Remarkable People Serve A Remarkable God

 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,‘The stone that you builders rejected  has now become the cornerstone.” – Acts 4: 8-11.

Were you ever the kid who got picked last for a team, or didn’t get picked at all? Jesus did the exact opposite when He picked His disciples. In fact, Jesus meticulously picked twelve men so ordinary it seemed unlikely that they could change the world.  It’s an example of how God can use unremarkable people to accomplish remarkable things.

In Acts 4, we read that Peter was infused with the power of the Holy Spirit. The difference that caused this boldness, this confidence in Peter is that he had been with Jesus. He wasn’t educated or accomplished. He had no influence. Nor did he possess great wisdom. Peter and the rest of the disciples were constantly asking Jesus for clarification on what He meant. They often didn’t get it, they didn’t understand. Every one of them swore they would never desert Jesus and yet they did.  

The point is that Jesus has intentionally picked men so ordinary, so unremarkable, people, like us. Jesus chooses people who are unremarkable so that when they do something that is very remarkable, God gets the credit and the glory. What made the disciples so remarkable and what will make each one of us is not what we do for Jesus. It’s what Jesus does for us. 

Catherine Hamlin was a remarkable Australian surgeon, who with her husband established the world’s only hospital dedicated to curing women’s injuries that result from childbirth in the developing world. Still operating at the hospital when she was ninety-two years old, and still beginning each day with a cup of tea and Bible study, Hamlin told curious questioners that she was an ordinary believer in Jesus who was simply doing the job God had given her to do. Her remarkable life exemplified scripture’s encouragement to believers to live their lives in such a way that even people who actively reject God “…may see your good deeds and glorify God…” (1 Peter 2:12).

You know, most of us are just pretty unremarkable, and yet God has chosen for whatever reason to allow us to lead out, to do things that are remarkable so that He can get the glory.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How would you define a remarkable life? 
  2. What components need to present for you to consider a life remarkable?

Some Thoughts On Political Correctness

“Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” – Mark 2:13-17. 

We are living in an age of political correctness that goes far beyond being kind and thoughtful. Today’s rules demand that we do our best to never say anything that might possibly offend someone. The result is scores of people walking on pins and needles, striving to be consistent with popular opinion. Political correctness began with good intentions to protect and stand up for the marginalized and the discriminated. In fact. if you take the concept of political correctness at face value, it is a good thing. If being politically correct means that we treat people of different backgrounds with respect and do not stereotype them based on their race or gender, then it is in fact, very biblical.

But somewhere along the way, simple, foundational truths that are central tenets of the Christian faith—treating others as you would like to be treated, loving your neighbor—suddenly became muddled and full of conflict. 

We need to remember that the culture of political correctness is nothing new. In Jesus’ times, political correctness was demanded. For example, if anyone dared to speak differently about the traditions of people, or about the kingdom of God, what the official authorities had prescribed, they would be sanctioned. Jesus faced oppressive man-made rules from the Jewish religious leaders of His day. They were a man-made morality, created with good intentions. In a world desperately searching for truth, Jesus reminds us He is the only truth.

Before the politically correct crowd was ever born, believers loved one another.  We didn’t love because we were pressured by society to do it. We loved because Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35). We must continue to declare to the world that God does not judge us for our political correctness, He judges us based on our faith in Him.  

Christians are called to prioritize God over everything—elected officials, political parties, laws, and even our own self-interests. Doing this is often irrational and nearly always countercultural, but this is what it means to be a follower of Christ.  

 

Discussion Question:

  1. How do you balance political correctness with what scripture tells us? 

What Do I Love?

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

I love my children. I love my wife. But then again, I also love a good hamburger and a cold Pepsi. I love listening to music and sitting on the porch watching and listening to the rain. It wouldn’t take me or you very long to compile a pretty long list of the contexts and times we use the word “love.”

Is it possible that we might be mistaking some things for love that actually aren’t love? For example, we love to be entertained; things that make us laugh, make us cry, or just capture our attention for a little while. But at best it is temporary. We love people who serve or meet some need in us. But in the end, it is more about ourselves than the other person. We love affirmation. We love the people who always affirm all our life choices, and we put ourselves in the kind of relationships where we never confront or disagree with someone else. But love is not the same thing as affirmation. We need people who can say the difficult words when they need to be said. This is what God does for us – He tells us the truth about ourselves even when we are unwilling or unable to see that truth on our own.

Love – or at least the word – is all around us. But in many cases, it can be something masquerading as true love. So, what is love? What does it do? Why does it matter?

1 John 4:8 says, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God doesn’t just show us love. God is love. Without Him, there is no love. With Him, it is impossible not to love. Our goal is to love like Jesus. “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

When we love like Jesus, we’re lifted outside ourselves. We shed self-interest — with our spouse, our kids, friends, everyone. His brand of love sees beyond the normal range of human vision — over walls of resentment and barriers of betrayal. When we love like Jesus, we rise above petty demands and a sense of entitlement. Most of all, the Jesus model of love inspires us in following the best way to live a “way of life that is best of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:31)

This love isn’t elusive. It isn’t pie-in-the-sky. It isn’t out-of-reach nor exclusive to people with seminary degrees. Jesus gives us practical steps to love in extraordinary ways. Will you and I fail in loving like Jesus? Absolutely. But when we strive to love like Jesus, we will be able to differentiate between things we love and real love. 

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the difference between the things we love and the real love of God?  

There Are No Perfect Kids

The goal of parenting isn’t to create perfect kids. It’s to point our kids to the perfect God.” – Lindsey Bell

We all want perfect kids. We attend seminars, read books, and talk to others about parenting when our first child is on the way. But when the “little one” arrives, we realize that babies can get their days and nights switched, Little Joey or Sarah didn’t sleep a minute. Nor did staring at the clock and wondering if this whole parenting thing was such a good idea. And that is only the beginning. All kids are different and will provide different challenges for their parents. But one thing is certain: there is no parent that has it all figured out on how to guarantee perfect progeny.

The father in this famous Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15:11–32) would have wanted perfect children too. Instead, the parable offers much to teach us about being a parent of imperfect children. We meet two sons. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance before the father died. Dad had to know this would not be in his son’s best interest, yet he gave him the money. It ends in disaster. 

When we understand that a parable is an imaginary story to illustrate a spiritual point, we can quickly perceive that Jesus is using this account to teach us of God the Father’s love for each of us. And while we are all sinners, as was the prodigal son, it is heartwarming, comforting, and, yes, almost incomprehensible that God the Father is willing to accept us back, given the mistakes we have made.

There may be times in our lives we’re like the prodigal and other times our attitude is more like the old brother’s, but the truth is we are all called to be like the father. This isn’t just a story of a boy who wanted to experience the wealth of this world or a brother with a bitter heart. It’s the parable of the compassionate father. He loved his sons and showed them grace and forgiveness in different ways. 

Our heavenly Father’s love for us is beyond measure. When we are far from home, He eagerly awaits and yearns for our return. And while we are still far from His doorstep, He rushes to meet us and walk with us the rest of the way. In the same way, He has such compassion and understanding for those who have trouble welcoming the prodigals. And He will walk us into the party too. We are in His family and our Father loves all His children.

Furthermore, He is “patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). He “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What do you usually think of the story as being “about”?
  2. Do you think of it as having a happy ending? Why or why not?

The Other Son

All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!” – Luke 15:29-30.

The parable of the lost son is a parable for today. It offers hope for all who long for reconciliation. Whether it be with a child, a parent, or a friend from the past, this story points to hope.  Imagine for a moment the day the father goes out to the hill and sees his son coming up the road. His heart immediately reaches out to his returning son, his feet quickly propelling him forward. Both father and son are together again, the distance bridged and the time apart forgotten. His years of hope and longing are summed in the declaration, “for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found…”  (Luke 15:24).

This is where the movie would end fading to black with dramatic music. But that is not where the story ends. While the parable’s focus is primarily on the younger lost son, Jesus concludes by speaking about the elder son. He’s never left his father’s home. He’s never rebelled, messed up, squandered his father’s money, betrayed his family, or disgraced himself. He’s never told his father that he can’t wait for him to die and could he have his inheritance money now please thank you very much.

So when his father throws his wayward brother a welcome home party, the elder son refuses to enter and join in the celebrations. He explains bitterly that he has never put a foot wrong, he’s worked hard for his father, and yet he’s never once been thrown a party in his own honor.

Once again the father shows his wisdom. The father’s words demonstrate mercy and redemption. He responds to the bitterness of the man who stands in the shadows and refuses to come into the warmth by saying: “Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” (Luke 15:31-32). There is no competition with the Father. What He celebrates with the prodigal, He shares with the rest of His children. The bond forged between the father and the older son could never be broken. Such relationships need no party or grand demonstration of the fact. Trust was simply there.

In this parable, Jesus gives a vivid picture of God and what God is like. God is truly kinder than we are. He does not lose hope or give up when we stray. He rejoices in finding the lost and in welcoming them home. You are a son or daughter after the Father’s heart. I hope that reading this devotional has helped you discover at least one way that the Father loves you. 

 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How do you react to the older son?  
  2. What can we do this week to repent and restore our relationship with Christ?   

The Prodigal Father

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” –   Luke 15: 20-24.

In Luke 15, we find one of the most compelling stories about God in the Bible and the greatest short story ever told anywhere: Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). In this well-known parable, a son asks his father for his inheritance, then squanders it recklessly as he lives a life of indulgence. With nothing left of his fortune, he is forced to work as a hired hand for a pig farmer. He is so destitute that he longs to eat the food of the pigs. Realizing that his father’s servants have better working conditions, he resolves to return to his father, beg forgiveness, and ask to be his servant. 

You’d think after all that, when the son decided to go back home, that the father would be standing, waiting on the deck, arms crossed, foot-tapping, a frown spreading across his forehead, impatiently listening to the whole speech the son had prepared, maybe making him grovel a little bit more before consenting to take him back to the worst job in the house. At the very least, you’d expect a severe reprimand and some sort of punishment. But that didn’t happen. Instead of a bitter reception, he got a warm welcome, with hugs, kisses, gifts, and a party. The father immediately welcomes his son back into the family, lavishing his love on him in every way he can.

In this story, Jesus gives us an unforgettable picture of God as a loving Father beyond our wildest imagination.

Ephesians 1:3-8 says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” 

The story of the prodigal son is a picture of God’s love for us as His children. God’s love for us does not depend on our faithfulness; it is unconditional. He loved us while we were still sinners. Though we are demanding and do not remain faithful, God is still our faithful and loving Father.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What aspect of God’s character does this parable display?

Can You Imagine?

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21. 

Young children tend to be curious, possess great imaginations, and have seemingly unlimited creative capacity. The dog can morph into R2 D2. A stick can become a light saber. And a couch turns into the Millennium Falcon.

Chances are, although you are no longer a child, you still have a healthy imagination. Imagination plays a powerful role in our lives, so it’s not surprising that the apostle Paul mentioned it in his prayer for the followers of Jesus in Ephesus (Ephesians. 3:14–21). In verse 16 he says, “ I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”

Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ (vs. 17–19). In closing, Paul gave glory to God who “through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (v. 20). He is giving us a reminder that regardless of your imagination, God has something better.

Think about that for a few moments. God, working through you, has plans that you can’t even imagine and haven’t even crossed your mind.  That should boggle our minds.  

You see, God’s plans are greater than ours, not just because God is bigger than us, but also because God’s ultimate objective is so much greater than what motivates us daily. We tend to pray about our daily needs, our daily wants – and God does care about those things – but He knows we will be most fulfilled when we have experienced His will for our lives. We taste life to the fullest when we are in a relationship with God, and when we are living each day with a divine purpose.

God, who He is and what He does, will do, and has done is immeasurable. We only see and know a slice of the whole pie in the sky.  All we ask of God isn’t all He intends to do through us. The more time spent with God in His Word, the Bible, and in prayer and worship, the more we begin to see through His perspective.  

Paul is praying for the Ephesian church to be blessed beyond anything they have ever dreamed. But he is also praying that the glory of God will be experienced through this church.

May we be reminded that our imaginations are so small compared to what God has planned for our lives through His power and glory.

Discussion Question:

  1. How do you rate your imagination? 
  2. How does knowing that God can “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” impact our lives? 

Are We Glorifying God?

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” – Colossians 3:17. 

God calls us to glorify Him in all we do. Or perhaps to put it more precisely: One of the great ways God glorifies Himself is by calling and enabling us, His people, to glorify Him through our holy conduct. Doing everything to the glory of God sounds exhausting. Do you ever find yourself wondering how to do this every day? What does my daily mundane schedule have to do with the glory of God?  

Theologian Jonathan Edwards once said: “From time to time [in Scripture], embracing and practicing true religion, and repenting of sin, and turning to holiness, is expressed by glorifying God, as though that were the sum and end of the whole matter.” 

If the creation could talk, and in a sense it does, it would say, as the psalmist writes, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1) Since we are part of His creation, we too should strive to glorify God.  Again, the psalmist writes, “You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” (Psalm 22:23 ESV) But this isn’t just a command for Israel but it is for us as well: “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’” (Isaiah 43:7)

So what does glorifying God mean in our daily lives? In Colossians 3:17, the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Church as Colossae, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (ESV) He was reminding the Colossians that their ultimate purpose on this earth was to give God glory by showing God’s love and walking in peace with one another and doing all things with a heart full of gratitude.

How often are we focused on the everyday activities that we forget that they are not an end to themselves; we go through the motions looking for things to satisfy a longing in our soul that only living a God-glorifying life can satisfy. We were made to worship and glorify God, and He gave us the gifts and abilities in which to do that every day.

It means to worship and advance Christ in everything we do. In Philippians 1:20, we see that Paul’s attention was focused on one thing and one thing only.  While in prison, unsure of what his sentence might be, he maintained that laser focus. He expected that Christ would be exalted in everything he did. His one focus was glorifying Christ in everything. And he meant everything. In fact, he taught this in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  

God is worthy of all glory: “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”(Revelation 4:11).  Matthew 5:16 says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who are we living for on a daily basis?  
  2. What can we do this week to glorify God? 

How Spiritually Resilient Are You And Your Children?

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.” – Proverbs 24:16.

One of the reasons for the popularity of comic book superheroes on the movie screen is that they constantly demonstrate resiliency in the face of challenges. A spouse leaves us. A client sues. Unemployment strikes us. Our dreams fail to come true. How can we live a resilient life—a life that can weather these storms, and even grow stronger after them? 

The believer in Jesus Christ is upheld by God’s power and so is naturally resilient. “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). The key to resiliency is faith in the Lord: “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”  (Psalm 37:23–24).

Paul showed great resilience after his life-altering encounter with Jesus (Acts 9). When he was transformed from religious Pharisee to radical Christian, many were not happy with his message. He was beaten, stoned, criticized, jailed, and nearly killed many times (2 Corinthians 11:24–27). One incident especially shows Paul’s exceptional resilience. In Lystra, he was stoned, dragged out of town, and left for dead, but, when his enemies left, Paul simply got up and went back into the city (Acts 14:19–20). His missionary endeavors continued unabated. Godly resilience enables us to be undeterred from our mission, regardless of the opposition. But what about our children?

The definition for resiliency is the same for a child as it is for each one of us: resiliency is having a faith foundation that is so strong it can withstand anything the world throws at it.  Spiritual resilience isn’t automatic. There are building blocks to create a strong foundation upon which spiritual resiliency can be built. Your kids will need your help if they are to become spiritually resilient. First, they need Bible knowledge and understanding. In order for your kids to bounce back easily when encountering trials, they need to know what God wants them to know about life and how He wants them to live it. They need to understand God’s commands and principles. They need to know God’s character and His promises. No matter how great your church is, your kids will not learn everything they need to know at church. You have to also teach them at home. Don’t forget to help them develop independent Bible reading habits. They will need to read scripture for the rest of their lives to stay spiritually resilient.

They need to pray. To be spiritually resilient, your kids need to be in constant communication with God. They need a thorough understanding of prayer. Your children need to understand that prayer isn’t merely submitting an order to God for the things they want, but sharing their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with God. While praying as a family is wonderful, your kids need to also have personal prayer lives – even when you aren’t there to remind them to pray.

Raising children to be spiritually resilient takes time and effort. Without spiritual resiliency, however, your children will find it difficult to be who God created them to be for their entire lives. It is worth taking the extra time and effort to help them develop it.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What does being spiritually resilient mean in everyday life? 
  2. What can we do this week to become more spiritually resilient? What can we do to help our kids be more spiritually resilient?

Love Powered Parenting : Starting With A Strong Foundation

“The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.” –   Proverbs 20:7.

Parenting is more than merely training and disciplining your children for a productive life on earth. It’s more than taking them to baseball practice, dance recitals, and music lessons. It’s even more than taking them to church and memorizing a few Bible verses. Parenting, rightly understood, is part of God’s mission for the world. In bringing children into this world and in raising them to love and serve God, you are part of God’s mission. It all starts with a strong spiritual foundation. 

The foundation is the most important part of a building because everything else rests on the foundation.  A solid foundation means a strong sturdy building.  If you have a faulty foundation, the building will not stand near as strong or as long. Your child is the building, and the foundation is a faith in God. Several times Jesus is referred to as a cornerstone or a foundation stone. A cornerstone is the most important stone in the structure because all other stones are built around the first one. The cornerstone determines the final location of the finished building. Giving a strong foundation for your child means they build their life with Jesus as the cornerstone.

Love is the very foundation of everything. The two greatest commands of God is based on love.  In Matthew 22:34-40, it says, “Jesus replied: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.  The moment we genuinely believe in our Lord Jesus, our lives start to change.  The Spirit of God begins to reveal God to us through His Word, and as we get to know the goodness of God in our lives, we start to love Him. And the more we love God, the more we begin to love others. 

The stronger foundation is the foundation of God’s unconditional love. If you think God loves you on your good days, but not so much on your bad days, you don’t know how powerfully God loves you. Romans 8:1, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Families that love, families that understand God’s love is never going to be taken away from us and will have a firm foundation. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 John 15:9 tells us that “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me.” Jesus is saying that I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved Me. Make yourselves at home in My love. You want to be a great parent? A great son or daughter? A great aunt or uncle? Realize how deeply God loves you. Develop a relationship with Christ and then live in that relationship of love, of unconditional love every single day.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Why is parenting through love so important? 
  2. What can we do this week to build a better foundation?