STEP UP is a visioning process for the Fellowship of Joy at Baptist Temple church of Fresno, CA. While these devotional thoughts were written with our campaign in mind, they are applicable beyond that context. STEP UP is a call to Step Up to the plate and hit a home run for God as one of our members told me Sunday. It is also a capital development campaign, but it is much MORE. It is a time of revival and renewal of our lives, our dreams, and our commitments to Jesus Christ. STEP UP is an opportunity to pray and seek God for miracles in our church, our community, our personal relationships with God, our ministries, and our own finances as we develop sound principles of personal stewardship. STEP UP is an opportunity to serve, commit, and give sacrificially. STEP UP is a bold initiative to clarify our church's VISION, launch a bold strategy, makes some improvements to our facilities, and solidify our financial base so that we can more effectively fulfill our mission in the city.
Monday – January 5 – "Ask and it will be given you." (Matthew 7:7a, NKJV) – At the risk of seeming obvious, have you asked God for anything lately? Have you with some heart for a pure motive and unselfish desire asked for Him to supply your needs, lead you according to His purposes, given you strength and wisdom to become all He wants you to be, and to help you delight in Him so that He may give you the desires of your heart? "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 - NIV)" That being in place, perhaps the word in James 4:2 is operative; "You do not have, because you do not ask God. (NIV). As a community of believers, as individual members of the church, and as individuals before God, it behooves us to learn to ask.
Tuesday – January 6 – "Seek and you will find." (Matthew 7:7b, NKJV) – Emily Daniels, my high school Sunday school teacher used to remind us to put legs on our prayers. I always wondered if that was a bit unspiritual until I realized it was very true. God expects us to seek after what He is supplying for us. He hides treasures in odd places. He invites us to participate in His provision. He calls us into a mystical and practical partnership. Where are you seeking for God's best? What are you seeking? How are you seeking? Are you limited what Good can provide for you and do through you by refusing to seek diligently and turn over all the rocks? Embrace the promise of more today and find God's best.
Wednesday – January 7 – "Knock and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7c, NKJV) – All of the imperatives in this verse describe continuous action: Keep on asking. Keep on receiving. Keep on knocking. By the time we get to knocking, it is obvious without even knowing the verb structure that persistence is the key to laying hold of the promises of God. We cannot stop short of our goals. We dare not quit before the finish line. To do so would be to diminish the meaning of all past efforts, prayers, and discipline. Our quest is a lifetime process, not a quick and easy fix. We are called to step up and to keep stepping up. My wife once hired a young man, not because his resume was impressive or because he was an outstanding candidate for the job, but because he proved his desire to do that particular job by coming in several times a week to inquire about it. God wants us to deeply desire His best and to demonstrate that desire with persistence.
Thursday – January 8 – "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11) – God is good. That is a theological fact. We are sinners, broken by the fall. That is also a fact. But even as sinners, we know how to give good gifts to our children. How much more will a God who is 100% good give good gifts to His children whom He loves? We are His children. He loves us. He wants to give His best to us. He is waiting for our to do our part for own good so that we will not just be receptacles of blessings, but participants in His purpose. It is about the character of God and the love He has for us.
Friday – January 9 – "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12) – If God were a man, this is how He would treat us. It is how He treats us. It is also how He mandates that we treat each other. It is a positive command to be proactive, not a caution of restraint. It is the essence of all He has ever sought to reveal through the scriptures. It is what makes God's people salt and light. It is the secret of true prosperity and fulfillment. It is the Golden Rule. How will you go out of your way today to observe it?
Saturday – January 10 - "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Matthew 7:13, NIV) – Destruction is easy. It is the path of least resistance. The call to step up to call of God is a call to reject the easy path, to shun the downhill slide, and to despise call to mediocrity. God has no interest in our earthly comfort zones or addiction to convenience. He values those qualities little in our lives or churches where we often value them much. Whether Jesus is speaking of the destruction of our eternal souls, of our dreams, or our earthly lives, the principle holds. It is easy to get shipwrecked by esteeming ease about all other values. Could we decide today to be suspicious of every broad path and path to which the masses flock? If we see the crowds gathering, let us look further for a path of life.
Sunday - January 11 – "But small is the gate and narrows the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:14, NIV) You will be in a distinct minority to the extent to which you choose the path of life. It is a gate you may have to squeeze and contort yourself to get through. You will not shape it. It will shape you. Most people are intimidated by the potential of being odd or out of step with the crowd. But when we step up to God's plate, we often stand alone. Life, in all its dimensions, fullness, and implications is experienced only by a few who are willing to be different and to fit into some pretty tight places for God. But once through the gate, it is the path of greatest freedom and joy. We wonder why we didn't choose it all along.