Tag Archives: Devotional

Good Friday

Crucifixion was shameful, degrading, and cruel beyond measure. It made a spectacle of the victim’s suffering and death.

The Lord Jesus endured this for us – by choice, a willing victim in our place, bearing what we could not in order to win the ultimate victory.

The New International Version* describes “…Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

At the Last Supper, John says that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3. NIV*).

Jesus knew Who He was. And Whose He was. He could do what He did because He knew that none of the pain, none of the shame – none of it changed His identity.

As sons and daughters of our Father, our identity in Christ is equally secure and unaffected by shame, pain, fear, etc. Those things are very real, and they may distract us from remembering our true identity, but they don’t change the truth of who we are. Whose we are.

This takes the teeth out of fear for the future, and it changes how we look at yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No matter how much it hurts, no matter what happens… even if we lose our lives in this world (and everybody dies)… as the Apostle Paul wrote, “… I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV*)

Nothing can separate us from the strong love of Jesus. Nothing can take away all we are in Him.

We’re more than the temporal bodies we inhabit. If we’re alive in Christ, we’re spiritual beings who’ve been given eternal life. Treasured and beloved by the Creator of all.

God the Father invites us into His Word to discover who He says we are. The New Testament tells us who we are “in Christ.” Typing those words as a search at Biblegateway.com or another Bible site provides plenty to think about.

Then we have the choice: will we believe our Maker’s opinion of us, or stick with our own? Knowing how often I’m wrong about things, I choose to believe God. May we grow and keep grounded in the truth of who we are in God our heavenly Father.

Let Third Day’s song, “Carry My Cross,” help us remember.

 

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Residual Strongholds

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power.
Acts 8:18, NLT*

Simon had been a magician and a man of great influence before Philip showed up and began teaching about Jesus and doing miracles. Along with many others, “Simon himself believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:13, NLT).

Old ways of life die hard, and his request here shows that he still doesn’t understand the power of God. Peter’s stern response points out that Simon’s motives aren’t right, either. He’s not wanting to be able to do this for God’s glory. Peter sees evil thoughts, bitter jealousy, and captivity to sin (Acts 9:22, 23).

Simon had been using evil power before his conversion. Naturally there would be residual strongholds to tear down.

Whatever our backgrounds, the world around us and our own selfish sin-nature have formed mindsets, attitudes, habits we likely don’t even notice, that keep us from all God has for us.

But God is committed to completing His work in us. When He brings one of these hidden issues to light, it’s never to condemn us or to somehow revoke our salvation. It’s to call us to repentance and into cooperation with Him in changing us to be more like His Son.

Merciful, gracious God who is so kind to us, thank You for Your gift of salvation. You give us spiritual rebirth, and You grow us in maturity as Your children. Give us sensitivity to Your work in our hearts, and help us work with You in clearing out the garbage so Your good can replace it.

I love this song from Vertical Church Band: “Restore My Soul.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

Reconciliation, not Rejection

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
Acts 3:19, NLT*

Peter’s not being judgmental here, not waving a big stick or speaking condemnation. If we could hear his tone, we’d hear urgency. Longing.

In the Temple, he’s speaking to a crowd about Jesus. He has just put it to them plainly: Jesus is the Messiah from God, whom they and their leaders have rejected and killed.

He’s also declared that they didn’t know the full story, and their choices were part of God working out His plan (Acts 3:17-18).

Now that he has laid out the truth, he’s calling for a response. He’s inviting them into forgiveness. Into the Kingdom, where they belong.

This is Peter, who denied his Lord three times. He can’t even claim ignorance for that. Only fear. But Peter knows from personal experience about the forgiveness and grace of God, about the love that longs to restore and reinstate and repurpose.

We know that love, too, so as we encounter people who don’t know Jesus, if the Spirit leads us to address some form of sin that’s holding them back, let’s remember that the goal is reconciliation, not rejection.

Addressing sin isn’t about “look what you did.” It’s about “this is serious, but don’t let it keep you from God’s love.” And instead of pointing fingers, we can speak from a place of experience: “God does forgive, because He’s forgiven me.”

Oh Holy God, You alone are Judge, and You are also Saviour. Give us compassion for those still trapped in sin, and speak through us to offer reconciliation. We know this is a hard topic, and many will take offense at the truth, but help us to speak it in love and to entrust the results to You.

Here’s Michael Card’s haunting question: “What Will it Take to Keep You From Jesus?” Let’s remember the heart behind the call.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Love Obeys God

I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord;
therefore, I obey your instructions.
Psalm 119:55, NLT*

You can’t read Psalm 119 without sensing the devotion the psalmist has for God’s instructions. It’s not a dry list of rules that he loves, but the precepts and teaching of how God says he – and we – should live.

Why are these regulations so important? Because they teach us the way of true, abundant life. They keep us from straying away from God or allowing sin or self to distance us from Him.

The Pharisees claimed to love God’s laws too, and the negative examples of their behaviour toward Jesus and the common people may taint our view of this beautiful psalm.

The difference is, they were following their own understanding of the laws, while missing the heart of God. They saw the rules as the goal, not as the way to live with Him.

Today’s verse gives us the key: it’s knowing God’s character and His ways, responding to His love and mercy, that motivates us to obey Him (click to tweet). The more we discover of who He is and of how much we need Him, the more we’ll value the instructions and principles by which He calls us to live.

Whole-hearted obedience is a love response. Not an attempt to earn points or avoid punishment.

Holy and loving God, in wisdom You have set boundaries for us, and in great mercy You have sent Your Son to ransom us from the power of sin and death. You are faithful to forgive when we ask, and to teach us Your ways. The instructions You give are for our good and for Your glory. You alone are worthy of worship and adoration. Please draw us to know You better, and teach us to rely on Your Spirit’s power at work within us.

Loving God will draw us into obedience to Him. Let Kathryn Scott’s song, “Presence,” bless us today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Fear and Worship

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
Mark 4:39-41, NLT*

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record Jesus calming the storm, and they each follow the account with what happened when the boat reached its destination. Jesus freed a demon-possessed man (Matthew says two men) and sent the demons into a herd of pigs which then dashed into the lake and drowned.

In the boat, the disciples had been afraid of drowning in the storm, but then they were terrified by the power Jesus displayed. Following Jesus, they’d seen Him heal people, but somehow this authority over the elements was even more awe-inspiring to them.

On land, the townspeople also responded with fear, but of a different kind. They pleaded with Jesus to leave them.

Peter once begged Jesus to leave him, because he knew his sinful nature and feared to be in the presence of one so great (see Luke 5:8). Instead, Jesus called him as a disciple. Here, the people asked Him to go and He went. It’s not about the “please leave,” it’s about the heart-reason behind it.

Peter and the other disciples were afraid with a holy fear of God. They worshipped, but feared their unworthiness. These town-folk were afraid of a power that shook things up and threatened their way of life. They didn’t recognize it as from God, and they just wanted it gone.

God who speaks to sickness, storms, and sinners, please open our eyes to recognize Your holy power. Plant in us a holy fear of You, an awe and wonder that leads us to worship You. Let us never fear You in the way that would make us hide from You. Instead, draw us ever nearer like moths to Your flame. Thank You for Your grace that saves us and takes away our fear of judgment, and that welcomes us into Your presence.

A good worship song to focus us on God’s power is Travis Ryan’s “You Hold it All.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Embracing Weakness

Each time he [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT*

Humanly-speaking, wouldn’t the Apostle Paul have been more effective for the Lord without his limiting “thorn”? Whatever it was, it tormented him and left him weak. It wasn’t a good thing, nor desirable, but God used it for a good purpose – to keep Paul humbly dependent on Him.

Maybe Paul would have seemed more successful in the short term, reaching more people, covering more territory, but would his life and ministry have had such a lasting effect? Might people have been distracted from Christ by the brilliance of the messenger? Would pride have ruined him?

God was so good to give Paul what He knew was necessary, even though it was painful. His goodness helped Paul wrestle through it to understand its purpose. By the time he wrote today’s verse, Paul saw its value. He had pleaded three times for release. Did God tell him to stop asking, or was that when he received perspective?

What do we see as a limitation? A liability or weakness that holds us back? “If it wasn’t for _________, I’d be so much more useful to God.”

God crafted each of us the way we are, and He has plans for us. Even if we’ve taken a detour and feel that our “thorn” is self-inflicted, God can use us as – and where – we are.

Just as Paul learned to embrace the things that kept him weak, knowing they kept him dependent on God’s power, we can do the same, as God helps us to do so. It won’t be easy, but even here His grace is enough.

Instead of “doing things for God,” we’ll be positioned for God to work through us. After all, it’s not about stroking our pride. It’s about showing the world who He is.

Holy, powerful, and sovereign God, You have chosen to work through the weak, to show what only You can do. Sometimes this hurts us, but please help us entrust ourselves to You. In our weakness and in our apparent strength, protect us from the snare of pride and from self-reliance. Help us find our sufficiency and our value in You, surrendered to Your purposes and living for Your glory.

Casting Crowns’ song, “In Me,” shows where our true strength lies.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Soul-Rest

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29, NLT*

This much-loved and often-quoted passage brings comfort and hope. Most times we focus on words like ‘rest, teach, humble, gentle,’ and again ‘rest.’ We skip over the ‘yoke’ part.

I’ve often heard the teaching about the yoke being for two oxen, and how a new, untrained animal would be paired with an experienced one to learn how to pull the plow. Jesus, the thought goes, is the experienced teacher, and we, learning to work alongside Him, are the novices.

That makes good sense, but let’s look at the yoke for a minute. Jesus says it’s His. He may or not mean He’s wearing it, since He did indeed come to serve by showing us how to live for God.

It’s also His because the Teacher, Shepherd, Suffering Servant is also the Master.

On our own, we get frazzled, weary, and definitely overburdened. The soul-rest Jesus offers isn’t about collapsing under a shade tree for a nap, though. It’s about dropping the loads we were never designed to carry and taking up the load He has for us.

There’s still work involved, but now we’re working under the direction of a Master who loves us, a God whose compassion sent Him to die to rescue us. He knows our weakness, and His Spirit gives us strength.

Sovereign Lord God, You are our rightful ruler and King. Forgive us for the times we try to live under our own leadership, and the stresses and messes we get into. Help us to surrender to Your authority, and open our spirits to Your Spirit’s direction and strength. Thank You that the path of serving You is a path of fulfillment and soul-rest.

This song from Matt Maher sums it up: “Lord, I Need You.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Noticing. And Remembering.

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
Psalm 40:5, NLT*

We recognize the truth in verses like these. And yet we forget.

We forget who God is – how strong, how full of love and mercy, how trustworthy.

We see the troubles and stresses in our lives and in the world around us, the looming danger and darkness, and we lose sight of the truth that God is bigger.

Remembering what God has done helps us keep perspective. Look at what He’s done in the Bible and in the lives of Christians around the world. Think back on how He’s moved in your life, the lives of friends, in your church.

For every big thing God does, how many small ones might we overlook? A parking spot when it’s needed most, a lost item found, a phone call at just the right time?

To know and rely on His love (1 John 4:16, NIV**) we need to notice and remember the evidence.

O Lord our God, Your power and goodness are beyond human understanding, and truly we could never list all that You have done. Teach us to remember, and open our eyes to see what You’re still doing. No matter what the day brings, help us to be secure in trusting You.

This week’s song is “The Goodness of the Lord,” by Travis Ryan.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

** New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Eagerly Waiting

Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:7, NLT*

Waiting for Jesus’ return. The only way this waiting could be passive would be if we’d already finished everything He left us to do – so we’ll be working until He comes. Working, and waiting expectantly.

Eager waiting feeds our hope, and reminds us not to invest too permanently in this life. No matter how good (or bad) today is, there are better days coming. This attitude of eager waiting encourages us in hard times, and gives perspective when our faith leads to trouble in the here and now.

It calls us to keep active in sharing the gospel and in encouraging one another. There will be a day when it’ll be too late.

Gracious God and King, thank You for giving us the spiritual gifts we need to serve in the ways You have prepared for us. Please help us serve in an attitude of willing worship, and to eagerly wait for Jesus’ return. Thank You that Your timing is perfect and that You always keep Your promises.

May our lives give praise to “One Name Alone” (song by Matt Redman).

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: A Traveler’s Advisory, by Marcia Lee Laycock

A Traveler's Advisory, by Marcia Lee LaycockA Traveler’s Advisory, by Marcia Lee Laycock (Small Pond Press, 2015)

These fifty-two “stories of God’s grace along the way” include tales of travel by air, on land, and on water. They’re drawn from the author’s experiences in Canada (including the Yukon), the US, and more exotic locales like Papua New Guinea.

Marcia Lee Laycock writes with a clear, practical style, sharing travel anecdotes and drawing common-sense spiritual parallels for life’s journey. The readings are a good length for a daily burst of inspiration that’s relevant to readers – be they seasoned travellers or homebodies.

A Traveler’s Advisory is a great little book to keep handy for a quick pick-me-up or as a discussion starting-point for a group.

Canadian author Marcia Lee Laycock is known for her devotionals as well as for both contemporary and fantasy fiction. For more about the author and her work, visit marcialeelaycock.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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