Devotional: The Ripple Effect

Sitting beside the pond the day after my son’s wedding, I was thinking about how beautiful the wedding was, how thankful I am for our new daughter-in-law, and what a blessing it was that God brought them together. While praising God I saw this reflection and told God I wanted to be the perfect reflection of Christ—living as he lived and loving as he loved. And then I noticed the ripples.

The ripples were caused by a stream cascading down the hillside and entering the pond. The stream prevents the pond from becoming stagnant and potentially lifeless. My mind whirled with spiritual lessons from this image and those ripples. Let me share a couple of them.

  • If I want to reflect Jesus, I need to walk as he walked—1 John 2:6. I will never perfectly reflect him; my life will always have ripples.
  • I don’t need to be discouraged by the ripples. They are part of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord—2 Peter 3:18.
  • The source of those ripples is the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin, righteousness and judgment—John 16:8. He continually points me to the source of the streams of living water—John 15:26.
  • The stream of living water that gives me life and prevents me from becoming stagnant comes from believing in Jesus—John 7:38-39.
  • The stream is something to thirst for—Revelation 21:6-8.

I realized that I often focus on the ripples in my life as a negative—a constant reminder that I don’t reflect Jesus perfectly. But that day on that hillside, looking at this scene, I believe God wanted to show me a different view. I do reflect Jesus, even with the ripples. My reflection may not be a perfect reflection, but it is still beautiful. I am a work in progress as God makes me one of his masterpieces. And maybe, just maybe, the ripples are caused by the Holy Spirit convicting me so I continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for including me in your work and allowing me to reflect your beauty – ripples and all. Amen.

 

Lord, bring on the ripples,

 

Rick Shallenberger
Regional Director USA, North Central

 

 

Devotional: The Most Important Election Ever…

…is the Father, Son and Spirit’s decision to elect, or choose, humanity to be included in his relationship forever in Jesus!

In Jesus, you and every other person you know, including all presidential candidates that are and ever will be, have been elected or chosen to be at the highest place of honor and privilege possible for a human being – in Christ. All of what it means to be fully human is seated, truly but mysteriously, in that relationship of privilege right now, in the person of Jesus Christ, who represents and substitutes for all of us before the Father. (See Ephesians 1:3-6.)

That is who we humans are, fundamentally, and where your personal human identity is. That is the identity of all members of all political parties everywhere. That is who the presidential candidates in this year’s election in the U.S. really are, too, in Christ (not in and of themselves but in Christ). That is the reason why no matter which candidate has been elected as President of the United States, and no matter how much more difficult or good our political, social, and economical times may get, we all still have a reason for a greater and more REAL hope in the Lord Jesus Christ! Having overcome our evil, sin, and death (which still hinders every human being and political party on earth), Jesus ascended into glory as the God-Man, solidifying the fact that he can still be more faithful than we are (1 Timothy 2:13)

As we live in the Holy Spirit, this is this kind of hope that that will be fueling the thoughts and prayers of us who trust Jesus, the Father’s Son, no matter who we decided to vote for, or decided not to vote for. Hopefully, and appropriately, the decisions you made about your voting came out of a relationship you received from the Father, through Jesus, and in the Spirit. All of what I am describing is not just a static or generic reality but rather a dynamic and relational reality as revealed by Jesus (John 14:12-17) — a relationship in which we ask and seek, and our Father hears and gives (Matthew 7:7-12). In this worshipful and relational way, we who believe and have received Jesus and his Father’s Spirit are participants in having the mind of Christ, even in our voting, and even if we voted differently than other believers might have (1 Cor. 2:16).

Fundamentally, in Christ, all of humanity is still selected and elected to be with him. This is so not because of us but because of Jesus, who sustains everything as the powerful Word of God, now in his human and glorious person (Hebrews 1:3). The sooner we come to embrace this gospel truth by God’s grace, the more we can experience and begin to be who we are in him right now!

Prayer: Please let us fully experience our unity and inclusion in you, Lord. May we see past earthly circumstances to the truth of our identity and belonging in you first and forever.

 

Tim Brassell
Pastor, Baltimore, MD

Meet Nicole Cullman

“My calling is to lead. I believe that God has given me the ability to understand the full value of leadership. To not just guide and rally others, but to listen and project optimism so that all voices are heard and everyone reaches far beyond expectations in meeting a goal. I want to be this, for my church.” Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Nicole Cullman, GCNext Leader in Grove City, OH. To read her full profile, click the image below.

Rejoicing in the Lord

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

I have heard it again and again – rejoice! Repeated endlessly by worship leaders, preachers and sympathizers in exhortations, devotionals, sermons – “rejoice” I am told, even if I don’t feel like it. I am tempted to think, is this some kind of denial? How can I rejoice when trials, sorrow, and hardships stare me in the face? Especially now, with the pandemic having claimed the lives of two dear church members, and the “new normal” seeming so abnormal!

Then again, how can I not take Paul’s words to the Philippian church seriously? Does he have an important point to make? My reflections led me to the following thoughts. First, the sorrow and hardships I might experience are not a verdict that God does not love me. On the contrary, his love is never diminished, no matter what I am going through. Nothing, yes, nothing changes God’s love for me. That itself is a reason to rejoice!

Second, I am to rejoice “in the Lord”! In a fallen world, hardships dampen the spirits but “in Christ” there is an inexplicable joy. Where is my focus – to temporary situations or to everlasting victory in Jesus? My focus could become my idol. Sadness and sorrow of the temporary are lousy idols to be worshipping! I might as well trade it for the “joy of the Lord”! And finally, Jesus meets me in every one of my hardships. In his incarnation he understands every one of those gut-wrenching feelings I experience. His presence imparts comfort and provides strength to cope.

Rejoice, indeed, in the grace of Christ. There is every reason to!

Prayer: Lord, I may not understand everything that happens around me, but help me know your grace. While you give me strength to cope, grant me to experience and express your joy in every circumstance. Amen.

 

 

By Danny Zachariah

Listen

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

We live in a culture of hyper-communication. We are bombarded incessantly with verbiage (written and spoken). There are “news” channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and much more. Everyone is an expert. Everyone knows what is right. Those who get or take the most “air time” (speaking the loudest, the most frequently, or most “cleverly”) capture the minds and hearts of multitudes. And what is the result of this cacophony of voices? Greater confusion, unrest, and disunity. Anything but a sense of hope, security, and peace – all of which are promised by Jesus, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

 

In this and the previous passage, Jesus clearly expresses his love for us. He shares his life, and all it entails, with us. Peace, security, and stability are ours in him. But we need to listen to him. He needs to be the one we pay the most attention to. His is the voice we need to seek. His is the voice we need to believe. His is the voice we can trust to know the truth, which begins with knowing him, who is the eternal embodiment of truth.

Important questions we must ask ourselves, especially at a time when so many voices are calling, no, shouting, out to us, are: “Whose voice am I listening to? Whose voice am I seeking out? Whose voice am I relying on?” The answer to these questions can determine whether we will experience peace, safety, and even joy as we navigate life’s challenges.

Dear Lord, help us hear your voice. Help us yearn for it; keep our ears attuned to it and follow it with faith, hope and courage, wherever it leads us. For we know we can trust you to be with us at all times and in all things. Amen.

 

Randy Bloom Portrait

 

By Randy Bloom

Gratitude Leads to Joy

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

One of the things God has been telling me lately is this: “I created you to enjoy life to the fullest, and to give thanks in every situation.”

With all the calamities that have occurred this year and those still occurring as I write, it seems counterintuitive to enjoy life at this time while practicing gratitude. How can I be joyful and thankful when it seems like the world around me is falling apart and everything I thought was stable is now crumbling before my very eyes?

There’s a reason why joy and gratitude are intimately connected. Joy and gratitude are often mentioned together throughout Scripture, and this is precisely because it is impossible to be negative when we are grateful. It’s as if God created this inherent connection between thankfulness and joy.

Author and mindfulness instructor, Tamara Levitt, said, “It is not our circumstances that create gratitude, but rather our perception of our circumstances.”

Contrary to what many might believe, gratitude doesn’t just come to us. Gratitude doesn’t just happen to us. The powerful practice of gratitude is a daily, conscious choice. And the more we practice it, the more receptive we are to the peace that surpasses all understanding in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Our tendency toward negativity gets interrupted as we practice non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts. So the more we consciously and patiently choose gratitude in any given situation, the more we can enjoy life and enjoy it to the fullest.

I have a great quote that hangs on my wall at home and it reminds me every day: “Enjoy every single moment. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the inspiring, the not-so-glamorous moments. And THANK GOD through it all.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, thank you that you are the reason I can give thanks in every situation and enjoy life to the fullest. I surrender my thoughts, beliefs, choices and actions to be transformed daily by you.

 

By Jillian Morrison
Associate Pastor
Grace Life, Glendora, CA

 

Unmasked

Am I the only one to get confused when wearing a mask? Recently I had my face mask on when I went for a cup of coffee. I tried to pay by using my phone, but it would not process. What was the problem? My phone’s security works by facial recognition and the mask obscured my face! I felt flustered and peered intently at the phone, thinking it would click in. People in the socially distanced line behind me were snickering as they watched, and I too began to laugh.

Masks have a fascinating history and were worn for all sorts of reasons, and they still are. I remember watching a movie that featured a masquerade, a party where people wore elaborate masks to conceal who they were. The idea goes back to the theatres of ancient Greece and elsewhere, where actors would don a mask to get into character. Typically, they’d use a mask that featured a recognizable attribute of the role they were playing.

A friend of mine, who knew I was a Christian, asked me once about God. What is he like? Would he please come out from behind his mask and identify himself? My friend was being sarcastic, but I had an answer, based on Colossians 1:15, where we read that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (ESV). Jesus came, I said to him, to show us who God is, to reveal how God is love.

It’s something worth noting. If we want to know what God is like, how he thinks and how he cares for us, we look to the life of Jesus.

Jesus is God unmasked.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for revealing yourself through your Son, Jesus Christ, and help me please to grow more and more into his image. In his name, Amen.

 

 

 

By James Henderson