Daily Devotional: Tough Love

Scripture Of The Day: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 (NIV)

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word LOVE as a ‘warm attachment, enthusiasm or affection for something or someone.’ Not exactly something any of us would want to do without.

 

How can anyone deny that having (or receiving) a sense of enthusiasm, warmth, or affection for or from others is not a constant fix on many of our daily prayer lists?

For those of you who are feeling underappreciated at work, underappreciated by family members and friends, or at times, may even feel underappreciated by God, it’s easy to see how we all could use a little bit of the kind of love Webster describes above. There’s just a slight problem: God describes love a totally different way.

1 Corinthians 13 (a passage familiar to many of us) has a very interesting way of describing love.

Love suffers long. And is kind.
(Sounds strange, right? Honestly, who wants to be kind after suffering?)

Love does not envy. Love does not boast or is proud. Love does not behave rudely. It is not easily angered. It keeps no wrongs. (Keeps no wrongs? Not proud? You must not know what I’m going through…)

Love rejoices in truth. It bears all things. Believes all things. Love hopes all things. Endures all things. (Bearing? Enduring? What happen to the warmth? The affection?)

Love never fails.

Not exactly the kind of love list you and I make as believers, is it? In a day and age when so many of us are bombarded by self-improvement guides and books, social networking sites dedicated to insuring every one can see your “face” or stop by your “space,” God seems to pose an interesting question to each of us as believers:

Are we ready to receive some TOUGH love?

Are we willing to move beyond our needs and circumstances to see the needs of others? Can we stand to believe, to hope, and most of all, to endure for someone other than ourselves? It’s a tough question, but TOUGH is just what real love can be at times.

Today, make it a point to love as God loves. What an incredible example God set before us all over 2,000 years ago. An example that has remained unmatched and uncontested.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.)

Now that’s what I call…tough love.

Daily Devotional: Stop Hatin’

By Scott Williams
This week’s topic: The Power Of The Tongue

 

I remember a couple of years ago writing a blog post with the straightforward title of Stop Hatin’ on Joel Osteen. This post received lots of comments and still receives hits daily. If I’m being totally honest, there is one thing that irritates me as a Christian and a Pastor; that’s seeing Pastors, Christians and Ministries hatin’ on other Pastors, Christians and Ministries. This type of behavior is not of God and needs to stop.

 

According to the urban dictionary, “hatin’” is defined as: Sayin’ bad things about or puttin’ someone down. This can be for various reasons: because they have something that you want, you think you have all of the answers or you think you know what they are all about — a player hater.

I think a key consideration in that definition is the fact that people think they have all the answers and think they know the hearts of others. As Christians I think it’s important to embrace the Old English Idiom of The Benefit Of The Doubt as a fundamental life principle. It simply means: to believe something good or positive about someone, rather than something bad or negative, when you have the possibility of doing either.

It seems to be a more common occurrence to assume all of the negative or bad about so-and-so, when people don’t even know so-and-so. It’s a much better place to start from zero, assume the positive and give people The Benefit Of The Doubt. I’m overjoyed by the mere fact that Jesus gives us The Benefit Of The Doubt.

Often times these negative thoughts occur in spite of the fact that there is an opportunity to think or speak positive about others and simply give them The Benefit Of The Doubt. It irritates me when people rip legitimate pastors, doing legitimate ministry when they can choose to give them the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I’m not going to spend enough of my time and energy watching, listening to, or following a pastor whose ministry I don’t like—especially not enough time and energy to formulate a true negative opinion.

Remember, we are all part of the body of Christ and we’re all necessary to reach all people for Jesus. Pastors and Christians hatin’ on one another is a playground for the enemy who is crouching at the door trying to kill, steal and destroy anything that matters to the heart of God. The local church, local church leaders and meaningful Christian relationships matter to the heart of God.

There is power in both the written and spoken tongue. Proverbs 18:20-21 sums it up nicely and gives us clear direction: From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (NIV).

You have power in your tongue – use your power wisely. If someone is hatin’ on other Pastors, call them on it. If you are hatin’ on other pastors, STOP!

Scripture Of The Day: “From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  – Proverbs 18:20-21 (NIV)

Daily Devotional: Our Time

By Cindy Beall
This week’s topic: Serving Others

Have you ever heard someone say, “I just don’t have the time…?” Being the analyzer that I am, I have found myself thinking about that phrase for years now. Literally years.

My brother discounts that line of thinking by telling people that no one has time…we make time. I didn’t really like hearing it when it came from his lips that day, but now, I couldn’t agree with him more.

I don’t have time to call that friend back who needs to talk but I certainly make time to watch 24, LOST and The Office.
I don’t have time to play Jr. Monopoly with my 8-year old son but I will always make time to watch the Texas Longhorns play football.
I don’t have time to volunteer at my church or my son’s school but I make time to get to Kirkland’s or Pier 1 when there is a sale.

There are plenty of things that I will always make time for. I will always make time to eat. I will always make time to sit on the sofa. I will always make time to check what my fave daily bloggers and twitterers have to say.

People are more likely to make time for others during the season where we celebrate our Savior’s birth. What is stopping us from giving our time throughout the rest of the year? Oh, I know I’m crazy to challenge you to give of yourself without expecting anything in return.

But that’s the funny part…you will get in return.
You know that whole “It is in giving that we receive” thing?

It works.

Scripture Of The Day: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” – Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

Daily Devotional: Serving Others

By Lisa Birch
This week’s topic: Serving Others

Since when are things–like personal agendas–more important than people?

Never have been, yet we live that way.

With a husband, three kids, a business, and a schedule on wheels, there are countless times I’ve ignored the phone, been too busy or just felt too overwhelmed to check in on longtime friends, new acquaintances or even family members.

No matter how good our intentions, it’s pretty selfish to repeatedly fall into a cycle of putting things above people–things like meetings, moods, deadlines, plans, conditions, desires, events, and more.

God’s law commands that we love others as we love ourselves. This stresses the value and priority we should place on “other people.” One way to love on others with the love of God is to serve them.

Jesus spent His precious time on the earth loving and serving people. His purpose was the Ultimate Sacrifice, which was in fact the Ultimate Act of Servanthood.

It’s hard to shut people out and love them at the same time. When we serve others, we serve God.

Here’s a quick list to help keep things in perspective:

Serve not to be seen. Check your motives. Serving others is a selfless act, not a self-centered one.

Step outside the box. When we think of serving others, the traditional ministry volunteering often comes to mind. But we can also serve people by simply reaching out to express genuine concern and interest in their well being.

Persevere. There may be times when people you serve are not very receptive, grateful or appreciative. Forego your expectations, continue on, and put emphasis on the act of serving in love, not the recipient.

Set the tone. Be humble, yet serve with authority and passion. Let God’s love create the atmosphere to be fruitful, productive and effective.

Be consistent. There’s never been a shortage of people who could use a listening ear, an extra eye or a helping hand. Let your act of service be ongoing, not just for a season.

Accept the timing. Remain open. Serving others will almost always inconvenience you. Push past yourself and heed the call to help others when it comes.

Don’t wait. Perfect conditions will never exist. Decide on an act of service and do it today.

Scripture Of The Day: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10

Daily Devotional: Grow In The Dump

By Milan Ford
This week’s topic: Serving Others

Warning: the following devotional may RADICALLY change our water cooler conversations at work. So please, read at your own risk.

I am often asked by younger (and sometimes older) leaders what they should do when they feel like their boss is no longer delegating responsibilities to them, but rather dumping them in an effort to remain in charge and void of responsibility. It seems that nothing can frustrate a lower level leader more than when he or she has come to the realization that his or her boss or team leader has begun to take advantage of them.

Now more than ever before, one of the most common mistakes any leader can make when given the opportunity to lead or manage a new project or team, is confusing the art of delegating with the art of dumping. With this in mind, my response to this complex challenge is actually quite simple:

If you truly believe you have been called, gifted, and uniquely assigned to your place of employment or ministry…then the time has come for you to learn how to GROW IN THE DUMP.

My wife will attest to the fact that on any given day of the week, if asked, I probably will claim a different passage of scripture as my all-time favorite. Quite recently, I have two that are running neck and neck.

The First: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. – John 12:24-26

And The Second: But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:42-45

In my opinion, one of the most unwanted, neglected and underutilized spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ today is the call to serve. Many of us, out of what I believe at times is a sincere desire to be recognized and rewarded for our various gifts and talents, have sadly embraced a ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude when it comes to serving within the workplace God has planted us in. Especially to those who lead and ‘rule’ over us.

Many of our attitudes (if I may speak plainly) just stink. From the unnecessary stomping of our feet down the hallway, to the magnetic pull of our ears to gossip, many of us as believers have forgotten that we are the living representation of Christ in the earth.

Our ability to get ‘lost’ in serving others, is the determining factor in ‘finding’ the kind of life God has designed for us all to live.

Now, for those of you reading this, who still have some reservations about serving your boss or team leader at your job with excellence, I’ll let you in on a little secret. (Shhhh…let’s just keep this between us two)

I am thoroughly convinced that we are living during a time when many of today’s leaders will delegate themselves right out of leadership. I encourage you to take the time to discover what burdens (if delegated or dumped upon you from another leader) you can adequately handle, and most importantly, are aligned with the kind of responsibilities you believe you should be leading in anyway.

While I do not believe in conquering giants without a reward, there are times when you can serve someone above you (who is not fit for the position they’re in) RIGHT OUT of that position. Or even better: you can acquire the skills (and experience) to apply elsewhere for that same position. That is why service is not something you are to avoid. But something you are to lean into.

This week, take your eyes off what’s coming down on you, and refocus yourself on what has the potential to come out of you. It’s time for many of us to grow in the dump. Now is the time to serve.

Scripture Of The Day: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45

Daily Devotional: Stepping Into The Darkness

By Alan Riley
This week’s topic: Serving Others

Have you ever heard the story of the man who slipped off the edge of a cliff and was desperately hanging on to a rope to keep from falling? The man screamed at the top of his voice, “IS THERE ANYONE THERE WHO CAN HELP ME?” A calm, reassuring voice answered back, “It is the Lord. Let go of the rope.”

The man thought about it for a moment, looked down to see how far he would fall. Then he yelled out again even louder, “IS THERE ANYONE ELSE THERE WHO CAN HELP ME???”

Have you ever been at a place in your life where you felt the Lord was telling you to let go of the rope, but all you could see was how things looked from a logical, human perspective? I know I have, and I was really tempted to ask for a second opinion like the man in the joke.

Everything about our human nature wants to see it first and then respond based on what we see. We want to see it then believe it. We want to know where we are going before we agree to start the trip. That is our human nature. And it flies in the face of what God calls us to do and who God calls us to be.

Look at the heroes of the faith and you will see people who believed it before they saw it. You will see people who went when God said ‘go’ even though they didn’t know where they were going or what it would be like when they got there. You will see people who walked by faith and not by sight.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, He allowed and encouraged Thomas to experience what he had said he needed to see to believe that Jesus was alive. Thomas physically saw and felt the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and side. When he did so, Thomas fell down on His face and declared, “My Lord and My God!” Jesus responded by saying, “Thomas, you believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The New International Version translates that verse this way: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Far too often, I find myself walking only by sight. But I know it is those times when I step out into the darkness in obedience to God’s call that He blesses me, and grows me, and stretches me.

What is God calling you to do that will require you to step into the darkness?

Scripture Of The Day: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Daily Devotional: No More Lack

No More Lack

By Dr. Creflo A. Dollar
This week’s topic: The Importance Of Giving

We are the generation Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 3:1: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” Satan has been increasing his attacks against Believers in these last days. His goal is to cause us to cave in and quit before we experience a breakthrough, and he’s using insufficiency to accomplish his task. However, you don’t have to be a victim of this vicious tactic.

The key to overcoming insufficiency in your life is to believe in and stand firmly on God’s Word, which declares that the righteous (those in right-standing with God) will be upheld. Psalm 37:18, 19 says, “The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.”

Confession plays a key role in helping you reach the good life God has for you. Freedom from insufficiency is possible if you: (1) sow financial seed as God directs and (2) use your mouth to speak the Word over your life.

In Luke 6:38, Jesus says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” You must continue to obey God in your giving, even when your resources are wearing thin. Why? You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7-9). When you sow as God directs, you position yourself to reap increase.

The widow at Zarephath is a perfect example of someone who stayed on the giving side of life even when her resources had run out. She was down to her last meal when Elijah asked her to prepare a cake for him (1 Kings 17:13). When she did, she experienced increase in her life. Not only did her resources multiply, but her son was also brought back to life! A seed will definitely meet any need you have.

Keep in mind the power of words (Proverbs 18:21). Words are seeds. Whatever you speak will come back to you in the form of positive or negative manifestations. It’s easy to become weary and give up when the pressure is on. But if you continue to speak positive, faith-filled words over your situation, you will see breakthrough. Don’t allow the devil to oppress you with the cares of life. God is faithful to pull you through!

You don’t have to be subject to the stress of lack because you have access to Jesus’ peace! Have confidence that He will provide your every need. John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Tap into this supernatural peace and rest confidently, knowing you can triumph over the devil every time!

Scripture Of The Day: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27 (NKJV)

Daily Devotional: The Pursuit of Wealth

By Bonnie St. John
This week’s topic: The Pursuit Of Wealth

When she was alive, my mother loved the movie, The Sound of Music: Beautiful scenery in the Alps, favorite old tunes, and a powerful love story. The poor young woman named Maria failed as a nun, but fell in love with and married the wealthy Baron and adopted his seven children! 

But what my mother talked about the most over the years wasn’t the love story. She always marveled at how Maria Von Trapp, the former nun, led her new husband and step-children on foot in the middle of the night over the mountains for days to escape the Nazis. What courage it took to leave behind their palatial home, friends and massive fortune! They went to America with nothing but their faith and God-given talent to become the world famous singing family blessed with new lands, more children, and a lasting legacy.

So many people would have hesitated and been arrested. Or worse, collaborated with the Nazi crimes to avoid capture. The lesson, my mother said, was that having character and standing up for your beliefs was the only real wealth in the world. Believing in God more than your possessions and more than the title and power of “Baron,” made the Von Trapp family able to find not only material wealth, but even more importantly, overflowing love, happiness and freedom.

The little nun who fell in love with Prince Charming and his family didn’t find her happily ever after in his earthly kingdom. Quite the reverse. He and his children were saved by her total reliance on the kingdom of God. And that’s a real happily ever after!

Scripture Of The Day: “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.” – Deuteronomy 8:18

Daily Devotional: Storing Up Treasures

By Pastor Marvin Williams
This week’s topic: The Pursuit Of Wealth

I know a man who has built a small empire of wealth – several large houses, cars, trucks, and large envelopes filled with thousands of dollars in cash. In addition to having a few thousands in his house, last year, he resorted to hiding a large sum in cash, under a doghouse in his yard.

No, I am not giving you his address (Smile).

When I think about him and people like him, my heart breaks because, he has pursued and accumulated wealth here and failed to build a relationship with Jesus. I imagine this is exactly what Jesus was talking about, in Matthew 6:19-21, when he said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

To understand what Jesus meant, we need to know what he did not mean. Jesus was not saying we could not have nice things, or that we could not engage in wise financial planning (life insurance policies, 401K/403B, or other investments). Moreover, he was not saying we could not enjoy wealth and the good things in life that God gives us, or we could not run our businesses profitably.

What did Jesus mean?
Jesus is talking about two types of treasures.

The first type is the kind we accumulate on earth. These treasures are vulnerable to all kinds of decay and theft. Jesus is saying, don’t make acquiring and accumulating these types of treasures – houses, cars, degrees, prestige, popularity, vintage comic books, coin collections, paintings, CDs and albums – our main concentration, obsession and addiction, at the expense and neglect of the most important treasure – God and helping those in need.

We should guard our hearts against the addictive pursuit of material wealth because of its dangers – the love of them is the root to all kinds of evils, may hinder people’s response to the gospel, create false security, make people proud, cause excessive worry, and lead people to forget God. Working for them may cause excessive tiredness, enjoying them too much may lead to self-indulgence, and misusing them may foster oppression and injustice.

The alternative, is laying up treasures in heaven. He is not saying people can buy their way to heaven. However, he is calling his followers to simplify their lives and leverage their time, and wealth for the sake of people in need (Matthew 19:21; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). When his followers, with pure motives (Matthew 6:1-4), do good, are rich in good deeds, are generous and willing to share with the marginalized, they will be laying up treasures in heaven.

Jesus goes on to say wherever our treasures and wealth are, our whole selves will be entwined with them. This verse becomes a gracious mirror in which we can see where our hearts really are. Jesus is warning us against being totally earthbound at the neglect of eternal values.

So, how can we determine today if we are pursuing wealth at the expense of God? How can we understand where our hearts really are? I believe the following questions can help us:

What occupies my thoughts and daydreams when I have nothing else to do?
What do I fret about most?
Apart from my immediate family, who or what do I most dread losing?
What are the things I measure others by?
What is it that we know we cannot be happy without?

Let’s pray about and determine how much is enough and release the rest to build the kingdom and help others find the real treasure: Jesus.