Start with Your Heart
Any form of prejudice is a serious sin and it’s not an infraction that God looks at lightly. To call it anything but sin would be against what the Bible teaches: “Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin (James 2:8-9 NLT).
That’s pretty clear. I’ve come to the conclusion that prejudice; particularly racial prejudice may be the world’s most prevalent sin. No matter where you go in the world, somebody doesn’t like somebody else. You find it everywhere. And though it plays out in countless ways in our world most people would deny that they have any prejudice toward others. For us to move toward racial reconciliation, we must first admit and confess our prejudices. Why? Because racism is a sin problem, not a skin problem. This is not a minor issue to God. It’s at the heart of the Gospel!
Like many, you may have been raised to mistrust or stay away from what’s different. The fact is we all feel most comfortable with people like ourselves. That’s human nature. But as Christians we are new creations and we must learn to see people the way God does. How do you learn to see everybody who comes into your life the way God does? “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). You have got to look at the heart. If we ever want to know someone’s heart, we must get past casual pleasantries and shallow conversations. We have to get to know them on a much deeper level. We need to ask questions and be a good listener. We must be empathetic and must always error on the side of grace.
We must always start with our own hearts. Confess our own prejudice! Then pray for God to help us see people as he sees them and to use us to help reconcile people to each other and most importantly, to him!
Grace and peace always,
Our God Is Always in Control
We often struggle to understand why bad things happen. Even so, I believe that God has a purpose for everything He does or permits. My belief is rooted in the biblical principle that says the Lord is sovereign (Ps. 22:28). That he is in control of this universe and everything single thing that ever happens in our lives.
When we are in the midst of a storm or one of life’s hardships it is difficult to resist crying out, “God, why is this happening?” Sometimes we get the answer, most times we don’t! But what we can be sure of is that nothing happens by accident or coincidence. God has a purpose for even our most painful experiences. Moreover, He promises to “cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28).
Knowing in advance how the Lord will work evil or hurt for our benefit is very difficult, if not impossible. Our limited human perspective doesn’t allow us to grasp His greater plan. However, I can confirm the truth of this biblical promise. I have personally experienced God’s blessings and benefits from my darkest hours.
As believers, we must accept that God won’t always make sense to us. Isaiah teaches that “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9). God always sees the beautifully completed big picture. We can rely on the fact, that He is in control, no matter how wildly off-kilter our lives or this world may get. So do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD our God will be us wherever we go.
Peace of the Lord be with you!
Trusting in the Lord!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
If the future feels uncertain right now, and worry is occupying your heart and your mind, remember this: God is already in all of our tomorrows. He knows our way, and He has a plan! And we can be assured it's always the best one for us. He never asks us to figure it all out on our own. He just asks us to trust Him, to recognize His leadership and Sovereignty in our lives. And He promises to make our pathways straight.
Trust (be confident in, be bold, be secure) in the Lord with all your heart (seat of emotions, inclinations, mind, soul), and do not lean (trust, depend) on your own understanding (discernment). In all your ways acknowledge Him (know, recognize), and He will make your paths straight (pleasing, right, smooth)." Friends, this is the foundational life verse for every uncertainty we will ever face in our lives!
We may not always see what's ahead, but He does and there’s great power in trusting Him. It clears the way for our security to be based solely on Him, not on our circumstances, or other people, not on ourselves, or our own ways of thinking. God, is faithful to lead us and He sees the big picture. He brings clarity and light through foggy times. He knows what’s around the other side of the bend where we can’t fully see. His timing is perfect even when we start to feel like we’ve been forgotten. No matter how we feel or what our current situation may be, we can be confident that God’s Presence will go before us, paving out pathways, guiding and guarding each and every step.
Trust in the Lord, He will never leave or forsake us!
Finding Calm in the Storm
We live in a fallen world filled with sin and all forms of evil, yet so often we put on rose-colored glasses and expect our lives to be full of comfort, ease, and pleasure. And then when storms come upon us, bringing disruption, trouble, conflict, and heartache, we start wondering where the Lord is. After all, we are believers in Jesus Christ, and God is our loving heavenly Father. So why is He letting this happen?
The disciples would have preferred smooth sailing too, across the Sea of Galilee. But in the storm, they saw Jesus in a new way. After He calmed the waves with His words, they asked in amazement, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matt. 8:27). Through that storm, they recognized Jesus as almighty God, who has power even over the physical laws of the universe. His purpose was not to drown them but to show them His glory.
The same is true of us. Storms in our life are opportunities to see the Lord in a new light and in a magnified way. It’s in our extreme need that we begin to see we have too small a view of God. We must be careful not to reduce Him to a doting Father who winks at our sin and just wants us happy, healthy, and wealthy.
Perhaps you are going through a personal storm of some kind right now. If so, ask the Lord to open your eyes to a greater understanding of Him. Even if your circumstances don’t change, you can change! Jesus Christ is the Lord of peace, and He can calm the storm within and bring you comfort even when the storms of life are still raging around you.
Grace and peace always,
Praying for Unity
Jesus said, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me”. John 17:20-21
These words were prayed by Jesus the last night of his life. He had just gathered his disciples at the Last Supper, washed their feet, told them of the events that were about to unfold, commanded them to love one another and then he prayed for them. Notice, that he is praying not only for “them” his disciples, but also for those who would believe in him through their word.
This hope filled message reaches beyond those who walked the earth with his disciples. This message of hope is for all of us trying to make sense out of the events occurring in our world today. Jesus was asking for our unity, that we might all be one in him. That was no easy task for the followers in the early church and it is still a daunting task for US today. Our interconnected world today is full of people of vast diversity, people from different cultures, different backgrounds, different ideas of what God is calling them to do.
Was Jesus asking us to put down what makes each of us so unique or to agree on every issue? No! His Priestly Prayer for unity is a call for us to work to find ways to build bridges, to come together, to love one another in spite of our differences. Perhaps we should begin this enormous task by reaching out and loving those around us. Often that task must begin with repentance, with peace, with forgiveness, and with loving kindness in our hearts that grows out from us in ever-expanding circles. I can’t help but think that is what God wants for us and what Jesus was praying would happen today. Friends, change must always begin within! Jesus prayed for our unity and died to make it possible. Let us pray for God to make us ALL agents of change!
Grace and peace always,
The Secret to Peace
Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I’m drawn to Paul’s powerful testimony here. He says that he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” The secret Paul refers to is having peace, joy, and contentment that is independent of your circumstances. Paul learned how to hold onto his peace. Every day we have the option to choose how we will respond to any and every situation in our lives. We are free to choose joy or sadness, anger or acceptance, fear or courage, hope or despair. Paul encourages us to choose peace in spite of our circumstances.
Looking back on my life, I see that I spent decades in a state of “emotional highjack” controlled or led by my emotions. I allowed my circumstances to determine my mood, thoughts, actions, and decisions. I give God thanks and praise that the Holy Spirit has shared Paul’s secret with me. As I have grown spiritually it has become easier to control my emotions, to set my mind, heart, and spirit on God’s Word, His promises, and to live by faith. I have learned to look beyond immediate situations and say, “I don’t care what it looks like, I refuse to walk in fear, doubt, and unbelief.” I’ve learned to encourage myself by going deeper into God’s Word. I’ve resolved that I will not be moved by the way things appear. In the midst of trial, I call forth Gods presence and divine intervention and give Him thanks for promising to never leave or forsake us.
Are you struggling with your circumstances? Are you allowing your emotions to lead you to a place where you begin to doubt God’s Word and His promises? Do you believe the facts of your situation more than you believe God’s Word? I encourage you to trust God and His grace. Hold onto your peace, joy, and contentment no matter what happens! Lord, thank you for your grace that sustains us each day. Jesus, your love and grace hold the secret of peace, let us trust in you and hold fast to our peace, joy, and contentment no matter what.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding be with you always!
Give Thanks Always!
It is always easy to be thankful when things are going well. And while it might be easier to praise God when we are happy and comfortable, it is just as important, if not more important, to thank Him amid our trials. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells the struggling church at Thessalonica to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. That can be hard to do, especially in uncertain times when things are not going so well.
Why must we give thanks always? Why are we not to give in to cynicism and thanklessness? Because the Lord calls us to a life of continual thankfulness! It is God's divine will that we give thanks always! The Lord doesn’t expect us to smile during pain, grief, and hardship. There are certainly days when we are going to mourn and be upset, but it is in those challenging moments God asks us to give thanks anyway.
he hardships in our lives are not pointless; God has a plan and a purpose for everything. We might not be able to see the good, but God sees the whole picture, and we can gain hope in knowing our afflictions are not in vain, but rather, part of a greater purpose. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Regardless of how we may feel at any given moment, we are still in control of what we say and do, and we should use every opportunity good or bad to point our lives back to God. A defining characteristic of our Christian lives is how we respond to trials and challenges. By finding good in all things and giving thanks despite adverse circumstances, we set ourselves apart from the world, which simultaneously lifts our spirits and the spirits of those others by fixing our eyes on Jesus.
This Memorial Day, give special thanks to God and special thanks for all of those who sacrificially gave all to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today and every day, good or bad. Whether blessing is abounding in your life today or you are struggling to find something to be thankful for, turn to God, the one who blesses us all with the breath of life and His abounding grace daily. We are all blessed and should give thanks, always!
Grace and peace,
Trusting through Transition
Transitions in life are rarely easy. They mean that one part of your life’s story is over and a new one is about to begin. They are the space between where faith is tested and fear fights to creep in. They are a temporary no man’s land that we have to walk through in order to grow. As we walk through them, it’s hard to see what’s coming next. The territory is unknown so we often put our attention and focus on the transition rather than where we are being transitioned to. We often question God’s providence during these times.
As I reflected on transitions before us in weeks to come, I started wishing God would give us the warnings about transitions approaching in our lives and the why’s behind them. As I prayed about it, God reminded me how many times Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem and why. They never heard a word of it and were shocked in the Garden of Gethsemane. They entered a time of transition between having Jesus walk with them daily and having the Holy Spirit coming as their guide. Like us, they were confused, frightened and wondered where God was in the transition.
God speaks to each of us daily. He says things we ignore or don’t want to hear so we block Him. We use our selective hearing when He speaks of things that scare us. The disciples heard Jesus tell them about the transition, but they weren’t listening. Even when we know a transition is coming, it’s still natural to be fearful. We’re afraid of change. The passing years have taught me that change is necessary for growth. When we fight it, we fight growing, we fight the future God has for us and we fight God’s will. Our times of transition help prepare us for the change. They grow our faith and trust in God’s plan for our lives. It’s something we can only see when we take the time to look back.
Imagine if Peter and the others had stayed locked up in their houses and never went to the upper room. Out of 500 people whom Jesus told to go and wait, only 120 made it through the transition. They were tough enough to stick it out and trusted that God had something more on the other side of the transition. As He did for them, so He does for us. God has something greater for you on the other side of this time of transition. It may take longer than we expected, but hang on. The reward will be worth it. The growth you will experience will be like no other time in your life. Don’t give up, hold fast to your faith and trust through transitions, God will see you through. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6
As we begin another week in the new abnormal, the weariness within continues to mount and take its toll. These unprecedented challenges we are facing today are new for us all, but they are far from new to mankind, after all (there is nothing new under the sun) as the scriptures remind us. When weariness and exhaustion have invaded the seemingly manageable rhythm of my life and ministry in the past, I have found new strength to persevere in these devotional words from Oswald Chambers "The Faith to Persevere".
Perseverance, means more than endurance, more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while, the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life— throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.
God ventured His all in Jesus Christ to save us, and now He wants us to venture our all with total abandoned confidence in Him. There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet, places still untouched by the life of God. There were none of those places in Jesus Christ’s life, and there are to be none in ours. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You…” (John 17:3). The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance, a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power. “Because you have kept My command to persevere.” Rev. 3:10
Grace, peace and perseverance be with you,
Be Still and Know That I Am God!
The Psalmist words have never echoed so loud! Although our lives have slowed down and grown quieter, that quiet is unsettling for many who are accustomed to a fast pace and constant noise. Although we may initially perceive it as a threat, this quiet is a divine invitation. Blaise Pascal once wrote, "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
We tend to focus our attention "out there" because we are afraid of confronting what is "in here." Yet the wisdom of the saints both present and past suggests that our efforts to find fulfillment out there are doomed to fail. The secret is, we already possess within us all that we need. We simply do not sit still enough or quiet enough to be able to recognize it.
ow that many of us find ourselves prevented from engaging in our usual incessant activity and deprived of our many habitual diversions.
What if, rather than filling the time and silence with extra hours on the Internet or Netflix we embraced the silence and endeavored to listen more attentively to that small, still voice that has been calling to us from within all along?
What if, in the moments when those afflictive thoughts are growing louder and louder, we met those thoughts with silence or perhaps a simple prayer like "Come, Holy Spirit"?
Maybe then, like the saints before us, who were also challenged with world changing events, we could discover greater peace, joy, and gratitude in these days, even in these most difficult days. Should we follow their example and accept this ordained invitation to quietly listen to God in prayer, maybe then we will find, that when the world is fully open again, we will be less dependent upon the world for our contentment and self-worth, and then, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)
God's peace be with you!