Something that I have been thinking about a lot is usefulness. There are moments when we have items in our home that are not useful to us. Sometimes we have apps on our devices that are not useful. Maybe at a time they seemed useful, but things have changed. But usefulness isn’t only something we consider as objects or possessions. People can be useful or not useful too.
Paul was writing to Philemon about the runaway servant Onesimus. He tells Philemon about this change that has occurred. Yes, Onesimus was deserving of punishment, which could have meant a death sentence. It was within the legal limits. But Paul mentions this great conversion of Onesimus. Not only did he give his life to Jesus, but in doing so, he became useful. In saying, “Not my will, but Your will be done,” he became useful. God had big plans for Onesimus!
If someone would consider your usefulness, what would they say? Would they describe you as very useful? Do you think you are very useful? Or is something getting in the way? That something could even be you! Truth be told, you have a great purpose. God has known this since the very beginning. It is a purpose that I pray you embrace and pour yourself into as an offering. Aim today to come to terms with this usefulness, and if the Spirit convicts you, follow His leading. It is a very dangerous prayer to say, “Use me.” Yet is a prayer than can help position you for what God has already prepared. Be useful. Plant for a good harvest.
“Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.” – Philemon 1:11 [NLT]
Today’s devotion is hard to write. I must admit that as a pastor, this verse is one I think upon often. One day I was hit with this overwhelming truth—that my actions—my words and my deeds – could cause someone to stumble and fall. This great responsibility caused me to reevaluate everything. I asked the Lord to please reveal to me if I am being a stumbling block, and to give me the wisdom and discernment to not get in the way of His work and His people. I was deciding “instead to live in such a way that (I would) not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” This doesn’t mean I haven’t done it, but that I pray for more of Him and less of me. I pray that I can live in such a way to embrace and encourage others on their walk, pointing them to Jesus, speaking life, equipping the saints for His kingdom.
Fall on your knees today and seek the wisdom and discernment so that you, too, will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. Seek out the best interests of others. Live with the eternal perspective. Today, decide to live in such a way that you build others up, that you show the love of Christ, that you reach down and raise up. This is grace. It is the same grace that God has shown us when He reached down in our broken world, and through Christ Jesus raised us to new life. We are now co-heirs with Christ Jesus. Live in such a way.
“So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” – Romans 14:13 [NLT]
The Bible tells us that we are to honor people above ourselves. Some translations say that we are to “outdo one another in showing honor” (ESV, HCSB). This can also be translated as “excel in showing respect for each other” (GW). This respect or honor is not something we see often.
When you show respect to another person you are acknowledging them and showing that they matter. The verse tells us to “love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Not only must we love with true affection, but we should be eager to honor one another. This requires humility and grace.
How have you honored something recently? How have you reached out to show someone that they matter? Today, consider how you can do this with both word and deed. Take delight in honoring someone.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” – Romans 12:10 [NLT]
There are different types of love. Phileo is often looked at as brotherly love. Eros is the sexual kind of love. Agape is the highest form of love, an unconditional love; this is the love that God has for us.
Many of us have a broken understanding of love. Our definition of love has been corrupted by abuse and worldly definitions. Maybe too many Hallmark and Lifetime movies have caused us to cross the line. The truth is we cannot truly love others, until we first grasp the love of God. When we begin to understand His love, and we walk with Him, we begin to grow in love and overflow in love. We then “love each other because He loved us first.”
Today, embrace the love of God. God loves you so much that He sent His one and only Son to pay for your sins so that if you believe in Him, you are given the free gift of eternal life. He loves you so much, He continues to reach out to you. He desires a relationship with you. It is by His example and through the Spirit that we can love others. We love each other because He loved us first.
“We love each other because He loved us first.” -1 John 4:19 [NLT]
The Israelites were quick to complain about God when they didn’t have their eyes on food. Just after God brought them out of Egypt, they forgot what He rescued them from, because they were hungry. Where was the food? We would be better off back in Egypt.
Even though the Israelites were complaining, God showed His glory to them. He didn’t withhold His glory. How awesome is that?!? He graciously allowed them to “see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud.”
Have you ever seen God’s glory? If you haven’t, you haven’t been looking. Despite each of us being sinners, He allows us to see His glory. Despite us often being ungrateful, He allows us to see His glory. Today, thank Him for His gracious ways. Thank Him for allowing us to experience Him—allowing us to see His glory!
“And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud.” – Exodus 16:10 [NLT]
We have a choice in life. We can live as a God pleaser or a people pleaser. This is difficult for some people. I know that as a child, I wanted nothing more than to please people. My daughter is somewhat of a people pleaser as well. It is great to want to please people. The issue is when you compromise pleasing God to please people.
Jesus Christ is grace and truth. We always must live with grace and truth always on our minds, with Jesus always in our heart. He is our focus. He is our priority. We cannot step around like we are walking on egg shells, and keep ourselves from speaking truth. We cannot disregard the spiritual immaturity of others, simply because it may offend someone to speak truth in love.
God has placed us right where we are at this very moment. There are people around us who need to experience God’s grace and His truth. Today, do not skate around the truth because you don’t want to ruffle any feathers. If you love someone, speak truth. Keeping the truth from a person because you want to please them results in a few problems. First, you are not pleasing God. Second, as you attempt to please this person, you deny them the truth. Perhaps, even enabling them. This is not love. Grace is an important thing—and a beautiful thing. However, there always must be balance. Honor God’s Truth.
“For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:4 [NLT]
People many times say that God is hiding from them, that they cannot tell if He’s around. The truth is that God never moved—you did! Again and again, we read in the Bible of people who fall short, people who do not walk with God. A holy God cannot look sin in the face. Even so, God is gracious and merciful. Again and again, He forgives us. Each day we are offered the opportunity of a daily cleansing, a new day. It is through Jesus Christ alone that we are able to stand before the throne as white as snow.
In Zechariah 1, we read about a call to return to the Lord. Zechariah declares what the Lord says, “Return to me… and I will return to you.” It’s that simple. Don’t allow it to be complicated. Don’t allow people to put stumbling blocks between you and God. Don’t think His grace and mercy are for everyone but you. Return to Him and He will return to you.
Every day we have an opportunity to decide which road we will take. Every day we can move closer to Jesus or in the opposite direction. When we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). When we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Today, take time to reach out to Him. He’s already reaching out to you.
“Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.” – Zechariah 1:3 [ESV]
After we read about the sinfulness of God’s people in the beginning of the fourth chapter of Hosea, there is this one verse that follows which talks about accusations. The verse says, “let no one contend, and let none accuse.” Then we read the reason why. The contention has a place—it is towards the priest.
Wow! This is harsh to chew upon. The finger is pointed at the leadership. The priest who was put in charge of God’s Word, who was to lead the people to God and His Truth, was on the receiving end. That was where the contention was placed. But why? Because the people were led astray. The people were so far from God that they had no knowledge of Him. What was the priest doing? Why was the Law absent? Why was God not known?
Leadership is hard. Each day I recognize the opportunity I have been given, but more importantly the responsibility. I have a tree of people in my office at work to look at to remember this responsibility. At my home office, I have a card I was given by the church congregation. I read over the names often. I remember this great responsibility. Lead to Truth. Lead with grace. Lead with love at the center. Whether you lead in an area of ministry, lead your children at home, lead at your workplace—no matter where you lead, it’s always the same. Lead to Truth. Lead with grace. Lead with love at the center.
“Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest.” – Hosea 4:4 [ESV]
While picking up a few things, I planned to get the dogs each a new toy. I got the dogs a nylon chew bone that is supposed to help clean teeth. It was certainly one of the worst purchases I’ve made for the dogs as Max has no interest in the bone. After seeing his rejection, I considered the options – real bone or fake bone. Max gets real bones all the time. He has had the real deal. Perhaps the fake bone is just that – a fake bone.
When you experience the real deal, you really don’t want anything else. When you have the best, there is no desire to have anything else. I can think of the beautiful beaches of Australia. Once you walk upon those beaches and take in that air, there’s nothing that can compare. When you have a fancy meal made by a top chef, anything else does not bring joy to the palate in the same way. When you’ve have a great cup of coffee, having any other coffee can be considered devastating. You may have heard the phrase, “You’ve ruined it for me,” said when someone has had this experience.
Today, consider the real and the fake. The fake bone is just like anything else that is offered that is not a relationship with God. Once you have a relationship with God, once you experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ, there is nothing that compares. Once you accept Jesus, once you take that step and allow Him to begin to make things new in your life, the desire for anything else is far away. Why accept anything less than He Who created all things? Why live a life seeking all that fake, when you have the option of knowing He Who is Truth?
“Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” – Psalm 40:5 [NIV]