Daily Devotional

  • The Freedom of Unconditional Love – The Power of Humility - Thursday, April 26th

    But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke18:13-14

    Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:22-23

    So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:12-14

    Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    So, we have looked at becoming disconnected from the ravages of conditional love, but how do we connect with unconditional love in our relationships with others? Our starting point is always our relationship with God and being humble before him. As we seek to be humble before him, he will lead us fully into the relationship of unconditional love he desires for us to have with Him. As we experience His unconditional love more and more fully, we will be transformed so that we have unconditional love to extend to others. As we extend this love to others, God will use it to help them respond to Him in humility so that they become more properly aligned with unconditional love. The outcome is unconditional love reciprocated. As we have opportunity to connect with new people we can test the waters by being open and honest with them about our struggles, failures, and sin. We will then discover whether they are a source of supportive unconditional love or ones that we simply reach out to with unconditional love whether they reciprocate or not. This humble way of living opens us up to a world of unconditional love that we could otherwise easily miss.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, your spiritual world of unconditional love is so very different than the world of conditional love in which we live. Thank you for including me in the adventuresome mission of helping impact this world with your unconditional love. You have taught me humility and I am grateful. Without this humility I would not have taken hold of the hand of unconditional love which you extended to me. Without this humility I would not be able to navigate victoriously the world of conditional love all around me. Without this humility I would not extend the hand of unconditional love to others. Amazing! Amen!

  • The Freedom of Unconditional Love – The Destructiveness of a Critical Spirit - Wednesday, April 25th

    Therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:1-4

    Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand …. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God …. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way …. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another …. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. Romans 14:4,10,13,19,22

    Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not hrow your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:1-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Making the inner disconnect from the powerful impact of negative people in our lives is vital, but there is another disconnect that is very important as well. The words and messages of others with their negative impact often become a part of our own vocabulary of self. Our view of ourselves is filled with the verbiage of these negative people. If we only had a “spell check” like function that could search out and delete all such words and messages wherever they have become lodged in the recesses of our minds and hearts. Ah, but we do – the Holy Spirit of God is willing and waiting to lead the way and to help us root out and jettison these terrible, harmful, unwanted tools of destruction.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I give to you all the hurt I have experienced from others and I express my sorrow for all the hurt I have inflicted on others. So much unnecessary hurt and it is all rooted in our failure to abide in your unconditional love. I realize how prone we are to operating from a basis of conditional love which leads to critical, judgmental spirits and extremely harmful words and messages. Holy Spirit come to me and root out every destructive thing that has become lodged in the recesses of my mind and heart. Wash over me with your unconditional love so that I am healed and so that I no longer pass along my hurt to others. Amen!

  • The Freedom of Unconditional Love – The Trap of Superiority - Tuesday, April 24th

    Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: “I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.” Luke 18:9-12

    There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

    Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The negative impact of people who love conditionally is powerful. There are none who escape of the touch of spiritually superior self-righteous people, but there are many who learn to counter their negative influence and move forward. Unfortunately, we must at times disconnect inwardly with those who have powerfully influence us in this way. Their connections to us become more like chains than supportive hands or arms. With some of these people we can minimize our involvement, but often this is not a possibility because of the close nature of these relationships. As we learn to live fully connected to God and His unconditional love, He will protect our hearts and minds from being penetrated by the negative influence that comes our way from certain people and He will help us to extend unconditional love to them at the same time. This inner disconnect is very important for us and for them. The Scriptures clearly spell out the supportive, helpful, accepting, caring, loving relationships to which God has called us. By moving forward in this way and holding ourselves and others to the standard of unconditional love we break the chains that imprison our hearts and minds.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for how you are strengthening my connection to you and your unconditional love. You really are protecting me from the impact of conditional love the comes my way. Forgive me for all the ways I have loved conditionally. Help me to go forward in ways that avoid the trap of superiority and self-righteousness. Your unconditional love for me leaves no room for such negative and wasteful ways. Thank you for holding my hand and loving me so freely and wonderfully. Amen!

  • The Freedom of Unconditional Love – The Necessity of Supportive Relationships - April 23rd

    This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14

    Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law …. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8,10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In Psalm 37 David speaks of God as the One who holds his hand. It literally means: “Who sustains him with His hand.” The Scriptures abound with the image of the hand or the arm for conveying the support gained through relationships, either with God or other people. There is support that flows from one to the other because there is a special connection – a connection that is much more than merely the touch of hands or arms. Being connected with others where there is a ready and continual exchange of love, acceptance, and support is vital to our living life as it was meant to be lived. For many of us the picture of the supportive hand or arm is not the image that prevails in our relationships with others. This week’s Devotional set is all about how to gain freedom from the impact of negative relationships dominated by conditional love and how to cultivate relationships built on unconditional love.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for sustaining me with your gracious hand of support over and over again. Thank you for all the supportive hands of other people you have used to help me as well. It means so much to be connected to you and others in such meaningful ways, particularly since there have been those in my life whose impact has been tough at times. I pray that you will set me free from such negative stuff and launch me more fully into the realm of unconditional love. Amen!

  • God’s Kingdom Mission – Full Confidence in His Work - Friday, April 20th

    Then Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’” In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. Then the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel. 1 Kings 18:40-46

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In today’s passage, God, who withheld rain from Israel for close to three years, causes it to rain once again. This period with the absence of rain marks a significant campaign in the overall mission of God. It was designed to turn back hearts in Israel. We saw yesterday that the people of Israel did turn back to the Lord. However, if you read on in 1 Kings, you will see that Ahab’s heart was not turned back through all of this. Rather, his opposition to God and Elijah intensifies. One of the most significant things to come from this campaign of God’s kingdom mission is the elimination of all the prophets of Baal. So, God has been at work accomplishing his good purposes and now it is raining again in Israel.

    At the outset of this week we expressed our hope that as a result of our considerations we would find the encouragement we need to live our lives in full confidence that God is at work today accomplishing exactly what we need for our good, the advancement of his kingdom, and his glory. It is hoped that you are learning to embrace each “dry season” God brings your way for they often hold more significance for you than the “rain” that follows. Far too often, we get so caught up in longing for the “rain” and wanting the “dry season” to cease, that we miss what God is doing. It is only when we experience the full benefit of the “dry season” that we will know the full blessing of the “rain” God bestows on us afterwards.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, it really is all about you. You really do know what you're doing and you can be absolutely trusted. It is not about me and yet far too often, unfortunately, I put myself and what I want at the center of things. Forgive me for doing this because I know when this happens I relegate you to role of serving me instead of me serving you. “Our Father Who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen!

  • God’s Kingdom Mission – Hearts Turned Back - Thursday, April 19th

    Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” 1 Kings 18:30-39

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The model prayer mentioned earlier begins with these words: “Our Father Who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” Honoring, worshiping and glorifying God are always at the pinnacle of why we exist. Those who truly worship God, live for his kingdom and will. Conversely, those who do not worship God, do not live for his kingdom and will. When Elijah spoke against Ahab, he said, “you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals.” Ahab (along with his wife, Jezebel) was not worshiping God, nor living for his kingdom and will. Ahab was leading Israel astray and they were worshiping the Baals. This is why God withheld the rain from them. After several years of drought God is about to bring rain, but only after the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Just prior to the showdown Elijah said to Israel, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” After the showdown the people say, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” It took the withholding of rain and the miracle of Mount Carmel to turn back hearts in Israel.

    What an incredible working of God for the sake of his kingdom and the spiritual welfare of Israel. As God orchestrates the building of His kingdom and we see Him miraculously at work in our own lives and in the lives of others, we can bow before Him and give Him the glory that is alone due to Him. In response to who He is and what He does, God longs to have us and a great company of others regularly and consistently cry out, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you and you alone are God. I worship you and you alone. I trust that you will guard my heart from ever wavering between two opinions. I bow before you in true worship and devotion. I choose to put your kingdom and will above all else. I am thankful for how you are at work and I fully join you in your kingdom mission. Amen!

  • God’s Kingdom Mission – Walking Our Talk - Wednesday, April 18th

    Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.” So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. 1 Kings 18:22-29

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Matthew 5:45 tells us that that our Heavenly Father “sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.” Conversely, when he withholds rain, it is from both the righteous and unrighteous. While our part includes helping others in ways that encourage them to make the choice between the one true God and false gods, it always includes much more. How we handle the absence or presence of provision (rain) in our own lives says a whole lot to those who observe us. We might not have the miracle of Mount Carmel to convince others, but the miracle of our own changed lives can be very convincing as others see that our “talk” about choosing God is backed up by a “walk” that consistently trusts the God we say we have chosen. When this happens we will be caught up in specialness of what God is doing in our dry time and not in grumbling about why it is happening and when is it going to end?

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for all my grumbling. I am so prone to being more focused on my own comfort and my desire not to be inconvenienced, that I miss what you are seeking to do through the conditions of life you allow to take place. Thank you that you are real and never missing in action. I am learning that if you choose not to act on my behalf in ways that I want, it is always because you know better and are at work accomplishing greater things. Help me to align my life with you and your ways more than ever before. Amen!

  • God’s Kingdom Mission – Empowered to Call Others to Faith - Tuesday, April 17th

    Now it happened after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria …. When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.” So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:1-2, 17-21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Like Elijah, we are on a mission with God. Becoming the players God desires us to be so that we actually fulfill the part He has for us in His mission is so important. Those who are already followers of God are always a part of how God works in the lives of those who are not yet His followers. People need to see that there is a choice they need make between the one true God and false gods. And like Elijah, we will have opportunities to call others to make that choice. Because it is God’s mission, we just need to stay close to Him, listen to Him, and let Him empower us to do the part He gives to us. We can count on Him to show us very clearly what He has in mind.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for allowing me to join you in your mission of calling others to choose and follow you. I know the specifics for how you want to use me will be shown to me as I follow along closely with you. Help me to stay very near to you so I can hear your voice for what you have in mind and be empowered to do my part in your kingdom mission. Amen!

  • God’s Kingdom Mission – Orchestrating Life Conditions - Monday, April 16th

    Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word. 1 Kings 17:1

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The model prayer Jesus gave His disciples, which we know as the “Lord’s Prayer,” includes the following: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God is always engaged in His mission of restoring this fallen world so that ultimately it shares a full correspondence with the glories of heaven. This is what the kingdom of God is all about and we see it in today’s passage during the ministry of the prophet Elijah through the withholding of rain. In this week’s Devotionals we will see how the withholding of rain, the subsequent drought, and the absence of provision are all a part of a significant campaign in the overall mission of God. This campaign includes a spectacular showdown between earthly and heavenly forces. The reality that God is on a mission is clearly seen as His power and glory are mightily displayed through Elijah’s showdown with His enemies. May we find the encouragement we need this week to live our lives in full confidence that God is at work accomplishing exactly what we need for our good, the advancement of his kingdom, and his glory. (We will be in 1 Kings 18 if you want to read ahead)

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want your kingdom to become more important to me than my personal life and the conditions that effect it. Thank you for the progress I am making. I know you will keep helping me to change. It truly is my prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” More than ever, I am open to you creating whatever conditions best accomplish your purposes and advance your kingdom. I am yours for whatever you want, Lord. May you be glorified in everything and in every way. Amen!

  • "Planting Your Spring Garden" - a poem for Saturday, April 14th

    Planting Your Spring Garden

    For the Garden of Your Daily Living

    Plant Three Rows of Peas

    1. Peace of Mind
    2. Peace of Heart
    3. Peace of Soul

    Plant Four Rows of Squash

    1. Squash Gossip
    2. Squash Indifference
    3. Squash Grumbling
    4. Squash Selfishness

    Plant Four Rows of Lettuce

    1. Lettuce be Faithful
    2. Lettuce be Kind
    3. Lettuce be Patient
    4. Lettuce Really Love One Another

    No Garden is Complete Without Turnips

    1. Turnip for Meetings
    2. Turnip for Service
    3. Turnip to Help One Another

    To Conclude Our Garden We Must Have Thyme

    1. Thyme For Each Other
    2. Thyme For Family
    3. Thyme For Friends

    Water Freely With Patience and Cultivate With Love.

    There is Much Fruit In Your Garden Because You Reap What You Sow.

  • Being the Body of Christ – God’s Calling Fulfilled - Friday, April 13th

    Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    I think this week’s considerations give us a pretty clear picture of what God has called us to generally as His people and the passage above is a fitting way to wrap things up. May God graciously help us walk as fully as possible in the manner He is calling us to right now. Go back over the devotionals for the week. They are fairly short and it won’t take you very long. Let God give you an overall sense of his calling. Then ask him to give some specifics regarding what he calling you to as a member of the body of Christ. My prayer is that at this time in history God will have His way more than ever before with each of us, our church, and His people all around the world. God bless you and keep you!

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Formulate your own prayer response to God today.

  • Being the Body of Christ – Grateful Hearts Overflowing - Thursday, April 12th

    Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:3-5

    We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4

    We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    If the church of Jesus Christ will give herself fully to the supernatural dynamics of God’s presence as we have talked about them so far in this week, there is nothing that can stand in her way of being all and fulfilling all that God has called her to. As the body of Christ, he is our real and actual head. Through the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, Christ orchestrates the working of his body, the church. As the body of Christ functions under the Headship of Christ, he builds his church and advances his kingdom. As we behold him working through the members of his body, our hearts overflow with gratitude. Affirmations of gratitude to God for all that He is doing and to each other for all the cooperation and participation we see taking place in each other’s lives become a significant hallmark of who we are as God’s people and how we operate in the mission of His glorious kingdom.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my heart is filled and overflowing with gratitude. I am amazed at how you are work in our world today building your church. Thank you for what you are doing and for never giving up. I believe your promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church you are building. My gratitude abounds to your people everywhere who letting you work in them and through them for the common good and for the sake of your kingdom. Amen!

  • Being the Body of Christ – Christian Living Supported - Wednesday, April 11th

    Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord …. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Romans 12:9-11, 16

    Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:2-3

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The church becoming a powerful team begins with each of us putting a significant focus on letting God manifest His strength in us and through us according to His purposes and the way in which He has gifted us. But as we focus on ministering to others and giving of ourselves to them, we must also focus on letting others minister and give of themselves to us. This requires that we recognize and admit our areas of weakness and need and that we commit ourselves to being open to the ways other people can minister to us and then readily receive the help they offer. It is easy to have an estimation of ourselves that causes us to think of ourselves as more than we are. We are not super people in and of ourselves. We are normal people who are connected with a supernatural God who need the help and support of others for getting and staying close to Him who fills us with the strength of His might and enables us to live fully for Him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I see how much I need my brothers and sisters to help me to stay close to you. What a blessing it is to have a circle of Christian friends with which to experience mutual support. I pray that I will always be a part of a devoted group who bear each other’s burdens. Amen!

  • Being the Body of Christ – God’s Gracious Presence Experienced - Tuesday, April 10th

    For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly. Romans 12:3-6A

    As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Of all the components that come into play in the Scripture’s story of God’s dealings with his people, it is God’s presence that is most crucial. Look at the centrality of God in the New Testament passages above: God allots a measure of faith to each believer; He makes us to be one body in Christ; He gives us special gifts; the gifts are the manifestation of His grace; the ministries of communicating and serving are the work of His strength in us and through us; it is all for His glory, the One Who has dominion forever and ever. Our job is to stay in close contact with God (like a branch abiding in the vine) so that He can freely manifest Himself in us and through us according to His purposes and the way in which He has gifted us. As ministry in the body of Christ flows freely, individual Christians are helped to stay close to the Lord. As individual Christians stay close to the Lord, they grow in God’s strength and then ministry within the Body of Christ is strengthened. This is how Christ’s church becomes a powerful team that increasingly experiences God’s presence individually and collectively while she learns truly to be the Body of Christ with each person ministering and giving of themselves through the strength and enabling which God supplies.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I get it. Without your manifest presence in our midst our living as your people in ways that bless and reach the world could never come about. Thank you for gracious presence and the difference you make. What an amazing thing it is to be apart of the powerful work you are accomplishing in and through us as the body of Christ. Amen!

  • Being the Body of Christ – A Powerful Team Unleashed - Monday, April, 9th

    Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We begin this week’s Devotionals with a story: “It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold. The hedgehogs, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions. After a while they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.”

    Whether it is hedgehogs facing the coldest winter ever or the church facing the challenges of its mission, each individual contributing to the “common good” of the group is a vital part of what is necessary for survival. With the church of Jesus Christ, however, there is much more that comes into play than mere “group dynamics.” God Almighty, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is at work in her midst in ways that elevates her individual and collective nature (quills and all) into something that is truly supernatural and amazing. Christ’s church will become a powerful team as she increasingly experiences God’s presence individually and collectively while she learns truly to be the Body of Christ.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for all my brothers and sisters in Christ and the thrill it is to join them in being a powerful team where everyone is being used for the common good. What a blessing this is to me, to every one of us, and ultimately to the world. Your presence and power in our midst is amazing. What a privilege it is to be the body of Christ. Amen!

  • Resurrection Living – Becoming the Righteousness of God - Friday, April 6th

    Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    God is the Creator of everything including us. As created beings God has absolute claim on us. This means that our lives should be fully at God’s disposal for all that he has in mind for us. The problem is this: no one apart from Divine intervention puts themselves at God’s disposal for living life the way he has in mind. As a matter of fact, we all go astray, go our own way, and live for ourselves. We have sinful, rebellious hearts that are neither willing nor able to live fully for God. Ezekiel 36:26-27 is in some ways the Old Testament equivalent of our passage for today. It says, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Both passages speak of exchanging the old for the new. While the Ezekiel passage anticipates God’s plan in Christ for producing people who would and could live fully for him as new creations, the 2 Corinthians passage boldly declares people to be new creations who are in Christ through what his crucifixion and resurrection provide. It is Christ through the Holy Spirit that makes all the difference. Christ came to redeem our lives for God. When we trust Christ as our Savior we are cleansed and become temples of the Holy Spirit. With Christ living in us through his Spirit we live out the reality that we are new creations as old things pass away and new things come.

    The end of today’s passage speaks of God’s “new creation” intentions for us in Christ in this way, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is “resurrection living.” Previously, we referred to this kind of living as an “On Top of the World” lifestyle. When we live out an “On Top of the World” lifestyle we will have a greater impact in shaping the world in which we live than the world will have in shaping our lives. As recipients of God’s provision in Christ we become ambassadors for Christ. The key to being a representative of Christ to others is our living a changed life before others. So, becoming the righteousness of God in Christ is essential. We look inward at ourselves in order to be in touch with Christ and His indwelling Spirit so that we can be transformed from the inside out. As we become ones who are consistently connected to God’s presence, His ways, and how He is at work in our world, he frees us from a selfish focus on ourselves and allows us to have an outward focus on others. Truly, because God has intervened his claim on us is being realized and we are learning to live fully for God. This is seen in the reality that we are becoming the righteousness of God in Christ and serving as ambassadors of Christ to the world. “Resurrection Living” is really coming about for us, the Lord is being honored and glorified, and we are on “Top of the World” with a life that wonderfully counts for eternity.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you are our awesome God and your plan of redemption is awesome. Thank you for your sending Jesus to put it in place and thank you for the Holy Spirit who is making it actual in my life. Align me fully with yourself and all that you desire for my life. Awaken me to the Holy Spirit who lives in my heart forever. Here I am, ready and unafraid to go forward in my life fully in touch with you and fully in step with you. Transform my life and impact my world like never before and empowering me to impact my world in bold and significant ways. I am amazed at the commitment you have to succeed at fulfilling the purpose for which you created mankind. I am committed to you, Lord and truly want to be your devoted possession who fully exists for the praise of your glory. I worship you and love you, Lord. Amen!

  • Resurrection Living – Living as a New Creation - Thursday, April 5th

    I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me …. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 2:20 & 6:14-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Let’s begin with a story entitled, “How To Ride A Bicycle”.

    First I saw God as my observer, my judge keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of the President. I recognized His impact when I saw it, but I didn’t really know Him. Later on, when I got to know Him better, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride... but, it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that God was in the back letting me peddle. I don’t know just when it was that he suggested to me we change places, but life has not been the same since... life with God out in front makes life exciting. 

    When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew insightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at breakneck speed. It was all I could do to hang on, even though it looked like madness, He said, "have faith." Feeling worried and anxious I asked, "Where are you taking me?" He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust. I let go of my boring life and entered into the adventure, and when I said, "I’m scared." He’d lean back and touch my hand. 

    He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take with me on my journey... our journey. God’s and mine and we’re off again. He said, "Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people I met, and found that in giving, I received, and still my burden was light. I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life, I thought He’d wrecked it, but He knows bike secrets. He knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high passes, and fly through shorter scary passages. I am learning to shut up and peddle in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view, and the cool breeze on my face, with God as my pure light, as my constant source of inner strength. When I’m sure I just can’t do any more, He smiles and says, "just keep peddling".

    It is amazing how well life can go when life isn’t going so well. Think about that for a moment. Here is what I mean. When our connection to God is solid and our inner person is spiritually secure and well oriented to God’s presence, His ways, and how He is at work, we are able to go with the flow of whatever comes our way in life. If what is happening in our life situation is all important to us then most of the time “our world will be on top of us” because that is what ends up happening when we try to control the uncontrollable. But if Christ is ordering and maintaining the inner world of our human spirit, “we will be on top of our world” no matter what is going on with it. We will be free from our tendency to try to control it and our tendency to be conformed to it. I think this is the idea of the bicycle story.

    We need to recognize and accept that life is much more out of our control than we think and that going with the flow of letting God be in charge of navigating the course our lives will take us is essential. Living a Godly life in the midst of a culture that is not compatible with our faith is absolutely a God thing. When God is in control, our developing faith and walk with him we will have a greater impact in shaping the world in which we live than the world will have in shaping our lives. Finding freedom from the tendency of trying to control the world we face and freedom from the tendency of being conformed to the world we face is a wonderful thing.

    This is really what today’s passage is all about. Through our redemption in Christ, he takes up residence within our human spirit. The more Christ becomes established in us, the more our lives become him and not us. Christ is in the business of ordering our lives from the inside out and as he does we will be able to say “no” to things that don’t belong in our lives and “yes” to him and the work He wants to do in us and through us. This is very much a part of having an on “Top of the World” kind of life. It is also “resurrection living” and it is captured in these words from today’s passage, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” 

    Our passage goes on to call this “New Creation ” living. Here is how “New Creation” living unfolds in our lives. It begins with seeking Christ. In seeking Him we gain an awareness of His presence. In the awareness of His presence we learn to be with Him. In being with Him we know and experience Him. The more we know and experience Him, the more with are filled with His presence and the qualities that are true of Him. And then the more His presence and the qualities that are true of Him fill our lives the more we live right and not wrong on a daily basis because he has dominion over our human spirit. So, it is death to self-empowered living and Amen to “New Creation” living. Let’s lift up our heart and hands to the Lord and “just keep peddling.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to seek You and please never allow it to be that I would become hardened to seeking You. I know this is the starting point of you being alive and well within me and everything else unfolding from there. I choose to lay back in your gracious arms of love and strength and know you better and more fully. Truly you are able to accomplish the good work you have begun in me both now and until the very end. I lift up my heart and hands to you, Lord, and I “just keep peddling.” Amen!

  • Resurrection Living – Seeing with Spiritual Eyes - Wednesday, April 4th

    I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:18-22

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Let’s begin today with these words from our passage, “that you will know.” It is extremely important that we don’t limit the word “know” to its most common usage, which is “knowing about” something. In “knowing about” something we are dealing merely with information or facts. You hear a weather report that calls for rain, so you “know” it’s going to rain and you take your umbrella with you. Let say you go to work and leave your umbrella in the car. At the end of your work day it is pouring down rain and by the time you get to your car you are soaked through by the rain. Now you “know” the rain way beyond “knowing about” the rain. So, on the one hand we have information or facts about rain and on the other hand we have experienced the rain.

    When it comes to our Christian lives we often do not experience the truth we know. In other words we know Scriptural truths but they are unlived. It’s like God rains down spiritual realities upon us but we stay safely under our umbrella of cognitive knowing and keep ourselves from getting soaked through by the spiritual realities Scriptural truths are intended to generate. This problem is ageless and lies at the heart of the apostle Paul’s request, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” In order for us to put down our umbrellas and get soaked through by the rain, we need God’s intervention in answer to this prayer.

    There are three things that the apostle Paul prays we will know in the way we have just talked about: “the hope of his calling” (1:3-4), “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (1:11-14), and the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe” (3:16-21). In essence we at talking about becoming “holy” in our actual experience, becoming “the praise of his glory” in our actual experience, and becoming a recipient of his “power” in our actual experience. Ask God to enlighten the eyes of your heart to these spiritual realities as you prayerfully consider them in conjunction with the passages given. May you be soaked through by them and go forward experiencing them consistently and fully day by day.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I see and I see you! The spiritual rain that has soaked me through is you as well as the spiritual realities of what you have for me to experience through my experiencing you. I also see that all of this is the out working of your abounding and unfailing love for me. Thank you that you are producing resurrection life in me through the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

  • Resurrection Living – Putting on the New Self - Tuesday, April 3rd

    Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:1-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The provision of eternal life belongs to those who truly put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Eternal life is not just about being forgiven and ending up in Heaven someday. Eternal life includes the time in between the moment one believes and the moment one arrives in Heaven. A major focus of God’s gift of eternal life is the quality of the lives we live in this in between time. Today’s passage addresses the quality of life God has in mind for us while we are here by contrasting what is resurrection living with that which is not. In essence, we are told that we embrace resurrection living by putting on the new self. When we put on the new self we seek to live according to the things above and not according to things below during our time here.

    Eternal life is essentially a forever relationship between us and God whereby we exist for Him and He accomplishes resurrection life in us and through us. In this love relationship we have with God, He transforms us from the inside out and teaches us how to let it be that the life we live is His doing. It is not part God and part us. It is all of God living in and through us. We must ask God to show us more and more what this means. God is the creator of the universe and that includes us. Since He is the one who made us, He knows us best. And since He knows us best, He is able to take care of us better than anyone or anything else. God has a great concern for our eternal well-being.

    The area of our well-being He concentrates the most on is our inner well-being, the state of our mind and heart. This is because this is the realm in which we know and experience God’s presence and love and it is from here that the full life He calls us to will flow. God has an unbelievably great desire to pour out His unconditional and unending love and acceptance into everyone’s inner being in order for us to be whole and complete and able to live life fully for Him. Our need for a sense of well-being that comes from being loved and accepted is a driving force in our lives. Unfortunately, our looking to other sources for love, acceptance, and well-being, makes it difficult for us to receive it from God in the full and complete way that we need. Herein lies the mission of Christianity: to provide the opportunity for more and more people who are seeking something better than they have known in regard to life to encounter Jesus Christ and be helped to exchange the life they have known for the life of fullness that comes from Him and Him alone. This is what putting on the new self and entering into genuine “resurrection living” is all about.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, what a “high” calling you have given me. I am so prone to setting my mind on the things of earth. I know I have been raised up with you and need to seek the things above with all my heart. I know you live within me and will help me in wonderful ways. I choose to put on the new self and enter fully into resurrection living. I love you and am so thankful for how you are helping me exchange the life I have known for resurrection living. Amen!

  • Resurrection Living – Walking in Newness of Life - Monday, April 2nd

    Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    While the story of the Life of the Christ culminates in his resurrection, the resurrection is just the beginning for us as his followers. The Devotionals for this week are a follow up to our 90 Day Life of Christ series. We will look at five New Testament passages that will help us understand, embrace, experience “resurrection living” to the fullest.

    Some of the disciples of Jesus had the opportunity to believe in His resurrection through pure faith alone when His resurrection was reported to them by others who had already seen Him alive. But they needed more than just a report; they needed to see Him alive for themselves as well. Jesus said that those who believe without seeing are the ones who are blessed. In one sense believing without seeing is the only opportunity we have today for believing because after completing His post-resurrection ministry here on the earth, Jesus ascended into Heaven and the opportunity ended for seeing Him and then believing. How does one believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ without seeing him alive like the early disciples did? Many have come to believe in the resurrection down through the centuries, but most do so having overcome doubts and uncertainties. For the ones who struggle to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive for evermore and can’t seem to overcome their doubts and believe without seeing, there is a simple way to become sure forever. Prayerfully say, “Lord Jesus, if you are there, reveal Yourself to me as my risen Savior and Lord! He will show Himself to you and you will see Him, not like the disciples of old when they saw Him with their physical eyes, but with spiritual eyes and then you will be able to believe.

    Embracing the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings us to the place where we must embrace our own resurrection. The benefit of Christ’s sacrificial death for us and subsequent resurrection is that we become ones who potentially experience “resurrection” in three different ways. Before we put our faith in Christ we are spiritually dead. When we put our faith in Christ and receive the forgiveness of sins, we become spiritually alive to God which could be called our spiritual resurrection. Someday, we will experience physical resurrection in the end times. There is a third way that we experience resurrection that is supposed to follow our spiritual resurrection. Romans 6 says that we are to be raised to newness in life in Christ. We are made spiritually alive to God (First way we are resurrected) so that Christ can live in us by His Spirit to enable us to live a new life (Second way we are resurrected). This is all in preparation for the ultimate consummation of all things which will include are being given glorified bodies (Third way we are resurrected). Thus we will spend all eternity with the Lord as restored beings set to fulfill God’s purposes unhindered forever. This great work of God is the magnificent expression of Grace that He has made available to all who will call upon Him in faith. It is undeserved and unearned and is intended for all. Since it is undeserved and unearned there is no one who is out of reach of this gracious work of God. 

    Jesus says to all of us, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” He is alive and can be alive in our souls to live the life for us that needs to be lived. Any other way of living out our Christianity is heavy, burdensome, and wearying. May God have mercy on us and lead us in the everlasting way of “resurrection living.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your magnificent grace and the remarkable “resurrection” work you are accomplishing in my life. I know you are alive and well in my soul and I want to be as alive to your presence as possible. Grant that the life I live will be true “resurrection” living. I count on you to live the life that needs to be lived in and through me. In this way I choose to live fully for you and walk in newness of life. Amen!

  • Poem for Easter - Sunday, April 1st

    Because He Lives:


    Savior of my Soul
    by Deborah Ann Belka

    Lord of my life,
    Savior of my soul
    You filled in my heart
    the big gaping hole.

    I was broken,
    crushed and down
    then You came along
    and turned me around.

    You brought me hope,
    gave me a reason to live
    better than that . . .
    my sins ~ You forgive.

    Now I have peace,
    eternal rest I will know
    every day in my heart
    I can feel Your love grow.

    Lord of my life,
    Savior of my soul
    You filled me with grace
    and now I am whole!

    Ephesians 1:6
    King James Version

    "To the praise of the glory of his grace,
    wherein he hath made us accepted in the
    beloved."

  • The Life of Christ – Culmination of Suffering and Triumph (5) - Saturday, March 31st

    When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either. Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. Mark 16:1-20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Yesterday we presented a bit of a theology of the cross that included a lot of additional Scripture. The cross and the resurrection are inseparable and so today we present a theology of the resurrection with additional Scripture that flows out of yesterday’s considerations.

    But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 1 Corinthians 15:20-26

    Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:50-55

    You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

    In review from yesterday: Jesus died for the sins of the world. The judgment of sin due to all of us was placed on Him. The judgment of sin is death and death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body. And spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. Jesus experienced both of these for us. When the sins of the world were placed on Jesus during His crucifixion on the cross, He was separated from the Father. This is why Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And then after He said “It is finished” and as recorded, “gave up His spirit,” His double dying was completed.

    Through His resurrection Jesus overcame His own death and secured victory over physical death for the rest of us, but in addition, His resurrection validated that His crucifixion truly did secure victory over spiritual death for all of us as well. So, God has secured that which in the end will be a wondrous outcome for all who are willing to embrace His eternal provision. By conquering spiritual death as our substitute Jesus opened the door for us to be restored to the full communion with God which He created us to enjoy in the first place. He also opened the door for us to something else very special. In a different kind of way Jesus was also our substitute in physical death. Jesus had to experience physical death in order to conquer it. He died physically and was raised from the dead on our behalf.

    This is what the resurrection is all about. Jesus became the first fruits. Someday we will be resurrected to enjoy perfect bodies that we will inhabit forever. We will truly experience victory over physical death because of what Jesus did on our behalf on that first Easter morning.

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

    Who is Jesus? He is our substitute who died, was buried, and rose again on our behalf because of the problem of separation of the spirit from the body in physical death and the problem of separation of the spirit from God in spiritual death. Does Christ’s substitution make all the difference? Absolutely! We are alive for evermore. We rest in the security that we have been freed from sin’s consequence of death for all eternity. What a blessed reality: the absolute security that forever nothing can separate us from the love of Christ who indeed died for us and indeed was raised for us. Halleujah! Truly, the life of Christ is everything for everybody!

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I rejoice in your amazing plan and your amazing provision. Your grace is overwhelming. Thank you for coming to earth, Jesus, and carrying out your mission. From your birth to your ascension, you did everything to restore us fully to all you had in mind for us when you created us. Thank you that I am now a full beneficiary of your death and resurrection. Thank you that I have been recreated for your glory and honor. Amen!

  • The Life of Christ – Culmination of Suffering and Triumph (4) - Friday, March 30th

    Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take. It was the third hour when they crucified Him. The inscription of the charge against Him read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.” They crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. [And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with transgressors.”] Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes, were mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him. When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they began saying, “Behold, He is calling for Elijah.” Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to take Him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were looking on to see where He was laid. Mark 15:22-47

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Letting the reality of “what” Jesus went through on the cross wash over us is very important. To experience this more fully go ahead and read today’s passage again. What follows now will give us the “why” of what Jesus experienced on the cross as well as some more of the “what.” It is a bit of a theology of the cross that includes a lot of additional Scripture.

    Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17

    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12

    But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. Isaiah 59:2

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

    The Scriptures above deal with the subject of death. The word “separation” gives us a great way to understand death. The Bible says that God formed Adam’s body from the dust of the ground and then breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living being. So Adam and everyone since are body and spirit. Physical death, therefore, is the “separation” of the spirit from the body. God warned Adam that death would be the consequence for disobedience to his command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Later on Adam and Eve disobeyed but they did not instantly die physically. They were changed so that their bodies became subject to death which both of them eventually experienced. The consequence of disobedience to God’s command included another form of death as well which was experienced immediately. We are talking about spiritual death which is the “separation” of the spirit from God. Because physical and spiritual death have taken hold of mankind and because of the reality that spiritual death is permanent if the physical death of a person takes place before spiritual death is reversed, God sent His Son Jesus to make the difference between life and death through the events of that first Easter weekend.

    John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:26-29

    And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” …. Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:35-37; 45-46

    He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

    After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John 19:28-30

    Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-39

    Who is Jesus? He is our substitute who on the cross experienced both spiritual and physical death for us. When Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have You forsake Me?”, He was experiencing separation from God the Father. John said that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. As the Lamb of God who was being sacrificed on the cross, Jesus had the sins of the world laid on Him. As a result He experienced spiritual death for us. Since death is separation of the spirit from the body and spiritual death is separation of the spirit from God, Jesus experienced the greatest agony of all His suffering when the sin of the world separated Him from the Father. He paid the required price in a few short hours for all of mankind which would take each of us on our own all eternity to pay. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He was telling us that the work of conquering spiritual death was now complete. Then Jesus gave up His spirit and entered into physical death as well.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, just saying thank you for being my substitute seems so in adequate and yet I am so very, very grateful. Really grasping what you went through and why I needed you to go through it, isn’t something that happens easily. I do think I am getting there. Thank you for speaking to my heart today. Please keep speaking and cause the reality of the cross to change me more than ever before. You are my redeemer and I am redeemed. Amen!

    Remember, the Devotionals for this week conclude tomorrow with the Resurrection.

  • The Life of Christ – Culmination of Suffering and Triumph (3) - Thursday, March 29th

    They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together. Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face. As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch. The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep. Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.” The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed. Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort. They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him. They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross. Mark 14:53-15:21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are working our way through chapters 14-16 this week which complete the Gospel of Mark. The events covered this week happen on Thursday through Sunday (our time table). On Monday we looked at the upper room Passover experience which included the last supper. Because we skipped having a Devotional on Tuesday, we looked at Gethsemane and Christ’s arrest yesterday. Today we look at Christ before the high priest and Pilot in Mark 14:53-15:21. Tomorrow we will look at the crucifixion of Christ in Mark 15:22-47. Finally, on Saturday in preparation for Easter Sunday we will look at the resurrection of Christ and what follows in Mark 16:1-20.

    We ended yesterday’s considerations with these words: “They laid hands on Him and seized Him.” Today’s passage takes us from Jesus being seized to him being led away to be crucified. Of course while the soon to come suffering of Jesus on the cross is immense, his suffering before the high priest and Pilot is quite intense as well. You have just read the passage and all that happened during these two examinations. Let the suffering Jesus experienced sink in and then ponder for a moment, before going on, how he was able to endure these experiences? What were your thoughts? There are two passages from 1 Peter that follow. These passages help us to see how Jesus endured and how we too can endure suffering as his disciples who are called to follow in his steps.

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

    Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:12-19

    In the first passage we are told that Jesus “kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously." This clearly connects back by way of contrast to the chief priest and Pilot who did not judge righteously. Righteous treatment should not be our expectation as disciples of Jesus Christ who live in the world and seek to follow in his steps. Our second passage is all about this and concludes with these wonderful words: “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” Don’t think for one moment that the Lord doesn’t have it all covered and that somehow we don’t have everything we need to live fully for him in every way and at all times.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Great day for your own prayer response to your faithful Creator.

  • The Life of Christ – Culmination of Suffering and Triumph (2) - Wednesday, March 28th

    Please note: there was no devotional posted for Tuesday. This bumps things ahead a day so that we will conclude our week on Saturday instead of Friday. 

    After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”  But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also. They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. They laid hands on Him and seized Him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” And they all left Him and fled. A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked. Mark 14:26-52

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Let’s consider both Monday’s and today’s passage together for a moment. In doing this, we see that Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives after sharing in the very first communion time together and singing a hymn (likely a traditional Passover song). Sounds like quite an intimate time of fellowship between the disciples and Jesus, doesn’t it? But now notice what Jesus said to his disciples just before the communion time and just after singing the hymn on the way to Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives: “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me” and “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’” How does all this all go together for the disciples? The bread slices of this sandwich don’t seem very conducive to the disciples enjoying what’s in between them.

    It is important to remember that the occasion for all of this is the Passover observance. This night becomes a transition from an Old Testament memory to a New Testament reality. The disciples are not quite ready for Jesus becoming the Passover sacrificial lamb who will take away the sins of the world. In the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to which they have come, one of the disciples, Judas, completes his betrayal, while the remainder of them, upon the arrest of Jesus, abandon him and leave him to face alone all that lies ahead for him. These actions are exactly what Jesus said was going to happen and they set him on a course from which there is no turning back.

    Now let’s go back to what Jesus went through in the garden while keeping in mind the powerful impact of Jesus’ anticipation of his betrayal and arrest, his disciples’ abandonment, and the inescapable course of the cross: “and (Jesus) began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” With Christ’s full submission and full resolve in place, we let these words sink in: “They laid hands on Him and seized Him."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for letting them seize you. I see that it was your suffering in the garden that prepared you for your arrest and your resulting suffering on the cross. You truly are our “Passover.” Work on my heart in such a way that I am prepared to be seized by whatever suffering is your will for me. I surrender to you, worship you, and bless you, Lord. Amen!

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