DEVOTIONAL: E.W.F Teaches Us Devotion

If you would turn with me to the book of Earth, Wind and Fire, and read with me this passage:

Thru devotion, blessed are the children

Praise the teacher, that brings true love to many

Your devotion, opens all life’s treasures

And deliverance, from the fruits of evil

I bring up this song because as I thought about what to share with you today, I began to consider the word “devotion.”

By definition, the word “devotion” means love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause. A religious worship or observance.  The Ecclesiastical definition is religious zeal.

I bring up the topic of devotion today because as I survey my life, I realize that I am tremendously blessed, unbelievably favored – and right now, just going through a tough patch.

Sure my life is full and I have nothing to complain about, but sometimes the relationships we value the most, the commitments, the things we enjoy — sometimes they come together in a way that just, well, tires you out; frays your edges.

But in this rough patch, I’m reminded – appropriately and necessarily – of the oft-quoted scripture in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

When I think about my close friends, family and my husband, I think of Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”

And when I get excited thinking about my career and professional opportunities, Proverbs 16:3 comes to mind: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

I mention these scriptures because it appears that Earth, Wind and Fire were right. We DO need devotion.

Devotion to the appropriate – let me say this again, APPROPRIATE – people and activities shows our gratitude to God for the lives and all of the blessings He’s given us.

And it’s this devotion we must remember, hold tight to – especially during the rough times.

Much how we delight in seeing someone enjoy a gift we give them, I believe and the Word agrees, that God wants to see us happy. It makes Him happy to see us enjoying our lives and living them to the full.

Indeed, through devotion we can find deeper value in life.

Devotion to good will thwart the enemy.

Devotion to God overcomes every weapon of the enemy.

And God’s devotion to us overcame death and the grave.

Devotion.

Earth, Wind and Fire go on to say:

In everyone’s life, there’s a need to be happy.

Let the sun shine, a smile your way.

Open your heart, feel a touch of devotion.

Maybe this song, will help uplift your day.

Make a better way

You need devotion

My prayer for you today is that you experience devotion . And that if you can’t readily identify it in your life, that God will show you His devotion to you in the many people, places and things that cross your path today.

Don’t just live. Thrive.

Don’t just do, do with passion.

You, I, WE need devotion.

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DEVOTIONAL: Lord in E Flat (“He Loves Me”)

Have you heard Jill Scott’s song “Lyzel E Flat?”  She talks about how he loves her…differently…specially…especially different.

God loves us like that.  In fact, there’s a church-companion, if you will, to that song.  And the chorus goes like this:

He loves me.

Oh – how he loves me.

Oh – how he loves me.

Oh – how he loves me.

You know, I heard a teaching on God’s love recently that really blessed me.  So I wanted us to take a little time to talk about and reflect on that love today.

We all know the scripture. It’s John 3:16.  It tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But for a minute, let’s look at that same verse in the Amplified version.  It reads this way:  For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up his only begotten unique son, so that whoever believe in, trusts in, clings to, relies on Him shall not perish, come to destruction, or be lost, but have eternal everlasting life.

The part that I wanted to look at was that word “begotten.”  But more than that, I want to look at the word that follows that in the Amplifed version: unique.

To be unique means that you’re one-of-a-kind.  There’s no one else like him.  No twin, no duplication, no copy, no clone.  You’re the only one.

Now that idea of Jesus, Son of God, being unique is important because it really puts a scope on God’s gift and love.

How many of you have ever been invited to a party, or maybe played that secret santa game at work.  And you have to provide a gift.

Well, I won’t call any names, but I know some folks who are only comfortable offering as gifts things they already own, things they won’t miss, things they  maybe have two or three of and they can part with.

You know, you pick the gift that’s still nice but maybe it’s been lying around for a while, or someone gifted to you and you never really liked it, or maybe it was just easy.

I think a lot of us have been guilty of giving gifts that we wouldn’t want back or that we hope we never see again.

But get this, all of the silver, the gold, the diamonds, the money, heck, even all of the stars belong to God.

He could have easily given any of those to pay the ransom for our sin-sick souls, but He didn’t.

He chose the one thing that meant the most to Him, the one thing that once He gave He’d have no more, the one thing that would cost Him something, the one thing that He loved dearly.  He chose THAT THING – His only son  – to give.

Yeah, He could have given the silver, the gold, the money, the stars, or whatever, but there are so many of those things that He’d still have plenty left over.

No – and we’re thinking back to John 3:16 now – God loved us SOOOO much that He gave the only thing that would cost Him everything.

That’s deep y’all, get that in your spirit.  He didn’t give what was convenient, He didn’t give what the world would prize.  No He gave of Himself the one thing that He’d feel, the one thing that would prove His love.

I mean, any parent I know couldn’t even fathom giving away one of their children to anyone for anything.

So just think about giving away your son or your daughter to pay someone else’s tab!

I mean, He loves us THAT much y’all!

Ain’t that good to you?  Don’t that make you want to shout?

But that’s not all.

By giving us His son, God proved that He loved us.

See the scripture says that God so loved the world.  Let’s pause there for a second, because that word “so” means that this ain’t no ordinary love. (Cue the Sade song…”This is no ordinary love.  No ooooordinary loooove.”)

This is the difference between telling someone you’re hungry, and then telling someone you’re SOOOO hungry.  It’s that kind of love y’all.

So yeah, the scripture tells us that God SO loved the world THAT.

Now let’s stop there, because that THAT means that He didn’t stop at telling us.  God didn’t stop at giving us lip service, at just whispering sweet nothings, at saying the right thing.  He took the extra step of taking an action to PROVE that He loved us.

I tell you what, we tell folks we love them so much these days that in some ways the word is greatly watered down.

And beyond that, for those we tell, there are but a few folks we tell AND THEN PROVE that we love them.

And then we can whittle that down even further by saying there are even fewer folks that we tell we love them, go further by acting to prove it, and in doing so give them something we prize more than anything else in the world.

Look, I don’t know what you’re up against.  I don’t know what you’re facing, but I know the enemy is whispering lies in your ears.

He’s telling you you ain’t nothing, you ain’t never been nothing, and you ain’t gonna be nothing.  You ain’t never gonna make it, you’re forgettable, unimportant, un-impactful, unnecessary, don’t matter to no one, the world would be better off without you, you don’t amount to nothing and you don’t contribute nothing to society.

But I’m telling you right now that God paid the highest price EVER just FOR YOU.  The price He paid just so He could call you His own and love you and give you a life and a future was so high there is nothing in this earth that could match it.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay for junk.

I dare you to tell the devil to go back to the pits of hell from whence he comes.

I dare you to declare that you are the apple of God’s eye.  That you’re favored.  That you’re prized.  That the Lords thoughts of you are like the number of the grains of sand.

I dare you to pop your collar, do a  little dance, and say, “Jesus loves me soooooo much!”

You ain’t got to love me.  Heck, you ain’t got to like me.  But Jesus loves me soooooo much!

God loves you.

God love you.

God LOVES you.

GOD. LOVES. YOU.

And there ain’t nothing no devil in hell can do to stop it, separate you from it, or change.

For God so loved YOU and ME that…He gave His only son, he blesses us, favors us, keeps us, provides for us, prospers us, protects us, loves us, corrects us, directs us, guides us, talks to us, walks with us.

HALLELUJAH?

HALLELUJAH!

If you don’t remember anything today, take joy in this: GOD LOVES YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH!

DEVOTIONAL: Every Day is SUNDAE

Every Tuesday is family date night. My little family of 5 picks a new restaurant at which to have dinner and talk about our day. Yesterday, instead of venturing to a new joint, we ended up at an old favorite. At the end of our meal, I treated myself to a mini sundae: a gooey mess of brownie chunks and chocolate syrup, capped with ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream, and finally topped with a cherry.

While I helped my husband shepherd our toddlers into the car, I kept thinking about how much I was looking forward to my sundae. And how, for such a small treat, it was nice of them to top it with a cherry – garnish usually reserved for the larger, full-size option.

As I relished my dessert it occurred to me that, for Christians, every day is a sundae. Not S-U-N-D-A-Y, but S-U-N-D-A-E.

Why? Because in spite of all the dark, sticky, complicated mess at the bottom of our souls/in our closets/in our pasts, God doesn’t withhold giving us good stuff. And then, by his favor, putting a cherry on top.

Not following me? Ok. How about this? Even though we probably deserved get an STD or worse for all of our fornication and – (clear throat) – playing the field, not only did He keep us safe and healthy, but as a cherry on top he actually sent us a husband or a wife.

Oh, wait, that’s not you? Alright, how about this? Instead of causing us to lose our job – which we should have – when we lost our minds and cussed out the boss, He enables us to retain our jobs and then, only because of His favor, we get promoted or a raise or a new job altogether.

Still not you? Ok. Maybe God’s been merciful enough to keep you from ruining your life or that of your family even though you’re still running to drugs or alcohol or food or sex every chance you get. But not only does He protect your family from your dirt, but He protects you – you’ve never been jumped at a buy, you’ve never been beaten or robbed.

Or maybe God gave you a vision years ago. But you’ve let fear stop you cold – you aren’t doing anything with it and on top of that, all of your friends, everyone around you, is branching out and doing their own thing. Instead of giving that dream to someone worthy, someone who’ll do something with it, not only does God continue to define it for you, He’s giving you time and space to decide to accept the more He’s offering you.

Or maybe it was that decision to drink or drive that should have ended up with you losing your life – or someone else losing theirs. But God…

Or maybe you can’t stop lying.  You want to tell the truth, but you can’t.  But God…

Maybe you have tapped out all of your sources, borrowed money from everyone and their child. You haven’t paid back a soul. And instead of them coming to beat you down or take you to court…But God…

Perhaps you can’t stop visiting illicit sites, or sending dirty texts and FB messages and emails. Your husband or wife or children don’t know yet; it would ruin your family…But God…

I need someone who recognizes that even though all manner of ungodliness can be found in our pasts, in our closets, and sometimes in our mouths and minds, when we repent, God continues to cover all our mess with the blood of Christ, with His grace, AND THEN blesses us on top of that.

He knows what complicated, messy, disgraceful stuff we have living in the inner most regions of our hearts and minds AND HE STILL keeps blessing us; and more than blessing us, He’s still pouring grace and mercy and favor all over us and our lives.

Maybe you’ve been perfect all your life, but I’m here to tell you that for all the mess I’ve chosen to entertain: I shoulda been dead. I shoulda been sick. I shoulda been unemployed. I shoulda been clinically depressed, mentally unstable. I shoulda been homeless. I shoulda been broke. My kids shoulda been… My husband shoulda been…

BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD BEING THE CHERRY ON TOP OF OUR LIVES.

Not only did He pull me up out of and through my mess, but by the blood of Christ, He covered it with all kinds of good stuff, and then chucked some favor on top just because that’s just how good He is.

I could go on and on, but I just keep coming back to the realization that not only does He bless us, keep us, protect us, strengthen us, love us, heal us, direct us, forgive us, correct us, grow us, enlarge our territory…not only does He do ALL of that, He then goes right behind all of that to do a little bit more. When we repent and ask for His forgiveness, He blesses us in spite of our messes, and then adds an extra measure of favor on top – like a cherry atop a decadently messy sundae.

I’ll tell you guys. I got so excited about this that I started reading the scriptures and found that consistently we are told that favor comes with something else.

Job 10:12 says that he grants us life AND FAVOR.

Psalm 5:12 says that He blesses the righteous AND SURROUNDS US WITH FAVOR.

Psalm 102:12 says that He will show us mercy AND FAVOR.

Proverbs 18:22 says the man who finds a wife finds a treasure AND FAVOR.

Proverbs 8:35 says that whoever finds Him finds live AND FAVOR.

Acts 7:10 says he was delivered out of all his troubles and GIVEN FAVOR.

Even Luke 2:52 says that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature AND FAVOR.

HOW. AWESOME. IS. THAT?!

Look back over the dirt, the mess, the skeletons, the missteps and mistakes in your life, and then think back on how, through the blood of Christ and your repentant heart, God covered it all with His good grace and mercy. And then on top of that, He heaped favor and love and forgiveness and blessing and promotion.

As we prepare to celebrate Good Friday and the Resurrection, let’s be grateful for the many times God’s resurrected us – our lives, our families, our dreams, our careers, our hopes – and then went a step further to pour out his love and grace and mercy on us just because He loves us THAT much.

Today is SUNDAE. Let’s walk in all the goodness God has heaped on our lives, and thank Him for loving and calling us in spite of our messy, broken lives.

God uses imperfect vessels for his perfect will. Our lives are beautifully imperfect bowls in which He fills us with all of His goodness.

Don’t allow the enemy to keep you in a pity party of one. Repent. Accept God’s forgiveness. And enjoy the SUNDAE.