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Devotional Readings from the New Testament
The Third in an ongoing Series
How often do you spend time considering your relationship with Jesus Christ? How many times a week do you listen for His voice and consider His plan for you? In the hectic day to day often it's difficult. We get up, rush to work, hurry home, get a bite to eat, work around the house or attend an evening function and then hit the sack only to start it all over again in the morning.
Below you'll find several readings designed to encourage you to stop for just five minutes and focus on the One who loves you more than you can imagine. Read the scripture listed before you read the devotion. Take some time to listen, not to the words you find on this page, but the words that Christ speaks to your heart as you read.
These devotions are for you . . . so you may become more devoted . . . to Christ.
I am so blessed each time I see the number of people visiting these devotional lenses every week. I truly love helping people grow closer to God and developing in their walk with Christ. It's my goal that these short devotional messages are doing just that.
In addition to these devotions, you'll find links to pages that will eventually take you to more than 100 others. Feel free to use them for your meetings or personal devotion time.
Thanks again for stopping by!
Tools of the Trade
2 Timothy 3:14-17 & Ephesians 6:13-18
Psychologist Abraham Maslow said "When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail." When I read that quote this week, I smiled. It reminded me of some Christians I know. They have armed themselves for the work of Christ, but their arsenal is so limited, it would seem they are using rubber bands against the flaming arrows of the enemy.
Often in Sunday School, we learn the 23rd Psalm and the Ten Commandments. We may even learn the Great Commission and the Beatitudes. Armed only with these and a few other key passages, many of the Christian population believe they know enough scripture to go into the world and combat the enemy. The fact is, these Christians are more like folks whose only tool is a hammer. When situations arise which require a wrench, a screwdriver or a power tool, more of the meat of the scripture, these friends of Jesus Christ feel lost or treat it as if it's a "nail."
Paul told both the Ephesians and Timothy that knowing scripture is important. To the Ephesians he called it the sword of the Spirit and to Timothy he said it was what we needed to be fully equipped for every good work. Would any knight have ever gone into battle without his sword? Why would we think we can leave the protection of the body of Christ and enter the world without being fully equipped?
Would we drive a car with only three tires or go out walking in subzero temperatures without proper winter wear? Of course not, but going into the workforce or sending our children to school without a growing knowledge of the Word of God is quite similar. Moses compared it to our daily physical nutrition. Jesus called it a seed, and Peter, imperishable seed, something that brings life and growth. The author of Hebrews reminds us it is living and active, and several Bible writers described it as the light in the darkness. It's not as though the importance of knowing scripture has been limited to one or two verses.
As Christian leaders and those whose goal is to help grow the Kingdom, reading and studying God's word is crucial. Take a moment and consider, how often do you read scripture, not as a textbook, but as a love letter from your Father? What passage are you currently researching and talking about with other Christians? How are you growing? Are you able to be a light in the midst of this very dark world? Is your toolbox fully equipped?
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How I Missed the Body of Christ
We need one another
Now you are the Body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:27
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.
I just got back from a ten day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. It snowed at home the entire time we were gone. Sitting here at the La Guardia Airport waiting for a plane to take me back to Eastern Ohio, I am looking out over the tarmac at snow and ice. If you could "see" cold, that's what I'd see. I didn't miss the January weather at all.
Throughout the two weeks, I often thought, "I wish the girls were here, they'd love to see this." And I saw things I knew the grandkids and parents would have loved. I'm used to seeing my family at least three or four times a week, so that was very different. I missed playing music so much so that on the eighth day of the cruise, I found a piano tucked away in a closed restaurant and played for about 20 minutes. There was much that I missed despite the beautiful weather, gorgeous beaches, bluest water and most relaxation I've had in quite some time.
However by the end of my vacation, I realized the thing I missed most was the Body of Christ. I'm accustomed to fellowshipping with the Body nearly daily. You see, even my biological family are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Plus with worship twice a week, small groups at least once a week, social network interaction and phone calls and texts, I've gotten used to feeling the Spirit of God in every fiber of the fabric of my day. In fact, the bulk of our past vacations have been scheduled around Christian conferences, concerts and seminars.
As we watched the bluest ocean we've ever seen along with the perfect weather with nearly no humidity, we wondered if those who live there have grown complacent about the beauty and tranquility that God has given them. It's easy to take for granted the wonderful things in our lives when we have access to them on a daily basis. Our husbands and wives, children, parents, friends . . . it's easy to assume they'll always be around, and this week I've discovered, I take the Body of Christ for granted.
Early in the cruise we asked if there would be worship on Sunday. But we must have been among the only folks who asked because there was none. I couldn't even tell if there were others on board who might have been part of my kingdom family. I heard people using language that seemed a bit offensive and saw a lot of people drinking. We chatted with folks about where they were from and there were folks who said, "Thank God" about one thing or another, however, the phrase seemed more of a clichÃ© than a prayer. And despite the two days Steve wore t-shirts with church names listed on the back, we weren't able to identify one person as a follower of Christ. I began to envy the Jewish families on board (who, by the way, did enjoy a worship experience on Friday evening). At least the men's yarmulkes helped them find one another.
But what I noticed most in being in my Christian vacuum for that long was the lack of Spirit I felt. I couldn't help but find Christ in the starfish I held and the jellyfish I saw. The hand of God was all over the frigate birds and the iguanas. The coral, the flying fish, the islands untouched by humans all gave evidence to my Creator, my Father. The wonder and majesty of the I Am were so obvious I wondered how anyone on board kept from worshipping spontaneously. Yet, in spite of all the beauty, there was something missing, and the longer I was there, the more I realized, it was the power of the Spirit I had grown accustomed to when I'm with the Body of Christ.
I read my Bible every day and continually thanked the Almighty for the blessing of this experience. I felt so loved by my Father as I spent time just relaxing and basking in His creation. But I know that if there had been a significant number of others there with us praising Christ, even without my knowledge, His Spirit would have been overwhelming. I've been in the presence of God's creation before WITH the Body and the difference is noticeable. The next time I cruise, I may volunteer to organize a worship service. Who knows how many others I may have uncovered if we'd had an opportunity to gather. I believe Jesus meant it when He said, "when two or three are gathered in my name." Never again will I underestimate the power and the Spirit that can be found when the Body of Christ gathers.
a feeling, characterized by strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base
What Makes you Indignant?
As I read this passage of scripture, I have to ask myself that question, "What makes me indignant?" The NIV says "furious," but other translations say "indignant." So, what is it? What is it that makes you furious, indignant or just plain put-out?
These folks in Jesus day did indeed become indignant. They were furious with Jesus. Here he was back in His hometown. He'd returned to Nazareth, and in what seems like just moments the crowd in the synagogue went from "speaking well of Him" to "driving Him out of town." What could have caused such a quick change of mood? These religious people didn't seem to have a problem with Jesus saying that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him. They didn't seem to mind that He claimed to have been sent by God to free the prisoners and give sight to the blind. But when Jesus began pointing out their own faults, almost reading their minds, those in worship that day became indignant. They were ready to throw Him off of a cliff.
So, reading this made me consider, "Do I become indignant when I hear someone speak the truth about myself?" After all, that's what Jesus had done. Jesus knew what they were thinking. His Spirit knew that these church people were a little too close to appreciate the power of this hometown boy. They'd watched Him grow up, they knew his parents and siblings. What right did He have to come back home and make it sound like they were too stubborn to accept that a boy from their community could possibly be anointed of God, let alone the Messiah?
As leaders of the church, we have to be on our guard against those who falsely claim to be of God. They are out there, and they will try to trick us. However, we also have to be open enough to listen to the new ideas and constructive criticism of those who we can see walk with Jesus Christ. These people may say things we don't like. In fact, we might even become a bit put out when one of our brothers or sisters in Christ point out our problems or hang-ups, especially if we aren't quite ready to acknowledge or change them.
But we have a responsibility. It's imperative that each time we hear that someone had something negative to say about our life or our choices, we spend some time in prayer to discern whether or not that activity or life choice is truly Christ inspired or something we need to change or exclude from our life. Not every negative comment will be something we need to deal with, but in every instance we will need to be ready to pray about it and be sure that our life is truly reflecting God's will. Because the only other alternative is to become indignant and put out, to become like the Pharisees and people of Jesus' Day.
So, choose, make a conscious decision to do something! Either tell Christ that you will be his servant or choose to be indignant and put out, Me? I'm going to work at choosing to evaluate every comment so that I can grow and become more like my Savor .
Why Do We Do the Things We Do?
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
As church leaders or individuals who are trying to become more like Christ, this is an important question to ask, "Why do we do the things we do?" Obviously in Paul's time there were people who labeled themselves as followers of Christ and even shared the gospel, but were only doing it for selfish reasons. This kind of "evangelizing" has been going on since the beginning of Christianity. Fortunately, Paul had a good attitude about the whole thing and understood that as long as the gospel was getting out, it didn't really matter the means.
Despite Paul's gift of grace, if we allow it, this passage can be good for us, as leaders and 21st century followers, to ponder. So many times I've seen local politicians get involved in a church just long enough to get the vote. As a musician in the Christian world, I've met more than a few singers and performers who were more interested in the notoriety than spreading the message of Jesus. For these kinds of Christians, the message is a "leg up," a rung on the ladder of success. Countless business men have discovered that they appear more respectable if they frequent a church and can let it get out that they are on the board or give big.
However, just because some who call themselves Christian promote the gospel of Jesus Christ with less than pure motives, does that make it acceptable? Should we disregard our own motives as long God is getting some good PR? 1 Corinthians 4:5 says [the Lord] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
What will the world find out about you "at that time"? What will Christ say about our motives, the thing that drives us, the truth in the depths of our hearts? Will we receive "Praise from God?" Or will He instead be disappointed in us, revealing the truth of our misdirected intentions? And if the truth comes to the surface before "that time" will you be embarrassed, ashamed, disgraced?
Because of the influences of this world and the message that it brings to achieve, succeed and be on top, it's easy to allow the gospel become a badge of honor or a marketing tool. There is a big debate in the Christian music and writing world as to where the line is drawn between marketing Christ and the worker being "worth his wages." It's not an easy thing to judge, even when we are looking at our own hearts. And as Paul rightly knew, it's impossible to know fully when trying to judge the heart of our brothers and sisters.
This week I encourage you to praise God that the gospel is being spread even when the motives are wrong. But even more I challenge you to sincerely pray the words of the Psalmist: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is an offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24-NIV) and be sure that all you do is what God would have you to do.
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Are You Bringing Anyone Great Joy?
3 John 1:1-8
John's other letters, as with most of Paul's, are written to entire congregations. In fact, we're told by Theologians that most of these ancient letters were meant to be passed from church to church, read aloud to the entire congregation and followed by everyone who heard them. But this letter is different. Third John is a letter to Gaius, a man whom John loved, a man who had a healthy soul.
But today as I read it again, I wondered, do I have a healthy soul? Do others I know have a healthy soul? Would I bring John great joy because I am faithful to the truth and I walk in the truth? Does anyone tell others about my love?
John's letter to Gauis is a great opportunity for us to evaluate our walk with Christ. He gives us some definite guidelines and standards to live by. So, today, take a minute and make a list, give yourself a time once a month or so and use the message of this letter to quickly look at your life. It's not the only way to evaluate and it shouldn't be the limit of your reflection. But here are a few questions for you:
- Do I have a healthy soul?
- Are you walking in the truth?
- Am I faithful in the work I do for those in the church?
- Do I have a love that strangers will brag about?
- When was the last time I showed hospitality to those who work for the sake of Jesus Christ?
John's letter reminds me that the Christian life isn't really about me. Even though I often live my faith as though my walk was for my benefit, that's not its true purpose. John's words help me see again that salvation was for me, Jesus' death on the cross was for me, but this life I live is not. My faith walk, this journey toward Christ in my day to day, is for others. Christ's gift of salvation was not meant to be opened and stored. His beautiful sacrifice was designed to be lived and shared so that others would come to know Him.
So remember John's message and never forget to live in such a way so that others will know without a doubt you more than just another good, moral person. Live your life to show them you are a servant of our brother, our Savior, our friend, Jesus Christ.