Thursday, June 30, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 25: Seek First the Kingdom

Day 25: Seek First the Kingdom

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Right before this verse, Jesus was telling the multitudes not to worry about what they would eat, or what they would wear, because their Father knows they need these things. Then He told them what they should do—seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and God would handle all their stuff.

Look at the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition’s version of this verse:

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

Seeking after God’s righteousness above everything else means you are seeking His way of doing things. Isn’t that awesome? And that’s what this whole book is about: renewing your mind to think the way God does, so you can do things the way God wants you to do them. Let’s move on to some practical applications to help you get this.

Let’s say you finally save enough money to buy that expensive watch you’ve been drooling over for so long. It’s so shiny and gorgeous! You wear it for a day, and as you go to slip it on the next morning, you sense the Holy Spirit prompting you to give it to someone you work with. Immediately your flesh starts whining in that awful, nasally voice: I’ve saved so long! I’ve only worn it once, and now God wants me to give it away? That’s so not fair!

But, if you really believe what God says, you’ll do it. He said if you'll put His kingdom and His righteousness first, He’ll add everything else you could ever want or need. Your “Boss” has put you on assignment to bless someone on His behalf. 

Think of companies here on earth. If an earthly boss sends an employee to purchase a gift for a client or business partner, they don't expect that employee to pay for it out of their own pocket. God surely wouldn’t require it either! Give the watch. God will take care of you.

Maybe God’s calling you to fulltime ministry and you’re scared because you think you won’t have steady income. Brother or sister, God wouldn’t call you into anything without fully furnishing all you need to get it done (1 Corinthians 9:7-11, Philippians 4:19). You wouldn’t let your family starve or go without if you could help it, and I’d say that God is a much better parent (Matthew 7:11, James 1:7). He won’t let you or your family go without. He promised!

Homework:

Every time you choose to do things God’s way, including walking in love, you are lining yourself up for God’s provision. Don’t let worry, fear, or pressure from other people keep you from following after the Lord. Read Matthew 7:7-12, Timothy 4:8, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 35:27, and Psalm 37:3-5.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 24: Zero Strife Policy

Day 24: Zero Strife Policy

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16 (KJV)

Strife—arguing, bickering, people getting offended over the smallest of things—seems to be the norm nowadays. It’s up to us to put a stop to it.

In the verse above, the New King James Version translates the Greek word for strife as “self-seeking,” and it still fits, because the root of any strife is people seeking to push their own thoughts, needs, or agendas. Also, the Greek word for “strife” here means “electioneering for office,” “a desire to put one’s self forward,” and “partisanship.”

Think about presidential campaigns you’ve kept an eye on. They’re all about the candidates putting themselves out there. While it’s important for them to let us all know what they stand for, most candidates rarely mention their opponents unless it’s to smear them. It can leave you wondering if they really do want to help their country, or if they’re in it just for the bump in their own status (pride).

Don’t we oftentimes behave this way in our relationships? We put ourselves center stage, make everything about us. When we do, we’re letting strife through the door. 

If that isn’t enough to convince you that strife is a really nasty thing, you need to grasp that strife isn’t just strife. It isn’t just being selfish. The Bible says that when strife is present, confusion and every evil thing come along with it. (Have you ever noticed that you feel confused when you’re upset about something?) Strife is how minor arguments turn into major blowouts, abuse, and even murder. (Yes, murder. It has to start somewhere, right?) It’s because it brings every other evil thing along with it.

You need to adopt a “Zero Strife Policy.” If you’ll refuse to allow strife into your life, you are also refusing to allow confusion and everything else that’s evil into your life.

So how do you stop strife? Submit to the Lord, and resist the devil.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Submitting yourself to God by choosing to walk in love rather than strife will stop the mess before it gets started. If someone’s rude to you and you sense your emotions getting fluffy about it, submit yourself to the Lord. Refuse to obey your flesh. Don’t let one person’s moment of fleshiness ruin the entire day for either of you. God had plans for this day, and you have the power to make sure the devil doesn’t get you, or anyone else, out of those plans. Let the Lord deal with the other person’s heart. You are only responsible for your actions.

While strife can enter your life through other people, you also have to pay attention to the things you read, watch, and listen to. I had to stop watching the news so much. It got to the point where all it would do was make me mad, which was affecting the atmosphere of my home. It had to go! So if there’s anything that causes strife in your life continually, it’s time to cut it off. If it’s a person causing strife, pray about it. The Lord may want you to put some distance between you and that person.

Homework:

Make a list of things that tend to aggravate your flesh the most. Ask the Holy Spirit to talk to you about your list. Write down the direction you receive for each item on your list. Do whatever He leads you to do. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 23: Speaking the Truth in Love

 Day 23: Speaking the Truth in Love

“But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Love isn’t always about saying things that are encouraging or easy to hear. Speaking the truth sometimes involves speaking it to someone who may not want to hear it, or speaking something that seems harsh. (Parents, you can dig it. We love 'em, but love also means we have to correct them, at times! [Proverbs 3:12]) But, speaking the truth must always be done in love. There is to be no telling someone what you think just because you think they need to hear it. We need to be very careful to follow the Holy Spirit and not sail off on our own. This will keep us from creating an even bigger mess.

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Ephesians 4:29

Speaking the truth in love is to be done for someone’s edification—to build them up. God will never direct you to speak to someone in a way that tears them down or belittles them.

Sometimes it is a very fine line between corrupt speech and edifying speech. Jesus often had not-so-nice things to say to the religious leaders of His day. He called them a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33) and “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). He even said they were of their father, the devil (John 8:44)! That’s all pretty harsh, isn’t it? But yet, Jesus didn’t sin once when He was here on the earth, so we know that He didn’t step out of line when He said those things (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians5:21).

What you didn’t find Jesus doing was telling them that God hates them. So, please know that God will not direct you to tell anyone that. God loves people. He doesn’t like the sin they get entangled in, but it is His will for them to get out of all that mess and get into His Kingdom. This is why it’s so important for us to be led by the Spirit. God knows exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, to give any person what they need to hear at that point in their life.

We are told throughout the Scriptures to exhort one another. So if you feel that the Lord is prompting you at times to speak something, but you think it’s too hard, please don’t ignore it just because of that. You check with the Holy Spirit about it, and you speak it when you get the go ahead! Your obedience may be what the Lord uses to deliver that person from disaster.

Now, if a brother or sister says something to you that stings a bit, don’t get offended. It may very well be that the Lord led them to say that to you. Check with Him on it. Be quick to repent if you find it was Him, and make sure to thank the person who helped you when the time is right to do so. Just because something doesn’t make us feel good right away doesn’t mean it wasn’t the Lord.

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12-13

Homework:


Monday, June 27, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 22: How Your Daddy Loves You

Day 22: How Your Daddy Loves You

“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:23

When I was first born again, I heard that God loved me. I found out that He loved me enough to send His son Jesus to die for me. I was fully convinced God did love me. What I didn’t realize then was just how much He loves me. One day years later, my attention was directed to the verse above. Look at it closely. Read it a few times out loud. I’ll wait. 

Okay, so did you catch it? If you did—you may not even need to read any further right now. If you didn’t, well let me help you! Jesus said “that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

God loves you just as much as He loves Jesus! 

And how much does the Father love Jesus? Well, the Bible says that when John baptized Jesus, a voice was heard from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

You are beloved of God, and He is well pleased with you! You are God’s favorite child! He wouldn’t have sent His son to die for you if He didn’t think you were valuable. You are priceless to God. Don’t let the devil, the world, or any person tell you otherwise.

If you’ve been living your life thinking that you aren’t worth much, take hold of this right now. God loves you. On top of that, He loves you as much as He loves Jesus. 

I want you to get in the habit of saying out loud: “God loves me just as much as He loves Jesus.” You don’t even have to believe it quite yet. Just meditate on it and let it sink into your heart.

If I came to you and offered you, as a gift, every last thing you’ve been wanting, wouldn’t you get excited? God has done that for you. He went all out for you by sending Jesus.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32

Here’s something else to consider: Jesus said that He only did what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19), and we’re told in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the express image of God. Often times we separate the Father and Son in such a way that the Son is the one who is loving, while the Father is the stern one. Not so. Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing. He healed the sick (Matthew 4:24, and time and time again throughout the Gospels). He protected the life of a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-12). He was gentle with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). He sacrificed Himself for you (Matthew 26:47-54, John 19:17-18).

Your Father loves you just like that.

Homework:

Go back into the Gospels and take another look at how Jesus interacted with mankind. As you read, remember that the Father loves you just the way Jesus loved those He came into contact with when He was here on the earth.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 21: Love Never Fails

Day 21: Love Never Fails

“Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8

If someone invented a car that never breaks down, you’d want one. If someone figured out how to get a toaster to toast your bread evenly every single time, you’d be all over it. If a mother in Idaho decided that she was done with the never-ending cycle of clean and dirty laundry, and found a way to get the clothes to wash, dry, and fold themselves, you’d be willing to part with a good chunk of change to get it for yourself. (There's apparently a machine that folds them now—gasp!)

All of that stuff, while possible, seems like so many pipe dreams. But there is one powerful tool we Christians have available to us that doesn’t wear out or need replacement—the love of God. The Bible says that it never fails.  If you do things God’s way, it will never, ever fail. Never!

Are you excited yet? You should be! You have access to something that will never. Fail. Okay, okay…so how about this: Let’s say you could get an entire wardrobe that would never fade, wrinkle, or go out of style? Preposterous, if you’re talking about physical clothes, absolute fact if you’re talking about putting on God’s love (Colossians 3:14). Check out 1 Corinthians 14:8 in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition:

Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].

You want to have a better marriage? God’s love never fails!

You want to see your relationship with your brother or sister restored? God’s love never fails!

You want to be able to work in peace, but you have this one coworker who just gets at your every last nerve? God’s love never fails!

Woot!

Homework:

Today, take some time to think about situations and people in your life in light of what you’ve read. No matter what the circumstance, God’s love will never fail!



Saturday, June 25, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 20: Believing the Best

Day 20: Believing the Best

“Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].” 1 Corinthians 13:7 (AMPC)

I love the way the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition puts this whole verse, but I want to focus in on “Love…is ever ready to believe the best of every person.” How many times have we approached a particular someone in our lives with a negative mindset, automatically assuming that they’re going to be grumpy, lie to us, or say something rude? It’s easy enough to prepare for the worst when those people usually act a certain way, but God’s love calls us to a higher way of living.

Instead of assuming the worst in people, we need to be a beacon of hope. Everyone needs someone to believe in them, and we would do well to realize that every single person on this planet was created for a purpose. Some have chosen not to walk in God’s plan for their lives, and many do so because they don’t know how, or feel that it’s too late…that their lives can’t change. We know better than that, and we need to stop allowing ourselves to be mouthpieces for the enemy’s lies, and let God use us to encourage others.

This brings us to a crucial matter—not judging other people. Jesus said that the way we judge is how we’ll be judged (ouch, and that’s found in Matthew 7:1-2, by the way). Paul said in Romans 2:1 that when we judge, we’re guilty of the same things we’re judging them about!

But wait! There’s more!

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4

Who are we to judge someone else? It’s God they answer to, not us. Then, Paul caps that off with the beautiful statement that God is able to and will make them stand.

Be that ray of hope someone else needs today. Don’t pay any mind to what they look like, how they talk, or anything else you can see with your eyes. Ask the Lord to help you express His love toward them and to use you to lift them up. People can pick up on our attitudes, so let them pick up a good one!

Homework:

Our goal in this life is to reach the world for Jesus, and ministering to those without hope is a huge part of that. Determine today to quit judging people and instead carry the love of God to them. You are an ambassador for Christ! Read 2 Corinthians 5:20. Oh, and say this out loud: “I am always ready to believe the best in every person!”

Also remove this sentence, or anything like it, from your speech: “They’ll never change.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 19: Praying for Others

Day 19: Praying for Others

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Colossians 1:9

There have many times in my Christian walk when I didn’t quite know what to pray for someone. I used to just throw around kind of vague prayers for them that mostly consisted of asking the Lord to bless the person I was praying for. I believe God honored those prayers while I was in the process of growing and learning, but I also believe that He took my prayer life up a level when He showed me what I’m about to tell you.

Praying in the Spirit is crucial to praying effective prayers (see Ephesians 6:18). Praying in the Spirit means you’re praying from your spirit, led and directed by God, and it doesn’t necessarily mean praying in tongues. As you enter into God’s presence, He may stir you to pray a particular Scripture over a person’s life, or to bind Satan from hindering them—anything that the Holy Spirit directs you to pray is “praying in the Spirit.”

If you need some good starting ground when it comes to praying for others, you can’t go wrong with the will of God as it is revealed in the Word of God. There are a few prayers found in Ephesians and Colossians in particular that I pray for people. You can find them in Ephesians 1:15-21, Ephesians 3:14-21, and Colossians 1:9-14. Reading these lines alone should show you why these passages make for excellent prayers:

 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Ephesians 1:17

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man. Ephesians 3:16

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Colossians 1:9

If you knew someone who was going through a trial of whatever type, praying that God would strengthen them through His Spirit in their inner man (their spirit) would be an excellent thing to pray, wouldn’t it?

If you’re wondering just how you go about praying Scripture, you just have to make it personal. I’ll use my own name as an example:

“Father, I know You know what’s going on with Tammy. I ask you to give her the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of you. Flood the eyes of her understanding with light!”

Homework:

Take some time today to read the prayers I wrote about above. Get in the habit of praying them over yourself and others.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 18: Forgive

Day 18: Forgive

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

“I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.” I used to say that. But, according to God’s way of love, that’s not really forgiveness. When God forgives, He forgets. He doesn’t hold us accountable for that sin anymore. I know this may be tough for you to read, but truly forgiving means forgetting.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Hebrews 8:12

The Greek word for “remember” in this verse means to remind, remember, or be mindful of something. God said he would not remember or be mindful of our sins anymore. Again, if God’s love works this way, then this is how we should be too. 

Those people who have hurt you or offended you in some way—have they falsely accused you to the extent that you were found guilty of blasphemy or treason, whipped, and then hung on a cross? No? That’s what happened to Jesus, as you already know, and here’s what He had to say to the Father about them:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34

Is that not amazing and humbling? I’m not even going to say any more about it. I’m just going to let that sit. You can read on when you’re ready.

When you forgive someone for something they’ve done to you, you don’t have to feel forgiving. If your flesh is still steaming mad, it doesn’t matter at all. You just take it to the Father, forgive, and let it go. The faster you deal with it, the better. Don’t give the devil anymore playtime. He will try to bring it back up, even decades later, but you just tell him, “No, devil, I’ve forgiven that.” This is where the "forgetting" part comes in. As time goes on, the memories of wrongdoings will fade. When they come up, it'll feel almost like it happened to someone else. 

Another point for you to understand is that forgiveness doesn’t mean you must have a relationship with those people. You can have nothing but love in your heart for someone, but be forced to end the relationship in order to protect yourself and those in your care. There are people even now as I write that I have had to maintain a certain distance from. I’m not mad at them, I hold no ill will against them, and as a matter of fact, have nothing but love for them, but God directed me to stay away. So I do.

Lastly, Mark 11:25 says that you need to forgive so that your Father can forgive you. Don’t keep yourself from God’s best by refusing to forgive.

Homework:

Read the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 17: When You Hit a Wall

Day 17: When You Hit a Wall

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

There will be times when you feel like you’ve hit a wall, spiritually. You’ve prayed, but no new direction or wisdom from above has come to you, and nothing seems to be changing. You’ve decided you’re not going to give up now, but you’d really like to move forward already!

In my experience, hitting a wall usually means one of two things: you need to stand where you’re at until your victory comes to pass in your life, or there’s something that the Lord directed you to do, but you didn’t do it.

Let’s talk about the latter first. If you feel stuck, it may just be that the Lord gave you a specific bit of instruction, but you failed to follow through. God can’t bring you to the next step of your victory without you taking the step He gave you before. Ask Him if there’s something you haven’t acted on. If there is, repent, and then do whatever it is He told you to do.

If you’ve done all that you know to do and all that God has directed you to do, then it’s time for you to simply stand your ground. Keep on doing what you’ve been doing. If nothing appears to be changing in your circumstances or with the people you love, don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. If you keep standing, you will get the victory.

If you plant tomatoes, are you going to get upset when the fruit isn’t quite ready to pick yet? Are you going to rip the whole plant out of the ground before it’s time? No! You’ve fed it, you’ve watered it, you’ve carefully dug up any weeds that came up around it—now it’s time to patiently wait for the harvest to be ready.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

If we really believe what the Bible says—that we will reap a harvest—then we won’t lose heart or grow weary.

Here’s another excellent verse on not growing weary:

But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded! 2 Chronicles 15:7

Don’t let yourself get weak! Your work—all that love you’ve been planting—shall be rewarded!

Homework:

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you anything that the Lord directed you to do that you didn’t follow through on. Be quick to repent and then get it done. I encourage you to keep it up! You’re doing awesome!



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 16: How Jesus Loved – Part Two

Day 16: How Jesus Loved – Part Two

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Doing things God’s way can take some effort. Jesus wrestled with doing what God wanted Him to do in the Garden of Gethsemane to the point where He began sweating blood. Let’s look at what the Bible says about what Jesus went through at that moment in time.

Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful and deeply distressed, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” Matthew 26:38

Jesus said that His soul (mind, will, and emotions) was exceedingly sorrowful. So fierce was the fight to resist temptation and keep on His path to win our salvation, that He began sweating blood.

And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44

I know that I haven’t resisted temptation to the point that I started sweating blood. I’ve given in to temptation over far lesser things than Jesus was facing at that moment. Yet, He rose up from that place and allowed Himself to be arrested. What was it that kept Jesus from running from the plan for Him and thus sealing our doom? It’s the same thing that will keep us from yielding to the temptation to quit.

Hebrews 12:2 says that we are to “look unto Jesus.” Why? Well, for one, because He resisted sin to the point of bloodshed. He went through every temptation imaginable, and yet came out victorious—He never gave up. So we should know how He was able to do that! It says He endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him.” He knew that His life and death on this earth would accomplish His Father’s will—to bridge the gap between humanity and Himself by means of His son.

My dear brothers and sisters, this is how we overcome. We keep our eyes on Jesus; keep our focus on Him and the end goal. If we keep our eye on the prize, so to speak, we won’t let anything encroach upon our faith in God’s Word. So, if you’re feeling discouraged, depressed, or disenchanted, it’s because your focus has been off. You might have started off well, but as time has gone on, the problems have slowly become forefront again. Get your eyes back on Him!

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

The first part of that verse reminds me of God’s peace guarding our hearts and minds as Philippians 4:7 says. When we keep our focus on God’s Word, rather than the problem, the Bible says that God Himself will keep us in perfect peace!

That doesn’t mean the enemy will just quit trying to get your focus wonky again. He most certainly will. You just stomp your foot and tell him no, all right?

Homework:

Read Luke 22-24 and be reminded of what Jesus endured. Also read Hebrews 12:3-4. Keep in mind as you read what made it possible for Him to keep going—His focus was on the end result, not the pain He was going through. Just as Jesus had the victory in the end, you will too, if you don’t lose heart. Take some time to thank Him for not giving up!

Monday, June 20, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 15: How Jesus Loved – Part One

Day 15: How Jesus Loved - Part One

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:13-14

Jesus said there was no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends, so I’m going to go ahead and take Him at His Word. I’ve believed that Jesus laid His life down for me since becoming a Christian decades ago. What I didn’t see back then was that He laid down His life every single day, not just when He let them nail Him to a cross.

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19

Jesus, as a choice of His own will, not only allowed Himself to be crucified, but lived His entire life to serve God. He didn’t do anything unless it was what the Father wanted Him to do. Before you start thinking “Yeah, but that’s Jesus! He’s God, you know!” Yeah, I know. But the Bible also says that He laid all of that down when He came to live here among us in the flesh.

“But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:7

That phrase “no reputation” in the Greek actually means “to empty” or “make empty” (and the same Greek word is used for “made” in that verse as well).

When Jesus cast out demons, turned water into wine, and healed the sick, He did it as a human being. He was able to do all of it because the Holy Spirit had come upon Him, empowering Him (see Matthew 3:13-17). After Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent The Comforter—the Holy Spirit—to empower us too (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7; Acts 1:8; 1 John 4:13)!

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. John 14:12

If that doesn’t toss that “Yeah, but that was Jesus” line out the window for you, I don’t know what will! If He had just said “The works that I do he will do also” I’d have been convinced. But He took it one giant leap further by saying that we would do even greater works! Hello!

Now let’s backtrack a bit to our main verse for the day. Jesus said that someone who really loves will lay down their lives for their friends. Then He follows that up by telling us that we are His friends if we do whatever He says—if we make the choice to lay down our lives to do what He tells us to do. When we do what He says, it’s proof that we love Him. Isn’t that awesome?

Homework:

If there’s some part of your brain telling you that serving the Lord is drudgery, rebuke it. Tomorrow we’re going to see how that is a total lie. Before then, I want you to read some of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. Try to pick out any times when Jesus seemed depressed because He’d been serving God so hard.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 14: Keep No Record of Wrongs

Day 14: Keep No Record of Wrongs

It (love) does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.” 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)


Back in the day, one of my favorite arguing tactics was recalling how the other person had hurt me in the past. The moment they said something that stung or rang a little too true, I’d bring out the big guns and let ‘er rip. It never really worked the way I hoped it would. We’d both just end up more upset and feeling raw…sort of like ripping off a scab. It didn’t do any good, and in reality, made the wound deeper.

This is why the Word tells us to forgive—to keep no record of wrongs. We’ve talked about how God forgives us immediately when we repent. He doesn’t throw it back in our faces later on. As far as He’s concerned, that sin never happened.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

You could travel around the globe from now until eternity and not find it, that’s how far it’s gone! Seriously, you can’t measure that.

You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19

Please note that it doesn’t say God casts our sins into the depths of the sea, but attached to a fishing line so He can yank them back out of the depths when He needs to. Nah, God forgets it. He leaves it at the bottom of the ocean. Which brings me to my next point.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

God’s mercies are new every morning, and ours should be too. We shouldn’t treat people based on things they’ve done in the past. Yes, there may be times you have to shut the door on people in your life because of abuse or other dangers associated with the relationship. But, even in those instances, you need to watch that you don’t hold on to grudges or thoughts of revenge toward those people. 

For your everyday issues—fights with your spouse, children being disrespectful, the neighbor letting the dog poop on your lawn and not picking it up—you need to wake up in the morning and believe that you will see God’s hand at work, rather than listen to what the devil has to say about those people—he is a liar after all! You may be the one person who continues to be pleasant to that person, giving them a lifeline to grab onto instead of losing all hope.

Homework:

Have you been holding on to the past? It’s time to let it go. Jesus said in Luke 9:62, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” You’ve put your hand to the plow. You’ve made a determination that you’re going to change how you live your life and do things God’s way. Don’t look back. Forget the past. If you keep bringing it up, you won’t heal from it. Let it go, and keep plowing forward. Pray and release anyone who has wronged you in the past. If you’ve been guilty of throwing another person’s past in their face, apologize to them, as God leads.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 13: On Patience

Day 13: On Patience

“Love is patient…” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Oh, we’ve all heard this line (and have probably said it too): “Whatever you do, don’t pray for patience.” It’s said with the implication that praying for patience means you’re about to get slammed with all sorts of opportunities to be impatient. But, obviously God wants us to be patient. Just like everything else, we have to practice and develop walking in this aspect of God’s love. We don’t even have to pray for God to give us patience, because it’s already been put inside our hearts (see Day 3). We just have to choose to walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

Now let’s talk about the world’s view of patience. The world sees patience as not losing your cool. While that’s sort of correct, the world also thinks that it’s okay to have a breaking point—that you only have to be patient till you just can’t stand for it anymore. Or, if someone blows their top at you, then it’s perfectly okay to ditch patience and let them have it! Thing is, if this is how God’s patience worked, then we’d be toast. Let’s face it—if God were as “patient” as we are, humankind would have ceased to exist long ago.

Many translations of the Bible use the word “longsuffering” instead of patience. If you’re like me, there is a tendency there to read that and think “So, patience means suffering for a long time. Ugh.” But that’s not quite right. While God’s kind of patience will hold out as long as it needs to, there’s so much more to it than just biting your tongue for a while. In the Greek, the word means, “to be of a long spirit,” “to persevere patiently in enduring misfortunes and troubles,” and “to be mild and slow in avenging.”

This adds such a different color to the word “patience” doesn’t it? For me, it adds a layer of gutsiness. (Is that a word? Google says yes.)

Friend, let me tell you that you can feel as upset and as hurt as anyone can feel and still yield to patience. You can be a microsecond away from yelling at the top of your lungs and yet still decide to follow that patience dwelling in your heart.

Let’s look at some other Scriptures on God’s patience. As you read, realize that we magnify, appreciate, and praise God for being as merciful and full of love for us as He is, but yet the world has convinced us that it’s being a “pushover” or “na├»ve” when humans act this way. So, let’s get a different mindset here.

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Psalm 86:15

God is full of compassion, graciousness, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy and truth. What a mouthful, and what a big God. Wow. That’s who’s living inside of you!

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. Psalm 103:8

This one adds in the fact that God is slow to anger, which reminds me of another verse in the book of James:

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath… James 1:19

Just like anything, the more you practice the patience God has placed in your heart, the easier and more “second nature” it will become. Yelling and crying and screaming and getting offended were all of the actions you learned before, and it will take time for God’s way to become the norm.

Homework:

Read more about God’s patience by searching your concordance for “patient” and “patience.”




Friday, June 17, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 12: What to Do When You Just Want to Spaz - Part Two

Day 12: What to Do When You Just Want to Spaz - Part Two

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:6-8

When your flesh is being loud, if you’ll examine the thoughts hammering your brain, you’ll always find that they’re rooted in worry, fear, or anxiety of some sort. These things will thwart God’s work in your life if you allow them to continue, and that’s why there are hundreds of Scriptures telling God’s people to “fear not.” It’s not a pep talk—it’s a command!

Look back at 1 Peter 5:6, and notice how it says to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. When fear comes in, its goal is to get you into unbelief—to displace your trust in God. But if you’ll humble yourself (by submitting yourself to God) and cast those cares upon Him, then you’re saying, “Yeah, it kind of looks bad right now, but I’ve cast the care of it on my Father, because I know He cares about me, and He’s gonna handle it!” By refusing to allow your faith in God’s Word to be shaken, you’re removing yourself as a candidate to be “devoured.”

What’s really cool here is that in the book of Philippians, we’re given the steps to casting our cares upon the Lord:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Step one: Be anxious for nothing. Nothing! Don’t worry about anything—at all!

Step two: Rather than worry, pray! You have a mighty big God who loves you like crazy! Go to Him and ask Him for what you need. Go boldly before your Father as the Word says you can (Hebrews 4:16).

Step three: Give thanks while you do all of that. Things may seem awful right now, but there’s plenty to thank God for—including His answer to your prayers (even if you don’t physically see His answer yet—trust Him, and count it as done!). He’s so undeniably good to us, there’s always something to praise Him for, even if it’s for the simple fact that you’re still breathing.

Step four: Receive His peace. You don’t have to understand how it happens; you just believe it’s yours because His Word says so. It will protect your heart and your mind. Thank Him for it out loud! If the fear or worry tries to come back, you just say “Nope. That’s not my care anymore. I gave it to the Lord. You’ll have to talk to Him about it.”

God always has a plan to deliver His children out of trouble. If you've read about all of the amazing things He did for Israel to get them out of Egypt, you know there’s nothing too hard for him. If you’ve read about that, then you’ve probably read about how the Israelites freaked out time and time again when they were faced with problems. It got to the point where that first generation out of Egypt didn’t get to go to the Promised Land because they refused to give up their worry and fear and trust that what God had said would come to pass. Let’s not be like that!

Homework:

Go read Numbers 13 and 14:1-10. Pay close attention to the two groups of people: those who drew back in fear over the giants in the land of Canaan, and those who were confident that because God said the land would be theirs, it was theirs. Decide that you want to be like the latter!

If you want to be a star student (and you know you do): start searching your Bible to find all of the “fear nots.” 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 11: What to Do When You Just Want to Spaz - Part One

Day 11: What to Do When You Just Want to Spaz - Part One

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

Our flesh (mind, will, and emotions) can get pretty loud. It likes to get all spun up over the tiniest of things! If you’ve ever gotten mad about a sock on the floor, or been the one who left the sock on the floor, you know it happens. Usually, it’s not about the sock at all. Whoever is the one getting upset has probably been letting frustration and anger build up over lots of little things for quite some time. When you let things build up, eventually, you’re going to blow. You have to learn to deal with the frustrations of life in a healthy and godly way.

When your flesh is yelling so loudly you can’t hear God, you’re in dangerous territory. These are the times when the word “divorce” gets thrown around, rifts are created between friends, and all sorts of other evil things are given room to move. Obviously, we don’t really want these things, but as it says in Proverbs 17:14, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” One tiny moment of letting yourself go can cause a chain reaction of turmoil in your life.

When you’re that upset, no one needs to hear a “thing or two” or any other “piece of your mind.” It’ll only cause more damage. When your mind is a basketful of tangled thoughts and emotions, what do you do? First of all, give yourself time to calm down. Once you're more at peace, you will be able to receive direction from the Lord. Getting yourself in a calm place can be a challenge, so read on for some practical stuff.

Things to do when your flesh is screaming (instead of taking it out on other people):
  • Get in a room by yourself. Go ahead and cry if you think it will help, but then get yourself back up off of that bed, look yourself in the mirror and start talking the Word! You can say things like Philippians 4:13 and 1 John 4:4. Wash your face. It helps.
  • Call a godly friend. Preferably someone with a known ability to resist coddling you, and who will give you the truth of the Word. Someone who’s not afraid to give you a proverbial kick in the butt, if need be.
  • Put on some worship music. The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10), and that it’s in His presence you’ll find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), so put on some music and get in His presence! Stay there until the nastiness has melted away.
  • Thank God. Snap out of the negativity and turn your focus to the good things God has done, and will do, for you!

It’s going to take effort to make the right choice when you’re steaming mad, but I know you can do it!

Homework:

Do you have someone you can call when you need godly advice—someone who won’t be afraid to speak the truth to you when you need it? If so, thank God for it! If not, ask the Lord to send you one! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 10: Make a Decision to Do What the Word Says

Day 10: Make a Decision to Do What the Word Says

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25

In order to get God’s results, we have to do things God’s way. It will really help you in your Christian walk if you decide from the start that whatever the Word says goes in your life. You have to make a decision that you will no longer try to adapt the Word to your lifestyle, but to adapt your lifestyle to the Word! Then, once you read something in the Bible, even if your flesh isn’t enjoying it, inside you’re committed to making whatever change the Holy Spirit is leading you to make. It may not exactly feel like it, but in your heart, you’re already on it. You’re already looking to change, to make corrections that will put your actions in line with the Word of God.

What’s awesome about living your life according to the Word is that Jesus said that no matter what comes along in life, you will not fall (see the verse above).

On the other hand, Jesus followed up his statement on those who do the Word with how things will go for those who don’t do the Word:

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. Matthew 7:26-27

Please note here that both people heard the Word. The key difference is that this one didn’t do what He said. Remember our Scripture from yesterday’s devotion? It said that if we don’t do the Word, we end up deceived. If you’re reading this right now, I think it’s safe to say you don’t actually want to be deceived. Well, if you keep yourself open and ready to act when God gives you direction, then you won’t end up deceived. No, you’re giving God all He needs to deliver you from deception.

If you don’t know what the Word says about your situation, find out! Or maybe you know what the Word says, but you’re not sure what to do with it. Ask God for wisdom! I’ve had this go on multiple times in my life (you can click here for an example), and He has always been faithful to do what He said He would. If He does it for me, He’ll do it for you.

Homework:

Pray this prayer: “Father, I love You. I want to show You my love for You by doing what You say. I make a decision right now to adapt my lifestyle to Your Word. I know that Your ways and Your plan are good and perfect. Your ways are now my ways.”



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

30 Days of Love - Day 9: Don’t Just Say It, Do It!

Day 9: Don’t Just Say It, Do It!

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22

Have you ever had someone declare how much they love you, but their actions were constantly telling you otherwise? I know in my marriage, and in my relationship with my daughter, I’ve always made a point to tell them both that I love them frequently. However, it took me far too long to realize that the way I was treating them was giving them a different impression. That was rough on me, but I had to confront it in order to grow. It’s perfectly good to tell someone you love them, but it’s meaningless without actions to prove it. I don’t want to live a pointless life for the sake of my pride; how about you?

Here's another example from my own life:

Once upon a time, someone told me that they felt they couldn’t get near me, that I wouldn’t let them get close. I was stunned. My brain struggled to wrap itself around the words I was hearing. I thought I was such a loving person, and that someone should be patting me on the back right now. Instead of really listening to this person’s open and honest feelings, I tried to offer up all kinds of excuses and ways to blame them. (Please don’t do that. It doesn’t help!)

What really irked me was that in the middle of arguing, it started to dawn on me that they were right. As my emotions cooled down, the Holy Spirit began gently showing me examples of just how right they were. Again, I was so mortified. In my heart, this was not the way I wanted things to be. I wanted them to know how much I truly did love them and how much I valued them. But I hadn’t been acting on what was in my heart. I had been acting on emotional impulses, and those actions had been telling a whole different story.

Just like I had to change at that moment, you’ll have moments, quite possibly many of them (I still have them), where you’re put face-to-face with some ugly parts of yourself. You have to decide whether you want to keep clinging to them or just go ahead and give in to the Holy Spirit and do what the Word says. Only one of those paths will lead you to good stuff!

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about the power of choosing to do what the Word says.

Homework:

It’s not always easy to face our shortcomings. But, God doesn’t reveal them to us so we can feel guilty. He shows us so that we (and the people we're around on a regular basis) can live the good life (John 10:10). Where have you been missing it in your love walk lately? Repent and ask God what you should do to make it right.