Romans 10:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5: 15-21; Ephesians 2: 8-10
What does it mean to be saved? This is a question that I have asked myself a few times and I am sure you have asked it yourself as well. Can others tell I am different now? Do I need to quit doing every fun thing in my life now that I am following Jesus Christ? Does that mean that I need to get rid of all of my friends if they are not saved? It seems like life might change for the worse if we have to give up everything and everyone we care about in order to follow Jesus and really, that doesn't seem fair at all.
Luckily, being saved does not mean a lifetime of sitting in a room with no windows, staring at a white wall and trying to be perfect all day long. Being saved is as simple as knowing and acknowledging Jesus died for us because we are sinners and confessing (and not the least bit less importantly, believing) this so that Jesus can take hold of your heart and your life. Sure, there might be things that you understand must change in order for you to fully live a life devoted to God; but, Jesus didn't come to suck all the fun out of the room! He came so that we might have life, in abundance, to the full, until it overflows. Simply put, being saved is a step toward a wonderful and rewarding relationship with God through Jesus Christ. All the other changes that come from this (and they will no doubt come to everyone who opens their heart to Jesus) occur as a result of being saved, not as a condition to earn salvation.
Jeremiah 29:10-13; Matthew 16:23-25; John 16:33; Philippians 1:4-6
Have you ever found that some commitments are hard to keep? I'll be the first to tell you that I have had a few commitments that have been a struggle to keep to. Strict eating habits have always fallen away for adventurous taste testing at the newest restaurant in town. Reading a new book a week became expensive and my bookshelves filled to the point of bursting. Training to run a marathon... well that commitment was doomed from the start!
As a part of life, we all have commitments that we must keep in order to succeed, build relationships, and function in society. We tend to hold to commitments better when they are something that we find value in or are integral to our day to day lives; such as making it to work on time or turning in assignments we have agreed to take on.
As Christians, we must understand that our very first, and most important, commitment is to Jesus Christ. When we are committed to Jesus, He asks us to go all the way with Him and give Him control over the direction of our lives. If you do this, you will find that in return, He promises to give you everything necessary to live out your individual purposes with an abundant life (John 10:10).
John 14:1-3; John 14:15-18; John 14:25-16; John 16:5-15
Sometimes we just need help. Often, however, we can all be really stubborn in admitting that we just can't do it all on our own. I know this is absolutely true for myself and I see it regularly in my day-to-day life.
Living with autoimmune issues, and subsequent chronic illness, I have learned to push through a lot of off days to do each and everything I have set out to do no matter how it makes me feel. To be honest though, some days I just can't do it. Some days I need help getting up off the floor or turning the lids on jars. It's not that I am not a capable human who has a desire inside her to do those things; I definitely do and am, but those things might not be possible without help when the burden becomes heavy and the task feels much greater than I, alone can bear.
As Christians, our spiritual life, following Jesus, and knowing what is expected of us can be daunting! In fact most days, it will feel like you are not cut out for the job when your plans for righteousness fly out the window as soon as your feet touch the ground. God understands that this is the case; and He's not even mad at us for it! He has lovingly set into place all the help we will ever need to do His will through the Holy Spirit; the question is, will you let yourself seek out the Holy Spirit for help in your life?
What is something you fear? Is it a tangible fear of something you can see or touch or is your fear rooted in situations, people, or invisible worries?
For me, it has often been both the tangible and intangible that has brought fear to shake my very soul. Clowns, rodents, and dark water were the things of this world that have caused my heart to beat out of my chest. Fear of situations going wrong; not getting things right; or being socially inept have been the immaterial fears that have, at times, stopped me in my tracks.
I've heard it said (though I haven't counted each myself), that the Bible says "do not fear" 365 times. That is one for everyday of the year! How do we do this, however, when there are so many things to fear in this world?
The fear about what everyone will think of oneself is a fear that, I would contend, everyone has felt at least once in their lives. Even if you are the most confident person in the world, your confidence can be broken by what others say or think about you, when those thoughts and words become a defining factor of who you are.
I struggled with this, personally, when I was just starting my adult life at eighteen years old. I was an extremely introverted individual my entire life and had suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder from a young age. For this reason, I struggled to make friends and though I had a few good friends, I was seen as too "shy" and "boring" for the majority of people my age as I found solace in books and preferred texting to hours spent speaking on the phone. I feared I just wasn't good enough, that people would think that I, alone was not enough, or that I would do something wrong which would cause others to think worse things of me still.
There are so many things the world makes us believe which can make us see ourselves and what we do in the whole new light (and often times those things are negative and soul-crushing). God, however, would like us to see ourselves in another, radically new and wonderfully uplifting way as He time and time again reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and capable of all things, through Christ who strengthens us.
If there was ever a time of uncertainty and fear in the world during our lifetimes, this would be the time. Many of us are not going into work, we are not having in-person church services, we aren't spending time with our friends and we wonder: when will this all end?
It's okay to admit that these times of unknowns are scary and can often leave us anxious, nervous, and even isolated. We might not know what to do or who to turn to; we are, after all, supposed to be adults now and we need to navigate this world largely by our own intellect and wisdom. We don't have all the answers and this can leave us feeling terrified to even make a move.
God wants us to know, however, that we should not fear the unknown and we should not cripple ourselves with the uncertainty of what might happen in the future. Though we are called to use wisdom (and often that means to take caution in the things we do), we are also called to trust God and to understand that He will keep us, protect us, and work all things out for our good.
1 John 4:18
In these times of trouble, as fear and anxiety well up in your chest and you start to worry about the outcome of the coming days, weeks, and months (as happens with all of us), where do you find yourself running to drown out that fear?
Like many, maybe you are hopping on Netflix and enthralling yourself in Tiger King. Perhaps a cookie or two... or in my case, the entire package has been your solace; or maybe you have turned to numerous workout plans to help ease and calm yourself. These are all reasonable (albeit, some more than others) things that we turn to because they have proven to make us feel safe through hard times.
During these hard times, God wants you and I to remember that we will always find a dependable and strong protector in Him. He wants us to set down the remote, or the cookies, or the weights for just a moment and remember that He is our father, He he the one that can get us through this, and when all those things are gone (when you've finished Joe Exotic's insane tale; when there are nothing but crumbs and cardboard left; when you're so sore you can't even look at one more loop band or yoga mat); HE will remain.
At this current junction of our lives, have you found that it has been difficult to find the brightside of the struggle that we are currently facing? Does it feel dark and gloomy, no matter what you do to try to to see the best in each day?
This is caused by the focus that we have on a certain topic, event, or hardship. Right now, nearly all of what we can read, what we are discussing, and what we consume through the news is about the bleakness of our situation during the global pandemic. I'm not saying this is without reason. We need information to keep us up to date and safe. We need to talk to our friends and know how they feel and what they are doing (which is usually a whole lot of nothing at the moment). We need to understand our world so that we can overcome; but, at the same time, if our focus is always on the current situation and all the things we cannot do, it is hard to see a way out.
Genesis 12:1-4; Genesis 17:1-9; Hebrews 11:1-3; Hebrews 11:8-12; Psalms 119:105
Life is really full of complicated decisions and expectations; at times it can be overwhelming and scary. Parents have expectations for our lives, especially when we reach adulthood; friends and significant others have expectations about how we devote our time and what that means for our relationships with them; we have to make decisions about who we are going to be, what we are going to do, and where we are going to live.
On top of everything, as Christians, we are asked to throw God right into the mix and make His plans for our lives a priority above all else. Where does this leave us? Will we ever be able to live up to every expectation, especially the expectations of the Almighty Creator?
Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 6:33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:12-14; Romans 12:2; Proverbs 13:20; James 1:5
Decisions are just tough. What if I make the wrong decision and I end up hurting myself? What if my decision hurts others? What if I don't know which choice to choose? Do I just choose one anyway and hope for the best? What if I make God mad with the choice I make?
Well, first things first, God is not mad at you, no matter what choice you make. God loves you unconditionally and none of His love for you is tied to your actions; that's the most amazing thing about grace! Moreover, God's plan for your life is not necessarily hinged on the single choices we make; rather, who we are and how we respond to Him. God can work with you to get you to where you are going, as long as you follow His lead and live your life the way Jesus commanded: love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.
Galatians 5:25; Proverbs 3:5-6; Hebrews 10:24-25
I discovered God's plan for my life at the age of 26, in my parked car, on sunny Fall day. It had been revealed to me years before, though I had gotten off course as life dragged me from left to right; wherever IT wanted me to go. I wasn't necessarily looking for a new path at the time (after all, I thought I was on MY path already); but in a moment of surrender, when I had come to the end of myself and cried out for someone else to take the wheel, God was faithful in allowing His Spirit to move me and show me something I had not yet, but so desperately needed to see.
This time, our devotional reading elaborates on this topic an teaches us how (if we are commanded to follow God's plan for our lives) we can do so by discovering what his plan is. I think you will find that His ways might not be as complicated as we had previously assumed.
Judges 6:11-16; Judges 7:1-9; Judges 7:16-22
When I was 18, I was convinced that I had my life ALL figured out. I was going to go to a university, earn a degree in International Relations, and spend my life traveling the world and doing good everywhere I went. Well, obviously, that plan did not go as I thought it would. After a year at a fancy private university studying International Relations, I quit because it just wasn't working out. I spent a few years working as a nanny for triplets and traveling the world, after that. I loved it; but, again, plans changed.
I went back to school and got my Bachelor's degree in Military History and immediately went off to Grad School to get my Master's in Intelligence and Security Studies. This time, I would do good by protecting others while working for the CIA or FBI. My final year of Grad School, (though I did not hear a chuckle, I am sure He did) God decided to change my plans again and call me to ministry. Luckily, He allowed me to finish Grad School in this plan.
This time, we are discussing the rules of plans. Plans do not go as plans and sometimes they stop us in our tracks; but, we can be assured, if it is God's will, the plans will eventually succeed.
Psalms 139:1-18; Acts 2:17-18; Job 33:14-18; John 14:15-17
Have you ever stopped to wonder how God juggles every person on the entire planet, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week without end, since the beginning of time? Does it make you stop and think that maybe He doesn't always hear you? That maybe he has too much going on with everyone else to spend his time watching your back? Does that send anxiety racing through your body... or is it just me?
Well, if we were taking about a human, it would be impossible for anyone to juggle the prayers, troubles, thoughts, and dreams of every single person they know; let alone everyone in the world! Luckily, however, we weren't created by man; rather, by an eternal, all-powerful Creator, that had plans figured out long before we arrived and sent us His advocate, His Spirit, that is with us and for us every single breath and step of the way.
Genesis 1:1-2; John 5:19-30; John 14:1-17
Last time, we learned who the Holy Spirit is and how He helps us be close to God. The description of the Holy Spirit, however, seemed to be more God than holy helper. In times when life is hard, unpredictable, and downright confusing this can leave us to wonder who to cry out to when we have nowhere else ro turn? Is it wrong to call out to the Holy Spirit? Should we treat Him differently than God?
This time, our study helps us to understand the difference between God and the Holy Spirit as it explains the character and the function of the Holy Spirit as the third arm of the Trinity.
John 14:15-21; John 16:4-15; Hebrews 10:16
Have you ever been in a group text thread with a whole bunch of your friends? One friend will send a text and then, almost instantly, responses will come from the others regardless of distance. You could connect in real time to any person you pleased almost effortlessly and without the hassle of older innovations such as dial-up internet or single-line house phones. It's almost as if you can have your most trusted confidants with you at all times and in all places to help you, or any of the others in the group text, conquer the world and make decisions.
The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to the disciples in this way. Though they would have no understanding of texts or group chats (unless those group chats were in an upper room or face-to-face on one of their long journeys), Jesus promised them that he would send someone to be with them in all of the places they would eventually spread out to in order to preach the Gospel. He would be with them at all times in ways that Jesus could never in His, though perfect, human form. This week, we are going to dig down deeper as we look closer in to this promise that Jesus made.
John 7:37-39; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 9:10-19
2020 is really something else. The words I feel might be best to use are "trying" and "relentless". For many of us, the year has seemed scary, divisive, unsure, and threatening. I know that even the events of the last week may leave many of you feeling insecure and angry. Personally, I have cried out to the Lord several times this week and this year, begging for answers; though sure I would not get them until later down the line. For a few of you, this year was meant to be your introduction to the fabulous opportunities of adulthood; but instead it feels overwhelming, isolating, and without hope. I am so sorry. I am so so sorry that this is how you must be introduced to the great life God has set out for you to have.
This time, we continue to talk about the Holy Spirit and how He is always available to us, always helping the right people and circumstances fall into the right place at the right time; and it never limited by distance or hardship.
If you were hanging out with Jesus (like the disciples) and one of your friends came up and asked who He was, how would you describe Him? Would you quote a scripture verse to show that He is the Son of God who came to Earth to offer Himself as a perfect sacrifice to all of us? Would you say He's a good guy that has His picture up around the church? Maybe you would say He is the ruler of this world? Or perhaps that He was your friend?
Galatians 5:24-25; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Throughout the day, how many times would you say that you think about your self interests or needs or even how you are going to make all these things happen? For many of us it would be often (maybe even constantly) and this really directs our paths (whether it be our thoughts or our actions).
Well this time, our devotional focuses on the fact that you were bought with a price; that price being Jesus' life on the cross. In that, you belong to the Creator of the Universe and at the time of salvation, your life becomes tied to Him as well. This helps us to have a new perspective, a Godly perspective about our lives and what we should do with them.
Hebrews 4:15-16; Psalms 46:1; Proverbs 18:1; 1 Corinthians 10:13
Do any of you have the perfect life? Nothing ever goes remotely wrong, you want for nothing and make no mistakes in life or fight with anyone? No? I didn't think so. For many years I tried to have the perfect life (or at least make it seem perfect to everyone else). Unfortunately the reality is, since we are imperfect humans, we can never be perfect no matter how hard we try and things that we don't want to happen will happen at least sometimes. That's okay! The measure of a man/woman, and especially a Christian, is not dependent on how perfect our lives are; rather, how we react when we are faced with troubles and hardships and who we run to for help.
This time, we are continuing our study of placing Jesus Over Everything and will be focusing on the idea of imperfection and who we can run to when things don't go as we had hoped they would.
How do you praise God? Do you speak words that boast about Him and His endless power? Do you sing a song that honors Him? Do you shout and throw your hands up in the air, reaching toward the sky just so , maybe, you might reach so high you could touch Him? Do you jump up and down and dance around the room (my personal favorite), letting your praise emit from every limb? There are so many different ways to praise the Lord, and we all have our own person favorites; to be honest, praise should never grow old!
What do you focus most of your time on? If you were being honest, would it be making money? Looking great all the time? being popular? Having everything you have ever wanted? Something else? Do these things shape how you live your life, the time you spend doing certain things throughout the day or how you speak?
This time, we are finishing our study of Jesus Over Everything and this time around, our devotional reading is taking time to help us understand that the things we put first in our lives become our lifestyle; so, when we focus on God, we can live a lifestyle of worshiping Him rather than the things of this world.
Psalms 1; James 1:21-25; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12-13
Are you good at keeping plants alive? My friend Kevin certainly cannot. He recently (during the lockdown) took home two houseplants that he affectionately called Barb and Winston. He read up about his plants and how to keep them alive. He sprayed their leaves with water and gave them good soil; but to his dismay, Barb began to turn frail, brown, and sag in her pot. He was disheartened and confused; he couldn't figure out what was going wrong. When I visited to check in on him, as he was quarantining all by himself, I noticed that poor Barb was behind the couch.
"Kevin," I said. "Why did you put Barb here?" "Oh!" Kevin replied confidently. "She's right in front of the window and I read that she needed sunlight to survive." Kevin was right, Barb did need sunlight to survive. He hadn't noticed, however, that Barb was sitting directly in front of his air conditioning unit and the cold air had dried her out until she had shriveled up and died. Kevin had, unknowingly, planted his tree in an incompatible environment and, therefore, it could not thrive.
This time, I want you to think about where you are planting yourself. Have you rooted yourself near the living water that is Jesus Christ or have you dug down in the desert of the world, hoping to hold on as you go through the ups and downs of life?
1 Corinthians 10:33; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 27:17; Proverbs 12:26
When you were cast into adulthood (maybe it was just a few months ago or a few years ago), did you expect to maintain the friends you had throughout childhood? Have you been able to maintain these bonds? Have there been difficulties in doing so?
For myself, I still have fairly good relationships with many of those people I grew up with (though we may not be as close as we once were). I've known my best friend for 13 years now; but, as a consequence of growing and finding ourselves more fully as adults, we don't share exactly the same bond as we used to. This is not due to any loss of love on either side, simply just a part of growing and learning more about ourselves and our own desires. Fortunately, as I have grown, I have made many new friends as well and although they are never meant to replace anyone who already existed within my world, they have become perfect compliments to my microcosm of the universe and happy reminders that God brings people into our lives at the right times for specific reasons.
This time, our devotion discusses the importance of choosing our friends as we move through adulthood and how a good friend can bring us closer to God; while a bad friend can lead us away from Him.
Acts 2:42-45; Hebrews 10:24-25
What's the big deal with church? Growing up, our parents always said we needed to go and would drag us out of the house kicking and screaming, at times, to get us to go; but now that adulthood has come, there's just so much else to do. We have work commitments that might ask us to sacrifice our Sunday worship for a work shift. We have studying for our degrees that might wear us to the bone and exhaustion will take hold of us, making us question if we can even drag ourselves out of bed. Can't I just read my bible at home, on my own time, and still get to heaven?
Sure, if you are a believer, you most certainly could read your bible at home and get to heaven, but faith is so much more than that, isn't it? Our faith isn't just supposed to be exercised to get us to heaven; we also need faith to mold us, guide us, and bring us to our purpose on this earth. That's where the church come in.
Like the best chocolate chip cookie ever, the church you need has all of the ingredients you need to be transformed and used by God in this life to live out your purpose and have a life of fulfillment before passing onto eternity.
Psalms 34:4-18; Colossians 4:2; Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
When someone asks you how you are, how do you answer? Do you immediately assess you mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual state and give an honest assessment of each? Do you give a standard "fine" or "good" in the hopes that the conversation will continue on with no further questions on the topic and save you the headache of digging down deep and finding the truth we have locked up within ourselves?
It has been said that a person is more likely to comment about their physical well-being than their mental state; the idea being, generally, that if it is not spoken about, that person can avoid their feelings all together. Yet, as the Psalmist David shows us time and time again, it is important to be honest with God and ourselves about how we feel and to give ourselves the opportunity to address the ups and downs of our lives head on as we seek the word for ways in which we can combat feelings of doubet, insignificance, fear, and even loneliness.
Genesis 3:6-8; Psalms 107:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Do you have insecurities that you try to hide down within yourself or cover up in the hope that if you ignore them they might go away? Do you try with all your might to make yourself feel better, larger, more confident than what your mind is telling you that you are, but in actuality, you know that those insecurities linger just below the surface; taunting you and making your search for worth feel more and hopeless?
I know this has been my experience. As the middle child in a family with a lot on their plate, I felt as though in order to be worthy of the positive attention I sought, I needed to work harder, longer, and more than anyone else. I got impressive degrees from first-class schools and was published in numerous publications that made those I told hang their mouths open in amazement. The truth, however, is rather than making me feel more secure, those things made me feel less like myself; more like an impersonator searching for worth in someone else's body. You see, the problem was, I was never finding security, because my security didn't lie in what I did, but in who I am tied to: Jesus.
Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7
I have always struggled with a from of social anxiety as well as general anxiety that has made many simple tasks nearly impossible for me to complete. The stress of having to go to the store and interact with the clerk could send me into an internal panic, that was little short of hysteria. By the time I was 25 years old, the stress from the anxiety had become so great, I had worked to avoid everything that gave me discomfort and found myself at a stalemate that hindered my advancement in nearly every aspect of life. That's when I decided I needed to lean into the stress and change my perception of it from something scary, to something health that could help me become a better me in the process. Once I did that, my life truly changed for the better.
How stressed do you become when your situation is difficult? Do you run away from the situation at all cost or will you allow the pressure to move you forward and help you to grow?
1 Timothy 6:16; 2 Chronicles 6:14; Romans 8:31-32
What is love to you? Do you classify love by how much someone shows up and is around? Do you put more weight in the feelings you get from love? Do you see love as a force that drives people together and unifies them under a common bond of humanity? Do you believe that love gives its all to another person and never loses hope? Have you ever experiences such a love?
1 John 4:7 says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." God created the whole idea of love because that's what He is. He does those things that we classify as love: He's always around and shows up when we need Him. He makes us feel, safe and capable. He is bonded to us simply because we are His imperfect human creation; and He gives to us freely and always sees the best in us, despite our best efforts to show Him the worst. His love fulfills and is perfect, because He is perfect; a type of perfect another will never be able to replicate.
You might have spent your life looking for someone to fill the natural desire to be seen and be loved and have found yourself disappointed when everyone seems to fall short of your expectations; but, God never falls short. His love never gives out and He offers it up to you freely, forever.
Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12; Romans 3:23
Have you ever had a PERFECT day? I'm talking about a day where you didn't have one bad thought, one misstep, one argument, did not say a single thing wrong? I would contend that not one of us have had such a day; I know I haven't! I usually start my day with a plan of all the good things I am going to do, a resolve to not say one thing wrong and then as soon as I get ready and step out to the kitchen, I have ruined my entire plan! This gets me down at times because I struggle to understand why I cannot be perfect, even when I try so hard to be... but then I remember I am human and I live in a fallen world; it's normal to not be all those things and to struggle to hit the mark. God sent Jesus to cleanse us of not just the original sin, but of our sins that we commit every single day!
Revelation 21:27; Romans 6:23; Isaiah 64:6
A couple of years ago, I was at a birthday party for my friend, Rochel. This was a very fun festival-themed party with a distinctly Jewish edge. Being an Orthodox Jew, Rochel and her family had traditions that they had to abide by, such as not eating until after the sun went down. When it was time for me to go home, Rochel offered to walk me to my car. Not wanting to pull my friend away from her still-vibrant party, I protested for a moment; yet, Rochel insisted. When we were walking to my car she said "it's Jewish tradition to walk someone to the door or as far as they are going (i.e. car). The further you walk with them, the bigger your blessing when you pass."
You see, Rochel does not live under the New Testament truths that we do. Though her intent is what God hopes for us all (to live perfect lives under His perfect commands), she did not understand that we can never be good ENOUGH to get to Heaven on our own. Even the smallest sins outweigh all the good we may do. This is why we need Jesus. This is why His sacrifice on the cross was so important; He is the only way to eternal life.
When times are darkest, where do you go to find the light? Is there someone that shines so bright that you know they can fill the void that is inside you? Do you seek out wisdom from someone like a mentor or an older family member to help you see past your current situation?
The Psalmist David was not a stranger to dark times and knew full well how it felt to sink into the darkness. When he did, however, He turned his eyes up o Heaven and called down the Lord to his side. He knew God was the brightest light of them all and was sure of where he stood inside such light. My question is: where are you standing today when you need the light most?
Isaiah 8:11-22 ; Isaiah 9:1-7
Today is a very stressful day for me and perhaps it is for you as well. Regardless of your ideas or political preference, we can all agree that there is a lot of darkness around that makes it difficult to see past. We do not know what comes next or what that might mean for our nation to come.
The good thing is, regardless of how we feel and what happens today or in the future, we can look back and know for certain that our true kingdom, nation has been established and is secured through Jesus Christ. Though everything else might be clouded in darkness, we can be sure of the eternal light that will guide us through!