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Daily Devotion and Scripture

He Rejoices in Song

He rejoices in song.

Zephaniah 3:17
17 The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.” (NIV)

 

As a pastor, I so often hear from people about their inability to attend church when they have sinned greatly. For whatever reason, God has been taught as an angry God who despises us when we have sinned. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no anger, but He rejoices in song.

Zephaniah was a prophet who first tells of the consequences of Israel’s idolatry. They have begun to worship a false god called Baal and, in their sin, they had moved further from God and He had allowed other nations to come against them. However, it is clear from the beginning that God is not angry with Israel as much as He loves them and wants them back in communion with Him.

He ends his prophecy revealing the heart of God who rejoices over the nation returning to Him with singing. Can you imagine the Lord so wonderfully thrilled to have His children home that He rejoices in song? The Lord spontaneously bursts out in song because He is filled with joy. This is not the heart of an angry God.

The sinful nature has separated us from the knowledge of who God is leaving us without a choice but to see God through our sinful perspective. We assume God must feel the same way we feel about our sin. However, the sinful nature is not working toward our redemption, but our total destruction. The sinful nature does not console us in sin with forgiveness but condemns us as horrible people encouraging us to give up on trying to be anything but a nasty human being.

Stop looking at God through the eyes of your own sin. He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture. We see the love of God and the joy when those who have sinned horribly against Him repent and come home.

Other people will also see our sin through their eyes and if our sin hurt them, they may respond in the sinful nature, even if they are a professing Christian. It’s easy to do. But they are not God and God is not them. God will not rub it in your face, chastise you, embarrass you, or do anything but celebrate your return to Him.

If you have sinned today, there is no need for fear. God has not come to judge or condemn, only to love, forgive, and rescue us from our sin.

Prayer: Lord, help me never to project our viewpoint to your character. Instead, let us block out any thoughts of who You are that do not align with Your Word. Amen.

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

Mercy Not Law

Mercy not law.

Psalms 33:12 (NIV)
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

 

Israel was established as a theocracy, a nation built on the faithfulness of God. And blessed they were, yet in the end, they fell away. The laws of the nation did reflect the laws of God, but by the time Jesus came around, the religious leaders were more concerned with enforcing the law than loving the people.

A nation must choose to make the Lord their God. Though this can result in laws reflecting the Biblical morality, if enforcing laws of morality outweigh love for people, the nation is not following Christ.

When Christ came, He was despised by the religious leaders because He loved people more than He loved the law. He did the unthinkable by healing on the Sabbath and touching the unclean.

As followers of Christ, we must do our best to follow the Biblical principles of faith to see the abundant life God has for us. And should our focus turn to imposing God’s way on anyone, we forfeit the blessings.

As a nation, when our desire for Biblical law overshadows the love for neighbor, we will not be a nation after God’s heart, but a nation operating in the pharisaical heart. Judgment not mercy will be our motto. Condemnation not forgiveness will be our banner. These do not reflect a Godly nation.

To love God is to love our neighbor, to love the least of these. Christ came and sent the Holy Spirit to influence by love, not force by law. Devotion is never the product of coercion. Whether we are speaking of the nation or our own home. Love is the key to a nation choosing God. If only we invested as much passion into loving our neighbor as we do in political discussion, we might actually become a nation whose heart is set on Go.

And if in our daily walk, love and mercy were our method more than harshness and condescension, we might live a life after God’s own heart. Then we will see sinners turn back to Him, families restored, and a nation blessed.

Prayer: Lord, help me to live a life of mercy not law. Amen.

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

From Loneliness to Intimacy

From loneliness to intimacy.

John 14:1-2 (NIV)

​1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

 

In Biblical times, when a man wanted to marry a woman, he first had to give some kind of monetary gift to the family. In essence, he would redeem the woman for himself. At this point, they used a word we don’t hear much anymore. They were betrothed. This means they were legally married, but not allowed to be together or to consummate the marriage. Instead, the husband was tasked with going back to his father’s house to build a place for him and his future bride.

During the betrothal time which could last for years, adultery was not uncommon. The desire and anticipation of being together combined with such a long period of absence would easily lead to unfaithfulness.

Jesus uses these words to comfort His disciples who are about to struggle with this same kind of loneliness when He is gone.

God is letting us know there are going to be many times when our Beloved Savior is absent or so it will seem. We will go through dark days as if we are by ourselves. We will wonder where our God is? We will cry out and hear no response. a sense of abandonment might overwhelm us.

We cannot trust what we feel. Our own heart is deceptive beyond cure. We may feel abandoned, but the truth is that He is preparing our future. He is working for our good. His faithfulness does not waver. And His command to us is this, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

How can we keep our hearts, our emotions, in check when we go through the valleys of loneliness?

In the end, either my love for the Lord will remain faithful or my desire to alleviate the struggle will lead me to adulterous acts with illicitus sin. Its in these times we must remember the reference to the wedding gift. Would the lover of our soul give such a gift only to abandon us? This season will not endure and when we come to a new season of intimacy, will He have found us faithful?

We must learn to place our affection on Him so that our hearts will grow stronger in love as we yearn for His return. Soon enough, the feelings of abandonment will give way to our abandonment to Him in worship. We will realize that He was working for our good the whole time. Then we will move from loneliness to intimacy.

Prayer, Lord, help me to set my affection on You when I feel the most alone. Amen.

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

To be Noble is Rare

To be noble is rare.

Proverbs 31:10

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies. (NIV)

 

To be noble is to be free. The Bible says a noble man makes noble plans. A free man makes plans that are virtuous. They plan to do good things for those around them. They set out each day to be a blessing not wondering suspiciously who will bless them. But virtue goes so much deeper.

The depth of this word noble also translated virtuous that is used to describe an illusive wife has much depth. Not only is it a desire to do good, but the word insinuates a willingness to writhe in pain to do good for others. It is not unusual to find someone who will do a good thing, but only when it is easy. It is rare to find a man or woman ready to suffer within to do good for the others in life.

When we realize the pain inflicted upon this person more often than not is coming from those they are trying to do good for. It is a strange world that we are so quick to decline what is good and those who wish to give it for that which will run us into the ground. There is a way that seems good to us and we go after it, but it ends in destruction. A virtuous person is willingly to keep giving even as they are rejected for the hope that one day those they love will accept the gifts they bring.

This is to be like Christ. He came in absolute goodness, but we esteemed Him not. Yet, He did not return to Heaven defeated but poured out His life for us anyway in the hope that one day we might accept His gift. No wonder this proverb warns us that this type of person is hard to find.

This is who we should aspire to be. The proverb draws out the beauty of this person in the context of marriage. Marriage is a place where few are willing to suffer for the good of their spouse. Retaliation and condemnation are common. Holding our tongue, going the extra mile, writhing in pain to let them know we love them at their worst is uncommon.

What kind of spouse do you want to be?

 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be a spouse worth more than rubies. Give me a love willing to suffer when necessary to open their heart to mine. Amen.

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

Be Kind and Compassionate

Be kind and compassionate.

Ephesians 4:32

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

 

We live in a world where the minimum is acceptable. Unless we are getting paid for it, the minimum is acceptable. To be kind to another could be as simple as general etiquette, politeness. However, the root meaning of the word means to ‘be useful’ to another. 

 

The Lord has not called us to be polite though even politeness has gone the way of the typewriter. We are servants of the Most High God assigned to serve those around us. 

 

In one of the most beautiful moments of Scripture, the King of Glory pushed back away from the dinner table, removed his outer clothing, put a towel around his waist, got on his knees, and washed the dirty feet of the disciples. This is the kindness we are called to. This is Godly politeness. To be useful is to help another wash away the filth of this world from the hearts of others. 

 

Jesus’ kindness coalesced with His compassion. In our vernacular, the word ‘passion’ has melded into romance. There is a deeper meaning when we see this word used in reference to the crucifixion called the Passion of Christ. Passion is a willingness to suffer for another out of love. Jesus suffered his reputation, humbling Himself to the feet of His disciples, then His body to the cross at Calvary for His creation. This is passion

 

Compassion is that passion that erupts from within because we identify with the suffering of others. Christ lived as a man for this very reason. He experienced our life, our pain, our struggle to expand the depth of His love as if that were possible. If we want to have a Christ-like kindness for others, we must remember they have their own pain. Perhaps, we know it, perhaps not. But the one thing every soul has in common is the pain and suffering of life.

 

When we see others, regardless of their facial expression, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the color of their skin, the dialect of their speech, we are united in suffering. Out of our own pain, understanding they have their own, comes a compassion that moves us to servanthood. To judge others or to assume our pain is unique robs us of the privilege of serving others.

 

Prayer: Lord, never let me let the exterior appearance blind me to other’s pain that I might be a compassionate servant as You are to me. Amen.

 

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

Dealing with Drama

Dealing with drama.

Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

 

It’s important to note the Scripture in another place says that a wise man overlooks an offense. Wisdom is not wholly contained in confrontation. Sometimes, it means just letting things go. To call out people for everything they do wrong, even if our intentions are good, will only produce feelings of being judged in them. Pointing out sin too quickly ruins our witness and does not reflect the love of Christ.

At the same time, drama is destructive even to the one causing it. To always let things go is not loving. There are times when people need confrontation. Jesus confronted the rich, young ruler. He confronted the woman at the well. He confronted Peter. Each was confronted differently. Jesus’ response to each was different. Zacchaeus offered to give back half of his possessions to the poor, but Jesus’ demand of the rich, young ruler was to give all of his money away. Confrontation looks different in each situation.

So when should you deal with destructive drama in others?

The key is our confrontation must be motivated not by our own personal offense, but out of our love for the other person whose behavior is ruining their own life. It’s not just that what they did was hurtful and harmful to us or those we love. Our motive must be to see them find a better way for themselves. If our motivation is our own self-protection, our heart is not in the right place to confront anyone. First, we must have the spirit of Christ who said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Once we have moved our heart into a place of love for them, we are ready. If we find ourselves pointing out everything someone is doing wrong, more than likely, our heart is not in the right place. We are in self-protection mode either to keep them from hurting us directly or to keep them from hurting our reputation because we somehow have attached their behavior to what people think about us.

Dealing with drama, confronting sin must be an act of selfless love. If we are not there yet, it is wise to overlook the offense.

 

Prayer: Lord, I ask Your Holy Spirit to give me the heart and wisdom to know when and how to confront others and when to let it go. Amen.

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

Graceful Conversation

Graceful conversation.

 

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. Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV)

 

More and more Christians walk with targets on their back. Evangelicals in particular have been labeled as mean-spirited and hateful. There is a spiritual war going on as the world moves more secular in its religious disposition. This is on top of the not-so-Christlike behavior of those who have taken the name of Christ. Never before is there a need for Christlike discourse.

Paul reminds us that our conversation should always be full of grace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. The gifts of God dispersed to all peoples whether they have lived a life worthy or not. And let’s face it. None of us have lived a life worthy yet the Lord has lavished His love and goodness upon us. Our conversation when dialogue becomes strained must be graceful.

However, the Biblical concept of grace is more than the goodness of God. It is also the power of God. We are saved by His grace. It is a kindness that carries with it great power. When we form our words in grace, the Spirit of Living Water flows through us with power to effect change. Grace will change situations. It will change relationships. It will change hearts.

Often, in difficult situations, we have a knee-jerk reaction to become defensive or to shut down emotionally. This response is self-protective. We must let God be our Protector as we position ourselves as His ambassador.

The amazing grace of God will accomplish what we cannot. To resist self-protection to love those who may be trying our patience will release the power of God not only to effect their heart, but in the process, the Lord will also protect us, embolden us, and anoint us with power to not shrink back.

I want to throw this last little thing in for today though it is not little. Paul says then we will know how to answer everyone. You will see the key here is not what you say, but how you say it. You don’t have to know the right thing to say. You only need to have the right spirit. When our heart has the right attitude, it will overflow with the right words to accomplish God’s will in that moment.

To be graceful in speech, we must trust the Lord with our safety, our reputation, and our fear. But He will be faithful. And what miracles might He do through you when you choose graceful conversation.

 

Lord, help me in every difficult conversation to let Your Spirit guide my heart that I might choose graceful conversation. Amen.

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

The Next Step to God’s Plan for Your Life

The next step to God’s plan for your life.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

 

God has a plan for your life. We know through the prophet of Jeremiah that God has a plan for each and every one of us. He has good works set aside for us to do. These have been ordained for us since before we were born. His plan is hope and prosperity throughout our future. Scripture reminds us that the pathway of the righteous is like the dawning of the sun unto the high point of the day at midday. God’s plan for our life is ever-increasing.

 

We can’t mistake this to mean that God’s plan will be easy. We can’t be fooled into thinking that when things are nice and easy that we are in the center of God’s will or that when things are tough, we have gone astray. Within this good, pleasing, and perfect will God has for us are trials and tribulations. Jesus promised us this much. They will happen all the way until we go Home or Jesus comes back.

 

The question is how do we find God’s will for our life. That is the entire premise of my first book: Prepare for Greater Things. It is not something easy to discover, but God teaches us principles to live by that help us find our next step.

 

The passage today is one of those steps. If you want to find God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will for your life; if you want to flourish in the here and now, if you want to have peace beyond comprehension, joy indescribable, and love that endures, you must…choose to be joyful in all circumstances. You must learn to walk in the communion of the Spirit each day. You must have a thankful spirit all the time.

 

Without these, your next step toward God’s will for your life will be a misstep in the wrong direction. Of course, the hard part is that these are essential to finding God’s plan even with all the trials and tribulations. Anyone can be joyful when everything is good, but to keep moving toward God’s plan, we must do these things when it is hard.

 

Biblically, we must take captive our thoughts and reframe them from an eternal perspective realizing that at times, the Lord will know what troubles we need to face to press us into greater love, greater faith, and greater obedience as the next step. This reframing can help us rejoice, pray, and be thankful.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me reframe my moment for joy, communion, and gratefulness that I might find Your will for my life. Amen.

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Daily Devotion and Scripture

Powerful and Effective Prayer

Powerful and effective prayer.

James 5:16
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (NIV)

 

By faith we receive the righteousness of God, but this is imputed righteousness. A person can still be full of sin, but having received salvation by faith, God attributes to Him the righteousness of Christ but he is anything but righteous. This credit of righteousness we receive allows us to receive the Holy Spirit who then begins to refine our spirit giving us the power and desire to please God. Someone who lives a life that is pleasing to God is a righteous man or woman.

 

To be righteous, a person must have a great deal of faith. Obedience comes from faith. We obey the Lord because we trust Him and have faith that what He has decreed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit will lead us to the best life. A righteous person’s faith causes them to obey the commands of God even if they are hard, confusing, or seemingly wrong. There is great faith in righteousness.

 

The fact that God allows Himself to be moved more powerfully by a righteous man makes it clear that He sees deep into our hearts. God hears the words of our prayers, but more importantly, He sees the level of faith in our hearts.

 

We know the right words to say and to pray in front of the right people. We can even fool ourselves. But God’s view of our hearts and our level of faith is unimpeded.

 

This could be intimidating, or it could bring relief. There is no reason to hide who we are from God. He knows. It is only when we can be honest with God about who we are that we will maintain a sincere spirit of confession. Confession is an act of faith trusting God will forgive. This faith cleanses sin from our souls

 

Purity of heart comes from the power of God working in us through confession, love, and forgiveness. This same power can be redirected in a powerful and effective way for the healing of others. Let’s confess our sin trusting God to forgive, allowing Him to cleanse us with His power so that our prayer might be powerful and effective.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me to remember my spiritual poverty and confess my sins so that You may cover them in grace and so my prayers will be powerful and effective.  Amen.

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