Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #9: OBEDIENCE

So, we got this dog a few years ago. His name is Bo "Duke" Johnson. Yes... his name is a double shout out to the Blue Devils and the Dukes of Hazard.

I was naive enough to think that Bo would like me the best.  After all, I was the one to take care of him when he was a puppy -AND- my wife, Erin, only had cats growing up and doesn't even like dogs!

As Bo got older and bigger, I noticed a shift in loyalty. I began to realize that Bo was getting more attached to Erin. In fact, something happened one day that confirmed my fears... my dog Bo loves my wife more than me. It happened while I was telling Bo, who incidentally loves socks and dirty dishtowels, to go to his room. While he was ignoring me in pure defiance, Erin calmly walks into the room and tells Bo in a soft voice, "Bo, go to your room." Instantly, he got up and went to his room.

I was devastated... my dog's obedient actions proved that had given his heart to my wife. Don't get me wrong, he still likes me but only when I have food or something else he wants to beg for.

I say all this because the word I want to share about this week is OBEDIENCE. That story is simple illustration of a powerful Biblical truth! By his obedience (or lack of), our dog Bo is simply proving his loyalty and love. It's no different with our relationship with the Lord. Our obedience is a good measuring stick for our love for God.

Jesus, as recorded in John 14:15 (HCSB), declares, "If you love me, you will keep my commands." In John's first epistle, he says this: "And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says `I know Him' but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected."(1 John 2:3-5, ESV)

It's pretty simple: If you love God, then obey His commands. If you know God, then you should have a genuine desire to demonstrate your connection to God by your actions.

Let's be clear: we do NOT obey God's commands to earn His love. Our obedience to His commands are simply and profoundly because we love Him. Being a Christ follower is not all about following some set of rules and laws. In fact, our obedience is the proof that our love is genuine!

If you say you love Jesus, then pour out your whole life to know His commands and follow in obedience!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #8: CONVICTION

There I was on the edge and I just couldn't step off. 

Growing up, I was always the cautious one. I had to think through everything, then wait... and wait some more before doing anything of great risk. I was definitely NOT the kid who would jump and then ask questions.

It was the Zipline at Camp Rockmont. My seven year old vantage point made that drop off look like I was stepping into the Grand Canyon with only a harness and a thin cable holding me. The counselors reassured me that I would be safe. I thought they were nuts.

I couldn't do it. I didn't do it... at least not then. Or the next time.

There I was on the edge again and I finally stepped off. Incidentally, it was awesome and amazingly fun. Over the years at Rockmont, I would do the Zipline hundreds more times. When it became the "Triple" Zip, it was even better!

What had changed?! CONVICTION, pure and simple. My beliefs changed about getting into that harness, hooking up to the cable and jumping off the edge. I reached a point where I simply trusted it and I profoundly believed I would NOT die after all. Once I had that conviction, I was free to jump.

Conviction is a "firmly held belief or opinion." Conviction, if it is genuine, ultimately leads to action.

Christian believers throughout history have stepped out in great acts of faith - all because of conviction. It was more than simple set of doctrinal beliefs, it was a deeply held conviction that transcended this life. Criticism. Prison. Persecution. Unknowns. Facing death. Great losses. Incredible hardships.

I need to live with conviction each and every day. My children need a dad that lives our his Christian faith with a deep conviction that Jesus is LIFE! We need conviction in our world today. The Christian church needs to live with great conviction and must accept nothing less. Our nation needs people willing to stand up for what is right.

What about you? What ledge are you standing on? What act of great conviction is right before you? Where is the Lord calling you to step out in faith and act with great conviction?          

"I would rather be a man of conviction than a man of conformity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

"A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for." ~ Howard G. Hendricks

"It's the repetition of affirmations that lead to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen." ~ Muhammad Ali

"Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." ~ Thomas Carlyle

"Strong convictions precede great actions." ~ James Freeman Clarke

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." ~ Hebrews 11:1

"... because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5

It's time to jump!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #7: LOVE


To quote the old Dionne Warwick song... 

"What the world needs now is love sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone!"

Now that's some truth we need to let marinate into our daily lives. This world needs some real love. Not the cheap, hyper emotional, mushy-gushy, make your palms sweat, "I've never felt like this" kind of love. Nope, we need the real thing! True love is an action VERB and God is its source and ultimate example to us all. 

I never had a full grasp of LOVE until the love of Jesus changed my heart and life forever as a college student. Once I had experienced the perfect love and forgiveness of an incredible Savior, I was enabled to put that same love on display. That is how God has created us: be filled with His love, then show and share that love to a world that desperately needs it. 

Hey Christ-follower, don't forget to love others as God has loved you. When it comes to who and how we show love, our differences and disagreements should not matter! Don't simply be a noise maker (gong/cymbal - 1 Cor. 13) or satisfied with deep spiritual abilities such as great faith, wisdom, or other gifts. Those things are great, but they are incomplete without love!!!

Love God. 
Love others (yes... as much as you love yourself)

Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us.” ~ 1 John‬ ‭3:23‬

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ ‭‭John‬ ‭13:35‬ 

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” ~ Romans‬ ‭13:8‬ ‭

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Devotional Word #6: GODLINESS


"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for Godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance." ~ 1 Timothy 4:7-9

Well, the NFL season came to a wild end last night in the Super Bowl. I started thinking about all the work and preparation that went into the season for each of these teams. Coaches. Players. Assistants. Other personnel. Management. Owners. Thinking of just the players for a moment, can you imagine the physical training these guys go through all year long to keep themselves in top form?! It's truly amazing seeing these professional athletes at the top of their game... yes, even Tom Brady. C'mon man! He is 39 years old and looks like he could easily play for another 5 years (I hope not for the Dolphin's sake).

I've been going to the YMCA faithfully 2-3 times over week for the last 4 months. My goal is to get in and stay in shape. I usually do the elliptical machine for 30 minutes and then some of the weight machines as well. Physically I am not the person I was 20 years ago... ok, not even what I was 10 years ago. There is value for me to be physically healthy and in shape. But what about my heart? How about my mind? This passage in 1 Timothy does reference the value of physical training, but is quick to speak of the greater value of Godliness.

Godliness doesn't happen instantly once you become a Christian. You have to work at it every day. Take a day off and your attitudes and actions will definitely suffer. To be Godly, you need to train: spend time in the Scriptures, pray and meditate in the Spirit, worship regularly on your own and with other believers, and spend quality time with other people you consider Godly.

Keep training your body and stay in shape to have a better quality of life. But please don't forget to work out your heart and mind, your Godliness will have value for this life and the one to come!


Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Closer Look (inward)

I have decided to refrain from political comments. This is not political, it's deeply personal. 

We seem to be more divided than I can ever remember in my lifetime. Should I be surprised at my own selective outrage (and, honestly, in all of us) at current events in our country and world? Probably not. 

Open Doors just published its World Watch list and highlighted all the places on the globe where the persecution of Christians is rampant and unchecked. Where is the outrage?

TODAY, many thousands upon thousands of children (here and internationally) are in need of families willing to open their hearts and homes through foster care and adoption. Who will come to their aid? Where is the outrage?

The list of other issues important to many of us could go on and on. Where is the outrage? 

What I am most outraged at is the SIN nature of all humanity - especially my own! All of our nation's and world's problems come back to our SIN and selfishness. Why is our cry often, "ME, ME, ME, ME, ME..."?!?! At a time in our world's history when we should be most educated and "evolved," it seems as if the worst in all of us is rising to the surface. If this was not the case, we wouldn't have need for immigration measures or border walls, we wouldn't have law enforcement officers on edge fearful of people lying in wait to ambush/kill them, we wouldn't fear for our children's future... and on and on I could continue. We have a SIN problem to say the least! Where is the outrage at the glaring failures of all of us? 

Practically, there are real needs all around us - deeply spiritual, emotional and physical needs - here in the USA and overseas. May each one of us look in the mirror and see how we can be part of the solution and help.

Side note: I am so thankful for a mighty God who has graciously offered us freedom from the bondage of our own sin. His name is Jesus and by His work on the cross, my sin debt was paid. Salvation by faith in Him is our world's hope! I have come to realize that God has not just saved us so that we can go to heaven one day. We are called to be serving in His Kingdom work here and now as Salt & Light. Eternity doesn't start when we die... it's now too!