Thursday, October 18, 2018

Devotions: Godly Influence

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

We need to be careful who we associate with. Again, I do not mean that we should never be around anyone who ever does anything wrong, but we need to limit our time around those who do not pursue godliness. The people we are around will influence us to be like them, and it is far more likely for the “bad” to influence the “good” than the other way around. We also need to be careful that this does not lead us into judgment. Some may take this as license to put others down or reject them because they don’t live up to certain standards. First, we must judge people based on God’s word, not on our own standards. Second, we must not judge those who are not saved. We cannot expect those who do not believe in Jesus to live like Jesus. That being said, unbelievers should not be our best friends, for this reason. The Bible says elsewhere not to be unequally yoked. (2 Cor 6:14) Sure we can be friends, otherwise we would have no way to introduce them to God, but we need to be careful of how much we are influenced by them. Third, we should not put people down saying they aren’t good enough, or that we are better. The right kind of judging looks at their actions and compares them to the Bible. The wrong kind looks at the person and compares them to self. We need to have grace with others and accept that no one is perfect. We should rather look at lifestyles and compare them to Christ. The people we should be closest to should live like Christ. It should be evident to all that Christ is more important to them than anything so that they live lives of godliness and integrity. When the first part of the verse says not to be deceived, it is a staunch warning. It is so easy to think that we can keep ourselves from being influenced by others, or that what they do isn’t that bad (i.e. fools). But that is deception. God knows our hearts and our natures. We become like those we listen to, this includes what we listen to (music, radio, tv, books etc.) If we want to be godly Christians, then we need to have godly Christians as our greatest influence. We need to listen to godly music and most importantly read the Bible regularly. We cannot have God’s wisdom, guidance or influence if we are not spending time with Him, in the same way that we cannot become super athletes if we eat junk food and sit on the couch all day. It just doesn’t work. Ask God to help you in your relationships, if you are committed to living in godliness, ask Him to surround you with godly people. If you have friends that are not a good influence on you, ask Him to help you in that situation. You can’t just say “I won’t be friends anymore.” Ask Him for wisdom, grace and guidance. Above all, be the kind of friend you want to have.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Devotions: The Snare Of Anger

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself.
Proverbs 22:24-25 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Similar to yesterday, we are not to be companions with those who have a temper. This does not mean that we should never be around those people, but they should not be our close friends. The danger here is that if we are with those who are easily angered or fired up, we will become like them. We will adopt their ways. And those ways are a snare, literally they will bring evil and bondage. Once we give way to anger, it will grow and consume us. It is hard to control and will lead to worse things like bitterness and violence. We need to be very careful who we allow to influence us. I know in the work place this can be especially difficult because we generally have no control over who we work with, and working with angry bitter people can make life miserable. Ask for God’s help in choosing friends and also for guidance in work place relationships. If you work with someone who is easily angered, or is always upset, ask God to show you how to help them. Maybe there is an outside issue or internal/heart problem that they are having trouble dealing with. Pray for that person, that God will heal their heart.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Devotions: The Presence Of Fools

Leave the presence of a fool,
Or you will not discern words of knowledge.
Proverbs 14:7 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

This verse literally translated means that we should not be near (halak neged) a person who is simple/arrogant/impious (keciyl) or we will not know or understand (yada) the language (saphah) of wisdom/knowledge (da’ath). A fool refers to more than just a simpleton, but a person who is willful, prideful, irreverent, even rebellious. If we are around such people, they will influence us, and their influence will cause us to lose discernment and understanding. This fool thinks that he knows everything, that he is smarter than everyone, better than everyone. He is not humble toward people or toward God. As a result, he is not teachable or correctable. He thinks his way is right and it is not possible to get him to see that he is wrong, even if he is proven wrong. He will find a way of bending or excusing to make his way right. He won’t listen to reason or wisdom, nor does he seek those except as to inflate his own. We become like those we are around, and if we maintain contact with this kind of person, we will become like him. We will cease to listen to reason, wisdom, or to God, but will follow our own way. That way leads to destruction. Do you know people like that? How have they already influenced you (or at least tried) toward that way of thinking? Ask God to give you wisdom, to help you in situations with them, to guide you in your relationships.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Can You Handle Being Wrong?

In theory, it is easy to accept that we will be wrong at some point. We are human, fallen, sinful. Some time in our lives we will say the wrong thing, do something wrong, be mistaken. Admitting that we are wrong, however, is much more difficult. Some people have an easier time than others, but I don’t think it is easy for anyone. Whether it is apologizing for something we did or said, or acknowledging that we were wrong about something, it can be extremely difficult. Yet it is also necessary.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Devotions: Godly Sorrow

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Paul was here referring to a previous letter, where he had confronted the Corinthians about their sin. They were born again Christians, but they were living like those who knew nothing of Christ. Paul’s letter brought a sorrow on the church which grieved them deeply, but it was a godly sorrow because it resulted in repentance. The sorrow of the world is one which focuses on self, on being proved wrong without repentance, one of regret without change. Godly sorrow leads to salvation, worldly sorrow does not. Sin should cause us to grieve because it grieves God. His holiness cannot be in the presence of sin, it is extremely offensive to Him. If we ignore sin we are ignoring what hurts God, what caused Jesus to die on the cross. Part of being a Christian is giving up the things of the world (living in sin) and becoming like Christ (sinless). That does not mean that we will be perfect, but that we will seek and diligently pursue perfection, not for the sake of perfection or status but to please God and be like Him. If we truly love God, our sin will bring about this godly sorrow. If it doesn’t, it may be proof that we are not saved, or at least that we have become so worldly that we are calloused to the things of God. When confronted with your sin, ask God’s forgiveness and turn away from that sin. Allow it to grieve you so that you are transformed by God and then leave it behind. Don’t remain in regret. If your sin does not bother you, or if you have no desire to remove it, ask God to work in your heart, to soften you so that your heart is more aligned with His.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Devotions: Good From Bad

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

No matter what we go through, we can rest assured that God can and will make everything work together for our good. The key is that we have to submit our circumstances to Him. He will not force something, or take the situation out of our hands if we are unwilling to give it to Him. This includes having a godly attitude, rather than remaining in self pity. Viewing ourselves as the victim and feeling sorry for our selves will never lead to anything godly because neither of those attitudes are godly. Even if what we are going through is not our fault, we should not be self focused or fall into pity. We need to take responsibility for our actions and entrust the rest to God, continuing in what He has called us to do. God cannot work with a heart that is not surrendered to Him. It is also important to note that the good this verse refers to is not lack of trouble, wealth or prosperity (in the worlds terms), but holiness and a furtherance of the gospel. Five years ago we lost twin babies. The grief was terrible, and was the result of seeming chance, at least there was no reason or cause which we could see. Yet God caused it to work out for my good. Through that horrible tragedy, God fulfilled my greatest dream (of becoming an author), greatly increased my faith and trust in Him, and used my story to encourage many others. God took something horribly painful and caused it to work out for my benefit in many ways. I am sure that Job would say the same. Trust God, surrender your heart and circumstances to Him and wait for His will.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devotions: Full Compassion

We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
James 5:11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The story of Job is one full of suffering. He lost everything except his wife and his life in one day. Eventually he even lost his health, and his wife and friends abused him to his face, assuming his troubles were the result of his actions. On the surface, it is not a story that inspires ideas of God’s compassion and mercy, especially since those who have the Bible (and can read the story) know that God willingly allowed it all. How is that compassionate and merciful? We have to remember that every good thing we have and experience is a gift from God. We deserve nothing good, only suffering. We forget how horrible our every sin is, offensive to God and worthy of wrath. We forget that God is also perfectly just, and no one is truly innocent. No amount of suffering is truly undeserved, nor is God at all unjust in allowing it. Yet God is full of compassion and mercy. We often experience goodness and mercy, and are forgiven for sin for which we should suffer but don’t. Job knew all of this. He knew that while there was no particular sin he had committed to bring it on, God was still just in allowing it. He knew that God is sovereign and good, and entrusted his life to Him. In the end, Job did enjoy overwhelming compassion and mercy: everything he lost was replaced, some of it doubly. God doesn’t allow suffering because He is cruel, but because He is just. In the midst of His justice, though, He is still full of compassion and mercy. He is far more patient with us than we deserve, far more than we are with others. His level of compassion and mercy are truly beyond our comprehension. Remember that His compassion and mercy are a gift, one we could never deserve. Ask Him to fill you with gratitude and remembrance for His many acts of compassion and mercy in your life. We cannot give compassion unless we truly understand God’s.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

The War Is Already Won

We all struggle at times. Sometimes it feels as if we are in a battle, whether physical, mental or spiritual. The closer we come to God the more aware we become of spiritual battles waging in and around us. Even when we are aware of the spiritual battle, it can seem daunting, even impossible, to continue fighting, especially when we have asked for help or deliverance. Why doesn’t God help us? Why doesn’t He fight for us?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Devotions: A Heart Of Compassion

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Colossians 3:12-13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

These verses come toward the end of a passage where Paul is talking about putting on the new self. As Christians, we are to put away our old, sinful self and put on Christ, live as He would rather than living like the world. Because we have been chosen, because we are of Christ, we need to put on the things of Christ. We need to be kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving. We need to put on a heart of compassion. That phrase was used by the Hebrews to refer to the seat of emotions. Our love and service is not to be heartless or cold, but full of feeling, godly feeling. We are to be controlled but compassionate, not hard or unfeeling. That is true godly response. Everything that God has shown us, we should show others. Instead of getting offended, holding grudges, or acting selfishly, we need to be godly. That is the fruit of having Him live in us, of giving our hearts to Him. Have you put on the new self? Do you have that kind of compassion? Ask God to help that grow in you.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Devotions: To Have Compassion

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Philippians 2:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“Therefore” always means that what follows is based on what was previously said. At the end of the first chapter, Paul is encouraging the Philippians to live for and like Christ. These two verses really are the driving point for that exhortation: if there is anything good, if we expect any benefit, then we need to be unified in purpose and mentality. We will all have our differences, but we need to put them aside for the sake of the Gospel. If we are to have any of these good things (encouragement, consolation, fellowship, affection, compassion) then we need to be united, in harmony, humbly working toward the same goal of spreading the Gospel. We cannot have compassion if we are not compassionate, but we also cannot get it if we are divided, quarreling, striving with each other (or worse.) Godliness and its benefits cannot come unless we ourselves are godly and working toward godliness. Godliness and selfishness cannot mix, which is why Paul goes on to say in the next two verses that we should do nothing out of selfishness or conceit but rather out of humility. That is how God made life to work. We are chosen as vessels of compassion, but we must ­be that to receive it. Are you humbly working toward unity with others, or trying to gain your own agenda at any cost? Ask God to help you have humility so that you can be in harmony and unity with others.

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