Category Archives: Devotional

Set Apart

And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.
Acts 20:32, NLT*

God has set us apart for Himself. Not because of anything we’ve done to earn it, but because of His great mercy and grace.

Set apart for God…

  • for His glory, in our conduct and in the transformation others will see in us
  • for His service, as and where He leads and empowers
  • for personal relationship with Him, because He has adopted us
  • for our rescue and resuscitation, and to build us up
  • for an inheritance in eternity

Because He chose us, while we were still dead in our sins. (Romans 5:8)

God our Rescuer and Redeemer, You have given us new life and hope, not just for ourselves but that we may live set apart for You. Help us fully embrace Your rule in our lives so we can be filled with Your Holy Spirit and live lives that please You. Shine through us to draw others who are still in the darkness.

Another Matt Maher song this week: “Deliverer.”

*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.

Highly Valued

So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock – his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
Acts 20:28, NLT*

Let’s face it, church is a collection of sinners saved by Jesus’ blood, plus those still fumbling toward saving faith. Some are easy to love, but most of us have sharp edges, abrasive surfaces, or other sources of irritation.

We’re in the process of spiritual growth, and what God sees in us is not always visible to those looking through human eyes. But He’s building us into the Body of Christ, and into His Temple.

He sees value in us. Enough that Jesus died to redeem us.

He commands us to love one another. (John 13:34-35) He’s not asking us to do anything He hasn’t done first, and He offers the Holy Spirit within us to produce that love for one another. We just need to choose to obey, even when it’s hard.

Is there someone in your church who’s impossible to love? Pray for him or her. Regularly. If you ask God to grow His love in you – and persistently choose to cooperate with Him – He’ll surprise you.

Most times it’s not that extreme, but may we remember to ask what He sees, instead of focusing on what we see. May we remember the high value He sets on us – as individuals and as His flock.

God our Shepherd and our Saviour, we dare not dismiss any soul You love. Please help us see what You see, and grow Your love in our hearts for each member of Your Body. Show us what You see in us, as well, and help us surrender fully to Your cleansing and growth.

Matt Maher’s song, “Instrument,” made a powerful difference in my life during a very difficult time in my own church life.

*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.

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.