(Kevin & Becca Deming)
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Have you ever grown a garden? The seeds you plant will determine the kind of crop you grow. You will never plant a tomato seed and have it grow corn. When planting you need to make sure that you are planting the right seeds.
The same is true for our spiritual lives. The seeds that we sow determine what our lives reflect or grow. As believers, our goal should be to reflect Christ in all that we say and do. It is important for us to make sure that we are having the right seeds planted in our lives so that the fruit we grow is the fruit that will glorify God, and that will encourage and strengthen others.
In order to yield that good fruit or Godly character, we must allow God to cultivate, plant and grow seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. As these seeds grow, we begin to look more like our Master Gardener. We will become more like Christ in the way we live and the way we love.
Pray for God to cultivate areas of our lives that need to be dug up, weeded and tilled in order for His seeds to grow His fruits in our lives.
Pray for wisdom and insight to allow God’s truths to be planted in our lives.
Pray for good fruit (Godly Character) to be evident and grow in our lives so that we reflect Him.
Of The Spirit
(Mike & Karen Strine)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
The fruit of the spirit is a famous list of 9 attributes that are present in the life of a Christ follower because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s important to notice that they are fruit of the spirit and not fruits of the spirit. So all 9 of these attributes should be growing in you. The growth happens organically, not mechanically as we stay connected to His spirit that lives in us. Prayer is the connection!!
Take a moment today to pray through the list of attributes of the fruit of the spirit. Pause after each one and allow God to speak words of affirmation (where have you grown in this area?) and encouragement for potential growth (where have you noticed you have some room to grow?)
Sundays are meant for worship, rest and reflection. We hope this prayer of St. Francis lifts you up this Sunday, and we hope you are able to join us at either our Eldersburg, Hampstead, Hereford or Westminster campus – and if you’re not local, online, as we continue our series on Philippians 1:9-11.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
(Mike & Lisa Palmer)
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 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. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Your journey with Jesus will be filled with moments when you will be faced with making decisions between right and wrong, good and evil. In those moments, God will give you the wisdom to do that which honors Him and strengthens your faith. You just have to ask and believe.
Ask God to bless you with continued wisdom to make decisions that keep you in His will. Ask Him to lead you through those moments of doubt that occasionally surface during times of adversity.
Plans Of The Lord
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
The Lord is speaking through his prophet, Jeremiah, to the people that were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon. The people were encouraged to even in the midst of dark times to pray and seek peace in the place that they were.
As we pray, we align our hearts with God’s. He fills us with his peace and guides us. This happens even in times when His plan does not look like our plan.
Today, as we continue in our 21 days of prayer journey may you submit to where the Lord is leading you. Remember who God says he is and know that he has a perfect plan for your life.
Reflect on the character of God: Reflect on who God says he is. Pray that God would reveal to you a deeper understanding of who he is.
Reflect on the promises of God: Reflect on the promise of the cross. Do you believe that Jesus died for you personally, that he has a hope and a future for you? Pray that God would give you clarity on who you are in Christ.
Reflect on ways you can submit to God: Reflect on where God is leading you. Pray that God would give his eyes to see, his ears to listen, his mouth to speak, his heart to love. That He would fill you with the courage to submit to his good plan for you.
(Joe & Karen Raab)
Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.
These are the final words from the prophet Hosea. The final verse after 14 chapters. This was the point he wanted us to leave with. “The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them.” He even sets it up by instructing that if you are really wise and discerning Pay Attention!
The ways of the Lord are right, but how do we know what those ways are? We should ask Him!
Jesus answers a similar question from his disciples in John 14 with this: “I am the way and the truth and the life”. Jesus is saying that if you seek to know him, you will know the way, the truth, and the life.
We get to know him through prayer and His word.
Take a moment to thank God that his ways are right and will lead the righteous forward.
Thank God that by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross you have been made righteous before God.
Pray that Jesus would help you to grow in your knowledge of who He is. Take a moment to sit in His presence and sense if there is something He wants to tell you today.
Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide you today in each step to know the way that is right.
Fixing Our Eyes
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.
As the saying goes, when you look into scripture and see the word, “therefore,” you’ll want to go back and see what it is “there for.” Such is the case with the beginning of Hebrews chapter 12. If you look back to chapter 11, you will find the great “Hall of Faith” or “Faith Hall of Fame,” as it is sometimes called. This is a chronicle of the great faith of many of the saints who have gone before us. From Abraham, to Moses and David, and many in between, this passage describes how despite their many obstacles and challenges, these saints were commended for their faith in God.
I would highly recommend your reading this passage before moving on to Chapter 12. It is there to encourage us through our own hard times. And yet, like us, these saints were certainly not perfect. There is only One who is, and that is Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith! This brings us to our scripture for today.
This week’s theme is that 2021 will be marked by what is God’s best for His people. Even though dying on a cross may not seem like God’s “best” for a person, especially his own Son, on the other side of the cross was joy. The “joy set before Him,” was reconciliation of us to God. This was God’s plan from the beginning and God always has our best in mind!
Spend a few moments praying through and reflecting on these verses. Thank God for the many examples of faith mentioned in Hebrews Chapter 11.
Reflect upon how Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter, of our faith.
Often, the advice given to people running a race is to picture the finish line and “keep your eyes on the prize.” Reflect upon how Jesus is our “prize.” Ask God to help you keep your eyes fixed upon Him as you face trials and obstacles of your own.
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus would endure the cross for US? WE were the “joy set before him!” Think about what this says about who you are. Jesus died for YOU! Thank Him for his indescribable gift!!
Ask God to remind you of this truth when things in your life get hard, so that you will not lose heart. Pray also that this truth would be made known to others you know who are facing trials right now. Pray for these people now.
Ask God for opportunities to share this truth with the people you love. Pray that your eyes would be open to see these opportunities and for the courage to share the truth of God’s love with others.
Be encouraged! You are loved!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Worship is the idea that we would think and be more concerned about the glory of God, rather than the glory of self, even to the detriment of self at times. That God would be on our mind in all things all the time.
True and proper worship comes first from reflecting on God‘s mercy and then choosing to live a life set-apart and satisfying to God.
God’s best is for us to be set apart from this world, not conforming to it. This is not easy and Paul suggests in this letter that the transformation would take place in the renewing of our mind. That we would think differently about things, take thoughts captive and examine them under the truth and light of Jesus.
God’s best can often be discovered through worship and intentional thinking. Or as I like to call it, prayer.
Conforming to the world comes in many forms. A common conformity in my experience is that we would choose to complain. Complaining is a choice, it is also a perspective we take in our mind to see something one way. Reflect on areas where you complain most and consider how God might transform you.
True and proper worship comes from sacrifice. Reflect on things that may have to be sacrificed in your life in order to be more concerned with the glory of God more often. Is it your pride, your need to be right, your schedule, your possessions, your relationships?
…so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…
Paul starts his letter (Philippians 1:1-8) pouring out his heart for these friends of his, telling them of his gratitude for them, his great hopes for them and his great affection for them. It’s like he can’t contain himself–His great love for his friends overflows into a prayer to God for them. It was once said, “To love someone is to pray for them.” And that is what happens with Paul here.
Philippians 1:10 is the second verse of Paul’s 3-verse prayer for the Philippians. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians reflects the Lord’s heart for us – He wants the very best for us. He wants us to be able to make the best choices. He wants us to discover what is excellent, to differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong, important and trivial. And as we discern what is best in love, we will remain pure and blameless as we await Christ’s return.
The only way to discover God’s best, is to spend time with Him. Get close. Listen in. Prayer is a two-way street–it’s not just talking to God. It’s listening too. If you want God’s best for your life, you have to start with God’s best for your day. So, begin each day close to the one who desires the very best for you!
Pray over the details of your day with the Lord. Pray over your to-do lists. Then, listen. Is there something else God brings to mind? Ask God to help you discern the good from the best today.
Allow your love for someone else to pour out into prayer. Pray these words from Philippians 1:9-11 over a loved one.
Pray for our Church body- that God’s love would overflow among us, so that we can discern God’s best, leading lives that are pure and blameless as we prepare for Christ to come again!
Sundays are meant for worship, rest and reflection. We hope this prayer by Thomas Merton lifts you up this Sunday, and we hope you are able to join us at either our Eldersburg, Hampstead, Hereford or Westminster campus – and if you’re not local, online, as we continue our series on Philippians 1:9-11.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
More Than A Contract
“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.”
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is speaking to a brand new generation of believers that came up out of the exodus from Egypt in the desert. Moses hoped they would understand something the previous generation had missed: we love God by keeping his commandments because he is our God who loved us first. NOT, he is our God because we love him by keeping his commandments, and he loves us because we earned it.
Our Christian faith can have a reputation for being works-based. Meaning we work towards perfection and righteousness in order to earn the love, favor, and blessings of God. This makes the gospel out to be contractual. Said another way, we work for life change, not from life change.
But this can’t be. God is God. It seems like a simple statement but Moses’s implication is that God is the same, he is faithful, he keeps his promises, his covenant of love remains true. It’s not a contract of love. He first loved us, no amount of good can make him love us more, and no amount of bad can make him love us less. Our life changes because we accept his love for us through the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ.
But also, God is God. Meaning he is the Lord over your life and all things. This makes him deserving of our obedience. We should study and know his commandments and, because of his love for us, be spurred on towards obedience in those commands.
Obedience is one of the best ways we love and honor God, it’s far more than a contract. And His commandments are meant for our good, they are one of the ways in which God loves us.
How have you tried to earn and work for the love of God? Remember God loves you first and at your worst.
How can you better love God through obedience this week? Remember how deserving God is of your obedience and devotion.
(Joe & Karen Raab)
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
God is with you. We just celebrated that a few short weeks ago. Christmas, Emmanuel – God with us. But sometimes we forget what it means that God is with us.
The prophet Zephaniah tells us that God is a Mighty Warrior… who saves! God fights for you! Bring your battles before The Mighty Warrior. He WILL fight for you. Why?
Because He takes great delight in you! The God of the universe delights in you! You bring Him joy! So much joy that God bursts into song over you! How amazing and wonderful is that?!?!
Take a moment and take in the delight that God feels for you. Let it bring a smile to your face.
Take some time to acknowledge God’s presence with you and thank Him for always being with you.
What battles do you need to hand over to The Mighty Warrior? Take a moment to pray about that.
Pray that God would help you to grasp the fullness of his love and delight for you. Pray that it would change you.
Will Not Be Shaken
(Mike & Lisa Palmer)
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Things change. People change. God never changes.
Mountains and hills are considered the strongest parts of God’s earthly creation. They are shaken and removed by earthquakes, but the love of God is never shaken nor removed by any event or situation. His love and peace are immovable because they are not built on our merit, but on God’s mercy.
Reflect on how God’s love for you never changed even at times when you may not have done your best in expressing or displaying your love for Him and others.
Consider how His love will remain the same through whatever challenges you face this year.
God is Love
(Kevin & Becca Deming)
1 John 4:7-8; 18
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
God is love. Everything that God does is based out of His love for us. This is so refreshing. God is the creator and author of love. He is the one who has perfected love and that perfection comes in the form of His Son Jesus coming to earth to take away our sins.
This is why perfect love drives out fear. It is this love that saves us and we can be confident that we are restored to God because of what Jesus has done for us.
We can approach God with confidence and not fear, because He is FOR us. Everything God does is completely driven by His love for us.
The fear that perfect love is casting out is the fear of God’s judgement. It is this fear that we haven’t done enough, that God won’t accept us because we are not good enough. The truth is we aren’t “good enough” and we won’t be accepted by God because of anything we do (or don’t do); we are accepted by God because of what Jesus has done. Our fear of being rejected by God has no validity when we have put our faith and trust in Christ. The key to overcoming fear is a complete and total trust in God.
Ask yourself, what are the fears that are keeping you from Trusting God? Take a moment and write some of those fears down.
Pray for us to focus on God’s love for us rather than our fears.
Pray for God to change these fears to hope in Christ.
Pray for God to remind us that He loves and everything He does is out of love for us.
His Love Endures Forever
(Reid & Elizabeth Robinette)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
The refrain or chorus of a song is often the part that is easiest to remember. In this song (Psalm) it is the refrain “His love endures forever” that gets repeated 26 times! Maybe this repetition is included because it is such a powerful truth to remember. Think about how it could change your attitude or perspective throughout the day if at 5e end of every thought you added “His love endures forever”.
Try writing out your prayer today and at the end of each sentence include the line “His love endures forever”. Meditate on that truth throughout the day. Give thanks for His never ending love!
Dimensions of Love
(Kevin & Laura Syes)
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Paul was pretty big on us understanding how big God’s love is. In fact, he often would pray for this. What an amazing thing to pray!
Why did he care so deeply that we would understand God’s love? …Because the more we understand God’s love the more we will be transformed by it.
In fact, as we begin the year 2021 together, the one factor that is going to determine the health of our church is this: how much are we going to allow ourselves to be transformed by God’s love in the year 2021?
It’s a lifelong endeavor, but let’s begin today. Think of yourself as a builder looking at a set of blueprints. If you are going to build your life this year, begin by looking at the dimensions of God’s love for you. The rest will fall into place!
Spend a few moments and pray through/reflect on:
…how wide God’s love is: Reflect on how God cares for every person. Pray that God would show you how to love the people around you this year. Write down three people you want to share God’s love with in the year 2021
…how long God’s love is: Reflect on the day you came to know Jesus. Reflect on his faithfulness. God’s love started before time and stretches out into all of eternity.
…how high God’s love is: Reflect that God’s love is as high as the heavens are above the earth. It’s so high we literally can’t fully comprehend it!
…how deep God’s love is: Consider the picture of God’s love on the cross. God’s love is deeper the nails that held Jesus on the Cross.
It seems like such a simple idea. Before taking actions, making decisions or facing challenges this life brings, just pray first. Yet, for many of us, praying is the last thing we do. After acting, deciding and facing challenges, we turn to God.
A new year often feels like a new start. Even if the only thing that actually changed was the name of the month, January offers a mindset of fresh starts and new opportunities to make changes. I invite you to join me in making pray first a new priority in 2021.
This devotional will guide you through 21 days of prayer. Tim Keller describes prayer this way, “Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. . . . We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence.”
It is my prayer for the next 21 days that listening each day to the words of scripture, and responding to the promptings of His Holy Spirit in prayer, you you will encounter God – and be changed by that encounter.
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