October 11 – Jesus Loves The Children of the World

Isaiah 37-38 Colossians 3

“You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. In the new life there is no difference between Greeks and Jews, those who are circumcised and those who are not circumcised, or people who are foreigners, or Scythians. There is no difference between slaves and free people. But Christ is in all believers, and Christ is all that is important.” (Colossians 3:10-11 NCV)

Living as a follower of Christ isn’t always easy. Paul not only pointed out the kinds of things they shouldn’t be doing as believers, including sexual immorality, engaging in evil behavior, and doing things to hurt others, among other equally bad behaviors, he pointed out that the Colossians, and anyone reading this letter, needed to see their lives becoming more like Christ. When we do that, we begin seeing all people as equal. That was a radical idea back in those days as all of those groups were at odds with each other. Paul’s message was clear: we are all one in Jesus. The current phrase that people use is that all the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

You can’t follow Christ and believe that somehow, you’re superior to other people. In the parable Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus, even in the torment of hell, the rich guy wanted Lazarus to serve him. When those of us who believe come before Jesus at the end of time, we’ll all be standing before Him the same way – as sinners saved by His grace. We’ll fall to our knees as we worship the One who saved us. In the meanwhile, our job is to live like Jesus did on this earth and show everybody His love. True knowledge of God that brings new life loves all people. As the song says, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…” If people are precious in God’s sight how can we do anything but love them. Sure, I get frustrated with people at times. I get angry when people do evil things. But the best rule to remember is that God allows us to love the people He loves and hate those whom He hates. Since God so loved the world (the whole world) it doesn’t leave anyone for us to hate.

Lord, it would be so easy to look down at people who don’t follow You and show it by doing evil things. It would be so easy to hate those who work at cross purposes with Your desires for the world. When I tend towards acting like that, remind me that one of the purposes of the cross was to offer forgiveness to all people because of Your love for them. Help me to love them like You do.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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October 10 – Death To My Old Way, Power To Live My New Way

Isaiah 34-36 Colossians 2

“When you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and you were raised up with him through your faith in God’s power that was shown when he raised Christ from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12 NCV)

One of the common experiences of all Christians is some form of baptism. As Paul talked about the baptism that the Colossians participated in, he reminded them that, symbolically, their baptism meant that they were buried with Christ and then raised from the dead with Him. The symbolism is that they died to their old way of living. That which was acceptable to Colossian society was no longer acceptable for those who followed Christ. They died to that way of living and buried the old man. They rose from the dead and live each day for Jesus. No longer did they follow the rule of society, they walked with Jesus and lived righteously under His power.

Baptism is a symbolic act that new believers go through as a public witness of their faith. This is the outward symbol of faith that showed the world that the believer has renounced their old ways and has turned to Jesus Christ. It symbolizes the truth that we’ve buried our old sinful selves and that we’re living in the resurrection power of Jesus. To be sure, different denominations express this in different ways. Sadly, it’s a cause of contention between denominations since “my” denomination does it the right way, and “yours” does it the wrong way. We’d avoid all those arguments if we’d remember that baptism itself doesn’t bring salvation, it symbolizes what God’s already done in the life of a believer. As followers of Jesus, do we immerse ourselves in His grace as we prepare to go through the day? Do we live as if we’ve denounced the rules the world would have us follow and are walking with Jesus every day? When we live each day in the same power God showed when He raised Christ from the dead, we’ll be living examples of God’s love for all people wherever we go.

Lord, fill me with Your power and give me the strength to live each day for the glory of Your kingdom.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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October 9 – How God Deals With His Enemies

“At one time you were separated from God. You were his enemies in your minds, and the evil things you did were against God. But now God has made you his friends again. He did this through Christ’s death in the body so that he might bring you into God’s presence as people who are holy, with no wrong, and with nothing of which God can judge you guilty.” (Colossians 1:21-22 NCV)

There’s a strain of thought among some people that they’re probably OK with God. They don’t do too many bad things and they do a lot of good things. If you were to ask them why they should get into heaven, they’d let you know that they were pretty good, or at least tried to be. Paul would probably be gentle about it, but he’d let them know exactly what he said to the Colossian Church: Unless you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you’re separated from God. You are, in fact, enemies with God. The good news is that He’ll forgive you because of Jesus’s death on the cross and He’ll see you as holy, without blemish, and not guilty.

There’s no greater miracle than the transformation from being separated from God to becoming His child. Paul reminded the Colossians of their transformation not to humble them because of how they used to be; he wanted to remind them that they held a special place in God’s heart. The key to all this is understanding that God did all the work to make this happen. Jesus died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins. God offers us the free gift of forgiveness and a relationship with Him because of Jesus and not because of anything we do. God’s offer, a relationship with Him where He did all the work, is out there for everyone. God doesn’t want to exclude anyone. The problem is, too many people exclude themselves. The choice is clear: you can stay an enemy of God or you can accept His amazing offer of fellowship with Him, judged not guilty, and holy in His sight.

Lord God, thank You that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin and that You offered me the opportunity to come into Your presence, holy in Your eyes. I pray for anyone who hasn’t accepted Your gift and ask that You work in their hearts and draw them to Yourself.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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October 8 – Don’t Just Look for the Helpers, Be One

Isaiah 30-31 Philippians 4

“Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. Do what you learned and received from me, what I told you, and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NCV)

If we wanted to dwell on the problems of the world, we could spend a long time and take a journey to despair. I think Paul recognized that. That’s why he called on the Philippians to think about the good things in life. I believe that Paul wanted the Philippians to shift their focus from the problems of the world to start looking at the solution. Problems aren’t solved by griping and complaining. The problems of the world are solved when God gets involved directly or through His people. If God’s people are so wrapped up in the evil things happening in the world that they can’t recognize the good that He created, our anguish will cause us to miss the chance to solve the problem. Paul understood that God cares more about solutions than bemoaning the problems.

The story of Mr. Rogers teaching kids how to deal with tragedies is a great example of this attitude. His message to kids (of all ages) is that when tragedy strikes, look for the helpers. In the ugliness that permeates this world, we need to look for the good things of God. When God’s present, even the worst situations have something good about them. In the worst situations, God’s people can bring His presence, His beauty, and His love as they minister to hurting people. When God’s people act under God’s leadership, they provide solutions to problems, even if that only solution is to be there to comfort. Paul’s reminder to us, then, calls us to seek God in any and every situation, and then to be His presence to people who are hurting and grieving. The result of seeking God in the midst of the bad will be peace in our hearts. The result of being the presence of God to others in their distress will be to bring God’s peace to their troubled soul.

Lord, everything about You is good and worthy of praise. You are true, honorable, right, pure, and respected. Help me to seek You in the worst of situations. Empower me to act as Your ambassador as I minister to those who are hurting in difficult times.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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October 7 – Forgetting the Past, Heading Toward God’s Plan

Isaiah 28-29 Philippians 3

“I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NCV)

When we think of spiritual giants, Paul comes to mind. Do you want a great example of faith? Paul’s the man. When Paul described his spiritual walk, he told the Philippians that he still had work to do. He hadn’t reached his goal of being the man that God wanted him to become. He made it clear that he still had to keep trying to reach that goal of godliness and make it his own. He gave some classic advice when he talked about how he was seeking to reach that goal, advice that we could all use: forget the past and press on toward God’s call in your life.  I think Paul understood that no one will reach that goal until the day God calls us home, but he kept seeking to draw closer to God in his life each day.

We love to dwell in the past. Either we stew over past mistakes, letting them consume us and destroying any hope for our future, or we exalt in past victories, blinding us to the possibilities of the tasks God’s placed in front of us. Our experiences should shape our future, but they shouldn’t define it. Paul mentioned his past often, but he used that as a springboard to tell people what God had done in his life since his days as a Pharisee. I can think about my past, especially the mistakes, and use them to remind me of how much God loves me and how much He’s changed me. My past made me who I am, but it doesn’t define my future. God defines my future. What part do I play? I walk in obedience to God’s call on my life. That’s why I can forget what happened forty or fifty years ago and focus on the future knowing that however much longer I live, I have the opportunity to live for Jesus every day. I might die tomorrow, or I might live for thirty or forty more years. Until that day comes, though I’m going to press forward to reach the goal of the high calling of Jesus Christ in my life.

Lord, the only way I can live for You is with Your power in me. Let me live for You every day. Let my life reflect Your hope for the future to a world that dwells obsessively in the past.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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October 6 – The Destruction of Social Media

Isaiah 26-27 Philippians 2

“Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be innocent and without any wrong. You will be God’s children without fault. But you are living with crooked and mean people all around you, among whom you shine like stars in the dark world.” (Philippians 2:14-15 NCV)

Paul made a radical suggestion to the Philippians that would be even more radical today. “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Given who Paul was to the Philippians, I would guess that they took him seriously and tried to live by that suggestion. Or should I say command?  The ancient Greeks and Romans loved to debate, and I can imagine that, being human, they’d often get into arguments. And, being human, I imagine they’d complain a lot. Paul’s command was to live in that dark world of mean and crooked people without complaining or arguing. In short, that would make us rays of light in a world of darkness.

Express that same thought today and you’d be met by derisive laughter. So may people spend a lot of their lives on social media and if people stopped complaining or arguing there, the whole system would collapse. While we live in that kind of world, we don’t have to participate in the negativity. It’s easy to get drawn into the darkness even when our goal is to proclaim the light. The old joke is the story of the guy who couldn’t get to bed because somebody was still wrong on the internet and they had to fix that guy. Arguing won’t solve their problem. Sometimes we dive into the darkness with our proclamation of the light of Christ. Someone argues with our words about the goodness of God and we have to stick up for Him. I’ve had to learn that God can stick up for Himself and that sometimes those people lashing out have been hurt by people in the church, or someone claiming to be. What they don’t need is me trying to prove how right I am. What they need is to experience God’s love through me. Our arguments aren’t the best proclamation of the gospel: our words and acts of love will reach more people than our debating skill. Show people the love of God through your words and actions and you’ll be a point of light in the middle of their dark world.

Lord, teach me to show Your love and grace when I’d rather prove how right I am. Let my words always be seasoned by Your presence and may my actions reinforce the love I proclaim.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Two Days Missed?

No, I haven’t changed my religion. I haven’t changed my Bible reading practices. Saturday, I had to leave the house early with my devotional unfinished. I realized that Sunday morning when I copied the Bible passage into my Word Document. So, I finished Saturday’s early Sunday, but didn’t get to Sunday’s devotional because of timing, busyness and illness.

I’ll be posting Saturday’s soon. Sunday’s later this evening (my time) and then today’s and tomorrow’s will both go up on a similar schedule tomorrow.

I don’t know how many people really missed them, but more than anything, I need to write these for my own spiritual journey.

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October 5 – Changing Hearts Through the Power of Love

Isaiah 23-25 Philippians 1

“This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 NCV)

Paul had some of the most beautiful prayers for the churches he wrote. As he prayed for those in the church of Philippi, his first thought was to pray that their love would grow. Then he prayed that they’d have wisdom to choose the right way between good and evil so that they could be pure and prepared for the coming of Christ. Finally, in this section, he prayed that their lives would be filled with those good qualities that will end up in people glorifying and praising God. While this was written to the church as a whole, an online source mentioned that “you” in these verses is plural, we should take these verses to heart as individual members of our own churches also.

It’s important to remember that Paul guided churches, and their  also, to seek God’s direction for them. Too often, especially these days, Christians seem to read the Bible to see what “they” should do. Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ seem to think that the best way to show others the nature of God is to yell at them for their sins. It’s interesting that I don’t remember Paul telling people to do that. I don’t even remember Jesus attacking anyone but the religious elite for their sins. Paul’s message to the Philippians was that people who know Christ should love more and more and that they should live pure lives. We share the good news of Jesus because people are lost in their sins. When we focus on their sins, people get defensive. When we focus on how much God loves them, they’re more than likely to bring out their own sins by saying something like “How can God love me when I …” It’s a funny thing, but people are a lot harder on themselves the more love we show them. When they convict themselves about their sin, then we need to show them even more love. As they experience God’s grace through our love, we’ll see more people commit to following Jesus. Our strength, as followers of Christ, is found in our love and commitment to Him.

Lord, I’m so tempted to tell everyone else why they’re wrong. Don’t let me fall for that temptation. Instead, help me to do a better job of living, showing, and telling everyone why You are right and that You love them.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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October 4 – Know Your Enemy Before the Battle

Isaiah 20-22 Ephesians 6

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his great power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can fight against the devil’s evil tricks.” (Ephesians 6:10-11 NCV)

In ancient days, kingdoms battled each other. David’s great sin happened when it was “the time of year when kings normally went out to battle.” (1 Chronicles 20:1 NCV) Jesus talked about the battles we faced when He talked about the gates of hell not being able to withstand the assault Christians should make on death. As Paul concluded his letter to the Ephesians, he reminded them where their power came from and who the enemy was. Paul put it quite clearly: our power comes from God and our enemy is that evil trickster, the devil.

In our modern, scientific world it’s not sophisticated to believe in the existence of the devil. Most people will agree that evil exists, but they doubt it can be attributed to the devil. I think that’s one of his evil tricks. The source of the evil we face as human beings and especially as Christians is the devil. Make no mistake about it. Sometimes we act as if our enemy is a person that opposes the gospel. Since our natural reaction is to hate our enemy and seek to destroy any enemy, we begin hating people. People that Jesus loved and died for. When we get distracted from keeping our eyes on Jesus, we lose focus of who the real enemy is. Our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, as Paul continued, but against the spiritual forces of wickedness. Those who oppose us aren’t the enemy, they’re the tools of the enemy. Our job isn’t to destroy our enemies; our job is to love people. When we love people, especially those who oppose us, we’re bound to get hurt. God protects us from the pain by giving us His full armor to protect us, encourage us, and give us strength for the daily battles we face.

Lord, Your power is greater than any evil the enemy can muster. Help me to look at people who oppose the work that You would promote and realize that the power of Your love can bring people from the enemy’s side to Yours. Keep me strong in the battle, heal the scars when they come, but most of all, help me to love people like You do.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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October 3 – Singing Through the Storms of Life

Isaiah 17-19 Ephesians 5:17-33

“Do not be drunk with wine, which will ruin you, but be filled with the Spirit. Speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20 NCV)

There’s only one way to live the Christian life and that’s by being filled with God’s spirit. Paul compared being filled with the Spirit to being drunk with wine. When you’re under the influence of any drug, you lose inhibitions and control. People excuse their behavior, or the behavior of friends by noting “that’s the beer (or wine, or other intoxicant) talking.” Paul noted that not only should we be filled with God’s Spirit, it should affect us so that instead of griping about life, we’re praising the Lord who leads us. We’re singing and speaking praise with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We’re singing and making music in our hearts out of thanksgiving to God, not because we’re drunk on wine and out of control.

The key to understanding this passage is that we’re to be filled with God’s Spirit continuously. Don’t get sidetracked in life and let lesser things control you. Paul’s example was being drunk on wine. It could be a desire for revenge. It could be the will to succeed that’s so strong that you’re willing to cut corners and take unethical shortcuts. What’s your driving motivation in life? The Christian’s driving motivation in life is the Spirit of God living in us and through us. When God is working in our lives this way we have joy in all circumstances. When troubles come, we recognize His presence and we’re grateful. When good times come we rejoice in God’s blessings. When we’re plodding through life where nothing good or bad seems to be happening, we know that God’s giving us a chance to restore our relationship with Him and our physical and emotional health. In all these situations, we can thank God for His presence and His care. That’s why we speak praise instead of gripe. That’s why we sing hymns and spiritual songs instead of dirges. Our hearts overflow with music not because of any great musical talent, but because we’re filled with joy and gratitude for all that God has done, and we have faith for the future given the way God’s cared for us in the past.

Lord, let my heart burst forth in joyous songs as I think about Your presence in my life. Help me share the reason for my joy when others wonder why I sing through the storms.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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