Daily Devotion

OCT. 26-27 – Worthwhile Debt

Romans 13:8-10 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Is Paul making the argument that we should never be in debt? Actually not! Paul’s encouragement here is that we have more important things to do than to acquire so much stuff that we become in debt. Paul took the second coming of Jesus seriously, as well as the priority of loving one another over the focus on acquisition and debt. The Bible does teach us not to get involved in frivolous debt that we cannot repay, or that feeds our selfish, indulgent desires. We might classify this as consumer debt or addictive spending debt. With this debt, we do not have the discipline to save before purchasing, and therefore no capacity to be generous to the things of God because we have been selfish to our own desires.

The debt that should never be paid in full is the continued debt to love one another. This is the new commandment that Jesus gave for us to love one another “just as” He loved us. His love for us was a sacrificial. It was a love that cost. It was not easy, routine, or unnoticeable. It was a love that was not about His own comfort, but rather the eternal comfort for us. It was a love that put His life on the line for the sake of our lives. It was a love that paid a debt – the debt of sin – versus wanting a debt repaid. This kind of love was visibly evident and therefore revealed the heart of God. 

The expectation God has of those who follow Jesus is not to repay the sacrificial cost of the cross, but to live for others in the same way, from a genuine heart of gratitude that comes from receiving heaven, forgiveness, and eternity. 

Jesus said: ”Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).

God wants us to be generous because that is who God is. Our generosity of love toward others and love for God is visible through giving and helping those less advantaged. This is the point Paul wants to make with Jesus’ followers. Focus and make yourself available for what is MOST important – loving and making a difference in the lives of our neighbors. That is the true mark of a Christian.

Prayer: 

Lord Jesus teach us your way. Grow our hearts to love as you love. Open our eyes to see the needs of our neighbors. Remove our self-focused values and increase our desire to sacrifice as you did so others may truly live. 

Amen!

OCT. 24-25 – My Commandment

John 15: 12-17  12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

This passage is such a powerful reminder of God’s intention for our relationship with Him. It magnifies the depth, purity, and alignment of that relationship. How would you measure your friendship with Jesus? Jesus is saying to you and me that the ultimate in relational depth is the willingness to lay down one’s life for another. The value and worth of that person is lifted up on the podium of true love. To top it off, you and I are on that podium with Jesus. This is exactly what He has done for us through His death on the cross. But there is one thing in being willing to die for someone and another to be willing to be their friend. Jesus addresses both of those in this passage. Friendship for Jesus means alignment. It is not only being willing to die for someone but being of the same mind as someone. To be of the same mind means that you value and treasure the same character, purpose and design. The relationship Jesus has with the disciples has now moved from simply following and doing what Jesus says to full alignment of friendship. They are no longer just servants of Jesus. They are friends of Jesus. WOW! Where would you say you are? What this means then is that their alignment – obedience, values, character, purpose, love – is demonstration of the fruit of their friendship. They no longer need to be told what to do as servants.  They know what to do. It is in their hearts. To love as Jesus loves is in their DNA. This depth of relationship brings a remarkable surprise in Jesus’ words. “Whatever you ask in my name, He may give it to you.” This is not a risky statement from Jesus. It also isn’t a “free for all” for us. This is Jesus acknowledging the empowerment of alignment. Jesus is saying, I will equip you with everything you need as you live, act and serve others as I would. Jesus chose us to do this in a world that is broken and divided. Jesus saved us, redeemed us, forgave us, empowered us, loved us – to do this in a world that is broken and divided.  Will you cross dividing lines and show this kind of love? Will you embody the friendship of Jesus and lay down your life so others may simply live and be loved? To be on mission with Jesus is not easy, but His promise to give us whatever we need as we do it is true.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving us even to giving your life. Thank you for opening the door of friendship to us and giving us your Holy Spirit to teach and align our hearts to yours. Help us to love as you love.  Help us to see the needs of others, meet them where they are and raise them up on the podium as ones you love as your image bearers. Amen! 

OCT. 21-23 – Building up

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Did you know that when you receive Jesus as your Savior, your life changes? When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we receive forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus fulfilled all of God’s demands and made a way for us to be in relationship with Him. However, our freedoms in Christ come with responsibility. Jesus, while He has given us freedom, has also called us to a mission. We are His representatives here on earth and that changes the way we live. Paul tells us to consider whether our lawful actions are beneficial and constructive to help others. Though it may be legal or possible to perform a certain act, the circumstances surrounding it may make it a sin. Even if not a sin, we still must consider whether we are promoting the welfare of our neighbors before we act. We’ve been given the privilege and responsibilities of representing Jesus through the way we live and we must honor God in everything we do. We must always ask ourselves, is what I have on display right now going to lead people to Jesus or is it going to turn them away? Our love for Jesus means we must love like Jesus, always putting others first and our neighbors before ourselves. 

Prayer:

Father, thank You for the liberty and freedoms we have in You. Help us to live a life that is worthy of You. Help us to be helpful and to always put our brothers and sisters in Christ, before us. God, in all that we say and do may we be increasingly conformed to the likeness of Jesus.

In Your name we pray, Amen.

OCT. 19-20 – Perfect Love

1 John 4:18-21 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister.

John is pretty straightforward in his teaching… “You hate your neighbor down the street? But go to church on Sunday mornings? And you profess to believe in God and love him? You’re a liar!”

He says it pretty point-blank. What a clear reminder to us today. 

In Genesis 1:27, it states that we were all made in the image of God. We’re all brothers and sisters in him. If we do not love our brothers and sisters, who are created in Christ’s likeness, how are we to love God himself, who we don’t even see?

How often does Satan convince you to live in fear? Maybe it’s because something is out of our comfort zone, or we lack confidence. Fear can’t be our binding factor, as it says in verse 18. We tend to fear because we forget that God made us in His perfect love. God’s great love can cast away all of our fearful thoughts.

We must not fear new relationships or avoid loving someone because we have nothing in common with them. God calls us to love ALL, because love first comes from him.  It can be hard to connect with someone that looks different than us, speaks different than us, lives a lifestyle different than us, but God calls us to love anyway.

When we love God, when we fully embrace the fact that He’s adopted us as His own, we must take the bold step out of our comfort zone and into a relationship with our other brothers and sisters in Christ. As we’re adopted into the family of Christ, we aren’t all going to look the same, act the same, or think the same, but we’re family. We’re each His children and we are called to love one another because He first displayed this great love.

How do these verses hit home for you? Have you lived in hate toward a brother or sister, a neighbor, a co-worker, an employer, a person you saw walking down the street? How can you redirect your heart and mind toward a relationship of love for that individual?

Prayer:

God, thank you for loving us, despite our unworthiness.  Lord, help us to love like you love, because love first comes from you. Help us to identify the relationships in our lives that have been a barrier to living fully in relationship with you.  Help us to love deeply, love without limits, and love like you love.

Amen.

OCT. 17-18 – The Power of the Spirit

Acts 2:1-4 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.    

How have you experienced the Holy Spirit of God in your life? If you are uncertain, you might ask yourself why. You may come before God in prayer and ask Him, “I want to receive your Spirit. Show me, God, how to prepare myself for this amazing outpouring from you.” In this passage, we get some hints as to how. In other passages of Scripture, we get some hints as to why and what for.  

First, let us look at how. Jesus had commanded His followers to gather together because He wanted to give them a gift. They were obedient to His command and so gathered and worshipped God. As they were doing this, God fulfilled His promise and poured out on them, like rain, the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit gave them special abilities to speak and share the love of Jesus with cultures all over the world. We do not just receive the Holy Spirit in the gathered community of worship, although powerful there, we position ourselves to receive God’s Spirit whenever we are obedient to what God asks us to do. Jesus instructs us in the Bible numerous commands like loving neighbor, caring for the poor and broken, making disciples, worshipping God, etc. The Holy Spirit of God will come upon us and fill and equip us when we are carrying out these instructions from Jesus. 

Second, let us look at why. In passages like John 14:26, Jesus wants to give us the Holy Spirit so that we might have the mind of God, so that we might remember God’s promises and be empowered to do what Jesus instructs us to do as His followers. How important that is in this world. The world can be so confusing. Who should we follow? What is right and what is wrong? What is truth and what is not? We do not have to worry about any of that when the Holy Spirit of God is upon us. The Holy Spirit instructs us in all truth and shows us what is right or wrong and teaches us how to love our neighbor, break down divisions, elevate the value of all God’s people. It is impossible to walk in truth and to love and care in these ways without the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit, the outflow of our love and selflessness looks different from the world. That difference is evidence that we are covered in the Spirit of God, standing in His presence, obedient to His commands, faithful to His calling and equipped for His service.  

Prayer: 

Gracious God, thank you for giving us the gift of your Spirit. Draw us to yourself that we may receive a fresh anointing of your Spirit each day. Through your Spirit, align our wills to yours. Open our hearts to greater love. Purify our thoughts and actions. Help us serve the world in your name.

Amen!

OCT. 14-16 – Breaking Down Barriers

Ephesians 2:13-14 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. 

Human beings need boundaries. We need physical boundaries, we need personal boundaries, we need emotional boundaries, we need family boundaries, we need boundaries between work and rest, and we need all sorts of other boundaries too. We need boundaries to survive and we need them to thrive. In fact, we need boundaries for our very sense of self; our boundaries enable us to define who we are and who we are not. When we have good boundaries in place, we are generally stronger and more resilient. That equips us to love and help others from a position of strength.

But in this sinful and broken world, boundaries often become hostile walls. Walls are a way of keeping other people out: physically, personally, emotionally, and in various other ways. Putting up a wall might mean shutting down, refusing to listen, moving away, or turning off. But it is not just in our personal relationships that we put up walls; there are also walls between groups, communities, and even nations. Sometimes there are literal, physical walls which act as symbols and expressions of the relational walls. Walls remind us that there is something very wrong in our world and in our relationships.

The walls come when we forget the gospel of Jesus Christ. They come when we forget that we, like others, are sinners in need of salvation. They come when we forget that those who believe in Jesus Christ are reconciled together to God, and that God loves us and forgives us and makes us secure and holy, together, by the cross of Christ. That’s who we really are. As soon as we forget who we really are, we define ourselves in some other way. So, we need to keep coming back to the cross of Christ. Because it’s in his death that the walls are broken down.

What walls might you have put up against others? Are all of these walls really just healthy boundaries, or do you have some hostile and illegitimate walls? How does the death of Jesus help to break down any illegitimate walls you may have?

Prayer:

Thank you for sending Jesus to break down the dividing wall of hostility. Thank you for the peace and reconciliation that we have in you. In the name of Jesus, our Peace.

Amen.

OCT. 12-13 – All One in Christ

Galatians 3: 26 – 29 26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons and daughters of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

In the Old Testament, there was a distinction between men and women, a feeling that women were less than men since they weren’t circumcised. Women were often looked down upon as not part of, or fully part of, the covenant. Anyone who was not a Jew was a “Greek”, a non-Jew, and was to be kept separate, not allowed table fellowship with Jews. If you were a slave, (about 25% of the population at the time) you weren’t considered a good Jew. You were property to be bought and sold at your master’s convenience. There was a separation among the people. Paul in Galatians does something amazing! He brings God’s word to us to say stop! Everyone is my child. Because you have put on Christ, you are all equal. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, whether free or slave, what color, ethnic background – you are all the same.

Wow! We are also called sons and daughters – we are part of God’s family and have inherited from him the ability to be part of his family. No other faith calls their people sons and daughters. This is an intimate relationship and if we are all sons and daughters, then we are all equal before God, brothers and sisters in Christ. This is powerful. This is all done because we have put on Christ. This is such an amazing phrase – we change our clothes, and we are called to “wear” Christ. To put him on means to take on the person of Jesus. He becomes part of us, and we are walking in him. When we seek to know Christ more through worship, prayer, service, study, and reading, we then can become more like him and once we do that, we become his children through faith and baptism – the engrafting in the family of God. This is open to everyone and we are thus equal and all children of the King. This is great news – everyone is called and equal at the table. 

Prayer:

Lord God, help us to see each other as one. We too often look at appearances, skin color, clothes, tattoos, piercings, whatever is different from us and just see the outside. Holy Spirit, convict us of these judgements as I put on Jesus and grow deeper in faith and love. Help me reach out to all my brothers and sisters to welcome them and to love them as fellow members of the body.

Amen.

OCT. 10-11 – He Will Heal

Revelation 21:4-6 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

Everyday news agencies remind us that the world is broken. Stories of violence, deceit, greed, and destruction seem to be mankind’s narrative. Nature too seems afflicted with suffering, with drought, disease, and death. I think back to the Genesis account of creation when God rested on the seventh day and declared that it was good, and I find myself yearning for something better – freedom from not only the world’s disfunction but also my own brokenness.

God knew that His creation masterpiece would become tainted with sin and death. He knew we could not save ourselves, so He provided a way out. He provided salvation. He built a pathway to redemption and healing that leads us first to Christ’s cross and then forward in a walk of faith in His grace and power.

Becoming spiritually alive in Christ is indeed life-changing. However, it also brings an even deeper longing for what God originally designed. Now that we have spiritual eyes, it is now impossible to ignore the suffering that exists in our families, our friends, our neighborhoods, and our communities. Many hide pain and regret behind polite smiles and friendly waves. Others wear their feelings more openly displaying frustration and anger to those around them.

The journey we began at the cross now leads us through fields of opportunity as ambassadors of God’s grace. The forgiveness and hope we enjoy is a gift we can extend to others in a troubled world. We are part of God’s plan to provide healing and hope to a broken world, even to those who may seem hostile.

Revelation 21:4-6 speaks of a glorious finish line when God brings his redemption plan full circle back to beauty, healing, and wholeness. Indeed, what was broken will be made new. May God’s hope inspire us each day as we journey together!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for providing me a pathway to healing and personal redemption through Christ’s death on my behalf. Thank you for your promise of eternity in your presence without tears, pain, or suffering. Help me to see everyone around me as you see them – your valuable creation made in your image and needing your grace. Lead me to those who need help and encouragement. Help me to be your hands and feet for those in need today.

Amen.

OCT. 7-9 – Restoration is What God Commands

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Throughout history, humans have asked God, “What do you want of me?” Too often we don’t want to hear what he says, or we think his words are confusing. But the prophet Micah records exactly what God says he wants from us. He states it clearly. He starts by asking what does the LORD requires of you. The speaker is acknowledging that it always starts with God, an acknowledgment that he is ultimately in control, that he is not a far-off God, but LORD of our lives. He then says to “do justice.” The phrase here is a call to do an action. It is not enough to think about justice or to wish for it, but to go out seeking to bring justice about. Justice in the Bible is a word that has a deeper meaning than how we view it today. It has to do with providing for people’s well-being, restoring what was taken, reconciliation, providing enough for people. God is commanding us to do these things in our daily lives and for the daily lives of people around us.

The second command is to love kindness.  This phrase is an intimate act of how we are supposed to react to family. We are called to love and do kindness to the stranger, just as we would to our own family. We should welcome people in and treat them just as we would for our closest relatives. 

Finally, God says walk humbly with Him. This is the deep abiding relationship between us and God’s deeds. We are called to realize He is God, and we are not. Walking humbly with God is related to the first two in that when we walk humbly with God, we can love with kindness and do justice. This shows our humility and love for God and our neighbor.

God requires of us what he has done for us – saved us, redeemed us, brought justice to us, etc. God’s call is for us to do the same for those around us. 

Prayer:

Lord God, move in us to not just sit on the side lines, but to get up and take action. When we know you and have you in our lives, we then have to do something with our lives. Help us to seek out where we can bring justice and raise people up. Help us to love everyone as family and seek their betterment. As we seek to move in the world, help us to have humble hearts and attitudes to seek your will and not our own.

Amen.

OCT. 5-6 – Jesus Restores 

Luke 4:17-20 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor . . . .”

Imagine being a first-century Jew in the town of Nazareth under Roman rule. Your Jewish tradition has taught you that the Messiah will come and restore your people to a position of power and wealth. You expect the Messiah to be a warrior, someone who will come to save the Jewish people by a violent display of the Lord’s displeasure with the oppression of His chosen people. As was customary, you spend the Sabbath at the synagogue. You notice that an unfamiliar man is in the synagogue today, you vaguely recognize him and, perhaps, he is the eldest son of Joseph, a local carpenter. He stands up to read and is given the scroll of Isaiah. You know much of this sacred text which talks of the Lord’s justice and His redemptive plan for His people. As this man concludes his reading, he claims that the prophecy is fulfilled claiming to be the Messiah and in your utter confusion you witness the crowd at the synagogue become enraged and run the man out of town.

This man looks nothing like the Messiah you have been taught to expect. He did not choose to read the prophecies about regaining cities and land, about the Lord’s vengeance and wrath, about the rightful place of the Jewish people. Instead, he has declared that he will preach to the poor, release the captives, and set the oppressed free. You leave the synagogue that day wondering who that man was and if he is the Messiah sent to fulfill the prophecies handed down by your ancestors. 

When we put ourselves in the shoes of someone who encountered Jesus that day in the synagogue, we see just how radically different Jesus was from the messianic expectation. He was not a warrior, He was not proclaiming the greatness of the Hebrew people and insisting on their return to power. He was a carpenter’s son who chose to highlight a passage from Isaiah focused on the Lord’s care for those at the margins of society. A passage that speaks to freedom from oppression rather than amassing worldly power. These were Jesus’s first recorded words read from scripture within the walls of a synagogue. As we stop and reflect on what Jesus believed was the most important as he proclaimed Himself the Messiah, we will see that He first highlights restoration for those at the margins and He positions Himself as the Messiah who, through His redemptive power on the cross, can bring freedom amid this broken world.

Prayer:

Dear God – As I read Your word, I try to find You in every passage. I ponder how the passage reveals more of Your heart to mine. Sometimes I see you in the defiant actions of women like Shiphra and Puah. Sometimes I see you in the quiet whisper in the wind. As we learn to better love and care for our neighbor, I pray that our heart is guided by Yours. You care so much for the marginalized, for the underprivileged, the minoritized, and the incarcerated that You proclaimed their worth and freedom in your first ever recorded sermon. I pray that my heart reflects Your heart and that I care for not only the spiritual, but earthly, freedom of all my neighbors and, especially, for those neighbors who are cast aside for I know that when I care for them, I am caring for You. Sometimes this care will come in bold, defiant actions, and sometimes it will come in whispered prayers in the night. Please let all of those be within Your will and reveal Your heart.

Amen.