Month: January 2019

The Fruit You Bear

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This time of year, citrus trees around the valley are ripe for the picking. Roads and groves are lined with different hues of yellow and orange, and fruit bowls in our kitchens are filling up with citrus. Before a tree bears fruit, it may be hard to know what sort of tree it actually is. However, once fruit begins to appear and later ripen, it’s easy to tell the difference between a lemon, orange, grapefruit, or tangerine tree.

Likewise, you can tell a lot about a person from the “fruit” they bear. Folks who are kindhearted and genteel are easy to trust, but those who are short-tempered and angry don’t exactly make the most appealing friends. The fruit we bear is a direct indication of the condition of our heart and soul. As we say at Sun Valley, “the issue isn’t with the fruit, but with the root.”

Once we say yes to Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us—and the fruit of that Spirit are the qualities listed in today’s passage. Which fruit of the Spirit do you see in your life regularly? Which ones are harder to see?

19-devo-1.17Prayer: Jesus, thank You for loving me as I am, not as I should be. Help me to follow You closely, so that my life can be marked by the fruit of You working in my heart. Amen.

Put on a New Self

Ephesians 4:22-24
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

When I first started following Jesus, I thought that meant that I was adding Jesus to my life. But that isn’t what Jesus or His disciples teach us in the New Testament. It is something different. We don’t “add” Jesus to our old life, but rather our old life dies and Jesus becomes our new life.

Paul explains in his letter to the Ephesians that a key to this transformation begins with the mind. How we think, and what we think about, is really important to putting on the new self.

By taking the time to pause and read from God’s Word, just as you are right now, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to help adjust the attitude of your mind. Way to go!

Without regularly checking in with God’s Word, my mind is prone to drift back to the old attitudes of “deceitful desires” such as anger, envy, bitterness, and selfishness.

Paul continues to advise in Ephesians 4 to speak truth, let go of anger, give rather than take, and use our words to build up rather than tear down.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30-32

19-devo-1.16Prayer: Father, help me to live this out today. Thank You for modeling all of these things towards me so that I may know how to live them out toward others. Holy Spirit, guide my thoughts today and help me to see when they drift back to my old attitudes. Amen.

The Way We Love Others

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

At Christmas, we talked about how time is separated by the birth of Jesus—B.C. and A.D. Once Jesus was born, history changed. Everything leading up to His birth is marked with the waiting of “Before Christ”, and everything after His birth points to the fact that He came to earth.

Our lives can be marked the same way—there is a before and after saying “yes!” to Jesus. Saying yes to Jesus is simply us admitting that we can’t do life alone. The beauty of it is that real living begins at that point. Our lives have a renewed peace, perspective, and purpose from that point on.

After saying yes to Jesus, our aim should be to reflect Jesus to the world around us. This isn’t through perfection, but in the way that we love. In fact, the Bible tells us that the world won’t know we love Jesus by a long list of disciplines and rules, but just by the way we love.

The more selflessly we can love others, the more clearly we reflect Jesus to those around us.

19-devo-1.15Prayer: Jesus, thank You for loving me so selflessly. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, give me the ability to love others whether or not they love me, in hopes that they may come to know You because of it. Amen.

Make Way for the New

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Nature often has a way of expressing complex spiritual realities in simple-to-understand terms.

When a seed is planted in the ground and watered, a transformation begins to take place. The seed is no longer a seed. The seed is now a plant, growing from the inside out. The seed dies as this new life springs forth, shedding the old container.

It is a picture of the Christian life. When we say “yes” to following Jesus, we are a new creation. The Holy Spirit moves in and begins a transformation from the inside out. The new self is rooted in Christ and, with God’s help, we begin to grow into maturity—bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Our job is to choose daily to trust the teachings of Jesus and not hinder the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us. Little by little the old self, the seed—also referred to in the Bible as “the flesh” —dies and peels away, revealing the reality of the new creation. It is a lifelong process of transformation that won’t be completed on this side of heaven.

Jesus’ resurrection is a picture of our new life from death. Because of the work of Jesus, now we may be called the righteousness of God even though the expression of that reality is still a work in progress. As His fruit is revealed in our lives, we serve as ambassadors of this glorious gift of new life.

Is there any teaching of Jesus you have been hesitant to trust?

Is there a part of your “old self” that the Holy Spirit wants you to let go of?

How can you be an ambassador today of the gift of new life?
Prayer: God, reveal in me an area where I am hesitant to trust You and allow You to do the work of removing the old to make way for the new. Amen.

The Seed You Are Sowing

Matthew 7:16
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

If you want to change the fruit you are reaping, then change the seed you are sowing.

What in your life is not how you want it to be?

It could be that it is a result of something that you have done. It could be that it is the result of something that someone else has done. It could be the reality that you and I live in a broken world.

So which one is it? Are you able to identify the root of the issue?

If the issue is you, is it time to start sowing new seed? What change needs to be made?

If the issue is someone else’s poor choices, how can you best protect yourself from the collateral damage of somebody else’s sin? What is the wise thing to do?

If the issue is that this world is just not as it should be, how can you demonstrate your trust that Jesus is making all things new?

Jesus is making a point in this statement that who you follow determines where you go. So, choose wisely.

We tend to follow the ones who have the most confidence, are the most eloquent, or resonate most with us. Jesus says, watch out. Somebody can be totally confident and totally wrong. Somebody can be eloquent and full of lies. Somebody can really connect to our hearts, but our hearts are deceitful.

Who bears the fruit of somebody worth following in your life right now?

Who best resembles the fruit of Jesus?

That is somebody worth following.

If you want to know the root, look at the fruit.

19-devo-1.11 (1)Prayer: Jesus, help me to listen to the right voices. Holy Spirit, help me to discern what is from You and what is not. Amen.

Beyond Expectations

John 1:29-34
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

I have looked forward to a lot of things in my life with great anticipation. For the most part, every event, experience, or thing loses its excitement after the initial wow. NFL quarterback Tom Brady said after he won a Super Bowl he felt, “Is this it?!” I have read books that promised great life change. Then little happened. The old adage “over promised, under delivered” has been my experience over and over again.

John the Baptist, like other Jews, was waiting for the coming Messiah. The nation of Israel had longed for the conquering Messiah for thousands of years.

Then John the Baptist announced the promised Messiah had arrived. Can you imagine the expectations the Jews had? They were in for a big letdown.

In this short passage, John the Baptist revealed a much different Messiah. He would disappoint many in the religious community, but he was much more that anyone ever expected. He was like a package wrapped in ordinary paper, but when unwrapped would reveal to the world a Messiah beyond anyone’s expectations.

John proclaimed His mission was to be the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world. The Jews wanted deliverance from Rome. The Beyond Expectations Jesus came to deliver you from your sin: A spiritual deliverance no matter what your circumstance.

John said something that doesn’t seem important, but it’s key to separating Jesus from every other religious leader. John said Jesus was “before me.” The Beyond Expectations Jesus is eternal.

What was the Spirit descending on Jesus all about? God’s blessing and favor was on Jesus. Then John goes on at the end of the passage to declare Jesus is the Son of God. That was huge to the Jews.

Jesus is the real deal. He goes beyond anyone’s expectations in who He is and what He has done for you.

19-devo-1.10Thought of the day: Take a moment to praise Jesus that He is beyond expectations. Thank him for being the Savior from your sin. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to greater obedience to Jesus. It’s the greatest adventure you will ever join.

It’s Not About You

John 1:19-28
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Today is not about you.

That’s probably not the uplifting, you’ve-got-this, go-get-‘em kind of message you were looking for today. But it’s true.

John the Baptist was a big deal, right?

For 400 years the nation of Israel held its breath waiting for a word from God. The last they had heard from God through the prophet Malachi was that the Savior was coming and there would be a grand announcement when He arrived. John was the promised announcer. This was his day, right? To break open the 400-year silence should have made him the most important person on earth, right?

And yet, even John said in this moment, “It’s not about me.”
Many of our deepest issues stem from getting this one truth backwards. From our first moments to our last we are deceived into believing, at our very core, that it’s all about me.

It is 2019 A.D. “A.D.” stands for “Anno Domini” or more fully Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, which translates to “The Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is His day. This is His year. This is not 2019, the year of (insert your name here).

But Jesus gives us a beautiful invitation: Join me. Like John, let your life be a part of something far greater than itself.

19-devo-1.9Thought of the day: How can you make 2019 about Jesus and His kingdom?

Prayer: Jesus, help me not to rob You of the glory You deserve this year. It’s not about me. It’s about You. Thanks for letting me join You in what You are doing in 2019. Amen.

Grace and Truth

John 1:14-18
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

What would 2019 look like if it was filled with grace and truth?

Was there some shame, guilt, lie, or betrayal in 2018? Maybe you didn’t commit any heinous acts, but you had some committed against you or someone you love.

What would our families, our church, our community look like if we were all resolved to be filled with grace and truth this year?

We need grace because absolutely not one of us is perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we sin on purpose. We all need grace. And we all need to know the truth. Jesus died for all of our sins. For your sins and mine. The big sins and even the sins of omission. And because of this revolutionary act of love, mercy, and grace, we are able to know God and have fellowship with our Heavenly Father today and forevermore. This is the truth.

Whether you had an amazing year last year or one of the worst you’ve ever experienced, every day is a chance for a new beginning.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

19-devo-1.8Thought of the day: Take a moment to confess your sins, hurts, and hang ups. And then be so thankful that “out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”  He has already forgiven all, He has died for all.

Prayer: God, thank You for Your faithfulness, truth, grace, and love. Help me to be like You and to be able to forgive myself, as well as those around me. Help me to live out grace and truth to myself and those around me. Amen.

Incomparable Humility

John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

You are the reason for the season.

Jesus is the reason for everything.

Ten years ago the BBC produced a show called Planet Earth documenting breathtaking images of nature across the globe. This awe-inspiring series captured only a small fraction of the countless treasures across this planet. From the depths of the ocean, to the frozen arctic, to the tropical rainforest, our planet is filled with beauty and creativity. Jesus made all of that.

Sixteen years before that BBC telecast, NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope to peer deep into the cosmos and relay back images of galaxy clusters, spirals, gas clouds, and star formations. Each image declares the vastness of our universe, the incomprehensible power at work around us, and—at the same time—declares how tiny our planet really is. Jesus made all of that.

Jesus is the reason for everything.

And yet, Jesus humbled Himself to rescue you and me. You are the reason for the Christmas season we just experienced.

Try to let that sink in.

Paul records the mindset of Jesus in Philippians 2:6-11

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus humbled Himself to give us the greatest gift we could ever receive. Jesus invites us to join Him in humbly serving others.

19-devo-1.7Thought of the day: How can you humbly serve others today?

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for Your incomparable model of humility. Help me to have your same mindset as I go through my day today and to follow Your example of humbly serving others. Amen.