Month: February 2019

Every Perfect Gift

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

If you’ve ever had a two-year-old, spent time around a two-year-old, or have even been a two-year-old, you probably know that one of their favorite words is “mine!”

All of the snacks in the pantry? Mine! The toys that went unnoticed until someone else wanted to play with them? Mine! Mom when she shows affection to anyone else? Mine! As early as toddlerhood, we develop a very keen sense of what we think belongs to us and don’t always steward it properly.

While we might mature in our ability to share our toys, we often can struggle to have a right understanding of our gifts. James reminds us in this verse that every good and perfect gift comes from God.

Whether it’s friends, family, wealth, success, health, talent, breath in our lungs, or any other good thing, it came directly from the Giver Himself. Knowing that our gifts are not earned by own merit, our hearts should be grateful, and we should be quick to share our gifts freely with the world around us.

19-Devo-2.11Thought of the day: We serve a very generous God. Does your heart reflect a posture of gratitude towards Him? Are there good things in your life that God might want you to share with others?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the way You love me and the ways You have blessed me. Help me to use my gifts for Your glory. Amen.

Be Courageous

2 Chronicles 15:7
But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

From the time we are young, we’re drawn to the heroes of the stories we hear. There is something captivating about somebody taking a risk for someone else. Superhero movies are all about this idea. As are underdog stories and many of the “good Samaritan” stories we hear on the news. The number one strength of every hero isn’t strength or wisdom; it’s courage.

Courage is the willingness to take a risk, putting hope in the ideal that could be, as opposed to being crippled by the fear of failure. We’re typically our most courageous as we grow in the confidence of our ability to do something. Think about a young child learning how to ride or bike or swim—when they first start learning, there is typically a strong fear of being hurt or letting somebody down. After a few tries, and the learning that happens along the way, their confidence grows to the point that what initially scared them almost becomes second nature to them.

For Jesus followers, there are a lot of risks we might have to take. Among other things, we may have to take the chance of serving somebody in need or telling somebody about how Jesus changed our life. In those moments, we have these thoughts, like a child standing on the edge of the pool as they learn to swim, of ‘what if I fail?’ But, through the gifts, influence, and passions that God has given us, we have everything we need to serve others and tell others about Jesus. Our confidence is not based on the potential result or even our own skills, but in the One who equipped us.

19-Devo-2.8Thought of the day: Do you view yourself as a courageous person? What is one step of courage that you could take this week in following Jesus?

Prayer: God, thank You for giving me every reason to take courage in everything I do, especially in serving others. In the times I struggle to feel that courage, remind me to lean on the gifts, influence, and passions You’ve given me.

The Ultimate Prize

Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Goals are a great way to objectively measure progress and ultimately success or failure. For example, setting a goal to lose 20 pounds in 12 months or saving enough money to go on a European vacation next year are clearly stated goals. Too often, unrealistic goals are made, which leads to failure. To achieve our goals, self-discipline, sacrifice, and work are required on our part. Spiritual goals are no different.

One of the keys to achieving goals is being focused on what lies in front of you. It is impossible to move forward if your thoughts and actions are focused on your past mistakes or failures. Paul’s message tells us to forget what is behind and to strain toward the goal. Straining requires hard work to overcome the temptation to quit or backslide or give in to our flesh. Athletes continually train and put their bodies through extremely difficult workouts in order to be stronger and to overcome physical and mental obstacles so that they can remain focused on achieving their goal.

Satan is very good at telling us lies that we are no good and that we will never measure up to God’s requirements. Too often, we believe those lies and we give in to the guilt and shame over our sin and allow the past to become our present identity. Satan’s goal is to devour and destroy those who have put their hope and faith in Jesus. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil (Satan), prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Our identity as Christ-followers is as children of God. God loves us as we are, not as we should be.

Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

19-Devo-2.7Thought of the day: Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 9:24-25, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Whether you are an athlete or not, the Apostle Paul’s analogy of a runner in race is a great picture for everyone who has put their faith and hope in Jesus. The goal of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus in how we think and act towards God and others so that we receive the ultimate prize—hearing God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please give me a powerful sense of your mission for my life. Holy Spirit, give me wisdom of what it means to fight the good fight and to stay laser focused on straining toward the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name and for his glory, I pray. Amen.

Walking Confidently

Hebrews 10:35-36
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Confidence can be a tricky thing. On the one hand, people who have strong confidence in what they are doing can be viewed as admirable leaders who are easy to follow. On the other hand, people who are “overly” confident can be considered arrogant or prideful. Jesus’ life was marked by His humility, but today’s passage celebrates confidence. How can we reconcile that in a way that’s healthy?

Jesus’ humility was seen in every interaction He had with those around Him. He was quick to serve, listen, care, and go the extra mile for those in need. That doesn’t mean He did so with a lack of confidence. He knew the purpose of His life was to be the manifestation of God’s love to the world and walked boldly in that purpose. There was confidence He had that was based on His calling and identity, allowing Him to stand tall even when society wanted nothing to do with Him.

We can have strong confidence, but still live a life marked by humility. Our primary purpose in life is simple: to love God and love other people. The way we talk, use our resources, and treat others all have a weight to them and point to what we believe matters most. Though humility is the recognition that life doesn’t revolve around us, we can still have confidence in knowing that our gifts, influence, and passions are all part of a perfect design to live an others-centered life. God made you unique to do uniquely extraordinary things.

19-Devo-2.6Thought of the day: Do you feel like you are confident in your gifts and influence? What are some of the things that either give you that confidence or hold you back from walking confidently?

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for gifts and influence You have given me. In the times that I struggle to have confidence, remind me that every part of me was made intentionally by You so that I could serve others and serve You.

Be the Best in This One Thing

Romans 12:10–12
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

We live in a hyper-competitive culture. Whether it’s in school, work, sports or other achievements, we are all driven to find and maintain success. From a young age, so much of our energy is devoted to trying to validate our worth and our heads are filled with the old song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”

The Bible is clear: It won’t be our achievements, accolades, or bank accounts we are known for. It will be our love. Today’s passage in Romans emphasizes that if we are going to fight to be the best in anything, it should be in our love.

How would it feel to be a person who is characterized by hope, patience, and service? Those all point to a life that is defined by loving well and being well-loved. People will remember the way we treated them before they remember our name, title, or net worth.

19-Devo-2.5Thought of the day: What are some ways you can outdo others in the way you love at home, in your job, and in your relationships?

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for setting such a high bar on what it looks like to love selflessly. Help me to put my ambition toward building a legacy of love, and not just a legacy of stuff.

The Things That Stir

Nehemiah 1:1–4
Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” 

As soon as I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Every day, the media is filled with similar reports to the news Nehemiah received. Whether international conflict, political chaos, local crime, or an unstable market—it seems like we will never run out of bad news. For the most part, we’ve become desensitized to it, and are typically more surprised when we actually hear good news. However, there are certain stories that, for some reason or another, seem to grab our hearts more than others. Whatever it is—injustice, poverty, education, abuse, or something else—we can’t shake the feeling it stirs within us, and we feel led to action.

These feelings, or passions, are given to us by God. Similar to our gifts and influence, our passions can be catalysts for us to serve others and share God’s love with them. Just like our gifts, our passions vary from those around us, which is according to the way God designed us individually. Even when it comes to serving within the church, some of us have a natural pull towards guests, kids, students, missions, or care ministries.

For Nehemiah, news of conflict wasn’t anything new, but his response is what set him apart. While others either shrugged it off or began immediately thinking of a “fix,” Nehemiah felt the brokenness of the situation. From the empathy and passion he felt, he was able to lead differently than anyone around him. Ultimately, he was able to see an incredible collision of passion, gifts, and opportunities that led to a history-changing moment for those around him.

For you, the things that stir you aren’t just a coincidence. They’ve been entrusted to you by a creative God who hard-wired you to serve others.

19-Devo-2.4Thought of the day: What are some of the things you’re most passionate about? What type of problems do you daydream about fixing in the world?

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for the passions You have given me and for the unique way You designed me. Give me the eyes to see the ways I can use my passions to serve those around me.