Daily Devotional 3-27-19

Non-Conformant

And be not conformed to this world… Romans 12:2
 
Water takes the shape of the container into which it is poured. When you pour the same water into a container of a different shape, it will adapt to the shape of the new container. That is the nature of the water.  In fact, water can even exist in all three states of matter. Freeze water and it will become solid; heat it to a certain temperature and it will turn into water vapor; cool the water vapor to a desired temperature and it will become liquid.
 
Let us look at another example. The chameleon is one of the most interesting animals to me. It has the ability to change its color to match its surrounding environment. This is an adaptation to camouflage itself against intruding predators. In effect, the chameleon has no one color.  It only takes the color of its environment.
 
In today’s scripture, Paul draws our attention to the temptation of Christians to fashion their lives according to the changing surrounding cultures and philosophies. The word conform in the original Greek language means outward form of a person that changes from year to year. A sixteen-year old’s outward form will not be the same as a sixty-year-old body. Our outward form is not static; it is dynamic. Therefore, Paul is saying that we must not try to match our lives according to the fashion of this world that changes constantly. Do not be like a chameleon-Christian that changes his/her mind according to the surrounding culture. In other words, do not go with the world; do not let the world decide for you who you are and what you should be like.
 
God encourages us to have such a posture in life because “…the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:17.
 
Does God hate change? No! Nevertheless, changes that contradict the word of God is not acceptable to God. The desires of the world that stand contrary to the will of God are passing away, and so are those who conform to these desires. Christ invites us to be solid in our convictions about our faith, and not be like water, adapting to new perspectives even if they are contrary to the word of God. Those who practice the will of God will remain with him forever.  Is it easy to take such a posture in our culture today? No, it is not! That is why the Holy Spirit seeks to empower us to live out our faith in God without fear of rejection.
 
Prayer: Holy Spirit, strengthen and empower me to live out my faith in the world without fear.
 
Reflection: Are there areas in your life where you have conformed to the standard of the passing world?


Daily Devotional 3-26-19

True Worship I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

What is your understanding of worship? What does it mean for you to be in worship?
 
For some people, worship means coming together with other Christians in a space to sing, pray and listen to the word of God. Some may even talk about the different styles of worship such as contemporary, blended, and traditional styles. The different styles usually refer to the kinds of Christian music that are sung as part of the worship.
 
Worship in its truest sense refers to the offering of our lives to God in response to who He is and what He has done for us through Christ Jesus. This kind of worship begins in the heart of God who longs for intimacy with his people. That means whenever you meet in any form of worship context—privately or corporately—we are responding to an invitation from God to be in fellowship with him. In worship, we respond to God’s grace through singing, prayers, the proclamation of the word of God, and other acts of worship.
 
From our text, Paul takes the conversation about worship to another level. He talks about spiritual worship. That means true worship is spiritual, but not all worship is spiritual. He emphasizes the use of our bodies to honor God because our bodies belong to God. Christians oftentimes focus on the heart, mind, and spirit when it comes to worship. God created our bodies, and we ought not to be ashamed of it or despise it. Instead, Paul invites us to honor our relationship with God with our bodies. Jesus inhabited our human flesh and worked God’s plan through it.
 
Worship can take place wherever you are.
 
In effect, you can worship God at school, office, factory, garage, home, etc., depending on how you offer your entire life to God in those places. Mostly Christians compartmentalize their life into spiritual and natural, sacred and secular. However, when we offer our bodies to God these boundaries are broken down. Then Christ is seen in us at all places.
 
…whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
 
Spiritual worship, Barclay said, “is the offering of one’s body, and all that one does every day with it, to God” (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, 169).
 
Prayer: Lord, make me a sanctuary to reflect your glory in all places at all time.
 
Reflection: How difficult or easy it is for you to worship with your entire life in all places?


Daily Devotional 3-25-19

Our Sympathetic High Priest
 
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16
 
In the Jewish religion, the high priest was extremely important. He played a significant role in the Jewish sacrificial system. Often time, he mediated between the Jews and God through prayers on behalf of the people. Paul reminds that Jesus did not only come as a king, but also as a high priest to fulfill the sacrificial requirement on behalf of humanity, just as the high priest in the Jewish religious system offered sacrifice before God.
 
Paul adds another dimension to the conversation when he said Jesus, our High Priest, is sympathetic towards us. Wow! Jesus is not like a politician who is far removed from the realities of the people who voted him into power; he is not a like a leader who cannot be touched by the plight of the people he/she is called to serve. Instead, Jesus can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; he knows and identifies with our struggles, anxieties, questions, fears, frustrations, etc. Yes, Jesus may not have experienced the exact challenge you have; nevertheless, he suffered the worst form of human wickedness and pain. He descended into the lowest of lows. This is the reason for his ability to sympathize with our weaknesses.
 
Now, because of this, we are invited to approach God boldly knowing that we have one who knows our struggle. Mercy and grace are waiting for you in God’s presence. Do not approach God like some distant person who cannot understand you, or is not interested in your affairs. Go to God boldly as a child would walk to a loving parent.
 
But without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him Hebrew 11:6
 
Do not be uncertain about the nature of your God. He is waiting for you to call on him. Invite him into your situation. Grace and mercy are available for every situation in your life. Do not battle alone; tap into the gifts of God to experience his breakthrough in your area of need.
 
Prayer: Holy Spirit give me the faith and boldness to call on you in my time of need.
 
Reflection: How often do you invite God into your situations?


Daily Devotional 3-22-19

A Follower or a Fan of Jesus
 
“Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-2
 
Social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have provided platforms for the rich and famous in the world of politics, sports, entertainment, and even religion, to gain and influence followers. The statements and pictures of these rich and famous are liked and commented on by their followers. In other words, the only way followers have knowledge about the celebrities is through the social outlet online. Again, followers have no personal or significant relationship with celebrities. These celebrities, in fact, could care less about the daily lives of their followers—whether a follower is sick, hurting, has lost a loved one, or in a financial crisis.  These followers only serve the self-interest and promote these celebrities.
 
Today, we focus on the third condition of being in service with Christ in the world—following Jesus daily. This concept of following is completely different from celebrities and their social media followers. To follow Jesus means to become a pupil or disciple of Jesus. The goal of this discipleship is to become like Jesus.  By following Jesus, we learn his ways, values, and principles so that we become like him in content, character, and action.
 
God became human through Jesus so that humans may become like God through Jesus.
 
As disciples or followers, Christ invites us to imitate him (Ephesians 5:1) through our passionate devotion to him as we study the scriptures. This means our relationship with Jesus should be intense and personal. We cannot follow Jesus from a distance and get to know him. In fact, Jesus is a deep lover! He is not interested in a superficial relationship and wants you to get serious with him. To follow Jesus is choosing to walk in God’s love daily, bearing the fruits of the Spirit, and forsaking the desires of the flesh on a daily basis.
 
A fan of Jesus only talks and sings about Him on Sundays. After worship, they tell Jesus, “See you next week.” Fans of Jesus wear clothes and adornments with Christian inscriptions on them, but their hearts are far from Jesus. They only render lip service to Jesus. They do not walk the talk
 
Prayer: Holy Spirit empower me to be a true follower of Jesus on a daily basis.
 
Reflection: Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus?


Daily Devotional 3-21-19

Cross-Carrying 
 
“Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
 
I am sure you are beginning to realize that Christianity in its pure and true form is not that easy.  In other words, Christianity is pricey. It will cost you a lot to live out your faith in Christ. Yes, I will say that again—it will cost you a lot to live out your faith in Christ.
 
To identify with Christ means to embrace a lifestyle of dying to yourself, the world, and accepting suffering for the sake of your Savior. This is so true because Christianity was birthed through the suffering, death, resurrection of Jesus, and the fulfillment of the promised Holy Spirit. The life of the apostles and the early church was acquainted with suffering. Members of the early Church had their fair share of suffering: they were thrown into prisons; they were arrested, and wild animals were released to kill and eat their bodies. Their crime was one: they loved Jesus, and would not worship the emperors or idols of their surrounding culture.
 
In a society that endeavors to eliminate suffering by creating and promoting a culture of comfort and convenience (and this is not wrong), Jesus’ invitation to Christian suffering sounds so unpopular. Many people cannot stand to be bothered by issues of life. We love to enjoy life in our own little castles, free from the hustles of life. However, the reality is that, if we are Christians, God calls us to a life beyond ourselves. He calls us to carry our own crosses on a daily basis. This means facing hardships and challenges for your loyalty to Christ. It means enduring the worst that man can do to us for the sake of being true to Christ. If you will not bow down to the idols of the surrounding culture for the sake of Christ, you must be ready to suffer socially, emotionally and psychologically. The world will always hate those are Christ followers, and that hatred is their cross.
 
Nevertheless, those who carry their crosses and even die for the sake of Christ shall inherit eternal life, but those who seek to preserve their life will lose it.
 
Can you stand to be hated in this culture for the sake of your allegiance to Christ?
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, embolden me, strengthen my weak resolve, to carry my cross daily.
 
Reflection: In what ways have you been carrying or not carrying your cross?


Daily Devotional 3-20-19

Self Denial

“Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
 
Since God’s desire is for all people to be saved and not perish, (1 Peter 3:9) salvation should have no requirement, right? Yes, the actual price for salvation has been paid off by Jesus Christ through his sacrifice on the cross.  However, for persons to benefit from the finished work of Jesus on the cross there has to be a requirement. Faith in Christ Jesus is the only requirement to be blessed by the gift of salvation.  I must emphasize that you don’t have to work to be saved.
 
Jesus takes this conversation to another level when he laid out the conditions for discipleship. In other words, faith brings us into the family of God, and discipleship makes us become like Christ, embodying the values of the family of God.
 
In the text above, Jesus laid out three conditions for anyone who wants to become like him. Firstly, self-denial in a world of self-gratification, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization; secondly, cross-carrying in an age of cross-less Christianity; and thirdly, being a follower and not a fan of Jesus.
 
Self-denial is to renounce, forsake, reject, and to lose sight of oneself and ones interests for the sake of Christ. This is contrary to the self-gratification at the expense of one’s relationship with Christ.  It involves decisively and intentionally putting off one’s interests in order to embrace a higher purpose of God and to please God.  Jesus had to deny himself of his heavenly throne to come to the earth to save us; Abraham had to leave his father’s land and his country; Moses had to leave the pleasures of Egypt to lead the Israelites out of bondage.  Self-denial is an invitation to forsake anything in order to honor our relationship with God and with others.  We usually treat ourselves as if our self was, by far, the most important thing in the world (Gospel of Luke, Barclay).
 
“Make me a captive Lord,
And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall conqueror be.
 
I sink in life’s alarms,
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thine arms,
And strong shall be my hand.”
                     — George Matheson


Daily Devotional 3-19-19

FASTING THAT PLEASES GOD 
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide from your own kin?” Isaiah 58:6-7
 
I strongly believe Christianity is a relationship-based faith. Yes, it encompasses lots of rituals, ceremonies, and spiritual practices, nevertheless, these facets of the faith do not necessarily make one spiritual. True spirituality, as I deem it, could be measured by the quality of a person’s relationship with God, and with his/her neighbor. One of the spiritual practices observed by many Christians around the world during the season of Lent is fasting. In this practice, Christians voluntarily deny themselves of certain elements of their daily routine for spiritual efficacy.  Throughout the Bible, fasting has been primarily abstinence from food, and sometimes water for spiritual vitality. However, in our contemporary day, Christians can fast from Facebook, a particular kind of snack/food, watching movies, candies, etc.  The challenge with religious practices, such as fasting is that they can lose their essence and efficacy with time.
 
Our text today is an extract from the response from God through the prophet, Isaiah, to the Israelites, who have complained to God of his lack of response to their fasting. God reminded them of what true fasting entailed. God prescribed the fasting he chose: a fast in which Christians actively love people by serving their needs. During true fasting, Christians look beyond themselves and are the hands and feet of Christ to the vulnerable, hungry, homeless, naked, lonely, etc., (Matthew 25:34-40).  True fasting breaks Christians free from self-centeredness, and shift their focus towards areas in the community where they could collaborate with Christ in bringing hope, and love to others.
 
Be a star in someone’s sky, be a ray of sunshine in someone’s world, and the glory of God shall envelop you.
 
I once had lunch with a friend who has very limited options of food to choose because she is trying to lose weight. I was surprised by the number of food items she has stopped eating because of that purpose. In a similar way, fasting has tremendous spiritual and physical benefits when it is done right. I encourage you to be missional during your period of fasting.
 
During fasting, we deny ourselves something to gain something of much significance.


Daily Devotional 3-18-19

An Invitation to Sober Reflection
 
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves… 2 Corinthians 13:5
 
One of my favorite movies is called, “Why Did I Get Married?”  I have watched it several times, and I do not think I will ever get tired of watching it. In this movie, four couples who were experiencing difficulties in their respective marriages decided to go on a retreat together at a beach resort in the Caribbean. Their purpose was to spark the fire and fervor of their relationships. The spouses loved each other, but the harsh winds of life have blown so strong against their relationships that their commitment and passion were tanking and begging for survival. The movie is a true reminder that the vicissitudes of life will test your relationships. In other words:
 
The elements of life will come against your relationships—including your relationship with God. 
 
The Corinthian culture was populated with speakers and philosophers. Public speaking was very common, and in many cases, speakers would engage their audience with different rhetorical skills to persuade and provoke a response. In addition, the audience evaluated a speaker. Apostle Paul, being aware of this cultural situation, turns the world of his audience upside down when he invited them to evaluate and test their own faith in God.
 
The essence of Christianity is relationship: firstly, with God and secondly, with others. Periodic evaluation, whether formal or informal, is crucial for continuous improvement and the general health of every relationship. This is also true for our spiritual relationship with God. It is in the context of spiritual growth that Jesus invites us to evaluate our relationship with him.  Are you living the life of faith? Are you bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Are you still holding onto your convictions in Christ? How is your relationship with others? Is there any root of bitterness in your heart? How is your prayer life? Is there any sin you are entertaining in your life? What are you doing well that you need to continue? The list goes on. These questions are not meant to judge us into condemnation, but to draw us into a sober reflection, where we become true to God, and ourselves with the desire to repent and grow spiritually. This is the purpose and the spirit of Lent: to humble ourselves before him, and engage with ourselves in faithful introspection as we look forward to spiritual vitality.
 
Don’t give up on yourself; you are a working progress, and when the work of grace is done in you, Christ will present you spotless to God.
 
Prayer: Heavenly Father, bring me to the place of self-awareness. Help me to face my worst fears that I may lay them at the feet of Jesus.


Daily Devotional 3-15-19

GRACE AT THE WELL: From Disgrace to Grace

“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified…” John 4:25-26, 28-30, 39
 
The story began with the woman having no clue about the identity of Jesus, but ends with her recognition of the divinity of Jesus. This is the climax of the story: recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah for Jews, Samaritans, and for all people.
 
Do you see the change in her life because of realizing the identity of Jesus? This is wonderful! She left her water pot (she could care less about it anymore), and bolted into the city to tell everyone about her encounter with Jesus. She could not hide the joy! Once she was filled with disgrace, shame and guilt, but now joy had taken over, and she could not hide it. What a relief! She ran with joy, confidence, and without shame to the community that had marginalized her because of her loose life.  This is only possible when you factor in the grace of God.  God’s grace cleanses us from within, showing forth fruits to the world around us.
 
The character of Jesus is to transition us from disgrace to grace and dignity!
 
Grace transformed this nameless woman with a very questionable character into an evangelist who told a whole city about Christ. Many Samaritans came to worship Christ because of this woman. This is the power of God’s grace.  Jesus saw in the woman what her own community could not see.  They saw a wayward woman, but Jesus saw a daughter of God; they saw a trash, but Jesus saw a treasure; they saw an immoral woman, but Jesus saw an evangelist.  I am reminded of Rehab, the prostitute, who by her faith in God became part of the lineage of Jesus. Don’t underestimate God’s grace!
 
Jesus specializes in turning the worst sinners into heralds of his kingdom.
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus help me to cooperate with your grace to produce the fruits of transformation in my life.
 
Question: The woman spread the news about Jesus. In what ways have you responded to God’s grace in Christ Jesus?