Weekly Devotions

Encountering the Endless Supply of God’s Love

Out of God’s great desire to be truly loved by His people, we have been given the gift of free will to choose who and what we will give our affections to. God, knowing full well that not all of us would choose to love Him, still created us out of His longing for close relationship with us. You see, so great is our heavenly Father’s desire for relationship with us that He suffers as He watches His children choose to love people, ideas, and possessions that will never fully love us in return. So great is His love for us that He responds to our sin of idolatry with grace and mercy every single time. And so vast is His affection for us that He sent His only Son so that we might be restored to close relationship with our heavenly Father once again. But still, we choose to love things other than God. Still we seek out satisfaction and love from creation rather than the Creator. Still we choose to place our hope and affections in the world instead of in God. If we are to live the life God intends for us, the only fulfilling life possible, we need a renewal of our first love. Thousands of years ago, the church in Ephesus was much like we are today. Revelation 2:4 says in reference to the church in Ephesus, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” The Ephesians were still working and waiting for God. They hadn’t abandoned their faith, just their first love. But Scripture makes it clear that when it comes down to it in the end, what will be most important is the way in which we have loved God. When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Loving God is our first priority. Our love for God is the foundation on which all of life is to be lived. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” This life is all about the posture of your heart. Reflect for a minute on just how incredible the love of our God is. Scripture makes it clear that He isn’t after our service first, but our love. He only desires us to work with Him if it is done out of our love for Him. Nothing could be more important than living your life on the foundation of God’s greatest commandment: to love Him. And while it’s incredibly important to spend your life loving God, He knows you will only be able to do so if you’ve encountered His love first. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” Experiencing God’s love is the beginning and end to everything we do as His children. It’s out of encountering the affections of our heavenly Father that our hearts will be stirred to love Him back.                                                                                      ~Pastor Greg

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One Key to Making Life Successful….

One key? Is that even possible? Many of the books I’ve read and the speakers I’ve listened to have listed more than one key. Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success offers 17 principles of personal achievement. Grant Cardone teaches about a dozen rules for success. Jim Rohn, in this classic 90-minute talk, gives more than one key. I don’t want to argue with any of those people. They, and so many more leaders like them, are smarter and more experienced than I am. But I’ve discovered a principle in the Bible, and even in my own life that has me convinced there is a pattern to be observed. There is one principle of success I see repeated time and again. So here’s my assertion . . . The one big key to becoming a successful person is giving your life to making the lives of others better. If you decide today to give your life–and by “life” I mean your time, your attention, your resources–to making the lives of other people better, you will discover success.  It’s guaranteed. It’s what Jesus did, teaching, feeding, healing, and serving others to the point of laying down His life as a ransom for all who would follow Him. It’s what Paul did, which he explained this way: “We are not preaching about ourselves. Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. He also sent us to be your servants” (2 Corinthians 4:5, CEV). It’s what King David did, which is summed up in Psalm 78:72, “With unselfish devotion David became their shepherd. With skill he guided them” (GW). As a Christian, I believe that the very best thing I can do for anyone else is to share with them the Good News about how they can have a relationship with God through His Son, but I usually only get to share that message with people who trust me on some level. And why would people trust me? I believe people trust me when I demonstrate my commitment to making their lives better. When you give your life to helping other humans flourish, you’ll find success. In other words: Life is about building relationships. Ministry is about serving people. Leadership is about elevating others. It isn’t that success only happens for people in certain professions, or with certain personalities, or with certain advantages and privileges. It’s that success comes to those who see their job, their neighborhood, their church, or their community as a realm in which to serve people.  So ask yourself these questions: How can I encourage this grocery store clerk?  How can I give a little hope to someone at the end of their rope?  How can I show grace where someone is fully expecting judgment?  How can I speak positively and prophetically about someone’s future when they don’t have very high aspirations for themselves? In our 40-Days with Jesus, let’s take Him with us wherever we go!  That’s success!                                                                                ~Pastor Greg

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Problems! Problems! Problems! Promises! Problems!

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.  Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.  This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”  ~1 Peter 4:12-13 (Msg) Sometimes we look at titles that are repetitive and think it’s the same word!  Did you notice that there are “Promises” in the title above?  Not just problems.  But PROMISES!  Too often we negate the promises by focusing our attention on the problems.  I too wish we could get rid of the problems, but we know that isn’t going to happen.  We have an enemy.  Satan desires our demise.  Life happens!  And with it comes difficulties. When we experience those difficulties we must not assume (as I do at times) that God isn’t on the job.  What we need to do is remind ourselves that God is at work in spite of the controversies.  God can use your struggles and He often does. God will use our problems to bring direction into our lives. “A person may plan his own journey, but the Lord directs his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9 (GW) “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.”  Proverbs 20:30 (GN) God will use our problems to inspect us. “The Lord searches our hearts and examines our deepest motives so He can give to each person his right reward, according to his deeds—how he has lived.”  ~Jeremiah 17:10 (LB) God will use problems introduced in our lives to correct us. “God teaches people through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes.” ~Job 36:15 (TEV) “… it was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to Your laws.”  ~Psalm 119:71 (LB) God will use problems in our lives to perfect us. “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share His eternal glory in union with Christ, will Himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.”  ~1 Peter 5:10 (TEV) The main thing I want you to know as your shepherd and your pastor is that God is at work, even in the midst of the antagonizing frustrations.  He’s inspecting you, He’s correcting you, He’s directing you and He’s perfecting you.  My prayer is that you will cooperate with ALL that God is doing in your life, letting His promises envelop your problems developing your faith.                                                                        ~Pastor Greg

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Our Journey With God: A Spiritual Growth Campaign

Sunday we begin a new jog on our journey with God:  40-Days with Jesus.  Concurrent with this series we are connecting God’s Word; New Thru 30, a 30-day reading of the New Testament, to hear His voice in our Fall Spiritual Growth Campaign.  We will also provide Sunday a 40-Days with Jesus devotional tool.  This small tool will allow you to experience the presence of God as if Jesus was speaking to you Himself.  Sarah Young, best-selling author of Jesus Calling, wrote from this unique perspective to strengthen your relationship with Christ. The call to greatness, from our previous series, reminded us of the importance of following in obedience the call of Christ on our lives.  The Scriptures challenge us “to surrender ourselves* to God to be His sacred, living sacrifices.  And to live in holiness, experiencing all that delights His heart.  This becomes your genuine expression of worship.  Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think.  This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes”  ~Romans 12:1b-3 (*personalized, “yourselves” in original). In my own Spiritual Growth transformations here are seven commitments that I make.  These are lifetime commitments.  As we journey over the next 40 days through the New Testament, Devotional, and the Ministry of Preaching/Teaching God’s Word, these commitments are sustained and supplied. Commitment One:  I will follow my Lord.  I value my relationship with God above all else. Commitment Two:  I will love my family.  I value my wife, son and daughter-in-law, brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews, and will not sacrifice them at the altar of ministry. Commitment Three:  I will fulfill my calling:  I will use the gifts and abilities that God has placed within me to effectively enhance His kingdom and be all that He has desired me to be. Commitment Four:  I will manage my time:  Time is our most precious commodity.  We are only given 24 hours in a day.  When it is used up, it is gone, never to be replaced!  I will use it wisely. Commitment Five:  I will shepherd my flock:  I will lead, feed, and protect the flock that God has placed in my care. Commitment Six:  I will maximize my church:  I will do everything within my power, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and in obedience to Christ to lead us to our maximum potential. Commitment Seven:  I will expand God’s kingdom:  Through a leadership initiative, I will train and develop godly leaders to help Parkway reach its full redemptive potential. Together we will grow!  Our spiritual strength will continue to climb.   Our impact will reform and renew.  We will be a place where TRANSFORMATION occurs. Thank you for joining me on this journey!
                                                                                                             ~Pastor Greg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
 

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“Guard Your Lips”

God hears everything we say including compliments and complaints. Be careful to guard your mouth and not say anything that contradicts God’s will for you as it relates to His promises in Christ Jesus. Our mouths set us back when we speak from our emotions and feelings. Our mouths propel us forward when we speak God’s promises in faithful expectation. It is vital for anyone who says they believe and trust God to watch their mouths as His plan of good and purpose is brought to fruition in their lives. The LORD told Moses to send men to spy out the land of Canaan (the land that he already promised to give the sons of Israel). The twelve spies went on a forty-day excursion to learn more about the land, and when they returned at the end of the forty days they reported to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the sons of Israel the land’s abundant prosperity flowing with milk and honey. The spies even showed them the land’s fruit, a single cluster of grapes, pomegranates, and figs, but right after complimenting the land’s produce and abundance they complained about the people in the land. Caleb quieted the people. That is interesting to read. I believe Caleb was aware that the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).  Caleb spoke life and agreed with God’s word by saying, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it; for we will certainly conquer it.” But the other spies, except Joshua, continued speaking death and defeat thus creating a chain reaction with the Israelites to murmur against Moses, Aaron, and the LORD. By not watching their mouths the Israelites who complained died in the wilderness. By not watching their mouths the Israelites who complained, and their children were set back forty years before they entered the Promised Land. By not watching their mouths the ten spies who brought back the bad report of the land died by a plague before the LORD. Only Caleb and Joshua remained alive out of the men who went to spy out the land. Additionally, God promised that they would enter into the Promised Land and their descendants would take possession of it. Let this be a reminder to guard your lips, check your heart, and watch your mouth!                                                                          ~Pastor Greg

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Why Should We Care About Being Right With God?

Righteousness is a big word in the Bible. It’s used hundreds of times. The Bible says that God loves righteousness and that God is righteous. It says that one day God is going to judge the world in righteousness. Psalm 23 says that God leads us in the paths of righteousness. So what in the world does this word mean? I once looked it up in a theological dictionary, and there were 27 pages on the definition! But I’ll boil it down to two words: Righteousness is a relationship and a lifestyle.  Righteousness simply means being right with God. Romans 1:17 says,  “The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself” (NCV). The Good News is that God made us right with himself through Jesus’ death as a payment for our sins. Because of Jesus’ death, we can have a personal relationship with God. Righteousness is also a lifestyle.  It means living right as God intends.  The Bible says in 1 John 2:29, “All who practice righteousness are God’s true children” (MSG).  So why should you care about being right with God?  Because it’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way to heaven. When you are disconnected from God, you’re not really living; you just exist.  Most people in the world aren’t really fully alive.  They just exist, trying to make it to the weekend.  But to be disconnected from your Creator who made you for a purpose is nonsense.  Life is not about the acquisition of things or the achievement of goals.  Life is about getting to know God—the one who loves you and made you for a purpose. You’re not really living until you’re right with God and have a relationship with Him. Righteousness is also the way you get to heaven.  God created heaven as a place for His children that He loves, and He wants you to be with Him forever.  He wants you to be in heaven, but He’s not going to force you to go to heaven.  You can choose to be disconnected from God here on earth, but when your life on earth is done, you will not have a second chance to choose where you spend eternity. You can’t blame God, because He gives you the choice right now to have a relationship with Him. He wants you to choose to love Him!  And when you do, you will be made right with Him.  It will change your life, here on earth and for eternity!                                                                                    ~Pastor Greg

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