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Devotions for Life

Fan the Flames

Revelation 2:1-7

Read
 
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
 
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
 
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.”
 
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:1-7)
 
Reflect
 
Just as when a man and woman fall in love, so also new believers rejoice at their newfound forgiveness. But the ardor of love later cools. When they lose sight of the seriousness of sin, they begin to lose the thrill of forgiveness (see 2 Peter 1:9). Here, Jesus confronts the believers in Ephesus about their lost love.
 
Paul had once commended the church at Ephesus for its love for God and others (Ephesians 1:15), but many of the church founders had died, and many of the second-generation believers had lost their zeal for God. They were a busy church—the members did much to benefit themselves and the community—but they were acting out of the wrong motives. They needed to fan the flames of love once more.
 
Respond
 
In the first steps of your Christian life, you may have had enthusiasm without knowledge. Do you now have knowledge without enthusiasm? Both are necessary if we are to keep love for God intense and untarnished (see Hebrews 10:32, 35). Are you in need of a “second honeymoon” with God? Ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle your love for God.

 



See no one pays back evil for evil, Always do good to each other and all people.

1 Thessalonians 5:15, NLT

“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again,” goes the old saying from William Penn. Kindness is not an inconvenience to be avoided but a characteristic to be embraced.
 
Sometimes it is as simple as a pleasant smile, a warm handshake, sending a thank you note, assisting a neighbor with household project, or being with a friend in distress. Someone once said, “The greatest thing a man can do for his heavenly Father is to be kind to his other children.”
 
Kindness originates from the heart of God. God is kind because he cannot be otherwise. It is essential to his nature. And, likewise, that kindness becomes a part of our new nature, which comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Kindness becomes a part of our conduct because our character is rooted in God. The poet Robert Burns said that the kind heart most resembles God.
 
Kindness provides for the other people’s needs. Kindness is more than a pat on the back while saying, “Have a nice day.” Kindness gets involved. It gets its hands dirty. It’s visible and active. It moves beyond the spiritual and the emotional to the physical and practical. Kindness’s theme song says, “Find the need and fill it. Find the hurt and heal it.”
 
The watchword of today’s society is “Don’t get involved.” But at the heart of a kind person is involvement. They see the needs and seek to fill them. They are willing to risk in order to help others out. They know they can’t do everything, but they can do something.
 
After answering the lawyer’s question with the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus instructed him to go and do likewise, and he instructs us to do the same. Let’s move from pious platitudes to practical involvement. Let’s not just stand for what is right; let’s do what is right. Let’s not just carry a placard to city hall; let’s carry a casserole next door. Let’s not make our religious activities a substitute for Christian kindness.

 



Men’s Devotional Seek the Kingdom of God

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
 
Matthew 6:32-33, NLT
 
America seems obsessed with sports. Other schedules often bow before the sports priority. There’s the Super Bowl early in the year. Then, in spring there are the Final Four, the NBA Championship, and the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile spring training gets under way, announcing the beginning of the baseball season. It’s one sport after another, with devoted fans cheering, paying, and following every move in the press.
 
I certainly have no problem with sports per se. I consider myself an athlete, and I’ve participated in many, including college football. Besides the physical conditioning, competitive sports have taught me many lessons. And I’m still an avid fan of all the local teams. But I do have a problem with the emphasis on money in all sports, especially the unbridled greed in the professional arena.
 
Each day brings new reports of athletes demanding, and receiving, contracts for multiple millions of dollars. With each new salary plateau, others demand to have their contracts renegotiated so that they can be the highest paid … and the upward spiral continues. It’s absurd to think that men are being paid fortunes to play games. It’s even more ridiculous that someone is willing to pay them.
And think of the consequences: With their salaries guaranteed after a great season or two, some players relax and turn in very poor performances; others play tentatively, afraid of ending their careers with an injury. And look at the drug and alcohol problems faced by so many who had too much too soon.
 
In addition, the big money paid to professional athletes is almost destroying college sports. Major universities vie for the television money and exposure so that they can recruit “blue-chip” athletes. And high school athletes choose colleges based on how they can be prepared for the pros. This leads to continual recruiting and eligibility violations, with secret payoffs and no-class graduates. Recently a professional football player—and college alumnus—admitted that he couldn’t read.
 
Although I fault the athletes and their agents for their greed and the team owners for their greed and cowardliness, the real fault lies with us, the fans. We put these men on pedestals, make them bigger than life, buy the souvenirs, and pay the big ticket prices. And the only way to stop the money madness is to boycott the sports, to stop giving in to the greed.
 
What if someone said: “There’s going to be a group of millionaires playing a game this afternoon. Want to go? It’ll only cost $20 each.” Would you be interested? Probably not. But that’s exactly what professional sports has become—millionaire gladiators. I know I’m going to take a second look at my cheering, viewing, and spending habits. How about you? What are we chasing after? In our entertainment are we seeking the Kingdom?