Devotions

Care for Your Soul

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” – John 15:4 Something I’ve noticed about people, and Christians in particular, is that we have a hard time practicing self-care. Yet especially as believers, we have every reason to love ourselves and to treat our bodies, minds, and hearts with the same affection that the Lord does. To expound further upon the image we introduced yesterday of being the apple of His eye, I want to encourage you to bear good fruit in your life by staying connected to the Vine.  In other words, slow down, abide in His love, learn from His example, and grow strong and healthy so you can nourish others. As you do this, He will empower you to establish rhythms of rest

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The Apple of God’s Eye

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” – Psalm 17:8 Of all the terms of endearment found throughout the pages of Scripture, I don’t think there’s any more beautiful than God calling us the apple of His eye. Though you may have heard this phrase before, to glean its full impact, it’s important to understand what it means in a literal sense. You see, the “apple” refers to the part of the human eyeball in which, if you look closely, you can see yourself reflected.  In spiritual terms, it denotes that the Lord is looking at us so intently and with so much love and compassion that we are almost dancing in His eyes. As we move closer to Him, we see an image of ourselves mirrored there, but it’s only a tiny one. In other words, part of what it

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The Power of Looking Ahead

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1 A couple Christmases ago, everyone in my family drew the name of one person for whom they would buy a gift. Luckily for me, I drew my mom’s name. Since she is one of the most selfless people I know, I thought long and hard about something special I could give her. As I pondered, I remembered a story she told me about being a young twenty-something on a trip to Italy. As she was enjoying a meal in a sidewalk cafe in Rome, a young blind man got up and began to sing. She was blown away by his voice and never forgot his moving performance.  While she wondered if she would ever see him again, years later, he rose to stardom and became a household name. If you

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The Valley Before the Victory

“BIn all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – 1 Peter 1:6-7 As soon as God promises great blessings, circumstances often grow harder. For instance, Abraham was 75 years old when he received the word that he would be a father, but he didn’t see its fulfillment until he was 100. Then there’s Joseph. The Lord gave him a great vision of his future, and he was immediately sold into slavery, where his life unraveled further.  Even the ones whom Jesus healed, though we look at them and see that they were instantly made well, had been praying, believing, and seeking

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Monuments to God’s Faithfulness

“When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.” – Genesis 28:16-19 Even though Jacob had tricked his way into receiving the birthright and his father’s blessing, he realized that his Heavenly Father would not withhold good things from his future because of it. Since the joy that washed over him in that place was great, he resolved to memorialize it, so he took the stone he’d used as a pillow

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The Stairway to Immovable Blessing

“He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.’ ” – Genesis 28:12,13 Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, and since Esau came out first, he inherited the birthright from his father Isaac. Jacob, whose name literally means “the one who grabs the heel,” came out grasping his older brother’s foot, which was very much symbolic of the nature of their relationship. After deceiving his dad into giving him the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau, Jacob set out on a journey to Padan Aram where his mom’s relatives lived. 

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Wrestling in Relationships

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:3,4 I remember years ago, I had a really wonderful neighbor. He was good-looking, married, very happy, and just an all-around nice guy. However, one day he came over to my house because he knew I was a pastor, and he was weeping and very upset. He went on to share that his wife left him, that she wasn’t coming back, and that he just didn’t understand. They never fought, he said, and everything was going fine until she took off for no apparent reason.  While my heart ached in empathy, as I listened to him speak, it became very clear to me that he was only seeing one side of the story. While everything was

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Struggles Make You Stronger

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” – Psalm 42:7 The only reason I had any desire to get a degree in theology was because I knew I had to in order to be an ordained pastor. My attitude going in was, “I have the Bible and that’s all I need.” While in part that was (and is) true, it was incredibly stretching to find myself amongst a group of peers who would challenge in twenty different ways something I had always held as 100% true.  Believe me, I wasn’t prepared for that kind of feedback, and part of me wanted to walk out and quit from the start. However, what I realized as the months wore on is that the struggle was actually making me stronger. As I learned to accept the input of others and thereby

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A New Name

“When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.” – Acts 13:12 After being blinded by Jesus on his way to persecute the Church, the Holy Spirit instructed Saul to go into the city and wait for a man named Ananias to come and lay hands on him to restore his sight. After that, he began to preach the Gospel boldly and went to Arabia to be trained for ministry to the Gentiles — the ones he had overtly despised prior to his salvation.  Ultimately, he shared his faith with Sergius Paulus, who was a proconsulate to Caesar. Because this man had such great influence in the land, when he became a Christian, Saul was thrilled…so much so that he decided to take on his name — Paulus. Though it didn’t have profound spiritual meaning, this special moniker meant the

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Set on a Different Course

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” – Acts 9:1,2 As Christians, we understand that the source of true freedom is not the policy of any nation, but the liberating power of Jesus Christ at work within us. To this end, let’s continue looking at the story of the conversion of Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul.  Having pre-identified followers of the Way in Damascus, he was on a mission to arrest them when the Lord appeared to him on the road.  He suddenly fell to the ground, was blinded by a bright light, and heard a voice from Heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why

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