Category Archives: Devotional
Good encouragement here from Tony Evans, for when the Family Devotion just seems like a lot of commotion. Parents, keep showing up!
There were times when our four kids would be acting up around the table while I was trying to lead devotions, and it would irritate me. They would be talking out of turn, or one would be pouting. It just seemed like a lot of commotion rather than devotion! I admit there were even times when I called it quits and told everyone to go to their rooms because they weren’t paying attention or they were being disrespectful. But more times than not, I stuck it out, and then, at a later point, I would be surprised how one child or another would bring up something I thought for sure no one had heard during the devotions at the table simply due to the noise. They were listening— even when it didn’t look like they were listening. Those were the moments God used to remind me to hang in there when I would want to walk away from the table early and call it a night. I would remember that it was my responsibility to train these children to the best of my ability— imperfectly but consistently. I was called to show up and do my part, leaving the hard work of getting the truth into their hearts to God.
Excerpted from Raising Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans
One of my all time favorite books that I try to read at least every other year or so is Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China in the mid to late 1800’s. The book is a biography written by his children that details his work establishing the China Inland Mission which is still in operation today.
What’s the secret? The secret lies in his deep devotional life and trust in God to provide as a rule of life. As he stated:
Drawing for every need temporal or spiritual, upon “the fathomless wealth of Christ.”
This of course influenced his view on debt and spending which he saw as contradictory to a life of faith in God to provide:
To borrow money implied to my mind a contradiction of Scripture – a confession that God had withheld some good thing, and a determination to get for ourselves what he had not given.
Debt is now being called a national disaster. So many start out their careers burdened with tens of thousands of dollars. We drive and possess much that we don’t completely own. The thought of living without or waiting on God is foreign to our generation. What if we trusted God to know and provide what we needed? Think about these questions:
- Are you burdened with debt? Maybe you need to get on a plan to get rid of it and began living in freedom. Our family has found Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace materials to be helpful in this regard.
- Do you feel a sense of entitlement to have that leads you to consider buying what you can’t afford? Try getting on a budget that allows you to live on what you actually make and set priorities for what you need and want. You might be surprised how richly God has blessed you and how satisfied you might be in Him, without a hunger for more stuff. Our family uses YNAB or You Need A Budget to track expenses and set our monthly budget. Also check out EveryDollar.com.
- Would you love to give and live generously, but you can’t because of things you have (too many debt payments) or things you want? God promises to provide for the sacrificial, regular, cheerful giver. God directs us to store up treasure in heaven, not on earth. Giving and living simply are great tools in this regard.
It takes discipline to try to live with generosity and without debt, credit cards, overspending today. But it’s worth it. Check out a few other Hudson Taylor quotes on money that challenge me to live simply and generously with complete faith in God:
- “My experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.”
- “We can afford to have as little as the Lord chooses to give.”
- “God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies.”
- Once when told the bank account was down to $.87 he said, “We have $.87 and all the promises of God.”
Jesus seemed to assume that prayer and fasting would be a part of the lives of his followers. He didn’t say “if” but “when.” With his assumptions we see again that spiritual disciplines were not just meant for the clergy, but for everyone. In January, our church typically participates in a 21-Day Prayer & Fasting plan. With that in mind, here’s some basics on fasting from a few of my favorite books on the subject of prayer.
From Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster:
- Fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. It’s not a hunger strike or a form of dieting. Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes.
- Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained.
- More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that controls us. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface.
- In Scripture the normal means of fasting involves abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water (Luke 4:2).
- Sometimes a partial fast is described. Like Daniel, “I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth” (Daniel 10:3).
Isaiah 58 is one of the best resources on fasting in the Bible. Tom Eliff in his great book, A Passion for Prayer shares an outline with us on improper and proper motivations for and the promised benefits of fasting:
Four Improper Reasons for Fasting:
- Fasting to get God’s attention (Isaiah 58:3a).
- Fasting w/o focusing on the Lord (Isaiah 58:3b).
- Fasting w/o humility of heart (Isaiah 58:4).
- Fasting for a brief external show of piety (Isaiah 58:5). Jesus spoke against this as well in Matthew 6:16-18.
Proper motivations for fasting (Isaiah 58:6-7):
- To bring spiritual liberation and freedom.
- To relieve heavy burdens.
- To increase our awareness of the needs of others.
God’s promised benefits for those who fast sincerely and seriously:
- Insight and understanding (v. 8)
- Physical well-being (v. 8)
- A deep sense of what is right (v.8)
- God’s presence to protect and provide (v. 8)
- A sense of immediate access to God (v. 9)
- Release from spiritual oppression (v. 10)
- Real-time guidance from God (v. 11)
- Satisfaction and joy during difficult times (v. 11)
- Increased strength to accomplish the Lord’s work (v. 11)
- Fruitfulness (v. 11)
- Recovering and restoring culture (v. 12)
- Rebuilding what was destroyed (v. 12)
Some Options for introducing fasting into your life:
As you consider fasting, before conducting an extended, lengthy complete or total fast from all food, consider your past health and conditioning and some of you may want to consult a doctor. Consider your work. If your work is rigorous then you need food for energy to give your best to your employer. A complete fast may not be for you at this point. Here are a few other options:
- One meal each day—The fast is not about only giving up food, but also includes praying during mealtime. Jesus said, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). It takes about an hour to prepare a meal or travel to a restaurant or get ready to eat. So this time is a perfect opportunity to pray. Those who work in hot exhausting jobs cannot fast completely because they need their strength and stamina for physical exertion. However, they can sacrifice one meal a day for the Lord.
- Two meals each day—Some people can pray for two hours each day, sacrificing two meals to the Lord.
- Eat only veggies—The Daniel Fast involves giving up meats, desserts and snacks, eating only the food that Daniel most likely ate. While the fast doesn’t give extra time to pray, it is a commitment of the heart that when joined with prayer, moves the heart of God.
- Give up television—Secular people might laugh at “fasting television” or “sacrificing television” but it is a commitment to God to place loyalty to Christ first above all else. This is a spiritual choice in response to Christ, who promises, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
- Give up sports—Giving up bowling league, golfing, fishing, jogging or other activity for a season (such as 40 days) to pray during that time is a choice. It places spiritual exercise above physical exercise.“Bodily exercise profits little, but godliness is profitable for all things” (1Timothy 4:8).
- Give up pleasure reading—Beyond what you must read for your work or preparing for teaching the Word of God, pleasure reading could be turned into prayer time. You could consider laying aside reading the daily newspaper too.
- Restrict mobile phone use and text messaging—While some of these communication devices are necessary, they are serious time robbers that could be placed aside for praying.
- Facebook and other social media—These activities can consume huge chunks of time. Part of a fast could be to cease social media and use the time for prayer and intercession.
- Other—There may be something that the Holy Spirit brings to mind that you could place aside for a season while you focus on more prayer.
The Daniel Food Fast
The Daniel Food Fast is a very healthy way to eat. So health professionals will support this eating plan but might suggest a few modifications if you have health issues that need special attention. For example, pregnant and nursing mothers might get instructions to add fish, chicken and cheese into the Daniel Food Fast but otherwise stay the course. Diabetics may need to add more carbohydrates or include chicken and fish. Also, those who are especially active either through sports, bodybuilding or vocation may need to slightly alter the eating plan. I encourage you to check with your doctor . . . and by the way, being addicted to Snickers and Coke don’t count as a special need!
What is the Daniel Food Fast?
The Daniel Food Fast is a biblically based partial fast. It is a method of fasting that men, women and young people all over the world are using as they enter into the spiritual discipline of prayer and fasting.
There are two anchoring scriptures for the Daniel Food Fast. In Daniel 1, the Prophet ate only vegetables (that would have included fruits) and drank only water. So from these scriptures we get two of the guidelines for the fast:
1. Only fruits and vegetables
2. Only water for a beverage
Then in Daniel 10, we read that the Prophet ate no meat nor any precious breads or foods and he drank no wine for 21 days. So from this scripture, we get a third guideline:
3. No sweeteners and no breads
Another important guideline is drawn from Jewish fasting principles, where no leaven is used during the fast. So that’s why yeast, baking powder and the like are not allowed on the Daniel Food Fast.
Other resources for your 21 Day’s of Prayer & Fasting:
The Christmas story says a lot about the nature of true worship. We can say that God sent Christ into the world so that we could have unfettered opportunity to worship Him. However, worship is misunderstood today as a place and time (“the Worship Service starts at…”) or an experience or element of a gathering (“the worship was great today”). We find a great definition of true worship in Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55.
Worship is humble surrender born out of knowledge of God.
Mary’s worship demonstrated three things:
1. Humility – “It’s not about me.”
Real Worship starts with the reality that life is about HIS value, and then wonder that I can be accepted, cared for, given to, by such an incredible God. Mary says, “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” Luke 1:46-47. Mary demonstrates for us that the proper attitude in worship and in life is, “It’s not about me. It’s about Him.” And “who me? I get to be part of this?”
2. Surrender – “Lord, my life is Yours.”
Mary was a true worshiper because her heart was surrendered. In Luke 1:38 she said, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.” In Luke 1:48, she again calls herself “His Servant.” The word here is literally bond-slave denoting one that has intentionally surrendered themselves to be in servitude to another. To surrender is to make your whole self available to God for whatever He desires. It’s to say to God, “Your way is best. I’m listening. I’m ready to respond with yes.” The opposite of surrender is to resist, to fight, to struggle, to run away, to make our way best and essentially ourselves god, which is idolatry. Mary’s worshiped with a heart that was without resistance.
3. Knowledge of God – “He has done great things for me, and holy is His name” Luke 1:49.
In this song, Mary shows us that she knows God’s word, has a deep understanding of God’s purposes, she knows His work in history, and that she’s internalized His promises to be for her and all that have led her to worship Him.
What has God done for you? How has God worked in your life? You can’t worship what you don’t know. Humility and surrender will open your life to know and experience God, which will lead you to a life of worshiping Him.
So, is life all about you? is there resistance in your heart when it comes to the will of God? can you point to God’s work in your life? If not, during this Christmas season, humble yourself, surrender your heart and will, and get to know His story. Worship Him.
Recently I got to sit down with Minister of Missions from ten different Louisiana churches, ranging in size from 75 to 1,800 attenders. The purpose of the meeting was to communicate with them a bit about church planting in our state, but I was really curious about what it would be like to get these missions leaders together and talking about their missions engagements around the world. I was not disappointed! Just these 10 churches reported:
- 15 new churches currently sponsored
- 26 overseas missions engagements in at least 12 different countries
- 4 national missions engagements
- 9 state missions engagements
- 9 local missions engagements
- 4 unreached people groups adopted
- 5 multi-site campus developments
And remember, this is just 10 churches!!! It speaks to me about the impact that Christ followers working through their churches can have on our world. We recently reported that Louisiana church based compassion ministries had given out 635 tons of food to people in need so far in 2016. And we can only track probably less than 1/3 of the churches doing this type of ministry in our state. If we could see the full impact of the tens of thousands of churches on our world, we would see THE THING that’s holding back darkness, famine, devastation from this earth. And we would see heaven being populated from every tribe and tongue. Take away the church and this world is a dark, dark place.
Thanking God today for His work through His people in our world.
A few highlights:
- First Baptist West Monroe has send out nine missionaries from their church over the past 10 years.
- Cedar Crest Baptist Church in West Monroe sponsors a national pastors conference for pastors in Bulgaria! They also paid to translate, print, & distribute Experiencing God in Bulgarian.
- First Baptist Hornbeck hosts a Youth Camp in the summers for Jr. High & High School students from all over their area.
- Istrouma Baptist in Baton Rouge hosts an English as a Second Language ministry (ESL) that includes people from six nations.
Hebrews 11 is called the Faith Hall of Fame, describing some of the great heroes of Old Testament faith and their walk with God. I love these 8 descriptors of their lives, picked out of Hebrews 11. They answer the question, “what does walking by faith look like?”
- “he went out, not knowing where he was going” – 8
- “He considered God to be able” – 19
- “they didn’t fear the King’s edict” – 23
- “chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin” – 25
- “his attention was on the reward” – 26
- “he persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible” – 27
- “as though they were on dry land” – 29
- “gained strength after being weak” – 34
This chapter and these descriptors remind me that the Christian life is about trusting God above anything else, believing in God when it seems irrational to do so, and placing hope not in today’s reward but the one to come.
These descriptors shaped into Questions for Reflection:
- Am I willing to take risk and be made uncomfortable because of what I believe about God?
- Do I believe God is able to do the impossible?
- Does the edicts and opinions of this world have more sway over me than God’s desires?
- Am I living for short term pleasure and comfort or for God’s best reward for faithfulness?
- Do I really believe the greater reward for the life of faith is to come? or am I expecting my reward today?
- Can I persevere though I can’t see the end? though I can’t hear God’s audible voice?
- Am I experiencing God’s power to do the impossible sometimes?
- Is my faith and belief in God’s power enough to give me strength when I’m weak?
How we see people is a good test of our heart for God and the Gospel. Do we see people as objects of His love and opportunities for us to show His love? Do we see their spiritual needs? Do we see potential or problems?
Gregg Matte in Unstoppable Gospel: Living Out the World-Changing Vision of Jesus’ First Followers, his great book on the book of Acts, gives three categories of people in our everyday lives and how we see them:
1. SCENERY. Passersby. Shoppers ahead of us in line. People in our way. People who are scenery are not really seen as souls in need of Christ.
2. MACHINERY. People that are necessary to us. Clerks, waitresses, attendants. We may see them as just nuts and bolts. The focus is on what we need from them, not who they are or what they need from us.
3. MINISTRY. No person should be just scenery or machinery. People are God’s creation whom He desires a relationship with. Every interactions should be seen as divinely appointed opportunities to minister to them and deliver the gospel to their thirsty souls.
How big are these categories in your life? How will you see the people you intersect with today?
- What if you didn’t hesitate?
- What if you lived with no regrets?
- What if you quit putting it off?
- What if you quit goofing off?
- What if you just WENT FOR IT?
- What if you forgot the odds and the limits and all the reason why you can’t?
- What’s the biggest obstacle between you and IT, i.e. what you know you should be doing?
- What’s keeping you from putting everything into life?
- What would IT be?
- What if you quit worrying about what might happen?
- What if you quit worrying about what others might think?
- What if you believed IT was possible?
- Make that call.
- Fill out that application.
- Set that appointment.
- Join that group.
- Download that plan.
- Quit that addiction.
- Change the attitude.
- Turn off that TV.
- Write that email.
JUST GO FOR IT!
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” Colossians 3:23.
Leadership Axiom: It’s not what you do today, it’s what you do everyday that makes a difference. And what we do everyday, over and over again shapes us more than we know. What’s on your list of EVERYDAY priorities?
1. Hit my knees in prayer.
Prayer is a profession of our faith & dependence upon God. Nothing more important than the relationship born on our knees as believers.
2. Connect with a truth from God’s word.
God speaks to us through His word. Why would I refuse to hear from God? Opening the Bible must be a daily practice.
3. Kiss my wife.
Not a difficult discipline. I never want to take for granted the incredible gift God has given me in my beautiful, virtuous wife. And thankfully, one of her love languages is physical touch, so win-win.
4. Share the Gospel with someone.
Billy Graham said it takes 20 conversations before someone gives their lives to Christ. I want to be faithful to move people along toward that life changing decisions.
5. Spend eye to eye, face to face time with my kids.
Kids spell love T.I.M.E. I want to let them know they’re at the top of my priorities. Eye to eye, face to face moments have to be fought for with the flurry of distractions we face. But it’s worth it! Always want to ask, “Did they see my eyes today?”
6. One another a member of my church.
At least 44 “one another” verses in the New Testament – serve, pray, encourage, love, honor, etc., etc. Practicing the one another’s keeps us focused on the needs of others & helps people & our church grow. Great list HERE.
7. Encourage a church planter.
Having planted three churches I know the loneliness, the discouragement, the isolation that planters can face. I also know the fuel that a little bit of encouragement can add to a leaders life. I want to be a daily encourager of those on the front lines through church planting.
8. Read at least one chapter of a book.
Harry Truman said, “All leaders are readers.” Reading is a discipline that must be prioritized. My goal is to read at least one chapter of a book everyday. With 365 days in a year, that means I’ll probably read around 30 books every year. That’s a good goal & a lot of learning.
Better rest, greater stamina, longer life. Lots of benefits to exercise. 20-30 minutes everyday is a must.
10. Watch the sunset.
I’m fortunate to live in a place with incredible sunsets. Never want to take that for granted. If it’s at all possible, I’ll fight for time gazing at the artistry of our Father revealing Himself to us through color & clouds.
What would you add to this list of EVERYDAY activities?