Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

How to Fix Your Preacher in 10 EASY Steps by Dan Bouchelle

How to Fix Your Preacher in 10 EASY Steps by Dan Bouchelle – ChurchLeaders.com – Christian Leadership Blogs, Articles, Videos, How To\’s, and Free Resources.

A good read, especially for those of us who work in prison/jail ministries

Prison profanity and the meaning of Advent

Unreasonable Christians

Atheists are not alone in labeling Christians as “unreasonable.”  In light of all the evidence for evolution, how can Christians believe in a literal creation?  It is unreasonable.  Add to that all the liberals who believe Christians are unreasonable in our insistence on protection of the unborn.  But there is also a third voice calling for Christians to be reasonable.  God.

But wait!  Isn’t God the One who is always telling us to put aside reason and to walk in faith, not by sight?  How can God think Christians are being unreasonable today?   And the answer is in the area of sacrifice.

In Romans 12, Paul tells us to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” to God.  But he doesn’t just drop that bomb on us out of the blue.  Paul links the offering of ourselves as living sacrifices with the great mercy of God.  Given the great mercy that God has extended to us, our response back to God should be one of sacrificing ourselves for Him.   And then at the end of vs. 1 in Romans 12, Paul tells us that sacrificing ourselves for God is the reasonable thing to do.  Given all that God has done for us, how can we do any less than give ourselves back to Him completely?

But if sacrificing ourselves to God “in view of His mercy” is the reasonable thing to do, then to NOT offer ourselves as living sacrifices is to be unreasonable.  Yet how many times do we hear ourselves saying "But God understands that I am busy"?   We have convinced ourselves that God is reasonable and that He understands we have so many other things going on in our lives that we don’t have time for Him.

It is past time for us to look at the way we have been living our lives – ignoring God and the reasonable response of sacrificing ourselves for Him.  In light of all God has done and is doing for us each day, how can we think it is acceptable to give God the smallest of scraps of what is left over in our lives?  God thinks that is unreasonable and so should we!

Are you being unreasonable with God?

All Spheres of Life — Even Pro Basketball – Desiring God

This is a great read.  Take a few minutes and be blessed and challenged.

 

All Spheres of Life — Even Pro Basketball – Desiring God.

When Did God Become So Understanding?

I’m not sure when the change came but God certainly has become more understanding over the years. Maybe God is just mellowing with age?  When reading the Bible, we see countless examples of God giving clear commandments of what His people are to do.  Take, for example, Numbers 9.  In Numbers 9 God outlines what is required for the celebration of Passover each year. 
The specifications God gives here would be considered rigid by many today. God commands what month, what day, even what time of the day the meal was to be observed.  Other details were given as to the menu and who could and couldn’t eat the meal. Everyone was expected to participate according to the rules or face the consequences (Numbers 9:12-13).
Fast forward to today, though, and we see a God who is much more flexible.   Examples of this abound.  Regular participation in worship?  “I know I should be in church more but God understands that I am busy.”  Faithful financial support of the kingdom?  “I really want to be able to give more but God understands that I have bills to pay.”   Responsibilities in the church?  “If I wasn’t so stressed out right now, I’d be glad to work with that but God understands I have too much on my plate right now.”
Fortunately for us, God isn’t as hard headed as He was in the Old Testament.   Today’s flexible God is much more understanding than the Old Testament God who said no one was to come to worship Him without an offering (Ex0. 23:15).
When exactly did God become so understanding, though?  Many of us claim that God is understanding when we don’t do what the Bible says they are to do, but exactly when did this transformation in God take place? And while we just assume this idea of an understanding God is correct, what are we to do with verses like Hebrews 13:8 which affirms that Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever”?
Is it possible that God isn’t as understanding as we have made Him out to be?  Instead of seeing God as a holy God who deserves our worship and service, we have created a God in our minds who is much more willing to bend to our lives than we are expected to shape our lives around Him.  A God who isn’t worth bending our lives around is not a God worthy of our worship.
However, we shouldn’t swing too far back in the other direction, though.  God is understanding.  In Numbers 9, for example, if someone was excluded from celebrating Passover due to uncleanliness stemming from touching a dead body, God allowed him to celebrate the exact same meal a month later.  And Jesus affirmed the practice of working to get an animal out of a ditch on the Sabbath.  Drifting over into rigid legalism misses the mark as well.  God does allow for exceptions but when the exceptions to obedience in our lives outnumber the actual times we obey God, we have a problem.  When we keep expecting God to understand why we don’t do what He has told us to do, we should remember that God does understand. He understands that we are being disobedient.  And for the record, He isn’t OK with it.  Never has been.  Never will be.  Do we understand that?

Unintended consequences

“Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you.”

How many times have we heard this lie in our lives?  No adult would ever believe that statement is true but we teach our children not to take seriously what people say.  “Just brush it off” or “Let it go in one ear and out the other.”  While our motivation may be good, what are the unintended consequences of teaching children not to take words seriously?

All of us know people who say things again and again but will come back just as many times and ask us to dismiss what was said because “I was having a bad day.”

Or what of all the times we say hurtful things and then we desperately try to distance ourselves from the very words we say?  “I didn’t mean it, I was just angry” or “It just slipped out, I don’t know where that came from” or another common excuse – “I was just kidding.”    Again, what is the danger of downplaying the significance of the words we say? What are the unintended consequences of doing this over and over again?

First, the more we tell people not to take our words seriously – the greater the danger that they won’t.  People will learn not to listen to us when we talk because we continually come back and tell them not to take us seriously after all.  We want people to let us off the hook when we say things we shouldn’t but then how will they know when to take us seriously and when not to take us seriously?  This calls to mind Jesus’ caution that our yes should mean yes and our no should mean no. (Matt. 5:37)

There is a second even more serious danger when we discount words the way we do.  Not only will we continue to say hurtful things without thinking about the actual effect we are having on others, but what will happen when we hear God speak?  In a context where we don’t take speech seriously, what happens when we hear a clear “Thus sayeth the Lord…”?   If we have consistently practiced the art of dismissing words, what makes us think we will take God seriously when He speaks?  If you doubt this is a problem, look at how many times we say – “I know what God says in His Word, but…”?  This problem of dismissing words is rampant in all our relationships, including our relationship with God.

Words matter.  We need to take seriously the words we speak.   Furthermore, we should begin to hold ourselves and others accountable for what we say.  Only then can we treat words with the proper value they deserve.  Ours and God’s.

The lesson of the tennis shoes

It was time. I’d been putting it off for far too long.  I dread the process but it had to be done. Replacing old tennis shoes is always traumatic for me.  Once in the store, I began the process of trying on new styles, but honestly, I’m not picky.

It really didn’t take me long to find a suitable pair of new shoes and as I was putting the new tennis shoes back in the box to check out, I noticed something troubling.  Inadvertently, one of the new shoes ended up right next to my old shoe on the floor.  The contrast in color grabbed my attention. WOW! These new shoes are very, very white. Conversely, (pun intended) my old comfortable shoes were not even in the white category any more.  Ironically, though, just the other day I was thinking how these same old tennis shoes didn’t look that bad considering their age.  Now, sitting next to their new replacements, these old shoes look unquestionably old and dirty.  And then right there in Sears, the Spirit spoke the lesson of the tennis shoes to me.

How many times has that exact scenario played out in our lives?  We look at the lives we are living – the lives that are so comfortable to us – and we think “I’m doing pretty good.”  We know we aren’t perfect but then, who of us is, right?  We are so comfortable in our sin that we don’t even notice it any more.

That is, until our lives are laid beside Jesus’ life.  The contrast between my old tennis shoes and the new one really caught my attention.  The same thing happens when we get a good look at Jesus.  The lives we are so comfortable with, when compared to the purity of Jesus, look incredibly dirty.  With a new pair of white shoes, every mark, every smudge stands out so clearly.  But with time, the dirt and the smudges increase until the white shoes are just “generally” white or “mostly” white.  The same is true in our lives.  Sin and worldly living smudge our lives just like dirt smudges our shoes.  If we are not careful, sin builds up and builds up until we are only “mostly” clean in our eyes.  Not clean like Jesus but certainly cleaner than the world, right?
The lesson of the tennis shoes is simply this – make sure you are spending time close to Jesus so that you can clearly see the sin in your life.  Comfortable shoes are hard to let go and so are comfortable lives in sin.  Put on the clean shoes of Christ today.

Captain Obvious Christians

How many times have you seen this played out in front of your eyes?  A child is running somewhere where he shouldn’t and in the process slips and falls and gets a bloody nose or a scraped knee.  Rushing to a parent to be comforted he hears instead, “You shouldn’t have been running there.  If you hadn’t been running, you wouldn’t have been hurt.”  Really, Captain Obvious?

How many times have we seen the same scene played out in the church?  Someone gets hurt while sinning and comes to the church for comfort and support only to hear “You shouldn’t have been sinning, should you?”  Well, yes, that of course is true.  But is the ministry of the church simply telling people the obvious truth that they wouldn’t have been hurt by sin if they hadn’t been sinning?  Something is wrong when we think that we are being helpful when all we have to offer are words that are so obvious that it is almost impossible for the hurting person to NOT know he has done this to himself.

Compare our words to the words of Jesus when confronted with the woman caught in adultery. Had Jesus been like us he would have said something along the lines of: “It’s your own fault for being in bed with a man who isn’t your husband.”  But Jesus didn’t rebuke her by saying things so obviously true as to be unhelpful and, yes, even hurtful.

Notice something important, though – very important – Jesus not only did not condemn the woman, he made sure to TELL HER that he wasn’t condemning her.  Unwilling to just hope the woman didn’t perceive condemnation in his words, Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t condemning her for doing something that she already knew was wrong.  He didn’t give her the cold reception that we so often give to people hurt by their own sin – “You made your bed, now lie in it.”

What did Jesus do? If he didn’t offer unhelpful, hurtful words so obvious they don’t need to be spoken, what did he offer her? Jesus offered her a hopeful alternative to consider – change.  When Jesus said “Go and sin no more” he was trying to open her eyes to a reality that she may not have been considering.  Jesus’ words are helpful because they turn her eyes away from what she was doing wrong toward what she should be doing right.

Jesus was letting her know that he expects better of her – that he believes she CAN do better than what she is doing.  In other words, Jesus is offering her HOPE.  Hope that she can have a different future – a better future.

How many people come into the church, still hurting from the consequences of their sin, but instead of hearing a word of hope that they can change – they hear a word of condemnation that they shouldn’t have been doing what got them into trouble?  The church is filled with Captain Obvious Christians who only offer judgmental words that are unhelpful.

Next time someone comes into your church beaten down by his sin – offer a word of hope instead of condemnation.  Try it – God will like it.

The story of the Nativity Told Digitally

Good reminder about Christmas