Devotional for Week of December 29, 2014

Proverbs 13:10 – “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Wisdom is something that I am ever-seeking, so when I came across this verse I knew I needed to look more closely.  As I first read this I said, “OK, yeah I get that.  But I feel like I experience both ends of this.”

As I began to look a little closer and research a little more I learned some things.  Until the last few years I’ve always considered pride a good thing, because I didn’t realize there was an additional meaning.  To me pride has always been “a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.” as Merriam-Webster puts it.  But as I’ve read through the Bible I’ve discovered the other meaning that is “a feeling that you are more important or better than other people” as Merriam-Webster defines.

By looking at each of these definitions I realize that I have experienced pride in each sense of the word, and the latter usually leads to strife.  There are times I seek out advice, but I often struggle to do so.  I know there is much for me to learn, but I’ve found very few teachers that I’d consider worthy over the years.

I need to put forth the effort to not only find quality teachers, but also to allow myself to be taught by anyone I come in contact with.  Historically I have been someone who learns from his experiences, but I haven’t always given the people around me the chance to teach me something.  What they teach me may not always be what I want to be taught, but knowledge gained is still knowledge gained.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the gifts and talents you’ve given me, and thank you for the gifts and talents you’ve given all members of mankind.  Lord, please help me to humble myself when with others.  I may consider myself an intelligent person, but help me remember that I still need to learn and help me see that I can learn from anyone.

Devotional for Week of December 22, 2014

Luke 2:11 – “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This is the week that we remember the greatest gift ever given to man.  This Thursday is Christmas Day!  On that day we remember the birth of a baby king.  He came to us to lead us, to save us, to protect us.  Even as a baby Jesus was able to do each of those things for all that encountered him.

For me, this week is not only a reminder of what Jesus came to do for all of us, but also what he has come to do in my life as well.  He came to save the world, but it’s important to remember that the world includes you and me.  His birth as a humble baby changed mankind and changed my individual life as well.

Without that birth, in a time of craziness and among the animals and the mud, my life wouldn’t be what it is today.  I wouldn’t have the faith, the optimism, or the hope I do today.  Jesus died for me, but first he was born for me.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for giving us, giving me, your son as a savior and king.  Great things have been done through the birth, life, and death of Jesus.  Thank you for bringing him to this world to lead us and save us.  And thank you Lord for providing your son as a guidepost and savior for me.  He came for all of us, and all of us includes me, so thank you lord for sending my personal savior.

Devotional for Week of November 3, 2014

Romans 12:2 — Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I’ve been thinking a lot about new beginnings lately. I’ve probably been influenced by the current message series at our church and a local band that has changed their name and musical direction.  The message series has been about what to do when you feel stuck and can’t seem to get any traction.  The band changed their name to Ellis, because of Ellis Island.  They noted that they know who they are and how they’ve gotten to where they are, but now they are at a point that starts a new adventure for them.

This verse, Romans 12:2, reminds us to be transformed through God. To some it may seem that this verse is speaking of a static moment in time when you decide to make the transformation from “of the world” to “in the world, but of God”.  But I would argue that this decision to be transformed, to start new, is a daily decision.

It may not be a conscious decision once you are far along your walk with God, but for new believers and believers feeling stuck or beat down this is a decision that must be consciously made each and every day. These believers must ask, “Am I willing to trust, to have faith in, a God I’m just getting to know?  And am I willing to give up the comfort of knowing this world as I have?”

Like Ellis, the band I mentioned, we need to know where our roots are and where we plan to go. Uncertainty lies before us, but if we are sure of who we are and sure of God’s guidance then we can take on the new beginnings and we daily agree to accept God’s transformation in our lives.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to choose to be transformed.  Thank you that I don’t have to be stuck in a life that leaves me unfulfilled.  You have given me great things and set a path for me to follow.  Lord, help me see the path and daily choose to let you transform my life, my heart, and my soul.

Devotional for Week of October 27th, 2014

Proverbs 27:12 — The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

 Oh to have been prudent all of my life.  I wish I could say that I’ve never been simple as this verse describes, but many times I have.  I’ve known there were troubles before me and still continued on the path.  I’ve even known the consequences that awaited me, but sought no refuge.  Some might call that being a risk-taker or a dare-devil, but when you know there are definite negative consequences, but continue on you are being simple.

Years ago I was in a tough financial situation.  I’ve since learned that what I was in was nothing compared to the troubles my wife and I have faced over the last few years, but at the time it was a tough situation.  I saw that I was low on money and that little would be coming in, but I put my desires first and continued to spend.  I even went beyond what I had and borrowed from friends and family—just so I could live the life I wanted to live.  I knew I was going to be broke, but I wanted to enjoy myself on the way there.

But then the bottom fell out and I had no money left to spend.  I had change my diet, change my habits, and actually be honest with those around me.  Those were consequences I wasn’t ready to face, but I knew they were there when I started spending.

Since then my wife and I have faced some tough times, and I used to get the urge to keep spending in those times.  But we realize now that if we trust in each other, trust that God will provide, and follow sound financial principles we will find a way out of the financial struggles.  We’ve learned to take refuge rather than continuing down the path of the simple.

We know now that our overall goals are more important than our immediate desires.  We know that giving our first fruits to God helps align us with our goals.  And we know that together we can wait out the danger in order to find a clearer path.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for providing for me and my family in times of need.  Thank you for giving me the reminders to avoid danger rather than jump headfirst into it.  Please help me spot danger from a great distance, Lord, so that I can take refuge  and wait.

Devotional for Week of October 13th, 2014

2 Corinthians 9:7 — Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Tithing is a topic that often makes people cringe.  Pastors often stay away from it, because they don’t want to offend their congregants.  But often churches are in dire need of more people in their congregations tithing.

When I say tithing I don’t mean “a tenth”, because that might not be what works for everyone.  Yes, God asks us to give a tenth in scripture, but I argue that more important than giving a tenth is simply giving (to start)–and more importantly giving from our first fruits.

The portion of this verse that is often repeated and often creates guilt is “…God loves a cheerful giver.”  So does that mean that if I’m not cheerful when I give, that God doesn’t love me?  No, it means that you are probably doing one of two things:  you are giving beyond your means or you are giving compulsively.

The beginning of this verse reminds us that our tithing is between us and God.  It’s important for us to be honest with God about our intentions and our fears surrounding tithing.  It’s important that we not try hide away our treasures from God, because He knows what we have and what we are able to do with it.  We may not be able to afford giving ten percent of our gross income, but can we do ten percent of net?  Maybe we can do six percent now, and work up to ten percent.  The important thing to remember is that God deserves what is first.

In our house we have set up our budget in a way that we don’t account for tithing in our bills.  We put our tithe at the top as soon as we build the spreadsheet or jot things on paper.  We do this so that it is never forgotten, never left out.  God has brought us through some tough financial times over the last several years, so we feel that it’s important we continue to give to His works first.

I don’t say this to toot our horn, but simply to give an idea of what might work for you.  Each person has a different number and a different method.  It is between you and God what numbers and methods you choose to use.  When you are sure of your numbers and your methods, and when you’ve taken your fears and intentions surrounding your tithe to God, then you can give without compulsion, reluctance, or guilt.  Then, you will be on your way to being a cheerful giver.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for all the gifts you have given me.  Please help guide my heart and my mind in decisions about tithing.  Lord, help me see the purpose in my giving, and help me to find comfort in giving to your works even when I am struggling.

Devotional for Week of October 6th, 2014

2 Corinthians 10:11 — Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

When I read this verse last week I could feel it drive into my heart.  Paul makes the point that people should have no doubt about how we will act, because our words and our actions should always be in line.  He makes it seem so simple and plain, as if nobody has ever acted in a way that didn’t align with their words.  But for most of us it’s not that simple.

We each need to strive each day to keep our actions and our words in line with one another.  And to do this we need to first set our heart in the right direction, because our mouth and body will follow the path our heart chooses.  We need to be sure that our passions and our desires are in line with God’s plan to ensure that our hearts, words, and actions stay in line as well.

Often parents find themselves telling their children to “do as I say, not as I do”, but this idea can cause great problems for the children and for the parent-child relationship.  We all need consistency in our lives to allow for peace and balance, but our children need this more than any other.  If we don’t properly model for our children the appropriate actions, then we are simply asking for trouble.  We need to adjust our paths to set our children on the straight path we likely desire for them.

This verse especially struck me as a writer, because my words are often read by people who either see me rarely or never at all.  I want to be sure that what I write here and in other venues isn’t a lie.  I need to be sure that my actions and words are equally following the path that God has laid on my heart.

This isn’t something that just comes overnight.  No, this is something that takes dedicated time and practice.  This takes humility and honesty.  Paul made the idea seem simple, but for most of us it isn’t.  Yet putting forth the effort is definitely worth the end result.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for designing me as you have.  I appreciate all of the care you have directed in my life, and I ask now that you help me align with the design you have for me.  Help set me on the path I’m called to, so that I can better keep myself in alignment.  Lord, I want to glorify you through my words and my actions each day, so please help me see where I fall short.

Devotional: Week of September 1, 2014

Proverbs 18:12 – Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

Over the last couple of weeks I found myself working alongside my wife to dig a 6-foot deep hole through solid clay to attempt to fix a broken water line that leads into an investment home we are in the process of selling.  We felt that once the house was on the market we would be able to sell the home quickly, because we had kept it in good shape and we were timing its availability around the summer break from school.  We thought that we had done enough to make the house saleable and entice some prospective buyer to want to make it their home.

After the house had been on the market for a month we found out that a leak had popped up in the water line that runs from the street to the house.  The city informed us that it was our problem to deal with, and so we began to dig.  I routinely fix irrigation lines at work, so I saw no problem doing this job on our own.  “Surely this won’t give us too much trouble,” we thought, but oh boy were we wrong.  We thought our experience had set us up for a smooth ride.  We thought that we knew what to expect.  We thought it would be a one day fix.

We spent parts of 4 days digging and attempting to fix before we got to the point where we couldn’t take it anymore.  We were ready to give up and ready to call in a plumber.  There was no way we could afford to call in a plumber, but we began thinking that maybe we were supposed to learn the lesson that “sometimes it’s better to call in a professional.”  We were beat down.  We thought we had this under control on our own.  We were haughty.

(Haughty – arrogantly superior and disdainful)

After a couple of days away from the house and away from the hole we had dug out we realized our error.  We went in thinking we were better than the task and better than the house.  We were wrong.  Our time off reminded us that we needed to lean on others—maybe not for the work itself, but for support.  We don’t need to face our challenges alone; we aren’t meant to.

We were able to get back into the hole, fix the problem, and get the hole backfilled.  But only because we let ourselves accept the help of others, and gave in to the calming force of God.

Whether the hole we are facing is a literal 6-foot deep hole or an emotional hole that we’re facing we must remember to approach the situation with humility.  We must accept the help of others and request the guidance and protection of our Lord and Savior.  We must remember that we aren’t meant to face this world alone; we are meant to be in true community.  Lean on one another, serve alongside each other, and share our lives with each other.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your grace and your guidance.  Lord, please help me see my place in this world.  Help me understand how you want to use me in each situation, so that I can see my way out of any hole I find myself.  Lord, please prompt me to turn from my feelings of superiority to live a life of humility.