Category Archives: Devotional

God’s Faithfulness

Our inability to live sin free lives has no impact on God fulfilling His promises. He keeps His promises not because of who we are, but because of who He is. Some folks see this as an excuse to do what they want in their lives. “Oh, I was saved when I was a kid. I know I shouldn’t this, but God forgives me.” If we love Him, though, we understand that such a view is an affront to God and represents a lack of love towards God or a lack of knowledge of who God is and what He finds acceptable. However, even if we try to live a life of full obedience, we find that we won’t. See, just as Paul struggled with sin and wrote about how he found himself doing what he didn’t want to do and not doing what he desired to do, we are the same. We sin, even when we desire otherwise. Yet God remains faithful to deliver His promises in spite of our disobedience.

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. – Judges 3:7-10, ESV

The book of Judges reveals a pattern in human behavior, especially that of those who follow after God. Things are well. People start disobeying and choosing evil. God brings judgment against the people. The people, after some time suffering under the punishment that results, call out to God for relief and help. God hears His people and sends relief. This cycle isn’t just limited to the book of Judges. We see it throughout Scripture and we see it in the lives of believers. Just because we are saved doesn’t mean we are suddenly perfect. Yes, that’s still the standard. However, we know we will fall short. We will sin. We will suffer the consequences of that sin. In the midst of those consequences we will cry out to God. We will repent and ask His forgiveness. And He will grant it.

There may still be consequences as the sin works out its effects in our lives and in the lives of others. Every time Israel turned away from God there were lasting consequences. They were made right with God, but the impact of their disobedience was never totally undone. So when God delivers us from our sin, when He forgives us, we should understand that He delivers us from the eternal results of that sin. We stand without condemnation. He will always honor that promise to save us. He does it not because He owes us for loving Him, for what good deeds we’ve done, or who our families are. He carries through because of His own integrity.

That’s a comforting thought. Even when I’ve made a mess of things, I can count on God to forgive me and to redeem me. This isn’t a license to sin but a reassurance that in spite of my sin God remains faithful. He is faithful. He is always faithful. Even when we know without a doubt that we don’t deserve it, He is faithful. Whatever you’re dealing with, He is faithful. Whatever you’ve done, He is faithful. When you sin in the future, He is faithful. Praise God for His faithfulness! Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness in spite of my unfaithfulness!


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God’s Steadfast Love

As a child I disobeyed my parents from time to time, just as any child does. Despite anything I did, they continued to love me. While as that young kid I may have lashed out with, “You don’t love me,” I didn’t ever doubt that they did. I was looking to hurt and few words hurt a parent more than those words. That’s why when we were young and our parents stood a firm line, those words were a powerful weapon at our disposal. With God, we can lash out with those same words. However, God’s love overcomes our disobedience; it covers over our sin. We may utter those words, the Enemy may cause us to think them, but they aren’t true. 

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. – Micah 7:18-20, ESV

Despite our disobedience, God continues to love us. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that while we were in the midst of our disobedience and completely alienated from Him, He went to the Cross for us. His love is a steadfast love. It isn’t dependent on what we do. His acceptance isn’t based on some sort of mythical scales weighing good deeds versus bad. His love is a part of who He is. 

As a result, He pardons our iniquities. This isn’t just a past act. Pardoning and passing over means the action is ongoing. He doesn’t just ignore them. He treads them underfoot. He has compassion on us. He will not hold onto any deserved anger. He will release that anger because of that steadfast love. Such is the promise He makes towards those who believe in His Son. 

This means we aren’t stuck in a performance test. That’s a very freeing thought. It means I can chose to obey because I love God, not because I have to do so. For most people, when there’s a choice between wanting to do and being required to do, they give better results when they want to do. That’s where God’s steadfast love places us. Life all around us may grade us, evaluate us, rank us, and try to tell us our worth by that constant “racking and stacking.” With God there is none of that. There is simply His steadfast love. There is always His steadfast love. Our worth is found in Him. We are His beloved children. That is our identity. 

Whatever life throws at you, there is His steadfast love for you. Whether you score victory after victory or face defeat after defeat today, you remain in His steadfast love. Even if your interactions with others leave you wondering how people could be so mean to each other, He still hasn’t changed in His steadfast love for you. He won’t change. That’s why the prophet Micah referred to it as steadfast. We can count on it, even if it feels like we can’t count on anything else. He loves us with a steadfast love. How amazing!

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Why Is God Not Answering Me?

You’ve prayed. However, you haven’t heard God answer your prayers. You’ve not seen anything to lead you to believe that God has even heard your petition. Why is God silent? Why is He not answering?

When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” – Acts 12:12-15, ESV

Peter had been captured by the Romans. After killing James and seeing how the Jewish religious leaders reacted, Herod ordered Peter imprisioned. Herod’s grand plan was to offer up Peter on Passover, stoke up the crowd, and then execute the follower of Christ. A satisfied populace was easier to rule, after all.

We are told in verse 5 that the Church went earnestly in prayer for Peter’s freedom.  However, that prayer had not been answered. Then it reached the night when Herod would bring Peter out. Still the Church continued in prayer. It was then when God sent an angel to free Peter. So complete was God’s involvement that Peter walked right by two guards without being stopped. God had answered. And God answered in a way that showed only God could have done it. 

Peter’s freedom was completely unexpected. Rhoda is so shocked she leaves Peter at the gate. When she goes and tells the people praying that Peter is there and not in prison, they call her crazy. When she wouldn’t back down, they said she must have seen Peter’s angel. They couldn’t believe Peter had just walked free. 

Sometimes God waits for the perfect timing. God freed Peter at a point where no human could take credit. Sometimes it’s not that God doesn’t hear but it’s that His timing doesn’t coincide with ours. We are impatient and we want an answer RIGHT NOW. But the timing is wrong. So God doesn’t answer, yet. Such was the case with Peter. 

Sometimes God answers in a way we just don’t expect. I’m sure as they prayed, the believers came up with many scenarios on how Peter could be rescued. Some probably even involved Herod having a change of heart. However, it is unlikely that any honestly thought that God would set things up where Peter could just walk out. We are looking for and expecting certain outcomes that we can’t see it when God moves in a different way. That was the case here. 

And sometimes God doesn’t answer in our favor because there’s something bigger at stake. Peter had been grabbed before. Usually it was by the religious leaders. He and John had both been grabbed. But each time they had been let go. They’d been beaten up and ordered to silence, but Peter always came back. Then Herod killed James. The Romans had crucified Jesus and then beheaded James. I’m sure plenty of folks prayed for James. Yet still he went to his death. 

Why didn’t God intervene with James? Consider how fervent the prayers were for Peter. Think about how worried the Church was. Everything changed with James’ death. Who would stay faithful? Who would suddenly take their faith seriously? Those answers would come about due to James’ death. 

And also, sometimes God is answering a different prayer. James’ had his prayer answered. Remember, he sent his mom to plead his case before Jesus so he and his brother, John, could be first in Heaven. Jesus couldn’t give either what they asked for. Those places weren’t His to give. But He did promise that the two brothers would suffer as He did (Matthew 20). Actually, all of them did. 

These are a few of the many reasons we sometimes think God is silent or hard of hearing. He isn’t either of these. God answers in the right time, regardless of whether or not the answer is, “Yes,” or “No.” And He answers in the best way, a way which clearly gives Him all the glory. And sometimes the answer is, “No,” which we don’t accept. Scripture tells us God hears the prayers of His people. If He doesn’t answer right away, there’s one or more reasons for it. When it comes down to it, we just have to trust Him. He will answer. He has a track record of doing so. 

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Finding Hope in Hard Times

We sometimes idealize life. We wonder about how great it would be if we had no troubles. What if there were no challenges? Wouldn’t that be the life? It would be a kind of life, I suppose. However, challenges are what help us grow. We need challenges. We need hard times. 

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:1-5, ESV

Paul tells us to rejoice in our sufferings. He also tells us why we should. Suffering results in endurance. Endurance develops character. Character produces hope. And that hope is in our God. Because we have that hope, that confidence in His love, we can face anything because we know we have His forgiveness. 

Let’s take a step back and focus on the personal growth. There’s a maxim of the world of chess that one learns more from a lost game than a won one. It’s a simple concept. The loss causes us to examine our actions and choices more closely than we would have had we won. As a result we think through the moves more deeply, are better likely to understand how the game changed for the worse, and therefore become a stronger player. 

Challenges in life do the same thing. They force us to reach further for internal resources we didn’t know we had. They help us to put things in perspective. They cause us to grow in ways we wouldn’t have had we not faced those challenges. They make us better. And they can cause us to rely more on our Savior, deepening our relationship with Him. 

Paul reminds us that even as we are suffering, there is a purpose. There is a reason to have hope. The suffering is necessary to take us from where we are to where we want to be if we want to become more Christ-like. Very few want suffering. Our Lord didn’t want it that long night as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He could have avoided it. He could have returned to heaven and rejected the Cross. However, He chose to embrace the suffering. He chose that path. His choice means we can be forgiven by the Father and saved by grace. 

Therefore, if you are in the midst of hard times, look to Jesus for hope. Embrace His love for you as He can sympathize with us having suffered so greatly Himself. Know there’s a reason for your struggle. It’s not in vain. That hardship and pain is necessary for you to grow. Not only can you grow personally, but you can also grow in your relationship with our Savior. That is a mighty hope indeed. 

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A People Who Will Forgive

Called to be like Christ, we are to forgive like He forgives. But what if the act in need of forgiveness is unthinkable? For instance, how do you handle a man who has done you or your loved ones harm? What if he is responsible for their deaths? 

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 9:13-17, ESV

This Saul is the one who would take the name Paul. He is the same Paul who wrote about Jesus’ grace and forgiveness and preached it at every opportunity. However, as the broken Saul, he didn’t just need forgiveness from God. He needed forgiveness from God’s people. After all, he was responsible for their persecution and at least one death. God’s people had to forgive him in order for Saul to become the Paul we know about from the New Testsment. It all started with Ananias. 

Ananias had every reason to be afraid of Saul. Who could blame him for distrusting the one who came bearing papers to round up Christians? Yet this is what God asked Ananias to do. God asked Anaias to forgive Saul. More importantly, God asked Ananias to trust Him even when the circumstances would lead one to reject Saul and his supposed conversion. Forgiveness often involves risk on our parts. And just as He asked Ananias to trust Him, God asks the same of us. 

Ananias did trust God. He put Saul’s past in the past. Then Ananias went forward in the present for the benefit of Saul’s and the Church’s future. Apart from Ananias going to Saul and healing him of his blindness, we don’t know much else about the man. Saul, now known as Paul, described him as a devout man in Acts 22. That’s all we have. There was no fame or fortune in that decision to trust God and forgive Saul. There was no side benefit. There was simply obedience to the Savior whom Ananias loved. Ananias risked his life for that love. 

The Bible commands us over and over again to be a forgiving people. We as individuals are to be quick to forgive. There are no strings attached. A person doesn’t have to undo a wrong. He or she doesn’t even have to “learn their lesson.” By forgiving we may put ourselves potentially at harm. We are still expected to forgive. If we want to be like our first love, Jesus, this is an aspiration worthy of striving for. It is a quality which draws us to Him. It is something that causes us to love Him. His forgiveness is an aspect of His nobility and divinity. Therefore, just as we serve a God who is willing to forgive, let us be a people who are willing to forgive as well. 

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A God Who Will Forgive

One of the reasons I struggled in coming to faith in Jesus Christ was I kept saying to myself that He wouldn’t want me based on my past. It doesn’t matter how bad your past was; when you were in the state I was in through high school and much of college, you come to believe that you aren’t good enough for anyone. Anything others might see as praiseworthy in you doesn’t appear so great to you: you find fault with those things, even if the faults are trivial or even imaginary. 

You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors. But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. – Galatians 1:13-16, NLT

Even if you have some horrible things in your past, done by your own hand, Scripture reminds us time and again that God will forgive. Paul acknowledged his violent past pursued in religious zeal when he didn’t know and love Jesus. Yet he also reminded the believers in Galatia that God still offered a wretched man as he grace. God was willing to forgive Paul, did forgive Paul, and then turned around and equipped Paul to be able to serve Him. The past was in the past as God entrusted Paul with a heavy responsibility. 

God wasn’t looking at what Paul had done. God was looking at what Paul would become. This is the way He is towards those who come to faith in His Son. Yes, the past is still a part of us. However, Jesus’ payment for our sins is complete. We don’t have to make additional installments; we don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of God’s forgiveness by one act of piety after another. God isn’t looking for our obedience so we can pay Him back. He’s looking for it from a sense of gratitude, love, and a desire to please Him. While we may have to deal with the sins of our past, especially as we have hurt others, we don’t owe God anything for that past, despite any classic hymns to the contrary. Jesus’ blood paid for every bit of our past and more: our present and future, too. 

I don’t know what’s in your past. I don’t know what’s in your present, either. None of it holds you back from God’s forgiveness. You haven’t done something God can’t forgive. The Bible reminds us that while we were still (yet) sinners, Christ died for us. Note the dividing line: sin, any sin. We have all sinned. And He is willing and will forgive any of us who come to believe in and love His Son, Jesus. Whatever you’ve done, whatever you’re in the midst of, God can forgive. Even if you’ve done something you can’t possibly imagine anyone forgiving and accepting you afterwards, God can. God will, if you love His Son. 

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The Model Church – Spiritual Foundations

When I was a tutor in college, I always investigated the foundational knowledge of who I was helping. This was true regardless of subject. What I often found was the reason they were struggling in the material was because they were lacking in their foundation. Therefore, we had to fix the foundation. Once that was done, it was easier to learn what they were struggling with. 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:42, ESV

The spiritual foundation of the Church revolves around the teaching of the Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. Without this spiritual foundation, anything else will have cracks and flaws. Anything else will be less than it could be. Anything else will be more susceptible to straying from God’s will. 

The model church understand the necessity of this spiritual foundation and emphasizes it. The Word is properly preached and taught. Prayer is seen as a must, not a nice to have, and is given its proper place of importance in the life of the church. The people understand the necessity of gathering together, not just for worship service, but also to build bonds of community and support for each other. None of these are neglected. All of these are expected. 

Certainly the idea that one can be fine on their own isn’t acceptable. This wasn’t practiced by the early church. The Bible reminds us again and again that we are defeated when we try to go it alone. It is only when we have others with us that we can overcome and stay strong. As a result, if we are to live as Christ intends, we must have this foundation in our lives. Let us not neglect the spiritual foundation of the Church and of our lives as Christians. 

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