Daily Devotionals

 
 
 

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Week 1, Thursday, James 1:9-12

 “James”

By Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 
Scripture

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

Go to James 1:9-12

 

Please don’t misunderstand James – he is not saying that it’s a virtue to be poor, nor is he saying that it’s a sin to be rich. There are rich and poor people in the world, even among followers of Christ. That is a reality the Bible recognizes. But what James reminds the person “in humble circumstances” (a person of modest economic means) is that when they know Christ in their lives, they actually have spiritual dignity and wealth that is tantamount to lasting riches (read-Mark 10:21; 2 Corinthians 8:9). On the other hand rich believers should remember that their riches had absolutely no influence on God showing His grace in their lives. In fact God deals with them as if they had nothing; and still gives them grace. That is what they should celebrate – that God blesses us not because of what we are or have – which could vanish in a moment – but because of who He is: a God of Love who gives.

 

Prayer

You became poor so that I, through your poverty, may become “rich” (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). How can I ever say that I am poor, if I know you are by my side, Lord Jesus? In fact your Word reminds me how you richly bless me with “every spiritual blessing.” Forgive me when I take my eyes off you and focus on my circumstances, just like Peter took his eyes off you as he walked on water and began sinking! Forgive me too when all is going well and I focus on my blessings, forgetting the Giver. I humble myself before you O gracious Giver – whether it is in plenty, or when I have nothing. It is You I need most of all – you will always be my crown. Amen.

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Week 1, Wednesday, James 1:5-8

 

 “James”

by Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 
Scripture:
(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)
 

Go to James 1:5-8

 

Ever heard of “growing pains”? It’s true because growing can be painful, even (and especially) if that growing is to make you “mature and complete” as a Christ-follower and child of God. We will need more than our own resources for that growth; we’ll need God’s wisdom to negotiate all that the evil one, the world (the culture around us), and our own (often foolish selfish) human inclinations throws at us. We will need to see things as God sees them, and then respond as He would have us, with insight and faith. And that to me is what Godly wisdom is all about. And James says that all we need to do is ask God for that wisdom. He will “give generously to all,” with no strings attached. That is a promise to claim!

 
Prayer
God of all wisdom and comfort, so often I feel the pain of my suffering doesn’t allow me to see you clearly. Sometimes I feel you don’t even care. I forget that you cared so much that you bore the cross for my sake. At such times I rely more on my own understanding and strength rather than yours. And even when I do ask you for your wisdom I am unwilling to listen to your answer because it is different to what I want and expect. Forgive me for thinking I know better. Forgive me for not believing that you really love me, and that you will grow me and my faith through the suffering. I surrender my fears, doubts, and suffering to you O Lord. I will trust you with single-hearted devotion. Amen.
 

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Week 1, Tuesday, James 1:2-4

 

“James”

by Pastor Sunil Balasundaram
 

 

Scripture:

(Please read the passage before, or after, reading the devotion.)

Go to James 1:2-4

 

masochist (noun). a person who takes pleasure in pain and suffering (general meaning). No, that is not what James says followers of Jesus are to be(come). But he sees pain and suffering as realities of life. Especially in the life of the follower of Jesus. God does not shield us from it; He even allowed His Son Jesus to go through it (cf. Hebrews 2:10). I don’t believe that the Bible teaches that God causes the suffering people experience. And yet He seems to allow it. C.S. Lewis gives one perspective why, in his book The Problem of Pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Could it be that I listen more intently through my pain? James reminds us that one of God’s greatest desires for us humans is that He finish what He started in us, and make us “mature and complete” as His new creation. And He will especially use pain and suffering to make that possible – if we will allow Him. That’s why I can have “joy” – I know that God and I will not let that suffering to either overwhelm me or be wasted!

 

Prayer:

Forgive me, O Suffering Servant, when I feel you don’t understand me. You went through all I go through, and more, didn’t you, Lord? I now feel your compassion in my deepest suffering. But there’s more: I know you are with me through it all. And when I give you my pain, you don’t let it overwhelm me (even though at times I feel I cannot take any more). Instead, you take that pain and with your nail-scarred hands use it to complete the masterpiece you began when I accepted you as my Savior. And that gives me hope, and an overflowing sense of fullness – joy! Amen.
 
 

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Week 1, Monday, James 1:1

“James” Devotions

by Pastor Sunil Balasundaram

 

Introduction

It took me a long while to decide on doing a series of devotions based on the letter of James in the New Testament (NT). It doesn’t speak much about things like salvation, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us, grace, and other subjects that we are used to reading from Peter and Paul the apostles. In fact it almost did not get into NT for this reason. It has been both celebrated and criticized for dwelling mostly on practical things; making it a kind of “Proverbs” of the NT. And maybe that’s why I’d like us to spend a little “devotional” time on it, to remind us how deeply rooted in the gospel it is. And maybe discover how our lives as followers of Christ show transformed behavior that reflects who Jesus really is.

 

Scripture

(Please do read the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.)

Go to James 1:1

Who was James, and why did he write this letter? The writer simply identifies himself as “James,” a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing else can be known about him from the rest of the letter. And yet Church tradition describes him as Jesus’ own brother (born to Joseph and Mary, after Jesus’ birth). But he wasn’t always a follower of his big brother. In fact, there was a time that he thought big bro Jesus was crazy (Mark 3:21)! But things had changed for him. Now, after the Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, after Pentecost, James had become a follower… no wait! He had become a servant of Lord Jesus. Furthermore, now we see a man who actually cared for people he didn’t even know. He had on his heart the people who had been scattered by the persecution leveled against Christians. Humility and love seem to form the basis of this letter.

 
Prayer:

Lord Jesus, James had enough reason to feel proud, to feel privileged. After all, he was your “half-brother,” born to your human mother Mary. Yet all I see of him is someone who would rather be known only in connection with you. In fact he called himself your servant and acted like one, even as you called yourself your Father’s servant. Is it true that only one so completely invested in your business can actually have your heart of love? Lord, as I embark on this journey, teach me to be your servant, teach me to love your way. Amen.

 

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Week 6, Saturday, Ephesians 6:21-24

Saturday, May 30, 2020 – Ephesians 6:21-24

The Top Priorities of Our Lives

By Pastor Paul Georgulis
 
Scripture:
21 To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. 23 Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness. 24 May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 6:21-24 (New Living Translation)
 

While I would love to provide a thorough explanation of who Tychicus was, I will simply say that he was one of the unsung heroes of the faith who made a big impact for the cause of Christ. I will also encourage you to research him for yourself, so as to see the depth of relationship he had with the Apostle Paul.

The reason Paul sent Tychicus to give a report on what he was doing and how he was, was because he was concerned that his brothers and sisters in Christ were worried about him. After all, he was in jail. But Paul had the peace of God, knew He was exactly where God wanted Him to be, and was continuing to spread the message of Jesus – even from behind bars.

Paul wanted to encourage these Ephesian believers, and to provide for them a blessing of peace, love, faithfulness, and grace. These were Paul’s final thoughts. I believe they are for us today, too. May peace, love, faith, and grace by the top priorities in our lives, and may they pour out onto the people we love.
 

Prayer:

God, grant us your peace, your love, and a greater faith. Most importantly, Lord, we ask that you continue to pour out your glorious grace upon us. Again, we don’t deserve it, but oh do we want and need it. Thank you!

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!


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Week 6, Friday, Ephesians 6:14-20

Friday, May 29, 2020 – Ephesians 6:14-20

No Pants Needed?

By Pastor Paul Georgulis
 
Scripture:

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” – Ephesians 6:14-20 (New International Version)

In yesterday’s post (click HERE to read it), I mentioned that Paul was telling us that in order to stand our ground in spiritual warfare, we need to be prepared. To be prepared, we need supernatural power. Thankfully, God has provided this by giving us His Holy Spirit within us and His armor surrounding us. In today’s passage, Paul lists each component of the armor of God that we must don if we want to “do everything” (verse 13) to be prepared. It’s not possible to be prepared without having first done these things.

The key to understanding the armor of God is found in Ephesians 6:10 – “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” All the pieces of the armor belong to – and are from – God. The pieces of armor are truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, and salvation – all of which are gifts of God to His people for their defense.

Paul starts with having the belt of truth buckled around your waist. But if you read through the passage, you will notice that it makes no mention of pants for the belt to hold up. Speaking of that, I own the following shirt.
 
 

Just wanted to share that with you.

The reason there being no pants is likely because people did not wear pants back then – they wore ancient Hebrew clothing consisting of underwear and cloth skirts. When a man needed his legs free for battle, he would tuck his garment (i.e., cloth skirt) into his belt – thus, no pants. The belt of truth is the first part of the armor listed because, without truth, we are lost, and the schemes of the devil will certainly overpower us. And what is this truth? It’s Jesus, since He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Next is the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate shields a warrior’s vital organs during battle. The righteousness in this breastplate refers to the righteousness of Christ which guards our hearts against – and protects our innermost being from – the schemes of the enemy.

Up next: shoes. Having the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace as footwear suggests that we need to advance into enemy territory with the message of grace only found through Jesus. Satan has many obstacles laid out in the paths of followers of Jesus, and we’ll need this footwear to get through them.

After shoes comes the shield of faith, which has the purpose of blocking/deflecting the seeds of doubt the enemy hurls at us. After the shield of faith comes the helmet of salvation, which protects a critical part of our bodies – our heads/minds. This is meant to protect our minds from receiving false teaching and to help us stand firm in the assurance of our salvation.

Last – but not least – we have the sword of the Spirit. This is referring to the Word of God, which is the greatest spiritual weapon in existence. Jesus’ used the Word of God to resist the temptation of the devil, and we can – and should – do the same.

It’s important to note that we are told to pray in the Spirit in addition to wearing the full armor of God. Without relying on God and prayer, we will fail in our spiritual warfare fight. The full armor of God – plus prayer – are vital to our being spiritually victorious.

Finally – in verses nineteen and twenty – we see that Paul knew that unless people were praying for him, he wouldn’t be able to boldly go on preaching about Jesus, no matter what happened. And not only could he not do it without the prayers of others, it wouldn’t mean anything if he did. So having begun the letter with an extended prayer, and then an extensive report of his own prayers for the young Christians in the area, he finished with the urgent request that they join him in this ministry.

To conclude this long post, I urge you not to neglect any part of the armor of God or prayer. These are gifts from God, and they are all vitally important.
 

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for providing us these powerful tools with which we can combat the lies, deception, and other tactics of Satan. Without these, we know that we are exposed and do not stand a chance. Help us to wear these boldly, and to ask others boldly for prayer. We can’t do this without you, Lord, and I pray we don’t try.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!


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Week 6, Thursday, Ephesians 6:10-13

Thursday, May 28, 2020 – Ephesians 6:10-13

A Battle Rages

By Pastor Paul Georgulis
 
Scripture:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:10-13 (New International Version)
 

Earlier in this epistle (Ephesians 4:22-24 – Click HERE for devotional on this passage), the Apostle Paul talked about putting off our old selves, renewing our minds, and putting on our new selves as we follow after God and try to live the life He has called us to live. As we do that, we must be cognizant of the fact that there is a battle for our souls going on. This battle is known as spiritual warfare, and whether we want to admit it or not, it does exist. If we live our lives for Jesus and play our part in sharing His love and furthering His Kingdom, the enemy – Satan – does not like it.

Author C.S. Lewis, in his famous Screwtape Letters, stated that, “The general public prefers either to ignore the forces of evil altogether or to take an unhealthy interest in everything demonic, which can be just as bad in the long run.”

When we realize/admit that we are engaged in a spiritual battle – against forces that seek to derail us from our relationship with/service for God – we need to rely on a strength that is not of our own to combat this evil. This strength comes from God, and it enables us to overcome.

In verse 13, Paul uses the phrase, “stand your ground.” This is a military term meaning either “to take over,” “to hold a watch post,” or “to hold out in a critical position on a battlefield.” Paul is telling us that in order to stand our ground, we need to be prepared. To be prepared, we need supernatural power. Thankfully, God has provided this by giving us His Holy Spirit within us and His armor surrounding us. In tomorrow’s post, we will look at the various pieces of the armor of God.

I know that spiritual warfare is scary to even think about, but don’t be discouraged. Keep in mind Jesus’ words to Peter: “On this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).
 

Prayer:

Father, we pray for the strength that we need in order to overcome the spiritual warfare that exists all around us. We know that there is a war going on for our souls, but we thank you that you have already won that war and that we are yours. Help us to stay focused on you, and help us to stay strong and diligent so that we remain close to you.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!


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Week 6, Wednesday, Ephesians 6:5-9

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 – Ephesians 6:5-9

Equal Before God

By Pastor Paul Georgulis
 
Scripture:
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. 9 Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” – Ephesians 6:4-9 (New Living Translation)
 

Some of the language/word usage in this passage is troubling to us today (e.g., slaves, masters). But again, we need to consider the context of when this epistle was written. Paul could no more envision a world without slavery than we can envision a world without the Internet. Slaves played a significant part in Paul’s society. Because many slaves and owners had become Christians, the early church had to deal straightforwardly with the question of master-slave relations. In these verses, Paul neither condemns nor condones slavery. Instead, he tells masters and slaves how to live together in Christian households. In Paul’s day, women, children, and slaves had few rights. In the church, however, they had freedoms that society was denying them.

I imagine that if Paul were writing this epistle today, the language he would use would be to address employees and employers, rather than slaves and masters. The main thing to consider, however, is that Paul’s instructions encourage responsibility and integrity on the job, for both employees and employers. Christian employees should do their jobs as if Jesus were their supervisor. Christian employers should treat their employees fairly and with respect.

Some questions to consider:

Can you be trusted to do your best, even when the boss is not around?

Do you work hard and with enthusiasm?

Do you treat your employees as people, not tools or servants?

Remember that no matter for whom you work, or who works for you, the one you ultimately should want to please is your Father in heaven.

The main takeaway: Although Christians may be at different levels in earthly society, we are all equal before God. He has no favorites. No one person is more important than anyone else.
 

Prayer:

Father God, we thank you that we are just as important to you as Moses, King David, and even the Apostle Paul were. Thank you for not playing favorites and for loving each and every one of us to the fullest extent. Help us to remember to work hard, and be moral employees and employers. Help us to keep our focus on you, and for everything we do to be for you.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
 

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Week 6, Tuesday, Ephesians 6:1-4

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – Ephesians 6:1-4

Parenting with Love

By Pastor Paul Georgulis
 
Scripture:
“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. 2 ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’ 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:1-4 (New Living Translation)
 

In yesterday’s passage, we saw the dynamics of a godly marriage and how husbands and wives are to treat – and relate to – one another. In today’s passage, the Apostle Paul continues to lay out what a Spirit-filled home looks like by focusing on the relationship between children and parents. Children and parents have a responsibility to each other. Children should honor their parents, and parents should care gently for their children.

Why did Paul single out the father as the one who should not exasperate his children, and who should bring his children up in the training and instruction of the Lord? That can be answered with one word: culture. In Paul’s culture, the father was the absolute head of the home, and as such, was responsible for the education and discipline of his children. Obviously, we do not live in the same culture as Paul did, so things are a little different for us today. Now, “father” – in verse 4 – can mean mothers and fathers, parents, and other guardians.

Parenting with love and discipline takes lots of patience and understanding. As a father of a five-year old and a two-year old, I can promise you that patience and understanding are vital. Frustration and anger should not be causes for discipline. Instead, parents should act in love, wisely treating their children as Jesus would treat them. Parents must also be diligent to give them the instruction and encouragement that is vital to their upbringing.

I would like to close with a set of questions. These questions are for you, and for me.

If you are a parent, do you read the Bible to your children? Do you tell them the great stories of the heroic men and women of the faith? Do you pray for and with them daily? Do you take them to worship services, small groups, Children’s Ministry, Sunday School, or youth group and let them see how important your involvement in church is to you? Can they see the difference Jesus makes in your life?

P.S. – If you don’t have children, perhaps you can apply this to nieces, nephews, friends’ children, and so on. You have a very special part in being a godly presence in those children’s lives.
 

Prayer:

Father God,

We thank you for allowing us to influence the lives of children. At times it can be very hard, but being a Christ-like, loving example is the best gift that we can give them. So please help us to do just that. Help us to be more like you, and to love more like you. Allow us to make a difference in the lives of the young people in our lives.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!


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Week 6, Monday, Ephesians 5:21-33

Monday, May 25, 2020 – Ephesians 5:21-33

Submitting to One Another

By Pastor Paul Georgulis
 
Scripture:
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:21-33 (New International Version)
 

Some take this passage to mean that husbands are to control their wives and that the husbands are more important, and therefore have all of the authority in the relationship. What’s interesting, however, is that Paul devotes twice as many words to telling husbands to love their wives as he does to telling wives to submit to their husbands. What Paul is talking about in this passage is a unified submission out of love – one to another as husband and wife.

The Apostle Paul seems to have felt that any relationship would be abusive if a self-centered person were in it to seek control. Any relationship – no matter how outwardly authoritarian – benefits both persons if each views Jesus as Lord and has the other person’s best interest in mind.

While these verses focus on the dynamics of a marriage relationship, I also believe they can be for every follower of Jesus. Verse 21 tells us to, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This describes the general attitude that Christians should have toward one another, and it all points back to how we are to love God and love people (Mark 12:30-31).

In Mark 10:45, we are told that “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As both men and women who are called to model the same heart and character as Jesus, we should always look to how we are to mutually serve one another. Paul’s main point is that relationships in a marriage and in Christian community should be modeled by Jesus’ relationship to His Church.

Are you submitting to one another out of reverence for Jesus? Are you submitting to one another to love and serve them?
 

Prayer:

Lord, help us to submit to, care for, and love one another as you have loved your church. Strengthen our marriages and our relationships so that there can be great blessing among your people. As you have come to serve, help us to see the importance of serving one another. Let love, grace, and kindness be the founding principles of all our relationships.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!


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