Devotional: Cast your cares on Him

Scripture: “Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6&7

Observations: God cares for His people so fully and completely that we can confidently cast our anxiety on Him and trust Him to take care of all our needs. However, we must also humble ourselves before the Lord, making ourselves lower and being submissive to His authority and power.

Application: I need to continually remember my proper position before my holy God. I need to make myself lowly before Him, so that I can trust and obey His word and be lifted up in due time accoding to His purposes. Whenever I feel the crushing weight of my fears and anxiety, I will remember who God is and who I am to Him. I will remember that I am a deeply loved child of God. I will humble myself before the Lord and trust Him to take care of all my needs. If I fully trust Him and I am growing in that trust, believing that He is all-powerful and the ultimate sovereign authority, then there should be less and less room in my heart for unhealthy fear and anxiety.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being mighty and powerful and worthy of all my trust and hope. Especially in times of stress and anxiety, help me to remember who You are and that I can trust in You for ALL things. Take away my fears and anxious thoughts, and replace them hope, trust, and faith in You and in Your perfect love. Thank you Lord, for your gift of salvation in Jesus. Strengthen me and prepare me to share Your love and Truth with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be content

Scripture: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

Observation: We can trust God to meet all of our needs because He has promised to continually be with us and provide for us. Therefore, we should be content with what we have as we find rest in His promises. Money and possessions can never really fulfill our needs like God can.

Application: I should not love money or put my trust in it, but I should instead love and trust God, who is the source of all good things. I should have confidence in my Lord, remembering that He loves me dearly, knows all my needs and desires, and has promised to never leave or abandon me. Because of this covenant relationship, I am free to be content with my life–my income, my job, my family, my possessions–if everything is kept in the right perspective as gifts from God to be used to serve others and honor Him. I will continually strive to honor God with the money and possessions I’ve been given, handling them wisely and generously.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being my provider in whom I can always trust. Help me to remember who you are and what you have promised. Help me to keep money, possessions, and my entire life in proper perspective before You. Help me to be content with what I have and to honor You with all that I have and all that I am. Thank you Lord for your grace, your provision, and your incredible gift of eternal life through Jesus. Amen. 

God disciplines His children

Scripture: “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10

Observations: Although our fathers discipline us for a short time as children, God disciplines us for life. Because we are disciplined by God, we can be assured that we are His sons and daughters whom He loves. Also, we must be disciplined if we want to share in God’s holiness.

Application: I need to view hardship and difficult life circumstances as discipline from God–looking for opportunities to learn from God even in the most difficult times. I should check my attitude when things don’t go my way and focus my mind on God, remembering that He disciplines those He loves. If I fix my eyes on Jesus (see 12:2) and remember His work on the Cross for me, it will help me to keep my life in proper perspective and see how God may be teaching me.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being good and holy. Thank you that you are a God of tremendous patience and grace. Lord, help me to remember who you are and that I am your child, whom you love. Help me to see you at work even in the worst of circumstances and let me see how you are disciplining me and helping me grow in holiness. Give me patience, Lord, and help me to discern your will in my daily life, honoring you in both good times and bad times. Help me to fix my eyes on my Savior each and every day. Amen. 

SOAP: for best results use daily

If you have been around “church people” most of your life like me, you have probably heard thousands of catch-phrases and sayings that are unique to the language of Christian-ese. Not least among them are various acronyms to help you be a better Christian. Some of them are complete nonsense and most are at least a little corny, but I came across one a while back that has actually been quite helpful. Its a simple acronym intended to help people with personal Bible study. The idea is to journal about a portion of your daily reading, connecting it to your life through reflecting on Scripture, Observations, Application, and Prayer (SOAP). I had been doing this consistently throughout much of 2014, but have gotten out of the habit (I know, I really should use SOAP daily!). I have decided to revisit some of my previous journal entries and share them with others. My hope is that you (my readers) will be encouraged in your faith by my personal thoughts and reflections.

Scripture: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:23&24

Observations:  As believers, we can confidently hold onto our faith and hope because we know the source of this hope is trustworthy. Believers also need to encourage each other into love and good deeds through thoughtful consideration. These verses stood out to me when I read them recently because they are an encouraging call to action as a response to God’s faithfulness.

Application:  Knowing that my faith and my hope are in a faithful God, I need to hold firmly to this hope–hope in the work of Jesus for my salvation, hope for the future of my own life and that of my family, and hope in God’s redemptive work in the world. As I hold onto this hope and trust in God, I ought to encourage other believers to do the same. The Lord did not call me to trust in Him all by myself; He called me into a community of people He has chosen to be His children–to love and trust Him and to share His tremendous gospel message with the world through their words, deeds, and entire lifestyles. Therefore, as a result of the grace, patience, and mercy shown to me by my Savior Jesus, I should in turn show grace, patience, and mercy to others as I consider how my influence may spur them on toward doing the good things God desires them to do. I should willingly enter into the process by which God is preparing them to accomplish His purposes, while recognizing that God is simultaneously using other people to prepare me to carry out His will in my own life.

Prayer: 

Lord, you are good and faithful and true. Your ways are higher than my ways and your thoughts are much greater than my thoughts. Though I see my life only as from below, you see everything from above, making perfect sense of all the pieces to your tremendous puzzle. I am thankful that I don’t have to know and understand everything about my life, but that I can confidently put my hope in you through the grace extended to me through Jesus. Lord, help me to see my life from your perspective and to consider how I can help others do the same, placing their trust in You. Amen. 

Love is a Choice

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG)

When I read what the Bible says about love, I am always lead to the same conclusion: love is a choice. After reading the four gospels recently, I did not come away with the idea that Jesus just fell in love with His followers because they were so wonderful and charming. As a matter of fact, many followers were only enchanted by His miracles and what they thought He could do for them. Most of the tremendous crowds that clamored to hear His teaching did nothing to love Him in return. Even His closest friends and most devoted followers continually doubted Him and failed to understand the important things He was trying to tell them. When He was betrayed by His friend Judas and arrested, all of His disciples deserted Him. Peter even denied knowing Him three times. Jesus was beaten, tortured, and brutally executed on a cross while His friends and followers looked on. Yet He loved them through it all. Not only did He love His followers, but He also loved His enemies. In His tremendous suffering on the cross, Jesus went as far as praying for them saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34 MSG). Jesus willingly died on the cross to save His friends from the power of sin and death and give them the opportunity for eternal life.

Everyone knows Jesus was (and still is) awesome at this whole sacrificial love idea. But He is Jesus, after all, so that is to be expected. What about the rest of us? Can we really love like that? Do we have the capacity to truly love others even when they don’t deserve it, don’t want it, or don’t accept it?

If we take a look at our world’s cultures, it’s not difficult to see that humans are doing a pretty terrible job at loving each other well. From family feuds and domestic violence to sex trafficking and international terrorism, people are clearly better and more practiced at hate than they are at love. Even within the Christian culture we can see many examples of selfish and destructive behaviors that obviously place “me” above all others, bringing grief to the heart of God. It seems to me that self-focus and general apathy toward others are the most pervasive and subtly destructive attributes of this love-lacking culture.

Marriages, which are intended to be life-long covenant relationships, are flippantly abandoned in the name of self-preservation. Nationally, somewhere around 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Subsequent remarriages have an even higher rate of failure. Christian marriages tend to fail just as badly as that of other non-Christian marriages. But how can this be? How can someone who has believed in Jesus as their savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit actually break their vows and give up on their marriage? It’s not necessarily lack of faith or wrong beliefs about God that allow this to happen. Although there are numerous reasons people cite for getting divorced, I believe they all essentially come down to one common cause: choosing not to love. I know that may seem oversimplified, but if you think about it, how many broken marriages could have been saved if both partners chose to simply love each other unconditionally? I am not saying that nagging wives, unappreciative husbands, liars, and cheaters don’t deserve to be punished and alone. They do deserve the consequences of their actions. But so do you and me. Love, as Jesus gives, does not simply return to someone what their actions deserve; a husband who really loves gives when he doesn’t receive, and a wife shows appreciation when she is not appreciated. True love holds on when all others would have already let go. My point is this: love is a choice. We must all choose love every day, in every circumstance, in every argument, in every relationship. Of course we will fail at times, but we must persevere. Those of us who are married are called to love our spouses unconditionally and forever. But we are not called to do it alone; we are given God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and empowers us to live holy lives. Love is a choice that we can really only make when we first choose to surrender ourselves to God and rely on Him to sustain us. 

What are some practical ways you choose to love your spouse? To love others?

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