Dad’s Devo – Perfect Holiness

Dad’s Devo – Perfect Holiness

Today’s verse: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.” (Isaiah 65:25)

Perfect Holiness existed before sin and will exist again in Heaven. God is describing it here in Isaiah, where there is no harm or destruction at all. The example is a wolf and a lamb together, a lion and an ox together. This kind of harmony existed in the Garden of Eden before there was sin. The Holiness was perfect, all existed in harmony together, none seeking to harm another.

While we don’t live in Holiness this side of Heaven, we are called to strive toward Holiness with all our power. One way we can do that is to do everything in our power, to not cause harm to another. At some point in your life, you are the lion and it is fully in your power to cause harm to the ox or to sit peacefully with the ox.

For an ox to sit peacefully with a lion is nothing. The ox has no power. But for the lion to have the power but chose to sit peacefully with the ox, that is honor and Holiness. Everyday, you have the power in you to put someone down, to make someone feel small, inferior or useless. Everyday, you have the power to hurt someone, to destroy them emotionally. But you are called to practice Holiness.

We will never have Perfect Holiness until we arrive in Heaven, but while here on earth, we are called to practice Holiness.

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Dad’s Devo – Imitate Good

Dad’s Devo – Imitate Good

Today’s verse: “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” (3 John 1:11)

OK, first… a confession to make. When I was in the 4th grade, I had a crush on a girl on our swim team. I was barely an OK swimmer, slightly below the middle of the pack. But she had a crush on a 5th grader on the team that was a really good swimmer. So I figured the way to win her over was to swim better. I began studying this guy’s style and form in the water and imitating it. Soon my times improved and I was winning races. In fact I even started swimming against the 5th graders and being competitive, sometimes even winning those too. In the end, I didn’t ‘get the girl’, but I became a better swimmer. I went on to swim on several teams for the next nine years and was very competitive… all because I chose to imitate what was a good form to imitate. Now my motives weren’t the right motives, but the results were good either way.

In John’s third letter, he identifies two very different people. The first one, Gaius, he praises for being a good Christian, taking in some traveling missionaries and caring for others. The other, Diotrephes, he condemns for selfish and slanderous behavior. Then says to the rest of the church whom he calls his ‘beloved’ to be sure to imitate the right one. He even says whoever does evil, has not seen God.

John is not saying whoever does wrong, but whoever does evil. It’s important to understand the difference between these two, because they have less to do with the action and more to do with the heart. To make a mistake or do a wrong thing is situational. You could have the right intentions, or you could even be selfish in the moment, but it’s not evil. Doing evil is a deeper issue. Doing evil is actually wishing ill upon another, seeking to undo any good they have done. Diotrephes not only didn’t help the missionaries, this could just be a mistake. But he takes it a step further and tells lies about those who try to help. The letter said that in addition to not helping he, “also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.” (3 John 1:10)

John is saying that someone who does evil, has never seen God.  Because if you have seen God, if you have accepted Christ as your savior, you are not capable of evil. John gave the two examples and then tells everyone to imitate the good one. That is what we are all called to do. Find a good example of someone doing great things, and imitate them. Imitation is the best form of flattery.

 

Dad’s Devo – Abide

Dad’s Devo – Abide

Today’s verse: “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
2 John 1:9

When I look across the landscape of ‘churches’ today, I see so much false teaching that really breaks my heart. At first I begin to wonder just how bad things are and then I remember that false teaching was rampant even immediately following Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. And like Paul in other letters, John makes it simply and clear in this letter. There’s only one Gospel message, only one Christ, only one teaching… that of Jesus Himself. We either stand in His teaching or we don’t… there’s no in between.

John says to have God (both the Father and the Son) we have to abide in the teaching of Christ. The Greek word used here is menō and means to “dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand or tarry”. This is not a passive thought or action, this takes being on purpose and in alignment with His teaching. James is even specific with a particular “commandment” that we should take heart with. He points to something Jesus said Himself, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

To abide in the teaching of Chris, we are to love one another just as He loved us. How did He love us? That is answered in the most quoted and sited verse in the Bible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

His love is demonstrated by sacrifice. He put our salvation before anything he desired. He obviously desired to skip this torture as he begged His father “saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.””
(Luke 22:42)

So to abide in His teaching, means we sacrifice our own desires for the benefit of others. We put them first and not ourselves. We seek ways to demonstrate His love to the world around us. But it also means we dwell in His word, we spend time studying the scriptures and seeking more ways to apply them in our lives today.

Abide doesn’t involve a casual after thought of who Jesus is. It’s not thinking about Him only when things aren’t going right… it’s thinking about Him and praying to Him at all times. Abide in Him and you will have bot the Father and the Son.

Love Over Compulsion

Love Over Compulsion

Today’s verse: “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you” (Philemon 1:8-9a)

The book of Philemon can often be missed when you’re skimming through your bible. It’s only a couple paragraphs long and it’s written to an individual person who heads a house church. Onesius was a slave in Philemon’s household and had stolen money and ran away. During that time he met Paul, became a Christian and was personally mentored by Paul. Upon learning of his past, Paul wrote this letter back to Philemon asking him to forgive Onesius and accept him as a Christian brother rather than a thief and slave.

What’s interesting is that Paul suggests he could command Philemon to do this thing but would rather that Philemon do it from his heart. There are parallels here to how God calls us to behave. Being the creator of the universe, He could easily compel us to love Him, to obey, to no longer sin. That would be completely in His power. But like Paul in this story, He would much rather we do these things from our heart. God doesn’t want us to love Him out of a command, He doesn’t desire that our obedience is by force… He desires that we do it from our own heart.

Like Paul to Philemon, God appeals to us to love Him by choice, to obey Him out of our own desire to show Him the respect He deserves. Yes, this letter can be about how we are to treat fellow Christians, as brothers in Christ rather than with the weight of their former crimes against us… but this short and often forgotten letter is more about how we ought to display our love to God.

It is truly my deepest desire that each of you come to know and love Christ as both your Lord and your savior. But I don’t want you to have this thought or belief because I say so, I want it to be sincere in your heart. If you call Christ your Lord and savior only because you are instructed to do so, it will be worthless. Christ will see this compulsion rather than from your own heart. Paul said “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. (Romans 10:9)

The ‘believe in your heart’ part is critical because it’s only from you, your heart, not out of compulsion. When you show compassion and obedience out of love and personal desire, above any instruction, or compulsion or desire for a reward, then and only then will your love be genuine.

Dad’s Devo – Above Reproach

Dad’s Devo – Above Reproach

Today’s verse: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8)

In so many shows and movies these days, there is a pivot point that makes the main character loose favor from their closest friends or family. In most cases, this surrounds a lie or coverup of some sorts. There is something that the main character is not honest about and when it’s discovered, distrust is created. This is a common thing we find in pop culture because it’s a regular occurrence in real life. Actions or words we are ashamed of, are then covered up or lied about… then the spin begins until it all gets unraveled in the end.

When Titus was trying to strengthen the churches in the area, and create leadership among the local churches, he had enemies looking to undermine him any way they could. Knowing that any appearance of a coverup or deceit could give the enemy even a thread to pull… and once pulled, the whole ministry could come unraveled. So Paul is warning him, not to give the enemy even a single thread to pull.

How was he to accomplish this? To have good works, teach with integrity and sound speech and make it so the enemy has no evil to speak of. This is not only good advice for someone seeking to build leadership within the church, it’s great advice for all of us. You will always have ‘opponents’ in life. They could be rivals in school politics, competitors for a job or for a sale of a product or service. Life is full of opponents and you should never be surprised to find you have one or twelve.

The advice Paul gave to Titus fits you as well, even now at a young age. We should strive in all that we do to always be ‘above reproach’. This means that our actions give no ammunition to the enemy to use against us. Of course, we are never completely without sin, this is not a call to perfection… but it is a call to work towards raising our level of expectation for ourselves.

The best way to work on this, and to see yourself the way God sees you. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” (Colossians 1:21-22) You are reconciled by His blood to be holy and blameless and should strive in all you do to remain that way.

Dad’s Devo – Don’t Be Idle

Dad’s Devo – Don’t Be Idle

Today’s verse: “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

Reading this text, you may think the thing we need to grasp and focus on is the word ‘Idle’, and that’s partially true. We’ll get to that word. But a very important word here is actually the phrase ‘walking in’ from the Greek word peripateō, which is where we get our word ‘perpetual’. This word is important because it speaks to an issue of the heart. We see the same word when Paul says in several letters to not be “walking in sin”. He acknowledges that we all are still flawed even after being saved and therefore still sin. But there’s a different issue for people who peripateō, or walk in sin. It becomes a heart issue.

It is this heart issue that Paul is referring to when he confronts idleness. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being idle in moments (providing this is not directly impacting others), but ‘walking in idleness’ is a state of being where the person has become complacent, they have given up and now have allowed their heart to be idle, perpetually.

So what does Paul mean by idle? Well, the rest of the passage actually gives some examples. Paul reminds them that they had set the example and were not idle, adding “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.” (v 8) So being idle is not resting, or sitting back and relaxing, it’s expecting to receive things, rewards, without working for them. It’s a feeling of entitlement, that you deserve to receive something simply because you’re there, putting no effort to it yourself.

Our society, our culture is getting really bad with this. I imagine that Paul saw some of this happening in Thessalonica so he addressed it. I look around today and see this issue in full bloom in our culture. This is my warning to you, not to fall for this trap. Politicians and social media will tell you that you deserve things just because you live in this country. The only thing that living in this country grants you is the freedom to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Anything beyond that… falls on you to earn it.

So, do not ‘walk in idleness’, but strive to contribute to the ability God has given you. Our contributions should never be measured against other people, but measured against what God has given you the ability to do. If you persist in contributing to those around you, serving those around you, loving those around you… then you will never be found walking in idleness.

Dad’s Devo – Keep on Keepin’ On

Dad’s Devo – Keep on Keepin’ On

Today’s verse: “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1

Paul had sent his beloved friend to Thessalonica to help them in their faith. He was encouraged by their acceptance of the Gospel when he was there, and encouraged more by what he had heard of their growth. Wanting to keep that going, he sent Timothy there to continue to teach them and to exhort them in their faith. The report from Timothy was even more good news.

Now we have the gift of having all of Paul’s letters now, but at the time, this was Paul’s first letter… and it was a letter of adoration and thanksgiving. But even in the midst of a great report and encouragement, Paul is still giving instructions and reminding them that the goal is still out there. He’ll later give similar advice to the Philippians and reference his own walk with Christ. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”. (Philippians 3:13)

The journey we’re on has a finish line that we will never reach in this lifetime. And that’s by design. We keep on working towards a goal that we only reach when we arrive in Heaven. That goal is perfect Holiness and it’s the only way we can reunite with our creator… to be in His presence, we must be Holy. So in this life, we continue to practice Holiness.

Paul was telling this young church in Thessalonica… you’re doing great, now keep doing it. He was still excited at how far they had traveled from the start line (from when he first brought them the Gospel). But he was reminding them there’s still more race ahead.

It’s good to celebrate how far we’ve come. It’s good to recognize the change that has taken place. But we must never rest there. This is an uphill race towards the most amazing finish line. And since it’s uphill, and release of the gas pedal, and backing off from the practice of Holiness, results in sliding back down the hill, even if just a little bit. If we begin to relax our practice of Holiness, we begin to slide back down the hill, further away from the finish line.

Don’t give up, don’t back down, keep on keepin’ on. This is a life long race and it only gets better the further you progress. Each and every believer, no matter how far along the race they are… finishes the race eventually when they are welcomed into Heaven, so this is not a race we accomplish on our own efforts. But that should never be an excuse to back off from the practice of Holiness. It’s what He’s called us too and the more we obey Him, the better things are for us here in this lifetime too.