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.

Daily Devotional 4-24-19

3D Forgiveness

In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.  Ephesians 1:7-8.
We just witnessed the joy of family and friends during Easter celebrations. Many churches had wonderful services to usher us into the new life God offers us through the death and the resurrection of Jesus. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! For lots of people, the meaning of Easter ends with the celebrations and company of friends and family during that time. This morning I would want to draw your attention to one of the many riches and blessings associated with the resurrection of Jesus.
The whole narrative of the Christian journey is that God is reclaiming his people. The account from Genesis to the book of Revelation is a narrative of how God reclaimed, is reclaiming, and will reclaim his people. This takes us back to when humanity fell from the presence of God. Through Adam, we sinned against God. And sin brought death—spiritual separation from God.  Sin is that powerful, but it does not have the final say. It has a remedy!
Our text today tells us of the forgiveness we have received from God according to the riches of God’s grace made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  …by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them be a kingdom and priests serving our God. Revelation 5:9-10.
Through the blood of Jesus, God has forgiven and washed us of our sins. We are longer debtors to sin. Now, this is the good part: God’s forgiveness is three-dimensional. He has forgiven us of our past, present, and future sins. That sounds too good to be true, right? Jesus’ sacrifice was a one-time provision. If your future sins are not taken care, then Christ will have to come back and die again for those future sins.
Therefore, do not impede your progress by the sins of your past. Free your soul from any form of imprisonment you have endured and enjoy the blessing of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The reality is that many people are walking around with guilt while a provision for their freedom has been made. People are carrying needless burdens. I want to invite you to drop your burdens of the past and present sins and embrace the gift of God in Christ Jesus.
Receive Christ’s forgiveness so that you can extend forgiveness to others.
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, free me from self-inflicted guilt and shame, that I may receive the gift of forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

Daily Devotional 4-23-19

Minds Above  
…seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1
Today’s devotion is a sequel to what I shared yesterday.  We looked at the truth that we are no longer slaves to fear and sin.  Our text today opens for us a new reality and a new way of thinking and living.  Our new life in Christ Jesus means the old life, the old patterns of thinking and living that were contrary to God’s love, have been buried.  They do not exist anymore.  Therefore, set your minds on things above—on heavenly things.  This encouragement brings the question, “What are the heavenly and earthly things?” How do we identify earthly and heavenly things?  What do the words earthly and heavenly mean in this context?
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)… But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth, Col. 3:5 Paul, the apostle, outlines for us the things he considered earthly.  The above list belongs to the earth and darkness.  We are to rid ourselves of these things.
You do not belong to the earth anymore! Paul then goes on to tell us of the heavenly things: As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col. 3:12
You belong to heaven—a new way of thinking and living!
Imagine our world if a fraction of Christians began to live with this mentality. Imagine how our families, friendships, churches, schools, government, etc., would be if we live with minds set on heaven.  No one buries a loved one and goes back to dig them out again because they love them so much.  When Jesus died, we died with him.  And we cannot go back to dig up our old nature that was buried with him.  Instead, we have resurrected into new persons who have the capacity to set their minds on heaven to make the earth worth living. Are you living with a heavenly mentality or earthly one? What attitudes in your life could classify as heavenly or earthly?
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, fill me with your power to live with a heavenly mentality.