Category Archives: Devotional

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

TheWheelObedience is where the rubber meets the road in the Christian life. The Wheel Illustration was a tool a friend used to help me grow in my faith. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it is a simple way to help someone solidify the basics in the Christian life, identifying two verses with six topics that are must for believers. It’s the start of the Navigators Topical Memory System. Jesus is the Center of the Wheel. Fellowship, Witnessing, The Word of God, and Prayer are the spokes. But where the rubber meets the road is OBEDIENCE. It’s not enough just to know truth about Christianity. Putting it into practice through obedience is where the Christian life takes off. This is what I found out as I grew in my faith as a young believer. I struggled to make sense of church, as many do. But when I combined what I was learning, with active doing, the lights began to come on.

Now, we don’t obey, so that we can be accepted by God. We’re accepted by God, because of Jesus’ work on the cross. We also don’t obey and work in our own power. We’re empowered by a resurrected and ascended Christ, who has sent His Spirit to be present with us as we follow him. The work of Christ and the power of Christ is promised to us when we believe and are experienced in full as we obey.

Your obedience to God puts you on the road to spiritual maturity, fruitfulness, and a growing faith in God’s power. Disobedience is a ditch, a flat tire, a dead end for spiritual growth.

What command of Christ have you neglected in your Christian life? Have you been fully obedient to everything Christ has asked you to do? If you had to describe the wheels of your Christian life, what would they be like? In need of repair? Ready to for the road?

Faith – Fellowship – Fruit

Three things God desires for each of us. Three things every disciple must pursue.

1. Faith. When Jesus was asked what work needed to be done to be acceptable to God, he answered: “This is the work of God–that you believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). Faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ in his incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection, saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) and makes us right with God (Romans 4:25). Have I placed my FAITH in God’s provision of eternal life through Jesus Christ? Who have I shared my FAITH with recently? Does your faith extend to giving to God?

2. Fellowship. One of the big WHY’s of Christ’s sacrifice is that God wanted a relationship and fellowship with us. He desired the fellowship of Adam and Eve in the garden restored. He wanted the relationship broken by sin reconciled (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). We carry on the relationship with God through prayer and devotion (Matthew 6:6). How is my FELLOWSHIP with God? How is my life of devotion with God? Am I spending time with God in prayer? Am I spending time in His Word, the Bible? Am I experiencing the peace and joy of His presence?

3. Fruit. Our Faith in and Fellowship with the Lord will produce fruit. The fruit of Godly character (see Galatians 5:22-24) and the fruit of people reached and disciples made (Matthew 28:18-20). Every person should expect fruit. Fruit is not automatic. It does require some labor on our part (Colossians 1:28-29). Jesus asked us to pray for more laborers, assuming we are laboring ourselves. What fruit do I have to offer God? Have I noticed a change in character? Who am I discipling? Who am I praying for the opportunity to share with? “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples” John 15:8.

Faith. Fellowship. Fruit. God desires for each of us the discover the blessings of salvation by Faith, the joy of Fellowship with Him, and the reward of producing Fruit for His glory. How are you pursuing Faith, Fellowship, and Fruit-bearing in your life today?

The Resurrection was Just the Beginning!

A neat, often untold part of Jesus’ resurrection story is its festival. We know about Passover festival’s relation to the crucifixion of Christ, but there was also a festival happening on the day of the resurrection. It was called the Festival of Firstfruits. On the first day after the Passover Sabbath, which would have been Sunday, every Jewish male would be bringing a sheaf of barley to the temple. That barley would be offered to God, whose acceptance of the offering was a pledge for a greater harvest to come. Fifty days later, the Jewish people would celebrate the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost to celebrate that greater harvest of wheat that God provided.

Seeing any parallels?

Paul helps us out in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23:

“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

Christ resurrection, among many other provisions, serves as a pledge of a greater harvest to come. A harvest of people who are dead in sin, but will be made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Fifty days after the resurrection, during the Festival of Pentecost, Jesus had ascended, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, and 3,000 were added to the kingdom (see Acts 2). A truly greater harvest.

So What? A few takeaways:

  • The resurrection was just the beginning! The resurrection of Christ is God’s pledge to bring a harvest from our lives as believers. The life of Christ within us is power to produce fruit for God. The fruit of godly character and a harvest of disciples made. What is my life producing?
  • The harvest doesn’t come without laborers and labor. Fields still have to cultivated, seeds still have to be planted, weeds must be dealt with. He pledges resurrection power to us. We should pledge to work the fields and to do our part to assure a harvest of disciples made for him. What am I doing to prepare for a harvest?

Fifty Days Until Harvest

What will you have to offer God? How many could God add to your church if you, in dependence on Christ, allowed him to use you for a harvest? Get started:

  • Ask God everyday to make you fruitful.
  • Prepare the fields through identifying who you can reach.
  • Plant seeds by sharing the gospel in every way you can.
  • Get equipped HERE.

Lord, Thank You for Remembering Me

On Friday of Holy Week, Jesus was unjustly convicted, mocked, humiliated, tortured, and crucified. While on the cross, he spoke seven times and each of these statements are a significant part of the story of Jesus and his life lived and given for us. The saying that fascinates me the most, is Jesus’ interaction with the two criminals crucified with him.

Luke tells us (23:39-43), that one mimicked the mockery of the crowd – “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (v. 39). His response to Jesus drips with mockery, unbelief, and entitlement. I’ve responded to God like this at times. “I don’t deserve this.” When I did. “Aren’t you God? Why don’t you do something?” When he had given me opportunity and direction.

The other criminal though, responded with humility, faith, honesty, and brokenness. He confessed his guilt and professed his belief in Jesus’ innocence – “we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41). He then in faith and humility, sought grace – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42).

When grace from God is sought with humility, faith, honesty, and brokenness, it will be given. 

Jesus extended his grace and gift of salvation to this guilty criminal – Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The simple prayer of the criminal was answered.

The promise to the criminal is for anyone who believes with humility and faith. Anyone can gain paradise, a place in Christ’s kingdom for all eternity, by trusting Jesus. In his death, Jesus demonstrated that He remembered us. In his death, he was busting wide open the doors to paradise, to eternal life, to relationship with God, to God’s Kingdom. In his death, he remembered our sin, our separation from God, our brokenness, our eternal destiny. He remembered. We’re not entitled to it. We can’t demand it. It’s given as a free gift to the humble, believing sinner.

A few good, Good Friday questions:

  • Have I acknowledged my guilt?
  • Have I professed my belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ?
  • Have I sought grace from God in humility and brokenness?
  • Is Jesus’ promise mine?  “you will be with me in paradise.”
  • Who do I know that needs to hear this story today?

Lord, thank you for remembering me. When I was lost in sin, you made a way for me to know you. Thank you for the gift of grace and salvation. Thank you for the promise of eternal life. Thank you for seeking and saving the lost. 

 

Lord, Help Me Stay Awake

On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples and then retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane with his inner circle to pray. The disciples were pretty much in the dark on what would unfold in the coming hours and days. They had no idea that Jesus would soon be arrested, beaten, crucified, and buried. Jesus shared with Peter, James, and John his deep grief and soul travail that he was experiencing over the price he would pay the next day, asking them to “stay awake” with him. However, they went to sleep (see Matthew 26:38-40). He ask them again to “stay awake and pray” (v. 41), but again they fell asleep. A third time, he came back and “found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open” (v. 43).

I can’t help but think, if the disciples had understood the urgency of the moment, they would have been awake, alert, watchful, attentive, and vigilant. These are some of the meanings of this word translated “watch” or “stay awake.” Because of their spiritual blindness, the disciples lacked the urgency to obey Jesus.

I too have been a sleeping disciple. I’ve too often been inattentive to Christ’s commands and unmotivated by the urgency of obedience to Jesus and the needs of the world. Busyness, laziness, worldly desires have often lulled me to sleep and kept me from pursuing what is most important.

What did it take to awake the disciples? The were awakened by the passion of the Christ. The next 24 hours would be the most difficult and painful hours of their lives. The one they had left everything to follow would be betrayed by one of their own, falsely condemned, humiliated, tortured, crucified, and buried. Now they were awake! And in the coming days and months, they would awaken to the full plan and purpose of God as they experienced a risen Christ, the forgiveness of their sins, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the urgency of spreading the news to the world.

This story, the person and work of Christ, and his purpose for our lives should be enough to wake us up and make us alert. Being awake means we are prayerful, pursuing God, watching for opportunities to obey, on the lookout for God at work around us, ready to tell the story and display his grace in the lives of others.

“Stay awake” became a regular part of the vocabulary of the early disciples (see 1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 16:15). It should also be a regular part of our personal examination of our lives.

  • Am I ready to obey Jesus?
  • Am I looking for opportunities to share and show the Gospel?
  • Am I devoted to prayer? keeping up my spiritual disciplines?
  • Am I awake to the temptations around me? and the adversaries prowling?
  • What is it in my life that tends to lull me to sleep and keep me from obeying the Lord?

Lord, help me stay awake. I want to be alert, attentive, watchful in regard to your desires. Awaken me to your passion, displayed by your death on the cross. Awaken me to your power, displayed in your resurrection from the grave. Awaken me to the needs of the world around me and the eternal destiny each one faces. Let me not be too busy, too lazy, too worldly to understand and follow your will.  

Lord, Help Me Close the Door on the Devil

On Wednesday of Holy Week, Judas set in motion his plan to betray Jesus. At dinner in Bethany, a woman broke an expensive bottle of perfume and used it to anoint Jesus (Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8). Judas protested, that it could have been used to care for the poor. Jesus defended the woman, spurning Judas’ opinion. The next scene has Judas making his offer to the religious leaders who wanted Jesus arrested and questioned. The arrangement was made and Judas began looking for the right opportunity to betray Jesus.

What do we know about Judas? A few things:

  1. He was called by Jesus and he obeyed and followed. None of Jesus’ disciples were perfect. Studying what we know of them, we find flaws, just as we can find flaws in ourselves and probably everyone at our church. Jesus is not looking for perfect, but available. Judas had been called and he obeyed and followed Jesus.
  2. He was not suspected to be dishonest. No one knew who the betrayer was. Judas always has a crooked nose and evil grin in my minds pictures. However, Judas kept the money bag, so he was trusted by the disciples and by Jesus, though evil intent was found in his heart in hindsight.
  3. The gospel writers paint him with hindsight as a thief, stingy, greedy, and glory seeking. And he probably was, but no one suspected it or accused him of such before his kiss of betrayal.

What happened to Judas?

Some commentators point to the stern correction that Jesus gave to Judas after the perfume was spilled as a significant moment in his life. Correction can be for us an opportunity to grow wise or an opportunity to grow bitter (see Proverbs 10:17; 15:10). This event may have been a tipping point for Judas’ heart. His pride and bitterness opened the door for the devil. That’s what anger and bitterness can do. Paul in speaking of anger, says to not hold onto it “and don’t give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Could it be that Satan can take the opportunity of a slight, our anger at someone’s word or actions, or our hurt pride at a spurned idea to make a betrayer out of us? 

Luke says that Satan entered Judas (Luke 22:3). John says that “the devil…PUT INTO the heart of Judas…to betray” (John 13:2). The Greek word translated “put into” is the word for thrust or cast or throw. This image should remind us of the armor of God and the shield of faith that help us “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

It’s easy to read the story of Judas and think, “I’d never do that.” Or to think of all those wicked, crooked nosed betrayers out there. Or to think of someone that has betrayed us or those we love. But the story of Judas should cause us to ask, “Is the seed of betrayal alive in me?” or “Am I opening the door for the devil?” You might find the seed or the opened door in your relational pain. Have you held on to a grievance when someone offended you? Are you holding someone else responsible for your unheeded ideas or unmet needs? Have you harbored anger at someone for longer than a few days without letting it go? Let’s remember Judas and close the door on the devil by forgiving, receiving correction with humility, putting faith in Jesus, and remaining faithful followers. 

Lord, help me close the door on the devil. If the seed of betrayal lives in me, convict me that I may forgive and follow you. Thank you for providing the shield of faith that can keep us safe from Satan’s arrows. I want to be a faithful follower and friend until death. Protect me from anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.     

Lord, Cleanse My Cup

On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus traveled from Bethany to Jerusalem, spending time in the Temple teaching. He also was engaged by the religious leaders who wanted to trap him and discredit him. His dialogue with them led to a harsh admonishment of their hypocrisy (see Matthew 23) capped off with the accusation – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25.

There are two ways to read this:

1. “Yea! Get’em Jesus!” There is a temptation to see this through the lens of Jesus giving it to all those mean, religious people out there somewhere.

or

2. “Lord, cleanse my cup.” The better response is to use this as an examination of our own hearts. Are any of these characteristics of hypocrisy alive in me?

Examine Yourself

Here is a personal list of questions and prayers using Jesus’ admonitions against the religious leader, as a means of personal self-examination. Let’s examine and rid ourselves of the hypocrisy that Jesus decried during Holy Week:

  • They don’t practice what they teach (v. 3). Is my life consistent with my words and my profession of faith? 
  • They burden people rather than bless people (v. 4). Do I give grace or guilt in my relationships with others?  
  • They do things to be noticed by others, not to be obedient to God (v. 5-7). Who is the intended audience of my life? Am I thinking through actions with God or others in mind? 
  • They love personal recognition more than glory for God (v. 8-12). Does my title, place, or position matter more to me than the glory God receives?
  • They believe themselves to be front doors to the kingdom, rather than servants leading and pointing the way to it. (v. 13). Do I project a place of servant-hood or superiority in sharing the gospel? 
  • They convert people to religion and not to the kingdom of God (v. 15). Am I making more church people or am I making disciples of Jesus?  
  • They emphasize the minor and inconsequential while overlooking the important and necessary (v. 16-24). Does my preferences and cultural lenses color how I see people’s actions? Am I concerned first with the weighty matters of the heart, instead of the outward appearances?  
  • They make a great show on the outside, but the inside – the heart – is a mess in God’s sight (v. 25-28). Am I more concerned with how things look on the outside, than how things are on the inside?

Praying for God to rid my life of hypocrisy:

Lord, let my life and my words be consistent.

Lord, help me lead with grace, not guilt in all my relationships.

Lord, you are the only audience that matters. I want to be obedient. I’ll trust you to show others what you want them to see in my life.

Lord, to your name be the glory. Let the desire for title and position be far from my heart.

Lord, the Kingdom is yours. You’ve opened the way through your Son. It’s your kingdom to fill. Help me always remember that I’m a simple servant, pointing everyone, everywhere to your way.

Lord, let me not aim to make church people, but to make disciples of Jesus as you have commanded.

Lord, help me to be consistent. Don’t let my personal preferences or cultural lenses be more important than your heart and desires for people.

Lord, cleanse my cup. I want that part that only you can see to be clean and beautiful. Only you can do this work. Do it in me.

Amen

Lord, Cleanse Our Outer Courts

On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus entered the temple and in anger, drove out the merchants who were selling and trading, making profit on Passover necessities (see Matthew 21:12-16; Mark 12:15-19; Luke 19:45-47). This was most likely from the area of the temple known as the outer courts, where non-Jews could enter the Temple and seek God for themselves. What caused Jesus such righteous anger? There were plenty of places to buy and sell, but the people chose the temple for this, showing both a lack of reverence for God AND a lack of concern for outsiders that might seek Him. With the world at the doorsteps, God’s people were more concerned with buying and selling. They had lost the Father’s heart for the outsider and His vision of them being a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 60:3). Jesus’ teaching had emphasized the Father’s heart in this regard (see Luke 15) and now he was backing up his words with a demonstration of anger at their sinful disregard.

We would do well to remember this scene as we examine our hearts, homes, and churches today. Do we have a place for outsiders? When those far from God see us, do they see the gracious and compassionate God of love and mercy? Is our primary focus seeking and saving the lost and being a light to the nations? Do we have the Father’s heart for the world? What would Jesus need to drive out and overturn from our hearts,  homes, and churches to restore the place of outreach and witness? What would Jesus need to drive out and overturn in my life, so that I could rightly prioritize the lost and broken?

Lord, give us your heart for the outsider. Let us be a faithful witness to your grace and mercy. Cleanse our outer courts, so that nothing we do or say will distract the world from their need and your provision of redemption and eternal life in Jesus Christ.      

 

Covid-19 as an Acts 8 Moment for the Church

In Acts 1:8, Jesus told the disciples to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world. But as you read the next 7 chapters, you don’t see that happening with great fervency. The disciples seem to be taking their time with developing the Acts 1:8 strategy, while enjoying the big crowd and the miracles in the temple courts. In Acts 8:1, it says that persecution broke out against the church and in Acts 8:4, the believers scattered to Judea, Samaria, and the world, taking the message of the Gospel with them – “the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.” God always wanted the message and the people dispersed and scattered. Persecution was the scattering agent that led to exponential growth. 

Today, church attendance is at an all-time low. I read recently that church attendance declined in every county in the United States in 2018. The fastest growing religious affiliation is the non-affiliated. Among Louisiana Baptist churches, baptisms dipped another 20% in 2019. Worship attendance was down another 6% in 2019. Methods and strategies that worked a few years ago are no longer as effective at reaching people and growing our churches.

Could Covid-19 serve as a 21st century scattering agent? And how do we utilize this opportunity for exponential kingdom growth? 

Yes. Let’s prepare Online Services, Online Giving, Streaming opportunities. But, let’s also think about Online Training for having Gospel Conversations, leading home Bible Studies, house worship, and impacting neighbors for Christ during this crisis. How can we assure that “the believers who were scattered during the Covid-19 outbreak of 2020, preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.” Acts 8:4.

 

A Bridge – An Airport – A Greenhouse

Three of my favorite metaphors for church. They each represent a connection point and not a destination. If you are on a Bridge, you are on your way to somewhere else. If you’re in an airport, you are on your way to somewhere else. If a plant is in a Greenhouse, it has not reached its final destination. No matter how much we decorate and dress these up, they will never be final destinations for people or plants. They serve major purposes. Bridges help us cross boundaries. Airports are places to refuel and launch to other places. Greenhouses are places of growth and development. But they are not the final destination.

Like these, the church should be the connection point for disciples heading out into the world. The church helps us cross boundaries, refuel, grow and develop. But the pew should not become the final destination.

Do we talk about church as the destination or the connection point? Do we count Sunday attendance and Bible knowledge or 24/7 servanthood and obedience as the height of maturity? Are we connecting missionaries to the world or providing entertainment and services for consumers in our churches? Where we place the destination and the goal for people matters.

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