More Devotions for Church Leaders and Small Groups
Because Everyone Needs to have a bit of Sabbath Every Day
We are good at feeding our bodies. If we look at our overweight society, that's pretty easy to see. However, what about our spirits? Why do we have such a difficult time remembering to feed our spirit? If we are quiet for just a short time, we may discover our spirit telling us just that, "I am hungry." But generally we rush from place to place in a hurried frenzy and forget our quiet time with our Creator. In the busy-ness of your life, I hope you'll stop for just a few minutes every day and spend some time in scripture and in prayer. I pray these readings will inspire you to enrich your relationship with Christ and follow Him more diligently and with purpose.
This is just one of a collection of lenses created to offer devotion readings for Church Leaders. They'll also work well as an opening for small groups or meetings. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Devotions you'll find on this page:
- Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
- The Next Big Thing
- The Right Place at the Right Time
- I Have Connections
- A New Look at Mary and Martha
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Nearly everyone has heard that phrase, "Be afraid, be very afraid." This quote from a 1986 Movie as well as a 1970 Soap Opera brings a smile to faces more often than fear. Similarly, the words, "I'll put the fear of God into you," evoke the same kinds of emotions to most of the modern world.
As I read Psalm 76 today, I wondered how much of the trouble in world today stems from so few folks actually "fearing" God these days. After all, John told us that "there is no fear in love." (1 John 4:18) We prefer to think of God as a loving, caring God, full of grace and mercy. And while that is a huge part of the characteristics of the Heavenly Father, to remove the fear factor from Him entirely paints an incomplete picture of the Sovereign Creator of the Universe.
"There is no fear in Love." Praise Jesus! When we live in His love and walk in His truth, we know no fear. There is no need to tremble when we are truly "in Him." However, sometimes I worry that God has been portrayed so much as a God of Love that the truth of his personality as a God to be feared has been lost.
Asaph is clear that in Judah God's name is great, He is radiant and more majestic than the mountains. At the same time, the Psalmist gives us every reason to believe this same name that has become famous and is praised in Israel, should be tremendously feared as a judge with the power to give and take life.
The truth is our God is a God of love. In fact, John says He IS Love, it's not that He has love or gives love, but He IS the very embodiment of love. I am concerned that as followers and even lovers of this God of love and mercy, we create a small God, a God of limited capacity. Some say that God was once a God to be feared, and now He is a God of love, but I believe that God has always been both. It's just that before Jesus we didn't know the fullness of the Almighty, and now that we do have a glimpse into the all encompassing character of the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Lover of our soul, we prefer to share this gentler, more welcoming side of His personality rather than the complete picture of our Lord as not only One who loves bigger and better than we can imagine, but also as One to be feared more than any power here on earth or in heaven.
Without the picture of a God to be feared, those who don't know Him as well as we do perceive our Defender to be One who is weak, One to be dismissed, rather than One to be feared and worshipped. It's up to us, as His beloved children, to help the world understand that our God can "break the spirit of rulers." Who else will share the truth of the Beautiful One, the Mighty Warrior, the God who "stills both horse and chariot" and "saves the afflicted of the land"? If we don't make it clear that the Ruler of the nations will save or destroy based on our choices, who will? Just like a good father here on earth uses fear of punishment to help his children learn to live a life that will be most blessed, we need to include the image of a Father worth fearing when we describe our Heavenly Father.
I think God prefers to be known as the One who rescues and redeems, the Author of mercy and grace, the Lover of my life and Savior of soul. That's the way He wants to reveal Himself most often! However, every single person on this earth needs to remember that God should be respected and revered as the God who strikes fear, the Master who has the power to turn us over to the destroyer. He is the Lord and Spirit who chooses to show grace rather than revenge and demonstrate mercy instead of punishment. He is the great King who deserves our respect and adopts us as His own because He loves us so much!
- Devotions Inspired by the Book of Jonah
Jonah's story is one of the most well known books of the Bible. Here you'll find some short readings inspired by Jonah's adventure.
- Inspiration for your Meeting or Group
You'll find even more devotions for your meeting, small group or even personal use.
- Devotional Readings from the New Testament
The Bible provides an unlimited number of lessons. These devotional readings use New Testament passages to inspire us.
The Next Big Thing
I don't like to exercise, but my occupation is very sedentary, so I really need to do something to burn some calories and get my heart pumping. To that end, when we moved last November, I decided I would get out and walk as often as possible as soon as the weather warmed up. Our new neighborhood is a great walking trail. No sidewalks, but the streets are paved and have several inclines that make it a pretty good workout.
The first two times I walked, I took the most obvious path. It's a little under a mile with three relatively steep hills when I do the complete circuit, so I can get about 15 minutes of cardio right outside my front door.
Last evening, as I set out to get my exercise minutes in, I had only gone about 200 yards, when I came to the "Y" in the road. As you might guess, it's not a new "Y". It's always been there. This, however, was the first time I had considered leaving my comfortable neighborhood. You see, I know this path will take me to the housing development just behind my cozy comfort zone, but I don't know how far it is or what the terrain is like between my home and the next one, a house that I can't see.
For several seconds as I approached the "Y," I weighed the options. I was tired. I'd gotten up early that morning, and it had been a long day. The familiar path would take me 15 minutes. This new path was completely unknown. But somewhere deep within me, I felt God telling me to take the new route.
This realization that it was God's idea rather than my own might cause you to think that I immediately changed my direction and embraced the new road; however, all it did was change the way I contemplated. Now, instead of weighing pros and cons, I began praying, "Lord, do you really want me to take this path?" "I'm tired, and I'd like to just get done." "Why do I need to go this way? Is it really you leading me on this road? There's a lot of gravel here at the beginning, I don't even know what's around that turn up there."
I wish I could tell you I got this wonderfully profound answer, but the only thing I felt God say was, "Will you just obey me?" I'm sure, by this time, your thought was, "Now I know she turned onto that "Y"." I truly appreciate your faith in me; however, my first instinct was to say, "Are you sure, God?" And although I didn't really get an answer, deep inside I sensed that if I was to truly be a servant of the Most High and Sovereign Creator of the Universe, I had to take the path less traveled (in fact I think I've only seen two or three cars on it in the last six months). That road ended up being 1.15 miles long, and I walked all of the way to the end and back. I was exhausted when I returned home fifty minutes later.
But all of that isn't to tell you about my exercise or my dedication to my new healthy habit. As I walked, I considered how often God asks us to do things just to see if we're paying attention, to give us an opportunity to practice being obedient so that when the big things come along we'll be prepared, we'll know His voice, and we'll be quick to follow.
That parable that I referenced up there at the top of the page is one that we normally associate with the way we spend money or how we use our talents. I think it can also help us understand God's perspective on obedience. Three servants were all given the same task, "Take care of this money while I'm gone." The first two not only took care of it, but multiplied it, and the Master said to them, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things, I'll put you in charge of many things." When God asks us to do something, no matter how small it is, He expects us to carry it out. Not in our own way or in our own timing (that's what the third servant did). God wants us to get to know Him, listen to Him when He speaks, carry out the simplest of directions in a way that honors Him so that when the time comes we'll be ready, totally prepared for that moment when He says to us, "You've been faithful with these small things, check out this next big thing."
Devotions to take with you
At least 40 of the devotion readings you'll find on this and several other pages linked below are available in this book! This link will take you to the Print version in case you love paper and ink. but after you get there, you'll find there's also a KINDLE edition.
also available for your NOOK!
Get it right from Barnes & Noble
to purchase the Nook Book
The Right Place at the Right Time
I'm a doer and a fixer. It's hard for me to just stand by and wait. In fact, it's so bad that one Summer God called me to meditate on "Be Still and know that I am God" for the entire three months. God's been molding me into a "waiter" (and not the kind that delivers food to your table) for some time, and this week He has impressed upon me again the importance of waiting on Him.
There are so many verses in the Bible that talk about waiting on God. Isaiah 40:31 says that those who wait on the Lord (some translations say "hope" or "trust") will have their strength renewed. In Genesis, we see disastrous consequences when Sarah decides God is moving too slowly and takes matters into her own hands. We're still feeling the effects of Ishmael's birth. Saul lost favor with God because he got impatient and didn't wait on Samuel to offer the sacrifice, and the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai created a golden calf because God was too slow giving Moses the commandments. Every instance of moving ahead of God has proven to be a bad idea.
I wonder sometimes why we think God needs our help in getting His timing right, and as I've already confessed, I am one of the worst offenders. I think sometimes it's because I want to be sure to be where God needs me to be. I want to be at the right place at the right time. I want to give Him all that I can, and in the process, I discover there's too much "I" in my conversation.
Philip's story inspired me today. In order to truly be where God wants me to be, my only responsibility is to be willing to be there. Philip got to the Gaza Road because He heard God's voice specifically tell him to head that way. He didn't know why. He hadn't been told who to look for or what to do, just head that way. So, Philip did! By waiting on God to verbally explain to him the next step he should take, Philip ended up sharing the gospel with a man who would change the lives of many in Ethiopia.
It's the end of Philip's story that really hit me though. The next place God wanted Philip to go was Azotus. Obviously, Philip was willing to be wherever God called him to be, because without warning, God lifted Philip from the road to Gaza and placed him in Azotus. Just like that!
I stress about being sure I'm right where God needs me to be at the time God needs me to be there. The reality is I simply need to be available. I need to simply be willing to be and do anything God needs me to. If God can lift Philip from an Ethiopian's chariot and put him down about 18 miles away in a small Philistine town, I'm certain that He can move me from here to wherever He needs me.
So, quit stressing about being in the right place at the right time and start focusing on Psalm 46:10. Know that God is God. He can do anything! He's bigger than our mistakes and blunders, mightier than our bank account or schedule. We need to cultivate within us an expression of eagerness and an attitude of availability. Who knows, if we get it right we might find ourselves converting a foreigner one minute and at our desk at work the next!
Devotions in your Inbox
- Get Devotions by E-mail twice a month
Each devotion on this page was sent by e-mail before it landed here. This link will allow you to sign up for the list (and you can unsubscribe at any time)
I Have Connections
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
My granddaughter will be nine months old in just a week. She was a bit premature, so her hand-eye coordination is closer to that of a six month old. As I watch her try to pick up things and manipulate objects, I smile. She gets so frustrated. You can see that she wants to be in complete control of her limbs, but sometimes it seems as though they have a mind of their own. Her struggles with control are in such deep contrast to an older child or an adult's coordination.
For instance, this morning I needed to get out the door quickly. I'd slept in, so I needed to save as many steps as possible. I didn't really have the luxury of making two trips to the truck, so in order to get my breakfast, lunch, water, computer and study books out the door all at one time, my truck key was between my teeth, and my foot pushed open the door. Every limb of my body, and then some, worked together to get me where I needed to be.
As I considered the difference in my and Elizabeth's maneuvering skills, I thought about you and me being the hands and feet of Jesus. You see, we are called to be the body of Christ. Not only are we supposed to do what the head, Jesus Christ, tells us to do, God gives us a picture of a human body all working toward one purpose to accomplish His goal.
12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. . . . 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
When you stop and think about it, it's a wonderful plan. God is the brain. He decides what His body needs to do, and then He directs each part to do its individual job in order to accomplish the goal. I think that might be what prompted Paul to talk about having patience with less mature Christians. It's not that they aren't connected to the head, it's that they haven't grown enough to understand how to process the message the brain is sending! Much like Elizabeth's hands, our less mature members want to carry out the will of the head, but as hard as they try, they fail more often than they succeed.
And no matter how mature we get, we'll have those moments, days or even longer periods when our "hand-eye coordination" is off, much the same way it happens in human terms. We get distracted and miss our mark, trying to do too many things at one time and forget the main message the brain is sending or, if you're like me, you walk out of one room and into another and completely forget what you're supposed to be doing. If we aren't careful, these same things can happen to us spiritually. The worst part about those moments separated from the brain is they can do damage to the body.
When we stub our toe spiritually, another member of our congregation is hurt. If we spiritually fall because we trip over scripture or circumstance, the wrist that we break is a beautiful spirit trying to do the will of our Creator. And I especially wonder how our Sovereign Lord must feel when, like Elizabeth, He tries to move His hands into position to work, and they don't go where He needs them to be. How frustrating it must be for Him!
This week as you go about your daily routine, ask yourself where you are in your Christian walk. Are you maturing, growing to the point that God can use you to help others find Him? Or are you stuck in a place where you find your toes all bruised up and broken bones need mended? Do whatever you can to get those messages the brain is trying to send. Read scripture and pray, worship and share God's goodness and whatever you do, stay connected to the body at all costs.
A New Look at Mary & Martha
Mary and Martha . . . all over Christ's Kingdom, the story of Mary and Martha is heard, preached and used as an object lesson. Not this story from John 11, it's usually their story from Luke 10:38-42 that we hear. Martha's in the kitchen working hard, Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet soaking in His message and when Martha gets frustrated because she's doing all the work herself, Jesus says, "Mary has chosen what is better . . ." Mary is always portrayed as the faithful one who loves Jesus more and Martha as the hard working sister who'd rather serve. But I'm not sure it's fair to only use this familiar story to form our impressions of these friends of Jesus.
And what about Thomas? The only reason we really know anything at all about the fellow is the fact he wanted proof that Jesus had risen. This one sentence that managed to get recorded in scripture gave him the nickname "Doubting Thomas" for all eternity. I wonder, though, did Thomas get a bad wrap, too.
I think Thomas and Martha are good examples of real people who loved Jesus. Let's look closely at John 11 today. We are most familiar with these verses because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. When we read them, we focus on the miracle Jesus performed or the compassion He had for his good friend. However, if we look closely at a couple of the details of the story, we learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ and a human at the same time.
Thomas . . . "Doubting Thomas" . . . I don't think that Thomas really was a "doubter." Thomas had a strong faith in Jesus. He knew that Jesus faced death if they returned to Jerusalem. He also realized that anyone who aligned himself with this man who called Himself the Christ would also be in danger of stoning. Yet, when other disciples were worried about going back to the area for fear of the crowds, Thomas was willing to follow Jesus, even if it meant death. Thomas' faith was strong. He was courageous. Poor guy, all he wanted was a little proof before he stuck his neck out, and he's forever labeled "the doubter."
And Martha, look at Martha! When she hears that Jesus is coming she goes out to meet him. What happened to the sister that sat at His feet? She stayed behind to mourn. Martha, on the other hand, not only goes to Him, but it sounds as though she got to Him before He even had an opportunity to get to the house or the tomb. And when she finds Him, she confronts Him with the truth, "If you'd been here my brother wouldn't have died." That's the hard truth! She had a strong faith! Martha believed that Jesus had the power to heal Lazarus. And more than that, she believed that Jesus could raise Him again. Martha didn't understand why Jesus didn't come earlier, but it didn't matter. Regardless of her circumstances, Martha believed in the power of Jesus Christ, her friend.
I'm not sure why Martha and Thomas have reaped such a bad reputation over the centuries. Perhaps it's because there's a lot to learn from their doubting and overworking. However, I think that one lesson we neglect to take from those stories is the authenticity of these two friends of Jesus. In every circumstance, these two were real. It would have been easier for Thomas to just believe the other 10 guys. Going with the majority is more convenient. But Thomas didn't do it even when it would have made life simpler. It would have been much safer to stay where they were and not go to Jerusalem when Lazarus needed them. That's what the other disciples wanted to do. And believing that Jesus had risen would have been equally satisfying, but Thomas wanted to be sure before he offered to lay down his life again.
Martha believed. She had a strong faith. I wonder if her frustration in the kitchen grew from a desire to sit at Jesus' feet herself, but someone had to feed all those people and Pizza Hut hadn't been invented yet. Martha knew that her friend, Jesus, was mighty and powerful. She knew that Jesus could heal and raise her brother. One of the most difficult things we do in life as Christians is hold onto the faith when we know that Christ has the power to keep evil at bay, yet it seems as if He's staying in a town far away. But much like Lazarus' death, if we believe and watch for it, God can be most glorified and people can come to know Him when He doesn't use His power to stop the evil. We don't understand it, and we don't have to. Martha made her statement of belief BEFORE Jesus raised Lazarus. Do you think her faith would have dwindled if Jesus would have only brought her comfort in her time of mourning?
It's OK to be REAL!
I think that the greatest lesson we can learn from Thomas and Martha is that it's OK to be real. It is all right to doubt. We have permission to get frustrated when we feel like we're doing it all by ourselves. The key is to never quit trusting that Jesus is powerful, mighty and able in the midst of the doubt and frustration. I don't think Thomas doubted Jesus' ability to live again. He did doubt his friends. What if they were hallucinating in their time of great grief? What about the times that you doubt? Do you question the ability of God to do what you ask? Or are you just being real? Do you realize this might not be God's will or His timing? Are you convinced that God can do even more than we can imagine and you will believe and trust in Him regardless of the outcome?
There are times in our life when it's good to be more like Martha and Thomas than Peter and Paul. During these times we won't make great orations that cause people to flock to the faith. Instead we'll take opportunities to just be real. We can live our lives confronting Christ when He doesn't do what we know He can, trusting the Father even when it seems as though there is no way out and believing, much like Martha, that no matter how bad it gets, God can do the impossible.