Devotional for August 7, 2017 – “The Race”

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Tonight, my wife and I went to the races. There is a dirt track and tonight was the season’s end and season champions were crowned tonight. In car racing, there is a lot of preparation that goes into being ready for the race on race day. There is work on the car – the engine and the body – as well as working on driving skills. It takes preparation for being ready to go for the prize in a car race – taking first place.

Paul has just told the Corinthian believers about how he goes about seeking to build the kingdom of God through being all things to all people. (You can read about it in verses 19-23) That is Paul’s race. That this was Paul’s perspective of what he did can be seen in his words to Timothy about having fought the good fight, having finished the race.

In preparing to run the race, it is important to first know what the prize is. For Paul, it was seeing that he could win as many as possible. It was getting as many saved as possible. So, Paul prepared himself to do that through being different things to different people in order to connect with them and then draw them to Jesus and the gospel.

Second, it is important to know how to prepare for the race. You need to know the nature of the race so that you can prepare for it. If it is a running race, you run to increase stamina and speed. Whatever type of race it is, you work on things specifically that will prepare to be the one who wins.

So, what is the race you are running? What is the prize, the goal, of the race? Do you know?

And how are you preparing for the race? Are you continuing to prepare or have you stopped?

God has a race specifically designed for you, a race custom designed just for you to run. If you don’t know what that race is, spend some time with God and find out what that race looks like. Then find out from Him what the prize at the end of the race is. Then seek out the ways to prepare yourself, to train, so as to run that race.

Happy training and racing.

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Devotional for August 6th, 2017 – “A Redeemed Community”

For today’s devotional, I would like to share something my current theological mentor, Graham Cooke, recently wrote. I have only added the actual Scripture passages Graham reference from John 3:16-17 and Colossians 1:19-20, both of which are my own translation of those passages.

Graham wrote:

When God hears the world, He hears something different than we do because He listens to the secret of our hearts.

God doesn’t listen to the image that we present. He doesn’t pay attention to the things that we say to bolster our confidence or make ourselves look good. He is so much better than that.

Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for us, listens to different things.

He listens to the longings behind the words; He hears the hunger. He listens to the cries in people’s hearts, the unspoken prayers that people don’t really think are prayers at all, except that they are. In His grace and mercy, He hears beyond our pain and desires for all of us to experience who He really is.

Beloved, I wonder what we’re listening to? Do we hear the way He does? Do we have the same responses of kindness, goodness and mercy that are like His?

I wonder sometimes what we’re listening to when we listen to the world. We get fooled so easily, and can often miss the desperation and the cries of people who have yet to encounter His goodness.

That’s who the church is meant to be: an expression of the Kingdom of God and His goodness.

The Kingdom that Jesus prayed would manifest on earth the same as it is in heaven.

The church is a redeemed community in a reconciled society.

Jesus died for everyone (John 3:16-17 – “For, in the same way, God loved the world, so that He gave His only unique Son, in order that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but should have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world that He should judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him,” Colossians 1:19-20 – “…because He was well pleased to have all the fullness dwell in Him and through ‘Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross, through Him, whether the things are upon the earth or things in the heavens.”). At the cross, everyone was reconciled – but it takes the action of salvation to convert reconciliation into redemption.

It’s like getting a credit card in the mail. All the rights and privileges of it are yours IF you call in and activate them.

Salvation changes our status from reconciled to being the redeemed in whom the Spirit of God now lives.

As ambassadors of the Kingdom, the church gets to tell the world:

Hey, listen, I don’t quite know what you think about God, but this is what He thinks about you. You’re reconciled to Him. A way has been made open to you, and while you’re making up your mind about that, let’s get your body healed. Let’s bring some favor into your life. Let’s pray for you and your family so you can taste and see that the Lord is good.

Our job is not to complain about the world, nor judge it. We are here primarily to be God’s visual aid to the earth of who God really is and reflect the culture of heaven here on the earth.

Romans 2:4 invites us to not forget the lens through which we see everyone we meet.

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

The amazing, outrageous, never-changing goodness of God is the nature of the Kingdom and therefore, our delight to represent as the Church.

August 5, 2017 devotional: “What Does It Mean to Be Spiritual?”

“And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as spiritual, but as carnal, as infants in Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:1

When I was in college, one of the required courses for all students was biology. Of the three different types of science classes I took in high school – biology, chemistry, and physics – I found biology to be my least favorite and the hardest for me. One of the sections of that college biology course was to be able to tell what type of tree a tree is by its leaves. I did alright with oaks and maples, but beyond that I struggled. I barely got the required “C” in that class to pass it.

The principle behind tree identification from its leaves is that what a tree or plant produces will identify what kind of tree or plant it is. It’s the same with trees and plants that bear some type of fruit. I would struggle to know what a pear or an orange tree looked like if there was no fruit on its limbs, but if I saw a pear or an orange, I would immediately be able to identify that a tree was a pear tree or an orange tree because fruit produced is an identifying trait.

It is the same with being spiritual. Over the years, I have had a number of people ask me this question – “What does it mean to be spiritual?” I’ve also asked people that same question and many, if not most, struggle to answer that question.

The concept of “being spiritual” may be one of those that people just assume everyone knows what it means and what it looks like. My experience tells me something different.

So, what does it mean to be spiritual? Why was the Apostle Paul able to qualify the Corinthian believers as not being spiritual? It all has to do with that principle of identifying something by the fruit produced.

If something is spiritual, then it must fund its source in the Spirit. In other words, it must be fruit that the Holy Spirit would produce. Paul mentions some in Galatians 5:22-23. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such as these there is no law.” There are others which Paul did not mention such as generosity, mercy, and grace. Basically things that are in God’s nature are the things that are spiritual.

So, one who is spiritual is someone who displays these traits because they are the fruit of the Spirit and are, therefore, spiritual, and anyone displaying them is spiritual because s/he is displaying the nature of God.

So, consider the things you are doing. Are they drawing you to being more loving? Or having more joy? Or more patience? Or being kind to those around you? If what you are doing is not drawing you into displaying the fruit of the Spirit, things of the Spirit, spiritual things, then start doing something different.

The question, “What does it mean to be spiritual,” should not be a difficult question to answer. Just look to the nature of God.

Devotional for August 3, 2017 – “Spiritual Fathers”

“Because of this, I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved child and faithful in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways which are in Christ Jesus, just as everywhere I teach in every congregation.” – 1 Corinthians 4:17

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the death of the last of 3 men whom I consider my fathers in the faith.

First to go was Reverend Dr. Fred Moore, whom I consider my ministry mentor. He was a master at dealing with and interacting with many kinds of people. My youngest child, my only son, is named after Pastor Fred.

Second to go was Dr. Carl B. Hoch, Jr., whom I credit with making me into the biblical theologian I am today. His knowledge of the original language of the New Testament was beyond incredible, and his ability to work and dig into the text of Scripture is beyond anything I have ever witnessed since.

Third, and last, to go was my wife’s maternal grandfather, Dale Redfield. He wasn’t a pastor nor a theologian. He was a simple man, a long-time farmer among other occupations he held during his lifetime. But while he was a simple man, he knew much about what was important in life and living that out. He taught me through his actions that faith, relationships, and being a good steward of what one has been given by God are the three most important things in life.

These three men molded me in different ways spiritually, but all had equal results in shaping me spiritually.

And that’s the type of relationship Paul had with Timothy. Paul poured himself into Timothy, teaching and molding Timothy spiritually through word and action. That’s why Paul had no problem in sending Timothy to be the one to remind the Corinthian believers of what Paul taught them while he was with them. Paul also later sent Timothy to Ephesus to do the same type of thing.

Paul considered Timothy his son in the faith, and I’m sure Timothy considered Paul his spiritual father. And that’s an important part of the faith – people being spiritual parents and people allowing themselves to be molded in the faith by more mature believers.

So, let me ask you to consider two questions:

First, who has been your spiritual parent(s)? If they haven’t yet received their heavenly reward, reach out to him/her/them and thank them for how they have shaped you spiritually. I wish I could do that.

Second, if you have been a follower of Jesus for a number of years, who are you parenting in faith? If you aren’t, maybe you ought to ask God with whom He would like to use you in that capacity. If you are parenting in the faith, please take your role very seriously.

Devotional for August 2, 2017 – “God Does It All”

A couple of days ago, I wrote a devotional about how God doesn’t do unfunded mandates. You can read it here if you haven’t already. I talked about how that everything God expects from us we don’t have to generate ourselves. He first gives it to us, pours it into us and then requests that we give it back to Him, impacting those around us.

Well, I’d like to share with you something the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the believers at Rome about how this cycle works, and why it works. In Romans 11:34-36, Paul wrote, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and He should repay him? Because all things are from Him and through Him and unto Him.”

Did you see the cycle? First is “from God,” because everything originates from God. The second is “through God.” Think about who resides in you. It’s the Spirit of God. It’s the nature of Jesus that resides in us. So, then everything flows from God to His Son and Spirit who resides in us. Then it flows back to Him, “unto Him.” What God sends out and what flows through Him always returns to Him. That’s the cycle.

And here’s the awesome part. He get to participate in the cycle! We get to be an important part of this circle of how God does things. Isn’t that cool?

So, remember, you have been invited into the cycle of how God does things by God Himself. You and I get to now be an important part of how God is operating in this world. When Jesus was bodily walking the earth, Jesus was the second part of the cycle, like the bottom of the circle. The things from the Father poured out from heaven unto and through Jesus who then returned it back to the Father for the glory of the Father.

With Jesus’ ascension, returning to the Father, and the coming of and the indwelling of believers by the Holy Spirit, we now physically take Jesus’ place in the bottom of the circle as what comes from God flows through His Spirit who lives in us.

So, remember your place in the cycle. Have this perspective and it will be amazing what God does through you as what He sends out flows through you and touches people around you as it returns to Him.

I’ll end this with how Paul ended verse 36: “Glory be to Him forever and ever. Amen.”

Devotional for August 1, 2017 – “God’s Inheritance

Earlier this year, I learned that I was named in someone’s will. This gentleman was someone whom I pastored. Because of this connection, he named me in his will. And he desired that some of the money be used to further God’s kingdom. So, once I receive this money in the next couple of months, some of this money will be used to fund Legacy Ministries.

Most, if not all, people are pleased when they are named as one who will receive part of an inheritance.

Much has been said about what we who are believers have and will inherit because of our faith and becoming adopted sons and daughters of God. But have you ever thought that that whole inheritance thing with God is a two-way street?

Paul says in Ephesians 1:18, “…so that you may know…what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

Remember, inheritances are valuable. Have you ever considered the fact that you are part of God’s inheritance? And that His inheritance is quite valuable to Him, just like any inheritance you receive is valuable to you? What does that say about your intrinsic worth and value? What does that say about how God views and sees you?

It says that you are extremely valuable to Him! And what a position to be in!

So, the next time you don’t feel very valuable to God, the next time Satan or one of his minions try to convince you that you just aren’t valuable, remind yourself, remind that evil spirit that you are extremely valuable to God because you are part of the inheritance that God is receiving. And God has placed an extremely high value on his inheritance.

Bask in that reality.

Relish that position.

Allow it to wash over you, renewing you and energizing your spirit, soul, mind, and body.

You are an inheritance.

Devotional for July 31, 2017 – “God Doesn’t Do Unfunded Mandates”

Ever heard of an unfunded mandate? It’s where the government requires someone or an entity to do something but will not give the required funding in order to make it possible to be done. But even though no funding is given, the expectation is that it will still be done.

Ever feel like that when trying to measure up to God? Ever feel like you always mess up and can never get it right? Always feel like you fall short and then feel shame and guilt because of it?

If you do, that’s because you are still operating under the old system of things. In Romans 7, Paul describes that old system, under the law and what it was like, and how it brings on shame and condemnation.

Under the gospel, the system changes. Because God doesn’t do unfunded mandates, He pours into us what He expects from us. John says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” What God expects from us He first pours into us so that we can then give it back to Him.

Isn’t that awesome!? Whatever God expects you to be or to do, He has already given it to you to then give it back. So, you don’t have to come up with the ability to do what God expects; He’s already given it to you.