Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 190

06/30/15 – 190

One of the first aspects of Jesus’ love that we studied was based on this scripture (and others):

Luke 2:46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions

We talked about the conversation He had with the ‘Woman at the Well’ in Luke 4, a Samaritan woman who no other self-respecting Jew (let alone rabbi) would have even acknowledged. But Jesus not only spoke to her, He had a conversation with her. That means He didn’t just lecture her – tell her what she was doing wrong. He actually listened to her. If you think about it, it just makes sense.

  1. You love someone.
  2. If You love him/her, they are important to you.
  3. If they are important to you, what they say and feel matters to you.
  4. If it matters, it will become a priority – and that’s intentional.

I can’t over-emphasize this – just because you hear something does NOT mean you were listening!

The following is from a Christianity Today article for Small Group leaders called The Heart Of Listening by Beatrice Ruzu (2013).

“The Difference between Hearing and Listening

What is the distinction between hearing and listening? Hear means “to perceive or apprehend by the ear.” On the other hand, listen is “to hear something with thoughtful attention.” Hearing is a complex process that involves the ears and the brain. However, it’s an automatic and passive activity. We can hear sounds without actively engaging in the process. Listening, though, requires conscious choice. It requires our attention as we try to understand the meaning behind the sounds we hear.

Listening is important in all relationships. In fact, you can’t have a relationship if you don’t listen to the other person. This is true of our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. In fact, I didn’t – that’s why I quoted Ms. Ruzu.

Listening is not just something we do because we can’t help it. It is a skill that can be learned, it is something that we can strive to do better. If we do, it will not only improve our relationships but enhance our lives. Have you ever missed an opportunity because you just ‘didn’t catch’ something someone said in a meeting or a conversation? As much as listening is a learned skill, so is speech, and some have a hard time communicating their ideas clearly. A good listener will be able to pick up on that and help the other person to get to their point, whether their difficulty is from lack of skill or maybe just fear or emotion.

That all sounds good, but exactly how do we do it? We’ll talk about it tomorrow. For today, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would just start by tapping us on the shoulder – prompting us when we need to pay closer attention to what someone else – or He – is saying to us.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 189

06/29/15 – 189

As I worked through today’s devotion, a new thought came to me regarding touch. We have spoken about Jesus touching the untouchables and so on, which is all true and utterly important. But the Holy Spirit brought me to a different passage yesterday that talked about the exact opposite – Jesus allowing Himself to be touched by someone else.

Luke 7:36-39 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

The question that’s been nagging me ever since is this – what does this have to do with Jesus showing His love in a practical way, one that we can emulate? I think I have the answer. Many of us are very uncomfortable with others touching us at all, especially in this culture of ‘personal space’. I think that in part, this is because we’re taught from an early age to be suspicious of everyone. However, I think, even more commonly we extend this resistance to touch to other areas. We may be willing to help others at the drop of a hat, but we’ll never accept help from anyone.

We go through serious illnesses without prayer support because ‘we don’t want to bother anyone’. We’ll fail to go on a mission trip rather than ask people to help sponsor us. Why do we do things like this? Maybe . . . pride? Usually the comment we hear/make when help is offered is ‘I don’t need it’. Have you ever thought that just maybe someone needs to give it?

Jesus didn’t turn away this woman’s gift – given with right motive out of love for Him – just because of who she was. He didn’t tell her He didn’t need it. He showed gratitude and honored her for her generous spirit. Part of the gift was her physical touch – the anointing. Part of it was the spiritual touch – her love. Jesus’ part of this transaction was one that is essential to our covenant but one we don’t always talk about – He simply received her gift.

Keep it simple today – pray that God would allow someone to be blessed by touching your life in some way, and humble you enough to let them. Then pay it forward.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 188

06/28/15 – 188

Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Being up on the stage during worship has given me a new perspective on congregational singing in church – quite literally. I suppose I’ve always known there are some people who don’t like the sound of their own voice (most of us), and probably some who like it too much. So, when worship time comes, they stand politely with an expression on their face that looks as though they are rehearsing for their wakes, and never make a sound for fear that someone around might hear. Well, at least they don’t place their hands across their chests. Usually.

There are many, many verses and passages in scripture, both Old and New Testaments, that tell us the same thing. Notice I said ‘tell’. So far, I haven’t found any that say ‘Oh by the way, it might be nice if you sing a little – God would like that…’, or ‘if you’re comfortable with it, you might join in a song…’. Actually, they all sound pretty much like commands to me. Which makes sense, considering that one of the main reasons God created us was to worship Him, and we call that part the worship service in which we sing worship songs. Some of us, anyway.

Are you willing to set aside your pride today and really worship Him? That doesn’t mean you have to roll in the aisles. But at least look like you’re happy about being there. Smile – and sing! Pray that He would give you that joy and boldness as you enter in today.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 187

06/27/15 – 187

Mark 1:40-42 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.

One of the practical, tangible ways in which Jesus showed His compassion was through physical touch. Being practical and tangible means we can do it too! The story we just read is one of many in which Jesus healed or comforted through touching people that others considered ‘untouchable’. They may have been unclean according to the law, meaning that the person having contact with them would have had to perform certain cleansing rituals before entering the temple or synagogue.

There may have been a risk involved, as in the case of a contagious disease like leprosy. I believe that in many cases the risk was more to the person’s reputation (being seen with the ‘wrong kind’) rather than to someone’s physical well being. Or, sadly, maybe some people simply weren’t considered to be worth bothering with.

In our culture, there may be another risk in touching – a legal one. That’s why I emphasized appropriate touch in our study about it. I guess the bottom line is that we can’t let our fear of the risk overcome our love and keep us from acting out our compassion in whatever ways God calls us to. Here’s an example of an entire cultural change caused by fear.

In the late 1950s-60s, modern CPR was first developed. In the early years it was known as ‘mouth-to-mouth resuscitation’ and helped to save many lives. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but helped buy time as people who stopped breathing were still being given air. Then along came HIV/AIDS. When the disease first hit the media through a few high profile cases, suddenly there was a panic. People were literally so afraid that they refused to perform CPR because they were convinced that if they did they would contract the disease and die. The medical community couldn’t overcome that fear.

Within a very short time, new CPR standards were written, completely removing mouth-to-mouth breathing from the protocols – even though AIDS is only transmitted through blood, not air, and there were plenty of simple, inexpensive protective devices that could be used. We removed the ‘pulmonary’ from ‘cardiopulmonary’, instead saying that just pushing on the chest was probably OK, even though the victim was not getting any oxygen whatsoever. Which doesn’t even make sense. So, we quite literally made the choice to let people die rather than risk the touch.

I think today would be a great day to pray the scripture. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

 Appropriate, don’t you think?

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 186

06/26/15 – 186

In speaking of having Christ-like compassion that comes from ‘the inward parts’ – that gut-wrenching, heartbreaking compassion we spoke of yesterday – we have to ask ourselves that age-old spiritual question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Must we develop/discover that feeling within ourselves before we are moved to action for another person, or is it our acts of compassion that will give rise to those feelings? The answer (my answer) is also Christ-like (meaning I’m answering a question with a question). My answer is this: does it really matter?

I don’t know what exact process God used when He created chickens (or eggs). But as far as I can see, it makes no difference in the way I interact with either chickens or eggs in my life! Maybe I am so moved by my feelings of compassion/pity for someone that I cannot help but act on them. Maybe I perform acts of compassion for others as a representative of Jesus Christ (His physical body here on earth, remember?) simply out of obedience, and through those actions the feelings build within me. Either way, does it matter? Either way, I am being obedient to Jesus. I am representing Him well. I am becoming more like Him. I am bearing spiritual fruit, which will in turn multiply and increase.

 

We’ve talked a lot about the ‘love is a verb’ thing. We can simply let our emotions control us, meaning unless we’re feeling it, we’re not doing it. Or, we can perform acts of love even when we’re not feeling like it. Surprisingly, when we do that, most often, our emotions will follow our actions. It just depends what you want to control you – God’s will, rational thought (included in that), or emotions that can change at the drop of a hat. Which brings us to today’s verse.

Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. NKJV

We may not be able to control all of our feelings. However, we can control our behavior. That’s the key. That’s why we can be held accountable before God and man. That’s why the excuse ‘I just felt like it’ isn’t a valid legal defense – trust me.

If you want to become a compassionate person, start by doing compassionate things. You don’t have to look very far to find a true need. Volunteer at a mission, hospital or nursing home. Just go read to someone or play a game with them. Give them a ride to the store. Bake them some cookies. Let’s pray today that God would very specifically show you where, how and with whom He would like you to start. Then do it!

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 185

06/25/15 – 185

Looking for practical ways in which we can model ourselves after Jesus in our emotions, we have learned that first, there is no way we can do it successfully on our own. It takes the transformation of His Holy Spirit – complete surrender to Him to make it happen. It’s not that we can’t make a change, it’s just that we mess it up every time. We never seem to achieve the right balance.

We’ve also learned that there must be a balance, all the other emotions balanced and buffered by a Christ-like love. As we have seen, His love was evident in many ways. One was through His compassion.

Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 14:14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 20:34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

It’s important to understand that ‘compassion didn’t simply mean that He felt sorry for someone. The original Greek word used in the New Testament was splagxnízomai, which meant, “to be moved in the inward parts”. The root word was splanxna, ‘the inward parts,’ especially the nobler entrails – the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. These gradually came to denote the seat of the affections“. You might see such feelings today described as ‘heartbreaking’ or ‘gut-wrenching’. In other words, a pity so deep that it causes you physical pain when you see someone else suffer.

Many of us can understand this kind of – this depth of – compassion, especially if we’ve watched someone we truly love suffer greatly. We may say we ‘hurt for them’. How often do we tell someone ‘I feel your pain’, or ‘I know what you’re going through’ when they are suffering? But do we really? Do we really want to?

It may sound strange to say that we should pray for the ability to feel the kind of compassion Jesus felt for people – even though it caused Him great pain. But there are 3 things to consider. Without Christ-like compassion, we can never have Christ-like love. Second, if that ‘gut-wrenching’ pain in empathy for others is caused by His Spirit working through us, He will also work in us to protect and heal us at the same time, and we will become the better for it. If you don’t understand that statement, just ask yourself this. The next time you get seriously hurt or ill, what kind of nurse or doctor do you want? One who just knows the book stuff but has never really dealt with personal suffering? Or the one who took care of His own sick parents or children as they suffered, and has learned how important it is to feel and treat people with true compassion?

Finally, this is really the only kind of compassion that will move us to action – and that is what it’s really all about, isn’t it? Let’s pray for that today.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 184

06/24/15 – 184

Luke 9:23 Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

I think that by now we have a good picture of Jesus’ emotional make-up. It consisted of all the emotions we have, positive and negative, but balanced in every way by His overarching love for us. However, knowing that and being able to emulate it in our own lives are two very different things. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we can all become His clones – we can’t. But then again, that’s not what He created us to be. He did call us to be like Him though. This leads me to believe that it must be do-able.

Controlling our emotions is never easy. Why is that? Sometimes I think it’s just because we’re out of practice! We’re told so often that ‘you have the right to feel any way you want to’ that we feel justified no matter what we feel. There’s no impetus to change, so we don’t even consider it. The first problem then becomes this: if the feelings are justified, then so is the behavior that follows. If we get mad at another child on the playground, we think it’s OK to give him a shove. The second is: when the really strong emotional tsunamis come, we have no idea how to handle them – we wind up devastated by them.

The secret is in that little verse above. If you really dig down to the root of the problem, it’s our self-centeredness, which, incidentally, is also the root of our sin nature. Hmmmm. There are many, many places in the Bible where we are told we must ‘die to self’ if we are to become like Christ. The verse above is from the Rabbi Himself, and says it perfectly. A disciple is someone who lives his/her entire life, every moment, striving to be as much like the teacher as possible. To do that, Jesus says, one must “take up their cross”. Any time you see the word ‘cross, it can mean only one thing – death. There were never any short-term sentences to the cross. This means giving up yourself completely – putting aside all self-centeredness and focusing on others. Not only that, but Jesus says we’ll have to do it daily, and then follow Him – His life, example, and teachings.

Sound like a tall order? It is. That’s why not one of us can do it on our own. We simply don’t have the power to control the overwhelming emotions of everyday life, both those that come from within us and the things that Satan throws at us from every direction. Let’s continue to pray today that as we study practical ways to work this into our lives, the Holy Spirit would fill us completely, help us to die to ourselves today – and see nothing but the needs and joys of others.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 183

06/23/15 – 183

Yesterday we left with the question ‘if we are to love without limits, according to Jesus’ example, where does that leave room for that love to be ‘balanced’ by other emotions?’ We used the analogy of a graphic equalizer (like on a stereo) with different settings for each emotion. In order to answer the question, we need to take our analogy one step farther. Jesus loved – and loves – without limits. That should be obvious not only by His death on the cross and all that went with it, but just His leaving heaven to come here in the first place as a human being. So, His ‘love setting’ is all the way up, right?

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Now, on a soundboard, if you turn one setting all the way up, it will certainly overwhelm the others. Turn the bass all the way up and the windows shake. But, the other parts that make up the entire sound are still there. If you only heard bass, and turned every other band off it wouldn’t sound complete or even pleasing. It’s the same with emotions. Jesus’ love overwhelmed every other emotion He had – but it didn’t turn them off. It enhanced them.

When He showed compassion, grief or empathy, it was in a way that no one else ever could, with a hurting heart not for Himself, but completely for the other person. Selfless. When He showed negative emotions like anger or regret, those were also balanced out by His love. If you need a picture of that, try for a moment to imagine an angry God acting without love, or at least without a love that’s greater than His wrath. I don’t think we’d be here today reading these devotions if that were the case.

So the next question is, how do we model our own ‘emotional equalizer’ after His? Here’s a great place to start. As always, we can’t know where we need to go unless we know where we are. That means it’s self-assessment time again. But maybe this time, go beyond the ‘self’ part. Talk to trusted friends who will be completely honest with you. Talk to your pastor. Ask them especially about balance. Is there any emotion they see in you as being too strong or weak as compared with the others. For example, when you get angry or hurt, is it out of control?

Then look at Jesus example. Remember He had all the same emotions that we have, all set to add into what people saw come out in His life as a man. The complete, balanced output. No matter where the ‘controls’ were set for the other emotions, we know that the love setting is stuck at the top!

Let’s pray today the simple prayer from Psalm 139:23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Let’s see what He says – and be ready to change.

Devotions For People That Don’t Do Devotions – 182

06/22/15 – 182

Today we’ll begin the last leg of this study on emotions by looking at ourselves (always the most painful part) as being modeled after God. In other words, He gave us the same emotions that He has, although part of what makes us unique from one another is the way those are mixed, and the way they play out in our lives. Maybe a good picture would be that of a graphic equalizer in a sound system.

You’ve seen them, there’s probably one in your car stereo. There are separate controls for treble, midrange and bass, sometimes broken down into more bands. Now, since each of us has the same basic emotions, picture that control with emotions labeled instead of sounds. They may be labeled anger, compassion, love, fear, anxiety, grief, regret, joy, hate, and jealousy. On the soundboard the mixture and blend of levels determines the overall output – tone and quality of the final product – the sound that comes out of the speakers. A high bass and low treble will give that low rumble (usually from the car next to you at the red light). A low bass and high treble setting might give a sharp, tinny sound, usually harsher and more irritating.

On the emotion board it would be the same. A person with a high anger setting and a low compassion would probably display a life (output) that is harsh, not pleasant to watch or experience. A person with too high a setting for fear or anxiety may find that overwhelming all the other emotions to the point where they are almost paralyzed, unable to move ahead in life.

So what’s the secret to a good quality, pleasing, rich output? Whether sound or emotion, the key is balance. Elevate the good strong rich ones above the negatives, but not so much that your life is ruled by only one emotion with nothing else to balance it out. But, even as I say that, is there an exception?

Galatians 5:13-14  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I think I’m going to leave you to ponder that for today. If we are to love without limits, according to Jesus’ example, where does that leave room for that love to be ‘balanced’ by other emotions? Shouldn’t our love level control just be all the way up, all the time?

Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would work in us this week to give us not only a new knowledge about ourselves, but revelation as to how that new knowledge can help us to be more Christ-like.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 181

06/21/15 – 181

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Usually on Sundays we step out of our study and focus on worship. This Sunday is Father’s Day, and I felt led to do something just a little different. Worship today, absolutely. But remember that God is our Father, closer and more loving than any earthly father could ever hope to be. In a time where so many men simply abandon the responsibilities of fatherhood, remember that God carried the weight of His own to the cross!

The brief statement above says it all. The apostle John was writing to Gaius – not his biological child, but a spiritual one. This is likely someone who John brought to Christ, and was now mentoring and discipling – raising him to spiritual maturity. Even that is unique nowadays. We often focus on evangelism up to the point where we move someone to say the Sinner’s Prayer – then wish them well and walk away. Really, like a parent with a new child, that’s where our responsibility is just beginning. We shouldn’t stop until we know they are walking in the truth – following Jesus as closely as we are – or more.

Go visit your Father at church this morning. Repair/restore/or reinforce your relationship with Him. Make sure you are walking in His truth – the way He taught you through His Word.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 180

06/20/15 – 180

Matthew 22:34-39 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

OK, it’s time – not only to review, but to do the really hard part – apply what we’ve been learning to our lives! We began this study with a breakdown of God’s emotions. We compared His to ours, as the Bible says that we are made in His image, which I believe has much more to do with His spiritual, emotional, and intellectual image than with the physical simply because He is a spiritual being. We began by looking at emotions like grief, regret, joy, hate, love, anger, jealousy and compassion. We saw how God has displayed these and how they have been documented in scripture.

Next, because we are human beings living in physical bodies, we examined Jesus’ emotions in the same way. Jesus is, as always, our best example. Although He was/is God, He was also fully human – which means that He had the same emotions as do we. He got scared and worried. He loved and got angry, and so on. We saw even more clearly aspects of God’s emotional make-up through Jesus as He walked among us.

Although Jesus had all of the same emotions as we do, obviously the most prevalent was His love for people. One of the most important things, to me, was that we were able to see how He showed that love in practical ways. He used appropriate physical touch, even with people no one else would touch. He listened to people no one else would bother with. He was kind to those that weren’t considered worth the trouble.

He looked for whatever it was that people needed, and addressed those needs. (Needs – not necessarily wants.) This may have included feeding them, healing them, forgiving them, counseling or teaching them. He had empathy for others – we saw examples like Him weeping after Lazarus died even though He knew that he was about to be raised. He wept because of the pain the other people were feeling. He was absolutely loyal – even to those whose loyalties to Him were weak at times, like Peter. He confronted evil – men and demons – to protect those who could not protect themselves.

Let’s take this weekend to pray for guidance as we enter the next part of this study – how each of us can apply it to our everyday lives. I can only guarantee two things. If you follow Jesus’ example – it will NOT always be comfortable. But if you do, it will always turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 179

06/19/15 – 179

Matthew 17:14-18 14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

The last aspect of the way Jesus showed His love (that we will examine) is the way He confronted evil in defense of the weak. The verse above is one example in which He very clearly faced demons that even His disciples had been unable to defeat. There are many other examples of Jesus opposing not demons, but evil men. Some of them aren’t laid out so clearly for us, unless you know what to look for.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus, when challenged by the religious leaders and teachers, often seemed to answer a question with a question? These are examples of something called a remez, (hint). Basically, it was a means used by rabbis to interpret scripture in which they would hint at a reference instead of quoting it directly. If the other person didn’t really know their scripture it wouldn’t take long for that to become evident. The really sharp ones went a step further. Instead of hinting at a specific verse, they would hint at the verse before or after the one being discussed!

This was the method Jesus often used to confront those who would use God’s Word as a weapon to control or berate others. It’s no wonder they got so mad at Him – who knew the Word better than ‘The Word’? Sadly, they finally got angry enough that instead of accepting and learning from Him, they decided to kill Him and get rid of the competition.

Remember, Jesus knew what He was doing, and He wasn’t always without fear. Just read the account of Him praying before His arrest. But, in spite of His fear, in spite of His human weaknesses, He did what God wanted Him to do to protect others. Although these were not typical physical battles during His time on earth, those are coming. When they do, the time for wordplay and banter will be over – and He will still be victorious!

I can’t think of much to pray today except a huge ‘thank you’ to Him for His protection – then, now and forever.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 178

06/18/15 – 178

Matthew 25:21  “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

2 Timothy 2:11-13 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

There are 2 more ways Jesus showed His love for others that bear looking at – His loyalty, and His defense of the weak and downtrodden. The verses above speak of such loyalty. It’s difficult to find just a short passage or single verse that describes this aspect, simply because it is interwoven in everything Jesus did.

His coming to earth in the first place was an act of loyalty to the people He created and loved. When His disciples said or did dumb things (which happened a lot), He didn’t cut them loose and find better ones. Even though they abandoned Him after His arrest, Peter in particular denying that he even knew Jesus, it was to them He came first after His resurrection to comfort and reassure them.

As a nurse, I once cared for a man who had been paralyzed some years earlier in a car crash. His adult son and daughter were there in the ER, and they treated him like a king. I don’t think I’ve ever met a nicer, more loving family. I complimented him on this, and we talked about what had happened, as I had also been severely injured in an accident. He wasn’t bitter or angry about any of it. The only part that broke his heart – even years later – was that his wife left him when they found his paralysis was permanent. He told me “She said she couldn’t be with a ‘broken’ man”.

Loyalty is the glue that holds the covenant together when things are tough. It’s not only keeping the hope that things will get better, but actively working to that end like the faithful servant in Matthew. Loyalty is doing what’s right even when you’re hurt or angry or disappointed. Loyalty is standing by your covenant partner no matter what, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense to people on the outside. Sort of like Cubs fans.

(Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Today let’s ask God to examine us and convict us of those times when we have not been loyal to Him, or to other people. Pray that He would shape us into people that are loyal, not only because we made a commitment, but because in our Christ-like love we cannot be anything but.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 177

06/17/15 – 177

Just to keep us on track, we’re still studying God’s emotions as shown through Jesus as a human being while He was here on earth. We were made in His image, not so much physically, but spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. Yesterday we talked about how Jesus forgave people of their sins against Him (all sin is against Him, but this included the personal affronts). He forgave whether they asked Him to or not, just as He has done for us. Not all wanted or accepted His forgiveness. Unfortunately, that is also just as it is with us.

We often think of Jesus as this super-peaceful man walking around in a white robe, never getting dirty, or tired, or sad, speaking quietly even when people tried to insult Him. We picture Him smiling as children climb onto His lap and surround Him (just like the picture). But, the truth is, Jesus felt the same feelings as we feel. We’ve talked about compassion and love. But He surely felt sadness and heartbreak as well. Jesus demonstrated His emotion of broken-heartedness at least twice. The first was when His friend Lazarus had died:

John 11:32-36 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

 Why would He be so sad when He knew that He would raise His friend from the dead? The text doesn’t say. But personally, I believe it was because of the pain that all of His friends (Lazarus, his sister Mary and others) were going through. The second time we see Jesus crying was when He approached Jerusalem for the last time.

Luke 19:41-42 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

He knew what they were doing to themselves – and it broke His heart. That too, I think, is the same with us.

Let’s pray a prayer of thanks that our God loved us enough to come and experience our emotional pain; and that He loves us enough that when we go astray, like a parent with an erring child, it breaks His heart. Then let’s pray that He would help us to follow Him so well that we would never again cause Him such pain.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 176

06/16/15 – 176

 Matthew 9:2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

 Luke 7:47-48 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Another way that Jesus showed His love for others was through forgiveness – something many of us have some real problems with doing. Yet it’s critical to our own salvation that we do so. Here’s how it works.

Jesus, being God, wants every one of us to come to be with Him in heaven. Unless He forgives our sin (bear in mind that every one of our sins is an offense to Him no matter who else is involved), we cannot. His forgiveness for us hinges on our repentance and submission to Him. One of the ways our submission to Him is shown is that we forgive others in the same way that we want Him to judge us – with mercy. Lots and lots of mercy.

How often do we think or say things like ‘I have a right to be mad!’ Maybe you do. But is exercising that ‘right’ really worth risking eternal separation from God? If you really think about it, withholding your forgiveness from someone doesn’t even make sense. Their salvation does not hinge on whether you forgave them – only whether or not Christ has. Your salvation may well hinge on your willingness to forgive. So who are you hurting?

By the way, forgiving does not mean allowing the person to hurt you again. It doesn’t mean that you get amnesia and forget the wrong, and it doesn’t mean the pain magically disappears. But, it’s the beginning of healing for you. Even God doesn’t lose the memory of our sin, regardless of popular thought. That comes largely from Isaiah 43:25, which says “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

The trick is to remember we need to look at the original language. What that last phrase actually means is that God acts as though they never happened! He doesn’t get amnesia.

Maybe you can’t let go completely. Maybe it will take a long time for the hurts to heal. Maybe you can’t ever truly forget. But, you can act as though the offense never happened!

Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would enable you to forgive whatever others may have done to you, any of those old grudges that are still eating at you. Ask Him to cleanse you from those hurts, and help you to heal from them. Ask Him to help you to be as forgiving to others as you want Jesus to be to you.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 175

06/15/15 – 175

Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Mark 6:34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Luke 13:22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

John 7:16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.

Are you sensing a theme here? Jesus teaching the people (teaching us) is one of the greatest ways He showed His love. Yet this is so often a sticking point for us. We say things like ‘I’m not called to be a teacher (or preacher)’, or ‘I can’t talk in front of crowds’. How about ‘People will know I’m a Christian by the way I live – I don’t have to talk about it’? The truth is – I don’t think we have a choice.

Did you notice I included a verse from each of the 4 gospels? They weren’t hard to find – Jesus was constantly teaching. He may have been giving more formal type lessons in a synagogue, or using a situation as an opportunity. He taught in parables so that people could relate instead of spouting theology in the biggest words to make Himself look smarter.

Someone said (accurately) that we are all teachers. Intentional or not, every time you interact with people, when they watch the way you treat others, etc., you are teaching them. You may be teaching them good things, maybe not. They may be learning that Christians are hypocrites when your actions don’t match what the cross on their neck represents. They may be learning that Christians think they are better than others when you mistreat the waitress. Hopefully, they are learning what it would be like if Jesus Himself were standing in your place.

I have to make the point though, that if you want to make sure that people are learning what you are trying to teach, you have to be intentional about it. You can’t just act it out like a mime and hope they get it. I figure it must be important, because that’s what Jesus spent most of His time doing – teaching! In other words, how can you be like Jesus if you refuse to do the one thing He did more than any other?

It’s time to get past the excuses. If you can’t speak to 20 people, speak to 2. Or one. If you’re not comfortable enough to answer a question – look it up or ask someone. But whatever you do – tell someone about Jesus Christ and how He taught us to live. Why?

John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

People cannot obey what they haven’t been taught.

Today, let’s ask God to point you to someone who needs you to teach them about His Son, and give you whatever you need to enable you to do it.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 174

06/14/15 – 174

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The book of Hebrews was written around 67 AD – only 30-35 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet there were already those who decided they didn’t need to be part of the church body. They believed in Christ, but thought they could do it alone. We often hear that same attitude today. People say things like ‘I can worship God by walking through the woods and looking at the flowers’ or ‘I’m a Christian, but I don’t like ‘organized religion’.

The Biblical truth is that if you believe, you must be a part of the body. There are many reasons, but the first line above is a pretty good one – to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. Also in verse 25 – to encourage each other, and the last part: “all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

In other words, we should be more involved in the church, not less. If you see problems in the church, work as Christ to address them as best you can. If your schedule is just too busy, re-prioritize. Most of us need to give up something – church is not it.

Think about this as you worship today. Ask God to help you to be that encourager for others in your church – and to send others to ‘spur you on’ as well.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 173

06/13/15 – 173

Yesterday we talked about how Jesus’ showed His love by actually listening to people. He allowed and encouraged them to speak and he responded appropriately. Usually the result was that people were drawn to Him. I think there’s a good chance this was because they knew He listened and because it didn’t just end there. For example, when someone spoke about his or her sickness, he listened, and then healed. When they spoke about their hunger, He listened, then fed them. There’s no Bible verse in which Jesus just said, “Well, sorry that’s happening, but I’ll be praying for you” and walked away.

It’s rare enough to find people who truly listen, but what made Jesus even more unique was that He listened with respect to people the world considered not worth listening to at all. Yesterday we talked about women and lepers, but there’s another special group He loved.

As far as I can tell, Jesus listened to everyone. This doesn’t mean He agreed with everyone, or granted their every wish like a mythical genie in a lamp.

Sometimes He couldn’t do anything for them – not for lack of power, but because they rejected His help.

Luke 18:15-17 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

 The disciples rebuked the children simply because that’s what happened in that culture. Like women, children were treated more like property – things – than people until they hit puberty. The Jewish Talmud (commentaries) has many stories of children being treated horribly, I read one in which the father killed his child because he ate food intended for a guest, even though the guest had given it to him.

Jesus’ act of allowing the children to come to Him when there were adults waiting was so far from the norm, I’m pretty sure that a lot of folks took offense that they were made to wait. But Jesus put His love, and His example for us first. I don’t read anywhere that He was concerned about someone being offended by what was right. In other words, being politically correct was at the bottom of His list. Somehow, we seem to have lost that today.

Let’s pray today not that we would be offensive, but that we would be righteous in what we say and do, even if someone claims offense – even if speaking the truth brings negative consequences. Do you trust God to bring you through? The only person we need to worry about offending is Jesus Christ.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 172

06/12/15 – 172

Well, up till now we’ve looked at Jesus’ compassion, and how He showed His love to people through physical touch – even touching the ‘untouchables’. Another way He showed His love was simply this – He talked with people. Deep theology, right? Notice I said ‘with’ and not ‘to’ or ‘at’. Here’s an example:

Luke 2:46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions

In John 4:4-26 we read the conversation that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman. This was completely inappropriate according to the culture. He was a Jewish rabbi; she was a woman, a sinner, and a Samaritan.

Even she questioned it in verses 7-9: “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans”.

One of Jesus’ defining characteristics was that instead of simply going around talking at people, He asked them questions. He got them to talk, and He listened. He allowed them the dignity of expressing their own views, doubts and needs; then gently helped them find their way to the truth.

Many of us have been taught just the opposite when it comes to witnessing for Christ. We are told that as soon as you meet someone, you must tell them your story, because they may never get another chance to hear about Jesus. What a great way to push people away! Teacher/author Leonard Sweet said this: “When you meet someone, ask questions. Listen to their story – then find ways to connect it to God’s story”.

Failure to really listen (not just hear) others is one of the best ways I know to show your lack of respect for them. On the other hand, active listening is one of the best ways to show your love. There is no love – no relationship – without communication, and there is no communication unless both parties really listen to the other. Just think about how you felt the last time someone refused to truly hear what you wanted to tell them.

Let’s make our prayer today that God would give us a spirit of humility, that we could set our own egos aside for a while in order to really hear what others are saying to us.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 171

06/11/15 – 171

Matthew 14:13-16 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!”

Still studying Jesus’ examples of how to love one another, we should know by now that His love knew no boundaries. Does this mean that He did anything anyone asked of Him, or tolerated wrong behaviors and attitudes? Absolutely not! One of the most difficult ways to love someone is NOT to condone everything they do or think. It’s to lovingly show them the right way – if possible.

Another thing we need to know is that Jesus always put the needs of others ahead of His own. Most of us know the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with only 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish. But there’s more to the story. If we read the text just before this miracle (the passage above), we learn a lot about Jesus.

“When Jesus heard about John, He withdrew…” This refers to John the Baptist, who had just been beheaded by King Herod because John had confronted Herod on his sins of kidnapping and marrying his brother’s wife Herodius, divorcing his own wife so he could be with her. Remember that John was not only Jesus’ cousin, but trusted friend. It was John who Jesus sought out when it came time for Him to be baptized. So, I’m pretty sure the news of his undeserved execution hit Jesus pretty hard. So, he went somewhere where He thought He could be alone to work through His grief.

But the people found Him. Now, to be truthful, I’m not so sure that in such a situation I would be quite as willing to go to work healing and teaching people. I think I’d probably either tell them to come back in a week or 2, or delegate the work to someone else. But not Jesus. Instead of putting Himself first, He took care of the people, not only healing the sick but also feeding the whole crowd later in the day!

I think there’s one more point to be made though. Most often, I have found that by helping others when I am hurting or grieving, I have found more healing for myself than those times when I’ve just gone off alone. Maybe that’s the key that we need to remember when we are hurting inside. Let’s pray today that Jesus would always help us to find others with whom we can share the pain – and His healing touch.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 170

06/10/15 – 170

Luke 7:36-38 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Luke 8:43-44 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

As we continue to examine the ways that Jesus showed His love for people through physical touch, it’s important to understand that no self-respecting rabbi of that time would either touch or allow himself to be touched by a woman other than his wife – and not even her at certain times! Jewish law was strict and clear about that. In the first place, women were not thought of as being equal with men, but possessions, like slaves.

A woman in menses (bleeding) was considered so unclean that everything she touched was considered unclean as well. There’s a story in the Talmud of a man who sprayed a little spittle on a high priest while talking, they were so horrified that he ran home to make sure his wife had taken her blood to be examined by the Sages (like Pharisee judges). Any normal rabbi would have been horrified that the bleeding woman had touched him – he would have been in for a week of ritual cleansing and likely burned his clothing. What did Jesus do? Blessed and healed her because of her faith in Him as the Messiah.

Also, a rabbi would never touch nor allow himself to be touched by a woman because of the temptation it may bring. Yet Jesus was not only OK with the woman (also unclean as she was likely a prostitute) in the first passage above touching Him, even kissing His feet, His reaction shows us He was extremely moved by her actions. He defended her, told a parable about forgiveness and gratitude, and forgave her sins.

We may think that Jesus cannot use physical touch to connect with people today – to show them His love – because He’s in heaven. But, don’t forget that He does have a physical body here on earth – US! We can use this means to show His love running through us to those who don’t know Him. Pray today that the Holy Spirit would help us to make sure that our motives are pure, and anytime we are moved to touch someone in His name that we are acting appropriately, in a way that cannot be misconstrued as something evil.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 169

06/09/15 – 169

Mark 1:40-42   And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

Still talking about God’s love borne out in physical (human) form through Jesus, yesterday we examined His emotional love. Remember it was so great that there wasn’t even a word for it! Now we want to learn to follow His example. Yet a feeling (emotion) is really hard to describe, let alone control and emulate. We need the Holy Spirit to help us. Actions, however, are another story.

So, let’s see how Jesus showed this love in ways that we can imitate. One of the strongest and most personal ways to show love is through physical touch. Many people simply don’t feel loved unless there is (appropriate) physical contact in a relationship. We know that babies that don’t receive physical contact don’t do well – one study found that most died by the time they were 6 months old! Nurses learn the importance of ‘healing touch’. This may be something as simple as holding a patient’s hand, or touching a forearm to comfort someone.

Not only did Jesus recognize this, but also as a rabbi He went against the culture by touching and allowing people to touch Him – people who considered unclean or sinful by the community. The verse above speaks of His compassion for a leper. From other examples of Jesus’ healing miracles, we know that He could have done this by simply speaking a word. Not only that, but in fact, He didn’t even need to be there. So why do something that He knew would set people’s teeth on edge?

I think He did it for just the reason we’re using it today – as an example of a tangible way to show love to another person.

Tomorrow we’ll look at a few more examples involving physical touch. I realize that some of us have a really hard time with touching others. The U.S. seems to be the land of ‘personal space’ (among other things). So if this is you, why not pray today that God would give you such a heart of compassion that you can set aside your own preferences to allow Him to work through you however He wants. If this is not you, ask Him to guide you as to when, where, how and with whom to share His love through physical touch.

Devotions For People Who Don’t Do Devotions – 168

06/08/15 – 168

Matthew 9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

As we continue to look at Jesus’ example for us as a human being with emotions like ours, we find the definitive one here – compassion. I use the word ‘definitive’ because I believe it defines who Jesus is, who God is, above all else.

We have often mentioned the difference between an emotion and action, but in this verse Matthew is speaking of the way Jesus felt. As I studied the verse, I found something truly surprising. This is a quote from the famous evangelist Charles Spurgeon about the word used to describe Christ’s compassion in the original language.

“This is said of Christ Jesus several times in the New Testament. The original word is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint. The fact is, it was a word coined by the evangelists themselves. They did not find one in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one. It is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the bowels—a yearning of the innermost nature with pity”.

In other words, the Savior’s compassion was so great, so strong, so deep that even the most advanced language in the world had no word to describe it! So literally, Jesus defined the word for true compassion. It’s no wonder people didn’t understand His actions that were driven by that same compassion – many were clearly countercultural. This was a world in which few people cared about the unfortunate, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the crippled or disfigured, the mentally ill, the widows and orphans.

So the big question for us is – how can we develop that same feeling of compassion in ourselves? How can we get to the point where we help people without questioning their motives, or worrying about our own needs first? How do we get that feeling to grow in us?

The answer is (mostly), we don’t. We cannot do this in and of ourselves. The only way we can do it is by allowing Jesus to work through us in the form of His Holy Spirit living in us. There is a transformation needed if we are to become anything like Jesus – the Holy Spirit is the transforming agent. We can, however, begin the process through our actions, by modeling what we do after what Jesus did. We’ll begin to look at that tomorrow. For today, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would take over; fill us with His presence, so that we too can be filled with His compassion.

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Blessings, Pastor John