Daily Devotional

  • Tension Points – Counting the Cost – Treasure the Transforming Word of God - Saturday, August 8th

    You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:


    We are in the first week of a series designed to help us tackle and manage the tension points of life. In the coming weeks we will be looking at those areas of life that are ongoing, constant, and seem to always need improvement. We finish out the week with one last look at the parable of the sower to help us in our considerations. We have looked closely at the various soils this week and the ways people are similar to them. From this close look we have gained insight into the cost discipleship. Simply stated, soil will not be good soil unless the problems associated with the bad soils are overcome. This means change and change has its cost. 

    We will not be like good soil with lives that "produce a huge harvest" unless the hard work of getting on track and staying on track takes place (perseverance). Real soil doesn't decide to respond to the seed that is sown. Real soil is what it is, either good or bad and the outcome of the seed sown on it will exactly correspond to what kind of soil it is. We are different because we have wills. We can desire to be like good soil and be open to change. We can desire and be open to good outcomes and not a bad ones. We want to conclude our week by focusing on the "seed" the sower sows because good outcomes can only come from God and his word.

    How we view the "seed" is of paramount importance. We may want to change and we may be open to outside input, but what kind of change we pursue is determined by the kind of input we are open to and let into our lives. In reality, it all begins with the view of Scripture (the Bible) we really have? Today's Scripture includes these words, "when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." Notice the three components of how "good soil" people view Scripture: (1) they do not view the Scriptures as the word of men; (2) they accept the Scriptures for what it really is, the word of God; and (3) they believe the Scriptures will perform its work in them.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    The work God's word is intended to perform is threefold: germination and life, roots that go down deep, and shoots that grow up tall and strong. The one who embraces this is one who truly treasures the transforming Word of God. Go back over the Devotionals for this week and let God show you the specific changes that are needed in your life so. Write out your own prayer response to God that expresses all that is on your heart. Our hope and prayer is that you truly count the cost of discipleship and that you actually “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."

  • Tension Points – Counting the Cost – Check for Evil Influences - Friday, August 7th

    Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants .... The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. Luke 8:7, 14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:


    This week we have been looking at discipleship and the hard work it requires. Our goal has been to set the stage for improvement in our discipleship as well as give ourselves a better foundation for all the areas of life that require hard work, but particularly those tension points that will be addressed over the next few weeks (dealing with time, finances, relationships). We continue today with the parable of the sower. You will recall that throughout the parable the soil represents people, the seed represents God's word, and the sower represents God. In contrast to the good soil we looked at the other day there are three bad soils in the parable. Each of these bad soils help us understand more fully the true cost of discipleship. Today's Scripture gives us the third bad soil and the explanation of what this soil represents. The third bad soil is "thorny soil."

    Our first bad soil was the "hard soil." The external influence of people who walked on the soil both before and after the seed was sown was the primary problem associated with the "hard soil." The dilemma that follows is that the "hard soil" does not allow the seed that was sown to germinate and come to life through saving faith. Our second bad soil was the "rocky soil." The problem of the rocky soil is an internal one because the rocks exist within the soil itself even before the seed was sown. While there is enough soil available to allow the seed to germinate and come to life, the actual problem is the competition the seed has to contend with when the rocks get in the way of the seed sending its roots down to the sufficient level it needs to grow into a healthy plant.

    What is the primary problem associated with the seed falling on "thorny soil?" Notice these words from today's Scripture: "seed fell among thorns that grew up with it." If the thorns grew up with the seed, then the growth of the thorns happened after the seed was sown. The inference is that the sower's seed fell among ground that also had unseen thorn seeds present. We can understand how the sower's seed could inadvertently land on the footpath and how it would be sown on soil where the rocks where hidden beneath the surface of the soil, but it would not be reasonable for one who was sowing seed to sow where grown thorn plants were already present.

    There are several things we are given in today's Scripture that help us understand how a person can be like thorny soil. Like with the rocky soil, the seed experiences competition from the thorny soil. However, with the rocky soil the competition was with the roots that were trying to go down. With the thorny soil the competition is with the shoots that are trying to go up. The result is that the shoots of thorn seeds "choked out" the shoots of the sower's seed.

    What is it that makes a person similar to this bad soil with its bad outcome? This kind of person has become spiritually alive (not "hard soil") through the provision of the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. This kind of person understands (their roots are growing down into the soil) that they were saved in order to be a disciple of Christ who will seek to embrace and not resist the changes that will need to be made in their life (not "rocky soil). However, this kind of person ("thorny soil") does not realize what he is up against in regard to the "choking" nature of the world system that is all around him.

    Today's Scripture is very clear about the "choking" nature of the world system that stops the upward growth of our spiritual lives so that we "never grow into maturity." The world system includes the cares (worry and stress) of this world, the riches of this world, and the pleasures of this world. We desperately need the help of God's people in full measure right from the start of our Christian journey. Through close involvement with others who are ahead of us in the journey (small groups) we will be helped to see what we are really up against and we will have a support system that will foster our spiritual growth as we are powerfully helped to overcome the world system that is all around us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to be one whose roots go down deep, who grows spiritually tall and strong, and whose life produces a tremendous harvest. Please connect me with yourself and your people like never before. Help me to be "good soil" for your honor and glory. I give myself to you in order to live fully for you and not for myself. Amen!

  • Tension Points – Counting the Cost – Check for Inward Evils - Thursday, August 6th

    Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture .... The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. Luke 8:6, 13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There is a kind of tension we experience from those ongoing, constant areas of life that nag at us. Our current series is designed to help us make improvements in these areas. We have been looking at "discipleship" this week. Discipleship has its own tension (grace and hard work) but at the same time it is the key to getting life right in all those areas that are ongoing and constant (dealing with time, finances, relationships, etc.). We have zeroed in on the fundamental reality that discipleship has a "cost." Discipleship is all about living fully for God instead of living fully for ourselves. The "cost" of discipleship lies in the changes that must come if we are truly going to live fully for God instead of ourselves. These changes necessitate dying to ourselves, surrendering our wills, and living for God's purposes and desires instead of our own.

    We continue today with the parable of the sower. You will recall that throughout the parable the soil represents people, the seed represents God's word, and the sower represents God. In contrast to the good soil we looked at the other day there are three bad soils in the parable. Each of these bad soils help us understand more fully the true cost of discipleship. Today's Scripture gives us the second bad soil and the explanation of what this soil represents. The second bad soil is "rocky soil."

    The problem with the seed falling on rocky soil lies in the fact that the seed has the competition of rocks to contend with. External influence was the primary cause of the hardened soil of the footpath. In contrast, the problem of the rocky soil is an internal one because the rocks exist within the soil itself. There is enough soil available to allow the seed to germinate and come to life (saving faith), but the rocks in the soil get in the way of the seed sending its roots down to the sufficient level it needs to grow into a healthy plant. What is it that makes a person similar to this bad soil with its bad outcome? There are several things we are given in today's Scripture that help us understand how a person can be like the "rocky soil."

    Here are the similarities: a person's mind and heart are filled with things that compete with God and his word. God and his word come to us and we respond in saving faith and we receive the gift of salvation joyfully. We begin to grow but the roots of our faith cannot go deep enough for continued growth because of the presence of things that compete for space in our minds and hearts. We are all have "rocks" in our lives when we come to Christ that need to be removed. We have beliefs, desires, and practices that are contrary to God and his word. But not all of us are the "rocky soil" people of our parable. "Rocky soil" people are those who receive Christ but are unprepared for the changes that need to be made.

    Discipleship begins with saving faith but necessitates the realization that we are being saved in order to be a disciple who truly follows Christ. From the very beginning one should count the cost of being his disciple. When counting the cost of being a disciple isn't a part of one's salvation experience, they are ill-prepared for the changes that come with true discipleship and the perseverance that will be needed. This is what it means to be a rocky soil person. We resist the changes that need to be made and continue to yield to the temptations associated with wrong beliefs, desires, and practices. We choose to cling to these "rocks" that have been present in our Christian experience from the beginning.

    It bears repeating that discipleship is all about living fully for God instead of living fully for ourselves. The "cost" of discipleship lies in the changes that must come if we are truly going to live fully for God instead of ourselves. These changes necessitate dying to ourselves, surrendering our wills, and living for God's purposes and desires instead of our own. What a difference these understandings make for the one who sees and embraces them at the time they are responding to Christ in saving faith.

    Praise God, we do not have to remain rocky soil people. God comes again and again to us with his word. Over and over he extends to us the call of discipleship and if we embrace the cost of discipleship we will be set free. Our roots will go down deep, we will persevere at growing spiritually tall and strong, and our lives will produce a tremendous harvest.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I recognize my own struggle with the rocky soil of my mind and heart. Thank you for your love and patience. I am grateful that you keep on waiting and keep on calling to me. I recognize this isn't an issue of perfection (all rocks removed) or it would be hopeless. I understand it is all about my willingness to let you work at removing the rocks in my life at all times. I choose to embrace the cost of discipleship more fully and to let you have you full charge over my life. I choose to persevere at living fully for you. Amen!

  • Tension Points – Counting the Cost – Check for Saving Faith - Wednesday, August 5th

    A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it .... The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. Luke 8:5, 12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are in the first week of a series designed to help us tackle and manage the tension points of life. In the weeks ahead we will be looking at those areas of life that are ongoing, constant, and seem to always need improvement. We continue with the parable of the sower to help us in our considerations. We have been looking at "discipleship" this week. Discipleship is the key to getting life right in all those areas that are ongoing and constant (dealing with time, finances, relationships, etc.). At the beginning of the week we were introduced to a very important reality: discipleship has a "cost." Discipleship is all about living fully for God instead of living fully for ourselves. Changing the focus of what we live for is where the "cost" comes into play. Living fully for God instead of living fully for ourselves necessitates dying to ourselves, surrendering our wills, and living for God's purposes and desires instead of our own.

    We continue today with the parable of the sower. You will recall that throughout the parable the soil represents people, the seed represents God's word, and the sower represents God. In contrast to the good soil we looked at yesterday there are three bad soils in the parable. Each of these bad soils will help us understand more fully the true cost of discipleship. Today's Scripture gives us the first bad soil and the explanation of what this soil represents. The first bad soil is "hard soil."

    The problem with the seed falling on the footpath lies in the fact that the footpath is hardened. Picture a garden all tilled up and ready for planting. Now picture a well-trodden path along the side of the garden that the gardener has used over the years for tending to his garden. Finally picture the gardener sowing seed in his garden but with some seed landing on the well-trodden footpath. The seed on the footpath germinating and coming to life is not a probable outcome. What is it that makes a person similar to this bad soil with its bad outcome? There are several things we are given in today's passage that help us understand how a person can be like the "hard soil."

    The first similarity is obvious: a person's mind and heart are hardened and not open to God and his word. The words "stepped on" suggest how it comes about that a person's mind and heart are hardened to God and his word. It is people stepping on the footpath that make it hard. Similarly, we have people who influence our minds and hearts with understandings and perspectives that are contrary to God and his word. The repeated and collective influence of the wrong people can harden a person so they are not open to God and his word.

    But the words "stepped on" are directly used in regard to the seed on the path. The meaning here is clear: people who oppose God and his word will "step on" the influence of God and his word when it comes to a person with a hardened mind and heart to ensure their hardness remains. It is only a matter of time before the opportunity to respond disappears because the devil always comes and takes the message of God's word away from them just like the birds eat the sower's seed that lies on the hardened footpath, ungerminated, without coming to life. We are told that such people are prevented from believing and being saved.

    This is not the end of hope for such people. This is only a point in time. God can come again with his word to such a person. However, the outcome will be the same unless the conditions change beforehand. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and God's people (his church individually and collectively) the influence of wrong people can be countered and the hardness of mind and heart can be reversed. Discipleship begins with saving faith and God is wonderfully at work throughout the lifetimes of all people seeking to bring them to himself and the salvation he offers through his Son, Jesus Christ. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that God is patient and not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance (1 Peter 3:9).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your patience and for never giving up on me. Thank you for the work of softening my mind and heart that you accomplished through your Spirit and through your people. Thank you that you came again to me with your good word and brought me to yourself and gave me the gift of eternal salvation in Christ. Help me to live fully for you as a willing and obedient disciple of Christ. Amen!

  • Tension Points – Counting the Cost – Choosing to Persevere - Tuesday, August 4th

    Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand" .... And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. Luke 8:8, 15

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are in the first week of a series designed to help us tackle and manage the tension points of life. In the weeks ahead we will be looking at those areas of life that are ongoing, constant, and seem to always need improvement. We turn to the parable of the sower to help us in our considerations for this week. The parable of the sower is a story of good and bad outcomes. The outcome of the sower sowing seed depends on the soil upon which the seed is sown. The parable begins with three kinds of soil that result in not so good outcomes and then finishes with the kind of soil for which there is a good outcome. The parable is followed by an explanation of the spiritual truths the parable teaches us as people. We will begin with the good soil. Today's Scripture includes the explanation of this part of the parable as well.

    Throughout the parable the soil represents people, the seed represents God's word, and the sower represents God. When the sower sows seed on the good soil there is a good outcome. What is it that makes a person similar to good soil with a good outcome and not similar to bad soil with a bad outcome (we will look at the three bad soils over the rest of the week)? There are several things we are given in today's passage that help us understand how a person can be like good soil.

    The first thing we are told is that good soil represents honest, good-hearted people. Such people don't want to play games (honest) when it comes to life. Deep inside (heart) they want what is truly "good" to be true of them. These kind of people know they need outside input for how to live life and they are open to God giving that input to them. So, we are saying that honest, good-hearted people are ones who are "open" to hearing from God even before he brings his word to them and they hear it. It is the people who are "open" who are able to hear God's word and respond to it properly.

    Next we are told that good soil represents people who "cling" to God's word after hearing it and receiving it. The "open" person knows they have heard from God. They realize that God's good word is what they have been needing, waiting for, and wanting all along. The good word from God resonates with them so deeply and moves them so profoundly, they treat it like a lost treasure that has been found and must be guarded and held on to at all costs.

    Finally, we are told that good soil represents people who "patiently produce a huge harvest." The word "patiently" carries with it the idea of "perseverance." The word "perseverance" fits in nicely with our series and this week's emphasis on discipleship in which we are addressing those ongoing and constant areas of life that always need the hard work of improvement. So, we might say the good soil represents people who "persevere" at the hard work of being spiritually productive and succeed big time.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to be a "good soil" kind of person. Help me to be "open" to you and your word more than ever before. Help me to "cling" to your word with everything I have. Help me to "persevere" at being abundantly productive spiritually in my daily response to you and your word. Amen!

  • Tension Points – Counting the Cost – A Cross to Carry - Monday, August 3rd

    And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, "There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!" Luke 14:27-30

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We begin a series this week designed to help us tackle and manage the tension points of life. In the weeks ahead we will be looking at those areas of life that are ongoing, constant, and seem to always need improvement. We start the week with a look at "discipleship," which really is the key to getting life right in all those areas that are ongoing and constant (dealing with time, finances, relationships, etc.). We would prefer that life didn't have areas that always need the hard work of improvement. We want quick fixes and easy mastery, but much of life is not that way. This is certainly true in the area of "discipleship." Most of us would like a successful Christian life to be handed to us.

    Perhaps part of the struggle comes because salvation is a gift. It is through faith by grace that God freely bestows on us forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We want the same kind of thing to happen in regard to discipleship and living fully for God. While the cost of salvation was all on Christ, we are included in the cost of discipleship. Today's Scripture speaks very clearly about the cost of discipleship (we will be looking at the parable of the "Sower" in Luke 8 for most of the rest of the week). Discipleship is all about carrying your own cross and following Christ. Jesus says, "you cannot be my disciple" unless you do this. What does it mean to carry your own cross and follow Christ?

    Let's back up for a moment and ask this question, "why does God provide the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life?" He does it in order to bring us back to himself. He reclaims that which is rightly his so that we can live for his glory and honor. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says it this way, "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (your lifetime here on earth in the flesh). So, Discipleship is all about living fully for God instead of living fully for ourselves. This is where the cost to us comes in to play and it is ongoing and constant. Carrying our cross and following Christ is all about dying to ourselves, surrendering our wills, and living for God's purposes and desires instead of our own.

    Today's Scripture says that one should count the cost of being a disciple of Christ right from the beginning. There is an awful lot that could be said at this point but for now let's limit it to this. Wherever you are in your response to Christ, even if you didn't count the cost at the beginning, you can start fresh today. Count the cost and commit to carrying your cross and following Christ fully.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am seeking to be one who counts the cost and I ask you to help me do it. I bow before you in an act of total surrender. I want to live fully for you and I am willing to go forward living for your purposes and your glory. I choose to carry my own cross and follow Christ fully. Amen!

  • "Focus on the Good Things in Life" - An Inspiratiional Story for Sunday, August 2nd

    Focus on the Good Things in Life

    Two friends were walking through the desert. At one stage in their journey, they had an argument and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

    The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything he wrote in the sand, “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

    They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to have a wash. The one who had been slapped got stuck in a mire and started drowning, but his friend saved him. After he had recovered from his shock, he wrote on a stone, “Today my best friend saved my life.”

    The friend who slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write in stone, why?”

    The other friend replied, “When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”

  • Frame – Realization of Significance – Rooted and Grounded in Christ’s Love - Saturday, August 1st

    I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Just thought we would conclude the week and our series by looking at an all-encompassing and extremely helpful passage of Scripture. The core of the above passage are these words, "May you experience the love of Christ." Everything the Apostle Paul prays for in this passage will come about if God's people enter into the rich and full relationship with God that comes when we genuinely and consistently experience the love of Christ. Now think back over the "Framed" series in this light. All that this series calls us to (acceptance, security, significance), will happen if we genuinely and consistently experience the love of Christ going forward. So, our one prayer is for God to teach us how to genuinely and consistently experience the love of Christ and our one pursuit is to genuinely and consistently experience the love of Christ. From this everything else will flow.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    It seems fitting that everything be wrapped up with your own personal prayer response to God.

  • Frame – Realization of Significance – Here to Serve God’s Kingdom - Friday, July 31st

    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:

    At the beginning of the week we said that as ones who are "in Christ," we are framed in God's love and acceptance because we are recipients of his grace. We then said that you "in Christ" (recipients of love, grace, redemption, acceptance) becomes true so that Christ "in you" becomes true. Christ "in you" is the key to a genuinely new picture being painted inside the new frame (you "in Christ"). Through Christ's indwelling presence we become true works of art - masterpieces if you will and as such we gain an amazing sense of personal significance and meaning that revolutionizes our outlook on life and understanding of why we are here. As recipients of grace, God desires for us to become agents of grace. Everything we have been talking about comes full circle as we find significance in our being ones God uses for his kingdom purposes as agents of grace. What an amazing God we have and what an amazing life he has called us to. We truly are new people (new frames) with new lives (new pictures) that God uses for his Kingdom purposes. Amen

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I get Lord. It’s all about knowing you and making you known. What greater purpose can there be in life than to know and experience your transforming presence in my life and then be used by you in ways that help others come to know and experience your transforming presence. Truly, this is what it means to serve you and your kingdom. Please remove from my life all obstacles that would interfere with me living out my life for such an amazing purpose and with supreme and lasting significance. May you alone be honored and glorified. Amen!

  • Frame – Realization of Significance – Content in God’s Care - Thursday, July 30th

    And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! Matthew 18:13

    In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7

    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:1-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    God's response to our being lost demonstrates that we matter to him. God's response to our being found demonstrates that we were worth rescuing. What a powerful thing it is to know that we are significant to God. How convinced are you that you matter a lot to God? How convinced are you that you are worth a lot to God? The goal of learning to live in the reality of our being significant to God is that we become sheep that are content in the care of our Heavenly Shepherd to the degree that we never, ever wander away again. Read through the 23rd Psalm again with two thoughts: (1) because you are significant to your Heavenly Shepherd, he seeks to give you a life that is abundant and overflowing as the result of his outrageous care. (2) the abundant and overflowing life that comes as the result of his outrageous care gives you an amazing sense of personal significance and meaning that makes you wander proof.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for undervaluing what it means for me to be a sheep under your care. I see that I have hardly scratched the surface of grasping how much you love and care for me. I am truly sorry for all my wandering away from you and all my pursuing of such puny sources of significance, worth, and fulfillment found in the world. I want a life lived knowing and experiencing your transforming presence that conforms me to the image of Christ more and more each day. Help me receive from you more fully than ever before the abundant and overflowing life of living fully for you and all that matters so much to you. Amen!

  • Frame – Realization of Significance – Freed from the Performance Trap - Wednesday, July 29th

    For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10

    “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:11-15

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    When an actual shepherd goes looking for an actual lost sheep, the shepherd literally puts life and limb at risk. Because the lost sheep matters, he is willing to do whatever it takes to find and rescue it. Jesus is the good shepherd and he was willing to do everything necessary to find and rescue us. Jesus, our good shepherd, laid down his life for us because it was the only way we could be rescued from our lost condition. If laying down his life for us isn't evidence enough to convince us that we matter to him, than nothing will suffice to convince us. But if we are convinced that we matter to God and that being "in Christ" as the result of his sacrifice is everything, he will set us free from all "significance" baggage (performance trap) we carry into our relationship with him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for laying down your life for me on the cross. I truly believe that through your sacrifice and the shedding of your blood, you accomplished the forgiveness sins for all mankind. I have received the forgiveness of sins by faith and I am forever made right with God. I have been washed clean and as a cleansed vessel you have taken up residence in me through the indwelling Holy Spirit. I believe you are at work in my life accomplishing everything the needs to be accomplished step by step. Thank you for all you have done and all you are doing. I know it is always all your doing and that I am freed from the trap of performing well enough to make myself significant to you. I am so blessed that my significance comes freely from you and you alone. Amen!

  • Frame – Realization of Significance – We Matter to God - Tuesday, July 28th

    If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? Matthew 18:12

    All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. Isaiah 53:6-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The shepherd searches for the one lost sheep because that lost sheep matters to him. The image of the lost sheep applies to every person. Before we can be one of the found (the image of the ninety-nine) we must recognize that we are lost (the image of the one sheep). Knowing that we matter to our Heavenly Shepherd can make all the difference in our genuinely wanting to be found by him. The continual "baa" of an actual lost sheep can be the difference between being found and not being found by an actual shepherd. Wanting to be found and calling out to our Heavenly Shepherd is essential. Knowing that our Heavenly Shepherd seeks us out because we matter to him can really help us to respond appropriately to him for the rescue he is seeking to bring about. Perhaps we have already been found but need to have the sense that we matter to God put more fully into place in our hearts and minds. Read through the Isaiah passage above again, keeping in mind the extent of what he was willing to go through to rescue us because we matter to him. We truly are significant to God and what a marvelous thing it is to be found and to be "in Christ" safe and sound forever.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, it seems that I so easily lose sight of the great extent you went to find me who was lost so that I might be counted among those who are found. How could I be so blind to how much I matter to you and how much it cost you to redeem me back to yourself. I am “in Christ” and it is a glorious place to be. I am forever yours and I am forever under your amazing Shepherd care. I am so grateful that I matter to you. Help me to go forward as one who never loses sight of how much I matter to you. Amen!

  • Frame – Realization of Significance – A Revolution of Outlook - Monday, July 27th

    About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Matthew 18:1

    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 

    It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30

    To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    This is the final week of our “Frame” series. The image of the picture frame helps us take a closer look at what shapes our lives. It is important for us to grasp the actual condition of our lives and the potential for our lives that is available to us in Christ. The concern of the disciples for personal greatness seen in the verse from Matthew 18 above is a part of passage where Jesus talks about a lost and then found sheep. The image of a lost and then found sheep is something that will help us with our focus this week. Personal greatness is a part of being lost and is therefore a part of the old life - the old frame and picture if you will. Our theme verse for the series in 2 Corinthians 5 above reminds us of the necessity of moving from the old life to the new life. Our relationship with Christ reframes us so that we are a new person with a new life. Our focus this week in on "significance."

    Significance in the old life comes from things like personal greatness, but in the new life, significance becomes an entirely different matter because it comes from Christ and not ourselves. The 1 Corinthians 1 verse above says that we are "in Christ." When we are "in Christ" we have a new "frame." As ones who are "in Christ," we are framed in God's love and acceptance because we are recipients of his grace. As we shall see more fully from the image of the lost and then found sheep, God provides the grace that leads to redemption in Christ because we are significant to him. The Colossians 1 verse above takes all this a little further. You "in Christ" (recipients of love, grace, redemption, acceptance) becomes true so that Christ "in you" becomes true. Christ "in you" is the key to a genuinely new picture being painted inside the new frame (you "in Christ). Through Christ's indwelling presence we become true works of art - masterpieces if you will and as such we gain an amazing sense of personal significance and meaning that revolutionizes our outlook on life and understanding of why we are here.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am so prone to look for significance (greatness) in all the wrong places, in all wrong ways, and for all the wrong reasons. It so easy to just give lip service to the spiritual realities you are wanting and waiting to awaken me to and to unfold in my life. Please revolutionize my outlook so that you can revolutionize my life. I choose to believe that true and lasting significance and meaning come from you and you alone. It truly is all about who you are, what you have provided through redemption and given to me freely, and all that your life in me can yield. Please let it be that your purposes for why I am here in this world are fulfilled through my fully yielding to you and your life in me day after day after day. Amen!

  • "Puppies for Sale" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, July 26th

    Puppies for Sale

    A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read “Puppies For Sale.” Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and sure enough, a little boy appeared by the store owner’s sign. “How much are you going to sell the puppies for?” he asked. The store owner replied, “Anywhere from $30-$50.”

    The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change. “I have $2.37,” he said. “May I please look at them?” The store owner smiled and whistled, out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind.

    Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, “What’s wrong with that little dog?” The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn’t have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. “That is the little puppy that I want to buy.” The store owner said, “No, you don’t want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I’ll just give him to you.”

    The little boy got quite upset. He looked into the store owner’s eyes, pointing his finger, and said, “I don’t want you to give him to me. That dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I’ll pay full price. In fact, I’ll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for.”

    The store owner countered, “You really don’t want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies.”

    To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, “Well, I don’t run so good myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!”

    – Author Unknown

  • Frame – Provision of Security – The Necessity of Complete Reliance - Saturday, July 25th

    The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24

    The Lord rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble. The Lord helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him. Psalm 37:39-40 

    On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, "What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?" “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us." Matthew 17:24-27

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    By reading the entire story all at once from the Matthew passage above and then thinking about the passages above from Psalm 37, it becomes vividly clear that the practice of turning to Jesus immediately with whatever it is we face and then waiting on him as our fortress and shelter and letting him take care of things however and whenever he sees fits, makes absolute sense. As Colossians 3:3 says, "Your real life is hidden with Christ in God." We are truly secure, protected, and safe in Christ (this is who we are) and we can always count on him to deal with anything that threatens our sense of security that we have in him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I thank you for the security, protection, and safety that you have provided for me. I ask you to release me from those things from my past that I have carried into my relationship with you that interfere with me going forward in the fullness of all you have in store for me. Place me more squarely in the center of your grace so that your love, acceptance, security, protection, and safety can help me change and become all that I really am in Christ. (This is the prayer response from Monday's Devotional, but it is certainly a fitting expression to God for wrapping up our week) Amen!

  • Frame – Provision of Security – The Uniqueness of Divine Means - Friday, July 24th

    However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us. Matthew 17:27

    For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

    And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen. Philippians 4:19-20

    God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore we will be not afraid .... Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:1-2A, 10A

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    When Peter went back into the house where Jesus was, he did not do so just to be where Jesus was and hang out with him. He went back wanting Jesus to provide a solution to his problem. Before providing a solution, Jesus helped Peter to see that they were free not to be subject to the Temple tax because they were a part of a higher order, the kingdom of God. In the next part of the story given to us in the Matthew passage above, Jesus says, in essence, that even though they are free not to pay the tax they will choose to be subject to the requirement of the Temple tax in order not to offend them. It is at this point that Jesus provides the solution. Peter has already said, "Yes" to the collectors of the Temple tax and Jesus tells him how they will pay it: "Go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin."

    Neither Peter nor anyone else could possibly have guessed correctly and come up with the instructions Jesus gave to Peter. Perhaps he wanted Peter and us to understand beyond a shadow of doubt that this was totally a God-thing. Of all the ways that the need of the moment could have been met, the need was met through the use of a fish. Sometimes God's solutions come to us through other people, but still each solution must be seen as a God-thing. It is interesting that Peter had a role in the solution Jesus gave, but still it was totally a God-thing. It is a matter of having a right perspective and heart that is totally dependent on God. When we have a right perspective and a heart that is totally dependent on God, we will let go of the limits we have on what we think God can do for us. We will leave how he will provide totally in his hands. And we will remember that just being where Jesus is and hanging out with him is the most important thing. The solutions to our problems are always secondary.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you that you care about the troubles I face and how they affect me. Thank you that you are a very present help in times of trouble. Help me to be still before you and experience you as a refuge and source of strength. I believe that being in your presence is the key to my not being afraid and insecure, because it is in your presence that I am safe, protected, and secure. This is who I really am in Christ. Lord, I release my troubles into your care and I leave the solutions entirely up to you. Thank you for helping me to choose the better part. Amen!

  • Frame – Provision of Security – The Benefits of Waiting on the Lord - Thursday, July 23rd

    Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me. Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I’ve never done; with every breath they threaten me with violence. Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:11-14

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We begin today's devotion by recalling that being a new person with a new life is what this series is all about and that exchanging insecurity for security has a lot to do with how fully we become the new person with a new life that Christ has in store for us. We have been looking this week at a story where Peter faced a difficult situation that revealed his insecurity. We know from our own experience how adverse circumstances and people come up against us and pose a genuine threat to our personal well-being. We have learned from Peter how important it is to defer to Jesus because he can handle these things much better than we can. When Peter finally does turn to Jesus, Jesus handles the situation and tomorrow we will explore how Jesus did that. Yesterday we considered the importance of waiting on the Lord because Jesus does not always immediately address the challenges we face. Today we continue to look at what it means to wait on the Lord.

    Consider this: waiting on the Lord is not the same as waiting for him to act on our behalf. Earlier in the week we looked at another part of Psalm 27, where the Psalmist made a statement about what he wanted most from God. He said that he wanted to live in God's presence every day of his life so that when troubles came that's where he would be found and God would hide him and set him on a high rock out of reach of all his enemies. This is what waiting on the Lord looks like. The focus of waiting on the Lord is more about God himself than it is about what he will do for us. The Psalmist leans upon and rests in the Lord. As a result, the Lord becomes more real to him than the problems he faces. He is secure, protected, and safe in God's presence. He is free from doubt, fear, and insecurity. If our security rests on God solving our problems then insecurity will be an ongoing issue for us as we wait for God to act on our behalf (this is why, like Peter, we so often act on our own behalf) but if we learn to wait on the Lord it will make all the difference.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I echo the prayer of the Psalmist in the Psalm above, "Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path." I come to you Lord wanting to be one who truly waits on you. Make me into the new person you desire me to be so that I truly live my life in new ways. Lord, I really do want to live in your presence more than anything else and I am ready to have it be that you become more real to me than the troubles I face day in and day out. Amen!

  • Frame – Provision of Security – The Wisdom of Deferring to Jesus - Wednesday, July 22nd

    “Yes, he does," Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, 'What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?" “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free!" Matthew 17:25-26

    For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

    To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed. Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:1-5 

    Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing, and you will see the wicked destroyed. Psalm 37:34 

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The story we were introduced to yesterday continues in the Matthew passage above. After Peter has handled by himself the encounter with Temple tax collectors, he returns to Jesus. Most likely, Peter intends to tell Jesus about the encounter and how he assured them that Jesus is one who submits to paying the Temple tax. His goal was likely for them to come up with a plan for paying the tax. But before Peter can speak, Jesus speaks. Jesus already knows what has taken place. Jesus wants Peter to understand that he and his disciples truly are free from being subject to the tax, to those who collect the tax, and to the religious authorities who impose the tax. This is the reason for the question Jesus poses to Peter. Jesus is not saying that they won't pay the tax but that they don't have to.

    Why? Because Jesus is the Messiah. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is establishing his kingdom and his disciples and other followers are a part of it. Jesus wants people to be reached for the kingdom rather than be offended by it. Even if it is not likely that those who come up against us will be reached there are always others who observe and see how we handle ourselves in the face of adversity. Remembering that Jesus can handle it better than you can and then deferring to him is what being a kingdom member is all about. But even if you do this initially and you have been living in the reality of the truth from the Colossians verse above, that "Your real life is hidden with Christ in God," it is not easy to maintain this state if the adversity we face is ongoing. The words of our Psalm 25 passage above are a beautiful expression of how to maintain this state from one who knows what it means to stay within the security of God's presence and provision. The Psalm 37 passage above captures the need so well when it says, "Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for putting me on the pathway of the kingdom. Continue to help me remember that you can handle whatever I face better than I can. Help me to continue to defer to you by coming to you and waiting for you to handle the situations of my life. Lord, I confess that I am impatient and often fail to wait for you. Help me to believe that you will handle things in your time and in your way and it will be better than I could ever have imagined in the long run. Amen!

  • Frame – Provision of Security – The Folly of Human Solutions - Tuesday, July 21st

    On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Matthew 17:24-25

    For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

    But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe. Yes, we live under constant danger to our lives because we serve the Lord, but this gives us constant opportunities to show forth the power of Jesus Christ within our mortal bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

    O Timothy, my son, be strong with the strength Christ Jesus gives you. For you must teach others those things you and many others have heard me speak about. Teach these great truths to trustworthy men who will, in turn, pass them on to others. Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, just as I do .... Don’t ever forget the wonderful fact that Jesus Christ was a man, born into King David’s family; and that he was God, as shown by the fact that he rose again from the dead. It is because I have preached these great truths that I am in trouble here and have been put in jail like a criminal. But the Word of God is not chained, even though I am. I am more than willing to suffer if that will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. 2 Timothy 2:1-3, 8-10

     Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Matthew passage above is the beginning of a story where collectors of the Temple tax come to Peter and asked him a question. Is this just a typical moment in the lives of those who collect the Temple tax or is there something bigger going on here? If they were just going about doing their job, it seems they would have come up to Peter and asked if he had paid the Temple tax he owed, but instead they asked about Jesus. Notice also that they did not ask if Jesus had paid the Temple tax but rather, does he pay the Temple tax. Earlier in the Matthew's Gospel, after a direct encounter between the Pharisees and Jesus, we are told this: "But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy him" (Matthew 12:14). While the question posed to Peter by the collectors of the Temple tax does not appear malicious on the surface, you can be sure it is all a part of a sinister plot by the opposing religious order of the day to destroy Jesus.

    We could develop the case for this further but let's stop at this point and just recognize that the pressure Peter is feeling during this encounter is much greater than we might have thought. Perhaps there is more reason than meets the eye for why Peter responds to their question with, “Yes, he does.” Keep in mind that Peter did not say the Temple tax had been paid but just that Jesus is one who submits to paying the Temple tax. Peter's goal here is not to keep at bay men who simply want a payment, but rather to counter those who stand in direct opposition to Jesus and are trying to add to their case against Jesus, the charge that he refuses to submit to the Temple tax requirement altogether.

    Peter ought to know by now that Jesus can handle this situation much better than he can. And that's the simple point that we need for today: Jesus can handle better than we can all the adverse circumstances and people who come up against us in life that pose a genuine threat to our personal well-being. As it says in the Colossians verse above, "Your real life is hidden with Christ in God." This means that we are secure in Christ and always can count on him to deal with anything that threatens our sense of that security we have in him. Peter tried to deal directly with a threatening situation instead of deferring to Jesus. So, the lesson we learn from Peter today is this: no matter what it is we are facing, Jesus can handle it better than we can and so we must always defer to him. Look back over what Paul has to say in the Corinthian and Timothy passages above in this light.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

     Lord, it is easy to say that you are sufficient for all things, but it is harder to put into practice when we are up against the wall of adversity. Lord, strengthen our faith and allow us to see more fully everything in our lives in light of your absolute sufficiency. You alone are able, you alone are worthy, and you alone are the object of our love, worship, trust and devotion. Amen!

  • Frame – Provision of Security – The Dilemma of Insecurity - Monday, July 20th

    The Lord also keeps safe those who suffer. He is a safe place in times of trouble. Those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have never left alone those who look for You. Psalm 9:9-10

    Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 2 Timothy 3:12-14 

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; he protects me from danger—whom shall I fear? When evil men come to destroy me, they will stumble and fall! Yes, though a mighty army marches against me, my heart shall know no fear! I am confident that God will save me. The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in his Temple, living in his presence every day of my life, delighting in his incomparable perfections and glory. There I’ll be when troubles come. He will hide me. He will set me on a high rock out of reach of all my enemies. Then I will bring him sacrifices and sing his praises with much joy. Psalm 27:1-6 

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We often associate security, protection, and safety with the defenders of society (military, police, firefighters, etc.) But security, protection and safety are things we associate with God as well. His provision comes to us on many levels but it is in spiritual matters that security, protection, and safety play a central role in our lives.

    When we respond to Christ and receive the gift of eternal salvation, his forgiveness brings to us a love and acceptance that can release us from our past and allow us to go forward flourishing as a changed person who experiences God's very best. Being a new person with a new life is what the “Frame” series is all about and exchanging insecurity for security will have a lot to do with how fully we become the new person with a new life that Christ has in store for us. There are adverse circumstances and people who come up against us in life that pose a genuine threat to our personal well-being. This is the arena in which we learn to exchange insecurity for the security we have in Christ.

    In Psalm 9 above we are told the Lord keeps safe those who suffer. The Lord is said to be a safe place in time of trouble. And we are told the Lord never leaves alone those who look to him and trust him. The 2 Timothy passage above says that those who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Remaining faithful to the one who provides true security, protection, and safety is the key. Psalm 27 above reminds us that the Lord protects us from danger whatever the danger might be. The Psalmist speaks of living in God's presence every day of his life. It is here he says he will be when troubles come. God will hide him and set him on a high rock out of reach of all his enemies. Throughout the coming week we will further explore exchanging insecurity for security so that we can more readily and fully join the Psalmist in his great and wonderful approach for living life securely in a threatening world.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I thank you for the security, protection, and safety that you have provided for me. I ask you to release me from those things from my past that I have carried into my relationship with you that interfere with me going forward in the fullness of all you have in store for me. Place me more squarely in the center of your grace so that your love, acceptance, security, protection, and safety can help me change and help me become all that I really am in Christ. Amen!

  • "The Missing Watch" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, July 19th

    The Missing Watch

    A farmer who owned a small farm was working in his barn putting up hay for the winter. After several long hours of hard work he went out in the barnyard for a break. It was then that he realized his pocket watch was missing. As pocket watches go it was not very valuable but it had sentimental value because it had been handed down to him by his father. Back into the barn he went to look through the hay but he couldn’t come up with his pocket watch. 

    It was mentioned that the farm was a small one and as such the barn and barnyard weren’t very far from the property line. On the other side of the property line was a grade school and the kids were at recess. There was a group of them playing near the property line, all whom were acquainted with the farmer. The farmer decided to ask them to come over and help him look. Into the barn they went and after searching the hay and playing in it some, they came out of the barn unsuccessful. One of the boys who had just helped in the search asked the farmer, “Can I go back into the barn and look by myself? The farmer thought, “How can he accomplish what all of us together couldn’t accomplish. Oh well, why not, what can it hurt?”

    So, into the barn went the boy and five minutes later out he came with watch in hand. The farmer was delighted but quite surprised. The farmer said to him, “How in the world did you find the watch by yourself when all of us together couldn’t find it? The little boy said, “Well, when I went inside the barn and shut the door, I realized that it was very quiet. So, I just sat down, sat very still, and listened. After a while I got used to the quiet and began to hear a ticking sound. I just kept slowly moving closer, and closer to the ticking sound and then there it was in the hay.

    Being quiet, still, in tune, and aware are the take-aways from the story we need. These kind of things are important contributors to spiritual development but life is filled with so much that militates against them. God has so much he wants us to gain from him but we are so busy racing about and racing within that we miss him. God says in his Word, “Be still and know that I am God.” We must shut the door on the world and seek to be quiet before God. And then the more we succeed at being still the more we become in tune and aware. In this way we are able to know and experience God’s presence and he is able to bring to us his comfort, encouragement, strength, guidance, etc

  • Frame – Freedom of Acceptance – Kneeling in Worship and Gladness - Saturday, July 18th

    Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:1-5

    Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods .... Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker. Psalm 95:1-3, 6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our "Frame" series seeks to use the image of a picture frame to depict the transition from the old person we were with the old life we lived to the new person we are and the new life we live. In other words our becoming a follower of Jesus Christ allows him to replace our old frame and picture with a new frame and picture. We have talked about those things that interfere with our transitioning from the old to the new. The things that interfere are things that we carry over from the old person and life into the new person and life. Our focus this week is on "Acceptance." Our "old way" was to seek to earn acceptance. In the "new way," God bestows acceptance as a gift of grace. So, it is as if God gives us a new frame of unconditional acceptance. The more fully this is in place, the more readily God can paint the picture of our lives as he changes us into all that he wants us to be.

    But let's consider something else. Perhaps the underlying reason things like trying to earn acceptance are carried over from the "old" into the "new" is because we have not dealt adequately with the issue of who is in charge. We need to make a commitment to the lifetime pursuit of surrender to God where we say to him: 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. This is what being a follower of Christ is all about. It is in the place of surrender to God that we find our entrance into the fullness of God's unconditional acceptance. Our surrender does not gain God's acceptance but rather releases us from the darkness of trying to earn acceptance and brings us into the light of true unconditional acceptance.

    This is what happened to the adulterous woman in this week's story. Her encounter with Christ and his unconditional acceptance released her from her past and allowed her to go forward as a changed person. What a beautiful example of the life of someone where Christ miraculously replaced the old frame and picture with a new frame and picture. The woman is no longer the adulterous woman. She is a follower (surrender and unconditional acceptance) of Christ who no longer walks in darkness (old frame and picture) but walks in the light (new frame and picture) that leads to life.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

     Lord, like the Psalmist above, we acknowledge that you are God! You made us, and we are yours. We are your people, the sheep of your pasture. You are a great God, a great King above all gods. We come in worship and we bow down. We kneel before you, the Lord our maker. Your unfailing love continues forever, and your faithfulness continues to each generation. Amen!

  • Frame – Freedom of Acceptance – The Gift of Illuminating Grace - Friday, July 17th

    Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life." John 8:12

    And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:19-21

    Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark." John 12:44-46

    But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:13-17

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Earlier in the week we looked at the story of the adulterous woman as if it were taking place in a theater setting. The crowd is the audience and on stage are Jesus, the adulterous woman, and her accusers. At the conclusion of the story it is just the woman and Jesus on stage. At the very end Jesus says to the woman, "Go and sin no more.” The story is over and Jesus is alone (stage) with the crowd (audience). Of course, this was not a play but a real time, live incident with an abundance of onlookers. Jesus has the opportunity to talk to the crowd about what just took place and the John 8 verse above is what he chose to say to them. If you were in charge of what Jesus would say to the crowd after such an incident, what would you come up with? Jesus' words cover everything that just happened. They encompass every person on the scene throughout the drama. And they go right to the central need of all of humanity.

    Even though the incident took place in the morning, it was a very dark scene at the outset. The scribes and Pharisees who captured, brought, and set the woman before Jesus were in darkness because in their lifestyle of religious self-righteousness they not only don't think they need Jesus but they are trying to destroy him. The adulterous woman is in darkness because in her lifestyle of loose worldly living she thinks she is beyond his love and acceptance. If we look at the progression of this incident as the increasing impact of light on darkness, we can see how appropriate it is for Jesus to say to the crowd, "I am the light of the world." For the scribes and Pharisees, the light exposes them for the hypocrites they are. For the adulterous woman, the light reveals the path that will release her from her past and allow her to go forward as a changed person into the fullness of God's very best.

    So in reality Jesus just says in words what has just been declared loud and clear to the crowd through all that just happened in the preceding incident: "I am the light of the world." And now Jesus talks to the crowd about following him. He says to the crowd, "If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness." Jesus wants everyone to understand what "darkness" is: (1) it is thinking you can live in a way that earns God's love and acceptance, or (2) it is thinking you have lived in a way that prohibits God's love and acceptance. Jesus not only tells the crowd that they don't have to walk in darkness if they follow him but he says that if they do follow him, "you will have the light that leads to life." The light reveals that there is absolutely nothing that earns or prohibits God's love and acceptance because God's love and acceptance is always and totally a matter of grace. One's response to the darkness revealed by the light should be repentance and one's response to the light that revealed the darkness should be faith in Christ, the light of the world. If possible read back through the verses above in the "light" of all the we have just covered.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know that responding to the light is a very positive thing in the long run but I confess that it can be a scary thing to deal with the darkness it exposes. Assure my heart that your dealings with me are always and totally an expression of your unconditional and unlimited love. I thank you for the light that brought me to you in the first place and I thank you for the light that shows me the ongoing changes you have in mind for me. Keep me fully in the center of your love and acceptance so that the transformation of my life happens in the best way possible. Amen!

  • Frame – Freedom of Acceptance – Released from Condemnation - Thursday, July 16th

    “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:11

    Then I heard a great voice in Heaven cry: “Now the salvation and the power and kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ have come! For the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down from this place, where he stood before our God accusing them day and night. Now they have conquered him through the blood of the Lamb, and through the Word to which they bore witness. They did not cherish life even in the face of death! Revelation 12:10-11

    Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, interceding for us there in heaven. Romans 8:33-34

    For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:17-18

    For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. Luke 19:10

    If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! Matthew 18:12-13

    Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Yesterday we saw that Jesus had asked two questions: “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” For the very first time the woman speaks and says, "No, Lord." Remember, we are talking about the new frame we have in Christ and it is the frame of acceptance. This is the frame that Jesus is putting into place for this woman. This is seen in Jesus's response: "Neither do I." In saying that he does not accuse or condemn her, Jesus is giving her his acceptance. So, the woman stands before Jesus with no accusers and no one who condemns her. 

    What do we learn from this? The frame of acceptance will not be properly in place in our lives if we continue to have a sense of being accused and condemned. Notice the Revelation passage above that tells us that even Satan, the greatest accuser of them all, can no longer accuse us because of "the blood of the lamb."

    There is a new life awaiting this woman and Jesus calls her to it when he says, "Go and sin no more." The love and forgiveness that Jesus gives creates a frame of acceptance that releases her from the past and gives her the freedom to go forward into a new and victorious life. It is absolutely essential that we see ourselves standing on the center stage of our lives alone with Christ in absolute acceptance with no accusers and no condemnation (Romans 8:1). 

    Read down through again the verses above that follow the Revelation passage and let the fullness of the frame of acceptance we have in Christ settle in firm and sure. The assurance of Christ's acceptance is the key to our going forward fully with the changed life he has in store for us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

     Lord, help me to treasure that sense of being alone with you, totally wrapped up in and covered by your amazing love and acceptance. Thank you that you came to seek and to save me. Thank you that you found me your lost sheep and brought me home to yourself. Please put the frame of acceptance properly and fully into my life and help me live the changed life to which you have called me. Amen!

  • Frame – Freedom of Acceptance – Christ’s Unfailing Help - Wednesday, July 15th

    When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” John 8:9-10

    For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:5B-6

    So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you .... Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

    No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:5-6A

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Let's think of our story of the adulterous woman as if it were taking place in a theater setting. The crowd is the audience and on stage are Jesus, the adulterous woman, and her accusers. After the drama of the attempt of the woman's accusers to trap Jesus through their scheme, we see the amazing way Jesus deals with them. Jesus easily foils their attempt, but avoiding their trap is not the main story line here. The main story line is what Jesus is doing to help this woman. She comes before him entrapped in the scheming of diabolical men who seek to undo Jesus and trapped in a lifestyle of loose worldly living.

    Now it is just the woman and Jesus left on stage. The woman has just witnessed Jesus at work helping her with her accusers and they are all out of the way. She is alone on stage with God, the Son. You can be assured that standing in his presence like that, she knows something much bigger and much better is going on here than being delivered from human accusers. One cannot be in the presence of Jesus and not experience both truth and grace (John 1:16-18). The reality of sinful humanity and Divine grace meet. Somehow she knows that Divine help has arrived and rather than receiving condemnation from Jesus, he will somehow release her from her past and give her hope for the future.

    Love and acceptance are what God's grace brings to us and it comes wrapped in Jesus, God the Son. That spot in the woman's heart that was made for God's love and acceptance only, is being filled as she stands alone with Jesus on center stage. A forever connection with Jesus, grace, and love and acceptance is being made. The image of being alone with Jesus on center stage is a beautiful one. Without even knowing it, this has been the lifelong longing of this woman's heart. Can't you see her embracing the words of Hebrews 13 above, where it says, "For God has said, 'I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.' So we can say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?'”

    Whenever we struggle with the assurance of our connection to God's love and acceptance perhaps picturing ourselves standing alone in Jesus' presence on the center stage of our lives will help restore the assurance we need and the confidence that our connection to Christ and his love and acceptance is permanent and forever.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your forever connection with me. Fill me with a deep and abiding sense of your love and acceptance. Help me to believe that you will never fail me or abandon me. Create in me a heart that trusts and rests in you fully and continually. Amen!

  • Frame – Freedom of Acceptance – Propelled by God’s Love - Tuesday, July 14th

    “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. John 8:4-8

    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Let all Israel repeat: “His faithful love endures forever.” Let Aaron’s descendants, the priests, repeat: “His faithful love endures forever.” Let all who fear the Lord repeat: “His faithful love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1-4

    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever .... Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever .... He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever. He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever .... Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 136:1, 3-4, 23-24, 26

    Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Micah 7:18

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The story of the adulterous woman comes about because some religious men who oppose Jesus want to trap him into saying something they can use against him. From what they know of him they think he will say something that will contradict the requirements of the law. Jesus was at the temple sitting in the courtyard teaching the multitudes who were coming to him one morning. And then there appeared before him a group of men wound tight in the confines of their self-righteous religious system and a woman unraveled by a lifestyle of loose worldly living. 

    "For God so loved the world that he sent his only unique son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)." God loves the world and that includes the tightest of the tight and the loosest of the loose. Those who are wound tight in religious self-righteousness don't think they need Jesus and those who are totally unraveled from loose worldly living think they are beyond his love and acceptance.

    It is because of the Father's love that the Son was sent for us and it is because of the Son's love that he gave himself for us. The love that provides salvation and the love that comes to the recipients of salvation makes all the difference and is sufficient to unwind the tight and rewind the loose. In the words of the other passages above God's love is faithful, enduring, and unfailing. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn or prohibit God's love and acceptance. God's unconditional and unlimited love and acceptance come to us solely because of what Christ did for us on the cross.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, we confess that sometimes we are tight and sometimes we are loose. Thank you for your unconditional and unlimited love and acceptance that meets us right where we are. Help us to be so in tune with your loving and accepting heart today that we are lifted above the struggle and tension that comes from the pull of trying to get things right and the pull of temptation to do things wrong. Thank you, Lord. Amen!

  • Frame – Freedom of Acceptance – Conquering the Fear of Man - Monday, July 13th

    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

    I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? Yet you have forgotten the Lord, your Creator, the one who stretched out the sky like a canopy and laid the foundations of the earth. Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and anger now? It is gone! Isaiah 51:12-13

    In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:5-9

    This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Please, Lord, please save us. Please, Lord, please give us success .... You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 118:24-25, 28-29

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    This is the second week in a series called "Frame" that examines what it means to be a new person with a new life through our relationship with Christ. We laid a foundation for the series in the Devotionals for last week.

    Our theme verse for the series is the 2 Corinthians verse above. The image of a picture frame helps us get a handle on our transition from the old to the new. Things from the old frame and picture of our lives can be carried over and interfere with the new frame and picture of our lives that God has in mind for us. Some of the things from the old frame and picture that interfere are insecurity, insignificance, and unacceptance. Correspondingly, the new frame and picture are all about acceptance (this week), security (next week) and significance (the final week).

    The Isaiah passage above shows us how the frame of acceptance is often not properly in place because we try to gain the kind of acceptance only God can provide from other people. The first of the Psalm 118 passages above addresses this same problem. The Psalmist speaks of being set free. We need to be set free from the fear of not having the approval and acceptance of people. We need a profound trust in the Lord that once and for all places us in the "frame" of his love and acceptance. Because the Psalmist was set free, he could approach each day of his life as something God made and in which God was at work painting the picture of his life so to speak. 

    A day like this was something to rejoice and be glad in rather than something filled with fear and struggle. With the frame of trusting in God's unconditional and unlimited love and acceptance in place God will be able to paint security and significance into the picture of our lives. Perhaps the Psalmist saying, "Lord, please save us" and "Lord, please give us success," is his way of saying he is ready for God to help him with security and significance now that he has been set free from the fear of man and is trusting fully in God's love and acceptance.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know you are my Savior and Lord. I know I am called to be an entirely new and different person with an entirely new and different life through my relationship with you. But honestly, Lord, sometimes who I am as a person and the life I am living seem anything but new and different. I pray that you will show me ways that the frame of acceptance is not properly in place in my life. I pray that you will deliver me from the fear of not having the approval and acceptance of other people. Establish me fully in the frame of your love and acceptance. Help me to rest in you and declare with the Psalmist, "You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever." Amen!

  • "The Apple Basket" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, July 12th

    The Apple Basket

    One day an elderly man entered into a hospital. He was grumpy from being on medication and the nurses thought him to be insane, as he yelled for his wife to get the apple basket. By the time they had checked him into his room the nurses were exhausted from the fight he was putting up.

    "Sir you have to calm down we are doing everything we can for you" they would try to explain.

    "I don't need your help" the grumpy man would yell "I want my apple basket". He finally slept. The nurses sighed with relief and talked among themselves whether they should call the hospital psychologist about the old man and his obsession with the apple basket.

    As they talked and laughed about the situation the wife came in carrying the basket of apples. They looked kind of stunned as she asked if she could see her husband and deliver his basket. Sure, they agreed as they watched her slip past into his room.

    Curiosity consumed them over the next few weeks as they tended to the elderly man. He was eaten with cancer and the doctors had given him no hope of survival. He turned out to be a very calm, happy man once he had his basket. His wife, they noticed, would come in with apples and go out with apples and the curiosity grew even more till one nurse couldn't stand the suspense.

    One night as he was nearing the end, the nurse sat down in a chair by the wife." May I ask why do you have that apple basket? I just don't understand the significance."

    "I am an apple farmer by trade he sighed. From the time I was 20 till the day I do die I will forever have my apples." The nurse nodded thinking she understood. He just likes his work, she thought, assured now he was a little bit crazy.

    As she started to leave, the old man asked her to sit down. "At age 20 I was saved, I accepted the Lord as my Savior." Oh no, the nurse thought. Here comes the lecture on religion. The old man continued. "The day I accepted the Lord as my Savior I got this basket, and each time I had a problem or concern that I could not handle, I put an apple in the basket un-shined."

    "Why?" the nurse said shaking her head.

    "Because it reminded me to give those problems to the Lord for him to shine. See my basket now," he stated. "As my problems disappear so do the apples. As I get new problems, ones I cannot handle alone, I put an apple in."

    The humble nurse looked into the basket...only one apple was there........

    With that, he took a big breath and grabbed his wife by the hand and faded into eternal sleep.

    The wife paused for a moment and got up from her place to take from the basket the last remaining apple. She whispered in his ear that his reward awaits him in heaven.

    The nurse stayed still and asked with tears in her eyes, "what do you think his riches will be?"

    The wife knew what they were, eternal life with Jesus Christ. But she could see the concern and sadness upon the young nurses' face and handed her the apple and said "the biggest apple pie you can imagine!"

    That was the day the young nurse was saved, and from that day on she always had a basket by her bed.

  • Frame – Portrait of New Life – On Board with God’s Game Plan - Saturday, July 11th

    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:

    This week we have examined 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 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. We have three weeks of our "Frame" series that lie before us. It is hoped that the foundation of this week's devotionals will prepare us in some very special ways for what God has in store 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. God Bless! Ken Hart

  • Frame – Portrait of New Life – Fulfilling One’s Primary Vocation - Friday, July 10th

    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:

    With the goal of gaining a fuller understanding of what it means to be a new person with a new life through our relationship with Christ, we set out this week to examine three words: 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 (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.

    When we invite Christ into our lives, he does more than give us an eternal ticket. He gives us a new "frame." This new frame or new picture gives us a new identity or a new story. Become aware of how God is at work in the lives of other Christians. Look closely at the new frame or story God is bringing about in their lives. You will soon see that they are experiencing a transition in regard to vocation as well.

    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).

    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 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!

  • Frame – Portrait of New Life – Embracing Your True Identity - Thursday, July 9th

    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:

    We have been exploring our Christian faith in terms of what it means to be a new person with a new life. Yesterday we looked at surrender. 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. 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.

    This is where the image of the "picture frame" is particularly helpful. We have the "old frame" that represents our identity before we became ones who put our faith in Christ and we have the "new frame" that represents our identity as ones who have put our faith in Christ. If an entirely new picture (our person and life) were immediately put in the new frame we would be perfect and have no need to stay here living out life on earth. Rather, God begins to paint a new picture of us within our new frame and the picture 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 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 the new frame and new painting God is painting.

    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 going forward. Amen!

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