The Right Kind of Wisdom

James 3:17-18
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Written by: Danielle Morgan

Parenthood is such a rich example of our human nature. It exposes our internal desire to know everything, and God is gentle, yet firm, in humbling us.

Before we become parents, we tend to believe we know everything there is to know about parenting. We look at other families and their “misbehaved” children and say things like, “If only the parents would…” or “Someday when I have kids, I will never…”

And then one day you become a parent and everything you thought you knew goes out the window. It’s as if you’ve crossed over to this other side, the veil has been lifted, and you start to understand and even reason with all of those “bad” decisions that other parents made that you previously judged so harshly.

There is a false wisdom that comes from those who claim to know the answers and judge others from their own limited perspective. Sadly, this false wisdom will negatively affect all of our relationships, leaving only broken and hurt people.

But the wisdom from Heaven? That’s the good stuff and one of the most important ingredients for healthy relationships.

We should always be testing our actions to make sure that they are birthed from a pure, holy, and divine wisdom. We should always strive to be peacemakers with everyone, and in doing so, our relationships will start to flourish.

Devo Relationships 8.12Thought of the day: Which relationships in your life are you struggling with or wish were better? The reality is, it takes two to have a healthy relationship and you are only responsible for your own behavior. Is there something in your own life that is keeping you from growing in this relationship? Ask God to reveal areas in your heart that you need to surrender to Him so that you can receive His Holy Spirit to impart heavenly wisdom.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that through Jesus I have access to your heavenly wisdom. Transform me from the inside out and replace my worldly wisdom with Your heavenly wisdom. Help me to live my life in such a way that brings peace to all and touch my relationships so they flourish. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Trials in Trusting

Jonah 4:1-3
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became furious. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

 Written by: Tiffany Robinson 

We tend to surround ourselves with people like us—People who hold similar views, handle situations the same, and think like us. We trust people who are like us and have a natural distrust for those who are different than us. The problem with this is we miss out. God made each of us different so that we can learn and grow from one another. The even bigger problem is God is not like us.

Leading up to Jonah 4, Jonah preaches that God will destroy the city of Ninevah. Jonah tells all of the people of God’s plan, and it is clear Jonah agrees with God’s plan. God then decides to spare the city because the king responded in humility and repented. Jonah was very displeased that God chose to respond in grace. He was angry that God’s way was different than his.

Just like the people we surround ourselves with, we tend to praise God when His ways line up with ours. If we continuously act in a way that is different from God, it can create distrust for Him in our hearts.

Jonah Devo 8.9Thought of the day: What would it look like in your life to trust God’s plans, even when they don’t align with your ways?

Prayer: God, help me to trust You even when it doesn’t make sense. Your ways are higher than mine, and You are trustworthy. Amen.

Sometimes I Don’t Like People

John 13:2-5
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Written by: Nathan Smith

I have a confession to make. I hope you’ll be able to forgive me after you hear what I am about to share with you. You will probably think less of me as a person, but I hope with God’s help we can still be friends. Okay, here goes (deep breath): There are people in my life that are hard for me to love in the way that Jesus loves them. Actually, forget love—there’s some people I don’t even like! Sometimes there are complete strangers that I know absolutely nothing about but for some reason I actually go out of my way to avoid. Phew, that felt good to get off my chest.

In all seriousness, the reality is that unless you have some superhuman spiritual gift of mercy and compassion you’re probably just like me. You know all people are created in the image of God and loved by Him and therefore we are to love them as well. But sometimes it’s just so hard. There are people that annoy us, inconvenience us, emotionally drain us, or have even hurt us. The list of reasons we don’t like certain people goes on and on. And while I’m being honest, I know it’s something I should be better about and I try really hard to not let my sinful nature win out when it comes to loving people. Jesus gives us a great example of how to love those who are difficult to love.

I have heard the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet countless times throughout my life. If you’ve spent any amount of time in church, you’ve probably heard this powerful story of Jesus submitting himself and showing his love for the disciples by literally becoming a servant and washing their feet. But there’s one important detail I never really thought about until recently. It’s found in verse 2 of John 13; Judas was part of that group. Think about that for a minute. At this point, Jesus already knew Judas was going to betray Him and lead Him straight to a painful and excruciating death. But He got down on His hands and knees and washed his feet anyway. Imagine all of the emotions Jesus must have been feeling as He followed through with this amazing act of submission. Now whenever I am tempted to blow someone off or not show compassion, I try to stop and remind myself that Jesus washed Judas’ feet.

Jonah Devo 8.8Thought of the day: Who is God asking you to love that you’re avoiding? How can you be better at showing love to the unlovable? What relatively minor inconvenience have you made into a bigger deal than it should be?

Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times I’ve been disobedient, judgmental, and hurtful.  Help me to be more like Jesus in how I love the people You put around me. Help me to be obedient when You are leading me to show mercy or compassion to an individual or group of people. Open my eyes to ways I can be more loving. Amen.

The Mission Field Within Reach

Luke 12:12
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Written by: Shannon Swenson

As followers of Jesus we have the great privilege and calling to reach those people around us that don’t yet know Him. We are called and commissioned to do His work.

Sometimes I can get super comfortable in being a Christian and tend to get in what I call a “holy huddle.” I get caught in sharing life with people that already know Jesus. Now, that’s not all bad. But when we look at the community in which we live, we have the opportunity to reach out and share the Good News with people who are not Christians.

The mission field is within reach because all we have to do is walk out our front door and we will meet someone who doesn’t know Him. I love the fact that I do life with people that already know Jesus. But if I just stop there, am I really following Jesus?

When Jesus says, “go and make disciples” He is talking to you and me. The buck didn’t stop with Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. The Bible says that one day, every knee will bow, and we have a part to play in that. For me, the person that invited me to church at Sun Valley wasn’t standing on the corner with a megaphone telling me about Jesus. She was simply loving like Jesus and knew I needed Him in my life. She simply offered me a subtle invitation to attend Sun Valley; It was nothing fancy, eloquent, or complicated.

We can easily overcomplicate it. We tend to do this paralysis by analysis thing where we think we don’t have the right words to say or aren’t qualified, and then we do nothing. The truth is we have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us if we have already said yes to Jesus. I can trust God to be my power, advisor, leader, and Lord. That means I can also trust Him to give me the right words to say when the opportunity arises. So, the question is what am I going to do with that?

Jonah Devo 8.7 (1)Thought of the day: Are you stuck in the “holy huddle”? Can you think of one or two people in your life that don’t know Jesus? What’s stopping you from sharing Him with them? Who do you need to invite to attend a service at Sun Valley?

Prayer: God, thank You that You know what’s best for me and ultimately plan to use messy people like me to do Your mighty work. I pray You give me the opportunity to share Your Good News with someone today. Give me courage and wisdom. Holy Spirit, please give me the words to speak. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Trap of Self-Righteousness

Luke 15: 28-32
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Written by: Robert Watson

Luke 15 records a conversation between Jesus and the religious “leaders” of first century Israel. Blinded by self-righteous arrogance, the Pharisees couldn’t see why Jesus would associate himself with sinners. In response Jesus tells three stories ending with the story of the prodigal (or extravagantly wasteful) son. The younger son squanders his inheritance until there is nothing left while the older son remains faithfully at home. When the younger brother hits rock bottom and returns expecting wrath, he is instead met with grace as his father runs to meet him and throws a lavish celebration in his son’s honor.

The story ends with the self-righteous son standing (and pouting) outside of the celebration that he is clearly invited to join.

For Jonah, the story ends the same way. A nation turned their hearts to God, but Jonah couldn’t see the beauty of it because of his self-righteous blindness.

Jonah Devo 8.6Thought of the day: When was a time that you felt “better than” somebody else? How can this pride blind us to the beauty of God’s grace at work in us and around us?

Prayer: Father thank You for the grace You have lavished upon me. I am like the younger brother who didn’t deserve to be invited back into the family, yet You have welcomed me in with a lavish celebration. Help me not to fall into the trap of self-righteousness but instead to join You in seeking those who are lost and celebrating Your offer of grace in their lives. Amen.

The Plank

Matthew 7:3-4
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

Written by: Jimmy Leaf

Do you ever get frustrated with people who get rewarded, even if they seem to be unworthy? Do you ever wonder why bad things happen to you even though you are trying to be good? Jonah did!

We can get so focused on the idea of what is fair that we judge others according to ourselves and the good things we have done. I hate to break this to you, but there has only been one truly good person on earth. His name was Jesus and He hung on a cross to pay the price for our sins.

We forget we were once as lost as those we now judge. We forget we once deserved the same condemnation we are giving others. If we remember how much we have sinned, how can we condemn others? When we focus on the love, grace, and mercy God has given us, how can we not share God’s love, grace, and mercy with those who do not know Him yet?

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” – John 3:17

Jonah Devo 8.5Thought of the day: Do not be someone’s “no.” In all things, be an example of God’s love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for loving me even though I am a sinner! Help me to see what is important to You. I pray You use me to demonstrate Your love to others today. Amen!

The Highlight Reel

Genesis 3:6-13
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Written by: Ian Rock

Let’s be honest. None of us are particularly proud of our weaknesses, failures, and mistakes. We do our best to highlight our strengths, our best moments, and our victories. Think about social media… the majority of the things we post have essentially created a highlight reel of our lives. Day after day, we post our highlights and then we scroll past the highlight reels of our friends. Relationship milestones, new jobs and promotions, and tropical getaways are the bar that we’re trying to reach.

The social pressure to be “okay” and keep up with our peers is exhausting. Nobody excitedly shares about a failed relationship, layoff, or less-than-satisfying vacation to Tulsa. We typically withhold sharing the moments we deem not good enough for our highlight reel, and project something else to show that we’re still “okay.”

Day after day, we each dress and mask ourselves in order to put off the image we want others to see. Makeup, nice clothes, and cool gadgets distract others from our blemishes. Meanwhile, we know the real us. We know the struggle at home and insecurity at work. We know the debt we’re struggling to pay off. We know the new wrinkle or ever-receding hairline. Whether it’s in the quiet moments before sleep or when we’re comparing ourselves to the world’s highlight reel, we struggle to feel the confidence we spend all of our energy putting off each day.

Shame wants to creep in and tell us we need to put on the mask to hide our true selves from the world. Shame wants to get in your head and tell you that you’re the only one with that struggle. Shame greets you in the mirror, pointing out that flaw you can’t seem to look past.

Our darkest days, weaknesses, and biggest failures don’t have to be the things that define us. But if you struggle with shame, you’re not alone.

When Adam and Eve dishonored God, they immediately felt the weight of disappointing the One that created them. They saw their imperfections and did their best to cover and hide from each other and from God. The thoughts of failure and unworthiness flooded their minds.

“Will God know?”

“Will God forgive me?”

“Will God still love me?”

When they ran and hid, God chased them. Even after they messed up, God didn’t give up on them.

What we see take place after that is the same picture of grace echoed throughout the Bible. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you—God loves you. Nothing you do can change that. Though there might be hurt, pain, and consequences associated with our failures, we aren’t defined by them.

God loves us where we are, but he loves us enough not to leave us there.

Jonah Devo 8.2Thought of the day: If you’re struggling with the shame associated with something in your past or because you feel like you don’t measure up, know that God is absolutely crazy about you. He doesn’t love you because of who you are, what you have done, or how you’ve impressed him—He simply loves you like a Father should love their child.

Are there any areas of your life (failures, habits, hurts) you believe God can’t redeem? Ask Him to show His grace to you.

Prayer: God, allow me to walk in the freedom from my past. Thank You for working Your way to me, and that Your love of me isn’t dependent on my performance. Thank You for using my past to prepare me, and not define me. Help me to love others with the same amount of grace You’ve shown me. Amen.