people who grieve


God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! [Matthew 5:4 CEV]


I wish that I did not know what it was like to grieve.
Grieving seems to be all about pain.
Who needs more pain?

It hurts to lose someone who is close to us.
It is painful to lose an ability you once had.
All negative change seems to be an exercise in grief.

I heard a counselor once say that we circle around our grief until we step into our pain.
It is a scary thing to grieve because we are not in control of it.
Yet it is the release of control that often brings us comfort.

It blesses me that Jesus speaks directly to this issue.
He speaks to us not of the blessing of grief but of the blessing of being comforted.
I have really needed the comfort of God and of friends in my life.

I remember the time when my friends mourned with me when my first wife died.
I remember comforting friends who suffered great losses.
We all need the blessing of comfort in our lives.

I am thank for this blessing.

Thank you Lord for the promise of comfort.


blessed are the poor


Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. [Luke 6-20 NIV]
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:3 NIV]



Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by speaking of being poor.
Matthew thought him to mean spiritually poor.
Luke does not make that differentiation.

This verse speaks to me of humility.
I think that we are blessed when we are humble.
Our lives reflect the kingdom of heaven when we are humble.

Humility is rooted in the idea that we are poor and in need of help.
Help from God to make it spiritually.
Help from people to make it physically.

In a sense, all blessings begin with humility.
In truth humility is acknowledging our poverty.
We are blessed when we walk humbly with God.

Lord, help me to be recognize my poverty. And to walk humbly.


... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

red letters


On January 1, 2011, I began writing about the Red Letters. The things Jesus said in the gospels that are often printed in red. Today I begin revisiting those posts and making a few changes to them. Below is an index of my writings. Click on on titled link to read each post.

  1. blessed are the poor: Humility is rooted in the idea that we are poor and in need of help.

... click on this Red Letters tag to see all of my posts.

Don't Confuse God With Life


In October, 2009 I copied, with permission from my blogging friend Danny Simms, this beautiful post about disappointment. Enjoy the read. I will add a few comments after his thoughts.


When Phillip Yancey was writing his book Disappointment with God he interviewed a friend of his named Douglas. Douglas was a family man, a Christian leader and a trained psychotherapist. He had a lucrative practice but left it to work among the poorest of the poor in a large American city.

Sounds like a great guy, right? Surely everything will work out well for a guy like this!

Several years ago at a Pastor’s conference I heard Yancey tell about Douglas and how his life was going. As I recall the story, Douglas' wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer spread into her lungs. Her life was seriously threatened and a new series of treatment had started.

As this developed a drunken driver smashed into their family car head-on. Douglas's twelve-year-old daughter went through the windshield and was badly lacerated in the face.

At this same time Douglas was serving on the leadership board of his church. The group made a difficult decision to change the direction of a long standing ministry. Though the move was preceded by much prayer and deliberation, one of the deacons and a close friend of Douglas blamed him personally, angrily left the church, and told as many who would listen that it was all because of Douglas.

Yancey thought it was a natural fit to ask Douglas about being disappointed with God. "You know, Philip,” he said, “I don't think I've ever been disappointed with God." Yancey asked, "How can this be?"

His answer went something like this: "I learned a long time ago not to confuse God with life. Is life unfair? You bet. My life has been unfair. What has happened to my wife, what has happened to my daughter, the accusations within our church... it's all unfair. But I think God feels exactly the same way. I think He is grieved and hurt by the cancer, by what that drunk driver did, and by the breakdown of personal relationships as much as I am. But don't confuse God with life.”

Don't confuse God with life. That is a great insight.

There is a verse in Ezekiel where God tells us to consider three of His much loved people: Daniel, Noah and Job. They are specifically pointed out as being righteous. One of them spent the night with a bunch of lions. One of them lived through a huge flood that killed thousands of people. And then, of course, there's Job. He is the greatest example of unfairness in the Bible. Yet when God looks at those people, He says these are three of my favorites.

All three of them—Daniel, Noah, Job—and many others, including many of the people who wrote the Psalms—learned to have a relationship with God that didn't depend on how healthy they were or how many people applauded them and how well their lives were going.

As for me, when I focus on how life is going I can easily come down with a bad case of “woe as me.” I am much better off when I focus on how God is going.



I have struggled with enduring hardship several times in my life.. my first wife was blind for three years in my early 20s and was was healed of that blindness in 1975.. my heart broke when she passed away at age 43 in 1994. My second wife Ann has struggled with a crippling neurological disease since 2002 and I deal with painful arthritic wrists and ankles.

In all this I have discovered that Douglas' perspective is the only one that helps me live a productive life. When hard stuff comes I have not found it helpful to blame God for the difficulties. I have found that having that kind of attitude only makes me bitter. What Douglas says is true.. God is right along side of us in our pain.. He is touched by our sadness.. and our tears do not go unnoticed.

So when bad times come take Douglas' advice - don't confuse God with life.



.

abide


Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. … If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. [John 15:4,7 ESV]

At first glance this passage seems to give the one asking a blank check. A binary interpretation of the verse may indicate that there is a quid pro quo aspect at work. I abide. I pray. He provides what I want. Most of us know however that this is not how life or prayer works at all.

The presence of two abides in this verse gives us a clue as to the relational aspect of prayer. When I read about the words of Christ abiding in me I think about transformation and maturity. We ask for what we want. What we want is God. The heart transformed wants him and his will.

There is a transforming maturity that comes only from abiding in Christ. The older I get, the more that I realize that all I really want is God. He can give me what I really need. He can bring friends to my side and laughter to my heart. Our task is to simply trust in him as we abide.

Teach us Lord. What it means to abide. And what it means to pray.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

blessings


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Mathew 5:3 NRSV]


In the passage described as the beatitudes Jesus lists eight things that invoke a blessing. He mentions meekness, mourning, mercifulness, purity of heart and peacemaking. He mentions blessings of kingdom inheritance, comfort, mercy, adoption and divine vision. Nowhere to be found in this list of blessings is wealth or any other earthly thing. The focus of Christ's words are spiritual not material.

This list of blessings is so counterintuitive. It goes against the grain of what many consider to be blessings. Perhaps it is because the word 'poor' (πτωχός) used in this verse means 'reduced to being a beggar'. That convicts me. I cannot really relate to being a beggar. Even so, in this upside down divine kingdom, spiritual pride is vanquished and spiritual beggars are blessed.

I am proud. I repent. Forgive me Lord. Create a beggar heart in me.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

christ


When Jesus arrived … he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?” … He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” [Matthew 16:13,15-16 MSG]

Xristós, the word translated here as Christ, communicates the idea of a person that has been anointed. In the context of this passage, many translate the word as Messiah, the long awaited deliverer of the Jewish nation prophesied in the Old Testament by the prophets. I love the layering of the dialog that Jesus had with his friends. So interesting how fast his questions became personal.

In a world where many think that Christ is the last name of Jesus, it is a small wonder that many are ignorant of what it means to be anointed. Surely many have anointed others to rule over them seeing charismatic people as messianic individuals. Jesus was different than those. When I think of what it means to be anointed as Jesus was my mind sees an image of a servant.

Jesus is often thought of as a servant king. So when I consider the anointing of the Holy Spirit on my life, I remember that I am anointed to be a servant, loving God and others with all that I am. So different than the messianic imagery that has permeated some religions these days. Even so, it is important to remember that Jesus spoke of a kingdom where the greatest among us would be servants.

Anoint me afresh dear Spirit of the living God. That I may embody Christ in the world.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

dead


Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God’s grace. [Ephesians 2:5 NCV]

I recently had coffee with an old friend and we discussed the idea of being dead in sin and whether such a person could be immortal. My thinking is that such a person has nothing in them that can survive death. Yet some think that everyone is born immortal and not really spiritually dead.

On the flipside, I love how this verse speaks of a new life with Christ. It reminds me of the day that Jesus came into my life. In a tangible way he made me a different person. He gave me a new heart and a new perspective. This is the gospel. Those who were spiritually dead become alive in God.

All that I can say Lord is thanks. For a life that does not end when I die.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

election


But if it is by grace [God’s unmerited favor], it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace [it would not be a gift but a reward for works]. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking [that is, God’s favor by obedience to the Law], but the elect [those chosen few] obtained it, while the rest of them became hardened and callously indifferent; [Romans 11:6-7 AMP]

The subject of election is a weighty theological subject. I will not try to cover it in much detail here. The two sides of the debate involves the idea of choice or free will in election. Some think that God chooses some and rejects others. Others think humans choose to accept or reject God's gift.

Neither side talks much about the spiritual aspect of what it means to be elect. I liken election to the incarnation. God came to Mary before something divine was conceived in her. God already knew that she would say yes to him. But he came to her before Jesus was conceived in her.

I think that it is similar with us. God comes to us wanting to birth something divine in us. Because he is God, he knows that we will say yes. Yet he wants our willing participation in this divine conception. This seems consistent with the way that God has always worked in the world.

Help me Lord to keep my heart soft and open to what you want to birth in me.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

forgiveness


He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [Colossians 1:13-14 NRSV]


The contrasts in this verse from Colossians is stark. Darkness. Light. Slavery. Redemption. Punishment. Forgiveness. Earthly kingdom. Heavenly kingdom. We were born into darkness. Born anew into beautiful light. Light that causes us to love as we are loved. Forgive as we are forgiven. Letting go and moving on.

There are many facets to forgiveness. Yet at the heart of it is the idea that one person releases another of something. Sometimes it is in the form of a financial debt. Other times it is the letting go of bitterness.

In a very real sense forgiveness is letting go of the things that we cannot control and embracing gracious mercy. I find this idea to be so liberating. For the one forgiven and for one forgiving. It puts forgiveness in a healthy perspective. Instead of one of emotional weakness it presents an image of a tremendously powerful person. One willing to let go of the bad things that control them.

As you have taught us Lord. We forgive those who have hurt us. We release them to you.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

grace


Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. [Hebrews 4:16 NIV]


I love that God's throne is called grace and not judgment. Surely such a place is one that I can approach with confidence. Yet many in the world, religious and non-religious, believe God to be a deity that seeks to judge us. Thoughts of mercy and grace seem far from their image of God.

Recently I have been thinking that grace is simply another word for help. Or compassion. When I think about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace, I am convinced that He has been called to come along side of me to help me. This is the God in whom I trust and believe in.

So you see, grace is something real to me. Not an abstract belief that I have unmerited favor but an expression of God's willingness to help me. Grace is a throne that I can come to when I am at my worst. Grace embodies a friend who will never reject me. A Lord that I can always trust.

Dear Spirit of Grace. Cultivate more grace in me. Help me to reflect the grace that I see in you.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

holy


He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. [2 Timothy 1:9 NIV]

Holy Spirit. Holy servant. Holy scriptures. Holy people. Holy kiss. Holy life. Holy faith. This word, holy, is sprinkled throughout the New Testament telling us that there is a different way. A sacred way. A divine path. A journey of the heart that transcends heaven and earth.

So what does it mean to be holy? Or to live holy? The Greek word hágios, translated here as holy, can mean "likeness of nature with the Lord". That is such a great descriptor. When we are holy when we are like God. We walk in holiness when we are loving, merciful and compassionate.

I so want my life to be a holy one. I want to live like Jesus. And, as this verse about teaches us, it is God who has purposed us to be holy. When He came into our lives he created us holy on the inside. By his grace we walk out his nature and his character. Holiness is why we are here.

Remind me today Lord that I have been created to live holy.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

Immanuel


“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” [Matthew I:23 NKJV]

On the surface, the doctrine of the virgin birth is somewhat ludicrous. The idea that something invisible would become visible is the essence of science fiction. Therefore many have rejected the idea that God came to us in the form of a baby born of a chaste virgin girl.

Yet some understand the uniqueness of the incarnation and why God became human. For millennia God sent prophets. Many had spiritual gifts. Many had the Holy Spirit. Yet many of these had an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of the nature of God himself.

Many missed their Immanuel because they believed he would be like the God that they imagined. They believed that he would be a warrior deliverer like King David. These most needed to see Immanuel. Yet they stood against him because he was not like the God they envisioned.

I love the way that Jesus revealed God to be Immanuel. Not just God with the religious folks. Not only with the (so called) righteous. Jesus revealed God to be a friend of sinners. A compassionate healer. A loving teacher. A suffering son. Immanuel showed God to us in that way.

Immanuel. You are with us still Lord. Help us to know how near you are.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

judge


Do not judge, or you too will be judged. … Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? [Matthew 7:1,3 NIV]


When it comes to judgement we all suffer from impaired vision. Biases blind us. Egos limit our line of sight. We each struggle to see clearly. We each have a proverbial plank in our eye. Yet we choose to gossip. To criticize. To judge the worthiness of a person to enter heaven.

It is that last judgement that I find so troubling. Christians are sadly known for judging sins that they do not struggle with. Sadly these days, in some theological circles, more sermons seem to be preached on homosexuality than all of the deadly sins combined. Tragic.

That said, what I find most troubling is the way that judgment alienates people and leaves them feeling rejected and unloved. In a very real sense, one cannot love while they are judging. When we judge our focus is not on rehabilitation but on condemnation. And that is heartbreaking.

In contrast, the scriptures teach us that love covers sins. The way to restore a person who has fallen is not to judge them. That only keeps them down. Love causes us to us to lift the one who has fallen. To forgive them. To mend their wounds. To see them with the eyes of heaven.

Cause us to make your heart glad Lord. Help us to love and not judge.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

knock


So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Luke 11:9-10 NIV]

There is a crescendo of sorts in these verses. It begins with asking. A verbal request. Proceeds to seeking. A heart expression. And ends with knocking. A physical action. These three words are linked together. Words. Thoughts. Action. Each related. All necessary.

This passage is preceded by a parable. In it Jesus speaks of a man who went to neighbor at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread. He knocked and his neighbor eventually and begrudgingly accommodated him. In the verses following Jesus contrasts the annoyed neighbor to God.

I love how Jesus compares the earthly with the heavenly. One speaks of coming as a beggar. The other, coming as a son. I think that this is important for us to remember. When we come to God. When we ask, seek and knock. We come to discern his will. Not to demand something of him.

We ask to receive understanding. We seek to discover. We knock that the eyes of our hearts might be opened. In this sense, I am comfortable to say that prayer is not about getting things from God. Prayer is about getting to know God better. In doing so we are made like his Son.

Lord. We knock. Open the eyes of our hearts that we might see you clearly.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

love


My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. [John 15:12-13 NIV]

When Jesus speaks of love and loving he is not referring to something emotional and fleeting. His words to us in this verse speaks to a love that is tough. Persistent. Sacrificial. A love that causes one to deny themselves for the good of another. A friend once defined it this way:
"Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person."
The word commitment seems to capture an important aspect of love. It speaks to me about the way that God loves me. In my lowest times I have never doubted his commitment to me. This kind of unfailing and persistent love has carried me through so much pain and brokenness.

The other part of this quote that I like is the idea that we love imperfect people. In some sense our love has to kick into high gear when imperfection surfaces. We must be kinder. More patient. Gentler. When hate surfaces our love is put to the test. In such times love can soar the highest.

Jesus showed us how to love. He challenged us to love our enemies. On the cross he exemplified that love when he forgave those who drove the nails of jealousy, hate end envy into his hands and feet. Greater love has no one had since. Greater love. It is the challenge of the gospel.

We turn our eyes on Jesus. We look full into the face of Love incarnate. Help us Lord to love.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

mammon


No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. [Matthew 6:24 NKJV]

Many translations render mamónas (the Greek word for mammon) as money or wealth. The amplified version expands it to include possessions, fame and status. Medieval writers used it as the name of the devil of covetousness. It communicates anything that is valued more than the Lord.

Jesus teaches us in this verse that mammon is a master to be served. I can relate to this. Habits can master us. Work can too. Even good things like family or church can wield an unhealthy influence over us. Such is the nature of mammon. It perverts something good into something bad.

In contrast, one who is content is not as prone to the lure of mammon. This seems simple, yet is very difficult. Who can advise the one who is sick or in poverty to be content? These often seek after the mammon of earthly solutions and do not find what they really need.

Letting go of our dreams of success and of a better future can be so difficult. The lure of mammon is great. Yet the power of contentment can be greater than that of mammon. As we release our desires to the Lord he transforms us into the image of one who serves like Jesus.

Lord. I let go. Make me like Jesus. Conform me into his image.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

nineveh


Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons … as well as many animals? [Jonah 4:11 NASB]


Jonah is an interesting prophet. His story in brief is one of a man who hears the voice of God yet does not really like what he hears. He is a conundrum of sorts. In this verse God calls him to account for his lack of compassion and feeling for the people, and even the animals, of Nineveh.

In some sense we are like Jonah. We proclaim John 3:16. We speak of a God who loves the world. Then we show so little compassion for those who are not like us. In this sense Nineveh represents the Muslim person. The gay neighbor. The coworker of a different race. Ones who God loves.

Nineveh turned to God as Jonah preached to them. Despite the prophets bad attitude God worked in that city. Jonah is us. We are Jonah. God sometimes works in our neighbors even when we reek of bad attitudes and behaviors. Would that we, like God, respond with compassion toward the world.

Like Nineveh, we repent Lord. Help us to see the world with eyes of compassion.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

omega


I am coming soon! … I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. [Revelation 22:12,13 NIV]

Before the earth existed, Jesus was. When it no longer exists, Jesus will be. This describes the eternal nature of the Lord. He exists outside of time. In that sense the words 'beginning' and 'end' are really not sufficient to describe him. Perhaps the idea of a timeless being is too hard to grasp?

I love that Jesus is known as the Omega. All things end with him. Yet, for a time Jesus laid aside timelessness and entered into time. He laid aside immortality for mortality. He became a human to show us the very nature and character of God. In that sense, he is the End. The goal of humankind.

The promise for those who have been transformed is timelessness. As each of these die, Jesus proverbially comes for them that they might live with him in a heavenly dimension where there is no end. Jesus is the omega of this life and the alpha of the one to come.

Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

paraclete


I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper [Counselor; Advocate; the Holy Spirit] to be with you forever. [John 14:6 EXB]

Paraclete (parakletos in Greek) is used four times in John's gospel to communicate how the Holy Spirit comes to help, advise, comfort and encourage us. This word encapsulates what it means to have God with us. It also challenges us to be such a friend. Such a paraclete.

The word reminds me of how Job's friends came to him after all ten of his children died. These cried with Job. They sat in silence with him for a week. Their heart was to comfort their friend. Yet they strayed from their paracletic mission when they began to use their heads.

I think that the essence of being a paraclete is a heart thing. Mostly we comfort each other from within. We come along side of another with our hearts. We listen. We pray. We help. We become the body of Christ as we walk with friends who are hurting. Such is the way of a paraclete.

Open our eyes and our hearts Lord. That we might become your body to others.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

quicken


If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up the Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. [Romans 8:11 JUB]


I had coffee with a friend this week. The discussion drifted to the question of whether people are born immortal or if they become immortal after they are born. I asked my friend how one who is spiritually dead can be immortal. He said he would have to think about that.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: "This body that decays must be changed into a body that cannot decay. This mortal body must be changed into a body that will live forever." We will one day die and cease to exist. Unless we are quickened. Unless we are made spiritually alive.

So the great issue of humanity, in some sense, is not about faith but about life. Eternal life. New life. Life that is quickened. Life that transcends our minds and our theologies. Life that causes us to love. Life that unites us with God and to others who have been quickened.

Help us Lord to transcend the temporal that we might embrace the eternal.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

regeneration


He saved us— not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. [Titus 3:5 HCSB]


The English word “regeneration” is the translation of palingenesia, from palin (again) and genesis (birth). It means simply a new birth, a new beginning, a new order. -Lehman Strauss [bible.org]

I love this definition. A new birth gifted by God. A new beginning commencing with the impartation of God's very nature. And a new order of living with a new and beautiful heart. It seems to encapsulate the idea of what it means to be a Christian following in the footsteps of Christ.

Regeneration makes sense to me. Even so, it is a difficult concept for some to grasp until they have experienced it. Nicodemus was puzzled and befuddled when Jesus told him that a person cannot enter into the kingdom of God until they have been born again. Regeneration is key.

This dialog between Nicodemus and Jesus cause many to see the idea of regeneration to be a purely "Christian" concept. These seem to ignore the evidence of the Old Testament. David was certainly born again. I submit to you that others, like Abraham and Israel, were too.

Many have a narrow concept of regeneration. They want to be in control of who is proverbially "in". They constrain God by their own understanding. Like Nicodemus they have difficulty embracing a concept they do not understand. Happily God is not constrained in who he regenerates.

Open our eyes Lord to the many all around us that have experienced regeneration.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

salvation


For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. [Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB]

The topic of salvation is one that has been debated and misunderstood for millennia. Many take a legal approach to the idea and embrace strict criteria for what it means to be saved. Their focus is generally what a person has been saved from and not what they have been saved for.

I love how this passage points us to the idea that salvation involves creation. A new life commensurate with a new birth. We are saved to love and serve. Saved to display the image and character of God. In a very real sense we are saved to save. To point our neighbors to the Savior.

So how did salvation ever become all about saying a prayer and not about living a prayer? How did heaven ever become more important to us than life on earth? Why do some live as if eternal life is something deferred for heaven. How is it that we are not living eternally now?

When I consider what it means to be saved I begin with the idea of a spiritual birth. This imagery helps me to understand what it means when the apostle writes that salvation is "not of yourselves". That which is born in us is a gift to be simply received and not earned.

Many do not see salvation in this light though. They understand grace to be something that is not connected to a spiritual birth and life afterwards. They do not understand repentance to be our spiritual life subduing our carnal desires. These miss out on the heaven that is now.

Help me Lord to walk in the good works that you prepared for me.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

testimony


They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death. [Revelation 12:11 MEV]

Overcomers overcome. Witnesses witness. Lovers love. In that sense, our lives are a testimony to who we are. For sure, our lives are not perfect. Our testimony is fallible. Like the apostle we sometimes do what we do not want to do. Yet the truth remains. Our lives testify to who we are.

Our lives are filled with temptations to act in ways that are contrary to who we are on the inside. It is so easy to succumb to our lusts. Or fall prey to dark desires. In such times we remember the blood of the Lamb. The one who testified of God's grace as he shed divine blood.

Jesus taught us how overcome evil with good. Unlike the heroes on the silver screen he did not fight back in the flesh but trusted his Father to fight for him. His testimony seemed to be one of defeat. He did not love his life unto death. His testimony was not of defeat but of trust.

Jesus challenges me today to testify of such trust. Will I allow my cross to overcome me or will I pick it up and overcome? Will my life testify of trusting in God? Or will it be one of how I have, in futility, leaned on my own understanding? Our lives testify to who we are trusting in.

Lord. Please help my life to be a testimony of trusting you even in the face of death.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

unity not uniformity


Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. -Ephesians 4:3 NIV []


I have often thought that unity is not the same as uniformity. In a real sense, these two are polar opposites. Uniformity focuses on minutiae. Unity sets it sights higher and looks for things that we share in common. Yet the draw of uniformity remains strong in religious circles.

This verse challenges me to look past the differences that I have with others and pursue avenues of peace. In a religious sense this, for me anyways, has been an effort to listen and understand those who think differently. In doing so I have been able to get past my past.

I am not saying that these peaceful conversations have radically altered my theology or political views. Unity is rarely ever about such things. In contrast. Unity fosters compassion. Promotes humility. Places us in a position where we look for welfare of those who are different fro us.

Teach me to see as you see Lord. Help me to keep the unity of the Spirit.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

valleys


Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. [Psalms 23:4 TLB]

At thirty-nine years old my first wife, Ellen, had heart and kidney failure. At the brink of her death I found myself begging God to not let her die. I could not accept her situation or the possibility of her death. Three and a half years later after praying almost daily for her healing. Never giving up. I found myself again faced with the possibility of her dying.

Driving to work one day. Racked with the agony of thoughts of a world without Ellen. I began to pray in the Spirit. I saw a picture in my mind. In this vision I saw myself standing on a mountain looking down at a valley. Some how I knew it was the valley of the shadow of Ellen's death. As I looked into the vision I saw Jesus come to my side, take my hand, and walk with me into the valley.

It was a comforting picture. God was trying to tell me that he would be with me when Ellen died. This is the image that I hold on to when life dips down into a valley. Hard times are opportunities to press into divine comfort. Times to sense the presence, and the hand, of God. Valleys are the seasons in life that point us to our need for God. Though unpleasant, they are necessary.

Help us Lord to know you are with us when we are facing down ours fears.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

wait


Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and won’t become weary. They will walk and won’t grow tired. [Isaiah 40:31 GW]

"Hurry up and wait" was the mantra in basic training. The word "wait" carries with it visions of hope deferred and calls to be patient. Yet the word is the cornerstone for many who experience hard times. For a believer, the word is all about hopeful expectation of things to come.

I love how this translation adds "with hope" to the text. In a spiritual sense waiting is not a passive phenomenon. It is, however, a releasing of control. An embodiment of trust in the One who is hope. As we wait, this verse promises a renewal of needed spiritual strength.

In my life I have found this word "wait" to be one of the most challenging in my vocabulary. So often I want to rush in and control that which cannot be controlled. In such times I sense God whispering to me about how I must trust him. How I must release my life to him. And wait.

In you Lord we trust. Our hope is in you Father. Teach us to wait.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

xerxes


Once again Esther went to speak to the king. This time she fell down at his feet, crying and begging, “Please stop Haman’s evil plan to have the Jews killed!” … King Xerxes then said to Esther and Mordecai, “I have already ordered Haman to be hanged and his house given to Esther, because of his evil plans to kill the Jews. I now give you permission to make a law that will save the lives of your people. You may use my ring to seal the law, so that it can never be changed.” [Esther 8:3,7,8 CEV]

I love the way that the Jews are delivered by the hand of a non-Jewish king. When I think of Xerxes, I remember that God often works in ways that are outside the norm. He seems to work so much in the shadows. In our darkest times he brings good through unexpected people.

Esther was living in such a times. Reminiscent of Nazi Germany, Haman, one of Xerxes counselors, had engineered the extermination of all of the Jews in the realm. Things looked really dark when Esther's cousin Mordecai challenged her to approach the king about Haman's plan.

Esther was afraid. Xerxes could have her killed for making such a request. In an act of courage she went to the king unannounced. Xerxes had mercy instead. On her. On all of the Jews. It reminds me of my need to think outside of my religious box. And to be courageous when I am afraid.

I am weak Lord. I am afraid. Help me to take my eyes off the darkness and see your light.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

yield


However, the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure, then peace-loving, gentle, willing to yield, full of compassion and good deeds, and without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. [James 3:17 ISV]


I love the phrase "willing to yield". I think that idea is so essential to leading a wise life. Some feel that wisdom is all about standing firm and not yielding to the lure of sin. I suggest to you that it is more about being open to God and yielding to His Spirit as he beckons to us.

Make no mistake though. Yielding is really hard. It is the heart of what Jesus meant when he commanded us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow him. Yielding is twofold. Denying of what we want. Embracing what God wants. Letting go of our comfort as we pick up our cross.

In truth we cannot hold on to both our comfort and the cross. Each are at odds with each other. One satisfies our wants while the other fulfills our needs. One must give way to the other. We must leave our comfort zone in order to yield to the Holy Spirit as he teaches us to carry our cross.

I am stubborn Lord. I want my own way. Yet I am willing to yield. Teach me the way.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.

zeal


For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. [Romans 10:2-3 NASB]

I think that zeal is often used to communicate a sense of passion or energy. When I think of it in my own life, I equate it with my younger years when I was passionate for many things. Words like theology, computers, cars, family and sports represented the things that I was zealous for.

This verse points us to a zeal that I can relate to. I often say that the person I disagree with the most is the man that I was when I was younger. I had so many strong opinions. I had a desire to be right about things that I did not really understand. Especially religious things.

It points us to the idea that one can be right but not righteous. Being right involves black and white thinking. Righteousness forces us into the gray. It causes us to embrace people who disagree with us. Words like humility, compassion and mercy draw us into the essence of righteousness.

Fast forward to 2018. I sometimes wonder if passion still has a role in my life. I think that it does. For sure, it does not look the the same as it once did. I find that my zeal is not so much about being right. More about doing right. More about loving people and caring less about things.

Rekindle a zeal in us Lord. For the people you love and the things that you are zealous for.


... this devotion is part of the z2a bible words series.