Month: November 2019

Be an Influencer of Love

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Written by: Danielle Morgan

Some of us don’t realize it, but we each hold a tremendous power of influence. Not only are our children, friends, and family influenced by our choices, but the very way we choose to live our lives speaks volumes about who we are and the values we cling to.

It’s important to realize this so that we take our influence seriously and choose to use our lives as a Christ-like example. This can only happen if our hearts are in the right place—if we are centered on God and His will for our lives.

This certainly takes intentionality. The more we put Christ first, the more our hearts are in alignment with His ways and our lives start to reflect what He’s doing on the inside.

This is the kind of living that becomes a blessing to others. You see, we need each other. Others remind us we’re not alone. And our stories? They are not just for us. The Christian life is all about giving and receiving. We receive the love and mercy of Jesus and allow it to change us so that we can then give it away.

This passage speaks directly to believers. We are to be meeting together regularly and encouraging one another, always pushing towards love and good deeds. If you want to know whether or not your influence is a good one, ask yourself if the decisions you’re making or the way you conduct yourself pushes other towards love.

God works miracles through our redemption stories–not just in us, but in others as well. If we’re too busy living for ourselves, we are getting in the way of God using our story to encourage and equip someone else toward His love and His grace.

There is value in who you are, the experiences you’ve walked through, and the way God has brought you through and to the other side of it all. Don’t be afraid to share your story. Always choose to live your life in a way that reflects the love of God to everyone around you.

ITP-Devo11.22Prayer: Jesus, I want to lift up all of those lives who have not yet said “yes” to you, but soon will in this place. They are deeply loved by You and their lives matter. I ask that you open up their hearts and minds to be willing to receive the message of love you have for them. Help them to know that no matter what, they are loved by a Holy God and that You have a plan and purpose for their lives. I pray that You remove all stumbling blocks that would get in the way of them hearing and receiving Your message of hope. I pray that Your words would be clear, convicting them to make a decision for you. I ask that you equip me and Your church to do the holy work you’ve called us to and share Your love with those around us, both in our words and in our actions. Thank You for loving me as I am and teach me to love those who do not yet know You just as You do. I pray these things in the name of Jesus.

Love First

1 John 4:19-21
We love each other because He loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

Written by: Tiffany Robinson

In our world, the word love is thrown around pretty carelessly. Yes, we tell our friends and family we love them, but we also say we love a TV show or a book. Love has become almost a filler word we throw into a conversation to highlight that we like something a lot. When we use it with our families, it can come out of habit or routine. Do we even realize we are saying it? Does the person we are saying it to feel loved?

Sure, we all know the difference between loving someone close to us or loving a thing or a place. No matter how we define love, those definitions are limited in our understanding. This incomplete understanding of love is dangerous because it is all about feelings and circumstances. What the Bible teaches is that love is not a noun. It is a verb.  Love is an action we should always go to first.

In 1 John 4:19, it says we love because He first loved us. God loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to die for us. That is intense love. It surpasses any love we can give or receive in our lives. God loves us so much that He didn’t bother with our behavior or whether or not we deserve it. He took action first. He knew the rest would work itself out.

What would the world look like if we each did that with those around us? What if we took action first and loved first? Our world would be radically changed. We wouldn’t get so caught up in things that don’t matter. We would focus on what matters most: God and people.

ITP-Devo11.21Thought of the day: Who in your life do you need to love first?

Prayer: God, I pray as You increase my faith in You, You would give me the courage to share that faith with others. You have changed my life in so many ways. I want others to experience the freedom I have found in You. Please help me create a life that influences others for Your Kingdom. Amen.

You Can Do That

Ephesians 3:20
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.

Written by: Shannon Swensen

Jesus didn’t leave us without a way to help others meet, know, and follow Him. He left us His power through the Holy Spirit to do the work He calls us to do until the day He returns, or He calls us home.

How many times have you sidelined yourself saying, “I can’t do that” when you feel that prompting from Him asking you to do something totally out of your comfort zone or way beyond what you had pictured for the plan for your life? I have done it countless times.

Here’s the awesome part of being an active part of the church: We aren’t doing His work on our own power or merit. We are doing it on His. We hear it often said at Sun Valley that the church is not a building we go to, but a movement we choose to be part of. If we are choosing to be a part of the movement, then we are not passively sitting by waiting for someone else to have some sort of more got-it-togetherness or better resume to do what He wants each one of us to do. We aren’t waiting for someone else to invite our neighbor to church. We aren’t waiting for someone else to take a meal to a stranger down the street. We aren’t waiting for someone else to serve on the weekends.

His word promises He is not only the power source, but He will do immeasurably more than we could ever ask, imagine, dream or design on our own. All He wants from us is an attitude that says,”I can do that.”

Ultimately, sitting myself on the sidelines because I feel unqualified is really saying I don’t trust God to be who He says He is. He says He is with me. The God I know doesn’t end sentences, promises, invitations, or commands with the words “just kidding.”

If we trust Him at His word and believe He has the power to help us carry out whatever He calls us to do, then He will be glorified and heaven will be full of people who chose to join the movement.

ITP-Devo11.20Thought of the day: What can you do today to participate in the movement of the church?

Prayer: God: Thank You that You transform lives and change families for eternity. Thank You that You are the same today as You were when Jesus walked the earth raising Lazarus from the dead, turning water into wine, and loving messy, sinful people like me. Lord, I ask You to help change me and grow me into the person You created me to be, and in that You would help others see You in me. I know it is not my power that is doing the radical change in my heart, mind, and soul, but it is Yours. My prayer is people would know who You are because You rescue, redeem, restore and raise people today. Help me to share Your love with boldness through Your power and grace so the people in my community that don’t know You would come to experience Your love, grace and mercy. Help me to simply love the way You love. Thank You Jesus for Your power and for making a way for lives and families to be changed for generations to come. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Secret to Greatness

Mark 9
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Written by: Robert Watson

When we look back on our lives, there will be moments that I call spiritual milestones. These are turning points, moments of rapid growth, or decisions that led us down a new path.

When I was 16 years old, I had one of these milestones. I was driving west down Guadalupe Road when I prayed a very heartfelt but simple prayer. “God, I want to be great. I want to do something great with my life.” In my mind, this meant writing a hit song, curing cancer, or inventing a world-changing piece of technology. I kept driving but my heart remained in that place and in that prayer.

As I look back on that admittedly selfish prayer, I smile knowing that God answered that prayer with a “Yes” in the most unexpected way. What I thought was greatness was not the same as God’s definition of greatness. According to Jesus’ teaching and example, greatness comes from serving. He then emphasizes the direct connection between serving kids and God.

I never wrote a hit song. Probably because I don’t sing or play an instrument. I never cured cancer or invented anything. But God did end up steering my path to volunteering with kids and students. As I look back on my life, I believe that prayer was a spiritual milestone that led me to true greatness. I believe God has given me the greatest honor of being able to serve kids in His name. I pray you too would experience the joy of welcoming kids and students in the name of Jesus.

ITP-Devo11.19Prayer: Father, thanks for loving all people, including me. Thank You for those you have used in my life to welcome me into Your family. Use me to be a part of something great. You teach that greatness comes from serving others. Help me to see opportunities to serve others and to have the courage to do it. Use my life to leave this world a better place than when I entered it. May You be glorified through my efforts. Thanks for letting me be a part of what You are doing in the lives of those around me. Thanks that I can play a small part in impacting the eternity of others. I pray that as we continue to grow and expand as a church, more and more people would experience the joy and greatness of serving others. Use the gifts You have given me for the common good. Amen.

Beautiful Feet

Romans 10:13-15

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Written by: Jimmy Leaf

Jesus was in the business of life change. Therefore, we are in the business of life change. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

The last commandment Jesus gave His disciples prior to ascending to the heaven was this: Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20)

Jesus gave His church a clear direction.

But Jesus never expected us to go out into the world alone. Jesus knew our strength and endurance would fail us if we were alone. This is one of the reasons Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit, who provides strength and comfort as we share our testimony (Act 1:8). When we lean into the never-ending power of God, we are able to accomplish all things. (Philippians 4:13)

ITP-Devo11.18Thought of the day: Think of an area in your life where God is prompting you. Are you willing to trust in God’s strength to be faithful in this area?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the opportunity to be a part of Your church! I know all things are accomplished through Jesus who strengthens me. I humble myself and pray You use me for Your glory! I pray for the future of our church and our leadership. I ask You to help me be a good steward of the resources You have blessed me with. Help me honor You in with all things.  Thank You for the wisdom to give first, save second, and live on the rest. Thank You for the great privilege to give to Your work and expand Your Kingdom in this place. In Jesus’ name, amen.