Devotions

Author Archives: John Stone

Lesson Fourteen • Devotion #1: Given to Give

What do you have that was not given to you?

This can be a startling question. Without a deeper examination of our lives, we could assume there are a lot of things we have earned, made, or deserve. Many times I have found myself feeling possessive of things that I think belong to me. It can be things like my truck, my house, my savings, my job, my wife, my kids, my time, or my achievements. Not only is this selfish litany extremely prideful, but it is also ignorant of, and insulting to, the One who has given me all things. 

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, Paul gives a call for believers to give liberally of their resources, time, and money. This is a common theme throughout the Bible and it is one that causes anxiety and stress for many pastors and Christians alike. There is a key paradigm shift in our thinking that must be made in order for us to, not only be obedient and cheerful givers, but to be grateful receivers as well. We are called to give (sow, plant) and there is a promise of reward (verse 6).  How much should we give? We should give whatever we feel led to as long as we do not feel forced or unhappy about it (verse 7). This generosity is not to be a source of personal pride. 

God gives us the grace and the ability to do good to others (verses 8-9). Not only does He give the ability and the grace but He provides the resources (seed), our food, and everything else we need so that we can continually give to others and never go without (verses 10-11). As a summary, God promises to supply whatever we need to give away (verse 11). That is an amazing promise! We need to stop and think about that for a minute. God promises to supply whatever we need to give away! 

How would our lives be different if we could truly understand and believe what God has promised us in His Word? What would we spend our time and money on if we believed that none of it is ours? It is all His and He wants us to give it away. May we ask God to give us faith to live in a way that gives Him the glory for what He has done. 

For a deeper study, see also:

John 1:1-3

Acts 17:24-28

Hebrews 1:1-3

Matthew 6:1-4

Matthew 19:16-26

Matthew 25:1-46

Luke 12:16-21

Luke 19:12-27

James 1:5

James 5:1-6

Galatians 5:13-14

Galatians 6:7-10

Ephesians 2:10

Malachi 3:10

Lesson Six • Devotion #5: The Veil has been Lifted

There is no moment in life more stirring than when a father walks his daughter down the aisle, lifts her veil, and presents her to the man who is to be her husband. Lifting the veil is symbolic of the permission being given by the father for the groom to know her, to love her, to really see her for the first time. They are now free to join their lives together and live as one.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul is writing to remind the Corinthian church that the Gospel he preached to them is glorious, freeing, and alive. It is so much more glorious than what he calls the old covenant of the Law, “the ministry of death.” The attempt at keeping the Law never saved anyone, only condemned them. Romans 3:19-20 explains that the Law was intended to show people their sinfulness and inability to please God. We are completely inadequate through our own efforts to be righteous. Without God’s intervention, we are condemned already (John 3:18). However, for the believer, there is Good News! Jeremiah 31:33 says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The end of verse 34 adds, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God, through the work of Christ, has lifted the veil that used to blind our hearts and has made us alive by His Spirit. Instead of condemnation leading to death by a law written on stones, we have been given Christ’s righteousness and are being transformed by the Spirit living inside us. What an amazing God we have! Where once we were separated, God has now revealed Himself so we can really know Him. We can have a real relationship with the only Living God, the Creator, and the Sustainer of the universe. Psalm 46:6 says that He raises His voice, and the mountains melt! He removes kings and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21). He speaks, and the dead are brought back to life! This is our God who desires that we truly know Him and, through knowing Him, glorify, and love Him because of what He has done.

We can live today and every day with God at the center of our lives. We can dive deep into His Word. God speaks to us through the Bible so that we can understand what He is like, what He wants, and how we can please Him. We are loved by an all-powerful righteous God who desires that we know Him on a personal level. The more we allow His Word to work in us and through us by the Spirit, the more we will be transformed from one degree of glory to another until the day the veil of this life is lifted, and we see Him face to face.

Reach • Devotion #4: Ready to suffer

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5 

Imagine for a moment that God Himself appeared to you, led you to a seat, and gave you a private screening of your future. Nervousness grows into anxiety and anxiety to fear, fear to horror as time after time you see yourself laughed at, spit on, punched in the face, whipped, beaten with wooden rods, smashed with rocks until unconscious, and eventually, after years of imprisonment, executed.  

The Apostle Paul, the writer of the letters to Timothy, knew what it would cost him to follow Christ; he was shown his suffering in advance (Acts 9:16). Each city he traveled to held another beating, more mocking, and ridicule. However, it also held more people that needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 18:9-10) and that was more important to him than avoiding pain and suffering. By faith, he pressed forward. 

Like Paul, we as followers of Christ have been called to suffer for His cause and to make Him known to an unbelieving world. When Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24) we can know in advance what is coming. We will be ostracized by our family (Mark 10:29), endure ridicule, mocking, and slander (Matthew 5:11), lose our homes, possessions (Hebrews 10:34), and even our lives (Romans 8:36). Beyond these physical things, we are trapped in sinful bodies as part of a broken, fallen world. Our spirits are oppressed by the corruption that surrounds and the sin that so easily ensnares us. We long for our Creator to make things right.  

Yet, God did not just leave us to suffer with no hope. In His mercy, He also revealed the wonderful result if we trust in His promises and persevere to the end: life unending in glorified bodies, free from sinfulness, and forever in perfect fellowship with our Redeemer. 

Difficult times, persecution, and other hardships will come and we need not be unprepared. God has given us everything we need in His Word. May we never lose sight of our calling: Called by Christ to suffer but one day soon called home to be with Him. What a glorious day that will be!

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time 

are not worth comparing 

with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18

1 John 5 • Devotion #3: “That You May Know”

Am I really saved? This thought harasses even the most seasoned Christian. Our lives are filled with uncertainty and reminders that life is short. Too often, we fail, and along with guilt come feelings of inadequacy and fear that God will reject us. God knows that in our human frailty, we wrestle with these things, so He inspired the letter of 1 John, not to make us feel like failures but to encourage us. There are nine indicators throughout the book that we can look for in our own lives to give us the assurance that we have eternal life: 

Do we believe in the name of Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23)? Most would answer, “Yes! Of course, I do. I prayed when I was 6.” However, is our life distinguishable from the life of an unbeliever? Do we agree with the hard things Jesus taught? Is our hope based on what He promised to do?

As believers, God gives us His Spirit (1 John 4:13) to comfort us and give us peace. We can feel His guiding influence in our decision-making.

Do we strive to please God by following His commands (1 John 2:6)? Doing what He says should not be a compulsory action but a willing, joyful life of submission to the One who is worthy. His Word should not be a boring book filled with lists of “do’s and don’ts” but a window into the mind and character of the one true and living God, a book of promises that should fill us with hope. Are we walking in the light of Christ (1 John 1:6-7) seeing every obstacle, or are we stumbling in the dark tripping over addictions and distractions and wasted days? Are we grieved by our sin, knowing that it dishonors God? Do we confess (1 John 1:8-9) to Him with true repentance? Do we recognize that our flesh is sinful and plead with God to help us fight against our sin with the intention of violently destroying it, or do we claim grace over and over again with a live-let-live attitude? Do we truly love other believers (1 John 3:18) and demonstrate that love through serving and giving? Is a weekend spent with Christians an uplifting time of joy and encouragement, or is it so tedious that we cannot wait to get back to work, TV, or to our “real friends?” Do we love the things of this world (1 John 2:15) more than we love the things of God? Can we quote the interest rate of our investment account but have not memorized a Bible verse since we were in AWANA? Are our monies, talents, and time spent to further God’s eternal kingdom or our bottom line?

Lastly, have you been ridiculed, teased, avoided, or even assaulted because you are a Christian? The world hated Christ, and it should not come as a surprise that it hates His followers today (1 John 3:13). We should not want to just fit in or fly under the radar. The Bible says true Christians are lights in a dark world, a world that hates light.

God calls us to a life of self-sacrifice and love for others. Our greatest joy should be found in using the gifts He has given us to serve others and spread the Gospel of Christ to unbelievers. I challenge you to pray that He would break you of the love of worldly “stuff.” Pray that He would place you into the hard situation where you have to affirm or deny Christ, share your hope or stay quiet, and give or keep for yourself. If you do this, you will not be disappointed. God will answer so that you may know you have eternal life, overcome the fear of uncertainty, and walk confidently in His grace.

Testimony: John Stone

Testimony: John Stone
Operations

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”Romans 8:28-30

My life is a testimony to the faithful promises of God. I come from a broken Christian family that was involved in all the “right” things at church and avoided all the “wrong” things. I responded to the call of the Gospel as a kid at a Bible camp. I do not remember who preached, the date, or how old I was, but I remember praying that night for Christ to save me. Out on my own, God preserved me through many years of fruitless wandering. My wife and I were invited back to church, and I was baptized in 2006.

This probably reads like a cliché Christian testimony, but I know that given my opportunities to fail only God could have prevented me from making a disaster of my life.

As a selfish, sinful person who loves the things of this world and deserves immediate judgment, I am amazed that God would call me to be a part of His family and it is only by His grace that He keeps me. In hindsight, I can see Him guiding me through the years in what seemed at the time to be a series of fortunate events, but what was actually His sovereignty and grace preserving me.

God’s Word promises that He will justify and hold those that He called. By His strength, He will carry them to the end of their race. He has proven over and over that He is faithful and I know that He will keep His promises. Within the first full paragraph of Ephesians chapter 1, verses 5-6, we read, “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

My life verse comes from Job 19:25 (NASB), “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”



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