Devotions

FORGIVEN AND FREE

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”        Psalm 103:8 NIV

 

Have you ever lied to your parents; lied to your friends; gossiped; cheated; intentionally hurt someone else; indulged in sexual sin? We can either deny or confirm our guilt. We are reminded of the words of King David who said, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3 NIV). When we are made so aware of our sin, with no means of finding a resolution to the sin that is ever before us, a deep sense of inadequacy and guilt develops. How do we find a resolution to this? It comes when we truly understand the love of God, in Jesus Christ, through the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit. The interesting fact is that so many of us have head knowledge about the love of God in Christ, but it has never penetrated our hearts. So often we think: what do I have to do, what do I have to avoid to make sure that God never stops loving me, to make sure that I am okay? We need to be reminded that we never did anything to make God start loving us. We never did anything to make Him stop. This is why Jesus died: to show us that in Him, our guilt can be forgiven, once and for all, and that we really do belong to Him forever. When we allow the Holy Spirit to bring this wonderful, amazing truth home, into our hearts, a weight will be lifted knowing that we are forgiven and free; walking in love rather than worry.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your compassion in my life.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Holy Spirit, bring home the wonderful, amazing truth of the love of God, in Christ Jesus, into our hearts, so that the weight will be lifted, knowing that we are forgiven and free, walking in love rather than worry. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Genesis 11:27-32

 

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WE NEED HEALING

“ ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed’.”     1 Peter 2:24 NIV

 

Some things in life can’t be glued back together, at least not easily. Sin, which violates God’s law (1 John 3:4) and nature (Romans 8:4), ravages our souls and makes them one of those things. Apart from Christ, in our sin, we are lost in darkness and separated from God in ways that we cannot do anything about. Sin leads to death as it fatally wounds the spirit and soul. But God has a plan for people broken by sin. He longs to heal us. Jesus took all our sin on Himself at the Cross. The purpose of Christ’s sacrificial death, His death in our place, was to deal with our sin. Christ’s wounds heal ours when we place our faith and trust in Him to forgive us.

The sacrifice of Christ makes us right with God and brings us into a relationship with Him. It gives us a clear conscience which brings peace with God. Because of it, we can have the assurance of salvation, meaning that we never have to wonder whether we can be saved. We have the permanent gift of eternal life. In these ways, the person who believes is in the process of being perfected. To be perfected in Christ means that while sin does remain, its penalty and power, which keeps us from God, is removed by His sacrifice. Jesus made us perfect and holy in God’s sight through His death on the Cross, paying the price for our sins.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, thank You for the healing You bring to my brokenness.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Thank You, Lord Jesus, that by Your sacrifice You have made us right with God and brought us into a relationship with Your Father, our Father; giving us a clear conscience which brings us peace and gives us the assurance of salvation and the permanent gift of eternal life. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

 

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THE OLD IS GONE, THE NEW HAS COME

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”      2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

 

The old is gone and the new has come, because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross. We can trust that our old self was crucified and that we now have a new identity in Christ. That is something worth celebrating! We can have confidence that by God’s grace He is growing us and sanctifying us. Colossians 3:10 (NIV) says that those who are in Christ “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” We are being renewed daily by God because of His great sacrifice. Christ delivers us from old to new through His sacrifice on the Cross, His resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. God’s grace alone can take what’s old and make it new. By His sacrifice, Jesus takes our spiritual brokenness and introduces a new measurement that says our hope isn’t in our ability to improve; rather, newness comes from His redeeming love. Praise the Lord that new things can come through Jesus Christ alone and because of what He has accomplished for us in the completed work of the Cross. As Isaiah 43:18-19 reminds us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (NIV). May we fix our eyes on Christ and how He has made us new!

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, we choose to fix our eyes on You and what You have done.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, we choose to forget the former things and not dwell on the past for You are doing a new thing in our lives! You are making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland of our lives. Hallelujah! AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Genesis 11:1-8

 

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THE TIME HAS COME

“ ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ ”          Mark 9:15 NIV

 

The people of Jesus’ day were familiar with the concept of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom referred to God’s reign or His rule over all things. They knew that God was the sovereign ruler over all things, and yet they also knew that God had allowed His people to come under the rule of other nations. They knew from the prophets that this was part of God’s rule: that God had allowed this to happen because of their own sin and idolatry. But they also knew that one day God would deliver them from all their enemies, and that He would rule all the nations with perfect justice and righteousness. Now Jesus says that the time had come, that the kingdom of God was near. This was good news! This is what they had been waiting for. This is what all the Old Testament promises pointed to. Jesus announced that the time had come. Jesus also announced: “Repent and believe the good news!” The word “repent” means to turn away from our sins, but it also means to turn back to God. It is a radical change, a new mindset, a new attitude towards God. Jesus says, “Repent, be changed from your old way of life, and believe the good news”. “To believe” means “to trust” or “have faith”, and, in Scripture, repentance and faith always go together. We cannot repent without believing, and we cannot believe without repenting. True repentance is “believing repentance” and true faith is “repentant faith”. Do you believe that the time has come? Repent and believe the good news!

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, I believe the time has come to repent and believe.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord Jesus, You have said, “Repent, be changed from your old way of life, and believe the good news”. Today, I repent of my sin, turning my back on my old way of life, accepting the Good News of You dying for my sin and setting me free. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Genesis 7:17-24

 

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“ME FIRST”

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’.”        Matthew 16:24 NIV

 

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, he spent 40 days on the mountain without food or water. When the prophet Daniel waited for God’s deliverance, he fasted, confessing his sins and the sins of his country. Before Christ began His earthly ministry, He was tempted in the wilderness, and He fasted. But why? When we fast, we deny ourselves the necessity of food or the pleasures of this life and, for a time, we make feeding our souls, by hearing from our Lord, a higher priority than feeding our bodies. Throughout history, people have fasted at times when they had an urgent prayer request, were looking for direction or were taking on a special assignment. Still, fasting, a staple of the Christian life, passed down through generations, may not be as familiar to us as other spiritual disciplines, like having personal quiet time or praying. Because we live in a “me-first” culture, we forget that life in Christ is not all about us. We are tempted to tell God how we want Him to act so He can make our lives easier. “Give me what I want right now. Please don’t make this painful. And by all means, keep me safe”. Fasting allows us to line up our hearts and prayer life with God’s desires rather than pursuing our own agenda. By denying ourselves, we invite the Holy Spirit to examine our lives and lead us into the plans He has for us.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, as You lead me to fast, thank You for speaking into my life.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as we choose to fast, thank You that it allows us to line up our hearts and prayer life with Your desires rather than pursuing our own agenda. As we deny ourselves, we invite You, Holy Spirit, to examine our lives and lead us into the plans You have for us. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Genesis 3:14-24

 

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SURGERY

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”    Hebrews 4:12 NIV

 

Cancer doesn’t infect from the outside in, like a virus, it is a corruption at the cellular level – one’s own cells mutate into malformed, sick versions of themselves that replicate, filling the body with disease. When my cancer was discovered, a tumour the size of a small ball had already grown. In this way, cancer is like sin. We don’t “catch” sin like we catch a cold; it’s corruption at our cellular level. We’re born with it, like many cancer patients are born with the gene that eventually causes cancer to develop. When we place our faith in Jesus, He takes the cancer of our sin upon Himself. At the Cross, the penalty for sin is paid, and its power to destroy us is neutralized. But there is a “still-to-come” element in Jesus’ work, while we remain here, in a still-corrupted body, the effects of the cancer’s presence lingers. Our text for today describes the Word of God in almost medical terms. Scripture is like a surgical instrument or incredibly effective chemotherapy, precisely targeting the infected area it needs to reach. Time spent reading and meditating on Scripture is like time in the chemotherapy room: peaceful, often quiet, perhaps sombre, yet sometimes filled with joy. Most importantly, present with us in our spiritual treatment room is Jesus, the Word made flesh, who fully cures our disease. He administers, through His Word, the targeted chemotherapy we still need.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, thank You for the power of Your Word in our lives.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord Jesus, our Healer, thank You for the power of Your Word to heal the sin in our lives, not only bringing healing but also freedom from the power of sin. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Genesis 3:1-13

 

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THE SOLUTION TO SIN

“ ‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning’.”        Joel 2:12 NIV

 

During a time of prosperity, the people of Israel let down their guard and descended into a period of moral depravity and pagan worship. God Almighty caused a plague of locusts, fire and drought to come on the land as a warning that judgment was on its way. Then God sent the prophet Joel to tell the people to turn back to Him. He told them it wasn’t too late. Repetition provides emphasis. Twice in this passage, God says to return to Him. Twice the prophet appeals to “your heart,” which is the seat of the mind, emotions and will. The solution to sin and moral decay is to repent and return. When we repent, we acknowledge our sin, consider the weight of our sin, turn away from sin, and turn toward the Lord. This requires a true change of belief and attitude. The grief, weeping and mourning described in Scripture reflect that change. One way to express this sorrow is by fasting which helps us to focus on our Lord, asking Him to search our hearts. Through confession, repentance and renouncing our sin, and receiving our Lord’s forgiveness, the Holy Spirit will bring change. History tells us that the Northern Kingdom of Israel did not repent and was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was devastated by the invading army, but King Hezekiah turned to the Lord, and Jerusalem was saved. God’s call to repentance still stands. Which choice will you make?

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, thank You that Your call to repentance still stands.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as You search our hearts and we confess, repent and renounce our sin, and accept Your forgiveness, You bring change in our lives through Your Holy Spirit. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

 

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ASH WEDNESDAY

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”    Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

 

In a good marriage, couples pay extra attention to their relationship. They may celebrate achievements, plan for the future, or dig into painful revelations of grievances and hurts, hopefully followed by confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season, a period in the year when we take time to focus on our relationship with God. During Lent, we can share our disappointments, unfulfilled expectations and regrets with our Lord as we ask Him to search our hearts. Fire burns waste and purifies gold. There will be a day when all our works will be tested by fire. “If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15 NIV). As our Lord reveals areas of rebellion or independence from His loving leadership during Lent, let us allow Him to burn them out of our lives. As He opens our eyes to other areas of brokenness, unfulfilled expectations, disappointments, suffering, and regrets, let us ask Him to help us trust Him with these things as well, allowing Him to begin cleansing us, healing us and ultimately producing in us the wonderful works He created us for. This salvation should bring a joy that comes from experiencing the presence of our Lord.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord Jesus, search our lives, so we will reflect Your life and to others.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as we allow You to begin cleansing us, healing us and ultimately producing in us the wonderful works You created us for, we will experience a joy that comes from experiencing Your presence. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Genesis 2:1-17

 

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SPIRITUAL UNITY

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ” .      Colossians 2:2 NKJV

 

Paul asked for spiritual unity. He prayed that these Christians would be knit together in a spirit of love. Solitary Christians are always weak Christians, for “union is strength”. If Christians are not knit together, the Church of Jesus Christ suffers, and through separation caused by disunity the enemy will keep attacking the Church. This is why Paul, elsewhere in his letters, urges the believers to keep the unity of the Spirit. One of the great powers that Satan wields today is due to the disunity in the Christian Church. This is true of the Christian home, congregation and denomination. The wedge of discord is one of the enemy’s most powerful weapons. On the other hand, where Christians dwell together in unity, the Lord commands His blessing. This unity is only possible “in love”. It is the love of God to us that unites us to Him, it is the love of God in us that unites us as Christians. We may not see eye to eye on all things, we may not all use the same methods of worship and service, but if we love one another, our Lord dwells in us and among us, adding His own seal of blessing to the work done for Him. Praying for the unity of Christians in love, is one of the most powerful ministries for the Kingdom of God. The Christian who stands for separateness and exclusiveness is one of Satan’s best allies.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Holy Spirit, keep us on our knees as we pray for the unity of the Church.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, as we love one another, You dwell in us and among us, adding Your own seal of blessing to the work done for You. We will not stop praying for the unity of Christians in love, for it is one of the most powerful ministries for the Kingdom of God. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Ephesians 4:1-6

 

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SPIRITUAL STRENGTH

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ”.   Colossians 2:2 NKJV

 

What were the gifts Paul was praying for for these unknown believers? Paul asked for spiritual strength, for “their hearts to be comforted”. Paul always went to the very core of things, so we find him constantly praying with reference to the “hearts” of these Colossian Christians. We have been reminded that the “heart” in Scripture is the centre of our moral and spiritual being. If the heart is right, all will be right, for “out of it are the issues of life”. Paul prays that their “hearts” would be “encouraged”, strengthened. Another translation uses the word “comforted”. In this word, courage, strength, consolation is included. In the full meaning of the term “comfort”, we are reminded of “Comforter”, as applied to the Holy Spirit. He is the one Who gives strength, courage and consolation. With hearts made strong, courageous, and cheerful, Christians can face anything. If our hearts are weak, fearful, and sad, our Christian life becomes prey to all the temptations of the Evil One. One of the supreme needs of any Christian is a comforted heart. It is with such hearts that Christians live, grow, extend, and witness for Jesus Christ in the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit, the “Comforter”.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Holy Spirit, thank You for being our Comforter at all times.

 

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Thank You, Holy Spirit, as You comfort us amidst all the challenges of life, we grow, extend, and witness for Jesus Christ in the demonstration of Your power in our lives. AMEN

 

I.B.R.A. Readings

Hebrews 3:1-6

 

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