Devotions

Category Archives: 1V1

Grow • Devotion #4: Thank You, Coach

When I was in high school, I went to a small Christian school. In my senior year, we got a new basketball coach. Our coach happened to be the superintendent’s husband, but that did not matter to all of us on the team. To us, he was just the new guy who was our coach. I cannot remember how exactly it started, but all of us began calling him “Coach.” We would do it at practice, throughout the school day, and even in the psychology class that he taught. He was always just “Coach.” However, I have to admit, he was not the best basketball coach. We went on to lose every single basketball game that season, which, sadly, was not out of the ordinary for my school. 

Coach always seemed to like me. He appointed me and another senior as the captains of the team. However, it went beyond that. Coach always took opportunities to go out of his way to encourage me, to lovingly call me out when I was falling short, and to praise the abilities and giftings that God had placed in me. He pushed me to do things I never thought I was capable of doing. While those are all good things that I am thankful for, the reason I tell you this is that Coach still does those things to this day. When I preach, he watches the video and is one of the first people to encourage me in the giftings God has given me. A relationship that began as a basketball coach and player has become a discipleship where he continually points me to Christ. I had no idea when I graduated that Coach would still be in my life seven years later. He saw something in me and has stuck by my side this whole time. 

In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, the Apostle Paul is writing to his protégé, Timothy. Speaking of enduring hardships, he says, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” He does not tell Timothy to look to his own strength, but to be strengthened by the grace that is found in Christ Jesus. Paul understood that Timothy could not endure hardship or preach the Gospel on his own. So, Paul told him to entrust the Gospel message to faithful men who would teach it. In the church today, so many Christians are so caught up in themselves that they miss the incredible opportunity to entrust the Gospel message to people younger than themselves. If you are a follower of Christ, have you ever entrusted the Gospel to someone younger than yourself? Have you seen gifting in someone and encouraged them in it, then stuck by them?I am so thankful that Coach saw something in me and has stuck by me as I learn what it means to be a follower of Christ! Thank you, Coach!

Grow• Devotion #3: Motives

Have you ever tried to do something nice for someone and they question your motives by asking you the question; “What is in it for you?”

How does that make you feel?

If you are like me, it makes me feel like they do not trust my motives. It is like they believe I must be getting something out of this, or I would not be willing to do something for them. All too often this is how people respond, and I am sure if we were ready to admit it, we too have reacted in this way. 

The Apostle Paul had a great love for the believers that lived in the city of Corinth and he was ready to give all he had, both monetarily and physically, for their benefit. However, they were unwilling to unconditionally accept Paul’s love and accused him of having an alternative motive. It is as if they were saying, “No one does that! What is in it for you?”

In 2 Corinthians 12:15, we read, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” This statement by Paul is small in length but great in love.

First, Paul says he will “gladly spend and be spent.” The word “spend” is translated from the Greek work dapanaō which means to expend and to incur a cost (in a good sense), or to waste (in a bad one). Likewise, the clause “be spent” derives its meaning from ĕkdapanaō which means to expend (wholly), exhaust, or spend.

So, what is Paul saying? He is saying that it brings him great pleasure to incur costs or to completely exhaust himself and his resources for the benefit of the Corinthian believers. Please notice that his labors were not just to ensure that they would live a comfortable life, but that their souls would reap the benefit of his efforts. Certainly, Paul’s concern for those he loved could include the salvation of their souls, but it is also likely that he is also investing in the growth of their souls as well. There were many vices that the young Corinthian believers needed to repent from and grow out of and Paul was willing to “gladly spend and be spent” to help them get there.

Can we say the same of ourselves? 

Can you think of someone you know that is struggling as they grow in their faith? 

What can we do to help them? 

Chances are, we will incur costs. It may cost us some of our time, resources, or both. The possibility exists that they may not even understand our motive and ask us the question, “What is in it for you?”

Nevertheless, do we love others enough to “spend and be spent” for the growth of their soul? 

Paul did it, and he did it “gladly.”

Grow • Devotion #2: Breath of Fresh Air

“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.”1 Thessalonians 4:1

Having tough conversations with people is hard. It is something that none of us enjoy doing, but something that we will all have to do in our lives. The majority of Paul’s letters in Scripture are him having tough conversations with different churches. He is explaining to them how what they are doing is wrong, how they are disobeying the Lord, and how they forgot what he had taught them. The list could go on and on. However, this verse, what a breath of fresh air it must have been for Paul to write this verse. He gets to write to them and tell them, “Hey! You guys are following after the Lord, keep doing it!” I can imagine him sitting there celebrating that they were growing spiritually. 

I am sure that when Paul first started teaching the Thessalonians there were some hard conversations that he had to have with them, but eventually, they got it and their relationship with the Lord started to grow in an incredible way. As believers, we should all have people in our lives that we are investing in by showing them the way that the Bible teaches us to live our lives. Those conversations are not always going to be easy, but my prayer is that they eventually will lead to true growth in that person’s life. There are so many things that I still struggle with in my walk with the Lord, but there are definitely things too that people who invested in my spiritual growth can look back at and say, “Hey, good job! Keep doing what you are doing.” I am so thankful for that. We have to have tough conversations, but those many times can lead to an incredible celebration of growth in someone’s life.

Also, I am sure Paul could have started his letter off by pointing out some sins that the Thessalonians were still struggling with, after all, it is not like they were perfect, but instead, he takes the opportunity to encourage them and celebrate how they are walking after the Lord. We need to take this example and apply it to our close Christian relationships. Encourage one another. Tell someone that you see how they love the Lord, and encourage them to keep after it! You never know when someone may be in need of some spiritual encouragement, so be looking for opportunities to share that encouragement when you can. One on one discipleship can be as simple as an encouraging word from one believer to another.

Grow • Devotion #1: Mirror Jesus

If you are familiar with the New Testament in your Bible, you have heard of Jesus’ disciples. The four gospel books center around Jesus and the twelve men who dropped everything to follow Him. They started their walk with Jesus as uneducated, ordinary men, and eleven of them ended their lives completely transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. God used them to help spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. He used them to write down His words that have miraculously stayed preserved through millennia. Jesus also used His last spoken words to His disciples before ascending to Heaven with a command for them to go out and make more disciples, “teaching them to observe all that He had commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). Discipleship is not only important, but it is necessary. 

Much like the disciples of Jesus, our spiritual lives should have similarities in how they begin and end. Before we meet Jesus, we are spiritually blind and dead. However, when He saves us, we are brought to new life! We leave our baggage behind, He opens our eyes to the things of God, and seals us with His Helper (the Holy Spirit). From there, we begin our journey walking with Jesus. Friends, it is a journey. Even though God wipes our sin-filled slate perfectly clean upon salvation, that does not mean we will be 100% perfected the instant we are spiritually reborn. It is a process of purification – growing and becoming more like Christ, and it is called sanctification. We are called to constantly and consistently renew our minds through Scripture; after all, if Jesus is our master and teacher, and we are His disciples, there is no better way to learn than to read and follow His Word! When we let His teachings flow through us and change the way we think, act, and react, we will become more like Christ, and we please our Heavenly Father. As followers of Jesus, He needs to be the number one authority over our lives. He is our teacher, we are His disciples. If this is not true in your life, you need to stop right now and fix that. If you have truly given your life to the Lord, He has to be #1 in your life. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I am not saying it is easy – the Bible tells us that we have to die to our flesh daily. Like the 12 men who originally followed Jesus, we also have to “drop our nets,” leave the world behind, and follow Him. It is not an easy road but it leads to unimaginable joy and blessing. I encourage you to stop right now and ask God to realign your heart to His ways and His plans. You will not regret it!

Once we have the God-first priority aligned and well-practiced, it is important to realize that it should not end there. The awesome thing about the global Church is that we have so many spiritual brothers and sisters who share the same heart and desires as us. God has given every one of His children unique and specific gifting and talents to use to help build up the body of Christ (the Church) and to reach the world. If you are a new believer, it is so important that you find a trusted and wise man or woman who can help disciple you in the ways of Christ and the teaching of His Word. The Bible alone is surely sufficient for our growth, but God also provides people to help. The apostle Paul is a great example of this. He wrote much of the New Testament, which is comprised of letters written to different churches throughout the Middle East and Asia, as well as letters to specific people. Throughout all of them, Paul encourages, teaches, builds up, and lovingly corrects when things are not looking so good. God specifically equipped Paul to disciple and teach countless men and women in His ways. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul closes with this statement, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Paul spent time with these people. Mirroring Jesus, he taught them in word and action. He was not asking them to practice the things and actions of himself, but of Jesus. He ends with quite a promise – if you take what you learn about Jesus by hearing and receiving, and then put it into practice, God’s peace will be with you. Yes, Lord! I want Your peace! I encourage you, no matter how “seasoned” of a believer you are, to find someone who can help you in your growth process. There is no limit to spiritual growth and intimacy with the Lord! It is a wonderful, life-long journey! If you need help finding a wise and trusted teacher and mentor, please reach out to us. We would love to help connect you!By now you might be thinking that the process is coming to its end, but guess what, there is one more step! Looking again to Matthew chapter 28, Jesus tells His disciples that it is now their job to go out and make more disciples. That command was not just for them, but for us as well. Once you have become a disciple of Jesus, it is so important that you learn and practice God’s ways so that you can be sanctified, purified, and look more like your Savior. That will bring great joy to your life. Yet, do not just leave it at that. Take what you have learned and go find someone else to help! Guide them through the Bible and show them how it has transformed your life! If every believer in the world took to this process (growing, learning, and then passing that to someone else) it would be an endless and extremely powerful chain. This command is not just for the pastors and leaders of your church. It is for every believer! 

Gather • Devotion #6: Decisions

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1

On any given day, it is estimated that the average adult makes approximately 35,000 remotely conscious decisions. Researchers at Cornell University estimate that we make 226.7 decisions each day on food alone.

The decisions we make in a given day vary on a scale of importance and impact. Choosing to set (or not set) your alarm, what we choose to eat, which route you take to work, and many more decisions impact us and carry varying levels of “consequences.” 

If you are anything like me, most of these decisions (quite possibly all) are run through a filter of, “How does this impact me?” It is helpful to peel back another layer; I would also venture to say that I (we) will favor whichever side of decisions that favors us more, or “costs” us less (and I am not just talking strictly about money). I am not here to say that this thought process is inherently evil, but I would say that it is human nature. 

If you think of yourself as a “nice, good or thoughtful” person, I would hope that a handful of your approximately 35,000 daily decisions are done for the good of others. I mean, Jesus did list “loving your neighbor as yourself” as the second greatest commandment. Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind makes for a great start (ok, the best start), but there is more that we are called to do.

Jesus got right to the point when He challenged the disciples (and us) with these words recorded by Luke and Matthew, also known as “The Great Commission.” “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).

These words challenge our very human nature, the sometimes subconscious and sometimes conscious tendencies or instinct to put ourselves first. We are called to deny ourselves daily, tending to the neighbors at our right and our left. He continues in the next verse, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

This goes against the very framework of our flawed selfish nature. You mean I have to give up my life in order to save my soul? That is a little more than just a monetary cost! 

In closing, I would like to leave you with the idea that decisions are not made as a result of a process of the mind, but rather of the heart. When it comes to the decisions that we make each day, who is it that we are choosing to serve? Then if and when we do choose to serve our neighbors, what are our intentions? These might be tough questions to reflect on or to answer. Jesus is calling us to first love Him with everything we have, and secondly to love our neighbor as we would ourselves. In reality, these are the first two decisions that we face each and every day. 



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