Posts Tagged ‘Devotional’

Be a person who loves and serves, one who exhibits appreciation and faith and desires to do what it takes to put it in action.

Read Colossians 4:7-18

This passage is all about faithfulness, which is what makes a person attractive to God and others. People with friends are also persons who are friend-makers because they listen and show appreciation and are not consumed with personal issues and hurts. Being grateful while being a greeter is also what builds and grows a church. It is about leaders being faithful and members being loving and hospitable. It shows our Lord’s love and makes a church a place people want to be a part of. Our faithfulness, along with the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and illumination, is what carries on the work of our Lord, demonstrates His love, and shows that His message is working so others will want to be a part of it.

Our real service comes from realizing who we are in Christ and allowing our devotion to translate into application. What God wants is for us to do and move our faith—to go beyond the mindset of “I have my salvation and thus, I need to do nothing more.” This is actually true; we cannot buy more favor or work for our salvation, but we can, as these people exhibited, be faithful and devoted. Exercise your faith and take advantage of your opportunities to grow and promote Christ’s Message. Faithfulness and helping one another by service and collective action is what matters to God. The more we put into our faith and come together, the more we are used to get the Gospel out. This is also about encouragement and service; it is contagious and mutually shows one another our faith while it is also displayed to those who do not know Christ. Paul and his fellow companions and coworkers, Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Barnabas, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nympha, and Archippus demonstrated what it means to be mobilized to serve and sacrifice. Not only did they contribute to Paul’s ministry, but they are immortalized in our Bible and in Heaven too. Our service also reflects into eternity, touching others and our Lord too!

What we need to get into our lives is this, the principles of the Gospel must impact us so we are influenced and energized by it. If the leader is not excited, the message will drop off and fall flat. The learner and hearer will not desire something irrelevant and unexciting. If they see no excitement in the leader, why would they want to be a part of it? The nature of the Christian life is the joy and excitement of being in Christ over all else, and this should be the biggest motivation so the excitement the leader receives from his growth becomes contagious to those around him; this is influence. Being in Christ means living our lives for Him with excitement in all times and all places. This is influence.

Holy living is not forced upon us. We are not adhering to a religion, but a relationship with our Lord! Holy living comes from a life that is transformed and renewed by what Christ has done for us! We can’t mature in the faith by punishing ourselves, or seeking mystic or special revelations; rather it is knowing, trusting, and obeying Christ as LORD, realizing Who He is and what He has done for us and then responding in gratitude, trust, and obedience. The Colossians had a skewed idea of God’s purity and our sinful nature; they had it half right, that God is pure and we are sin. However, the application that we can do as we please since we are in Christ is purely wrong. This now becomes a form of relativism. Such thinking and behavior equates a life that is meaningless and produces little to no fruit.

Questions to Ponder

1. How do you see the people in this passage exhibiting faithfulness and devotion? Do any of these people inspire you? How so?

2. What must happen in your life (assuming you are a Christian) for a deeper and more radical transformation?

3. Look back on your life, comparing how you once were with how you are living in Him now. Has there been progress? If not, what must you do?

4. How can you be challenged more to continue and complete the ministry Christ has given you?

5. How does the fact that Paul experienced strife and then was able to move to reconciliation establish a model for you?

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Be Blessed!

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The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)


“Question everything” seems to be the keystone of the modern manifesto. You see the attitude (if not the actual phraseology) all around us. This is the era of the “noble skeptic,” where the one who doubts is exalted above the one who believes.


There is probably room for a discussion of the interplay between doubt and unbelief, but I’m going to limit the current discussion to unbelief. It occurred to me recently that many of the problems people face with God can be boiled down to this simple premise of unbelief. “Did God really say…” was good enough for the snake in the Garden, and it has been dogging the human race ever since.


The companion to this is the negative side of the notion alluded to in the Bible quotation above. God hasn’t punished me yet, therefore He is either a) incapable of doing so; b) indifferent to doing so, or c) unwilling to do so.


Part of our Scripture passage today was the parable in Luke 20:9-18. It centers around tenants who will not acknowledge the owner’s authority over them – a message from Jesus to the Pharisees and Scribes. The lunacy of their thinking is made clear by verse 14, where after they see the landowner’s son they say to themselves “This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.” They are completely deceived, both about their own standing, and about the landowner’s future reaction. “…What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others” (vs. 15-16). They didn’t believe the landowner capable of taking the actions he did.


Whether people reject God’s judgment of them based on the idea that “He doesn’t exist, therefore I have nothing to fear,” or “a loving God would never do this,” the outcome is the same: they are wrong, and they will pay a heavy price for it.


That type of unbelief leads to greater sin, and the idea that “if God hasn’t done anything to me yet, He never will.” We talked about this briefly in Sunday School today, and one comment I thought particularly insightful was that although a person say this outright, it is still in their hearts, and by their actions it is evident that this is exactly what they think. I would surmise, although I haven’t read it yet, that this was what Stephen Charnock was referring to in his treatise on “practical atheism.”


For our own part as believers, if we believe that God will judge, we must act on that belief, and do everything we can to save others from their judgment.


And for those who question God in unbelief, consider the message of Scripture over and over: the wrath of God has not yet arrived, not because He is lacking in ability, but because He is kind and patient, and wanting everyone who will to repent. Even now, despite your blaspheming, your utter rejection of Him, He provides you with daily needs – air to breath, your heart beating, and all the rest. Even now, He still invites you to come. Consider what the punishment will be for the complete refusal to even acknowledge His goodness in providing everything down to the very basic needs.


Paul’s call to the men of Athens still applies today: The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31, ESV)


Repent of unbelief, before it is too late.


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Seeking and Finding God

    By Colin Smith


“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”  Mark 11:23 (NIV)


Do you ever wish you had more faith when you pray? Just like Jesus’ first disciples, many Christians today wonder how they can pray with more faith. Notice what Jesus is saying about prayer here: “If effective prayer is to grow in your life, here’s where you must begin-you must cultivate faith.”


Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives when he said this, but the Mount of Olives is still there. So, no one has ever accomplished the feat of moving the Mount of Olives into the sea. Jesus is using hyperbole here to make a point: Extraordinary things happen when God’s people exercise faith in prayer.


But how do you grow in faith? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). That is the point of feeding on God’s Word-to strengthen your faith. The more you take in the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ, the more you will have confidence in Him, and the more you have confidence in Him, the more you will ask of Him. 


Cultivate forgiveness

“When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25 (NIV)


Who are you angry with? Who are you frustrated with? Who has hurt you? Who has left you with wounds? Who has offended you? Believe it or not, these are the kinds of things that can deeply impact your prayer life.


A bitter spirit will hinder the blessing of God in your life. Holding a grudge will make you unfruitful. How can you pray if your spirit is churning up with resentment toward another person? It’s impossible! “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him” (v25).


As you grow in faith, and as you grow in forgiveness, you will begin to pray more effectively. How do you grow in forgiveness? Jesus said “Love your enemies-pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)  Ask God to bless the person who has hurt you. Keep doing that and you will grow in forgiveness, more than that, you will grow in seeking and finding God!

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Key Passage

“Jesus told them this story: “No person takes cloth off a new coat to cover a hole on an old coat. Why? Because he ruins the new coat, and the cloth from the new coat will not be the same as the old cloth. People never pour new wine into old wine bags. Why? Because the new wine will break the bags, and the wine will spill out and the wine bags will be ruined. People always put new wine into new wine bags.””

— Luke 5:36-38 (Read Full Text)


Key Thought

Jesus’ point is clear. Don’t try to limit God’s new life in Christ. Don’t try to contain it with your old religious categories. Don’t try to dilute it with your old religious practices. Jesus brings something new. Celebrate it. Enjoy its blessings. Be challenged by its demands and rejoice in its promises. But don’t ever try to simply attach it to what you had before. The call of Christ is new, fresh, and all encompassing. Begin each day with fresh eyes and new ears with the expectation that the Lord will do something you have never seen or expected. You won’t feel safe. It won’t be predictable. But, it will be marvelous!



Forgive me, dear Father, for limiting the awesome power you have brought me in Jesus. Open my mind and my heart and my eyes and my ears so that I can imagine more fantastically, believe more completely, see more fully, and hear more richly all that you have done, are doing, and will do in my life in Jesus. It is in his name I pray. Amen.


Related Scriptures

“From this time on we don’t think of any person like the world thinks of people. It is true that in the past we thought of Christ like the world thinks. But we don’t think that way now. If any person is in Christ, then that person is made new. The old things have gone; everything is made new! All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between us and himself. And God gave us the work of bringing people into peace with him.”

2 Corinthians 5:16-18

“With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or think of. To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

“Yes, God is working in you. God helps you want to do the things that please him. And he gives you the power to do these things.”

Philippians 2:13


From What Jesus Did

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And as they followed, they were afraid.

mr 10:32



At the beginning we were sure we knew all about Jesus Christ, it was a delight to sell all and to fling ourselves out in a hardihood of love; but now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is on in front and He looks strange: “Jesus went before them and they were amazed.”

There is an aspect of Jesus that chills the heart of a disciple to the core and makes the whole spiritual life gasp for breath. This strange Being with His face “set like a flint” and His striding determination, strikes terror into me. He is no longer Counsellor and Comrade, He is taken up with a point of view I know nothing about, and I am amazed at Him. At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize there is a distance between Jesus Christ and me; I can no longer be familiar with Him. He is ahead of me and He never turns round; I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely far off.

Jesus Christ had to fathom every sin and every sorrow man could experience, and that is what makes Him seem strange. When we see Him in this aspect we do not know Him, we do not recognize one feature of His life, and we do not know how to begin to follow Him. He is on in front, a Leader Who is very strange, and we have no comradeship with Him.

The discipline of dismay is essential in the life of discipleship. The danger is to get back to a little fire of our own and kindle enthusiasm at it (cf. Isaiah 1:10-11). When the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come that following of Jesus which is an unspeakable joy.

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“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

2ti 2:1



Christ has grace without measure in himself, but he hath not retained it for himself. As the reservoir empties itself into the pipes, so hath Christ emptied out his grace for his people. “Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” He seems only to have in order to dispense to us. He stands like the fountain, always flowing, but only running in order to supply the empty pitchers and the thirsty lips which draw nigh unto it. Like a tree, he bears sweet fruit, not to hang on boughs, but to be gathered by those who need. Grace, whether its work be to pardon, to cleanse, to preserve, to strengthen, to enlighten, to quicken, or to restore, is ever to be had from him freely and without price; nor is there one form of the work of grace which he has not bestowed upon his people. As the blood of the body, though flowing from the heart, belongs equally to every member, so the influences of grace are the inheritance of every saint united to the Lamb; and herein there is a sweet communion between Christ and his Church, inasmuch as they both receive the same grace. Christ is the head upon which the oil is first poured; but the same oil runs to the very skirts of the garments, so that the meanest saint has an unction of the same costly moisture as that which fell upon the head. This is true communion when the sap of grace flows from the stem to the branch, and when it is perceived that the stem itself is sustained by the very nourishment which feeds the branch. As we day by day receive grace from Jesus, and more constantly recognize it as coming from him, we shall behold him in communion with us, and enjoy the felicity of communion with him. Let us make daily use of our riches, and ever repair to him as to our own Lord in covenant, taking from him the supply of all we need with as much boldness as men take money from their own purse.


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Neighboring (Phil Ware)

“So just who is my neighbor?” This question was launched by an expert on the Old Testament law to test Jesus. While it may seem innocent enough at first glance, underneath it was the push to find out just what is needed to qualify for eternal life (Luke 10:25). To put it crassly, “What’s my minimum requirement on being neighborly?”
Jesus addressed the question in three powerful ways, never letting the “expert in the law” off the hook . Jesus was going to make sure this expert had to “own” his answer. Jesus asked the man to state his understanding of God’s truth twice, rather than Jesus giving the “expert” an answer (Luke 10:26;  Luke 10:36).
First, Jesus made clear the issue is about “neighboring”: intention and emotion are important, but godly compassion always involves action (James 2:14-17;  1 John 3:16-17). Jesus made this powerfully clear by answering the question by telling the story of “the good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-35). The question is not, “Who is my neighbor [who I must serve]?” Instead, the question is, “Who needs neighboring: who needs my help and support?” And Jesus frames the story by the emphasis on “doing compassion” by framing the story with these two phrases: (1) “Do this and live” (Luke 10:28 TNIV), and (2) “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:35).
Second, Jesus demonstrated what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” A simple scan of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — the books in the Bible that tell the story of Jesus — help us understand just what “neighboring” means. We meet men and women, religious and non-religious, leaders and powerless, rich and poor, able-bodied and those who are sick, dying, and dead. Jesus simply ignored the categories we so easily force people to fit. He broke social barriers, gender barriers, and religious stereotypes. He did not meet someone who was not his neighbor and he calls us to live the same way.
Third, Jesus always kept the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” connected to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). We become like the One we love! We cannot love God and not love others (1 John 4:7-21).
So what’s the point of all of this? Simple: it’s not about figuring out who is our neighbor, but about neighboring those around us in need!

Make a list of all the different kinds of people Jesus served — take a quick scan of the gospels to remind yourself of all the different kinds of people Jesus’ life touched in a redemptive way (Matthew 8:1-38;  Mark 9:1-50;  Mark 3:1-64;  Luke 7:1-50 are a good start).
What do you think the message is for you and how you are to “neighbor” others based on Jesus’ example?
How would you describe what “neighboring” others means in your daily life?
What leads you to keep from “neighboring” those who need our help?
What makes it hard “neighboring” others you may not know?
What makes it hard “neighboring” those you do know?
I’d love to hear from you on my blog about this:

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Spreading the Word…Then and Now

By Karen Ehman

"He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Mark 16:15 (NIV)


As a family, we enjoy learning about great missionaries of the faith — whether from the pages of the New Testament and the travels of Paul, or from current day servants who try to spread the wonderful, life-saving news of Jesus in remote places. Did you know that this month there is another missionary we can glean from as we hear of his longing to reach others for Christ? I am talking about St. Patrick.

What do we really know of St. Patrick, in who’s honor patrons don green? To look around at the way modern day folk celebrate St. Patrick’s day, you’d think it all had to do with shamrocks, leprechauns, rainbows and the ever famous pot of gold at the end of them. Well, that and the traditional "wearing of the green" to prevent any pinching that might occur on March 17th each year. But there is actually some wonderful truth that we can celebrate at this holiday and can pass along to the children in our lives.

For as far as history can tell, the story goes like this: At about the age of 16, Patrick, a Scottish young man born into wealth sometime in the late fourth century, most likely around 385, was violently captured by Irish raiders and forced into a life of slavery. Patrick later escaped and was reunited with his family, but in a dream, felt called by God back to Ireland to spread Christianity to the people of that isle. So this godly young man set about to make this dream come true. He prayed for God’s strength and then studied scripture to ready himself. Then He was prepared to return to the land of his captivity. He preached the Gospel and built churches throughout the country until his death on March 17, 461. For the modern day Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is considered a time for spiritual renewal as they fondly remember the slave-turned-evangelist who spread Christianity to the Emerald Isle. For our family today, we feel we can use him as an example of what a young person, sold out for God can do in their generation.

Just think about this man. How many of us, after being captured and held as a slave and forced to work in a foreign land, when finally set free, would actually return to the very place where we were enslaved? It must have taken a great deal of maturity and immense faith in God’s protection to go back to that island. And Patrick must have known that spiritual bondage is far, far worse than physical slavery.

In some ways, don’t we see modern day examples of just such a story? The drug addict who finds freedom from a life of addiction through faith in Christ, sensing a call to return to their old neighborhood and preach the freedom and everlasting life Jesus offers. The women who made a bad choice resulting in her and her unborn child both being the victims of abortion. Now she longs to counsel young girls to choose life for themselves and for their precious baby. All of these people serve as wonderful examples of someone who found freedom and longed to lead others there as well.

So at this time of year, when you spy a leprechaun or see a shamrock, whisper a prayer that God continues to raise up men and women who have been set free to return to the land of their captivity and lead others to the same liberating, life-giving freedom. http://teamsugar.com/group/390347/blog/1123058

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And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about … the world was not worthy of them … These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect (Hebrews 11:32-40 TNIV).

As last week ended, two very quiet and unassuming people in our church family — one a woman, the other a man — passed quietly from this life and into the arms of Jesus. Neither would garner headlines in the paper. Neither would be listed as key leaders in our church. Both lived quiet lives of unassuming service outside the limelight. Both did more good things than can be counted. Both of these served folks others didn’t see or simply neglected. Neither wanted to be well known for what they did; both just wanted others to be served. One provided scholarships for students who couldn’t afford a Christian education and the other made dresses for little girls in children’s homes — and yes, they did hundreds of other things in addition to these, so I share these as just a sample.

Both of these fine, sweet, people are part of what I call the “unmentioned essentials” of God’s Kingdom. They fulfilled the apostle Paul’s charge to the Thessalonians:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

They will be missed because of who they are and because of what they have quietly done.

All too often, we give our attention to celebrity. Even in our churches, we honor the person who is up front or who can speak loudest or can display some entertaining skill in a public forum. Yet if we scratch beneath the surface, we know the folks that win great victories or accomplish great things or win great battles for God are often these “unmentioned essentials” — the quiet, faithful, resolute, steadfast “git ‘er done” folks behind the scenes.

So I am thankful today.

I am thankful that the Holy Spirit mentioned the “unmentioned essentials” in the Faith Hall of Fame — yes indeed, “the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:32-40, see Scripture above).

I am thankful for getting to know more about two precious, but private, people who served God’s Kingdom in ways that only the Lord knows.

I am thankful for the people over the ages who toiled in obscurity, suffered without notoriety, served without fanfare, sacrificed without notice, and advanced the cause of Christ without needing a headline, a billboard, or a platform.

I pray that more of us will be like them. I hope more of us will thank such folks when we find them. And I know that God will reward them in glory in ways we did not while they lived quietly among us.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them” (Revelation 14:13).

Who are some of these quiet servants of God that have crossed your path? I’d love to hear a story or two about the people who have impacted your life for Jesus!

Why do you think we tend to ignore and neglect these kinds of servants and get so caught up in the hype and bluster of celebrities — especially since Jesus taught us who the real heroes are?

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Under New Management

                 by Colin Smith

 “[We], who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:4 (NIV)
Do you ever wonder why God sends the Holy Spirit to take up residence in every Christian believer? God’s rescue means not only that sin’s penalty is removed, but also that sin’s power is broken. When God rescues you, He sends His Holy Spirit into your heart, giving you the power to live a new life “according to the Spirit” (v4).
Paul is not saying that there are two kinds of Christians-some Christians who live according to the flesh and some Christians who live according to the Spirit. He is saying that if you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you, and if the Holy Spirit lives in you, you “live according to the Spirit.” What does that mean?
Life according to the Spirit
“Those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (v5).
When Karen and I were first married, she took a job as a teacher. The school was run down, under-funded, and in a really tough neighborhood in North London. The school had been without a principal for some time. Morale among the staff was low. 
A few months after Karen began, a new principal was appointed. When she arrived, she called the staff together for a meeting. “This school,” she said, “has the reputation of being the worst in the area, and I intend to make it the best!”
You can imagine the reaction: Some of the staff had been there through years of decline. They didn’t like what she was saying, even though they must have known it was true. Karen had just arrived, and inside she was cheering. Here was someone who would make a difference!
Over the next few years, the new principal was as good as her word. With extraordinary energy, she set about fund raising-new books appeared, equipment was donated, classrooms were painted, carpet was laid, morale was lifted, and children’s grades improved. She swept through that school like a whirlwind. The whole environment was transformed under her leadership. 
Reflect the glory of Jesus Christ
That’s what God’s rescue looks like. The Holy Spirit puts your life under new management. When God, the Holy Spirit, moves into your life, He moves in to take over, and if you have seen your need, that will be your greatest joy: “Those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (v5).
A good principal coming to a bad school has desires, a plan, and a vision for what that school will become, and she throws herself into making it happen. Do you think the Holy Spirit of God would do less?
When the Holy Spirit enters your life, He does not sit passively in an office somewhere. He comes to do a massive renovation project. He has desires. He has a plan. And He gets to work. His plan for you is that you should reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. And when you are given new life in Christ, you have your mind set on what the Spirit desires.  
     Colin S. Smith  (From Unlocking the Bible)

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