Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Devotions: Every Good Gift

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Every good thing comes from God, not only that, it is all a gift because we deserve nothing good. We are all born sinful and unworthy of God. But He is gracious, He gives us gifts we do not deserve, and paid the penalty of our sin which we owed. He is not a God who is stingy or unkind. He is a God who loves to give the perfect gift and stores up good things to give us, not to withhold them but to give them at just the right time. He is the best Father we could ever have, and infinitely better than even the best earthly father because He does not change, He is not selfish, He does not have favorites. He has given us so much which we take for granted. If we would only stop and count our blessings, look at everything we have as a gift rather than something we are due, we would be so much more grateful and content. Determine today to look at life as if everything was a gift, rather than something you deserved, and you will develop a heart of gratitude! We have so much for which to be thankful!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Devotions: Give Thanks In Everything

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

How often is gratitude our default response? When times are good and we have nothing of which to complain it is easy enough, but when times are hard? One look at social media shows that we are quickly becoming a society of complainers and grumblers. And even though we are the wealthiest, most blessed society of the world, still we complain. Yet we know nothing of true suffering as most of the world population. This tendency to complain comes from a self-centered, greedy nature. We want what we want when we want it. But this is not a godly perspective or desire to have. Rather than complaining about every little thing that doesn’t go exactly according to plan, we should give thanks in everything. Really? Give thanks when I get a flat tire, or when someone messes up my order, or when my coffee spills down my front? Yes. We are to complain about nothing because complaining shows that we are discontent with what we have, yet everything good is a gift from God, and He is in control of our lives, watching over our every step. Complaining shows that we are not content with God and what He has given us. That does not mean that we should give thanks for the bad things, but in the midst of them we should still thank God. The previous two verses say to pray continually and rejoice always. These are God’s will for us, to live in prayer, praise and gratefulness. God knows what we are going through, but if we are focused on Him, praying for His help, praising Him for His goodness and thanking Him for His many provisions etc., the troubles will not seem so bad and it will be a great witness to those around us. It is natural to complain, so when we instead choose to praise God and be thankful it shows that there is something different about us, that there is more to being a Christian than going to church. It shows that we have a God we can trust in and out. We should count our blessings and be continually thankful year round, not just in November. If you have trouble being grateful, thankful, and trusting God, is the God in whom you believe worthy of that? Do you instead believe in a God of your own making rather than the Almighty Creator and Provider of the Universe? Take some time to consider if you have somehow made God smaller, into something you want rather than Who He really is. Study God’s character as shown in the Bible. Believe in a God worth trusting, praising and thanking. Be a person of gratitude!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Fruit of Goodness

Being good is a fairly simple concept. There are a lot of people who “do good”, quite a few whom we would even call “good”. Goodness seems pretty common, even among other religions and those of no religion. In fact, it unfortunately seems more common among non-Christians. Is goodness really a fruit of the Spirit? Is it really something that requires God? Isn’t it something that just happens fairly naturally to most people? Aren’t all people basically good?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Devotions: God's Good Work

 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Part of God’s good plan for us is to work in us, helping us to grow in godliness and mature our salvation. That requires obedience, not just when we have some pastor or teacher with us to see we are doing right, but always, even when we are alone. God does not work in us only when there is another person there to see it. He is always at work in us, so we must do our part and make obedience a lifestyle and habit. We also need to work out our salvation. This does not mean that we earn our salvation by working. We already have salvation, now we must prove and grow our salvation. When we are hired for a job, we do not stop working once we receive our employment, rather we begin working once we receive our employment and our work proves our loyalty to that job. We need to work continually and diligently, just as God does, to perfect our faith and become more like Him. We need to remember that we are to please Him who is able to destroy the soul, not those who are mortal as we are. That fear (reverence) should inspire and encourage us to that diligence. Awe of God should be the only motive necessary to cause us to seek maturity and perfection. Again, it is God who works in us; He is working along side us, helping us in our endeavors to perfection. He gives us the ability and the desire to do this work. He doesn’t just expect us to do it on our own; He knows that we can’t. It is through His grace that we have that ability and desire, that we have any merit at all. It pleases Him to have be like Him. His good plan involves His good pleasure and delight in us, His creation. But we cannot please Him if we reject His grace and instead strive to be like the world. We need to accept His grace and His gift and strive to join Him in the work of perfecting us. Remember the great motivation we have in His love! Seek Him and seek godliness!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Devotions: God's Good Plans

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

In the midst of chaos and adversity, it is easy to wonder if God is really in control, or if He knows what He is doing, or if He even cares. Jeremiah had many such wonderings. He foretold and personally witnessed the horrific overthrow and destruction of Jerusalem, and their subsequent exile. They were God’s chosen people and yet He allowed evil men to do terrible things to them. But God reassured Jeremiah, and the Jews, that He did know what He was doing, it was all part of His plan. Stopping there one might question His love or intentions. If God’s plan is for horrible things to happen to me, what proof is there of His love? But God doesn’t stop there. He goes on to describe His plans for His people, plans for welfare not calamity, plans for a future and hope. Welfare here literally means completeness, soundness or peace. God intended to restore His people to their home, to make them whole and complete again, to have peace. He planned for them to have a good future full of hope, but also to have that hope. He didn’t plan to make them hope for something they would never get. He planned to give them what they hoped for, a Savior. Then they would have the fulfillment of their hopes, they would have hope in their hands and hearts. Sometimes God’s plan for us involves going through horrible events and tragedies, but that does not negate His love or goodness. Those situations have a purpose, to make us complete and whole. They cause us to turn to God, to cling to Him and go deeper into His presence than we ever would if life was easy. The only way we can be completely whole or have peace is to be made complete in Christ, but we have to seek Him deeply. That depth only comes through trials. So while difficulties are part of God’s plans for us, they have a purpose, to make us better, to draw us closer to Him. Seek that purpose, seek a deeper relationship with Him, and experience His wholeness, peace and hope!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Devotions: The Flavor of Christ

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

Matthew 5:13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Anyone who has cooked (or eaten another’s cooking) knows not only the value but also the absolute necessity of salt. Even when making sweet things like candy, salt is necessary. Salt is not the flavor itself, but it helps bring out the flavor whatever that may be. Salt is also a good preservative, causing food to last longer than it would otherwise. But in order to be of most benefit, salt must be broken up and separated. Nothing ruins a good meal like a bite full of salt. In the same way, we as Christians are the salt of humanity. We spread the (preserving) Good News of salvation and eternal life. It is necessary for life to have any true meaning or fulfillment. But to do that, we must leave our own comfortable circle of Christians and go into the world. If the only people we encounter are already believers, we miss our full potential. Remember, too much salt at once is repulsive. Unless a person is actively seeking God by coming to church, meeting up with a whole bunch of Christians can be wasted effort. In the same way, throwing too much doctrine at a person who doesn’t know the basics, or being too abrasive in our attitude and approach, can also be a deterrent. In order to be useful we must go out and serve the world, sharing the Good News of salvation. But beware not to become flavorless, for then we will be worse off than if we stayed in a big lump. To lose our flavor is to become like the world, to compromise. The “flavor” of our salt is Christ. We must be Christ to the world, but if we are too much like the world they won’t taste any Christ in us. We will lose our flavor and be useless. We need to be full of the flavor of Jesus, out among the world and share the preserving truth of the Gospel!

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Fruit of Kindness

Kindness is something that I think we would all agree is important, but we mostly encourage it in children and don’t often think of addressing it to adults. “Random acts of kindness” refresh our hope in humanity, but it is not something we actively pursue ourselves. Often, kindness is merely thought of as little more than being polite, but as with all virtues it goes much deeper. Kindness should come from the heart which can only be changed by God.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Devotions: The Blessing of Hearing

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
Revelation 1:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Revelation has always been a “scary” book for me. It has always carried an apprehension with it which I avoided as much as possible. The idea of the horrible things to come was not one on which I wanted to dwell. So this blessing always confused me, because I never felt any blessing from reading that book. But I recently went through a study which opened my eyes to the beauty of Revelation. Yes it is about God’s wrath on a sinful world which refuses to accept Him, but it is also evidence of His patience and love, His grace and mercy, His unwillingness to let any perish. He has already and will give every possible opportunity for the world to come to know Him. It has become for me a cry from Jesus saying, “Come to Me! Turn to Me! Won’t you listen!” But there is an added blessing which this verse reveals. The key is in “hearing” and heeding or obeying what is written. Revelation is a warning to us, to the world, of what will come if we do not repent and turn to Him. We need to be mindful of that warning. We need to hear or absorb what is said and respond to it accordingly. It is not enough to read it and never think about it again. We need to let it sink into our hearts and transform us. We need to apply what we read and not be like the man who looked in a mirror and then forgot what he looked like when he turned away. This is possibly one of the most important messages of the Bible. Hear the word of God and heed it! Listen to His call for repentance and salvation and respond to it! Do not wait too long or you may run out of time, for the time is near! I implore you; hear, heed and be blessed!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Devotions: The Blessings of Imitation

If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
1 Peter 4:14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

This verse is almost identical to other verses I have already covered, but it carries a promise that is so beautiful I thought it worth repeating. Being reviled (hated, loathed, despised) is not something anyone wants to encounter. But we must remember that when we are reviled for our faith that it is His Name which is being reviled, not us. They are hating what they see of Him in us. We should also remember that they did worse to Him, and if they didn’t hate us, that would be proof that they don’t see Him in us. That very act of hate toward us is reassurance that we are imitating Christ. But we must be careful that what they hate is true Christ-likeness and not our own arrogance or prejudice. There are many Christians who are hated because they are unloving or hateful themselves. But if we are hated because of our faith and godliness then we are blessed because the Spirit of God is on us. We carry God in us, who is actively and continually working to perfect us and make us like Him. We carry in us proof of our reward to come, hope of the glory of God in eternity. Take heart! Remember the goal and glory awaiting us and for Whom you suffer, and be blessed!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Devotions: The Blessings of Doing

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:25 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

This perfect law, the law of liberty, is not a license to do whatever we want, or to ignore the law set down in the Old Testament. This liberty is freedom from the law of sin and death, freedom from bondage to Satan, and also freedom from salvation by works and sacrifices. We no longer need to sacrifice an animal to obtain forgiveness for every sin we commit. We are no longer enslaved to sin and the desires of our bodies. We are no longer subject to death as punishment for our sin. We are free to live godly lives. Since we are not saved by what we do, should we then return to sin now that we have been freed from it? Not by any means! Christ died to save us from sin, and if we then knowingly return to that sin we reject His sacrifice for our sin, to free us from that sin. We are not freed from obedience but freed from bondage to sin and works. We must still obey the law, but now we are free to obey out of love, as loyal subjects, not as robots who have no choice and no hope. That is what it means by being a “forgetful hearer.” Some hear the word and believe, but then turn from the truth which has freed them and return to sin. Or they think that they must obey in order to be accepted, forgetting the gift of grace which none can earn. Instead we must abide by that law of liberty, the law of love for God and His ways, and actively do it rather than forgetting Him who freed us. If we abide by His law, live in it, and actively do it, then everything we do will be blessed. That does not mean that we will never lose our jobs, or be ridiculed, or that we will always have worldly success, but that we are blessed in or while we do them. We will not have the sorrow of sin to weigh us down, or the regret of wrong actions. Following this law keeps us on the right path and relatively free from error. It is not a promise for lack of hardship but of blessing in the hardship. Seek to abide by and live in the law of liberty which frees us from sin so that you may follow God, and be blessed!