Unstoppable

When you are in love, you are different. You will do anything, go anywhere. All you want is to be with the one you love. This is true, passionate love – being totally committed, not just dipping your toes in the water to see what the temperature is like. If you are not in love, then why serve, why minster, why turn up at church, why go to another meeting? Rolland and I were missionaries for 26 years before we discovered this truth!

Rolland was even born on the mission field. But we got really tired and burned out. To say we were missing the point is an understatement. But then God got hold of us and poured His sweet “Holy Spirit love” into us. He transformed us into people who were fully in love, fully committed – and with that love comes unstoppable energy.

When you are in love, you have power; you will do anything and go anywhere your loved one asks. You simply trust the one you love to be there for you. You can run headlong into dark places if you know light is waiting for you. You can jump out of a boat into a stormy sea; you can take extravagant risks; you can live right on the edge. If you fall off or fall over, you fall into grace.

When you start to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, you start to get full. Full of what? Full of God. Full of the understanding that no matter what He asks you to do, you can do it. No matter where He asks you to go, you can go. You can live on the edge, because even in the darkest places, light is waiting for you. His love, His light, in you and me.

True love and passion make us unstoppable.

As we come to the end of this devotional plan, understand that God is calling you into a place of deeper intimacy with Him. He longs to fill you to overflowing with His love and grace, that His fragrance might spill out of you to touch the world. Surrender to Him afresh now, and let His unstoppable love consume you. You are loved!

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Passion

Jesus loves us so much that He never leaves us the way He finds us. His love often starts with a question – a question that reaches down from the safety of our minds right into our hearts.

Do you love Me?

Often we are too quick to answer when God asks a question of us. Usually our hearts haven’t fully grasped what He wants us to understand. God is looking to affect our hearts more than our minds. He wants to wreck our hearts – in other words, to change the way our hearts feel about things; to change the way we react to the situations that exist in a broken world.

The Scripture says, “Love the Lord your God … with all your mind” (Mark 12:30). We are called to love God with every fiber of our beings. All of us, in our entirety, must be wholly given over to the Master – our hearts, our souls, our minds, our emotions. God wants us to be fully yielded to Him with reckless devotion. To “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). This is passion! Let us determine to live lives abandoned to His love, lives made up of passion. Decide to trade the worst for the best, death for life, darkness for light.

Paul wrote that “…whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7), and said that all the things he had sacrificed in his life were “garbage” compared to gaining Christ as his Lord.

In surrender we actually lose nothing. We stand only to gain. We are gaining a life lived in His love. An oak tree starts life as an acorn hidden in the dirt. Nobody would even know it was there. But contained within that tiny, hidden thing are all the makings of beauty, might, splendor, and shelter. The little acorn simply takes a lifetime to become all that it was always meant to be.

Before anything else, beloved, we are His, hidden in Him. Today, let go of anything you’re holding onto that may be preventing you from pursuing Jesus with passion.

God’s Heart for the Vulnerable

When the Old Testament talks about God’s justice, it often does so by highlighting His particular concern for those most vulnerable to injustice. Three particular groups are highlighted repeatedly: the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (or, in different English translations, the stranger, alien, sojourner, or immigrant).

Not only does God love and provide for these vulnerable groups of people, He also commands His people to do the same. As we saw yesterday, God even instilled policies to ensure that these vulnerable groups has the means to provide for basic needs such as food.

Later, God sent prophets to rebuke those who had failed to protect these vulnerable groups. Jeremiah and Malachi warn of God’s judgment for those who failed to keep these commands, listing mistreatment of the orphan, widow, and foreigner alongside sins such as adultery, sorcery, lying, and shedding innocent blood.

The Bible also takes these three groups—widows, orphans, and foreigners—as metaphors for how God rescues each of us in the midst of our vulnerability. The Prophet Isaiah compares God to a husband, redeeming a widow. In Galatians, Paul describes our salvation in Jesus as a process of being adopted as God’s children. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that those of us who are Gentiles were once strangers and aliens to God’s covenant with the Jewish people, but that by Christ’s death, we can be naturalized in as citizens of God’s kingdom, reconciled to Him and also to one another.

God deeply loves the vulnerable—and, at least in a spiritual sense, that includes all of us.

Reflection Questions:

1. How could you practically serve and reflect God’s love toward those who are vulnerable in your community?

2. How might recognizing your own vulnerability—and God’s grace in redeeming us in the midst of it—inform how you respond to those who are vulnerable as widows, orphans, or foreigners in our society and around the globe?

HOW WE SHOULD LIVE – PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11

If you are a father, you have likely tried multiple ways to motivate your kids: threats of punishment, promises of rewards, wielding your authority, and reminding them of all you have done for them. In many ways, pastoring a group of people is a lot like parenting. When the apostles wrote letters to the churches, they cared deeply for the people receiving them and viewed themselves as their fathers in the faith.

How did the apostles strive to motivate people to live in response to God’s greatness and grace? How did they encourage them to live the reality of their new identity? The apostles often rooted the imperatives (the commands) God gave in the indicative (what Christ has done). To understand their letters, it is helpful to understand the difference between imperatives and the indicative.

Imperative = Commands or “Do”

Indicative = What Christ accomplished or “Done”

You will find that the apostles’ letters are filled with imperatives, but these imperatives are grounded in what Christ has done (indicative). That’s because if our hearts are not refreshed and renewed with what Christ has done for us, our hearts are unable to obey Him. We need to be in awe of His grace to be motivated to live out the commands (the imperatives).

Let’s look at some passages written to the churches. Note if they are imperative or indicative.

EPHESIANS 5:25: Husbands, love your wives (imperative), just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. (indicative)
ROMANS 6:1-2
EPHESIANS 4:32
ROMANS 15:7
2 CORINTHIANS 8:7,9

Do you see the common theme? The imperatives are there—Do this, but they are always rooted in the indicative—because Christ has done that. As your heart is constantly refreshed with what Christ has done, you want to obey Him. You want to follow Him. His commands don’t feel like a burden because this world is less and less attractive to you as you view Him as greater and greater.

Let’s close with this example: We are to think of others first (imperative) because Christ put our salvation ahead of His comfort (indicative). Ponder this as you read PHILIPPIANS 2:3-11.

What’s the difference in an imperative and an indicative?

What are some examples of indicatives that motivate you? Why do they motivate you?

What happens if we get the imperative before the indicative?

CHRIST IS ABOVE ALL, Continued – COLOSSIANS 1:16-17

Understanding who Jesus is and correcting false perceptions about Him is essential to your recognition of Christ above all. Today we continue with Colossians 1:16-17.

FOR EVERYTHING WAS CREATED BY HIM,

Jesus did not come into existence when He was born into this world. He has always existed. He was present in creation. He created the whole world and everything in it. He created the great foods we eat and the sunrise we observe. He created Mary, His earthly mother, and the trees, which formed the cross He would embrace. Everything was created by Him.

IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH, THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE, WHETHER THRONES OR DOMINIONS OR RULERS OR AUTHORITIES.

The language of “thrones or dominions or ruler or authorities” is used elsewhere in the Scripture, and it describes evil supernatural powers that we do not see (Ephesians 6:12). God created all things, even the evil spirits that seek to deceive and destroy. But understand this: the demons were not created evil; they became evil. They sinned against God and were cast from His presence. In the same way, there are good things that God has created that we distort and ruin in our sinfulness. But this does not change the reality that He has created everything.

ALL THINGS HAVE BEEN CREATED THROUGH HIM AND FOR HIM.

Not only has Christ created all things, but also all things have been created for Him to bring Him glory. He created the sunset so we can see visibly the creativity of our invisible God. He created the food we enjoy so when we taste it we might say, “Wow, God is good to us.”

He created all things so that all things could bring Him glory. One day even the demons will bow to Him and declare He is God.

HE IS BEFORE ALL THINGS, AND BY HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER.

Marcus Aurelius said that all things have their being in nature. However, the text from Colossians teaches and reminds us that everything is sustained by Christ. You are sitting here in this moment because He is holding the universe together. He is, by His mercy, keeping the sun the exact distance it needs to be from the earth. He is the One keeping the blood flowing through your body. He holds all things together.

What are the false perceptions of Christ in our world today?

Finding God Part Twelve

Every relationship requires communication. So it is with God. We need to hear from him, and he wants to hear from us.

* Read and study God’s word, the Bible, both by yourself and with others. This is how God speaks to us. The more we know and understand the Bible, the more we know who God is and what he wants for us. It might seem overwhelming at first, but with consistency and good teachers, you will quickly learn what God intends for you.

* Pray, talk to God daily. Learn to share your thoughts and feelings with God all through the day. Make this a habit; think of it as spiritual breathing. God is always with you, and he wants to share every moment with you. Do so. Learn to thank God for everything, even the small things. He will then show you his will for every decision you make.

Finding God Part Seven

We’ve read what God says regarding the sin that separates us from him. How do we find the solution?

Because he loves you, God does not want this separation to remain between you and him. But, because he is perfect, he cannot allow our sin to go unpunished. Otherwise he would cease to be perfect, which means he would cease to be God. The sin-bill must be paid.

Religion and good living cannot pay it. Nothing we can do can pay for it. A bank-robber doesn’t become free from guilt just because he stops robbing banks. So it is with our sin. Nothing we can do can erase our sin record. We are stuck. We need a Savior.