Because He Chooses To

Posted September 29th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

Love. We’ve all but worn out the word. This morning I used love to describe my feelings toward my wife and toward peanut butter. Far from identical emotions. I’ve never proposed to a jar of peanut butter (though I have let one sit on my lap during a television show). Overuse has defused the word, leaving it with the punch of a butterfly wing.

Biblical options still retain their starch. Scripture employs an artillery of terms for love, each one calibrated to reach a different target. Consider the one Moses used with his followers: “The LORD chose your ancestors as the objects of his love” (Deut.10:15 NLT).

This passage warms our hearts. But it shook the Hebrews’ world. They heard this: “The Lord binds [hasaq] himself to his people.” Hasaq speaks of a tethered love, a love attached to something or someone. I’m picturing a mom connected by a child harness to her rambunctious five-year-old as the two of them walk through the market. (I once thought the leashes were cruel; then I became a dad.) The strap serves two functions, yanking and claiming. You yank your kid out of trouble and in doing so proclaim, “Yes, he is as wild as a banshee. But he’s mine.”

In this case, God chained himself to Israel. Because the people were lovable? No. “GOD wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors” (Deut. 7:7–8 MSG). God loves Israel and the rest of us because he chooses to.

by Max Lucado

A Picture of Courage

Posted September 27th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

—Matthew 5:11–12

God not only gives us the right words to say in a given situation, but He also gives us the power to stand up for our faith, even it means harassment or hardship or persecution. This is what happened to Stephen, the first martyr of the faith, as he boldly proclaimed the gospel to the Sanhedrin.

The apostle Peter wrote, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you . . . ” (1 Peter 4:14). God will give us the strength that we need, just as he strengthened Stephen.

You may think you couldn’t cope if people made fun of you. You don’t know if you could handle it if your life was actually threatened for the sake of the gospel. But if God allowed you to be put into such a situation, He would give you the strength to face it. He would give you the necessary boldness and courage.

Throughout history, God has given special grace and courage to millions of Christians who were persecuted for the faith. Many were tortured. Some even lost their lives. But they were unwilling to renounce Christ, unwilling to deny the Lord who had so radically changed their lives.

Certainly this is what Stephen was—a picture of complete courage and faith as he stood up for the Lord. Even while he was on his knees dying, Stephen stood tall. He had lived like Christ. He had spoken like Christ. And he would die like Christ.

by Pastor Greg Laurie

God Meant It For Good

Posted September 22nd, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

Joseph’s life was anything but peaceful. It was complicated by youthful folly, broken dreams, and the mean-spirited actions of others. Sold into slavery by jealous brothers. Thrown into prison on false charges. Yet he remained a man remarkable for his lack of bitterness or regret, always seeing God as the “Great Engineer” behind even the worst of circumstances.

In a final confrontation with his brothers, he graciously noted, “You meant it for bad; God meant it for good.”

The theology packed in that statement is astounding. “God meant it for good” means:

You can accept the past – No sin, no action, no choice on your part is too big for God to handle – or too big to be worked for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Just ask Joseph! Better yet, ask his fearful and famished brothers, who were forced to rely on him for survival.

You can embrace the present – There’s no need to play the “what if” game. The past is gone, and no energy you expend will ever change it. The future is in God’s omnipotent hands, so you’re free to focus on the present. Your job is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, trusting him to forgive the past and transform the future. Martyred missionary Jim Eliot once wrote, “Wherever you are, be all there” – not living in the past and not fantasizing about the future. God wants you in the present because that’s where his grace will flow.

You can look expectantly toward the future – Even if you make mistakes today, God still controls your future. Walking in the Spirit, you can live life to the fullest, unafraid of making mistakes and unconcerned that you may stumble into some terrible circumstance that takes you out of God’s control. Even when things appear to be terrible, you can trust that God is working out some divine plan through you.

What does this mean?

· No matter how bad things get – God is still able to bring good out of it. Today, thank God that nothing – no disaster, no delay – is bigger that his ability to turn it into something good and godly.

· Thank God and let go – Thank God that he is sovereign over your past, your present, and your future.

§ Give God the circumstances, disasters, hindrances, hurts, and sins from your past.

§ Give God your current situation, your disasters, hindrances, hurts, and sins of today.

§ Praise God that he can work anything in your future for godly good, that you can walk in confidence that there is nothing anyone can do to you, or anything you can do that will be beyond the reach of God’s grace and redemption.

· Look for God’s hand – Walking by faith means you see God’s hand even in the most difficult of circumstances. You trust his ability and his willingness to transform the bad into godly good. God is not limited by people’s motives. In other words, it doesn’t matter why someone hurt you, God still can transform a deliberate, mean-spirited situation into something for his good.

· What will you allow God to change? – There it is: some situation, or event, or person in your life that, as far as you can tell, was “meant for bad.” How do you think God meant it for good? Ask God what he wants you to do with this situation (event or person). When he answers, do it.

By Jon Walker

Only One You

Posted September 16th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

Mister Rogers was right after all: There is only one you. But this information is much more important than to just be boosting your self-esteem. It is to help you better serve others by being more confident about your God-given role in life.

No one else fits your shape. No one else has your blend of gifts, talents, and natural abilities – making you very important in the whole scheme of things. “God made our bodies with many parts,” wrote Paul, “and he has put each part just where he wants it.” (1 Corinthians 12:18) And as it is with the human body, so it is with the Body of Christ – the corporate collection of all who believe.

But this uniqueness goes beyond giftedness; it reaches as well into the depth of each of our experiences in life. No one else has your life. No one else has your pain, your hardship, your joys and sorrows. Everything in life shapes us and we are shaped by everything for a reason – so that we can touch others in a unique way based upon who we are and what we’ve been through. God doesn’t waste anything in our lives.

Every piece of our lives and experiences can be used of Christ to touch someone else. We were made for each other; we live for each other; we even die for each other. We die with hope so that others who live might see the reality of Christ in even the darkest of hours. God uses everything.

Are you just getting by, or are you living for a reason? Think about your unique gifts and ask yourself how those gifts are benefiting others. What specific way is God using you to touch others in the Body of Christ? Do you seem to have an extra measure of wisdom, or mercy, or discernment, or knowledge, or administration, or desire to serve? These will help determine how you can look for opportunities to help others.

And then think about the things you have gone through so far in your life – especially the difficult or challenging things where God has met you with his presence and power. That information is not just for you, it’s for you to empathize with and encourage others who have encountered similar struggles.

God isn’t messing around here. There are no accidents with our lives. Whatever we have received and experienced has shaped who we are, and because of that, we are qualified servants. There is truly no one else like you … for a reason.

By John Fischer

Thin Air-ogance

Posted September 15th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

You can climb too high for your own good. The story of David and Bathsheba is less a story of lust and more a story of power. A story of a man who rose too high for his won good. A man who needed to hear these words: “Come down before you fall.”

“First pride, then the crash- the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 MSG)

This must be why God hates arrogance. He hates to see his children fall. He hates to see his Davids suduce and his Bathshebas be victimized. God hates what pride does to his children. He doesn’t dislike arrogance. He hates it. Could he state it any clearer than Proverbs 8:13: “I hate pride and arrogance.” (NIV)? And then a few chapters later: “God can’t stomach arrogance or pretense; believe me, he’ll put those upstarts in their place” (16:5 MSG).

You don’t want God to do that. Just ask David. He never quite recovered from his bout with this giant. Don’t make his mistake. ‘Tis far wiser to descend the mountain than fall from it.

Pursue humility. Humility doesn’t mean you think less of yourself but that you think of yourself less. “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you” (Romans 12:3 Phillips).

Embrace your poverty. We’re all equally broke and blessed. “People come into this world with nothing, and when they die they leave with nothing” (Eccles. 5:15 NCV)

Resist the place of celebrity. “Go sit in a seat that is not important. When the host comes to you, he may say, ‘Friend, move up here to a more important place.’ Then all the othere guests will respect you” (Luke 14:10 NCV).

Wouldn’t you rather be invited up than put down?

God has a cure for the high and mighty: come down from the mountain. You’ll be amazed what you hear and who you see. And you’ll breathe a whole lot easier.

by Max Lucado