BOLD Devotionals: WEEK THREE
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
So far in this BOLD spiritual journey, we have looked at some of the things that stand in the way of a stronger faith and a deeper walk with Jesus. We determined not to let pride, fear, greed, or self-centeredness come between us and our relationship with our God. We also recognized that unbelief plays a big part in our lives and often stops us from embracing the good things God promises to fill our lives with. Let’s look a bit more at how unbelief can manifest itself in our lives.
Recently I was praying with someone I will call Jane. I started out the prayer by saying: “God, I pray that you would be with Jane in the coming week” and as the words left my mouth, I felt God say to me: “Why are you praying for me to do something that I have already promised to do? Don’t you believe that I keep my promises?” I am so thankful for the voice of the Holy Spirit, continually “leading us into all truth” (John 16:13), aren’t you? Where would we be without his words piercing our hearts and helping us change? I know where I would be: stuck in my own selfishness and pride—desperately clinging to my need to be right and my right to be angry.
How many times do we waste our prayers, asking God to do something that He has already promised to do? Boiled right down, this is a form of unbelief isn’t it? James 1:6 says “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Do you find yourself praying for things that are already yours?
Remember on Day 1, I challenged you to remind yourself every day that God’s promises are TRUE and that God’s promises are FOR YOU. Keep doing this. In fact, long after these 21 days are over, my prayer is that you will continue to repeat these words and commit the promises found in the Bible to memory until they sink right into the fabric of your heart. It will alter the foundation of your life and set your feet more firmly on the foundation of God’s truth.
What God showed me that day when praying for Jane was that many of my prayers are from a weak and unstable foundation. Instead, I should pray like this: “God, you promise that you will be with us always, even unto the very end of the age. Help us all to live like we know that is true! Help us to remember that and not be afraid!” Do you see the difference? Ask God to show you this week where you are allowing unbelief to dominate your thoughts and prayers. Let’s commit together to pray from a foundation of SOLID ROCK—acknowledging what He has already promised us.
Pray: God, help me to stop being blown around by the wind of uncertainty and doubt. Help me to get into your Word and discover your amazing promises to me and then help me to pray from the solid foundation of those promises.
The Lord…heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
I love the contrast in these verses. The same Being whose mind determined the number of stars that would be in this unfathomable universe, and whose creativity is so limitless that he gave each one of them a name, reaches out his hand to heal us.
He has the power to put the stars in place and the tenderness to hear our cries and see our pain.
What an amazing God we serve.
So, knowing that this is the God we serve: powerful enough to heal us and kind enough to want to, why do we so often remain broken and in pain?
I think it comes down to what we have chosen to believe. If we remain broken, we have either decided that He CAN’T heal us or that He WON’T. Which is it for you? Are you walking in brokenness because you have forgotten that God is powerful enough to heal you or have you forgotten that He wants to?
In Exodus 15:26 God kind of puts an end to the debate. He says “I am the God who heals you.” Period. End of discussion about the “can’ts and the won’ts”—God is in the business of healing. It’s what He does.
Our first step is to begin praying from the foundation of that truth. Instead of praying hopefully that maybe God might possibly put back together the parts of us that are broken, we must pray with our feet planted firmly on the rock of God’s truth that says “You are the God who heals me.” Begin with the belief that God CAN heal you and that he WANTS TO. This change of focus means that our eyes, that have been fixed inwardly on our own brokenness can instead be fixed on Jesus and we can finally start moving forward in our lives. He heals us as we go—bringing things to light, one at a time: an apology we need to make, a hurt we need to let go of, a toxic relationship we have to give up. Healing happens when we, in faith, take God at His word and obey him when He asks us to.
We can spend a lifetime asking God for things He has already promised to give us. We have to remember that His victory on the cross was a definitive victory over ALL brokenness. Know that as you walk with him—obeying his voice, fixing your eyes on him, day by day, year by year—healing will be manifest in your life.
Pray: God, I am committing today to take you at your word. I believe that you are the God who heals me. Help me to daily live in light of that truth as I walk in your ways and obey your voice one next step at a time.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
It frustrates me when I hear people say that miracles don’t happen anymore—that miracles were reserved for the early days of the church and relegated to the pages of history. The dictionary defines a miracle as “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.” By this definition, every person who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ is a miracle walking around. Because when you think about it, is there any greater miracle than a heart of stone being transformed into a heart of flesh and blood? Is there any greater miracle than becoming new?
2 Corinthians 5:17 says “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!” Anyone who says miracles don’t happen anymore has never met a person who has come face to face with Jesus and been forever changed.
There is that first, dramatic, life-altering miracle that happens when we meet Jesus, and then our lives, as we follow him, are characterized by a slower miracle of transformation. The process by which God transforms us is what the Bible means when it says that we must “work out our salvation with fear (awe) and trembling” (Phil 2:12). God has worked his salvation IN us; now we have to work OUT the process of transformation as we obey everything He tells us in his Word.
We must beware of stopping after the first miracle. It happens doesn’t it? The person who gives his or her heart to Jesus and then doesn’t progress any farther? You know what I’m talking about: that Christian who may be fit for heaven, but is of no earthly good? The person who has accepted Jesus as their savior but it soon becomes evident that they don’t really want him as their Lord? Before we have too much fun pointing fingers, let’s be honest: all of us run the risk of becoming that person.
The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a life characterized by a “peace that transcends all our understanding” and it is also marked by a constant struggle against our flesh and the devil. We must intentionally invite Jesus to CONTINUALLY chip away at our hearts of stone, because God ALWAYS has more that He wants to do inside of us. It is the task of a lifetime. We will always be tempted to say, “Okay God, that’s enough. I’m good with the transformation bit. Please don’t make me go there.” But it is imperative that we let him go there. THERE, wherever that is for you today (and you know what He’s got his finger on in your life), is exactly where He needs to go. We are not yet like Jesus, are we? So He’s not done. Let him in to the places of your heart that are still as hard as stone and let him do His work.
Pray: God, I surrender to you right now those things you are asking me to. I am letting you in to the places in my heart I have closed off to you because I know that the stakes are high. I pray that this change you want to do inside of me will be a witness to the people in my life who are watching.
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.”
Christians are the masters of looking for spiritual shortcuts. We want spiritual depth without the valleys, growth without the growing pains, and perseverance without the all the trouble. It would be very entertaining to watch if there wasn’t so much at stake.
We can so easily short circuit God’s process of transformation in us by mistaking spiritual experiences for real spiritual growth. It is a common thing for Christians to confuse how they “feel” with how they are doing spiritually and to think that if they aren’t “feeling” much, then something is wrong. Emotions are the most unreliable source of information out there. We have to resist the urge to allow how we feel to determine what we do; that path leads to a very shallow spiritual life.
Today’s verse tells us how we avoid a life that at best just skims the surface of what God wants our lives to be, and at worst imitates an authentic walk with God. This verse speaks of the process by which our hearts become a place where God will come and make His home. That process is obedience. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (John 14:21); If we love Jesus, we will obey him. Words like deny, submit, and obey don’t sit well with our rebellious human nature do they? We would much rather do what we want, wouldn’t we? But there just isn’t any short cut to getting closer to God. James 1:22 warns us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
So what is God saying to you today? Have you asked him that lately? Have you quieted your emotions and asked him what your next step is? I don’t think it is to attend another conference, but it could be. I also don’t think it is to move to Africa, but I guess that’s possible. I don’t even think He is telling you to attend a conference IN Africa.
Most likely and most often, the voice of God is telling us to do something very small and very close. Most likely and most often He wants us to love the people around us better, to surrender something to him, or to admit there is sin in an area of our life we would rather keep hidden. Sometimes conferences and Africa are a way to avoid taking the steps of obedience that lie closest to us. Who can you love better? What are you holding on to too tightly? What are you trying to hide from God? Quiet yourself and ask God what He wants you to do. And then do it. There lies the path to a deeper walk with Jesus.
Pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
Hebrews 12: 1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Summarized into two words—this passage says to us: FINISH WELL.
How many of you need to remind yourself today to ‘finish well’? I sure do. 3 of our 6 kids have finished high school. I’ve made almost 11,000 lunches, more than 22,000 trips to and from school, attended thousands of sporting events and hundreds of concerts. Suffice it to say, I’m kinda over it. I feel like it MUST be almost time to start slowing down, but then I look and see that, not only do I have three left in school, but the youngest is only 12. TWELVE. So God whispers these words to me, reminding me that my race is far from over: “Finish Well”.
These words apply to all of us, whether you are just starting your adult life, in the “golden years”, or somewhere in between. But these words also apply to us as a church. We COULD just sit back and enjoy church Sunday after Sunday until we die or Jesus comes back. We COULD get comfortable where we are and be thankful we got our ticket into heaven. But there are people in our city, in our workplaces, and in our families who are spiritually dead and they are always on the mind of God. The stakes are high, hell is real, and eternity is a long time. And so God urges us FORWARD and compels us to get BOLD.
It is two days until BOLD Commitment Sunday. Spend time with your spouse, your family, or just you, praying about the part you will play in taking ground for the Kingdom of God. It’s time for all of us to obey what God is calling us to sacrifice.
I want to leave you today with Hebrews 12:1-3 in my own words:
There are people who have gone before us who are cheering us on, and people in the world right now who are watching our every move. The stakes are high. Let’s not let anything hold us back or trip us up. Don’t give up on Jesus!! He will never give up on you. Let’s live like He did—looking always at his Father and thinking always of heaven, never letting the haters get him down, never turning back—because when we live like him we can finish well like He did. And then, when our race is over we can be with him forever!
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The parable of the Lost Sheep reveals to us God’s heart for the lost. Each one of us was at one time a lost sheep. For some of you, that lost-ness is still very fresh in your mind and you have not lost the joy you felt when you met Jesus and He saved you. I don’t have to convince you that you were dead and now are alive, or that you were brought from darkness into God’s wonderful light.
But for others, maybe it’s been such a long time since you gave your life to Jesus that you can’t really remember what it felt like to be without Him. Or maybe you have been around Christians for so long that it’s become a little too easy to forget that you are surrounded by people who are headed for an eternity separated from God. Maybe like the Pharisees in the parable, you get a little uncomfortable around people whose attitudes and behaviors are very unlike yours.
All of us must make a prayerful effort to stay in tune with God’s heart for the lost—to never settle for comfortable or safe, but to always be doing everything we can do to reach those far from God, so that He can come in and do what only He can do: save their souls. There will always be a pull in the direction of settling back, playing it safe and circling the wagons. This is exactly what our enemy, the devil wants. He is not intimidated by churches when their highest priority is keeping Christians happy and comfortable.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in will not perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16). This love that our Father has for his lost sheep must always burn in the heart of the church and compel us to do whatever it takes to reach this lost world.
Tomorrow is BOLD commitment Sunday. By now you have talked with your family, prayed about it, and God has shown you what sacrifice he is calling you to make so that we, as a church family, can take our boldest step ever to make more room for people far from God in our city. Pray for your fellow Southsiders that they would be ready to get BOLD!
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Commitment Sunday is here!
Today is going to be the most exciting Sunday in the history of Southside Church as we take our Next Step in making Jesus’s last command our first priority. When we ALL step up and sacrifice, God will step in and advance his Kingdom, bringing the lost into relationship with himself.
Thank God for this journey of faith that we have taken and for what He has done in each of our hearts during this time. Thank him for every good thing in your life, recognizing that it all comes from Him.