Sunday Devotional - Expecting the Lord

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
(Psalm 40:1-2)

In this verse of Psalm 40, the translation "wait patiently" is actually the Hebrew word, qwh. In other passages of the Bible (like Isaiah 64:3) it's translated as "expect."

This can bring in a whole new meaning for us. We're expecting Him. Expecting is very different in my mind from waiting patiently. Waiting patiently conjures up images of sitting in a waiting room. Not doing anything while we wait for the Lord. Twiddling thumbs. Playing games on our phones. Definitely not doing anything productive while we wait in case we miss it when our name gets called.

Expecting is a whole different thing.

If we're expecting God to come, we don't just think God might be coming. We KNOW He's coming. When we know that someone is coming, we wait for them differently. Some of us will watch the clock or look out the window, knowing our guest will be arriving at any time. This is so very different than sitting around, not knowing when our name might get called...or if it will be called at all.

When we're expecting company, we prepare for the arrival. If we're waiting on God, should we not prepare for His arrival, too? Reading His word prepares us, heart and soul, for receiving God's will when it comes to us. The better prepared we are, the less likely we are to miss it when God calls our name, too.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
(Psalm 130:5-6)

When children are waiting for Christmas (or their birthday) they count down the days. As the day draws near, hardly a minute goes by without them thinking about it, talking about it, and getting excited about it. It's so close they can almost feel it! Their whole being waits expectantly. Likewise, when a mother's due date draws near, she is more and more ready for the birth of her little one in much the same way.

If you've received a word from God and are waiting for its fulfillment, take a look at how you're handling the wait today. Are you expectant? Today my hope is that each of us will truly take God at His word, know that He is coming, and prepare for His arrival!

Sunday Devotional: Waiting and Waiting and Waiting upon the Lord

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 

He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
(Matthew 25:14-30)

There are times in our Christian walk when we have a vision of what God wants us to do, we know that it's His will, but we are waiting to see the manifestation of this vision in our lives. And waiting... and waiting. But what are we to do while we wait for the Lord?

In the parable of the talents, we see three servants who were given talents by their lord with no instructions on how to use them, no warning on how long the lord would be away, and no command on what the servants should do while he was gone. He didn't tell them this was a test. He didn't tell them there would be rewards or consequences.

Two of the servants used their talents and worked to make their lord more prosperous. And one buried his talent in the ground to protect it and then did his own thing. And when the lord came back, he rewarded the two and punished the one.

If we take this parable as an example of waiting upon the Lord, what should we do while we wait? Sitting around, watching Netflix, and scrolling Facebook don't seem like the best options - those would be akin to what the third servant did. The lord knew that this servant was prone to passivity and laziness, so he only gave him one talent at the start.

What God wants is for us to be growing His kingdom. He wants us to use the talents He's given us to know Him and to make Him known. These are the keys to growing the kingdom.

“This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent” 
(John 17:3).

“But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

So while we're waiting, God wants us to be productive. He wants us to draw closer to Him and get to know Him better through prayer and diligent study of His word. He wants us to rely upon Him while we battle our personal sins and tear down the strongholds that keep us from better, greater fellowship with Him. 

This creates our personal testimony. As we overcome the world and our flesh, we have a reason for our faith. People will see the changes in our lives and the things which set us apart from the rest of the word because of the deliverance to abundant life we have in Jesus. This is how we make Him known. More people are drawn to Christ from one person walking in freedom and fellowship with God than a million tracts. Our testimony and the blood of the Lamb are the two things that help us triumph over Satan:

 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
 (Revelation 12:11a)

So what kind of testimony did the third servant have? Since he buried his talent and spent his days doing as he felt, I doubt he had the kind of testimony that would bring glory to his lord. 

I desire the kind of testimony that brings God glory and greater honor. And I know this can only be done by overcoming the strongholds in my life and by relying completely upon God to tear them down. But it's difficult, it's not easy, and too often, I want a quick fix. Waiting upon the Lord is hard, it's work, and it's not something we can do passively.

So today, my prayer is that we will chose to be productive for the Lord. I pray that we will grow in the Lord and gain a testimony that defeats the devil. I pray that we will get to know Him better and better each day so that it becomes easier to wait for Him because we trust Him to know the timing that is best for us. Oh Lord, let us overcome our passivity and make choices today which will further your kingdom. Amen.

Sunday Devotional: Getting Nowhere


If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

Sometimes it feels like our spiritual life is getting nowhere. We think we're working hard and doing all the right things, but just like the cat on the slide, we're not getting to where we Maybe it's time to take an honest look at ourselves. Are we really doing everything we should be? Are we truly giving 100% of our hearts to God and giving Him the first fruits?

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? 
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; 
it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Able gave God the firstborn of his flock--he gave to God first. But Cain gave "some" of his fruit--was it the best that he had? Likely not. Cain's heart wasn't in the right place, so he wasn't accepted. What Cain then did was minimize his sin. He decided that he'd done everything just as well as Able had, and that God was unfair for not accepting and blessing his sacrifice.

Whoa. That one hits home for me this week. I've been feeling like I'm running on a treadmill and getting nowhere, but is it because I'm not giving God the best of myself, the best of my time, the best of my energy? Sure, I'm giving God "some" of my time, but is it because my heart longs for Him, or is it because it's a chore, duty, or burden? 

If I'm minimizing my sin, then I'll decide that I'm doing what I should do, I'm giving "some", so why aren't I getting the blessing?

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18 emphasis mine)

I want for God to be near to me. I want to have the kind of acceptable life that Able had. I don't want for sin to crouch at my door desiring to have me. I want to rule over my sin instead of it ruling over me. But to do this, I need first to be honest with myself. If I haven't been giving God the best of my life, I need to determine to do it now. I don't ever want my time with Him to be a burden or a chore. I want it to be sweet and something I look forward to. 

That is my prayer for all of us today. Help us oh God, to be honest with ourselves about what we give and about what we do. Help us, Lord, to cry out to you in truth. Draw nearer to us, Jesus, so that we feel the goodness of your presence. With all of our hearts, Amen.

Sunday Devotional - Have I Been Holding Back?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and 
with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37)

God wants it all. He wants 100%. So if I give Him 90% of my heart, it's not enough. If I give Him 95% of my soul, it's not enough. And if I give Him 99% of my mind... it's not enough.

So many times we think we're doing enough because we are doing more than our neighbor. If we compare ourselves to others, it may seem unfair that even though we hold back that 5%, our neighbor doesn't even give 50%, so how does it seem he's more blessed than us? Why is God holding back when we give Him so much?

 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, 
you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, 
which leads to death,
 or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Everything we give into, yield to, or indulge in takes away a little portion of ourselves that God wants. If we give in just a little bit to selfishness, then that part is taken away from God. If we give in just a little bit to lust, soon we find that lust takes over a small part of our lives too. The more things we give our time, energies, and hearts to, the less time, energy, and love we have for God. He wants to give us freedom and life, but we're too busy making ourselves slaves to every little inclination we have. He wants all our hearts, souls, and minds, but are we holding back?

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28)

Absolute surrender is when we leave everything and give up everything for the sake of following God. He doesn't want us to come to Him and hold back something for ourselves. He wants us to give everything to Him, not because He wants us to have less, but because He wants to give us more. He intends to give us greater and better things when we're willing to give up the small things that we cling to now. 

So what am I clinging to? What am I unwilling to give up? Shouldn't I consider that the piece that I'm missing--that's holding me back from the breakthrough I desire most-- is worth giving up anything? Today my prayer is that we realize what we're holding back from God in our lives... our little indulgences... so that we can be willing to lay that small thing down at God's feet to gain bigger and better things.

Sunday Devotional: Am I missing a step?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Step 1 - Faith. When we come to Jesus we start with faith--no matter how small. At first it may be like a mustard seed, but Jesus already promised that we would be able to move mountains with the smallest amount of faith. (Matthew 17:20)

Step 2 - Goodness. In the Bible, God is called good and His word, goodness (Hebrews 6:5). So if we add to faith the goodness of His word, we're working toward the next step.

Step 3 - Knowledge. By reading God's word and praying for Him to help us understand it, we will grow in the knowledge. (Proverbs 3:5)

Step 4 - Self-Control. This one is a hard one for me. Once we have the knowledge of the things we should do or should not do, we suddenly find them impossible to accomplish, just like Paul did in Romans 7. But we need to remember that Jesus promised His yoke is easy and His burden light - because He knows that He will carry the greater burden for us if we remember to turn to Him for help with this self control thing. (Romans 7:25) (Matthew 11:30)

Step 5 - Perseverance. Ugh. We cannot develop perseverance without being tempted, overcoming obstacles, or without pain. Either we learn to persevere by denying the temptation over and over again, or we develop it by keeping the course with obstacles in the way, or we stay faithful no matter what pain or suffering we're going through. (Romans 5:3)

Step 6 - Godliness. When we overcome the steps we've worked on so far, we discover the freedom that Jesus has given us and the hope of a freed, abundant, eternal life... which He'd promised us was not only for Heaven, but here on Earth, too -- no matter what our external circumstances (Titus 1:1-2)

Step 7 - Mutual Affection. Only by encouraging each other and building one-another up can we overcome all the steps that have helped us get this far together. (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11)

Step 8 - Love. The final goal is one where we can learn to love the way Jesus did. Love whether the person loves us back or not. Love when the person hates us. Love the most sinful person. Love when there is no gain for ourselves. We can only love this way when we have completed all the other steps and drawn closer to God than we are when we start. We spill over with His love so that it reaches everyone we touch. (1 Corinthians 13)

I am finding myself having to renew my mind each day through steps 1-3 just so I can get some handle on steps 4 and 5. I know that the freedom and godliness that God promises can only come through perseverance. Nothing worth having comes easy. I pray today that you will overcome what you're going through, and that reading this breakdown will give you hope and encouragement to reach the next step, too!