Author Archives: John Stone

Peacemakers • Devotion #2: The Gift of Peace

In 1847, the Texas Rangers placed an order with an American inventor, Samuel Colt, for 1,000 repeating pistols to help arm the Rangers in their mission of defending the citizens of Texas. He accepted the order and invented a standardized process through which a six-shot revolver, named “The Peacemaker,” could be quickly and inexpensively produced. For the first time, weapons of this type were affordable for the average person, and it changed American culture forever. There is a saying: “God made men. Sam Colt made them equal.” Although an intriguing bit of history, this is not the peacemaker Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5:9 when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

In this verse, like the other Beatitudes, Jesus is defining characteristics of regenerated, Spirit-led lives, not specific actions with their corresponding rewards. God is the ultimate peacemaker, and if we, who claim the name of Christ, are to be called “sons of God,” we should be recognizable by traits that resemble those of our Father. To be a person who seeks peace involves far more than simply wishing that wars would end, politics were civilized, and people could get along. It is a way of life, evidence of regeneration. Galatians 5:22-23 includes peace in a famous list, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

It is indelibly woven through our relationships and interactions with others. We must have an inner peace that is secure and unshakeable despite our circumstances, a rock-solid foundation that can endure (Luke 6:47-48). This kind of inner peace is a gift from God that is reserved for His children (Romans 5:1). When we have this strong foundation built on Christ it provides true security and only then can we reach out to others with genuine offers of peace. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Romans 12:18 adds, ”If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

In order to truly seek peace with others, we must genuinely love and want what is best for them. This is easier said than done. People (including you and me) are hard, selfish, obstinate, vengeful, angry, opinionated, and the list goes on (Romans 1:28-32). It is very difficult to love people even for those who are closest to them. Jesus takes this idea to another level in Matthew 5:43-45 when He says, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” This truly is a monumental task Jesus is laying out! Not only should we love our neighbor, which can be hard enough, but also our enemies! We cannot do this in and of ourselves in our own strength. Fortunately, God has made it possible through His Spirit to truly pray for our enemies and seek good things for them. This is nothing less than a miracle, a gift of the Holy Spirit to believers, and by it, we are known as children of our Father.

The moment sin entered the world, sides were drawn in a rebellion that, in one sense, has yet to reach its conclusion. On one side is the holy, just, sovereign Creator God who cannot allow sin in His presence (Psalm 5:4-6). On the other side are the rebellious descendants of Adam, created from dirt, sinful, fallen, broken, and desperate, with their middle fingers to the sky blaspheming their Creator’s name while pretending He does not exist. The Almighty, although without any need, secure in Himself, reached out first to those who were His enemies with an offer of peace they did not deserve (Romans 5:8-10). He did more than just offer peace, He made peace, satisfying the just demands of His perfection by sacrificing His own Son. Jesus suffered the penalty and died in the place of His enemies (including you and me), making a way for them to have true peace with God. Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” This ultimate gift of peace with God is freely extended to any who will accept it (John 3:16).

So, how does all this apply to our practical everyday lives as believers? Why is it important to have a foundation of peace that our life is built upon? Why must we love people including our enemies? Why should we work hard and press toward peace with everyone? The answer is the Gospel! The motivation for all that we do should come from a desire to glorify God and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world around us.

How can we effectively do that when we are angry, argumentative, and unapproachable? How can we be ambassadors of the peace our Father offers when our lives are in chaos, when a trial or persecution sends us plummeting in a tailspin of faith? We need to perform an audit on our lives and relationships and ask God to reveal the things that need to be set right: with Him, within ourselves, or with other people. If we need to make peace, let us not wait. If we need to forgive, we should do it today. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us to do the humanly impossible, and demonstrably show Christ’s love and peace to a desperate world. Then we will truly be called “sons [and daughters] of God.”

Mourn • Devotion #3: Groaning

”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

About 606,500 Americans are projected to die from cancer in 2020,

Over 300,000 children are trafficked across international borders each year, the majority into the sex trade,

There were 227,000 dead in minutes during a massive earthquake and resulting tsunami in Thailand in 2004,

One in eight Americans are alcoholics while ten percent of people in the world are starving,

About 800,000 Rwandans hacked each other to death by machete in 1994,

There have been 61.8 million unborn babies murdered by U.S. government-sanctioned abortion since 1973,

There were 782,000 divorces in the U.S. last year,

There are 78.1 million visits to pornography websites every single day.

Have you considered the magnitude of the brokenness, the depth of deprivation, and how nauseatingly sinful the world we live in actually is (Romans 3:10-18)? Rarely are any of us exposed to the horror of mass murder or the devastation of natural disasters. However, as believers, we should all feel the effect of sin in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We are witnesses now to the groaning and agony of a fallen creation that is longing for God to lift the curse and make it new. How should we as Christians be affected by this and, more importantly, how should we live?

First, we should be affected. The oppression of sin weighing on both our spirits and our physical bodies is a constant reminder of our and the world’s need for Jesus Christ. The sin in our own lives that drags us down, marginalizing our effectiveness for the Gospel, should leave us heartbroken and repentant but many times we feel nothing. Why would you and I spit in the face of our Savior and feel nothing?

Second, we are told to weep with those around us who are suffering loss and share in their pain (Romans 12:15). God did not give us His Spirit so that we would walk through life self-absorbed and distracted. The outworking of the Spirit produces empathy for broken hurting people who need to hear the Gospel.

Most importantly, we need to realize that as a result of man’s sin, it was God who subjected His creation to futility and death as the consequence of that sin (Genesis 3:14-18; Romans 8:18-24). This is a comforting reality for us if we can trust that He did it for a reason that is righteous and just and that He is in total sovereign control. There is hope! It is the hope that in the end God will redeem creation and make all things, including us, new and perfect. Christians have unique knowledge and responsibility that God has given us to share this hope that can be found through the Gospel. It is the only hope for a world that is facing inevitable suffering, atrocities, and death (Luke 13:1-5).

May we live with an acute awareness of our sinful tendencies and mourn because we willfully fail our Savior every day. Let us not sidestep our calling to weep with our brothers and sisters and share in their grief and suffering. May we not be distracted by the numbing effects of our American culture and underestimate how broken and desperate for the Gospel the world is. Yet, let us mourn in hope and live joyfully (2 Corinthians 6:10), because although we are still waiting, God has already given us the greatest blessing in salvation through Jesus Christ and has promised to make all things new.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves,

who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,

groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons,

the redemption of our bodies.”

Romans 8:23

Reach • Devotion #1: John Stone’s Testimony

I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home. My parents sacrificed to make sure we were at church on Sunday, Awana on Wednesdays, and later, youth group every week. I was a typical “good” church kid. I had the right friends and did not get into trouble. Looking back, this was a very dangerous position in which to be. 

I do not remember how old I was or who was speaking the night I gave my life to Christ, but I can vividly remember the overwhelming need to be right with God like a massive weight pressing down on me. Until that night, nobody had ever told me there was even a possibility that God could be angry with me or that I could die in my sins. I was on a self-righteous religious road to Hell. I thank God for reaching down and rescuing me from myself and from a life of futility. I praise Him for His undeserved grace and for allowing me to be one of His children. 

Colossians 1:10-14 has become a very special passage to me, “So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #3: Am I Saved?

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

Am I saved? This is the foundational question of the Christian faith. Our Heavenly Father has graciously made the Gospel message simple enough for a child to understand and believe: We are all sinners (Romans 3:10-18; Psalm 51:3-5) and have failed to meet the standard set by the infinitely holy and perfect God of the universe (Isaiah 43:11-13). Because of our rebellious sinful condition, we face God’s judgment and infinite punishment for that sin. However, God made a way through His Son to be a substitute for helpless sinners. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and died on a cross (Psalm 47:15; Romans 3:26) taking the Father’s wrath, our punishment, on Himself (Isaiah 53:4-6). Christ rose from the dead after three days as prophesied and later ascended to Heaven (Luke 18:32-33, Psalm 16:10-11) making a way for those who would believe to have eternal life (John 3:16; 17:2). Amen! This is good news! 

So, how do we test ourselves? How can we know that we are “in the faith” as the text says? The evidence of saving faith is not a one-time event but a transformed life. 

A repeat-after-me prayer, an aisle walked, or a membership card signed may bring a temporary feeling of belonging and security but is there evidence of a changed life and the Holy Spirit’s leading (Galatians 5:22-24; Romans 8:9)?

Each week we may check off a list of spiritual things, maybe even biblical things, with the hope that it will make God approve of us, but to what end? Works cannot save. God does not need anything from us (Psalm 50:7-15; Acts 17:24-25). Instead of the mirage of self-reliance, we need to recognize our total dependence on Him. He is the Creator and sustainer of all things (Job 12:10; John 1:2-3; Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 136) and we need to live a life of humble thankfulness glorifying and relying on Him completely. There is no list of spiritual achievements or self-promotion that will impress or gain favor with God. There were no men more religious than the Pharisees but it was the tax collector who recognized God’s holiness, repented of his sin, and went home justified (Luke 18:10-14; Habakkuk 3:2; Romans 4:5).

Do we submit to Christ as King not only of our Sunday morning but as King and Lord of our daily lives (Colossians 1:16)? When life is hard and the world seems to be falling apart, do we pause and remember that nothing happens in the universe except by God’s direct action or explicit permission (Job 1:12; Matthew 10:29-30)? Panic and worry will be exchanged for rest in the knowledge that God causes all things, good and bad, to happen for His glory and the ultimate benefit of His children (Romans 8:28; Psalm 24:1).

Abraham was counted righteous when he believed God’s promise that He would miraculously give him innumerable descendants despite his own inability. His faith was proven when he was willing, knife raised, to kill Isaac, the heir of promise, knowing that God was able to even raise him from the dead if necessary to fulfill that promise (Genesis 15:5-6; Romans 4:3).

Do we believe what God has said, and if so, are we living like it(James 2:14-26)? Are we trusting that He is able to keep us from losing faith, and at the end of our life, bring us home into eternal joy in the glory of His presence (Jude 1:24-25; Romans 8:30)?

The faith we are told to rest in, live by, and be in, is not faith in anything we have ever done or will ever do. It is evidence-based, Spirit-sustained, and works-producing faith founded on knowing God, believing what He says, and then putting it into action. We need to repent of our sinful self-reliance, humbly fall at our Creator’s feet, and beg for mercy. We need to rely on God completely in everything. Our life should be a reflection of reality; that it is God who created all, sustains all, and will carry all things through to completion. When our last hours come we need to be able to die confidently, knowing that it is far better to depart and be with Christ than to live a hundred or a thousand more years in this sinful body (1 John 2:15-17; Philippians 1:23).

He has always been faithful (Psalm 34:8; 119:90). He has always done what He said He would do (Isaiah 46:9-13), and He always will. 

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

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