My dog Max is laying on the sofa by my side as I type this devotion. If I get up and go into the kitchen, I have moved away from him. We then are not as close in position. When it comes to God, some people will say they feel like God isn’t around, like He moved from them. But the truth is, it is they that have moved.
James reminds us that if we come close to God, He will come close to us. We simply need to reach toward Him, and He is ALWAYS reaching back.
Today, be intentional with your relationship with Jesus Christ. Recognize that if you dig into the Word of God, you will hear God speak. If you spend time in prayer, you will feel the presence of God. If you feel like God is faraway, take a few steps closer to Him and you’ll find you had strayed. Thank God, He continues to keep His arms wide open awaiting His children.
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” – James 4:8 [NLT]
The world tries to tell you that you are only responsible for yourself, and sometimes that even isn’t something that is taught. But the Bible speaks about an integrity the world does not understand. We have a great responsibility, as well as many responsibilities along the way. If we want to live for Jesus, we must be intentional. If we desire to walk in faithful obedience, we cannot ignore our responsibilities.
In Deuteronomy 22, we read about someone coming upon their neighbor’s wandering sheep or goat. The verse tells us that the person should take it and return it to its owner. This speaks of an expectation that consists of going above and beyond. It might require you to go out of your way. It might require you to spend some extra time to get it done. Part of you may justify just keeping the sheep, clinging to the phrase, “Finders keepers.”
Going the extra mile glorifies God. Not ignoring the opportunity to help bless someone glorifies God. Don’t ignore these opportunities that come your way. Consider this opportunity to be a gift. Go the extra mile and watch what happens.
“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner.” – Deuteronomy 22:1 [NLT]
This is the year both of my kids are in high school. When your children reach high school, things immediately change. They have somewhat figured out their gifts, their talents, their interests. They have selected activities and hobbies that they truly enjoy. It’s very different from the elementary years when they dabble in a sport for a year, only to not want to take it up the following year. I’ve been through baseball season, a few soccer seasons, and even a year of karate while the kids dabbled. Today, my son plays the trombone and my daughter runs. My son is musically gifted; my daughter is a dedicated runner.
Part of the school shopping this year included a new trombone for my son and running spikes for my daughter. They both have gifts in their respective areas, but they needed to be equipped with some items to help them get to the next level. My daughter just used her new spikes for the first time, and it was amazing to see the improvement in her run on the muddy mess of a course this weekend. She was equipped to do what has been placed on her heart.
God calls us each to do something in life for His kingdom. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God” (NLT). God qualifies us. God also places people in our lives to equip us to better serve for His glory. Ephesians 4 speaks of the responsibility people have “to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (v. 11-12 NLT). Today, consider who God has placed in your life. Does God want you to help equip them for service? Is the Spirit leading you to do something to help them? Are you enabling them to stay where they are at, when you could instead equip them for the road ahead? Pray about this.
As I study Exodus, I am preaching about Genesis. We just finished looking at the Creation story. As you review each day of Creation, you finally reach the seventh day. Rest. I love how God built this great rhythm of work and rest into His creation. This rhythm continues throughout the Bible, and today’s verse is one of these continuations.
God tells His people that the land needs renewal. As I take my morning walks, I often take note of the small things that I wouldn’t see rushing throughout my day. I look around the neighborhood, at the different gardens and flowers. I consider the different seasons, the way the growth patterns work. There is great rhythm in creation, and with it there is renewal that God designed within His creation.
We also need renewal. We need to have time to rest and time to renew ourselves in the Lord. Part of this means being intentional with your time. We have different seasons of our lives, just like there are different seasons of a calendar year. We have seasons of challenge, seasons of loss. We have seasons of growth and seasons of change. Each season is different, but each requires rest and renewal. More importantly, in each season we need the Spirit of God to lead us through, to mold us and grow us for the next season.
“But let the land be renewed and lie uncultivated during the seventh year. Then let the poor among you harvest whatever grows on its own. Leave the rest for wild animals to eat. The same applies to your vineyards and olive groves.” – Exodus 23:11 [NLT]
One of the hardest things for us to do in this age of technology is to watch and wait. When a website takes longer than usual to load, we mutter not-so-nice words under our breath. When the street light seems to take forever to change or the person in front of us does not notice it changed and move at a rate we expect, we get frantic. When we push a button a few times for the elevator, we continue to push it again if the elevator does not rush to our floor. We live a life of rush, of busyness, of frantic racing from place to place or task to task. But God’s Word tells us that we were never meant to be zooming around everywhere like a chicken with its head cut off.
In Proverbs 8:34, it says that we will be blessed if we listen, watch, and wait. This seems simple. Listen. Watch. Wait. But to do these three things is not so easy. To listen, means we need to be intentional. You may have heard the phrase, “Put on your listening ears.” For a child of God to have listening ears, it means we have ourselves ready to listen. The noise of the world isn’t drowning out God’s voice. We have made time to hear. We have found a place that will promote the stillness we need to hear the still small voice.
Not only are we to listen, but we are to watch. We watch God move with our eyes. We watch what He has for us. But we don’t act. It says we watch and wait. This is not the typical sequence of action for us. We are accustomed to watching someone show us how to do it, and then start following the How-To video to accomplish the same project or cook the same meal. God wants us to listen and watch for Him, and only move when He wants us to move. To be in His will, to walk so closely to Him, following His instruction, requires us to listen, to watch, and to wait. This is what abiding in Him is all about—and living this way results in living a life that is blessed.
“Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.” – Proverbs 8:34 [ESV]
This past week was a difficult one for me. My routine was missing in action. Sleep escaped me. My level of pain was at its highest. We were relocating. I was working every day, all day. It was draining.
I was standing at work in pain, tired and dreading the end of my shift when I would return home to move more stuff to the new place. I asked a friend if she had some hard candy like a Lifesaver, because my throat was dry. Little did I know, a customer was listening to the conversation. As I finished with his order, he handed me the Lifesavers. I argued that it was against policy to accept things from customers. He then said he would leave them sit for me, that it was his policy to be nice. Jokingly, the lady behind him said she liked Three Musketeers. I was amazed as I spied him picking up yet another small gift to bring another smile around.
My day was not going well. I was exhausted and found myself on the verge of tears, nearly falling asleep standing, and wearing more braces than ever before because my body was feeling the week’s work. Then here came this fellow who became a lifesaver for a moment. His attitude and generosity had a great impact on me and the other customer. One small gesture had a ripple effect. It was a great reminder of our great Lifesaver. The gentleman paid attention to those around him and took action. It did not cost him a lot of money. It did not cost him a lot of time. This reminds me of something Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” – 1 John 4:7 [MSG]