be an entirely new person with an entirely new life as Christians. So, when we embrace Christ as our Savior, it is important that we do so with full recognition that he will now be in charge of producing the "new person" and "new life" he has in store for us.

    The Scriptures above paint a wonderful picture of the new person we are and the new life we have in Christ through these words, "a new life has begun," "a brand new kind of life," "more like Christ," "new life within," "transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son." These words stand in stark contrast to the concluding words of our story from last week which said, “Then the master said to his other servants, “Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!” At the end of last week’s Devotional set we said we would explore this week what these dire consequences are all about. You might want to go back and read the entire story again in Matthew 25:14-30.

    I want you to see something about the dire consequences of verse 30. They are not a part of the story Jesus is telling but rather they are his application of the story. The human master in our story cannot “throw someone into outer darkness where there will be great anguish and misery.” We are not told what the human master might have done to his good-for-nothing servant. Jesus chose to switch from the story to real life. Remember, Jesus is telling us what the kingdom of heaven is like. In the first two servants we see what it is like and in the third servant we see what it is not like.

    The kingdom of heaven is at hand and Jesus is offering it to all who will come out from the religious system of the day and follow him. Followers of Jesus will be rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to his heavenly kingdom and they will become like the first two servants who advance the heavenly kingdom and someday enter into the joy of their Master as good and faithful servants. Followers of Jesus are not like third servant and will never receive the dire consequences of verse 30. We will see who these dire consequences are for as we look much more closely at the third servant and how he represents what is not the kingdom of heaven in our Devotionals throughout the rest of the week.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, kindle a burning fire in my soul for wanting, embracing, and pursuing all that you have in store for me in regard to being a "new person" with a "new life." I rest assured that I am fully redeemed, forever forgiven of my sins, and permanently rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into your heavenly kingdom. As such I know you will help me to become the productive kingdom member you have destined me to become. Amen!

  • "Don’t judge others before you know them" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, March 24th

    Don’t judge others before you know them

    A 24 year old boy seeing out from the train’s window shouted…

    “Dad, look the trees are going behind!”

    Dad smiled and a young couple sitting nearby, looked at the 24 year old’s childish behavior with pity, suddenly he again exclaimed…

    “Dad, look the clouds are running with us!”

    The couple couldn’t resist and said to the old man…

    “Why don’t you take your son to a good doctor?”

    The old man smiled and said, “I did and we are just coming from the hospital, my son was blind from birth, he just got his eyes today.”

    Every single person on the planet has a story. Don’t judge people before you truly know them. The truth might surprise you.

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