Big Idea: We have been given the power to Love like Jesus.
2 Timothy 1.7 (CSB): For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgement.
Devotional: I’ve noticed that many of you have shared your opinions on social media about recent events. There is no doubt that our nation is hurting and that many of our neighbors are, too. As we have hurt, I fear that we have become more divided.
In the last few days, I have recalled a statement I made four years ago: “If we’d love everyone with the love of Jesus, we wouldn’t have some of the problems we do.” Paul wrote that when we’re in Christ, we ought to put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Col. 3.14), but he also recognized that loving others is tough (Rom. 12.8).
Over the last week or so, many have not done a good job at loving others. We have hurled insults at brothers and sisters in Christ, called others racists, ignored the needs of our hurting neighbors, and so much more. We have forgotten that we are to love our neighbor like we love ourselves (Mk. 12.13) while simultaneously loving God with all that is within us (Deut. 6.5).
How, then, do we love others when we are hurting? Well, Paul told us that God has given us the power to love through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are able to love with power, just as our Lord did. Understand, loving your neighbor does not mean approving of sin and wrong doing. However, it does mean that we are able to look past the temporal circumstances and love as our Heavenly Father loves. Though our communities are hurting we are able to be ambassadors of Christ’s love and imitate God, as dearly loved children (Eph. 5.1).
-How have you been loving God and your neighbor during recent weeks?
-Think of ways that you can demonstrate love and compassion to those you encounter today.
-Pray and ask God to help you love like Jesus and be a conduit of redemption in your community.
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. —Mother Teresa
Big Idea: Jesus has made us pleasing to God.
Zephaniah 3.17 (CSB): The LORD your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.
Devotional: I first encountered today’s verse about five years ago, but only recently did I begin to understand it. Over the past few months, I have been working through what it means to be free in Christ. I still haven't arrived at an answer, but by God’s grace, I will. This verse, however, has helped me begin to understand what freedom in Christ is. So, let’s be honest for a moment.
I am going to assume that you’re totally convinced that God loves you. However, I would venture to say that you are not convinced that God likes you. Think about it...have you ever considered the fact that God not only loves you, but likes you, too? (I know, it might be a bit mind-blowing!)
Today’s verse shows us that God gladly rejoices over us. In other words, he shows great joy and delight in us! In fact, we’re even told that he delights over us with singing! God is so delighted with us that he sings because of his delight.
Maybe, you don’t feel very pleasing or delightful to God. I would encourage you to remember that if you’re in Christ, then Jesus himself has made you 100% righteous, pleasing, and delightful before God! We did nothing to earn that righteousness. Rather, God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Tim. 1.9).
-Do you believe that you are pleasing to God? Why or why not?
-Read and memorize Romans 5.1-5.
-Pray and thank God for making you pleasing and delightful to him. Ask him to help you wholeheartedly embrace your standing before him.
I am totally pleasing before God because of what Jesus has done and nothing can ever change that!
Big Idea: God uses our hardships to mold us and shape us.
Romans 5.3-4 (CSB): ...we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, (4) endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.
Devotional: I discovered that some of my clothes have shrunk since the start of “Corona Saga 2020.” So, I’ve decided to start back running because buying new clothes is expensive. I am not new to physical fitness. In the past, I often ran four miles a day and then spent some time in the gym afterwards. When running, it is not uncommon for one to hit what’s called the wall. In short, the wall is a point in which the runner does not think he can take another stride—so it’s a mental thing. It’s at this point that some will give up and quit pushing ahead. However, that’s not the way to handle it. The best way is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, the runner can push past the wall, and gain his second wind.
The runner can only push past the wall when he keeps moving. At times, we may experience a massive road block in our life. It may feel as though it came out of nowhere and that there is no way for us to keep moving forward. However, Paul told us that afflictions (road blocks), produce endurance and endurance produces proven character. Endurance is the ability to stay the course over the long haul and proven character comes after you know a thing or two, because you’ve seen a thing or two.
While afflictions are hardly ever pleasant, God is able to use those hardships to mold and shape us into the image of Christ. Paul said it like this: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us (Rom. 8.18).
-Are you in a season that is difficult? If so, how have you been relying on God during this season?
-How can you encourage a friend who is walking through a difficult season?
-Pray and ask God to help you endure the difficulties of life as you pursue the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6.33).
The secret of endurance is to remember that your pain is temporary but your reward will be eternal. —Rick Warren
Big Idea: We worship God because he is our everything.
Colossionas 3.11b (CSB): Christ is all and in all.
Devotional: Buying a diamond ring is a ton of work. You have to save for it, then search for it, and eventually buy it. However, not all diamonds are equal. Some are cut better, have better clarity, and just look better. Ultimately, you have to decide which one you’ll buy. And once you find the perfect ring, you’ll love it. It’ll catch your eye and you’ll want to take good care of it.
As one who has bought a diamond ring, I can tell you that only one will do. You may find some close seconds, but you’ll only want the best (that you can afford). Diamonds are sought after and are considered to be a precious jewel (even thought it’s just a rock). But, people seek out the right diamond for themselves or their loved ones and they take care of it.
In today’s verse, Paul tells us that Christ is all and in all. In other words, Christ is everything. In fact, Paul wrote that everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him (Col. 1.16). Christ is our everything and he is absolutely precious. He is precious because he is the purest form of love, the perfect sacrifice, and the all-knowing and ever-present creator.
As you follow Jesus, may your pursuit of him be like that of one who seeks out the perfect diamond. Be relentless in the pursuit and embrace him wholeheartedly. And be sure to nurture that relationship by practicing the spiritual disciplines.
-Watch “David Phelps—You Are My All in All /Canon in D” on YouTube.
-In your own words, explain what it means that Jesus is your all in all.
-Pray and ask God to show you the areas of your life in which he is not your everything. Ask him to help you lay those areas down at the Cross so that you can become more fully surrendered.
Seeking you as a precious jewel, Lord, to give up, I’d be a fool; you are my all in all.— “You Are My All in All”
Big Idea: We can trust God because he never changes.
Hebrews 13.8 (CSB): Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Devotional: In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the last battle scene is definitely high intensity. You spend what seems like forever worried about how Spidey and his friends are going to fare. Then, when it seems like things are about to end horribly, there is a moment of comic-relief with Nick Fury.
Comic-relief is a tool used by writers and authors to break the tension and give their audience a moment of reprieve. I find it amazing how quickly things can change. In one moment, we can be on the edge of our seats, waiting anxiously to see how our favorite character is going to do. Then, in the next, we are sitting back in our chairs laughing because of a well-timed joke. Not only do our emotions change, but so do our situations and circumstances. We may be in a season that we never saw coming and facing obstacles that seem insurmountable. But, we can remain constant in hope.
Why are we able to remain constant in hope when our situations, circumstances, and emotions change so frequently? Well, the author of Hebrews wrote that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus never changes! He is not phased by anything we encounter. I remember reading that “there are no problems in Heaven. Only plans.”
Dear friend, our God never changes. He is the same from eternity-past to eternity-future. We remain confident in ever changing times because our God is never-changing.
-Have you ever thought of God as never-changing? Why or why not?
-How does the never-changing nature of God impact your life on a daily basis?
-Pray and thank God that he never changes and always remains constant. Ask him to help you look to him when you are in turbulent times, as well as peaceful times.
Has it ever occurred to you that nothing occurs to God?
Big Idea: Jesus is a historical figure who did exist.
John 1.14 (CSB): The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Devotional: Have you ever seen a black and white photo after it has been colorized? It is one of the coolest things you’ll ever see. Just a few days ago, I saw a video of New York in the early 1900’s that had been colorized and enhanced to 4K quality. Put simply, it was amazing. No longer did the early 20th Century seem like such a long time ago.
It’s amazing how we can tend to think that we are further removed from events and situations than we really are. For instance, I’ve been watching Buried Secrets of World War II on Hulu. Just because the War ended 75 years ago, does not mean that we are far removed from it. There are still many signs of the War left today that have yet to be unearthed.
In the same way, I fear that we tend to do the same thing with Jesus. I fear we forget that Jesus lived as the one who is fully God and fully man. John reminds us of this truth. John wrote that The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Not only did Jesus take on flesh, but he also came and lived among us and with us. And he continues to live with us today through the presence of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5.5).
Rejoice in the reality that our Lord came and dwelt among us and is still with us!
-Do you think of Jesus as an actual person who lived or as an abstract idea? Why?
-What do you think the implications are of the reality that Jesus lived here on earth?
-Pray and thank God that Jesus came and lived among us. Thank him for the hope that we have because of his live (Heb. 4.14-16).
God became man not by subtraction of divinity, but by addition of humanity. —Alistair Begg
Big Idea: As God's children, we will live forever with God.
Jesus in John 10.28a (CSB): I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
Devotional: I enjoy traveling and I prefer direct flights whenever possible. However, four years ago, there was no direct flight from Cardiff, Wales or Bristol, England. So, I jumped a flight in Bristol, traveled to Amsterdam, and connected with a plane going to Germany. Things move fast when you travel internationally and I had to keep my final destination in mind at every stage of the journey.
While a physical destination is easy to remember, I fear that we can sometimes forget our ultimate, final destination. As God’s children, we do not belong to this world and we are not of it (John 18.36). Our residency is in God’s heavenly Kingdom (Phil. 3.20). When we remember our true destination, we are able to serve God more boldly and confidently . We are also able to face difficulties in this life because we know that there is more than meets the eye.
Only can God’s children say with confidence that we rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope (Rom. 5.3-4). This confidence is ultimately rooted in the truth that Jesus spoke: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. Did you catch that? We will never perish. We will always be God because nothing can separate us (Rom. 8.38-39)! So, don’t live for today or tomorrow… live for eternity!
-How are you living in light of eternity? What can you do today to live in the hope that Jesus has provided?
-What can you do to remember your final destination daily?
-Pray and ask God to help you live in light of eternity. Ask him to help you live a life that is honoring to him and thank him for the eternal life that Jesus has provided.
You know, eternal life does not start when we go to heaven. It starts the moment you reach out to Jesus. He never turns his back on anyone. And He is waiting for you… —Corrie ten Boom
Big Idea: God is our everything.
Lamentations 3.24 (CSB): I say, "The LORD is my portion, therefore, I will put my hope in him."
In Casino Royale of the Daniel Craig 007 series, James Bond is in a high stakes Poker Tournament with Le Chriffre (who Bond is also trying to catch). Bond goes all in and looses his money. He had nothing left and had to get out of the game. Bond put all of his eggs in one basket and lost them all.
We are constantly cautioned against putting all of our eggs in one basket because we might lose everything. However, each of us is completely secure when we are totally committed to God. Jeremiah wrote that the LORD is my portion. In other words, the LORD was his everything. Apart from God, Jeremiah recognized that he had nothing. However, Jeremiah understood that with God he had everything. All that Jeremiah had belonged to God.
What about you? Is the Lord really your potion...your everything? Have you put all of your eggs in his basket or are you holding some back for safety? Because God is our everything, we can have great confidence when we commit our entire self to him and his kingdom.
In fact, since we have been declared righteous by faith (Rom. 5.1), we already have everything that we need!
-In your own words, explain what it means that God is our portion.
-Search for other verses where God is referenced as our portion and jot them down (and read them, too).
-Pray and thank God for providing everything you need in Christ. Ask him to help you recognize his provision in your everyday life.
God is our potion, Christ our companion, the Spirit our Comforter, earth our lodge, and Heaven is our home. —Charles Spurgeon
Big Idea: Know the Gospel so you can spot a fake.
Galatians 1.6-7 (CSB): I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— (7) not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Devotion: A few years ago, I was in Fort Worth, TX at a Dave and Buster’s. I had never been to one and it was absolutely phenomenal. I was, however, shocked to discover that they did not sell Sweet Tea...I was absolutely shocked. In the same way, I’m also equally shocked when restaurants sell Pepsi instead of Coke. Afterall, there is nothing that compares to Coca-Cola. You can substitute Pepsi for Coke and get the same thing.
In the same way, you cannot substitute the Gospel of Jesus Christ for something less than and get the same result. Some try to sell a “Prosperity Gospel” and others try to sell a gospel of works. However, those gospels are not the real Gospel. You need to know the real thing so that you can spot the fake.
In today’s passage, Paul is confronting the sad reality that the Galatians had chosen to follow a false gospel instead of the real one (which they knew). So, do you know the real thing? Do you know the Gospel like the back of your hand? If not, get a hold on it. The better that you know the genuine article, the quicker that you’ll be able to spot a fake.
-What false gospels have you heard in the last few months? In what ways do those false gospels contradict the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
-Read one chapter of Galatians a day over the next week and take note of how Paul describes the Gospel.
-Pray and thank God for providing the Gospel so that you may be saved. Ask him to help you know when you hear a false gospel.
Big Idea: As disciples, we are representatives of the Kingdom.
John 1.6-7 (CSB): There was a man sent from God whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him.
Devotional: I know we haven’t known each other for too long, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that I will almost always be wearing a fishing shirt. However, I will not wear just any fishing shirt—it must a Columbia brand fishing shirt. We all have a thing about name brands, don’t we? We often prefer the name brand over the generic, and rightly so. We can spot the different between Pepsi and Coke, and Fruit Loops and Fruity-O’s. There’s nothing like the real deal. We also like to represent the good things and make sure that others know about it. For instance, the Coca-Cola design is recognized all over the world...but what about Jesus?
In today’s passage, we are told about John the Baptist—the last Old Testament Prophet and the cousin of Jesus. John was marked by his devotion to God’s Kingdom and was a witness about the things to come in and through Jesus Christ. He was a representative of the Kingdom and he was glad to speak the message.
What about you? Are you representing the Kingdom actively or passively —like a roadside billboard? When we represent, we do so gladly. May the gospel become known among every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 7.9) as we endeavor to proudly represent the Gospel message of Jesus Christ!
-How have you been representing the Kingdom of God during this season?
-Read John 1.19-42: What were some ways that John represented the Kingdom?
-Pray and thank God for the opportunity to speak the message to those you encounter.
We are citizens of a different kingdom, ambassadors representing Christ in a foreign land. —Randy Alcorn