Month: January 2019

The People in Your Circle

Mark 2:1-5
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

This is a story of a crowd, a Savior, and deep friendship among five men.

Four men heard Jesus was in town healing the sick and teaching at a home in Capernaum. They had a paralyzed friend and they believed Jesus could heal him. The four friends brought their paralyzed friend to the house, but they could not make their way through the crowd.

Instead of giving up when they could not get through, the four able-bodied men engineered a way to hoist their paralyzed friend—basically dead weight—up to the thatched roof, where they dug through several feet of layers to carefully lower their friend down in front of Jesus.

And Jesus forgave his sins, and, a few verses later, he walked out with his friends in full view of the crowd.

Jesus healed the paralyzed man because of the tenacity of these four able-bodied friends. Put yourself in the story.

  • Are there people in your circle that would drag you—as dead weight—to the feet of Jesus, for your own good?
  • Who in your life would engineer things to help you find Jesus?
  • Who do you love so much that you would go to great lengths to help them find Jesus?
  • Whose transformation would delight and inspire you like the one in this story?

The truth is, it is the people around us who introduce us to Jesus. They reflect back to us our own transformation. Without them, we remain just as paralyzed as the man in the story.

19-devo-1.31Thought of the day: We need friendships that continually influence us for Christ. Sometimes, we need to be pushed to the next phase of our transformation in Christ. Sometimes, we need to push our good friends. Who is pushing you? Who are you pushing?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that our lives are a continual transformation! Please put the people in our lives who would battle the crowds for us, and who are the influencers and engineers of our next phase of life. Help us to love others with your deep, abiding love so we can be the crowd fighter, influencer, and engineer for their next step. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Position of Influence

Esther 4:14
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

 Our verse today comes from the Book of Esther. The book tells the story of God’s providential hand on the Jewish people living in the ancient Persian Kingdom. In brief, a Jewish girl named Esther becomes Queen to the Persian King Ahasuerus. Her uncle Mordecai learns of a plot to exterminate all of the Jewish people in the Persian Kingdom. He comes to her and tells her she must get an audience with the King and somehow save her people. She tells her uncle that if she goes in to see the King without being summoned, she will be killed. Our verse today is what her uncle then tells her, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I would encourage you to read the book of Esther to see what choice Esther makes.

There are those of us who God has placed in key positions of influence, like Esther; leaders of businesses or a church or in city or state government. Maybe you are one of those leaders, or your circle of influence includes one of those leaders. God has you there for a purpose. Jesus said we are to be salt and light, wherever we are. Just like Esther, we can be a positive influence on those with which we interact daily.

Maybe you are not in a position of such influence as Esther, but all of us have a circle of influence. It might be to your family or friends. It might be at work or where you serve at Sun Valley. Each of us is in a place where we can have a positive influence on those around us. Most of us know people who need encouragement, support, or prayer. A kind word of encouragement or a listening ear can make a positive impact on others.

19-devo-1.30Thought of the day: What impact are you making in your sphere of influence? Do you rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to help you have a positive influence on others and make right decisions?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me the opportunity to be used by You. Thank You that I can be a positive influence on the lives of others. Help me to know what to say and when to say it. Thank You. Amen.

How Deep Is Your Love?

Colossians 4:5-6
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Often when I hear a love song, I think it could be sung heavenward to God. Sometimes love songs are almost like scripture repurposed in modern culture. That should not be a surprise because there is such power in the word of God—even when it is used for something besides worship and teaching.

“How Deep Is Your Love?” is a great example. Made popular by the Bee Gees in 1977 in the movie “Saturday Night Fever,” one of the verses says:

“I believe in you
You know the door to my very soul
You’re the light in my deepest, darkest hour
You’re my savior when I fall…”

Doesn’t that sound familiar? It is the modern (and misdirected) message of salvation—made salty!

My point is that how we act toward outsiders (or insiders) is directly correlated to how deep our love is—our love for God. Sometimes we only get one chance to represent our Savior, and we need to be ready with His deep love.

Deep love only comes from being steeped in His love—through scripture, prayer, focus, and time. Remove the old thoughts and replace them with God’s love.

And a little salt.

19-devo-1.29Thought of the day: We need God to fill us with His love, so His love spills out of us to outsiders. We need to be ready to represent Him, even when no one is looking. Because the truth is, we never know when someone is looking.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we stand here empty, asking for Your deep love! Not so we can become fat with it, but so we can share Your abundant grace out with all the clerks and servers we come into contact with. Let us show everyone around us a glimpse of Your love, seasoned with salt and delivered with wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Let Your Light Shine

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Have you ever found yourself alone in a dark room? It can feel jarring.

The Bible teaches that the world is a dark place. People, though they can see with their natural eyes, are blind to the deeper realities of God. Today’s passage directs us to bring spiritual illumination to others. Who are the “others” for you? Quite simply: everyone, but especially those in your immediate sphere of influence who can see how you live your life. People who have not found Jesus are in the dark room, searching for the truth that will bring light to their lives. It’s our job to always be listening for the opportunity to shine out the truth.

The tough part is that most people aren’t usually deeply moved by what we have to say. The bigger impact for non-believers is seeing lives that are lived differently. They see people full of the Spirit and full of truth. We can’t manufacture His light; we have to let it flow through us. We cannot be a light if we are not staying close to the Spirit of God.

A quick side note on God’s light: In the Old Testament, a guy named Moses met with God and when he would leave that experience “his face was radiant, and [other people] were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:30). He was literally glowing, and he put a veil over his face to lessen the outward intensity of what it meant to draw near to God.

People want proof that this Jesus thing is real. We Christians are that proof. It’s our job to lean in to our Savior with all we have and then let His light shine through us. His light becomes our light and that is what God uses to illuminate the world.

19-devo-1.28Thought of the day: Do you see yourself as a witness to God’s truth and His light? If you call yourself a Christian, you should. That doesn’t mean it’s your job to manufacture an experience. We are only called to love God and then, from that relationship, love others. Everything else is just details. But we have to be open to the Holy Spirit and we have to be willing to be what others need.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, be with me as I go through my day. Fill me with Your presence and Your love so that I radiate Your truth and Your light in a dark world. May You receive the glory from my life. Amen!

The Value of a Gift

1 Peter 4:8–10
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

It’s hard to believe it has already been a month since Christmas. The sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday have been replaced with the day-to-day of a new year. For some of us the gifts we received are already collecting dust. Year after year the same situation plays out with the toys a child receives for Christmas. There are those that get regular play and others that are already near the bottom of a toy box. For a parent, this can be discouraging. We wouldn’t have bought the gift if we didn’t think they’d love it, so when we see it unused it can make us question our original investment.

As we say at Sun Valley, what we own is really on loan. Your resources, gifts, and talents are all loaned to you by God. Like any reasonable investor, God’s investment of resources into our lives is about what we will do with them. Our gifts are not just something to add to our resume, but something given to us to serve others. Our gift of teaching, leadership, or administration don’t matter if we don’t use them. In fact, a gift gains its value through the way it’s appreciated and used.

We are blessed to be a blessing. God has given us the personality, gifts, and opportunities we have by design. The way we are wired matches the opportunities we have around us at home, work, and socially—it’s just a matter of making the most of each occasion.

19-devo-1.25 (1)Thought of the day: What are some ways you can serve God and others in your everyday life? What are some of the reasons you feel hesitant to use your gifts?

Prayer: God, give me the boldness to love others the way You do, and the eyes to see the opportunities all around me. Thank You for blessing me to be a blessing.

The Common Good

1 Corinthians 12:4–7
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

It’s playoff football time, and teams are competing at the highest level of the year. The reason why the games are more exciting isn’t just because of the chance of elimination, but because every member of the team has found the rhythm of his specific role. A football team is more than a quarterback—it takes 21 other players, and their backups, to win a game. When players can fully understand their roles and how they contribute to a common goal, teams find success.

As Jesus followers we all have different gifts; some are teachers, some are intellects, some are administrators. Others have a high gift of empathy or are strong leaders. Regardless of the role we play, we have a common goal—to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus. The common good referred to in today’s passage is the Good News of Jesus and the hope He can bring to everyone everywhere.

Through the Holy Spirit, our gifts are given life and power and we can find ourselves making a more significant impact than we could have ever imagined. What do you think your spiritual gift is? What are some ways you can use it this week?

19-devo-1.24 (1)Prayer: God, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit and giving me power after I say yes to You. Thank You for the specific way you’ve wired me, with the gifts and personality I have. Allow me to seek and seize opportunities to help others know You.

The One-on-One Relationship

Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

When Jesus was with His disciples, He made a bold and shocking statement. He told His disciples that He would be going away (foreshadowing the cross, resurrection, and ascension into heaven). But that wasn’t the most shocking part. He then said that is was GOOD for the disciples that He was going away.

How could there possibly be anything better than having the resurrected Christ walking around with the disciples? The problem with that scenario is that wherever Jesus went, there He was. Let that statement sink in. When Jesus was in Jerusalem, He was in Jerusalem. He wasn’t in Fiji, Rome, Russia, or Madagascar. When Jesus was in Galilee, He was in Galilee. If Jesus remained His followers would have flocked to Him, congregating wherever He was to learn, find guidance, or to just experience the peace of being close with God. But this would be a one-on-many kind of relationship.

The goal of the church was never to just gather together in a holy huddle, but instead to go into all the world and share the good news of new life when we trust in Jesus. Jesus said it is good that He leave because then He would send His Spirit to lead, teach, guide, and build a transformational relationship with Jesus followers from the inside out.

When the holiday of Pentecost came, Jesus fulfilled His promise. The Holy Spirit came and separated resting on each of them. The word “separated” is a game changer. Now every follower of Jesus had the Spirit of Jesus with them wherever they went. This relationship is not one-on-many, but a one-on-one relationship.

19-devo-1.23 (1)If you have said “Yes” to following Jesus, His Holy Spirit has moved in. You have a one-on-one relationship with God wherever you are. Talk with Him through prayer. Ask Him to lead, teach, guide, and build this transformational relationship as you trust Him wherever He leads you. When you read the devotional, listen to a sermon, read a passage, or discuss in small groups, ask that the Holy Spirit of Jesus would teach and guide you. Enjoy the journey wherever He leads.

Love, Give, and Serve

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

There aren’t many things in life that feel better than helping somebody in need. There is satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from helping someone else that leaves a lasting impact on our lives. There isn’t a lack of opportunities to serve, but there are typically some reasons that hold us back from doing so.

The reality is that you might not have every ability or resource to meet every need you see, but you’re not powerless. This verse in Acts says that no matter who you are or what your story is if you’ve said “Yes” to Jesus, you have power. God gives us the Holy Spirit at the time we come to know Him, and with that Spirit, we’re empowered to love, give, and serve.

Yes, the risk is there—you might miss the mark or offend someone, but if we don’t take the risk there’s the chance that nobody else will see or meet the need. Trusting in God’s plan means that He’s allowing us to look at those needs and giving us the desire to act. It’s on us to take the risk to serve, knowing we have the God-given power to make a difference.

One of the simplest ways we can stretch our faith is through using the gifts that God has given us.
19-devo-1.22 (1)The gifts that we’ve been given won’t be the same as what others have received. Whether you have the gift of encouragement, leadership, prayer, teaching, hospitality, or another wiring, God gave you those gifts intentionally to serve others. What are one or two ways you can use your gifts today?

Prayer: God, give me the confidence to act boldly in the power You’ve given me through your Holy Spirit. In the times that I feel led to serve give me the boldness to take a risk, knowing that I’m never more like You than when I’m giving and serving.

We Are His Workmanship

Ephesians 2:10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are God’s “workmanship.” Other translations use the word handiwork or masterpiece. The word in Greek is “poiēma.” From this word we get our English word “poem.” We are God’s poem. You are specially created by God. We are not an accident or a mistake, but we were made on purpose by the Creator of the universe. We were designed, right down to the freckles on our nose, by the God who also created the smallest atom and the largest planets. What a wonderful truth. But why did God create us?

Our verse today says, “for good works.” We were not wonderfully created to be in some display window or for our own edification. God uniquely designed us so that we would be able to do the things He has called us to do. Are you great at hospitality? Then host a small group in your home. Do you love to study and share God’s word? Then maybe you could lead a small group. Maybe you are uniquely gifted to offer comfort to those that are hurting. Other people are unbelievably talented at business or at leadership. God has made us all unique and has gifted us to do the work He has before us.

There are opportunities for everyone to use their gifts to further God’s kingdom. Not only has God created us and given us unique gifts to do good works, but He planned it in advance. God knew the work that He wanted done and created and gifted us to do that work. When we embrace this truth and begin to use our gifts to do His good works, we are in God’s plan for our lives and we experience His joy and peace. What an awesome truth.

19-devo-1.21 (1)Thought of the day: Do you struggle with your self-image? Do you often ask, “Why am I here?” God has uniquely created you. Not by chance or accident, but for a purpose. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Trust in the truth that you are God’s masterpiece and He has a plan and purpose for you.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to believe I am uniquely created by You. You have a purpose for my life, even when I do not see it. Help me to seek Your plan for me and to trust You every day. Amen.

The Truth Is a Big Deal

Colossians 3:9-10
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Speaking the truth is a big deal to God. Have you ever wondered why this is?

In John 8:44, Jesus uses some clear words when confronting religious leaders who had drifted away from the truth… “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Every lie ever spoken descends from the father of lies, the devil. Jesus, on the other hand came full of grace and truth. When confronted by Pontius Pilate, Jesus said the reason He was born and came into this world was to testify to the truth (John 18:37). Every truth ever spoken descends from the Father of truth, God Himself.

As followers of Jesus, we are to speak His native tongue: truth. The old language of lies is not the kind of language we are to use in His family.

Where does God want you to speak truth today? Pray for wisdom and direction on how to use your words to speak God’s native language of truth.

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