Never leave your first love!

July 27, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
(Revelation 2:4 (NKJV))

The church at Ephesus did many things right, but it all came collapsing down with this single statement!

Have you ever wondered what they had left? Have you ever thought that they simply got in a routine of doing things that were righteous, but forgot the reasons behind why they did them? They did good works. They labored for the sake of the Gospel. They had learned patience and they hated evil. They could even spot false apostles, but what good did it do them if they had left their first love? They had forgotten the love of Jesus and without that love, everything is meaningless. They had faith. They had hope, but they no longer had love!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV))

Without love, you soon find yourself focusing on the letter of the law and not the intent. The Pharisees focused on the letter of the law. Jesus came to show that God’s intent was love. In essence, when you lose love, you become a Pharisee, and you insist on telling others what to do while not doing it yourself. You create a double standard in which you judge others but seek grace for yourself. This is completely contrary to what Jesus taught.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV))

We are to love each other as we love ourselves!

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8 (NIV))

It was out of love that Jesus came into the world. It was out of love that He taught. It was out of love that He went to the cross. His love covers all of our sins. What we are called to do is love others in such a way that they are covered in Christ! If you have forgotten how to love, then it is time to follow through on what Jesus told the church at Ephesus.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
(Revelation 2:5 (NKJV))

Never leave your first love!

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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How are your peacemaking skills?

July 26, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Blessed are the peacemakers,
     for they will be called sons of God.
(Matthew 5:9 (NIV))

Peace! That is something that the world is in short supply of at this moment in history.

The world definitely needs the peace that passes understanding. Perhaps it is this peace, and not the earthly peace that Jesus was actually speaking of in this passage. The earthly peace is something that is a lofty goal, but it will not be attainable in the natural world.

Consider the peace that God gives to those who truly follow Him. It is a peace that literally passes all understanding especially since it gives the recipient a joy that transcends the problems of the physical world. Perhaps it is this peace that passes understanding that Jesus is referring to.

Those who plant the seeds of this peace truly are the sons of God for they are giving something that can only be given through a love that goes beyond the earthly type of love. This peace is a gift from God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

How many times have you heard people refer to sharing the Gospel as the passing of the peace?

Closely examine your peacemaking abilities. Could you be considered this type of peacemaker?

How are your peacemaking skills?

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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What is your answer to what Jesus asks each of us?

July 23, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

‘What about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
(Matthew 16:15-16 (NIV))

This is the question that Jesus is asking each and every one of us!

Who do you say that Jesus is? Think carefully about your answer.

Some say that Jesus never existed and that the stories are fabrications of a group of people who were determined to trick people.

Some say that he was simply a good man. This is partially true. Jesus definitely was a good man, but He was much more than a mortal man. Others say that he was a prophet. This is also partially true. He did speak the words of God, but not as a man who was given these words, but as one who spoke out of the authority that comes from the words.

Search your heart. Reflect on what is written about Jesus. Consider that He is the most controversial person to ever have walked the earth. For two thousand years people have been either praising Him or denying Him. Consider what He taught. Consider His status in life as a carpenter in a country that was under foreign domination. How can a man who had no worldly claim to fame captivate the world for two thousand years? Even the men of power during His lifetime do not receive the same attention that this lowly carpenter has received.

There is something in His words that draws people who are seeking the truth. There is something in His words that offends people who are seeking their own way. There is something about Him that still draws people to Him over two thousand years after His brief ministry on this earth.

Just what is that something? That is for each and every one of us to discover. Once you discover it, you will answer as Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

What is your answer to what Jesus asks each of us?

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Hope, joy and peace come from trusting the Lord!

July 22, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13 (NIV))

With the current state of the world, we need hope. We need joy, and we need peace!

Can you imagine how people who don’t profess a faith in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior are coping with what we have been facing? Even members of the Body of Christ can sometimes begin to feel the weight of the world crashing down on us, and we have the hope we have been given through Jesus to cling to! Can you imagine the weight that others are feeling when they have no hope to cling to?

We are all familiar with the often used saying that when things are looking down, look up. To be honest with you, I see more and more people boldly proclaiming their faith through social media than I have ever seen. It may just be the algorithms that are used, but it appears that over fifty percent of what I see is people sharing faith based content. I take this as an indication that people are spending more time in God’s Word and are clinging to the truth that it contains. People are looking up! Or, should I say that they are looking down into the pages of their Bibles? Can we take this as a sign that people are lifting their hearts and their hands to heaven? Can we take this as a sign the people are lifting up prayers to the Lord?

For those of us who cling to the promises that are “yes” in Jesus, we have hope. We have joy, and we have peace. We also have an assignment!

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV))

And, the harvest fields are ripe to hear the Gospel!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
(Isaiah 6:8 (NIV))

There has never been a better time to share the Gospel of Jesus. The time may be short and for those who don’t trust in the Lord, we may be the only people who will share. We must tell them the truth!

Hope, joy and peace come from trusting the Lord!

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Who are your companions?

July 21, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
(Proverbs 13:20 (NIV))

There are many different ways to say this. Here are two of the many that I have heard in my life.

“If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas” paints a very vivid picture of what can and will happen simply by association.

“Garbage in, garbage out” is another one that comes to mind. This implies that what you put into your life is what you will get out of your life.

The concept is basically the same and has not changed since Solomon wrote his version. It relies on a very sad, but true, characteristic of human nature. We tend to pick up traits and characteristics from those with whom we associate. What is even sadder is that we tend to change our behavior based on who we are around at any given moment. If that is the sad truth of human nature, those who profess a faith in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior must hold each other accountable!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV))

Not only do we have an assignment to share the Gospel with those who do not believe, we are also called to encourage each other so that we can stand firm in our faith. When we gather together, we share a common belief and a common desire. This strengthens the human weakness that makes us pick up the traits of others. We then can walk out into the sinful, fallen world and hold fast to our faith. This also strengthens us and makes us able to deal with “fools” when we encounter them.

The fool says in his heart,
      “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
      there is no one who does good.
(Psalms 14:1 (NIV))

What do you consider wisdom?

Based on that answer, who do you consider to be wise?

Hopefully your answers point to Jesus and to those who seek to follow Jesus. If we take on the characteristics of those we are around, choose wisely. Godly wisdom and those who seek it will take you on a walk with the wise. We must learn to stay away from fools!

Who are your companions?

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Are you sure you only want to hear pleasant things?

July 20, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

They say to the seers,
       “See no more visions!”
and to the prophets,
       “Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
       prophesy illusions.
(Isaiah 30:10 (NIV))

Do you want to hear fairy tales, bedtime stories and other pleasant things, or do you want to hear the truth? Do you want to hear that the sinful things you do are okay, or do you want to hear the truth and repent of your sins? Do you want to be happy in your sin and lost for all eternity, or do you want to hear the truth that will lead you to an eternity with God?

Sadly, human nature seems to like pleasant things even if they are wrong. This seems to be getting more and more prevalent in the world today. Are we seeing what Paul wrote to Timothy coming to fruition?

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
(2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV))

Even Jesus experienced this with those who followed Him when He walked the earth. When He started teaching something that was difficult to hear, many would simply go home. At one point, He asked His disciples if they wanted to leave. I know that He already knew the answer to this question. He simply wanted them to search themselves and answer.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
(John 6:66-68 (NIV))

How do you respond when you read or hear passages that state things that you don’t like? Do you get offended and go home, or do you dig in and look at yourself in relation to that passage so that you can learn and mature in your faith? Do you only read the pleasant parts of the Bible or do you read and study all of it?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV))

I know that those who profess a faith in Jesus cling to the solid promise of salvation that is only available through Him. I know that we like to make wide-sweeping statements such as I know who wins in the end, but have you ever stopped to consider that the Bible is a story of the battle between God and Satan, between good and evil, and as such, there will be things that we do not like. In order to be fully equipped with the full armor of God, we must hear the truth. We need to know how to wage warfare against the enemy.

Are you sure you only want to hear pleasant things?

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Do your thoughts run wild?

July 19, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV))

In other words, we should control what we say, see, hear and do so that we can focus on the Lord, and we should also control what we think!

This sounds wonderful, but as Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth, he was giving instructions to the members of that body of believers on how to conduct spiritual warfare.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV))

In fact, it was Paul who was coming under attack by others who were professing to love the Gospel. These words were encouragement to weigh what he was preaching to see if he was boasting. Paul was telling this group of people, and us, to look at the message and not the messenger, for they were saying that his writings were powerful yet his speaking was not.

You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do.
(2 Corinthians 10:7 (NIV))

Sadly, we still experience this very same thing today. We judge the messenger and not the message. We can have a dynamic speaker who doesn’t speak the truth and this person will be followed. We can also have a speaker who is shy and timid and speaks the truth, but who follows this person? We must learn to discern who is speaking the truth and, as Paul wrote, demolish arguments so that we can take captive our every thought so that we are obedient to Christ. If we are too tied up in appearances, we will not be focused on the truth. Our thoughts will run out of control toward the worldly things that we say that we want to turn away from. We will have not only failed to take our thoughts captive, we will have enabled them to run wild.

Do your thoughts run wild?

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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He is our one true hope!

July 16, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
      Why so disturbed within me?
   Put your hope in God,
      for I will yet praise him,
      my Savior and my God.
(Psalms 43:5 (NIV))

It seems that people turn to God in times of trouble, only to turn away when things begin to get better. Think back a few years ago to the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Churches were filled with people praying. Where did they all go? Why are they still not there? It seems that when tragedy hits, people realize that they are not in control, but arrogance soon takes over once things begin to return to normal. People tend to forget God in the good times.

I find it interesting that the psalmist wrote about what seems to be the opposite scenario. He praised God during the good times, thanking Him for all that He has done. When things begin to go less than desirably, he wanted to grovel. He was depressed. He was sad. It sounds like he almost turned away from God. He wanted to forget God in the bad times.

Both scenarios are common place. We are an arrogant, yet fickle creation. We have been blessed with individuality, but sometimes that can be our biggest problem. Don’t get me wrong. God created us to be individuals. He created each of us to be unique in all of creation. He cherishes our individuality. It is through this individuality that we each must learn to earnestly seek God, even when we feel like turning from Him. We need to make it an every day occurrence and not just at the times in our lives that are contrary to our natures. For some, this is when we lose control. For others, it is when things are going good. Perhaps it is simply a matter of our personality, but regardless of how God created us, we are to praise Him in all things.

Carefully consider how long a marriage would last if one person only turned to the other for just a few days a month. Now, consider your relationship with God through Jesus. Do you turn to God in much the same manner?

Do you praise God at all times for being your Savior and your God?

He is our one true hope!

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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What is possible for you?

July 15, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
(Mark 9:23 (NIV))

How many people read this passage and miss the fact that Jesus was replying to a request from a father about his son? The father had explained what was happening to his son and appears to have been at the end of his proverbial rope. The disciples couldn’t help him. It sounds like he saw Jesus as his last hope, and as such, he ended up by saying the following.

But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.
(Mark 9:22b (NIV))

At first read, I unintentionally put my sinful human nature into Jesus’ response and read the “‘If you can’?” part sarcastically as if Jesus was saying don’t you know who I am? Then I realized that I was reading those words as how I would have reacted. This is not how Jesus would react.

How do you think that Jesus said these words?

“‘If you can’?”

All that we have is the written transcript. We don’t know the tone of delivery or the body language that went with it. Was there compassion and love? Was there sympathy and understanding? Was there grace and mercy? I can envision all of these and more conveyed by Jesus in His reply, and when you consider the father’s reaction to the words spoken by Jesus, you quickly understand that these simple words penetrated his heart.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:24 (NIV))

That should be the prayer of everyone who professes a faith in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. If everything is possible for one who believes, then Lord, help me overcome my unbelief!

What is possible for you?

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Are you willing to be searched?

July 14, 2021

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
(Psalms 139:23 (NIV))

What imagery comes to mind when you think of being searched?

Is it invasive? Is it forceful? Is it a scenario where you feel extremely uncomfortable? Is your imagery of being searched something that you would want to be put through? Is this how you envision God searching you?

We have a choice. We can profess a faith in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, and then open up our heart to the searching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, or we can wait until the appointed time when Jesus returns. We can surrender to the gentle searching that will lead to a maturity in Christ, or we can be defiant now and face something that none of us want to face. Those who don’t profess a faith in Jesus now will acknowledge His Lordship too late!

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
     in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
     to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:10-11 (NIV))

Asking God to search your heart means that you surrender to Him and to His plans for you. Asking God to search your heart indicates that you are ready and willing to take a step toward realizing the hope of a future in His presence.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
(Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV))

If you ask the Lord to search your heart, you better be prepared for God to remove some things from your life. You better be prepared to experience some spiritual growing pains as the Lord refines you and makes you into someone that He can use.

Remove the dross from the silver,
     and a silversmith can produce a vessel;
(Proverbs 25:4 (NIV))

Asking the Lord to search your heart is the first step.

Are you willing to be searched?

Copyright 1998 – 2021 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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