Category Archives: Devotional
In 2003, a devastating earthquake struck Iran that killed over 26,000 people and injured 30,000 others. But in the midst of despair, one story gave people hope. Cradled in her dead mother’s arms, surrounded by the crumbled remnant of a collapsed building, a baby girl was found alive. The mother shielded six-month-old Nassim from the falling debris and saved her life. Rescuers found the girl 37 hours after the earthquake. A Red Crescent worker in Tehran reported it like this: “She is alive because of her mother’s embrace.”
What a beautiful picture of Christ substitution. Christ was “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). Those who take refuge in Jesus’ embrace are shielded from sin’s devastating impact and saved through His sacrifice.
Beyond this, Christ chose the punishment. It wasn’t a natural disaster like an earthquake that killed Jesus. When I deserved the crushing blows of judgment and condemnation, Jesus took my punishment and died in my place. He substituted Himself for me.
“In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.”– 2 Corinthians 5:21 (The Message)
The Christian life is meant to be lived out in relationships. Here are five key relationships for every Christ Follower:
Right Church | My On Mission Family that I pool my gifts, energy, and resources with for the expansion of God’s kingdom.
Small Group | My Circle of 8-12 friends that I grow with and care for on a regular basis.
Prayer Partner(s) | My smaller circle of 2-3 close friends that know my struggles and prayer needs
My Mentor / Spiritual Father(s) or Mother(s) | Someone ahead of me in the journey that I can learn from along the path of spiritual fruitfulness.
Mentee / Person(s) I am Discipling | Someone I’m ahead of in the journey that I can help along the path of spiritual fruitfulness
These relationships have been so key for me as a believer. Looking through this list, I see faces that make me smile. So many on mission friends that have shaped me at church, in small groups, close confidential prayer partners, spiritual fathers, and now people I get the privilege of helping to grow. Not sure where I’d be without these relationships.
If you’re missing out on one of these key relationships, ask God to direct you to or send you to the right church, a circle of friends, a prayer partner, a spiritual father, and/or someone to disciple today.
Relationships are the most important part of life. The ability or inability to get along with and influence people will determine our effectiveness at work, our fruitfulness in Christian service, and our legacy in our homes. So much is at stake. And we’re planting seeds through our relationships with the next generation. They are learning from us. God’s word has a great deal to say about relationships. At this point, I’ve found it better than any self-help book on the shelves. Our church is currently studying the book of James and we took some time to dig into what James says about relationships.
Three Roots of Great Relationships
A tree or plant is only as strong as its root system. And some roots are seen, but most are not. Great relationships are born out of something unseen by most. It’s the character traits that are in our hearts toward others. James points to three key roots that we must have to build and maintain great relationships:
1. INITIATIVE TAKING LOVE | “Love your neighbor as yourself” James 2:8; 15
This is a profound line from the Old Testament that Jesus commended, calling it the second greatest commandment. When we have needs, we work to have them met. When I’m hungry, I go find food. When I’m hurting, I go find meds. When I’m cold, I go find warmth. We take initiative to meet our own needs. Jesus taught that we should extend that to others we are in relationship with as well. The word for love is AGAPE, which is that initiative taking, self-sacrificing love that Jesus modeled for us in giving His life. He saw our great need and did what had to be done, to help us overcome our sin and death and separation from God. It’s a reminder that love INITIATES and SACRIFICES and FINDS A WAY to meet the needs of others.
One of the things I seldom hear truly on Mission Christians say is, “I would have helped but no one asked me.” To Be On Mission is to, out of love, be an initiator of ministry and service toward others.
2. COMPASSION AND MERCY | “Mercy triumphs over judgment” James 2:13
Why do we prioritize our own needs, loving ourselves? Because we feel them. They are dynamic and present. Having compassion and mercy means we feel the needs of others along with our own in a dynamic and present way. And Agape love leads us to react and serve and give and encourage.
But there is more to mercy than just a feeling. The definition: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Mercy means even when I know something about them or have something I can use against them or don’t really like them or have a right to hold a grudge against them, I still am willing to love them and show them grace. That’s what God, in Christ did for us, and that’s what he desires for us to extend to others.
3. WISDOM | “the gentleness that comes from wisdom” James 3:13
Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective. Relationships can entangle us in worldly, fleshly thinking like nothing else. That’s why anger, abuse, and division are so prevalent. When relationships get tough and dirty, we do too. However, if I could see God’s perspective, I could see the bigger picture, the possible solutions, the deeper reasons for the conflict and adjust my life to avoid the traffic jams and potholes of anger, abusive language, and division. And God’s perspective helps us know our place as well. We should approach all our relationships from a humble vantage point that says, “I’m flawed, you’re flawed. We all need mercy, grace, forgiveness. I might as well try to make life better and easier on people. We’re all in this together.”
Initiative Taking Love, Compassion and Mercy, Wisdom from Above. These three things applied to our relationships will bring about fruitfulness, effectiveness, and leave a legacy of peace.
Hear the audio of this study at Bridge Church HERE.
The book of James gives us some great truths about prayer.
- PRAYER WORKS! James 1:5
- Prayer works WHEN IT’S TRIED. James 4:2
- Prayer works when it’s tried WITH RIGHT MOTIVES. James 4:3
- Prayer works when done IN COMMUNITY. James 5:13-16
James also tells us about the power of prayer:
1. We can BE STRONG and ACCOMPLISH MORE through prayer. This is how the words “powerful in its effect” in James 5:16 can also be translated. Strength and accomplishment.
2. James puts one condition on prayers power: “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” James 5:16. To gain full advantage in prayer, one must be RIGHT with God. This points to the need of a RELATIONSHIP with God through Christ. This is how we gain RIGHTEOUSNESS (see 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:18). Goodness is the best we can do, but RIGHTEOUSNESS is needed to get to heaven and to know all the blessings of life IN CHRIST, including a powerful, strong prayer life.
3. Prayer Requires Intentionality, Commitment, and Faith. James gives an example of the power of prayer from the life of Elijah. Elijah’s prayer actually changed weather patterns (James 5:17-18)! It’s a lesson in the endless possibilities of dependence upon God. As Jesus said it, “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
James says that Elijah prayed fervently or earnestly. This word proseuche is rich with meaning. Here are some ways that its definition and usage can be applied:
- pros means near of toward – prayer brings nearness to God
- seuche means vow or commitment – prayer is bringing our hearts near or toward God. Prayer should bring with it a heart of surrender and sacrifice and a commitment that says we are serious about our relationship, dependence, and usefulness to God.
- proseuche also denoted a real place. The word was used by Jews who lived in a city without a synagogue to mark a place for prayer gatherings. It also was used to describe an altar where people brought gifts prior to prayer and worship. Of course Jesus, encouraged or commanded the use of a prayer closet (Matthew 6:6).
Is your heart RIGHT with God? Do you have a PLACE for prayer? Do you believe in prayers power? Are you ready to give your heart to God? Then get after it, and expect to experience the powerful effects of prayer!
Beyond black eyed peas and cabbage, what can you do this year to guarantee…
- An endless source of strength
- Productive, fruitful work and life
- Resilience when pressure builds
- Success and prosperity
These things are promised to the person who delights in God’s word (Psalm 1:2).
1 How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
2 Instead, HIS DELIGHT IS IN THE LORD’S INSTRUCTION,
and he meditates on it day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams (ENDLESS SOURCE OF STRENGTH)
that bears its fruit in its season (PRODUCTIVE, FRUITFUL WORK AND LIFE)
and whose leaf does not wither. (RESILIENCE WHEN PRESSURE BUILDS)
Whatever he does prospers. (SUCCESS AND PROSPERITY).
Psalm 1:1-3 CSB
Delight means to see it as pleasurable or have a desire for it. Spending time in God’s Word can make an impact in your life. Make a plan and experience the strength, fruitfulness, resilience, and success that only God’s wisdom can bring.
Wrapping up the 3rd Quarter of the Year this weekend. 92 more days of 2017! Good time to assess ourselves spiritually. A good 4th quarter will probably make those January resolutions a little easier. Ha!
Our church strategizes around Five Catalyst for Spiritual Growth. They are also good tools for assessing our spiritual lives. These came out of a personal investigation of things I’ve heard Spiritual Giants Say. Pray or journal through these questions.
2. Personal Devotional Habits – Am I spending time being fed and filled by Jesus through His Word and prayer? Take an on ramp to this catalyst HERE.
3. Engaging in Ministry – Am I using my gifts with radical generosity or holding on to / burying what God has given me? Christianity and Church only make sense through the lens of service.
4. Building Catalytic Relationships – Am I involved in any relationships that encourage, challenge, and hold me accountable? Why Bother with Relationships?
5. Experiencing God’s Providential Care – Am I depending on God and graciously receiving help from others as I experience trials? Are my eyes open to how I can be the body of Christ to others experiencing hardships?
God desires for you to grow. Spiritual growth is not automatic. These catalysts reflect the tools we have for spiritual growth. Praying that this fall you will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
Living On Mission is a lifestyle, not just an event. I overheard two great stories recently that impressed this truth on me once again.
“I’ll not charge you the impound fee on your car if you go to church with me this Sunday.”
A Tow Truck Driver said this to a young man who was drug addicted and being arrested. That young man went to church and began a journey toward Christ that now, years later, has him planting a new church in Louisiana.
Thank God for On Mission Tow Truck Drivers!
“I’m not worried about the van. Just glad you are ok.”
A small church worked hard and bought a brand new van. A drunk driver ran off the road, hit and totaled the van. The Pastor of the church approached the young driver with forgiveness, concern, and prayer. That started that young man on a journey toward Christ that now, years later, has him planting a new church in Louisiana.
Thank God for On Mission small church Pastors!
Generosity, Forgiveness, Concern, Prayerfulness, Inviting. These should all be rhythms of life for the on mission Christian. Small acts of obedience in the moment, may seem insignificant, BUT KEEP WATCHING! Years from now, they may turn into somebody saying, “It all started when…”
“I was all the time tugging and carrying water. But now I have a river that carries me.”
“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
Jesus, John 4:14 NLT – http://bible.com/116/jhn.4.14.nlt
- Constantly feeling the tension of the ropes reminds us of our great need for his strength.
- Finding ourselves thirsty, reminds us to give up on anything that promises refreshment.
- Spring up, O well within. Carry me.
We’re hearing a lot about FOMO these days or Fear Of Missing Out. Evidently Social Media is leading us to be consumed with what others are doing, instead of what we are doing. Studies show that up to 75% of young adults experience this. Oxford has even added this acronym to its English dictionary. Definition:
Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.
Evangelical Christians of old suffered from another form of this, but it actually has added benefit to your life and the life of others. Try FOOMO. Fear Of OTHERS Missing Out. Specifically, the fear of others missing out on the promises of God in Christ.
“I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood.” Romans 9:3
“because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people.” 2 Corinthians 5:11
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.” Colossians 1:28-2
What if we were consumed with the fear that friends, relatives, associates, neighbors were separated from God and it was up to us to help them bridge that gap. This is the anxiety that leads to obedience to God’s commission for our lives and the salvation and spiritual maturity of others.
Experts say FOMO is driven by what we give attention to. Giving too much attention to social media = mis-allocating attention. Let’s try giving more attention to the needs of others and especially their need to connect with Christ this week.
Turn off Social Media and get started by doing one of these this week:
- Invite a friend to church this weekend.
- Get to know a new neighbor.
- Spend focused time in prayer for your Friends, Relatives, Associates Neighbors to know God.
- Volunteer at local schools or neighborhood centers.
- Start a Bible Study or book club in your home and invite those who are far from God.
- Share your faith journey with someone over coffee or lunch.
- Give away a copy of the Bible or a book that’s helped you grow.
- Look for a project that you and your family could do to bless someone to need.
- Don’t go alone. Invite someone along that might could use a listening ear or time away from their routine today.
“through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus”
“those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ”
“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus”
Galatians 3:26-28 (CSB)
Relationship, so we’re loved and accepted.
Divine Presence, for when we need help that’s beyond ourselves.
Family, so that we’re never alone or abandoned
Thank you Father, for making us sons and daughters, for giving us the promise of your presence, and for making us part of your great family. Let us live that others may know you, feel your presence, and desire to become a part of your great kingdom.