Sunday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 13:11-12

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.”  (2 Corinthians 13:11-12)

Paul in his letters to the various churches he helped to plant and support always loved to finish them with encouragement and love.  Here in one of his letters to the church in Corinth it is again this kind of word that he wanted to send to the congregation.

Paul loved the people in Corinth and wanted to make sure that they were growing in their faith.  He wanted them to be encouraged to keep going in their faith.  He wanted them to be at peace with one another and he wanted them to be in fellowship with God and each other.

The same should be for us as well.  We should be striving to love God and love one another more.  We should be striving to become more mature in our faith and our walk with God.  We should be encouraging one another.  We should be striving for peace and unity at a time with divisiveness is very apparent.

This week, let us encourage one another like Paul encouraged the Corinthians.  Let us be about rejoicing about the hope we have in Jesus Christ.  Let us love God and one another more and more.  And let us be about sharing peace that comes through Jesus Christ.

Thursday Quote Day: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day” here is a quote from poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Sunday Devotional: James 1:19-25

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”  James 1:19-25

The letter that the apostle James wrote back in the 1st century to fellow believers was one that was very practical for that time.  It is also very practical and relevant for today.  In this portion of the letter, James talks about several things that resonate very deeply in 2016.

We as a society are very quick to speak and quick to anger.  James knew this was a bad combination and made a point to focus on that.  Very easily we can shut off listening to people and just rant and rage.  When we listen first and speak second, we hear the hearts and minds of those around us.  Those that are in need, those that are struggling, those that are hurting.  Then when the time is right for us to speak, we are in a better place to speak out of love and not out of anger.

Those that are followers of Jesus know the truth.  We know that we are called to love God and love one another.  We have the Gospel to share and it is our duty to share it and not just hear it.  James also makes that clear in this passage in that we are to be doers and hearers and not just hearers.  There is a world that is hurting and we are to carry that message of the One who brings comfort, the one who brings hope.

This week, let us be quick to listen to others.  Let us be slow to speak until the time is right.  Let us be slow to anger and show mercy and grace.  And let us hear from God and do what He says.  That is what being a follower of Jesus is about.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 8:22-25

“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.  As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”” (Luke 8:22-25)

This is a familiar event that happened during the earthly ministry of Jesus.  One day on their travels, Jesus and the disciples get in a boat to go across the lake.  As they’re sailing, a huge storm came upon them and the disciples were afraid.  Jesus, who was asleep, was awoken not by the storm but by the disciples.  Jesus then calms the storm and leaves the disciples in amazement as they continue on to the other side of the lake.

This story is a great reminder of who Jesus is and what all He can do.  He is able to calm the storms in our lives.  He is there to give us peace.  He is not afraid and not deterred by what is going on in the world.  Even though there are times when we feel overwhelmed, He does not.  We can go to Him to find refuge in the storm of life.  We can find peace with Him.

This week, let us remember that even though there may be tough times and there may be storms that seem overwhelming, we have Jesus who can calm all storms.  He can help us to endure.

Sunday Devotional: Isaiah 9:6-7

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

These verses are a prophesy to the birth of Jesus.  The prophet Isaiah wrote these words hundreds of years in advance.  These words brought hope.  These words brought a longing for the coming Messiah.  We see these words as a fulfillment and as a promise.

We have the fulfillment in the birth of Jesus.  We have the promise that when He returns again that His kingdom will forever rule.  During this Christmas season, let us remember the hope we have in the one who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.  And let us remember that He is in control and we can count on Him from this time forth and forevermore.

Sunday Devotional: Romans 12:14-21

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14-21)

Love one another.  We as followers of Jesus are called to do just that.  That includes everyone, not just fellow believers.  And that can be hard sometimes.  It can be hard to love or bless those that persecute us.  It’s hard to not want to repay when evil is done to us.  But that is what God wants from us.  He wants us to love others.

It seems especially in the social media age that if someone wrongs us that we want to avenge it and avenge it quickly.  But God doesn’t want us to seek vengeance, He wants us to seek peace.  He will bring vengeance when the time comes.  We love and bless those who hurt us, who wrong us.  We are to try and live at peace with them.  And that’s not always easy especially when they are antagonistic to us.  But we remember who we serve.  We remember that God has forgiven us much, we should forgive as well.  God has loved us much, we should love as well.  God is holy, we should strive to live holy as well.

This week, let us love one another.  Let us rejoice with those who rejoice.  Let us weep with those who weep.  And let us trust God to right the wrongs.

Sunday Devotional: Isaiah 55

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
    a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
    and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has glorified you.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”  (Isaiah 55:1-13)

We all have times and seasons of hurt.  But God is there through all of it.  He promises to help us to deal with our pain.  He promises to help lead us out of that into peace.  We have to be willing and open to seeking Him, to trust in Him.  He’s waiting for us to do that.  He will take our hurts and our pains and use them to build us up for His purpose and his glory.

This week, whether you’re going through good times or rough times, remember to seek the Lord.  Trust in Him.