Devotional for August 14, 2017: “The Right Question Follow-up”

“But sanctify Christ in your hearts, always ready with an answer to everyone asking you for an account about the hope that is in you.” – 1 Peter 3:15

Recently, I shared a clip of Dr. John Perkins talking about a question that Christians shouldn’t be asking people. If you didn’t see it, click here. I have not been able to get what Dr. Perkins said out of my mind.

It reminded me of a personal account I read some years ago by a pastor who served on a college campus. He had started a relationship with a young man, a college student. While they were talking over coffee one day, the pastor decided to share the gospel message with this young man. As he was explaining the gospel to him, the young man was nodding his head like he was agreeing with what he was hearing.

So, the pastor decided to go for “closing the deal.” He asked the young man if he wanted to pray to receive Christ as Savior. The pastor was shocked by what the young man said next. He said, “No thank you.” The pastor responded, “I don’t understand. You seemed to be agreeing with everything I said. Why don’t you want to become a Christian?”

The young man responded, “Because I don’t want to be like you.”

And there it is – “I don’t want to be like you.” Explaining the gospel to someone doesn’t work if that person doesn’t want to be what the gospel has created you to be. What that young man had seen from Christians, what he had seen people be changed into after becoming a follower of Christ, was not good in his eyes. And he didn’t want to become that type of person.

And that’s the reason why I quoted Peter’s words from his first letter. So, let me ask you this question:

When was the last time someone said he or she wanted to be like you?

When was the last time, because of how you live life because of being a follower of Jesus, because of how He has changed your life, that someone observed that and asked you about it or said, “How do I become like you?”

Living a life that is led by faith, living a life that is full of power, living a life that is so interwoven with peace, living a life full of the fruit of the Spirit, that type of life is so unlike what people see that, when they do see it, they want to know how they can experience it as well.

So, let me finish by asking this question for your deep consideration:

How has the gospel so radically altered you and changed your life to be so different from others that they cannot help but take notice?

Devotional for August 13, 2017 – “Ever Thought of Asking This Question?”

“And this is the confidence which we have toward Him, that whatever we should ask according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us whatever we should ask, we know that we have the requests which we request from Him.” – 1 John 5:14-15

There is a particular phenomenon that can be found on Facebook. It can be found in other places, but it seems to be quite prevalent on social media. Maybe you’ve noticed it. Maybe you have even participated in it. What is this phenomenon? People asking people to pray about something or for someone. When this is done, it is common for the expected way to pray to be stated or implied. So, a person is asked to pray and told the result for which s/he is expected to pray.

But here’s the problem; what if that’s not what God wants to do? According to the words of John the Apostle from above, the confidence in praying and knowing that God hears us is when we pray what is according to His will.

What about, before praying, we actually ask God what He wants to do in a particular situation and then we pray that? What if praying becomes about what God wants to do and less, or nothing, about what we want? What if praying becomes more about God and less about us? What if the focus of prayer shifts to God and His will, instead of ours?

Sometimes I wonder if the common way that prayer is approached today is more like treating God like a butler or a genie and expecting Him to adhere to our desires and wants than it is about Him.

I know of a long time follower of Jesus who refuses to pray for traveling safety for someone. No, it’s not that he doesn’t care about the person, but it was through an accident while traveling that God got ahold of him. So this man says, “What if God wants to use some type of traffic incident to do something in that person’s life like He did with him? Because of that possibility, I won’t pray for traveling mercies for a person.”

So, before praying, stop and take some time to ask God what He wants to do. Then close the mouth and open the ears, physically and those of your spirit. Understand that this could take some time. God may not speak immediately, but He will speak eventually. Listen to what comes to you. And then pray that.

And when you do that, you will be moving from praying to proclaiming. And then you will see your confidence in praying grow.

Devotional for August 12, 2017: “Opening the Mind”

“Now He said to them, ‘These are my words which I spoke to you while was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” – Luke 24:44-45

What can often go overlooked about the above passage is how it played out in how the apostles did things in Acts. Notice what Jesus said. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He opened their minds to understand how the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms spoke about Him.

Take a look at the early chapters of Acts, maybe up through chapter 10 or so, where the apostles and others preached, paying specific attention to those places where they quote from Scripture, meaning what we know today as the Old Testament. Would you like to guess from what portions of the Scriptures they quoted? You guessed it: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Those were the quotes that they used to prove that Jesus is the Christ.

Jesus opened their minds to understand and it showed in how they thought and how they went about demonstrating to people who were listening to them why Jesus was who He said He was and what He had to endure and experience. And understood they did.

What about us today? Obviously the way in which Jesus opened the minds of the disciples (He was physically with them) is not what has happened to us, but through the Holy Spirit, we who believe have had our minds open as well to understand, to have a level of perception that goes beyond the physical into the spiritual.

At one point in his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul says that we, believers, have the mind of Christ because we have the Spirit. That means our perception and understanding of things are at a different level.

So, remember that. Seek to have that perception and understanding sharpened by spending time with the one who gave us that mind – the Spirit. It will open up things to you like never before.

Devotional for August 11, 2017 – “You Are not Impotent”

“[that you may know] what is the surpassing greatness of His power unto us who are believing according to the energizing of the might of His strength, which He energized in Christ, raising Him from death and seating Him at His right hand in the heavenlies far above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the coming one and He subjected everything under His feet and gave Him to be the head over all things for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:19-23

As a believer, have you ever felt powerless? How about impotent? Have you ever convinced yourself that you were powerless or impotent? Well, that’s a lie straight from the pit of hell and the father of lies, Satan himself.

You are not powerless nor impotent, not because you, in yourself have power, but because God has directed the very same power that energized the resurrection of Christ toward and in you and through you. You are powerful because of God’s power.

That means that the power of Satan and his followers cannot hold a candle to you as a follower of Jesus. Because he knows that, Satan has to resort to convincing you that you are not powerful but impotent. He knows that if you realize the power that flows through you because of the power that God has directed toward, in, and through you, he’s in big trouble.

So, remember who and whose you are and what the One who has claimed you has poured into you. When you remember this, how you approach different situations will change. When you remember this, it is amazing how you can impact this world by directing the power of God and His kingdom in this realm.

Devotional for August 9, 2017: “Biblical Belief”

“For in the same way God loved the world that He gave His only unique Son, that everyone who believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

You may have noticed that my translation of what is probably the most well-known verse in the Bible is a little different than the common translations. My translation is actually the correct one. Jesus isn’t talking about the quality or the depth of God’s love. He’s talking about how God went about displaying His love, and it is in direct connection with what He has just said in verses 14-15. I’d invite you to see how the preceding verses connect with what Jesus says in verse 16 and on.

But that’s not the topic of today’s devotional; it’s about belief and what biblical belief is.

Biblical belief changes one’s perspective.

Biblical belief changes how one sees things. It changes how one views the world and people. Biblical belief changes how you think. If your beliefs do not change your perspective, then they aren’t truly beliefs. They are nothing more than propositional truths that you know in your head.

Biblical belief changes one’s actions.

One’s actions reveal what one truly believes. That’s the foundation of biblical belief. The statement, “And you shall know them by their fruit,” is true for what one truly believes. What a person truly believes is upon what a person acts. If you don’t believe a chair will hold your weight, you won’t sit in it. Whether or not you are willing to sit in that chair reveals what you truly believe about that chair. It’s the same way with what we believe about God.

Do you believe that God will provide as He promised? Then you will be generous with money when He calls you to give. If you aren’t, then you don’t truly believe He will provide, because biblical belief is belief upon which we act.

So, what do you say you truly believe? What do your actions say you truly believe? And do they match?

Devotional for August 8th, 2017 – “What Will You Choose”

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled nor be afraid.” – Jesus (John 14:27)

If Jesus left his peace with us and not only left it but gave it to us, then why is stress such common thing for followers of Jesus? Is it because Jesus lied and really didn’t leave His peace or give it? Is it because Jesus’ peace really isn’t worth much at all and isn’t very good at dealing with stress in one’s life?

Obviously, the answers to both of those questions is, “Absolutely not!” Then why do so many Christians struggle with stress, with being “stressed out” in life and the situations in which they find themselves?

Could it be that they haven’t taken hold of what has been given to them? Could it be that they don’t understand what is theirs in the first place?

Peace isn’t the opposite of stress; trust is.

This is important to understand. Peace isn’t the opposite of stress any more than peace is the absence of war. Peace is the result. Trusting in God and who He is for you is the opposite of stress. How much stress do you think there is in heaven? The way some Christians are so stressed out about things would cause one to think that God is sitting in heaven freaking out wondering what He’s going to do about a certain situation or pulling out his hair because of not knowing what to do.

Peace comes from proper perspective

There is no stress in heaven. God is in absolute control, of EVERYTHING! Nothing is outside of His control. And if that is reality (and it is), then trusting the One who has all things under control brings about that peace. It’s there; it has been left here and given by Jesus. It is ours for the taking. When we have this perspective, peace comes naturally. When we view things through the lens of heaven, peace is the natural result.

And that brings me to the last thing…

Peace is a choice; I get to choose.

Life is full of choices, but this is an important one. Each of us gets to choose which we will have: stress or peace. We cannot have both. Because peace is the result of trust, and trust is the opposite of stress, peace and stress cannot occupy the same space at the same time. And we get to choose which one we will keep. Personally, I choose peace because, frankly, stress sucks. And who’d want to live that way? I know I don’t. So I choose peace, and it’s wonderful. It doesn’t mean that everything goes right for me, but it does mean that I know God has it handled. And I rest in that. So, as Joshua said to the Israelites in Joshua 24:14-15, “If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

What will you choose?