From Death to Life

Scripture: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24

Observations: This verse is simple, yet profound. Jesus simply states that whoever hears and believes receives eternal life. The moment a person believes in Jesus, he crosses over from death to life spiritually and begins living a life in Christ that will never end. Of all the various ways people try to obtain salvation or redeem themselves or get to heaven, Jesus makes it painfully simple—believe in Him as God’s son and the Savior of the world.

Application: Trust and obey. I need to remember that it is Jesus alone who saves me from sin and death. It is by grace through faith in Jesus that I have been redeemed and crossed over from death to life—that is, eternal life that I am in fact already living in Jesus. I need to remind myself daily of the simple truths of the Gospel, living in trust and obedience to my Heavenly Father. Continual reading and study of the Bible, fervent prayer, and relationships with other believers will help keep this Truth prominent in my mind.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your grace, mercy, and incredible love that has given me eternal life through Jesus. Help me to remember that I’ve been saved through faith in the finished work of Jesus, not by my own righteousness or good works. Your grace alone has saved me. Lead me daily in the way I should go, filling me with trust and hope in You and Your perfect will. Help me to share the truth of Your love with others and to be gracious as You have shown me grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Devotional: We are the Clay

“Yet, O Lord, you  are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Observations: God is our father–not only is He the source of all life, but He has a special relationship with His people as our provider, protector, teacher, etc. Comparing God’s people to clay and God to a potter suggests that God molds and shapes us into the people we become. In one way, God created us with our unique personalities, natural talents and inner desires. But He also molds us by the work of His spirit through our restored relationship with Jesus Christ (sanctification). We are God’s handiwork, created by Him for a purpose and we are dependent upon Him to fulfill our purposes in this life. However, we are not devoid of all responsibility for our behaviors and the shape we take. It is our responsibility to respond to God’s call in our lives and to the work of His spirit, at least as much as we are able to in our broken condition.

Application: I will rest in the arms of my heavenly Father, secured by the blood of Christ, remembering that I am the work of His hand that was created for a specific purpose. I will remember that my responsibility is to respond to God’s leading and continually seek out His will daily, though it is Him who actually accomplished His perfect will.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your tremendous love and grace. Thank you also for creating me the way that You did. God, help me to not lose sight of who I  really am in this ever-changing, crazy world. Help me to look to You alone for my worth and value, seeking after Your will above all else. Guide me and mold me into the image of Christ. Amen. 

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. 

The Easy Life

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13 & 14 ESV)

It’s so easy to strive after personal comfort and security. Our culture bombards us with messages, ideas, and products that promise to make our lives easier and more convenient. The obsession with getting rich feeds off the lie that more money and more stuff will make you happy—that having many nice things and being comfortable is directly correlated with living a good life. However, it is not difficult to see the evidence of the deception we have been fed. Broken marriages and families, addictions, affairs, and insecurity afflict many of the people who have the most stuff. If the “gate is wide and the way is easy,” that is, if most people are living a certain way and it seems easy, then that should be our first sign that they are headed for destruction. Often times, going with the flow of our culture also means compromising truth and character, getting washed over the waterfall with the rest of the unsuspecting swimmers. To swim upstream, against the current, is obviously the more difficult option, but also the only way to survive and find true life. I believe our modern American church is plagued with Christians who have bought our culture’s lies about the easy life and have simply mixed in some Jesus to make themselves feel better. They see Jesus as a means to an end—a way to make their lives easier by giving them a sense of spiritual security (think fire insurance) and occasional reassurance when they are faced with the realities of suffering and death. They seek what they consider blessings over and against spiritual growth and the well-being of others. They expect a supernatural ROI (return-on-investment) from their “modest” giving. When things in their life get difficult or undesirable, they not only expect, but demand that God simply fix their problems and make their life easy again.

Are you one of these people? I used to be one. In some ways I still am. It is so easy for me to get caught up in my culture’s expectations of success, wealth, and personal and family comfort. I don’t want to be uncomfortable; who does? I don’t want to be poor, or hungry, or inconvenienced. That’s normal, I know. But when I read the Bible and look at Jesus’ life and teachings, I don’t see normal. I don’t see someone who is calling people to take up their beach umbrellas and sunscreen and just relax; He calls His people to take up a cross, which is definitely not relaxing. It is a calling to be servants to others, to be humble, to love and forgive and do what God says is right even when it hurts or doesn’t make sense. Jesus calls us to lay down our pride and self-focus and take up a desire to elevate His will above our own; to work to build up His kingdom and His people over and sometimes against our own.

What are some practical ways you can elevate God’s will and desires above your own? How have you seen others do this?

Please share your response via Facebook or in the Comments below.