My Beloved Son

elderly hands folded in prayer

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

Prayer is a Healing Activity

Prayer is a healing activity for us. As believers, we pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we get alone with God (Matthew 6:6) and pray to the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hears us, consoles us, and acts on our behalf.

As part of our healing, before we pray, we need to settle any matter where someone has something against us (Matthew 5:23). As we enter into prayer, we believe that God is and that He answers prayers (James 1:6), knowing that “if we worship God and do His will, God listens to us (John 9:31). 

Preparing for Prayer

Entering prayer, we draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We are entering our prayer time with confidence (1 John 5:14-15). We give thanks to God (Matthew 6:9-13). We confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9 ) and forgive anyone that has wronged us (Mark 11:25). As we pray, we should take time to be at peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

We Ask

Praying, we go before our Father, praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18 ). We pray on behalf of others that are in need (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We ask our Father for spiritual things, material things, emotional things, human things. We ask because our God has told us to ask (Matthew 7:7) and we remember that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)

We pray to our Father, trusting that the Spirit leads us as we pray, and we know that Jesus is our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5 ) between our humanity and God’s divinity. Most importantly, we pray for the will of Jesus, our Lord. That is what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray in the name of Jesus (John 14:13). 

God’s Beloved Son

So, whether we begin our prayer in the name of Jesus or close our prayer in His name, when bringing His name before our Father, I think it’s good to acknowledge that our petitions are in the name of God’s beloved Son (Matthew 3:17).

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The Problem With Dads

Dad hugging son

Matthew 3:16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The Problem With Dads

Not everyone has a meaningful relationship with their dad. Within the complexities of our society, many dads are absent from their children; many more remain in their family but are unapproachable or disengaged or outright damaging to their kids. These Godless actions of dads result in children and adults who are unable to relate to Father God.

Many of these damaged souls hate God, for they resent God, feeling abandoned by Him. These people need us, for we have personally experienced the love of God and have marveled at the beauty of the relationship between our heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, and God’s Spirit abiding in us.

God’s Beloved Son

God can use us to bring the Good News of God’s beloved Son to those around us that are hurt and damaged by a dysfunctional relationship with their dads. 

Perhaps, you, too, have only bad experiences with your dad or no experience with your dad. Recovery starts with Jesus, with forgiveness, with studying God’s Word to see how the Father loves the Son, and how our loving Father embraces us and desires to bring renewal into the hearts for those that cringe at the thought of fathers. 

Lean In To God

Be bold. Lean in to “Our Father which art in heaven.” And when you pray, pray in the name of the Father’s “beloved Son” with whom He is well pleased.

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Secrets In God

a closet

If you are going to tell a friend a secret, Starbucks is the wrong setting. In fact, no coffee shop will work because everyone is listening to everyone else’s conversation. No, to tell your friend a secret, you need to go someplace private. That is what Jesus told us to do when we pray:

Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”. – Matthew 6:6

Alone With God

I’ve found that the time I spend alone with God works just like regular friendships; it deepens with time. And with consistency, I don’t have to spend very much time on housekeeping. That way, we have time to intercede in prayer for people, pray for our leaders, our country, our pastor, and so forth. But then there needs to be a time when I speak with my God.

If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly. – Saint Teresa of Avila

I need to hear from God, feel His presence, and share our secrets. What secrets? Well, if I told you… 😉 The truth is that in our intimacy with God, He will create secrets. “Give Joe an extra big tip next time.” Don’t tell anyone what you did. Or, “Tell Sue that you will bring her name before the God of all Creation.” It’s just between Us/us.

Profound Secrets

Sometimes God’s secrets are much more profound. They may deal with your relationship with the Holy Spirit. God may be planting a call to foreign missions in your heart. I personally knew a man that, during his prayer time, God promised to carry him through a difficult time. Less than a week later, he was diagnosed with cancer. God brought him through the medical process, and he is a cancer survivor.

If your prayer time tends to be a “shopping list,” carve out a little extra time to strengthen your relationship with the one true God. You may be surprised at the secrets He shares with you.

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Ask God for More

picture of a dove

Since God is Spirit, let us do as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 14:15 (ESV): I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

Let Us Be Bold When We Pray

Because we serve the God of all Creation, the One who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), let us be bold when we pray and ask God for things that are beyond our abilities. Be confident because, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)

We must always remember our purpose. Our purpose is to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the hope for all who are lost (Luke 19:10 ESV) and the living hope for all who are saved (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). 

God desires to use us, to use you, in ways you may never have considered. The Holy Spirit does wonderful works through God’s servants. If you want more, if you hunger for people to see Jesus, then pray and ask our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit in you. Ask God for all that He desires for you.

Aligned With God’s Will

As the Holy Spirit of God fills you to overflowing, remember He never asks anyone to do or say anything that contradicts the Bible. And as you grow, keep yourself aligned with God’s will, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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13 milliseconds

an eye

The human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. – MIT NEWS That’s nearly eight times faster than a blink of an eye.  Admittedly, we don’t know how long Jesus looked at Peter when Jesus was on trial, but it was enough time for both of them to know that Christ’s prophecy about Peter was fulfilled.

Luke 22:61 (ESV), And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

I can’t think within 13 milliseconds, so I need to be so full of the Holy Spirit that He’s continually leaking out of me, through my eyes, through my words, through the way I carry myself, through my facial muscles. I need all of those working for God if I only have 13 milliseconds for someone to see Jesus in me. 

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Thanksgiving

Solders in chow line for Thanksgiving

Colossians 3:15-17 The Message (MSG)
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

As long as I’ve been a Christian, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Shouldn’t Christmas be it since I am a Christian? Good question. Yes, it SHOULD, but the intention of this Holy Day is more soiled, shredded, and mutilated than the items people hold in their avaricious hands as they stand in line at Walmart. Why not Easter? Same story. The Easter egg hunt reigns supreme on this intended Holy Day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior.

Conspicuous Consumption

No, for most of my Christian life the best that conspicuous consumption could stir up against Thanksgiving was a turkey and pumpkin pie. Both good but not able to overshadow the 800-pound gorilla in the room; to whom do you give thanks?

Giving thanks implies a Giver and places the Giver above the receiver unless you can give back as much, and in kind. A one-shot, day of giving stuff at Christmas pales in comparison to receiving every breath you take for every second or every day for the whole year. – My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for, to me, too many years. But I won’t know until I get to heaven what was gained in God’s kingdom from her battle.

Well, I am still grasping on to Thanksgiving despite its slow, maniacal disassembly. We have Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday. We have Christmas commercials that overlap Halloween. Commercialism is in a no-holds-barred battle against Thanksgiving, and it’s winning.

Friendsgiving 🙁

Just last week I saw a commercial that called Thanksgiving “Friendsgiving”; they’ve tossed the gorilla out of the window. My guess is that the Thanksgiving Holy Day will fall in line with the other three-day weekend holidays: FaceTime a few friends and family, pop some popcorn and watch football. Yes, I think that is the future of my beloved Holy Day. But not for me. Not in this house. “… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

Take A Little Time

In closing, I’d like to leave you with Andrae Crouch’s song, “Take A Little Time”. You will be blessed.

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Our Heavenly How

a welder

Thankfully, my dad grew up on a farm, so, along with agriculture, he learned carpentry, plumbing, mechanical design, engine repair, and all kinds of skills. It wasn’t just my dad but all of his brothers (and I think my aunt) learned these skills. So even though most of them had other careers they all possessed and used these skills throughout their lives.

I, as well as all of my paternal cousins, learned these same skills. Why? Because our fathers showed us how. They mentored us (in a 1960s sort of way). They showed us how and required us to use these skills as we grew up.

Our Heavenly How

Our heavenly Father also shows us how. We learn “how” by observing. We see Father God at work in the Scriptures, at work in the lives of fellow believers, at work in divine interventions, and at work through people that have no idea that God is using them. Father God doesn’t just tell us to do His work. He shows us how.

As Christians we are reconciled to the Father. Jesus accomplished this on the cross. We are not fatherless; we are not orphans; we are not without hope. Through Jesus, the Father has shown us how to pray, how to deal with rejection, and how to walk by faith.

Our heavenly Father shows us how to recover when our lives crash, how to choose what is right over what is expedient, and how to please Him, just to name a few more examples. He is always near, always showing us how, ever catching us when we fall. 

Use the How

Do you remember how the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to his “son,” Timothy? He wrote, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, (2 Timothy 1:6 ESV)…Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV).”

Paul reminded his “son” that he had been shown how to use the tools and skills that had been given to him; so he needed to use them. Knowing “how” is wonderful but our Father’s expectation is that, by faith, we use our “how”.

Benediction

As I conclude, I would like to reference this Scripture as a closing benediction:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)

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Three Keys to our Daily Life in Christ

neon sign that says keys and has an outline of a key

It’s odd, the things that we remember from when we were young. But first, this memory that lazily wandered through my skull.

I remembered a thought that I had after I started my first full-time job. For several months I was underwater and didn’t have time to think, but then this thought hit me: I no longer have my summertimes off as I had in school. I have to work like this for the rest of my life! (Remember, I was young)

I wasn’t sure I could work forever. I felt a sense of helplessness combined with dread wash over me. I had a good relationship with Jesus, but I still had much to learn; always do. However, you see, I hadn’t discovered three keys to living my life for Jesus.

Three Keys

1. I was trying to picture the whole rest of my life. That doesn’t work. If I try to live in the future, then I will be confused, disappointed, and out of God’s will. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV) How can I even guess my future when daily I lay down my life and pick up my cross and follow Jesus. I rarely know where Jesus is going today until today, so I have no idea what I’ll be doing. 

2. I was envisioning my future upon what my life had been like in the past. That’s just silly. Past failures or successes do not determine my future. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) That old person that I was, has no authority over me and the new person that I am serves the God whose name is “I Am,” so what do I have to dread about the future?

3. I was thinking within the knowledge, wisdom, and faith that I had at the time when that thought went through my mind. But as we follow Jesus, our knowledge increases, our understanding becomes deeper, and our faith grows stronger. I am not the same as I was. I think differently. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17 ESV) Sure, my flesh rises from time to time, and I have to beat it into submission, but that’s part of my cross. 

Pleasing Jesus

Now, many decades later, it seems odd to me that such a thought loomed so large before me. By the grace of Father God, the Shepherding of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit within me, I now see that I just walked right through that fear and dread and didn’t even notice when I did.

These three keys are how you and I successfully live daily in Christ Jesus. We are living through such an incredible adventure!

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No animals were harmed during the writing of this devotional

Holy Priesthood

1 Peter 2:4-5, As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

This “holy priesthood” to which God called us is not in name only nor is it a formal position within the clergy. This role is for all Christians. If we, as Christians, are called to a holy priesthood, then we have work that we must do that aligns with our position.

We don’t sacrifice bulls or goats or lambs

God does not view us as holy priests after the lineage of Aaron; ours is a spiritual priesthood. We don’t sacrifice bulls or goats or lambs in this new priesthood. Since we operate within the Spirit, our sacrifices are spiritual. A good question to ask here is, “What does Peter mean by “spiritual sacrifices?”

We read that Jesus is a living stone (singular), and we are living stones (plural). Therefore our holy priesthood is modeled on that of Jesus, the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). As such, our spiritual sacrifices are foremost that of self and will. Here is a verse to verify this statement: 1 John. 3:16 (ESV), “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

One Mediator Between God and Man

As we know, the ministry of Aaron and his sons was to mediate between people and God. However, as the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV), “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” So, in addition to self-sacrifice, what is it that Christians do in this holy priesthood? Every Christian everywhere is called to be mediators and intercessors between each other and God through Christ Jesus.

We have confidence in our call to be mediators and intercessors because “...we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us…” (see the full context in Hebrews 10:19-25) 

Mediating and Interceding

Our spiritual duty in this holy priesthood is to mediate and intercede for other Christians. This duty means that we counsel and pray with other Christians, using the wisdom, guidance, and other gifts the Holy Spirit gives us, so all Christians come into alignment with the will of God.

As intercessors for other Christians, we add our standings with God to other Christians’ standings. We say “amen” to the prayers our brothers and sisters pray as they lay their petitions before God with assurance, through mediation, that their requests can be asked in the name of Jesus.

These roles help keep the Body of Christ healthy, protected, and in alignment with God’s will.

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Today

As I write this devotional, I confess that I have a cluttered mind. A loved one is going through the process to determine if they have a critical medical condition. I learned of this today.

Also, today, I was asked to consider taking on a voluntary responsibility that was not on my radar. And now I sit here trying to discern what God would have me share with you when what I want is to hear from God about my concerns.

Perhaps that’s too transparent, but it’s the truth.

Don’t click off this page just yet! 

I want to take a moment and consider Ephesians 2:10 (ESV): 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The specific word rendered “workmanship” is only used in one other place and that’s in Romans 1:20, where it is applied to the “works” of God in creation. Verse ten’s perimeter is people – the design and manufacturing of Adam and his progeny is the perimeter of “workmanship.”

Now, within that border (i.e., perimeter), when we were saved, we each became a new creation crafted in Christ Jesus. We were jars of clay before we were saved and we are jars of clay after we are saved. However, for each of us, our spirit is “made alive” inside our clay jar when we become a new creation.

Formed and Born in Jesus!

Now this new creation is formed and born in Jesus; this is not about tangible things but it refers to the Spirit. So, what I’m saying is that your spirit became alive in you when you became a new creation. The same was true for me.

And for each of us, our new creation was built to express the fruit of the Spirit. The characteristics of this fruit are defined in Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control [in an ever increasing measure]; against such things there is no law. 

Now Ephesians 2:10 speaks of the work we are to do. Notice the “walk in them.” The work being referenced is something in which we can walk, like a new pair of shoes.

New Shoes!

These “new shoes” refer to the character of a new creation person. A new creation person should express a new character as defined in Philippians 4:8-9: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

It seems that there is a lot wrapped up in the twenty-two words of Ephesians 2:10. The good news is that, as a Christian, you were made for this. Jesus and you can do this!

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