Daily Devotions Archive - August 2009
August 17, 2009: Honoring God With Our Bodies
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. - Romans 12:1-2
These are two powerful verses that the world desperately needs to hear! Because of God's mercy toward us, we should be willing to present our "bodies as a living sacrifice"--in other words, we don't give in to evil desires and lusts of the flesh but instead we continually sacrifice ourselves to God. We cannot be "holy, acceptable to God" if we constantly give in to those desires. Let us not be conformed to this world, either, for the world is full of temptations that encourage us to give in to those desires. The world around us makes it extremely difficult but we must focus on renewing ourselves and keeping our minds on God. It is a struggle at times, but when we stop to consider everything God has done for us, isn't the struggle worth it?
August 18, 2009: Humility
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. - Romans 12:3
As imperfect humans, we spend far too much time comparing ourselves to each other. Maybe you appear to be a better person than John and maybe Joe seems to be better than you, but why does that even matter? As Christians, the only person we should be comparing ourselves to is Christ. Can we ever fully measure up? Of course not, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to be as much like Him as possible. If you stop comparing yourself to other humans and start comparing yourself to Jesus, your entire perspective changes. On a deeper level, this is partially where the false idea that "humans are basically good" comes from. Many non-Christians are quick to believe that and some Christians do as well, but if we are only comparing ourselves to our Savior as we should, there is virtually no danger of falling into that trap.
August 19, 2009: Unity In Christ
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. - Romans 12:4-5
As Paul clearly states, we are one body in Christ. One--a singular word which does not imply a group but a single entity. Of course, Paul is not implying that we cannot have our differences. Each one of us is unique because that's how God created us and it is important to express our individual views and opinions. However, when it comes to spreading God's Word, if we don't work together, we send the world a very poor message. Within a church, there is a time to express our differences, but when it comes to sharing the Gospel with non-believers, we should be unified. On a broader scale, different Christian denominations exist which have slightly different worship practices, but we still worship the same God and we all need to work together to spread His Word. Our single goal is to bring people to Christ, isn't it? After all, that is the only thing of eternal value.
August 20, 2009: Spiritual Gifts
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. - Romans 12:6-8
I believe that we all possess different spiritual gifts thanks to the grace of God. It is our responsibility as Christians to realize what our individual gifts are and use them for His glory. Do you have gifts that you are not using? If so, I would encourage you to seek out new opportunities to put those gifts to use. However, some people are in the exact opposite situation. Do you feel overwhelmed with all that you are trying to do for your church and for God? If so, it may be the case that you are trying to do too much, which can ultimately have a negative impact on yourself as well as those around you. Spend time in prayer about it, then focus on the things you do best and enjoy the most, as those things are probably where your spiritual gifts lie.
August 21, 2009: Brief But Powerful
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. - Romans 12:9
This brief verse contains powerful wisdom in three separate yet very important areas. First, Paul advises us to love without being hypocritical. Just as God loves us unconditionally, so should we love others if we are truly following God's will for our lives. Next, Paul tells us to "abhor what is evil." In those four simple words, he has managed to convey a message that few people in today's world seem to fully comprehend. We need to stand up against evil and not give into it. Paul knows that simply trying to avoid evil in this world may not be enough. We should utterly hate and detest anything that is evil! And we should not merely accept and give in to it as a "modern" way of life. Along the same lines, his third point tells us to "cling to what is good." It can be so easy for good morals and values to slip away, especially in this society. Cling to those good things; hold on tightly and show the world what it truly means to live for Christ!
August 22, 2009: Christian Characteristics
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. - Romans 12:10-13
In these four verses Paul gives us a list of traits and lifestyle habits that a good Christian needs to have. He again speaks of kindness and brotherly love, as love is most important above everything else. He then encourages us to serve the Lord with enthusiasm, not because we feel obligated to but because we want to and we are excited to show the world what He has done for us! Among the other characteristics mentioned, he advises us to be patient in tribulation, always trusting God instead of doubting Him; to also show God that we trust Him through ongoing, consistent prayer; and to always take care of others who are in need.
August 23, 2009: Bless Your Persecutors
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. - Romans 12:14-15
There is very little true religious persecution in this country compared to what happens in some parts of the world. Still, there are many worldly people in this country who are intolerant of Christians. How do you respond when someone mocks you because of your beliefs? If you haven't experienced that, how do you think you would respond? I think we all know how we should respond, but actually responding in that way can be much more difficult. It is important to remember the impact our response will have on the other person. Most likely, that person expects us to respond in anger, and by doing that we look no different than the rest of the world. However, by responding in a gentler way and trying to bless that person in return, we give him or her a reason to stop and think that maybe there actually is something different and special about being a Christian.
August 24, 2009: Examples of Humility
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. - Romans 12:16
Jesus was the ultimate example of humility. Among many other examples, He ate with sinners and tax collectors and washed His disciples' feet. Paul was a great example of humility himself, falling (in a worldly sense) from a powerful Christian persecutor to, in his own words, the least of the disciples (1 Corinthians 15:9). But at the same time that he "fell" in worldly stature, God was molding him into the first great missionary of the early Christian church. All that Jesus and Paul accomplished in this world came from their humble attitudes. Imagine what all we could accomplish if we all humbled ourselves and served God so completely!
August 25, 2009: Living In Harmony
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. - Romans 12:17-19
It is an unfortunate but true fact in this world that people will sometimes hurt you and even anger you. Do you react with patience and kindness when that happens, or with anger and plans for revenge? Christians generally know how God wants us to respond, but since we're all created differently, responding as we should is easy for some but much more difficult for others. Trusting God as the perfect and ultimate judge and forgetting yourself are the two main keys. If you don't think about yourself, your focus will not be on hurt feelings or anger that may otherwise occur. Focus on other things instead, such as God's forgiveness of your own sins. It's more difficult to be angry at someone else when you keep in mind that you, too, are a sinner.
August 26, 2009: Good Always Overcomes Evil
Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:20-21
This is not the first time I have discussed this idea, but it is something that is definitely worth repeating in a world where getting even seems to be the norm. God tells us (through Paul in this instance) that we need to overcome evil with good, not only because He wants us to love our neighbor but also because He knows it is much more effective! Someone who commits an evil act against you, especially if it is intentional, is most likely expecting you to react by lashing out in anger and attempting to get revenge. If you react in the spirit of love instead, not only will you be pleasing to God but you will also get the attention of that person, showing them by action that love is the central theme of Christianity.
August 27, 2009: Love: The Ultimate Commandment
For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. - Romans 13:9-10
It's hard to add a devotional thought to a Scripture passage as complete and all-encompassing as this one is. I love the way Paul writes about this idea. Sure, we can refer to the Ten Commandments or many other sections of the Bible for guidance and wisdom on how we should live and how we should treat the people around us. But if we love each other as as Christ loves us--keeping in mind that this is no ordinary love but a perfect, unconditional love--we will have no desire to do anything that could hurt other people.
August 28, 2009: From Darkness to Light
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. - Romans 13:12-13
I love mornings. While nights themselves are not evil just like money itself is not evil, so many evil things tend to happen at night. The people who commit those evil acts must believe that the darkness may help to conceal what they are doing, and at least to some extent that is true. Yet when the sun first begins to rise the next morning, and God always sends light for another day to "cast off" the darkness. That's just one of the many little fascinating things I love about God and the Bible: He so perfectly uses the analogy of light and darkness in comparison with good and evil. Just as light helps to expose the evil, and brings out the good, allow God to expose the evil within you so that He can help you "cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light."
August 29, 2009: Ignore the Flesh
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. - Romans 13:14
Human beings have experienced lusts of the flesh ever since we were first created. A "lust" can mean many things, from the frequently used sexual connotation to the very first instance of lust--when Eve lusted after that piece of fruit. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that those desires go away when you become a Christian. But by becoming a Christian, you now have an extra tool at your disposal. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) will fight for you if you want Him to. He still gives you the free will to give into those desires if you want, but it is always a choice. Choose to follow God instead of the "lusts of the flesh." If a desire becomes overpowering, pray to God and I absolutely believe He will deliver you from that desire. God no doubt has the power; He just wants you to place your trust in Him, and He will take care of it for you. So the next time you are facing a temptation, say a prayer for deliverance or even say Jesus' name out loud, because Satan cannot overpower you if Jesus is there.
August 30, 2009: Acceptance
For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. - Romans 14:2-4
These three verses really speak to the idea of acceptance. Now, there are two vastly different types of acceptance. As Christians, we should not accept or endorse sinful behavior in others. We should love all people, but God does not want us to treat sinful actions as if they are acceptable. However, what I get out of this passage is the idea of being accepting of each other's differences when those differences are not sinful. God created each one of us to be unique; we all have our own little quirks and preferences. Those are the things which God does not want us to judge about each other--those insigifnicant little differences that make one person no less of a Christian than another but simply speak to our individual uniqueness.
August 31, 2009: Belonging to the Lord
For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. - Romans 14:7-9
Here, Paul reminds us that we do not belong to ourselves--a reminder that many of us frequently need to hear. Christ died a very painful and humiliating death for us (which is something else we need to be sure we don't take for granted) and our hearts, minds, and bodies belong to Him. I believe it is imperative that each of us keeps that fact in our mind at all times. For each action that you do, are you doing it for yourself or for the Lord? If you discover that you are doing something for yourself, perhaps you need to reevaluate it.