The Heart of Risk

Read:

“So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; . . .” Acts 15:30


Reflect:

We do what we believe, everything else is just religious talk. The depth of our personal faith is revealed in what we are willing to risk for expansion of His Kingdom. True relationship is manifested whenever we place Christ ahead of our comfort and concerns. 


If we were to ask Paul how he defined total commitment and absolute surrender to Christ, he might answer, a true disciple is one who's bet his or her whole life that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and who has staked all on their friendship with God. 


When we play it safe, our faith atrophies and eventually dies out. So then, the surest way to measure the strength of our faith is by determining what are we willing to give up for the sake of Christ. Nothing else reveals it as clearly as our willingness to sacrifice for His sake. Every other expression of our faith falls short.


Faith is not revealed in our eagerness or enthusiasm, they are momentary emotions. It is not revealed in our doctrine or theology, those are an exercise of academia. It is not revealed in church attendance, that’s a matter of self-discipline. In fact, all of these may mean nothing at all. 


The New Testament teaches that the heart of faith is risk. In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the heroes and heroines are honored for their risk to launch out and trust God without reservation. The hall of faith in the book of Hebrews reiterates there’s no reward without risky faith. By faith they toppled kingdoms, made justice work. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage into advantage, won battles, and routed armies.


The greats undertook great tasks, they faced uncertainty as to the outcome. In simple God-fearing trust, they set their vessels out into uncharted waters and trusted their souls to God. They held fast to the promise that God’s eyes are on those who trust Him. Now it’s your turn.


Respond:

How would you describe your faith? 


Burden of Proof

Read:

“. . . they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them . . .” Acts 15:12 


Reflect:

We do what works, because what we do works. Our old tried and true, life-long established practices have a long, strong claim upon us. The tried way seems the best way until it is proven otherwise.  Then status quo holds on until something breaks.


Such was the tension that existed between the old entrenched practice of the law and the new way of the Christianity. When a system like the law had dominated people’s lives, the practice of faithfulness to God could not so easily be tossed on the scrap heap without considerable proof from the Christ followers that it had a worthy successor. 


After all what match was the way of Christ to the well-worn proven way of the law? The new way of Christ ran against everything the law espoused. It innocently trusted in the power of love and renounced everything that was contrary to love. What chance did Christianity have in a world of violence?


The burden of proof rested on the followers of the new way. They didn't argue with the old ways of the past. They simply told what had happened as they preached the gospel to the people. They shifted the argument from theoretical to the vivid accounts of those who had seen God work miracles through the preaching of the gospel, and how it had brought life to those who had long given up all hope of life. 


The message they preached is the same we need to be reminded of today. This is not a matter for formulaic discussion in the same way we discuss the weather or mathematics. This is a matter of life and death. Through the Holy Spirit something is taking place in the lives of people. The movement of God can’t be hamstrung by ceremonial laws, however useful they once were. It must be given room to grow. This is the life of God come to dwell among us. It is free like a gift and it is for all. 


Respond:

Write an email or send a text telling someone about what God means to you and how He has changed your life.

Vast!

In an age where everyone has distinguished themselves with a personal brand, where corporations work to advance their corporate brand, they spend billions on tag lines, mission statements and catch phrases. They do this all in hopes that you will buy what they are selling. The church, however, is not a brand or strategy to be bought and sold. The church's defining mark, its sole motivation, is wrapped up in one word – LOVE. “And they shall know us by our love.” It is why we worship, it's why we care, it's why we plant churches, so that others will know the love of Christ. This week’s devos drill down on the topic of love. It's our prayer that you soak it in, and live it out. Also, let others know about our daily devos.

Read:

“As the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9-12


Reflect:

You have a choice. No one has to get caught in fruitless searches which lead only to entanglement. Neither do you have become a victim of the manipulative ways of the world, or get trapped in addiction. You can choose true love and freedom.  


Jesus invites us to abide in His love. To do so, however, we must take the uncharted plunge, we must surrender to Him as our Lord. While this may sound frightening to some people, the truth is that as we surrender ourselves more and more to Jesus as our Lord, we become more alive than we ever thought possible.


The love of the Father is a vast, wide, deep, immeasurable love that exceeds all knowledge and can never be fully taken in or grasped by the mind. All one can do is continually abide in Him, ever becoming a personal lover of God by learning to loiter in God’s love and enjoying it in our lives.


Jesus found His own deep joy in the love of the Father. We find abundant life only in Christ, by surrendering to Him. For many of us, however, surrender is difficult. We have always fought to win, own, or control things, and we like being in charge of our lives. Nevertheless, Jesus wants us to surrender to Him.


Respond:

What is holding you back? What battle scars can you point to that reinforce your stubbornness to keep fighting? Tired warrior, it is time to surrender to Jesus. Come now to Him and cast your burdens upon Him. Doing so will free you to live the way God truly created you to live.

A Higher Degree of Love

In an age where everyone has distinguished themselves with a personal brand, where corporations work to advance their corporate brand, they spend billions on tag lines, mission statements and catch phrases. They do this all in hopes that you will buy what they are selling. The church, however, is not a brand or strategy to be bought and sold. The church's defining mark, its sole motivation, is wrapped up in one word – LOVE. “And they shall know us by our love.” It is why we worship, it's why we care, it's why we plant churches, so that others will know the love of Christ. This week’s devos drill down on the topic of love. It's our prayer that you soak it in, and live it out. Also, let others know about our daily devos.


Read:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35


Reflect:

The cross was never meant to be a shiny, gold, diamond-encrusted fashion accessory to complement an ensemble, or a signal of personal wealth. If this were the only requirement for discipleship, then anyone can do it. The true mark of a Christian is love for others.


Jesus’ new commandment was a new way of loving. The commandment of the Old Testament said, “Love your neighbor,” but the New said, “Love your enemies.” It called for a higher degree of love. This heavenly declaration was designed to be obeyed in a new way – through divine power made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit.


Jesus’ commandment to love one another as He loves us is very challenging. Sometimes people are not very lovable, or they do outrageous and malicious things. What about the hard to love? Are we supposed to love them?


In order to obey this commandment, we must love indiscriminately, just as Jesus loves. We are to love the people He puts in our family, our neighborhood, our church, our workplace, and our lives.


God can help us love when we ask Him to enable us to see past people’s attitudes or behaviors, to see people as God sees them. In response to this prayer, God can make it much easier for us to love people through our prayers, actions, and words. After all, we have been commanded to love and not to judge other people.


Respond:

Examine yourself. Are you showing love to others? Are you at the point where you can pray for people whom others have judged or shunned? 


The Marvel of Being With Jesus

In an age where everyone has distinguished themselves with a personal brand, where corporations work to advance their corporate brand, they spend billions on tag lines, mission statements and catch phrases. They do this all in hopes that you will buy what they are selling. The church, however, is not a brand or strategy to be bought and sold. The church's defining mark, its sole motivation, is wrapped up in one word – LOVE. “And they shall know us by our love.” It is why we worship, it's why we care, it's why we plant churches, so that others will know the love of Christ. This week’s devos drill down on the topic of love. It's our prayer that you soak it in, and live it out. Also, let others know about our daily devos.

Read:

“For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:20-21


Reflect:

To find the passionate life we must be affected by the love of the Father the way Jesus was. We must engage in His experience with our lives and not just memories and theory. Jesus didn't act independent of God. He only does the things He sees the Father doing. There is a continual contemplation of the Father by the Son – an uninterrupted communion.


In return, the Father loves the Son. There's a continuing of love, His love never ceases. Love always gives. Love does not withhold. Jesus’ actions and ours are not to come from positive human motivation, but from encountering His love.


The Father enjoys revealing things to us as we draw near to Him. He delights in seeing our eyes widen with excitement as we learn from Him. As we go further into our relationship with Him, we gain an even greater view of the Lord in all His majesty and splendor, glory and power and love.


Imagine being with Jesus when He spoke the words of this verse. Would you have marveled at hearing that God wants to show you even “greater works”? Would you have considered yourself worthy of this honor?


Jesus said that God raises the dead and gives them life. The marvel is we all were dead in our sinfulness, but through Christ, we are forgiven and born again. Through Jesus and by God’s grace, we receive new life.


Respond:

Knowing this, do away with any thoughts that you are unworthy. You are God’s new creation, and He delights in revealing Himself to you. He pours His life into you daily, and He longs for you to walk through life with Him. Enjoy the day and look forward to what your loving God has for you.


Choose to Love

In an age where everyone has distinguished themselves with a personal brand, where corporations work to advance their corporate brand, they spend billions on tag lines, mission statements and catch phrases. They do this all in hopes that you will buy what they are selling. The church, however, is not a brand or strategy to be bought and sold. The church's defining mark, its sole motivation, is wrapped up in one word – LOVE. “And they shall know us by our love.” It is why we worship, it's why we care, it's why we plant churches, so that others will know the love of Christ. This week’s devos drill down on the topic of love. It's our prayer that you soak it in, and live it out. Also, let others know about our daily devos.


Read:

“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16


Reflect:

The greater part of God’s work may go totally unnoticed. Much of God’s saving work may be done in obscurity of abiding in Him. This mystery is difficult to grasp in a time when notoriety and celebrating are everything. We tend to believe the more people know and talk about something, the more important it must be. The more hits and likes we get, the more significant we are.


Today’s verse makes this truth crystal clear – “God is love.” This fact is manifest in the life of Jesus, in the beauty of God’s creation, in the immensity of the universe, and in the stars in the heavens. From the tiniest flower to the tallest trees, God’s power is made real for us all.


If we choose to love, then we abide in God and He in us. We should let this truth capture our hearts. We live in an often brutal, heartless world where some governments thwart the dreams, if not take the lives, of their citizens. With God abiding in us, though, we can face any situation with courage, we can find the strength to overcome it, and we can choose to love.


We also see in this verse that God abides in us. Here, abide means “to dwell within” or “to live within.” Therefore, we see that as we abide in God, He abides in us. In other words, He will never leave nor forsake us! We will never be alone.


Though we may be a basket of paradoxes of faith and doubt, love and hate, hope and despair, admit both your good and bad sides to Him. You're not loved because you’re good, you're loved because of the goodness of God. 


Respond:

Today, recognize the Lord of love who dwells within you. Meditate upon His love. Then think about a situation when you felt completely alone, and ask the Lord to help you see where He was during that time.