Category Archives: Devotional

It’s All About Him

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
Romans 11:36, NLT*

If our lives were fiction, we’d each think we were the main character.

Some of us are passive, some active, but we’re each affected by the circumstances and individuals around us. Our minds process, evaluate, react, and scheme, as we try to make the best lives we can for ourselves and for those in our care.

That doesn’t mean we’re selfish, although sometimes we are. Each of us is the point of view character in our own story, and it’s easy to slide from there into thinking that it’s all about us.

Paul reminds us of the truth. It’s all about God.

We – and the rest of creation – matter. What He made is “good” and “very good.” (Genesis 1)

But He didn’t make us for us. We were made for relationship with Him, designed to only be complete in Him.

He intends us for His glory.

What does that mean?

Just like “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1, NIV**),  our lives, lived in loving submission to God and in reliance on His power, demonstrate that there is a Good Shepherd. There is hope, forgiveness, healing. There is an ultimate authority who defines good and bad, who can rescue and rebuke… and who would rather restore than condemn.

God our Creator and Sustainer, You alone are worthy of all honour and glory. Forgive us for those times when our perspective revolves around ourselves. Help us remember we’re to live for Your glory. Shine through us to bring glory to Your name.

Let Matt Redman’s song, “The Heart of Worship,” remind us of our focus 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.

**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.

Taught by Trouble

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.
Romans 5:3, NLT*

When trouble comes, or something goes wrong, how often do we respond this way? Or do we react instead, taking it personally? Like it’s one more thing to fight.

Paul writes these words in the midst of teaching about the right relationship and peace with God that we’ve received, the “undeserved privilege (verse 2)” we’ve been given through Christ. He highlights God’s great love for us, and our hope of salvation.

In this context, it’s easier to see that he’s not asking us to somehow celebrate hardship.

He’s giving us a different perspective on what’s happening, and showing a healthier response than our natural one.

If salvation life is all about relationship with God, then problems and trials are opportunities to practice depending on Him. They keep us from drifting back to trusting our own strength. They develop our faith by letting us prove His faithfulness and power.

They may be meant for harm, but God can use them for good. I’m learning to pray “use this” or “help me pass this test” – when I can notice what’s going on before instinctively reacting in battle mode.

God our Rock and our Refuge, grant us spiritual sight to recognize the deeper realities in the trials and difficulties that You allow in our lives. Help us choose to rely on You, so that You can grow our endurance, our character, and our hope. Draw us deeper into relationship with You, for our joy and for Your glory.

Hillsong United’s song, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” reminds us where to place our hope.

*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.

Remember and Rejoice

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Romans 5:11, NLT*

New Christians are so vibrant and full of joy. Whatever our spiritual “age,” let’s think about what relationship with God means:

  • no dread, or fear of punishment
  • no hopelessness about our lives
  • confidence to approach God with our needs (see last week’s post)
  • peace in our spirits
  • forgiveness and cleansing from our sins
  • changing character and behaviour
  • hope of heaven
  • the Holy Spirit’s presence with us each moment
  • access to God’s wisdom
  • spiritual eyes that are learning to see what He sees
  • healing for our hurts
  • usefulness to the Master

And more…

Some of these things are still developing. We haven’t fully arrived, but it’s so good to be on the path with Him.

More than any of these things, relationship with God means we have Him, and He has us. Let’s take time today to rejoice in this wonderful relationship.

God our Maker and Redeemer, it’s beyond wonderful that You have brought us back into relationship with You through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Forgive us for getting used to this great gift and not seeing the wonder of it. Teach us to rejoice in You, and make us contagious, so that others will want to know You too.

Big Daddy Weave’s song, “Redeemed,” reminds us of what we’ve gained.

*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.

Confident in God

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16, NIV*

We’re encouraged to approach God’s very throne. With confidence.

In what circumstances? When we’re at the peak of our success and have it all together?

No. Believers in Christ are to come to the All-Powerful Ruler of all creation when we most need grace and mercy.

Asking for help from others is hard for many of us, in part because we feel diminished if we have to admit weakness, lack or other needs. We can feel as if this puts the other person in a position of power over us, and we may fear their response – or their future demands of payback.

When we truly trust the other person it’s much easier. We may still fear they’ll be disappointed in us, hurt, or angry over what we reveal, especially when it’s the sort of issue that has us requiring grace and mercy.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling in need of grace and mercy it’s because I’ve blown it. Or I’m feeling inadequate or in some other way unworthy. I’m the very opposite of confident.

Yet we’re to come to God with confidence, at our lowest point. Not with a brash, in-your-face boldness that thinks He’s somehow obligated to us.

A confidence based on God’s character and on His promises. They do obligate Him to receive us, but only because He committed to do so because of His goodness and Jesus’ finished work on the Cross. It has nothing to do with our merit.

Because we know Who He is, we know we’ll find the mercy and grace we need. Thinking in these terms, the confidence we express is faith. We’re choosing to believe Him and to stake our needs on Him.

This reminds me of James 1:5-6, which encourages us to ask God for wisdom and warns that, when we ask, we need to believe He will answer. The attached warning is that unbelief will hinder our prayer. (The good news is, we can always pray “Lord, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24)

God our King, awesome in majesty and holiness, we are perpetually in need of Your grace and mercy. Thank You for making a way for us to receive what we could never earn or supply on our own. Even faith is a gift from You, so please give us the faith – the confidence in You – that will bring us into Your presence to receive what You long to give. Thank You for loving us enough for this.

I loved this song from the first time I heard it: “Come as You Are,” by Crowder. At first it sounds like an invitation to those who haven’t yet surrendered to Jesus, but I think it applies to Christians, too, any time we’re at that place of needing grace and mercy.

*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.

 

Remember Our Hope

I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel – the Messiah – has already come.
Acts 28:20, NLT*

This is the Apostle Paul, talking to the local Jewish leaders in Rome after he arrives as a prisoner.

What strikes me is the latter part of the verse: “I believe that the hope of Israel – the Messiah – has already come.”

For years the Jews had been waiting for the Promised One. They expected Him to rescue their nation from Gentile domination and restore it as a powerful kingdom.

The kingdom Jesus said had come, and the liberation, didn’t match their understanding. And of course some of the prophecies are waiting even yet to be fulfilled at His return.

Think about what it means, though, to believe the Messiah has already come. Yes, we’re waiting for Him to come back – which means living in a way that will meet with His approval no matter when He does – but how does it change our outlook?

The Kingdom of God has come, even though it hasn’t yet been outwardly manifested. The Holy Spirit rules in our hearts and can work in and through us. We are under the authority of the King, not of a decaying world system.

We have been and are being liberated from the hold of darkness. Our spirits have been brought out into the Light.

We have hope. Peace. A Source of joy.

God has ransomed, redeemed and restored us, and has adopted us as His own children – every Jew and Gentile who believes.

He has come. We are free. What difference will this reminder make in our days?

Our God and King, teach us afresh the wonder of Messiah’s coming, and help us to live fully in Your hope, as ambassadors of Your Kingdom who are anticipating its fullness.

Here’s Keith Green with “There is a Redeemer.” Let it work its way into our hearts and remind us of our Hope.

*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.

Healthy Repentance

I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus.
Acts 20:21, NLT*

These days, if people say “that’s a sin” they either mean “what a shame; that’s unfortunate” or they mean “you’re disqualified; that’s offensive.”

But it makes sense that in the eyes of a holy God, we often do, think, or say things that fall short of His perfect standards. All of us, so there’s no ground for pointing fingers. We do sin. Sometimes even on purpose. It’s natural, but that doesn’t make it right.

The point is, for a healthy spiritual life, we have to repent of our sin. We acknowledge it as wrong and choose to change. We turn to God.

Anywhere but to God is pointing away from Him. We can only grow in wholeness if we’re moving in the right direction.

To do that that, faith in Jesus is essential:

  • for receiving salvation: cleansing from what’s offensive and damaged in us
  • for daily life: ongoing salvation and cleansing, also leading, power, growth, comfort, wisdom, courage, and the list goes on
  • for the future: He is our hope of heaven

God our Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be our Saviour. Thank You this gift is for everyone who will accept it. Thank You for the faith to believe. Please help us to grow in You and to share Your message with those who still need to hear.

Here’s the original Newsboys’ medley of “Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (there’s a newer version on their Hallelujah for the Cross album, but this is the one I bonded with).

*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.

The Right Kind of Open-Mindedness

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
Acts 17:11, NLT*

Paul and his associates travelled from town to town, sharing the good news that Messiah had come. Invariable some people were open to their message, but others weren’t just closed to it – they were hostile.

In Berea (after being run out of Thessalonica) Paul and Silas found the right kind of open-mindedness. The people were eager to learn more about God, but they were careful to test this new teaching against the truth of Scripture. They were ready to learn, but guarding themselves against deception and false teaching.

Soon afterward, in  Athens, Paul found a different sort of open-mindedness:

(It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)
Acts 17:21, NLT*

These people were open to ideas too, but only for discussion – not for application or for allowing what they heard to change them. It sounds like they viewed all ideas as equal, without investigating for truth.

I suspect that made it easier to get along with everyone else, and it’s what we need to do in many matters, but when it comes to what’s true or false, we need to be like the Bereans in discernment – and like Paul and Silas in teaching the truth in a way that doesn’t attack those who don’t believe it.

God our Creator, All-Wise and True, open our hearts and minds to long for a closer relationship with You, and grow us in Your truth. Protect us from ideas that would divert us from intimacy with You or lead us in wrong paths. Give us a burden to share Jesus with those around us in love and respect, and give them a desire to seek You and to know You.

May we come to the Lord with the attitude Lauren Daigle shares in this song: “Here’s My Heart Lord (Speak What is True)”

*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.

 

Testing our Thoughts

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7, NLT*

Chances are, if you haven’t actually memorized this verse, you recognize it when you hear it. I’ve always understood it in the context of not allowing fear to keep us from serving or obeying God.

Paul is writing to Timothy, a young leader who seems to be struggling with this. As such, I’ve taken it as an admonishment to be brave and not give in. I’m sure it’s that, but now I see something else as well.

It’s a partial description of our two natures: the natural self and the Holy Spirit-led self.

With that perspective, the verse can be used to test our responses. Am I feeling fearful, timid, anxious? That’s my old nature, not God. I don’t have to accept/ obey/ believe it. I can ask the Holy Spirit to be power, love, and self-discipline in me.

Then, of course, I have to choose to accept/ obey/ believe what He gives. Building up the spiritual muscles of our new nature takes consistent effort.

In decision-making, sometimes God will hold us back. We can never quote this verse blindly and forge ahead over our fears into obvious trouble. But God’s way of reining us in is more like a check in our spirit, or a knowing. It won’t be that timidity or anxiety that besets us too often.

For me, using this test makes me stop and think. I know the anxious feeling isn’t God, but somehow if I don’t take time to evaluate it, I automatically believe it must be true.

Because of what Paul’s trying to say to Timothy, this verse focuses on what this anxious young man needed. If you face different areas of weakness, you could easily use it as a template. Just fill in those natural weaknesses in the “not” category, and in the Bible, find the Spirit’s corresponding strengths for the “yes” side.

Our God, we thank You that You have given us Your Holy Spirit to live in us and guide and grow us. Help us learn to distinguish between our old ways and Your ways, and align us with  Your Spirit so we can become all You have for us to be.

Here’s a song from Big Daddy Weave: “Jesus, I Believe.” It doesn’t talk about today’s verse specifically, but it looks at the choice to set our minds on what Jesus says instead of what we may feel.

*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.

God Hasn’t Moved

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
Judges 6:13, NLT*

Gideon was bitter that God has abandoned the people and given them into the hands of Midian.

Yes, God did that. But Gideon didn’t see – or think to ask – why. When the people cried out to God in despair, He sent a prophet to remind them why they were experiencing this oppression. Perhaps Gideon didn’t hear that message, but now he was talking with the Angel of the Lord.

Gideon’s own father had an altar to idols. Did Gideon realize this was wrong before God told him to destroy it? He knew about God from history and tradition, but likely thought as many do today that those days were gone, that God had changed or maybe faded.

It sounds like he blamed God for the trouble and didn’t see it was sin that had caused the separation. God hadn’t moved. The people had.

We see the same tendency today, sometimes in ourselves, and often in the world around us. There’s no easy answer about why God allows pain, and suffering is not always a consequence of our sin. Sometimes it’s because of someone else’s sinful choices, and sometimes it’s just life with no apparent reason.

Whatever the cause, when we’re hurting we can trust the God who promised to never leave us. We can press into Him, asking Him to reveal anything that we may have allowed to come between us and to restore us to Himself. We can trust Him to forgive us if needed, and to carry and sustain us. He loves us and will be with us.

Father, forgive us when we doubt Your goodness, and when we blame You for any distance we’ve allowed to grow between us. Whatever trouble comes our way, help us use it as a motivator to rely more on You. Help us to cling to the truth of Your promise to never leave us, and help us to not give any foothold to the enemy of our souls. We belong to You and You will not abandon us. Help us to stand on Your truth.

Never Alone” from Barlow Girl talks about those times when we can’t seem to find God.

*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.

Closer to God

When he [Barnabas] arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.
Acts 11:23, NLT*

Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the two men urged them to continue to rely on the grace of God.
Acts 13:43, NLT*

Both of these encouragements are to ongoing, persistent behavioural patterns. How do we stay true to the Lord and continue to rely on His grace?

  • prayer and praying Scripture
  • practicing His presence
  • reading – and thinking about – Scripture
  • talking, praying, studying with other believers
  • serving where He leads
  • relying on His strength in service and in all areas of our daily lives
  • getting to know His character through life and His Word
  • noticing and keeping a record of where we see God at work in our lives
  • telling our stories of faith, and listening to others

Feel free to add other points in the comments. I think what it comes down to is that we need to let God more into our lives.

God our Sustainer and our Source of life and hope, we echo John the Baptist’s awareness of the need to decrease so that You can increase. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit to indwell us. Please help us to give Him full access to our hearts, so that You can grow us in our faith. Help us stay true to You and rely on Your grace every day.

I’ve always taken Cliff Richard’s “Discovering” as a song from God to us. From that perspective, listen to what He might say in invitation.

*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.