Sin is often frightfully deceptive. We can be diligently serving the Lord without realizing that we’re actually doing so for selfish reasons such as recognition, affirmation, or achieving our own goals. Or maybe our external behavior doesn’t match what’s really going on within our heart. We could be doing all the right things outwardly while at the same time holding a grudge, finding fault, or grumbling in our heart. These problems flow from our flesh and its sinful desires, which are part of the condition in which we were born. The only cure for a self-focused life is what Galatians 5:16 calls “walking by the Spirit.” First, we must realize that we cannot live a godly life apart from the Holy Spirit. Remember, the flesh cannot be changed or tamed but must be replaced with dependence on the Holy Spirit. He alone can overcome the pull of sin because His power is unlimited. Second, we must surrender to the Holy Spirit rather than yield to our fleshly desires. In other words, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14) Third, we must trust the Lord. We can’t fully surrender to Him until we confidently believe both that His Word is true and that He keeps His promises. Then, as our thoughts, decisions, and actions align with the truths of Scripture, we are empowered to stand firm against temptation. God wants you to live in the fullness of His Spirit. So lay your flesh down at the cross today, and let the Spirit lead you into a fruitful, abundant life.
Devotional from In Touch Ministries: Overcoming the Flesh, July 2019
l: I remember learning to ride my first bike, but my favorite bike memories are when I taught my kids. Without fail, in the beginning, the front tire wobble back and forth more and more wildly just before one of them bit the dust. Sometimes they would try again; sometimes they would call it quits. Learning to ride a bike at first is completely unnatural. Once it clicks-the balances, pedaling, steering-it's hard to imagine not knowing how to do it. With enough practice, you don't even think about riding a bike anymore. You just do it. Jesus talks about taking up a challenge to live differently. It's sort of like riding a bike. He wants us to live in grace and walk in love, but at first, it is a gangly, wobbly wreck. We might even get banged up a little. Then, after a while, you just know how to do it. The Bible describes it as a rhythm, like breathing itself, where we are taking in grace for ourselves and holding out love for others. It is not natural, and it takes some practice. But Jesus showed us the way. Maybe one day we'll look a little more graceful and pull off some cool tricks-hop a couple of curbs, do a wheelie or a bunny hop. Not unlike Peter and John, who healed a man in Acts 3, Jesus wants us to stick with Him through the awkward learning parts so we can learn to ride like He does. He wants to take our mind off of falling so we can pedal more fearlessly. Sure, there will be some scratches and scrapes. But we can pick each other up and help each other get back on another go.
Devotional from Live in Grace, Walk in Love by Bob Goff
Devotional: Tests come in various shapes and sizes. Abraham and Sarah had been on a pilgrimage for many years. Along the way there had been many tests, resulting in successes and failures.In our reading for today, God calls Abraham to take another journey--to sacrifice his son Isaac! Can you imagine the pounding of Abraham's heart with each step he takes toward Moriah? God has called him to sacrifice his one and only, long-awaited son.Along the way, Isaac notices that this sacrifice is different from others. "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Isaac's question surely cuts to the core of Abraham's being. But somehow he manages to prophesy that God will provide. He has journeyed with God a long time.Abraham builds an altar, binds Isaac, and lays him on the altar. He's about to kill his own child when God breaks in and says, in effect, "Not your son!" Abraham has passed the test of trust. Abraham and Isaac witness the truth of the prophecy that God will provide. Abraham holds nothing back from God and, as a result, God provides for Abraham.
Discussion: What is your need? Where are you called to trust?
Activity: Dear God, thank you for all your provisions. Help us to give to you from our time, talents, and treasures. May we entrust our whole lives to you. In Jesus, Amen.
Devotion, Discussion & Activity from Reframe Media Daily Devotions, August 2006
Three travelers approach Abraham’s tent. Abraham runs to greet them and bows low before them.
“Stay with me,” he implores them. “I’ll bring water for your feet and a morsel of bread and comfort for your hearts.”
Rather ungraciously, the travelers agree. “All right – but you do as you have offered.”
Abraham does more than he has offered. He commands Sarah to make fine cakes. He orders a servant to kill a calf and prepare the meat. He himself brings butter and milk along with the beef and the cakes and serves this repast to his three guests.
Who are these three men?
Was Abraham starved for company? Would he have been as hospitable to anyone who happened by?
For years, Abraham had longed for a son; he had prayed for a son. Now these three strangers promise Abraham that he will have a son by this time next year.
Discussion: How do we greet unexpected guests?
Activity:Try being especially welcoming to your next unexpected visitor. Some have entertained angels unawares.
Devotion from The Word at Home, June 2017
Devotion: Unlike other leaders in India in the 1940's, V.P. Menon didn't have a fancy degree from a fancy university. He wasn't from a well-to-do or respected family. the oldest of thirteen children, he had to quit school at age thirteen to work in coal mines and factories. As a young man, he went to Delhi to get a government job. On the way, everything he had-including his money and identification-was stolen at the railway station. In desperation, he went to an elderly man standing nearby, explained the situation, and asked for a loan of fifteen rupees to buy food until he could get a job. The man gave him the money. Menon asked for his address os he could repay the loan, but the main said Menon didn't owe the debt to him but owed any stranger in need. The help came from a stranger and should be repaid to a stranger. Menon never forgot his debt, and his life was marked by constant generosity to those in need. The day before he died, a beggar came to the family home asking for money to buy new sandals, Memon asked his daughter to take fifteen rupees out of his wallet to give to the man. It was his last conscious act. Memon served strangers selflessly, just as Abraham provided food for strangers.
Discussion: How did Abraham's incident affect him? What attitudes cause people to share as Menon, Abraham, and Sarah did? How do you need to become more like Abraham and Sarah? When have you served God by serving people you didn't know?
Activity: Do something for a stranger. Buy their fast food, coffee, or just give to someone in need. Ask that he or she repay it to another stranger in need.
Devotion from The Youth Bible, Genesis 18
Notes: Would we have recognized the Messiah if we had been there with him? Would we have recognized John as the "new" Elijah? All the signs point to who they were. Prophecy is being fulfilled. But the people of that generation did not recognize them. Even though their ministries were at opposite extremes, neither was accepted as genuine by the religious leaders. Truth in all its forms is often less regarded than the lie told to meet the wishes of those who hear. We often prefer to be deceived rather than to face a difficult reality that requires us to change. So, what must we do to recognize Jesus? Follow him, live our lives for him, change our lives to obey his commandments, share his grace to all, and give him glory—not a bad start but a very challenging message. No wonder so many didn't (and still don't) really want to know the will of the Messiah!
Discussion: As it says in the discussion: Do you think you would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah? What must we do to recognize Jesus
Activity: Lord God Almighty, give me eyes to see your work in my world today. Use me to advance your work and defeat me when I go astray. Please remove deception from my heart and help me change to be more like your Son. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Devotion from Heartlight.org, What Jesus Did devotional May 2017
Thoughts: A quick boat ride away from our lodge, there's a hidden cove with a.magnificent waterfall. Hardly anyone knows about it, so when I go, it feels like it's all mine-like God made a waterpark just for me. My friend Don and I made a trip to the cove years ago. We waded over to the waterfall and he stepped through the fall and stood next tot he rocks while I stayed on the outside. Don was yelling my name. "Bob! Come through! You'll make it! I'm just one the other side! Come on, Bob!" I could barely hear him as the water crashed between us. But his voice was an invitation that demanded a response. It wasn't mere agreement he was looking for; it was actually me taking a step forward.
Despite my fear, I shuffled forward as the freezing water forced down on me. It felt like a long way, but it really wasn't. After a few steps, I joined Don on the other side. It was the best version of a baptism you can imagine! Looking out toward the cove from behind the waterfall, I understood a little better about the time Jesus walked on water and invited Peter to join Him. Jesus wasn't looking for an agreement or affirmation that this would be a great idea for someone else to do. Jesus wanted Peter to take a step.
Sometimes God asks us to step out (or through). We don't know what we'll see until we go through the deluge. It's scary to step into the unknown, but it's also where we find Jesus; and wherever we find Jesus, we find life. Fear calls out our doubts; God calls out our names. When you hear Jesus calling you name, there's only one way to respond. Take a step.
Discussion: What's your next step? What's been holding you back?
Activity: Take one step, however big or small, towards Jesus this week.
Devotion from Live in Grace, Walk in Love by Bob Goff.
In John 16, Jesus emboldens his disciples in his farewell speech by reassuring them with the promise of the Holy Spirit. Now in the seventeenth chapter, Jesus turns his eyes to heaven and prays for his beloved followers. Jesus is passing the torch to the disciples. And you'd better believe that the disciples, who are overhearing the prayer, are listening closely. It reminds me of visits to my grandparent's home as a child. My sister and I were supposed to be tucked into bed, but after a little while, we would silently tiptoe to the staircase and strain to overhear whar out mother was saying about us to our grandmother. Although Jesus prays openly about death is near, the tone of his prayer is almost joyous-he has fulfilled his calling, and the glory of his full return to unity with God as described in John's prologue is near. In this prayer, Jesus blessed his followers by naming their preparation for this moment. The disciples have received Jesus' words, and they are now certain of Jesus' divinity. Jesus prayers for unity among his followers, "so that they may be one, as we are one." The disciples could not have imagined the many streams and rivulets the Jesus movement would split into. Yet, even when John's Gospel is written, probably in the second century, there are already multiple strains: Christians rooted in Judaism and those who, like the community John writes from, have separated from the mother tree to focus on the exclusive priority of Christ. Nor could the disciples have envisioned the global church today and the complexities of church and culture that call us to deeper dialogue and prayer for one another.
Jesus tells His disciples that their love for Him will be shown by their obedience to Him. Jesus will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit, another Advocate, who will never leave them. The Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth and will never leave them. The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it doesn’t want Him. When Jesus is raised, they will know that He and the Father are one. Jesus’ promise is that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will come and continue Jesus’ work in His followers. Following Jesus means more than a particular spirituality or religious tradition. The true followers of Jesus are those who obey His commandments. If we say we love Jesus but continue to sin we are deceiving ourselves. Likewise, we cannot claim to have the Holy Spirit if we live unholy lives. To love Jesus is to obey Him.
Robin Graham is the youngest person in history to sail around the world alone. But success didn't come easily for him. He left on his three-year odyssey as a sixteen-year-old boy thrill-seeker. The adventure was like a drug to him. His trip changed something deep inside him. A violent storm almost capsized his little boat, the Dove. In the midst of the torrent, the Dove's mast snapped in two, and Robin barely survived the water-filled tornado. But that wasn't the worst of it. When his boat entered a windless, currentless part of the ocean near the equator, Robion almost went crazy with doubt and despair. At one point, he completely gave up hope that he would ever make it out. He splashed kerosene all over his boat and set it on fire. Fortunately, Robin snapped to his senses and doused the fire before it did serious damage. Three years after his departure, Robin sailed into Los Angeles harbor to cheering crowds, honking cars, and blasting steam whistles. He had made it. And, more importantly, he had wrestled two great enemies- doubt and despair- and found himself stronger as a result.
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