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Daily Devotional 5-7-19

Abundant Life through Christ 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
When I was growing up in the faith, I heard many sermons from this text where the thief was identified as Satan.  In fact, on most occasions, I have referred to the thief in the text as Satan.  While Satan has an assignment of stealing, killing and destroying what God had created and blessed, the “thief” in the text refers to a different category of persons.
In John 10, Jesus gives a discourse on the Good Shepherd as he addressed the Pharisees because they were having an attitude towards the healing of a man born blind, Ch.9.  The Pharisees were the religious leaders who had the responsibility of shepherding God’s people.  However, they turned out to be bad religious leaders.  The religious institution had become corrupted, with the Sadducees and Pharisees, and other religious leaders taking advantage of God’s people. Instead of caring for the sheep, they were living at the expense of the sheep.  Thus, the thieves in the text refer to the religious leaders who did not have the interest of the sheep in mind.   The Shepherd would protect, feed and care for the sheep, but the thieves would feed on the sheep.  They would use the sheep to promote their personal ambitions.  They will manipulate the sheep to fulfill their own interests.
What does the thief look like for us in our contemporary society?  The thieves in this text would be those leaders set up by God to bring order and to create flourishing conditions for the human lives but have turned out to be self-serving leaders who lead God’s people astray.  These leaders can lie and cheat their way through at the expense of the people.  Jesus may be referring to religious leaders as thieves, but I also believe these thieves are everywhere in society. They could be found in the world of government, education, health, business, etc.  These thieves come with seeming good intention, but end up stealing, killing, and destroying lives.  They come like wolves in sheep clothing.  They know how to speak to win the hearts of people, but their main motives are worse off.
In contrast, Jesus, confidently claims he came that the sheep may have life and the abundance of it.  Jesus is the good Shepherd who could truly care for the sheep by feeding, protecting, and providing their needs.  Jesus is the only One we could trust to lead us to a place of rest and peace, satisfying the deep longings of our souls.  While we cannot really trust the political leadership and even some religious institutions, we can trust in Jesus, the Source of abundant life. We can find peace, blessings, hope, satisfaction, and purpose in Him.
PRAYER: Christ our good Shepherd, lead and direct my life to a place of peace and abundance.

Daily Devotional 5-6-19

Believer’s Authority Restored 

“…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” Ephesians 1:19-21

“…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6
Paul prayed for the eyes of the Christians in Ephesians to be opened to realize the great authority God has restored to them. The restoration of authority has come about because of the new position of the Christian in Christ Jesus—we are seated in heavenly places with Christ.
Let us recap what really happened in the garden when Adam to sinned. Adam was the representative of God on the created order. He had so much authority and power over all the created order of God because God chose to entrust him with that authority. In fact, Adam named all the animals and had dominion over the created order. Adam was blessed and privileged with so much power and authority. However, when he sinned against God, not only was his relationship with God broken, but he also lost the authority and power given him.
Instead of dominating, Adam was dominated because of sin.
Therefore, among the many blessing of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the restoration of the authority we lost through Adam. The texts above enlighten us about our position in Christ. Now, we must also understand that position comes with authority. At gatherings and occasions, dignitaries and people entrusted with power and influence are seated to reflect the responsibility given to them. Similarly, our spiritual position in Christ depicts the authority and influence we have. Paul said we are seated with Christ in heavenly places far above principalities, powers (Ephesians 1:18-20; 2:6-7).
What this means for us is that we have authority over hatred, wickedness, all manifestations of darkness, personal and systemic evils. You have authority over Satan and his cronies. Most importantly, you have authority over yourself—thus, you cannot be a slave to the whims of your thoughts and feelings.
Arise, take your authority in Christ, and rule as Christ has intended.
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, open the eyes of my understanding to realize how much you have blessed me with divine authority.

Daily Devotional 5-3-19

Lifting Upward 
Scripture: Ephesians 4:29
Sparrows are tiny birds that possess remarkable strength and endurance. They have been clocked at great speeds and have been known to fly hundreds of miles during one daylight period. Their endurance and energy levels are enormous. Sparrows are incredibly strong and tough little birds. However, as powerful as sparrows are, if you were to use your hand to catch a sparrow and hold it a bit too tightly, you could break every bone in its body in seconds.
It’s the same with the way we use words. Words can crush too; they can snuff out a person’s dignity in a heartbeat. And, some people never recover from their traumatizing effects, carrying hurtful emotional pain that spills out onto others.
But WORDS ALSO HAVE GREAT POWER TO BLESS AND TO HEAL BY GOD’S STRENGTH.  The world applauds quick-witted retorts and put-downs, but God’s instructions are quite different.
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)
Gentle words are a tree of life but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
Kind words are like honey-sweet to the souls and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24)
Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook. (Proverbs 18:4)
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
The ability to verbalize is an awesome privilege granted only to humans, those God created in His image. We all need help in exercising this mighty power more responsibly. Whenever you begin to speak on the phone or communicate with people around you, ask God to guide your word choices. These are split-second prayers, but they put you in touch with God’s presence. In this way, your speaking comes under the control of the Holy Spirit.
As kind speech patterns replace negative ones, the increase in your joy for the Lord will amaze you. But even more important, your ability to bless others with words will ultimately lift them closer to the love of God.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I want to watch my words diligently. Help my word choices be honoring and uplifting in a way that draws others toward You.
RESPONSE:  How can you remember to honor God with your words; to use more words that bless and heal in your self-talk and toward others?

Daily Devotional 5-2-19

Peace Song 
Scripture: Zephaniah 3:17, Jeremiah 31:3
Listen to the love song that God is continually singing to you!
I take great delight in you…I rejoice over you with joyful song.  (Zephaniah 3:17)
The voices of the world are a clatter of chaos, pulling you this way and that way. Don’t listen to those voices; challenge them with God’s Word. The world rams at your doorbell. Jesus gently knocks. Worldly voices scream for your allegiance. Jesus softly and tenderly asks for it. The world promises flashy, immediate pleasure. Jesus promises a quiet dinner…with God.
Learn to take mini-breaks from the world. Find a place to be still in God’s presence and listen for His song. There is a gold mine of peace waiting to be tapped through listening for God. This hymn from 1912 celebrates the joyous companionship its author experienced with Jesus.
The Garden by C. Austin Miles
He speaks, and the sound of his voice,
is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing.
And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever known.
Learn to live from your real Center where God has an eternal grip on you. He loves to reveal Himself to you and your seeking heart opens you up to receive more of His disclosure.
I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself. (Jeremiah 31:3)
GOD is reaching out to you with kindness motivated by everlasting love, drawing you toward HIM!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me recognize Your voice in my day. Teach me to listen in a way that allows Your voice, Your Word, and Your peace to penetrate my soul. Amen
RESPONSE:  How will you remind yourself to take mini-breaks from the world and be still in God’s presence this day and every day?  How can you encourage others to do the same?

Daily Devotional 5-1-19

God, My Positive Focus 
Do you believe God is near? He wants you to. He wants you to know that He is in the midst of your world. Wherever you are, He is present. In your car, a restaurant, your office, your bedroom, and your kitchen. He’s always nearby. He is as near to you on Monday as He is on Sunday; in the grocery store as in the sanctuary; at a coffee break as much as at the communion table.
And behold! I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
That’s why His Word, the Bible, speaks about the things in our world. It is addressed to you and me.  It speaks to our needs, our hopes, and our dreams. Wherever you are in life, wherever you go in this world––His promises speak of His personal passion for you! His faithfulness is clear.  And, His will to change the world? Relentless. God has drawn ever so near to you, hovering over your shoulder, reading your every thought.
He knows the secrets of every heart. (Psalm 44:20)
People may think that thoughts are fleeting and worthless, but yours are precious to God! God’s Spirit, who lives within you, helps you think His thoughts. As your heart-thinking goes, so goes your entire being. So, let God be your positive focus.
When you look to God, knowing Him as God with you, you experience true joy.  This is according to God’s ancient design when He first crafted man.  Modern man seeks his positive focus elsewhere: in sports, sensations, job titles, acquiring new possessions. Advertising capitalizes on the longing of people for a positive focus in their lives.  God planted that longing in your human soul, knowing that only He could fully satisfy it.
Delight yourself in Me; let Me become the desire of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
PRAYER:  Dear Father, please help me delight myself in You by reading and meditating on Your Word and by safeguarding Your thoughts in my heart. Amen
REFLECTION:  What thoughts/longings do you have that reflect your love for God and others?

Daily Devotional 4-30-19

In Tune with God
Scripture: Psalm 25:8-10
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore, he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
Trust God enough to spend time with Him, pushing back the demands of the day. Refuse to feel guilty about something that is so pleasing to Him, the King of the Universe! Moments with God transcend time, accomplishing far more than you can imagine.  Bring God the sacrifice of your time early in the day, then again in the hurried middle, and at the end as the day winds down.
Because He is omnipotent, He is able to bend time and events in your favor. You will find that you can accomplish more in less time after you have given yourself to Him in rich communion.  Also, as you align yourself with His perspective, you can sort out what is important and what is not.
The Lord leads the humble in doing right, teaching them His way. The Lord leads, with unfailing love and faithfulness, all who keep His covenant and obey His commands. (Psalm 25:8-10)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)
Don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the go. Many, many things people do in God’s name have no value in His Kingdom. To avoid doing meaningless works, stay in continual communication with Him. God longs to guide you with love and wisdom!
God uses people to change the world. People. He uses all of us, and what we may lack in perfection, God makes up for in love. Have you ever wondered how God could use you to make a difference in the world? How you could be more in tune with God’s will?
Here are some simple ideas that cost nothing but can yield tremendous dividends: Listen without interrupting (Proverbs 18), speak without accusing (James 1:19), answer without arguing (Proverbs 20:3), enjoy without complaining (Philippians 2:14), forgive without punishing (Colossians 3:13), promise without forgetting (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
PRAYER: Dear God, help me to spend more time with You, learning from You, and loving like You.
REFLECTION: What will you do in order to be more in tune with God today? How could you become an encourager of others who seem a bit out of tune?

Daily Devotional 4-29-19

School of Love
Scripture: Isaiah 49:16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
Let God’s love enfold you in the radiance of His glory. Bask in His presence, and receive His love.
“I accept you as you are.”
“I believe you are valuable.”
“I care when you hurt.”
“I desire only what’s best for you.”
“I erase all offenses.”
Beautiful statements designed by the alphabet of God’s love. But, the world’s love is very different.  The world’s love says, “I’d love you if you looked like me. I’d love you if you do what I say.  How you treat me determines how much I’ll love you.”
Tattoo this on your heart instead: Godly love, real authentic love, has staying power.
And God’s love doesn’t hinge on yours. You have no thermostatic impact on His love for you. The abundance of your love does not increase His. The lack of your love does not diminish His.  Your goodness does not enhance His love, nor does your weakness dilute it. God loves you simply because He has chosen to love you. He loves you when you don’t feel lovely. He loves you when no one else seems to love you. Others may abandon you, mistreat you, and ignore you. But God?
I will never fail you or abandon you. (Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5)
God will love you. Always. No matter what. Does He love you because of your goodness and your kindness and your deep faith? No, He loves you because of His.
Prayer: Almighty Father, help me to internalize the ABCs of Your love. Remind me that I am so important to you that you have inscribed my name on the palms of Your hands (Isaiah 49:16).  Amen
Response: How can you help others to understand the depth and breadth and height of the love of God, our Wonderful Teacher?
PRAYER: Father, help me to trust and rely fully on your love.

Daily Devotional 4-26-19

Cosmic Second Chance 
 But now [at this very moment] in Christ Jesus you who once were [so very] far away [from God] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13
This week we have been looking at some of the blessings bestowed on us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today, we focus on “cosmic second chance.” In the beginning, as the story of humanity began, we messed up our relationship through the disobedience of Adam. Imagine what life in heaven would be like; the consistent daily interaction with God in the garden––the beautiful creation of God. I know it is hard for us to comprehend such a blissful life in the garden because we are used to seeing brokenness and blessings side by side. In our experience, joy and suffering walk hand in hand, pleasure and pain are twins.
God, through his Son, Jesus Christ, has given us a second chance. Praise God! God, through his Son, has reconciled us to himself. Today’s text says we were once very far from the presence of God. We had no dealings with God, we were separated from God. I am glad to announce that our position relative to God has changed forever. We have been brought near him. That means we can know the mind of God, hear him when he speaks to us, and be close to him as Adam was with him in the garden. Now, why would God brings us close to himself? My response would be that God values us. This may be hard for you to believe and accept because you have seen yourself through the lenses of your brokenness and what others, and society, think of you.
You are a treasure of God, and he puts a high premium on you. You want to know the value God places on you? Check out Jesus on the cross. That should settle the case. He loved you that much, to become like one of us and die and shameful death. Accept this opportunity given you so you can love God again with your whole heart, mind, and soul. Take advantage of the blessing of this second chance so that you can love yourself as God loves you. Some of us are too hard on ourselves. We are filled with fear, we hate things about ourselves and try covering that up with veneers. You can accept, love, and appreciate yourself again. You do not have to live your life trying to please everyone against yourself. That is hard labor. Jesus’ resurrection has freed you.
In Christ Jesus, you have a second chance to live out your destiny.  
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to accept Christ’s offering of a second chance, that I may have a new life filled with the presence of God. 

Daily Devotional 4-25-19

Our True Citizenship
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20
Diversity within humanity is one of the many masterpieces showcasing the remarkable creativity of our loving God. One of these diversities is ethnicity. Prior to my coming to this nation, I had a very distant perspective about the different ethnicities of the world. However, when I showed up in this melting pot of cultures, I realized how close I had come to the different people of the world. The proximity enhanced my appreciation and interaction with the different ethnicities.
Among my interaction with different people from different ethnic backgrounds, I have come to realize how people are proud of their culture of origin. I am proud of my ethnicity, and in my ministry, I love to integrate elements from my culture of origin to add to the richness of my service. I know Americans have a long-standing history of their pride for their nation. Our backgrounds are the places God planted us, and we ought to be proud of it. Another theme I picked up as I engaged with different ethnicities is identity. It is a truism that our backgrounds shape our identity.
Our text today, tunes our minds on citizenship to a different frequency. Paul, preaches boldly that, our citizenship is in heaven. This is truly the primary source of our identity. We are first citizens of heaven before our earthly citizenship. Peter adds his voice to this conversation by saying, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents not to give in to the desires of your old nature, which keep warring against you.” (1 Peter 2:11)  Wow, Peter! Do you see what I see? Jesus’ resurrection has reconnected us to our home of origin. We are temporary residents in this world! We are immigrants on this earth and we will return to our home of origin.  The best part of this is that as citizens of heaven we have rights and privileges to enjoy.
Yes, we may have our different cultural backgrounds, but the reality is that as children of God we are of the same citizenship. So, let us set our minds on things that are above, cultivating the practices and values of heaven—our country of origin. Let us ponder on things that are noble, true, pure, worthy of praise, excellent, lovely, and Christ-like.
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, strengthen me to break all ties to this world; and cultivate the practices of my true home—heaven.