|6/1/2023||2 Chronicles 20:5-12|
A Balanced Prayer.
Taking time to praise the King of Kings will change how you bring your petitions to Him.
Modern-day Christians can learn a lot from prayers recorded in the Old Testament. Many women and men who prayed in the Bible witnessed firsthand God’s wonder-working power—and that power is still available to us today.
Let’s take a look at Jehoshaphat. His prayer for help not only asked the Lord to meet his needs but also proclaimed God’s greatness. By praying, “Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You” (2 Chron. 20:6), Jehoshaphat was praising God and at the same time reminding himself of the Lord’s greatness.
Likewise, our requests should be made with recognition of who God is. While crying out to God about his terrible predicament, Jehoshaphat also exalted the Lord for His attributes and acknowledged the great things He had done previously. That’s why knowing the Word of God is so important. Reading about how He has worked in the lives of others helps us grasp the immensity of His might.
Do you want to revolutionize your prayer life? When you talk to God, recall His mercy, grace, and awesome power. Focus as much attention on Him as you do on your requests, and your relationship with the Father will be transformed.
Beloved Children, Pleasing to God.
God delights in those who love Him and want to do His will—even when they stumble.
As believers, we’re supposed to imitate Jesus. That might seem impossible to us. After all, He was the Son of God! In fact, God the Father even attested several times, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). How can we possibly live up to that?
Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we’re still learning. Just like a parent who rejoices over a baby’s first steps, so our heavenly Father delights in our steps as we seek to walk with Him. The goal is growth. Once a toddler walks, the parents’ delight shifts to more mature achievements. As long as we keep growing in our faith, we will never cease learning new ways to please our Father. He loves us and patiently cheers us on at each new level.
What’s important to the Lord is our heart. Amidst all our frailties, failures, and temptations, God sees our inmost thoughts and motivations. He knows how much we love Him and desire to obey. Even in our stumbling, He helps us up and encourages us with His Word.
If you’re prone to perfectionism, give yourself grace and time to grow. That’s what the Father does, so learn to see yourself through His eyes. He’s waiting—not to berate your efforts but to help you develop into the person He designed you to be.
|5/30/2023||2 Corinthians 8:1-7|
The Grace of Giving.
Those who honor God by sharing generously are blessed with His joy.
In verse 7 of today’s passage, Paul wrote, “See that you also excel in this grace of giving” (NIV). Let’s look at some people in the Bible who were examples of this kind of generosity.
In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus praised the poor widow for her sacrificial giving. Contrasting her with those who gave out of their surplus, He said, “She, out of her poverty, put in all she owned” (vv. 44). When we trust the Lord with our finances as this woman did, then no matter how little or how much we have, we’ll excel at the grace of giving.
A sacrificial mindset can be found in the early church, too. Those new believers eagerly sold their possessions and property to meet the needs around them. (See Acts 2:45.) Because of their generosity, God blessed them with glad hearts, favor from people, and increasing numbers.
The Macedonian churches from today’s passage also understood the importance of giving. Even though these believers were very poor, Paul says “their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” He even says they considered it a privilege to share in this way (vv. 2, 4 NIV).
God expects us to give, and to do so cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). In His grace, He’s provided biblical role models to help us learn how. What’s one way you can become a more giving person?
|5/29/2023||2 Corinthians 9:6-8|
Becoming a Generous Giver.
Take time to consider all the gifts you’ll enjoy today because of God’s goodness.
We know we should be generous, but have you ever thought about all the ways the Lord has been generous to us? He formed us in our mother’s womb with tender, loving care and gave us life (Psalm 139:13). He created the world in which we live and provided air, water, food, and other essentials—as well as sunsets, butterflies, flowers, and laughter.
At salvation, we received additional gifts—the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, adoption into God’s family, and a heavenly home. We’re also given the Holy Spirit, who indwells us and provides wisdom, guidance, and comfort. We don’t deserve any of this, nor could we earn it. It’s been freely given to all who believe in Jesus.
When we think of how generous God has been to us, we should want to extend that generosity to others. To become a generous giver, remember these truths. We are …
– Imitating Jesus when we give sacrificially.
– Honoring God when we obey His commands to give.
– Extending His work through our support of the church.
Being a generous person requires a heart that loves the Lord above all else. The Holy Spirit will also transform each of us into someone who finds pleasure in giving. And God loves a cheerful giver.
|5/28/2023||Listen and Respond With Courage.|
Remember, taking a risk in God’s will is always safter than clinging to safety outside His will.
Sometimes God calls us to participate in His mission in unusual or even confusing ways. These situations might ask us to step outside of our normal manner of doing things and take a risk, give sacrificially, inconvenience ourselves, or even suffer for the sake of others. Have you ever felt called to go beyond your routine to do something extraordinary?
For some Christians, this might look like answering a call to move overseas and share the gospel with unreached people groups. For others, it could mean giving more than usual to help their church or community meet a need. Or perhaps it involves taking a risk to support and come alongside someone who is struggling. Not all of us are called to make big, overt gestures. But we all can try to listen with courage, trusting God to guide us in how we use His gifts—whatever that may look like.
Think about it:
Can you remember a time when God asked you to take a step that made you uncomfortable or even fearful? How did you deal with it?
First Corinthians 16:13 (NIV) says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” What would it look like to listen to God with courage?
|5/27/2023||2 Timothy 1:6-7|
Rekindling the Flame.
If you feel discouraged, extra time with your heavenly Father is just what you need.
We all get burned out at some point or another. Perhaps difficult circumstances have led to discouragement. Or maybe you keep going but feel as if you’re just going through the motions—there’s no joy, no fruit. Paul told Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). So how do we do that?
Refill: Get on your knees before the Lord and ask Him to fill you again. Examine your life, repent of any sins, and submit to Him.
Refocus: Nothing dims the flame like fixing your eyes on the problem. Whenever we focus on obstacles, they grow larger. But when we shift our eyes to Christ, He becomes bigger than any difficulty we face.
Reject: When we’re down, the Devil whispers his lies into our mind: You can’t do this. No one appreciates you. Why not call it quits? We need to recognize all discouraging thoughts as coming from him—and reject them.
Retreat: Get away with the Lord—free from distractions—to rekindle your relationship with Him.
After going through all these steps, you will have renewed enthusiasm and commitment. Hard circumstances may remain, but you’ll be equipped to handle them because you won’t be handling them alone.
|5/26/2023||1 John 5:13-15|
Why We Might Miss God’s Will.
Impulsive, emotion-driven decisions can cause us to miss God’s best.
Yesterday we looked at two reasons we might miss God’s will. John 14:26 says the Holy Spirit teaches us all things. So why do we sometimes have trouble understanding His plan?
We make decisions according to emotions. When life gets hard, our instinct is to move away from the source of pain—but in reality, we need to move closer to Jesus. When we figure He couldn’t possibly want us to feel this way, we’re more prone to take action and hope that we’re in His will. But then we’re actually focusing on ourselves instead of God’s plan.
We focus only on the immediate. Many times we come to God troubled about the choices we or our loved ones are facing. We do not see how this situation could possibly be His will. Our short-term focus prevents us from seeing the Lord’s long-term purposes.
We conduct a superficial search. We can treat finding God’s will like a checklist: “Read. Pray Serve. Give.” But that can result in neglecting to give God the time and stillness needed for us to hear from Him (Psalm 46:10). More than simply investing time with the Lord, listening without distraction is also essential.
How much Bible study is required to find out what God wants for us? What amount of prayer? The answer is simple: whatever it takes to hear from Him. He will always answer His children.
Tuning In to God’s Will.
If you want to be sure you are hearing from God, spend time in His Word daily.
If you follow Jesus, you have likely heard the phrase “God’s will.” It’s often mentioned in the context of His having a will for each believer—or of our doing His will, walking in His will, and the like. If we love the Lord, then certainly we want to obey Him (John 14:15). But let’s take a look at some of the reasons we might miss His plan for our life.
Handling God’s Word Improperly. When our days become jam-packed with commitments and activities, it’s easy to have trouble maintaining a steady intake of Scripture. Without spending time in God’s Word, we tend to forget what matters to Him. Then there are times that some of us will incorrectly use Scripture to support decisions we’ve already made. Or, when God’s Word does not match what we want, we might ignore it and do things our way.
Picking the Wrong Guide. When making decisions, we sometimes rely too heavily on other people’s opinions. We think that the easiest and quickest way to get answers is to ask fellow Christians—or even unbelievers who seem “wise.”
Making Scripture your daily companion is the best way not to miss God’s plan. Be prepared to spend time reading and listening while the Spirit teaches you what God’s will is for your life.
God may at times ask you to lay down your rights in order to show someone His love.
There’s a lot about the kingdom of heaven that doesn’t make sense to our earthly way of thinking. For example, today’s passage says, “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also” (v. 39). Who wants to do that? And while we learned yesterday that God loves us, we also saw there’s nothing we can do to earn or deserve His love. In fact, we’re now going to see how to extend that love to others.
There’s a lot of talk about rights these days, but instead of focusing on ourselves, we should do what Jesus did—lay down our rights so we can take up the cause of a holy kingdom. In short, instead of focusing on ourselves, we should be more concerned about showing God’s love to those around us—even to those who are doing wrong. Keep in mind that Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same?” (vv. 44-46).
Before assuming that Jesus’ capacity for forgiveness and love is out of reach for mere human beings, remember: His Holy Spirit dwells in believers. As a result, God’s love works through us. You can’t lose when you show others the boundless care and compassion of the Lord.
|5/23/2023||1 Corinthians 13:4-6|
The Power of Love.
God offers His love to every person, no matter their past—and He wants us to do the same.
Today’s passage tells us that love doesn’t “rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (v. 6). In other words, God doesn’t want His children to turn a blind eye to sin. Yet at the same time, Christians are to look for ways to help unbelievers discover the Father’s love for them.
The Lord lovingly created each of us, and even though we’re all sinners who have fallen short, we have the potential to be made into something good. He considers even the most evil and corrupt person worth saving.
How do we know this is true? Because in the first verse we teach our school children, Christ said that whoever believes in His Son will have eternal life (John 3:16). And why would He do this? The answer’s in the same Because God loves us. There is nothing we can do to deserve His love. God doesn’t work that way. He loves every single person, no matter how awful his or her sin may be.
The Lord extends His care, His mercy, and His salvation to anybody who wants it. He keeps no record of wrongs. He loves without conditions. And He wants us to love others in the same way.
How to Treat One Another.
Treating others the way we’d like to be treated is indispensable in building strong relationships.
In today’s passage, someone asks what the greatest commandment is. Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He doesn’t stop there but includes a second one: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Strong, loving connections are based on treating others the way we want to be treated. As you think about your friends, family, and coworkers, consider the following characteristics of a strong relationship:
Enjoyment and satisfaction
Respect and honor
Protection from emotional, physical, or spiritual harm
Most of us would have to admit that we don’t always exhibit these characteristics, but wouldn’t we all want them displayed toward us? Ask the Lord to give you the patience and wisdom to mend or strengthen your relationships.
Prioritizing spiritual disciplines is one way we express gratitude and love to our Savior.
Have you ever tithed, volunteered at church, attended a Sunday service, or spent time in prayer? Of course I have, you’re probably thinking. But did you think of such activities as kingdom-building, mission-sustaining work?
It’s easy to accept these regular practices as essential to the formula of Christian life. You might even think they’re basic. But in those small acts, you’re actually doing something great: You’re demonstrating that you treasure everything God has provided you. Through generous giving, service, and worship, you’re not simply being a good steward—you’re offering these gifts back to Him in love.
Think about it:
Take a moment to consider the gifts God has given to you—talents and abilities, opportunities you’ve received, or things you own. Now ask God to help you enjoy them and to reveal ways they can bring Him glory.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In which areas do you feel confident you’re already doing this? What other areas could bring Him glory?
What Prayer Is All About.
If we spend time talking with the Lord each day, our relationship with Him will grow stronger.
When you ask a child, “What did you learn in school today?” it’s highly unlikely he or she will mention a fact you don’t already know. But you still love to listen. It’s an honor to be trusted with such attention, and being fully present and interested in the child’s life strengthens the bond you share.
The same is true of us and the Lord. In Matthew 6:8, Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Then you might wonder, Why would God want me to talk to Him about my needs if He already knows what they are? The answer is that it’s not about the need but the relationship prayer helps to build.
The Lord is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24; John 15:15). And He desires for us to reap the blessings of seeing Him as the most important part of our life. This is what the apostle Paul was trying to tell the people of Athens in his famous sermon at Mars Hill: God “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:27-28). It’s easy for us to lose sight of that fact, but prayer keeps us close to God and helps us to remember just how near He is.
Above All Else, Be Kind.
The love of Christ is best understood through actions that reflect His attributes.
Think back to a time when someone treated you with kindness. Don’t you warmly recall that moment in detail? Likewise, others will remember when you respond to them that way.
Kindness isn’t supposed to be something we express only when we feel like it. It is fruit of the Spirit and should be a defining characteristic of who we are as God’s children. Just as the Lord pours out His kindness on us, He expects us to be kind as we interact with others (Romans 2:4; Ephesians 4:32).
The apostle Paul tells us, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience … And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12; Colossians 3:14 NIV). Notice how he describes these traits as clothing—something we can put on, something we can grow into.
Kindness may not be innate, but thankfully, it can be learned. Ask the Holy Spirit to point out moments where a kind touch is needed from you. And always remember that it not only blesses others but also delights our heavenly Father.
The Blessings of Patience.
Upon reaching the destination, we sometimes realize the greater blessing came from the journey.
It took Leo Tolstoy six years (and at least seven drafts) to write War and Peace, but his novel now stands as one of the greatest literary masterworks of all time. Ludwig van Beethoven waited even longer to bring his finest composition—Symphony No. 9—to the stage. It took a whopping three decades.
What if these men had simply given up? What if they hadn’t pushed through all the frustrations and setbacks? What if they’d listened to all the people telling them it couldn’t be done? They’d have been the poorer for it—and so would we.
Sometimes God’s promises can also feel far away and too difficult to reach. That’s why many people look for shortcuts. After all, they reason, if God makes a promise, wouldn’t He want us to attain and enjoy it as quickly as possible? Not necessarily. When we try to manipulate circumstances and “help” the Lord fulfill His promise, it’s possible for us to get in the way of the good things He has in mind for us. For this reason, we must be patient and remember that part of the blessing is the trust and wisdom gained while waiting.
Worth the Wait.
God’s call to patience, though difficult, brings great rewards.
We are pretty impatient these days. If you don’t agree, just think about the last time you warmed up a meal in the microwave. Did you calmly wait during those few minutes, or did you stand there tapping your fingers and sighing in exasperation?
No wonder Scripture includes so many examples of godly patience. Time and again, the Father made promises to His children, only to have them wait years—sometimes decades—for the promise to be fulfilled. However, the result of that patience was always blessing.
Consider how long Simeon waited to see Christ—to hold the infant Jesus in his arms and prophesy over Him. For many decades he kept watch, holding firmly to the promise that he would not die before he beheld the Savior (v. 26). Imagine waiting day after day for such an amazing blessing. Some people might have found it challenging to continue believing the promise, but Simeon didn’t falter. And his reward was indeed great.
Shortcuts rarely lead to where God wants us to be. The long road, however, has been taken by countless faithful servants. So if you’re waiting on the Lord today, be encouraged because you’re in good company.
No Calling Too Small.
The Lord provides opportunities for anyone who wants to do His will.
Yesterday, we read about Esther and how the Lord used her in a mighty way to deliver His people. If you caught yourself thinking, Well, I won’t be called to such a grand task, remember you don’t have to be a king or queen to have great influence.
Consider the story in today’s reading. A thousand years before the time of Esther, Pharaoh ordered all male Hebrew children in Egypt to be murdered at birth, but two midwives refused to comply with his decree. Even when they were questioned by Pharaoh—the powerful man considered by many to be divine—they continued saving lives because they feared the true God. And Scripture tells us that because of their bravery, the Lord “was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty” (v. 20). Neither Shiphrah nor Puah was a queen, yet the Lord still used them to save an entire nation.
Embracing our respective callings may at times be scary but is always worth it. Each time we do, we’ll learn just how faithful our heavenly Father is. And that will build our trust in Him for the next opportunity He gives us to step out in obedience.
|5/15/2023||For Such a Time as This…|
Esther 2:8-18; Esther 4:13-14
Though we may not always understand what God is doing around us, we can trust He’s working to accomplish His good purposes.
We clearly see the Lord’s sovereign hand at work in Esther’s life when she was plucked from obscurity and elevated to be the queen of Persia. She was a young woman with no social standing or power. Without her cousin Mordecai’s protection, Esther was actually very vulnerable. Can you imagine how upset, confused, and uncertain she must have felt as events were unfolding around her?
We may feel like that, too. God’s purposes are being worked out just the way He’s planned, but from our earthly perspective, things sometimes seem confusing and unclear. That’s why Esther’s story is encouraging. It teaches us to trust in God’s will. After all, He doesn’t save us and then leave us to fend for ourselves. Instead, He continually guides each of His children in the work He has planned.
Begin looking for the Lord’s hand in your life. He is working out His design—sometimes with gentle nudges, other times via jarring disruptions. No matter what happens, don’t forget that He is present and always moving and directing. Never imagine yourself to be insignificant in His eyes. You’re so highly esteemed that almighty God has designed a unique calling just for you.
|5/14/2023||What’s Yours Is Mine.|
God equips His children to participate in His work on earth.
Imagine water flowing down a rock to a stream, then a river, and ultimately flowing out into the ocean. In a similar way, everything flows out of God’s provision for us. When God gives us abilities or other blessings, it’s not an accident, a product of our own hard work, or the result of good genes. Our God is a God who knows what He is doing—and He very specifically and intentionally gives us each different gifts, sometimes just for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
If you have particular skills, strengths, or financial blessings, give Him thanks. The purpose of our gifts isn’t to make us feel better about ourselves or improve the way other people see us. God’s gifts are an opportunity for us to know Him better and participate in building His kingdom. Through them, and in obedience to Him, we fulfill His mission.
Think about it:
What do you think it means to be “good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10) in today’s culture?
How do you feel, knowing that God gifts us differently on purpose?
Let’s make our churches loving places that lead the lost to Christ.
Church should be a place where we find strength and companions for our journey of faith. But we can’t forget those outside of the congregation. They need to know about Jesus and experience His remarkable love, too.
1 Peter 2:4-10 is a marvelous passage that explains who we are in Christ. We are the “living stones” of His church, “a holy nation” brought together by the One who “called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Sometimes, we might be tempted to close ranks against the world, to think of life as an “us versus them” situation. Yet Peter plainly tells us that’s not true. “For you once were not a people,” he says, “but now you are the people of God” (v. 10).
Our heavenly Father didn’t shut the church door the minute we walked through it. He didn’t proclaim the club full and forbid any new members. Far from it. New “living stones” are being added every day all around this big, beautiful world of ours, and it’s our privilege to welcome them home. So let’s make our churches warm and welcoming—places where people feel safe and respected and where God’s affection abounds.
|5/12/2023||1 Corinthians 12:18-26|
In the Service of All.
Ask God to help you see opportunities to bless others with the abilities He’s given you.
Many of us have heard sermons about working as members of Christ’s body. Even so, when it comes to using our talents and gifts, people often think too small. They may picture the choir singer or the Sunday school teacher, and if they don’t happen to be a good fit for such roles, they become discouraged and choose to watch from the sidelines.
It’s time to start thinking of this work in a different way. The church is not a place or a time; it is a body of believers, each one uniquely gifted by God to guide, help, challenge, and support the rest.
Paul’s metaphor of body parts working together harmoniously is a helpful description of how one action can have widespread impact. Consider the way tensing your big toe steadies your whole body. A humble part has a very important role to play, doesn’t it? In the same way, a gentle rebuke, a listening ear, or a loving deed can strengthen a brother or sister who is then better able to support another member. In that way, the whole church benefits.
Our purpose on this earth is to serve God and His kingdom. We do so by ministering to each other in ways that build up and beautify the church as a whole.
Caring for Others.
Are generosity and service habits in your life?
So many people in the world are in need today and serving them is one of the highest callings of the Christian faith. Therefore, it’s essential for believers to commit to give of themselves on behalf of others.
There are countless ways to serve people. For example, a man might decide to pray for and come alongside a friend until a burdensome situation is resolved. Or a woman could make herself available to answer a neighbor’s questions about the faith. If we prayerfully look around, we may see other opportunities, such as driving an elderly friend to medical appointments, mentoring a teenager through a local outreach program, or helping a single parent check some things off a to-do list.
Before you become overwhelmed by the variety of needs in your area, remember that loving your neighbors is meant to be a church-wide effort. One person can’t do it all. Instead, join a small group of fellow believers committed to serving those God brings into your sphere of influence. In order to care for them, you may be asked to surrender resources and time—but when you do, the Lord will bless you with the joy and contentment that come only from Him.
The Transforming Grace of God
God can transform any sinner into a saint.
One of the most miraculous displays of the Lord’s power is His ability to transform an unrighteous man into a shining light for Jesus. The apostle Paul is a great example of how God can change …
—The religious into the redeemed (1 Timothy 1:12-13). Before his conversion, Paul was deeply religious, but not in a good way. He relied on his pedigree, performance, and piety to gain authority and acceptance. When he met the Lord on the road to Damascus, however, he discovered that all of his religious works and credentials meant nothing. The only way we can become acceptable before God is through receiving the saving grace of Christ—and that’s how Paul’s sin was replaced with a righteous spirit.
—A servant of sin into a servant of God (Romans 6:17-18). Paul had been hostile toward the early church—promoting blasphemy, punishing believers, and voting for them to be punished with death (Acts 26:10-11). Yet after salvation, he became a dedicated missionary who spread the gospel wherever he could.
Our Father turned one of the early church’s enemies into a wise and repentant leader. Commit to obey the Lord, and see what happens. He is faithful to complete the good work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6).
Our Responsibility to Rest
Life can bring frustrations, but knowing that God’s timing is perfect, we can ask Him to help us wait patiently.
Yesterday we started reading Psalm 37 and discussed what we must do to receive our heart’s desires. But if we keep reading that chapter, we find the psalmist encouraging us to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.
Rest sounds easy, but sometimes it may require supernatural strength. Our natural tendency is to scramble, fret, and push our agenda, and those habits turn our mind away from delight and trust in the Lord. The stronger our desire is, the shorter our fuse. Sometimes we may even try to give God a timetable, but true rest occurs on His schedule. Only He understands every circumstance and knows the precise moment when answering our prayer is best.
So, the basic tenets of Psalm 37 are interrelated: We must spend time enjoying God in order to learn to trust Him and commit to His way. And doing so then frees us to rest in His control and patiently wait for Him to act.
Take a moment to pray: Father, thank You for giving me the desires of my heart. Today, help me to delight in You, commit everything to You, and rest in the knowledge that You have everything under control. I will wait for Your perfect timing. Amen.
The Desires of Your Heart…
Those who know God intimately discover that He provides everything they truly need.
We love the promise in verse 4 of today’s passage: God “will give you the desires of your heart.” Unfortunately, when we focus only on receiving gifts, we miss the psalm’s context—namely, that our cooperation is needed.
The first requirement for receiving the desires of our heart is that we delight in God (v. 4). His highest priority is our relationship with Him—He wants to give us Himself more than anything else. We are to take pleasure in communing with the Lord and serving Him, and over time we’ll begin to appropriate His ways of thinking.
The second requirement of this promise is that we commit to His plan (v. 5). Following God’s path restructures our heart’s desires until they look like His. Now, sometimes what God provides appears different from what we requested. But He always answers our appeals based on His infinite knowledge and great love. He bestows the perfect answer to our prayer, whether it’s what we asked for or not.
Remember, God wants to grant our requests, but His greatest joy is a relationship with us. Seeing our heart’s wishes fulfilled is simply a byproduct of delighting in God and committing to His way. The real reward is a relationship with the God who offers to share Himself with humanity.
|5/7/2023||Called to Take Care…|
Are you reflecting God’s heart in the way you manage what He’s entrusted to your care?
Stewardship is more than just managing money—even in the ancient world, this word had to do with handling the affairs of an entire household. Look at the Old Testament story of Joseph, for example. (See Genesis 39:1-6; Genesis 41:38-49.) He became the steward for Potiphar’s household, and his job was to responsibly manage everything the family owned.
The idea of stewardship goes back even further—in fact, all the way to the very beginning of Genesis. Upon fashioning humans to bear His divine image, God charged them to imitate Him; He called them to be productive and have dominion—that is, exercise humble authority—over the earth. As stewards of God’s creation, they were to reflect who He is. That involved doing the hard work to maintain, preserve, and beautify the earth.
Think about it:
What in your life has God invited you to cultivate and oversee? Is it an opportunity through your workplace or a volunteer activity? Is He asking you to learn how to become more involved in your community? Perhaps it’s as simple as keeping your home orderly and well maintained.
|5/6/2023||1 Corinthians 2:12-16|
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Understanding the Bible…
When we live out the biblical principles we know, God reveals deeper truths.
Sometimes the Bible seems difficult to understand. After all, it is a compilation of documents from different times and places, written in various styles. But you don’t need to attend seminary in order to read Scripture. Believers have the ultimate Teacher within them—the Holy Spirit, who not only helps us comprehend God’s Word but also enables us to obey it.
Obedience is a key part of truly understanding Scripture. When we apply what we read, the Bible comes alive and we begin to hear the voice of God more and more. Experience is an effective teacher, and living out God’s Word helps us move beyond simple recall to maturity in Christ.
Conversely, when we don’t act on biblical truths, we will not receive the awareness that comes from experience. Besides, if we haven’t obeyed what God has previously revealed to us, why would He share His deeper truths? The book of Psalms says, “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him” (Psalm 25:14); it goes on to say that those who fear Him obey His commandments and are promised “a good understanding” (Psalm 111:10).
As you read the Bible, look for God’s instructions. Then, with the Holy Spirit’s help, commit to follow them. You’ll soon discover how applying divine truth leads to understanding and wisdom.
Relying on God’s Resources…
Our generous God loves to respond when we call on Him for help.
Do you ever feel defeated in your spiritual life? The problem may be that you’re depending on your own assets and abilities instead of God’s inexhaustible riches, which He has deposited into your account.
With God, we don’t have to worry about running out of time, energy, money, or resources. He has promised to equip us with everything needed for the purpose to which we’ve been called. In fact, we are heirs of great and glorious riches. Consider a few of God’s generous blessings:
You are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). God saved you by His grace and He’s sanctifying you the same way. The work of transforming and empowering you is the Lord’s; your role is simply to cooperate and depend on Him.
You have immediate access to God (Hebrews 4:16). Divine help is only a prayer away.
You have the Holy Spirit indwelling you (Eph. 1:13-14). He not only brings guidance and understanding of God’s Word; He also enables you to obey Jesus.
As human beings, we’re used to having finite resources, but there’s no such thing with God. When we remember His unlimited provisions and depend on them, we’ll discover rest, peace, and confidence in Christ.
A New Creation in Christ…
Upon salvation, a person becomes a new creation, holy and blameless in God’s sight.
Some people think they can receive salvation and go on living as they did before. But 2 Corinthians 5:17 is clear: “If anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” It’s important to realize that this new creation is not an addition to the old you but, rather, a completely new self.
A person in Christ is a person forever changed. According to today’s passage, this new self is “created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (v. 24 NLT). Not only will sin lose its attraction for the believer, but there will also be an appreciation for God’s Word and a desire to reflect His righteousness more and more. If we don’t see evidence of these things in our life, what does that say about the state of our heart?
Jesus promises that salvation cannot be lost (John 10:28)—once a child of God, always a child of God. But it is possible to become apathetic about our identity in Christ. Does your lifestyle demonstrate that you are a “new creation”? What is your attitude toward sin and the pursuit of righteousness? Though none of us will live perfectly, the desire of our heart should be to move in the direction of our new self, which has been created in Christ’s likeness.
Crucified With Christ…
Realize that your past no longer has any power in your life.
The message of salvation is simple enough for a child to understand yet so profound that no human mind can ever fully comprehend it. One thing many people find perplexing is the concept of dying with Christ—a phrase that comes from Romans 6:6. There Paul writes, “Our old self was crucified with Him,” but what exactly does that mean?
With Jesus’ crucifixion, all of mankind’s sin—including yours—was nailed to the cross and canceled (Colossians 2:14). Or, as Galatians 5:24 says, “the flesh with its passions and desires” has been put to death. This means the person you were prior to salvation was crucified with the Savior, and you can never be that person again. The old you is dead, and the person you are today is a brand-new creation: a child of God, clothed in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).
While our full victory over sin won’t be complete here on earth, we can be confident that Jesus has declared believers holy, righteous, and blameless. Paul explained it this way: “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). If you believe Jesus is your Savior, move forward with confidence and peace in your new identity today.
Christ in You…
Our salvation is the work of Christ, and so is our sanctification every day that follows.
Paul wrote to the Colossians, “I rejoice in my sufferings” (1:24). Can you imagine yourself saying that? It’s a difficult claim to make, much less to adhere to day after day. In fact, that would be impossible for us to do on our own.
The apostle was able to have such an attitude only because he drew from Jesus’ strength—and the same is true for us. We can try to live the Christian life by our own efforts, but we won’t succeed. Jesus Himself told the disciples, “The one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
To live a healthy spiritual life, it’s essential to recognize that power has nothing to do with us; it comes from Christ in us. Our salvation is the work of God, as is every bit of our sanctification throughout the rest of earthly life. Not only does He transform us; He’s also the one who empowers us to obey and serve as we rely on Him. Paul understood how our responsibility and God’s power intersect. In verse 29 of today’s passage, he expressed it this way: “For this purpose I also labor, striving according to His power which works mightily within me.”
The Truth That Sets You Free…
The key to being set free from sin is the continual filling of our minds with God’s Word.
The Pharisees rejected Jesus even though He was speaking truth. But others listened and believed, as we see in today’s passage. To them, the Lord said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (vv. 31-32). Many people, however, thought He was offering freedom from Roman political oppression or even from all the troubles of this life. But that’s not what Jesus meant at all. He was offering freedom from sin.
When we believe the truth of the gospel and turn to the Savior for salvation, we’re set free from the penalty of sin, which is eternal condemnation. But did you know that God’s truth also sets us free from the power of sin right now? Even though we’ll continue to struggle with temptation after we’re saved, we now have within us Christ’s divine strength to resist and overcome it.
Do you feel stuck in sinful patterns and desires? As Jesus said, continuing in God’s Word is the key to true freedom. Fill your mind with His truth, and sin will lose its power over you—today and for all eternity.
|4/30/2023||Taking Christ to the World…|
Sharing the gospel can begin with simply being kind to those in your community.
After His resurrection, Jesus asked three times if Peter loved Him. And each time the disciple answered yes, the Lord said to take care of His sheep (John 21:15-17). Like Peter, we are called to tend to one another, loving the church and going out to “the roads and the hedges” to reflect Christ’s love (Luke 14:23).
Whether we’re volunteering at an after-school program, befriending unbelievers in our workplace, giving of our time and talents to benefit a charity, or simply having a conversation in the checkout line, we can do good for our communities and bring glory to God.
Our mission is to join in Christ’s vision as an outpouring of His love—uplifting, engaging, and supporting the people we encounter. And just as Jesus left His seat next to the Father to go out into a cold world and rescue those who needed it, we have all kinds of opportunities to share the loving message of the gospel.
Think about it:
Think about Christ’s commands to “love your neighbor” and to “go … and make disciples” (Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 28:18-20). How do these work together and even enrich one another?
Praying the Promises of God…
We can build our life upon the sure foundation of God’s Word.
Jesus told us that we would face hardship in this life (John 16:33). But in His grace, He gave us amazing tools to keep trials from overwhelming us. For instance, He placed His Spirit inside each believer to guide and empower. He gave us the gift of prayer, not only to communicate and stay connected with Him but also to bring Him our requests.
Today let’s focus on another one of His gifts: the Bible. Scripture is the Word of God Almighty. It is truth. It never changes. Regardless of our circumstances, the Bible provides a sure foundation on which to base our life and decisions. It contains thousands of promises—countless assurances that we can rely on with perfect confidence. And we can turn God’s promises into prayers and make them the cry of our heart.
Here’s an example. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will advise you with My eye upon you.” We can pray God’s words back to Him, saying that we believe He will teach us and reveal His path, while remaining by our side.
God is faithful and unchanging, so we can trust in His promises, which enable us to rest confidently and act boldly.
The Lord wants us to trust Him even when there are things we don’t understand.
On our own, we can’t choose salvation. God’s Spirit first convicts us of our need for Him by nudging our heart—that is, He lovingly gets our attention and reveals our sin and the need for a Savior.
You might wonder, How, then, can a child understand the gospel?
Thankfully, God is a gentle Father who meets us right where we are, no matter our age. In even the youngest of hearts, He can place a desire to obey and follow Him. Then, as little ones learn at home or church, God gives them a longing and sense of need for Jesus. It’s a simple longing, without the deep, more complex understanding of an adult. Little ones might not be able to comprehend all that Jesus purchased for us on the cross. But in Mark 10:14, Jesus says, “Allow the children to come to Me … for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
In many ways, the unencumbered faith of children is what the Lord desires of older believers as well, but with even more understanding and gratitude. Such simple faith is truly a gift!
A Special Purpose.
Offering praise to God for who He is and all He’s done leads us to peace and joy.
Yesterday, we looked at the way God sees us. How are we to respond to that love? Isaiah 43:21 says, “The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise.” An integral part of worshipping the Lord is proclaiming His greatness.
One way we do that is by thanking Him for who He is and what He has done. When we love someone, the most natural response is to speak highly about them. In the same way, we who love Christ find that expressions of appreciation come easily to our lips. Praise lifts our eyes to the Savior and fills our heart with the contentment that eludes us when we focus exclusively on personal needs and problems.
Although praise and worship are usually associated with church services, they ought to characterize us wherever we are. Some of the most intimate and precious experiences of worship can happen during times spent alone with God. Ask the Lord to teach you to extol Him with your whole heart. Remember how He has cared for you, and look for daily evidence of His hand on your life. Then thank Him for how great He is.
|4/26/2023||1 Peter 2:9-10|
How God Sees Us.
We are loved and cherished by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Have you ever wondered how God sees you? Perhaps interactions with others have shaped how you believe you’re viewed. But in His Word, God tells us exactly how loved and cherished we are. Today’s passage describes just four of the many ways He sees us:
1. A Chosen People. God chose you and me to be part of His kingdom and family because He wants and loves us.
2. A Royal Priesthood. As believers, we are children of God and, therefore, part of a royal family. In other words, we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).
3. A Holy Nation. The church, or body of Christ, is a group of people who are holy—which, as we learned a few days ago, means “set apart” for the purposes of God. Our lives are never meaningless, because living for the Lord is the greatest purpose one can have.
4. A People for God’s Own Possession. You and I are precious possessions of God; we belong to Him (Deuteronomy 14:2; Titus 2:14). He so values each of us that He sent His Son to die in our place.
Each of these descriptions shows how highly God values you. Make it a point to remember your real identity and to be mindful that you are cherished.
Going Against the Flow.
You don’t have to fear failure when you trust and obey the Lord.
God speaks to us, and yesterday we learned how important it is to listen to Him. But as we all know, His isn’t the only voice out there. Does this mean we should never listen to those around us? Of course not—especially when the voices belong to godly men and women the Lord places in our path. But with so many competing messages, we should aim to hear scriptural advice and listen for the Holy Spirit’s promptings above all else. And then we should obey Him. To the extent that we do so, our life will look different from others.
Sometimes a fear of failure may discourage us from doing things God’s way. But ultimately, we must ask ourselves whether we’re going to listen to Him or the world. Remember, you never have to fear failure when you obey the Lord. He intervenes in times of hardship, and He promises to act on behalf of the one who waits for Him (Isaiah 64:4).
Remaining steadfast takes courage. That’s why Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10). All the pressure in the world can’t make you budge when you trust the Rock upon which you stand. Are you listening to the Lord and obeying Him?
How to Listen to God.
Blessing comes to those who seek the Lord’s wisdom and apply it in their life.
Do you just talk to God, or do you listen to Him too? To train ourselves to listen to God, we must remember that hearing is an active, ongoing process. Our mind and heart should be open to the idea that the Lord has something to communicate throughout our day. We should expect Him to speak to us—and to do so in a way we can understand.
To practice hearing from God, we need to spend time focusing on Him, free from distractions. Meditating on Scripture creates an attitude that is conducive to listening. Active listening includes responding to what we hear. As we read, we should ask ourselves questions, such as What is the Lord trying to say to me through this? But we should also ask what each passage teaches about God Himself: What does it reveal about His character? or What do these verses indicate about the things He loves? The Lord speaks to us through His Word. When He sees that it is our heart’s desire to walk in His ways, He will gently correct any missteps and guide us down His path.
To develop a listening spirit takes a strong desire and regular practice. Are you listening to God’s voice? Is your heart inclined toward Him and intent on listening?
Everyone Is Welcome.
When we include all people, we communicate that God welcomes everyone too.
Coming together to share a meal isn’t something we usually think of as a revolutionary act. Yet in the days of the Old Testament, people who were different from one another weren’t able to enjoy eating together. In fact, Jews weren’t even supposed to enter a non-Jewish family’s home.
But then something remarkable happened: As the redeeming message of Jesus’ death and resurrection spread throughout the world, that separation ended. Jesus invited everybody—both Jew and Gentile—to His table (Ephesians 2:14-15).
As Christians, we have the opportunity to extend this kind of gracious and unifying hospitality to the people around us, using our actions to let them know Jesus’ invitation is for them, too. God’s grace and mercy are for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)—not just people of a particular background, culture, or status.
Think about it:
We show hospitality to the Lord by extending welcome to others. As a reminder of this, some Christians keep an empty seat at the table, acknowledging that Jesus is present with us at all times. What practical things you can do to develop a more hospitable mindset?
|4/22/2023||1 Thessalonians 4:1-8|
Sanctification: The Will of God.
The Lord has set us apart to reflect His excellencies to those who still live in darkness.
God sends each believer through a process the Bible calls sanctification. Though that’s a large, confusing word, the meaning is simple. Sanctify means “to make holy” or “to set apart.” So when something is sanctified, it’s separated from a common use and designated for a sacred one.
In the Old Testament, God sanctified a number of things: He made the seventh day holy, set aside the Levite tribe as priests, and consecrated places like the tabernacle (Genesis 2:3; Numbers 3:1-51). The Lord still sanctifies today. Before salvation, we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 5:10). But the moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, our sins are wiped away, and we are adopted into God’s family forever. We are set apart as a child of God for a sacred purpose. We aren’t to chase after personal gain; we should serve God and bring Him honor and glory with our life.
Members of God’s family—also known as saints—are called to reflect His glory. The word saint shares its root with sanctification. We are given this moniker, not because we live sinless lives but because the One we belong to is perfectly holy.
On our own, we can never be good enough for a perfect God, but He freely gives His goodness to all who believe.
Sometimes comparing ourselves to others leaves us feeling insecure, but other times it stirs up false pride. When we see others being mean, selfish, or lazy, we might think we’re better—and deserving of a place in heaven. In reality, we can always find someone “lesser” to make ourselves feel more holy. But compared to God’s perfect holiness, every person is lacking.
The truth is, whether or not we go to heaven has little to do with us—and everything to do with our heavenly Father. He was the one who made a way for our righteousness, and it wasn’t in response to our behavior. In fact, God decided long before we were born—before we had the chance to do anything good or bad—that He would offer the gift of salvation. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4).
If you find yourself trying to compare your holiness to that of others, or trying to prove to God that you’re worthy, remember what Paul wrote to the Romans: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That’s how you know salvation can only be received.
Full of Justice and Mercy.
Because of His great love for us, God made a way for us to know Him personally.
Today’s verses and many other Bible passages tell us that God is just. What this communicates is that He’s true to His own principles. It also means that God, who is holy and perfect, cannot be one with a sinner. Instead, “the soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). It’s a frightening thought for imperfect people like us, isn’t it?
That’s why our heavenly Father provided a solution for all mankind. Jesus Christ, who was sinless, took our sin upon Himself and died in our place—so that we could be reunited with our Creator. The Lord continues to be just and holy, and we are declared a righteous child of God. As Paul wrote to the Romans, our Father is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Notice that our righteousness and unity with God has nothing to do with our efforts—it was a gracious and merciful decision made by the Lord. Our good works will not earn the Lord’s favor, because every person inevitably sins. But Jesus’ death made it possible for those who believe in Him to have a relationship with the Creator. In the end, it’s because of God’s justice and mercy that we could be reunited with Him.
Worship That Satisfies.
Our ultimate fulfillment is found only in the presence of our heavenly Father.
Did you know the Lord created you to worship Him? Many people dedicate their life to worshipping money, popularity, accomplishment, or pleasure but ultimately still feel a vacuum of unfulfillment.
King Solomon observed this longing in mankind, writing that God “set eternity in [our] heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And hundreds of years later, Jesus Himself confirmed this truth when He said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Why, you wonder? It’s all because the Lord wants a personal relationship with us.
Unfortunately, we often indulge in sin rather than worship God, and in the first chapter of Romans, Paul surveys the many lesser gods we settle for. He wanted the Romans to know that sin and false gods distract us from our eternal calling of communion with the Father. That’s why repentance is a critical practice in the believer’s life.
Remember, our heavenly Father designed us to find satisfaction in Him alone. And because of His great love for the whole world, He doesn’t want anyone to spend eternity without Him (2 Peter 3:9).
God Is Near.
The Lord wants you to know that you’re never alone.
Do you ever find yourself asking the question, “Lord, where are You?” Today’s reading is your reminder that God is near, even when His presence is difficult to perceive—and even when you’re completely unaware of Him.
David reflects, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (v. 7). In asking these questions, David communicates that no matter where we might go, the Lord is right there with us. What a comfort to realize we are never beyond the reach of a God who is full of lovingkindness, mercy, and comfort.
In fact, our heavenly Father is and has been with believers every single day. We walk in the presence of the living God, whose Spirit lives in us (John 14:16-17). No matter what season of life you are in—no matter how long, short, painful, or easy it might be—God wants you to know you are never alone. What’s more, He wants you to remember that the darkness is not dark to Him (Psalm 139:12). He knows what is up ahead and will be with you as you face it.
Our faithful and omnipresent God is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He will never leave or forsake you—on this day or any other.
Encouragement for Every Season.
No matter what you are facing today, God understands and will faithfully care for you.
Each year we watch summer turn to fall, which then gives way to winter. And though the timing is less predictable, our lives similarly go through different seasons. Some months are brimming with joy while others are a slog of hardship. But one thing that stays the same throughout is the faithfulness of God.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). The Lord always does what He says He will do. He keeps His promises to you and will be with you in all seasons (Hebrews 13:5). That means no matter how dark, depressing, or hopeless your circumstances seem—or how good—these three things are true:
1. God will be faithful to you because that is His very nature (Deuteronomy 32:4).
2. God knows all about your situation; you are never alone (Psalm 139:1-5).
3. God can meet all of your needs and equip you for every phase of life (Philippians 4:19).
You will change and seasons will change, but God is always the same. He won’t ever fail you or forget you—He is with you always. Great is His faithfulness!
The Beauty of Hospitality.
Helping others feel included demonstrates the love of Christ.
Throughout Scripture, the Lord makes it clear that hospitality is a requirement, not a request. We’re called to graciously welcome people. But hospitality is more than entertaining guests. It’s a way of living and interacting with those around us all year long, making a way to accommodate them when they show up. It’s about letting them know they belong—not only in our homes but also in our communities.
Our overtures need not be extravagant—we just have to be willing to give freely, often in small ways. This kindness and warmth are made evident in the little things we do to make others feel comfortable, but sometimes doing so requires inconvenience, surrender, or even sacrifice. However, being the hands and feet of Jesus to others is worth any cost we might experience.
God’s love for all that He’s made is a beautiful example of hospitality. He welcomes creation into existence and sustains all living creatures. And when we extend hospitality to others, we can delight in the opportunity to reflect this love.
Think about it:
Who in your life would be especially blessed by a generous welcome or act of kindness?
Seek the Lord Early.
Starting each morning with the Lord can change the trajectory of your day.
Any time of the day is a great time to be with the Lord, but the morning is special because it can affect the remainder of the day. Psalm 63 reveals that David began his day with the Lord, as he described seeking God early (the literal translation of “shall be watching”). He woke up hungry for His Creator, filled his yearning soul with the fullness of the Lord, and broke out in thanksgiving and praise to Him. And when night eventually came and David was lying in bed, he was still thinking about His heavenly Father.
Just imagine having a day like David’s, filled with joy and gratitude to God. Of course, all time with the Lord is precious. But when we set apart the beginning of our day—to hear God speak through His Word, to talk with Him in prayer, to contemplate who He is and how He works—we have the opportunity to continue that mindset throughout the day and into the night.
Do you find it a struggle to spend time with the Lord? Lifelong habits begin with baby steps, not grand resolutions. Set aside five minutes tomorrow morning, and see how the Lord nourishes your soul and increases your hunger for Him.
A Heart for God.
Make time for God and trust Him through your fears and failures.
Acts 13:22 tells us God’s description of David: “a man after My heart, who will do all My will.” Now that is high praise from the Creator and Ruler of the universe. But this commendation is not reserved exclusively for the king of Israel. Our Father wants to describe every one of His children this way.
A key characteristic of being a person after God’s heart is to “do all [His] will.” Not every act of David’s life was in obedience to the Lord, but his pattern was to seek God. When David sinned, he prayed that the Lord would search out any wicked way in him and get him back on track to become the kind of person God intended (Psalm 139:23-24).
David also delighted in God’s Word and spent quality time with Him. Many of his intimate conversations with the Father are preserved for us in the book of Psalms, and they reveal how David trusted the Lord time and again in the challenges of his life.
We don’t have to be perfect to become a man or woman with a heart for God. Instead, our aim should be simply spending time with our Father and developing a habit of repentance.
A Peaceful Heart.
Entrusting our worries to God removes their power to cause anxiety.
Sometimes circumstances trigger our anxiety, but other times it’s an inner turmoil we wrestle. Regardless of the source, our angst is no match for God’s peace, “which surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7). When you’re feeling anxious, remember …
God made you on purpose. Our Father chose the time and place we each would be born (Acts 17:26), and He gave us our personality, talents, and spiritual gifts. So consider what God has chosen specifically for you and give thanks.
God has a plan for your life. Scripture promises that embracing the Father’s specific path for your life will bring satisfaction and peace (Proverbs 3:5-6).
God adopts believers into His family. Once you belong to Him, nothing can change the fact that you are His (John 10:28).
God forgives when you confess. Some feelings of inner turmoil come from guilt or shame over wrongdoing. But when you confess your sin and change direction, God forgives you. Then your conscience can become clear (1 John 1:9).
Peace is within reach when you remember your identity in Christ. Next time you’re feeling anxious, pause for moment to pray and meditate over these four truths. Taking your eyes off yourself and fixing them on Jesus should help, even if it’s necessary to repeat the process periodically.
Experiencing Inner Peace.
Remembering that God’s in control is the key to a calm heart.
Have you ever fallen asleep on a long trip? Jesus did. Luke tells us that one time Jesus and the disciples got on a boat to reach the other side of a lake, and Jesus fell asleep. The next thing the disciples knew, they were engulfed in a storm, and the one person powerful enough to protect them was blissfully unaware. The disciples panicked and woke Him.
Jesus has promised to give us His peace (John 14:27)—this is the very same peace that enabled Him to sleep through a storm. Without His tranquility, we feel helpless and afraid like the disciples. But with it, we can experience inner calm in the midst of hardship.
Believing in God’s sovereignty is the key to a peaceful heart. In their panic, the disciples believed that a sleeping Jesus wasn’t in control of their circumstances. But we must remember that He is always in control—even in times of difficulty. When we rest in the knowledge that God is in charge, we can exchange anxiety for peace.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be weighed down by fear. He wants to share His peace with us. Are you trusting in His control?
The Question That Matters Most.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God—and that He came to save you?
Yesterday, we discussed the man who was born blind and how he faithfully repeated his story. Many were amazed, but some likely didn’t believe his words. And others were actually hostile to him.
The man was brought before the Pharisees and interrogated twice. He shared how Jesus had healed him with mud applied to his eyes. But then the religious elite asked another question: “What do you say about Him?” And he responded boldly, “He is a prophet” (John 9:17).
His parents were called before the counsel, but they refused to answer any queries. However, that didn’t stop the man whose sight was restored. When he was questioned again, he didn’t falter. In fact, he began to cross-examine those supposedly wise men!
But there was a final question for him to answer. After being cast out by the Pharisees, the man born blind once again met Jesus, who asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (v. 35). To this, he said, “I believe, Lord” (v. 38).
The healing, the explanations, the questions—all of it led to a simple statement of faith. May we learn a lesson from this steadfast soul about how best to use our own stories.
Telling Your Story.
Our job is to faithfully share the good news and trust the Holy Spirit to change hearts.
Human beings are designed by God to love stories. That’s why, when we tell others about how God has rescued and changed us, the Holy Spirit begins to work in the hearts of those who have ears to hear. (See Matthew 11:15.)
Consider today’s Scripture passage, which relates the story of the man born blind. Many questioned him about how he received his sight, and he simply shared the facts: “The man who is called Jesus made mud, and spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight” (v. 11).
“Is this not the one who used to sit and beg?” they asked. Some said, “This is he,” but others said, “No, but he is like him” (vv. 8-9, emphasis added). The man’s transformation was so amazing, so impossible by human standards, that observers began to craft their own narrative trying to explain what had happened. The man simply repeated, “I am the one” (v. 9).
Like him, we don’t have to know every answer to every question in order to talk about our Savior; we need only tell what Jesus has done for us. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Set Free to Serve.
Every believer has been emancipated and empowered to evangelize.
Christ the lord is risen today! That means we are free from death and the powers of hell. But we don’t always act that way, do we? Imagine what the world would be like if Christians used that freedom to serve one another. And what if, through this service, we could express who God is—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to those who don’t know Him? This isn’t just a nice thought. It’s the calling on the life of each believer.
God created us in His image as relational beings, and this is true whether we have already found salvation in Christ or are still on that journey. But truly serving God through service to others happens only after a person has been liberated by His forgiveness and grace.
In Galatians, Paul reminds us that we are called to freedom. He continues by cautioning us not to use our liberty as an opportunity to indulge the flesh but instead encourages us to serve one another through love. What does it look like to set aside our own desires and pleasures, serving enthusiastically out of love for Jesus and gratitude for all He has done?
Think about it:
This week, look for opportunities to serve. It doesn’t have to be grand—God can multiply small efforts for His purposes.
While All Is Silence.
Though today may be hard, remember that joy is coming.
Today is Holy Saturday. The events of Good Friday—the trial, the scourging, the crucifixion, and the signs and wonders that followed—are complete. Now, in place of all that, is silence. Those who witnessed these events must have felt hopeless. Jesus, the One whom they loved and who had loved them so well in return, was in a tomb.
But not for much longer.
Early Sunday morning two inconsolable women went to complete Jesus’ burial preparation, which had been left unfinished because of the Sabbath. Yet in an instant, their mourning was turned to joy. An angel greeted them, saying, “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said” (28:6).
Their original task forgotten, the women ran to tell the disciples. And on the way, they saw the Messiah—as if Jesus had never been gone! There He was, breathing and smiling and very much alive, bearing the scars of His passion.
Tomorrow, their joy will be ours once again as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. Tomorrow, we will sing of His triumph over sin and the grave. But today, we dwell in the silence. Let us focus our heart and mind on what occurred behind that heavy stone and know it was accomplished for us.
The Story of Our Faith.
We have been freed from sin and forgiven forever through Christ.
Many people have a passing familiarity with the events of Easter and yet are hazy when it comes to the details. But it’s essential for us to have a solid grasp on what we believe. Then we will be able to share it with others on this Good Friday or whenever the opportunity arises (1 Peter 3:14-15; 2 Timothy 4:2-5).
Here are five words we can explain to anyone who is curious about our faith:
Redeemed. Jesus’ shed blood liberates all who believe in Him (1 Peter 1:18-19). This means we are freed from a life of slavery to sin.
Forgiven. The wrongs of our past, present, and future are totally washed away (Ephesians 1:7-8).
Justified. Everyone who trusts in Jesus is declared no longer guilty (Romans 5:8-9).
Reconciled. We are brought into relationship with God (Colossians 1:19-22).
Sanctified. The lifelong process of becoming more Christlike began as soon as we trusted in the Savior (Hebrews 13:12).
These five terms help tell the story of our faith. Meditate upon the verses listed here and ask God to write them on your heart.
Remember That God Is Sufficient.
We have been freed from sin and forgiven forever through Christ.
When life’s running smoothly and all is well with us and our loved ones, we have no trouble being content and trusting God. But when situations become difficult, our peace is rapidly replaced by stress and anxiety. So what do we do?
We must remember that no matter how we feel, the One who rules the universe remains sovereign over all things, down to the smallest detail. He loves us unconditionally and always works for our best interest. Therefore, if He has allowed a situation, we can trust there is a divine plan and reason for whatever comes our way. It isn’t always easy, especially when we are facing loss or danger, but Scripture assures us that God is more than adequate to sustain us.
So when difficulty hits, don’t lose sight of who God is or who you are in Him. In those moments, make Isaiah’s words your own: “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song” (Isaiah 12:2).
Spend some time on this Holy Thursday contemplating God’s loving omnipotence and bearing this in mind: The One who keeps the entire universe functioning perfectly holds you securely in the palm of His hand.
What Mercy Looks Like.
Our compassionate Savior is always with us in our suffering.
We often think of God’s goodness in terms of tangible blessings, but we shouldn’t feel we’re loved only when our circumstances are positive. In fact, His goodness is often richest in our darkest hour (Isaiah 43:1-2).
One way God expresses goodness is through His mercy. Throughout the Gospels, we see the Lord filled with compassion and ministering to people who are suffering. Consider the demon-possessed man Jesus met in the country of the Gerasenes—he was broken in both mind and body, wandering naked among tombs (Luke 8:26-39). The people there had bound him with chains and shackles, keeping him under guard, not for his well-being but for their own. As far as we know, nobody had tried to ease his suffering.
But that’s precisely what Jesus did. Not only did He cast out the demons; He also clothed the man and spoke with him. We might think the miraculous healing was more than enough, but Jesus wasn’t finished until He returned the man to full humanity by taking care of his physical needs and welcoming him back into the community. That’s what God’s goodness looks like—love without limit (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Beacons in the Dark.
When we walk by the Spirit, people are drawn to the Light of the World.
Yesterday, we discussed the uncomfortable topic of sin and how, thankfully, Christ came to liberate us. But what impact should that fact have on our everyday life? How should we live in light of the freedom we’ve been given?
The apostle Paul offers a compelling answer in today’s Scripture reading. He says our liberty isn’t intended for us alone but is meant to be shared with the world. We do that by serving others in love, thereby fulfilling what Christ called the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:35-40).
Acting out of love eliminates the inclination to judge those around us—or in Paul’s words, “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 5:15). A harsh, critical attitude doesn’t represent our freedom well. There’s nothing compelling about us if we act just like people who have never experienced the all-surpassing love of Christ.
Instead, we must “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16) and exhibit the fruit produced in us when we follow Him faithfully. Our “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (vv. 22-23) are like a beacon in the dark, and others will feel drawn to its light.
Restored by Love.
God graciously offers to remove the burden of sin from anyone who comes to Him.
What emotions do you feel when you hear the word sin? Perhaps embarrassment, discomfort, or even shame? Well, there’s a reason why. We weren’t meant for sin or the negative consequences that come with it.
Sin—or hamartia in Greek, meaning “to miss the mark”—separates us from our heavenly Father. The perfect union and harmony that Adam and Eve shared with Him in the garden was lost the moment sin entered the picture.
Today, many millennia after that painful breach occurred, we still sense something vital is missing. Countless people spend their whole life trying to fill that void. However, only God’s love and presence can adequately address the ache it causes. And that’s why Jesus came—“to give His life as a ransom for many,” rescue us from the power of sin and death, and reunite us with the One who loves us beyond all measure (Matthew 20:28).
If you’ve trusted in Jesus, you can rejoice because sin has already been defeated by His atoning sacrifice (1 Peter 2:24). And if you haven’t yet made that decision, know that He’s waiting for you to open the door (Revelation 3:20-22).
Genuine, intimate connection is vital to the believer’s walk with God.
Today, communities aren’t limited by geography. We now have access to people around the world who share our passions, and we can connect from anywhere. This kind of community-building innovation is amazing, but God calls Christians to a type of fellowship that transcends our interests.
Jesus knew authentic community was important, so He surrounded Himself with a small group of disciples to minister and serve with Him. The Greek word most often used in Scripture for Christian community is koinonia, which expresses sharing life with such significant depth and intimacy that it’s almost untranslatable.
This is the word John uses when he says, “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). What might it look like to joyfully encourage this kind of genuine, intimate connection with others in your life—both on this blessed Palm Sunday and every day that follows?
Think about it:
What does true fellowship look like to you? Do you experience it on a regular basis, and if so, where?
Devoted to Prayer.
Intimacy with God grows as we spend time with Him.
Have you ever wondered what one of the most important aspects of the Christian life is? The answer is surprisingly simple: Make it your habit to spend time with God, meditating on His Word and praying.
Notice that the key is to spend time with God. It’s easy to treat our prayers to Him like a checklist, where we rattle off requests for virtues like patience and wisdom or other things we want. Then we say “Amen” and expect Him to answer instantly. If that is the extent of our prayer life, we’re missing out.
Today’s passage teaches us to “devote [ourselves] to prayer” (v. 2). Every time we get on our knees, we are doing business with God, but more than that, we are developing a relationship with the Almighty. When we read and meditate on God’s Word, He teaches us His character and heart.
Set aside a time and place to meet with the Lord; He will be there. Over time, you will enjoy a deep, peaceful relationship with Him that translates into a passion for obedience and a powerful witness to others.
|3/31/2023||1 Corinthians 13:11-13|
Knowing the Heart of God.
Our Father promises that when we truly want to know Him, we will.
Most of us long to feel truly known by those we love. That makes sense because we were created in God’s image—He also desires to be intimately understood and loved by us.
Just as you don’t want to be known for only the superficial details of who you appear to be, it’s not enough to simply know about the Lord. He wants us to learn how He thinks and feels, what’s important to Him, and what His purposes are. Of course, it’s impossible for us to completely know His mind. In Isaiah 55:9, He tells us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” The depth and breadth of His mind is so great that we will never be able to fully grasp it in this lifetime.
However, we can better understand God’s heart by seeking Him and learning from His Word. If we desire to walk in His ways, we must first genuinely know Him. Just as we come to know our friends better by sharing experiences together, we’ll also understand God better the longer we walk with Him.
God wants you to seek Him with all your heart, and He promises that when you do, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). So, the next time you’re feeling a need to be better understood, turn to the One who understands you perfectly. Even more importantly, ask Him to help you know Him better.
The Desires of Your Heart.
When we learn to delight in the Lord, we are forever changed and discover unspeakable joy.
What is your greatest desire? We often read today’s passage and assume that it means God will give us whatever we want. It’s not uncommon for someone to talk about a prayer request and then add, “God promised to give me the desires of my heart.” But in context, that scripture reveals the Lord’s principle for purifying our desires and issues a call for devotion to Him. To delight in the Lord means to take pleasure in discovering more about Him and in following Him. As we do, the Holy Spirit aligns our heart’s desires with His, which positions us to experience His blessings.
When we commit our way to God, we allow our thoughts, goals, and lifestyle to be shaped by His will and the things He loves. In other words, we acknowledge His right to determine whether our longing fits His plan. If we rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him, we can rely on Him to work out circumstances, even when the desire He’s given us seems impossible. When He is our first love, our heart becomes focused on making His glory known with our life.
God wants to give us our heart’s desires in His time, when we’re aligned with His will. As we learn to enjoy Him for who He is, our self-focused wants are replaced by His perfect will and purpose for us.
Loving God by the Book.
When we commit to time in the Word, our faith deepens and our love grows.
No matter how busy life gets, we make time for what’s important to us. And of course, the wisest thing to do is to prioritize the things God values—such as reading His Word.
Here’s a little exercise that can help you realize there’s time in your day for Scripture. Photocopy the book of Philippians, cut it into sections, and tape it over the columns of your newspaper. All it will take up is three columns. The point is, if we take the time to read our favorite parts of the newspaper or scan the headlines on the internet, we can—in the same amount of time—read the entire book of Philippians.
So why not start there? Open your Bible to Philippians and ask the Lord to speak to you. As you read, pray over words that the Holy Spirit draws to your attention, and listen for whatever the Lord wants to say to you.
Praying through a book elevates spiritual life to a new level. You’ll find yourself wanting to progress past an elementary understanding of the faith. What’s more, you’ll increasingly want to be obedient to what you’re reading, because you’ll be falling deeper in love with the book’s Author.
It’s true that the Lord loves all people and that He adopts believers as His sons and daughters. But even richer blessings await those who keep His commands (John 14:21), because they will understand more about God and His ways.
The Measure of Our Love.
We don’t obey God to prove our love, but when we love Him, we want to obey Him more and more.
It’s easy to say we love God, but are you showing by your deeds that you love Him? The old adage is true: Actions speak louder than words.
The measure of our love is obedience to God’s commands and principles. In fact, Jesus stressed that very point three times in today’s Bible passage (vv. 15, 21, 23). This wasn’t a new concept for the disciples either. They would have been familiar with the scriptural connection between love and obedience (Nehemiah 1:5; Daniel 9:4). In fact, God has always emphasized that the way to show our devotion is by doing what He says (Deuteronomy 8:11; Deut.10:12; Deuteronomy 13:3-4).
Halfhearted commitment can look pretty good to others, but God knows the difference. A preacher could preach a thousand sermons without loving God. And as believers, we may lift hands in worship, support missions, and say the right words. But unless we’re following the commands from God’s Word, the most we’re showing Him is lukewarm affection. Works prove nothing. Loving the Lord means obeying Him.
We are wise, therefore, to follow the Lord’s instructions to Joshua—that is, to meditate on Scripture day and night (Joshua 1:8). Reading from the Bible daily helps us know how to obey—that is the only way to stay faithful and show the Father our love.
|3/27/2023||1 Samuel 27:1-7|
On the Bottom Looking Up.
What should you do when you’ve done all you can?
David was tired of being chased. After years of running from King Saul and with no indication that things would change, David began to despair. Though God had promised to prosper him, his trust faltered. Isn’t that how we feel sometimes? We know that God has promised good things for those who wait on Him and that every promise of His is “yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20), but our faith, like David’s, wavers.
Israel’s future king assessed his options and chose the “best” one—to form an alliance with the godless Philistines. By moving from faith to human reasoning, David stepped out of the Lord’s will and joined with the enemies of God’s people. In doing so, he compromised the very thing to which he had committed himself—being Israel’s leader.
Fortunately, when you hit bottom as David did, there is a way back. Focusing on the Lord can lead you out of discouragement and into His presence. Confess your lack of faith, receive God’s forgiveness, and pledge to follow Him. Next, strengthen yourself in the Lord: Recall His past faithfulness, reflect upon His power, and remember His promises. Finally, resolve to trust God for the future, and ask His Holy Spirit for help. Won’t you walk upon the road that leads upward to the Father?
If we’re going to make disciples of all nations, we first have to be disciples in a local community.
Making disciples of all nations is no small feat—2,000 years after Jesus gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), we’re still working on it. But we can’t let the size of the task overwhelm our ability to hear and receive the gift of Jesus’ parting words: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v. 20).
Remember: Jesus’ presence with us is both the means and the end. The point of all our discipleship efforts is to become wholly united with Him. And whether we like it or not, union with Him isn’t a solitary pursuit but, rather, something that happens in community.
“Iron sharpens iron,” as Proverbs 27:17 tells us, and Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Discipleship is a lifelong journey, and it’s not one we can undertake on our own. If we’re going to make disciples of all nations, we first have to be disciples in a local community.
Think about it:
Reflect on the past month: How have you noticed God’s presence in your discipleship journey? Have friends or family played a part in your growth? What would you like to do differently?
Waiting for God to Intervene.
Release your expectations and trust your heavenly Father to do what’s best.
Are you currently waiting for the Lord to intervene in your life or the life of a loved one? It can be difficult to understand why our heavenly Father delays matters that are urgent to us. Only He knows the reason. However, there are several adjustments we can make as we wait.
Determine your focus. In the urgency of the moment, it’s easy to center our attention on the need instead of on God. We may start out waiting for the Lord, but before you know it, we’re more interested in what He can do for us than we are interested in Him. Remember, God wants us to delight in who He is, not just what He gives us.
Release your expectations. The Lord is always working on our behalf. Holding onto your own assumptions about how the Lord should intervene is emotionally exhausting. But peace awaits those who trust that He will do what is in our best interest—in every situation we encounter.
While we are waiting, God is working. He sees the entire picture and is active behind the scenes, arranging everything according to His will. But perhaps His most important work is the deepening of our relationship with Him as we learn to love and trust Him in the wait.
God Is Sovereign Over Delays.
Waiting is difficult but we can relax, knowing that our Lord is active even in the details of our life.
Most people don’t like to wait, but have you ever wondered why? One reason may be that delays reveal we are not in control. Someone or something else is calling the shots.
Although we are often able to identify the immediate cause—like a traffic light or long checkout line—ultimately the One who controls all delays is the Lord. He is sovereign over everything in heaven and on earth, and even our time and schedules are in His hands. You might have thought that the expression “waiting upon the Lord” applies only to seeking guidance from Him or an answer to prayer. But it can mean so much more when you remember that He controls all your day-to-day inconveniences and frustrations.
In the Christian life, patience is vital. Without it, we can’t effectively obey God, pray, or experience the peace of resting in His sovereignty. We must learn to trust His judgment—about not just the big events in our life but also the trivial ones that cause us to become irritated, impatient, or angry.
The next time you face an unexpected or unwanted wait, remember that it comes as no surprise to God. He’s more interested in developing godly character than He is in making sure your schedule runs according to your plans.
The Struggle With Unforgiveness.
Trust God with your hurt, and refuse to let the poison of bitterness take root.
Yesterday we discussed forgiveness and how to incorporate it into our relationships. Now, let’s look at its opposite.
Unforgiveness is the deliberate decision not to let go of resentment toward someone else or of your rights to get even. Unfortunately, this attitude is common. Both outside and inside the church, people seem to enjoy nursing a grudge. They broadcast their hurt and focus their energy on retribution. What a waste!
In Hebrews 12:14-15, we see a warning against the “root of bitterness” that springs up and causes trouble. Bitterness may start with a simple grievance because of a person’s actions, but then that little seed of resentment begins to grow. And what happens at the root impacts everything else: If love and peace are your foundation, then you will produce loving and peaceful fruit. If unforgiveness is your foundation, you’ll find a crop of anger, malice, hostility, and bitterness. The sooner you deal with it, the less that bitter fruit will spoil your life.
How can we accomplish God’s will while harboring an unforgiving spirit? How can we grow in Christ when we willfully let bitterness erode our heart? Uproot the unforgiveness in your life today, and offer the Lord your finest crop of spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Process of Forgiveness.
Refuse to dwell on angry thoughts, and focus your energy on seeking good for others.
All of us have, at some point, been hurt by someone we love and trust. When that happens, we have a choice: to wallow in self-pity and anger or to forgive.
Forgiveness means giving up both the resentment you may have and the desire to retaliate. Doing so involves three important steps.
1. Surrender the general attitude of resentment. That is, make a decision not to languish in your pain. This can be hard! Many people almost seem to enjoy a mindset of self-pity or martyrdom. But you can choose a different posture and move past your suffering.
2. Give up specific feelings of resentment toward an individual. It is important to let go of the anger that was brought on by hurtful actions—and to try to restore the broken relationship.
3. Lay down all claims to retribution. You cannot forgive someone with your words while secretly wishing him or her harm. True forgiveness seeks the other person’s good, not punishment.
Forgiveness says, “Though you hurt me, I choose to pardon you. I won’t dwell on this, nor will I allow it to destroy my life or attitude. I won’t spend one minute plotting revenge. You are God’s precious child.” Truly forgiving another person is difficult, but the rewards are worth it.
Handling Conflict and Criticism.
Ask God to help you respond to conflict with Christ’s love, kindness, and wisdom.
It is clear from today’s passage that Paul was no stranger to conflict—even conflict caused by members of the church. Some people were upset that he preached to the Gentiles rather than exclusively to Jews. They also didn’t like the fact that he taught salvation by grace and not law. And some people were teaching the message with a very different motivation from the apostle’s.
Notice how Paul responded: He was positive. The tenor of his letter is one of encouragement and resolve. He did not lash out at his critics; he did not defend himself. He defended the gospel, but he did so in love and without harshness. Paul was happy that the name and good news of Jesus Christ were being preached, regardless of whether the motive was sincerity or envy. He was so concerned for the souls of others that he responded out of selflessness rather than selfishness.
What’s amazing is that Paul wrote this encouraging letter during his confinement in a Roman jail, and the prison guards learned about the gospel from him. Your words and behavior can likewise reflect Christ to unbelievers you encounter. May God help you stay the course as Paul did—even when your situation may involve controversy and criticism.
|3/20/2023||2 Timothy 2:20-22|
Sanctified and Special.
Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading to accomplish your God-given purpose.
Do you feel special, or does a sense of insignificance hang over you like a cloud? The good news is that every believer is special in the Lord’s eyes, and He’s set you apart for Himself. Since you now belong to Him, you’re not here on this earth to live as you please. You exist to bring glory and honor to Him by becoming more and more like His Son in your character, conduct, and conversation. It’s not a matter of following a list of rules, but of Christ living His life through you.
The Bible calls this sanctification. It’s the process whereby the Lord continually transforms us through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s not that we’ll become sinless, but the more we fill our minds with His Word and yield to the Spirit’s leadership, the more victorious we’ll be over sin. As our old attitudes and habits are replaced with godly ones, we’ll become useful servants in the household of God.
Being special to the Lord has nothing to do with what kind of work you do or how intelligent or successful you are. Rather, it’s based on whose you are.
Welcome the Spirit.
How will you connect with God today?
Imagine that your friends invite you over for dinner one evening. But when you arrive, you find they haven’t set a place for you at the table. It can make for an awkward, disorienting situation. In a way, that’s what it’s like when we say we want to be closer to God but don’t take any steps toward welcoming Him into our daily life.
The good news is that acting on our intentions doesn’t require us to dive into theological study or travel the world in God’s service. Simple spiritual practices—embraced by centuries of believers—are enough to help us experience a richer life in Christ: worship, prayer, meditating on Scripture, and fasting from certain foods or beverages. Integrating each of these things, even if practiced in only brief or small ways, makes space for the Holy Spirit to work in us.
Remember, you’re not responsible for the transformation any more than a farmer is responsible for the sun and rain (John 15:5). Your job, like the soil’s, is to remain ready to receive.
Think about it:
What are some ways you can increase your connection points with God throughout the day? Are there any missed opportunities?
A Commitment to Obey.
It’s easy to rationalize making choices to please ourselves or others, but the wise choice is always God’s will.
We’ll all encounter times when what’s being asked of us conflicts with what God says. Perhaps the boss tells us to act dishonestly, or a friend pressures us to join her in sinful behavior. Maybe a family member urges us to lie on his behalf. Saying no could bring loss, rejection, or even the end of a relationship. On the other hand, going along with the request would break God’s commands and compromise our Christian witness.
Daniel found himself in such a predicament when officials set a trap for him—an edict prohibiting worship “to any god or human being” other than King Darius (Dan. 6:7). Daniel courageously “went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem” and prayed visibly to God, as was his habit (v. 10). For his infraction, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. The next morning, Darius was relieved that Daniel had been protected, and he decreed that all his subjects “must fear and reverence” the God of the Jews (v. 26).
Our responsibility is to trust and obey the Lord. Consider these biblical examples: Daniel’s faithfulness resulted in royal favor and honor to God (v. 26); Jesus’ obedience led to the cross and glorification; and Paul’s trust in Christ resulted in hardship along with fruitful service. When we obey, the consequences may vary, but two things are always the same: Obedience glorifies and pleases our Father.
Make it a daily habit to spend time with God in the Word, and you’ll be ready for the inevitable challenges of life.
The story of Daniel illustrates some key elements of obedience. The young man knew that God’s law had dietary restrictions prohibiting food that had been offered to idols, yet now he was in foreign land with no such limitations. When King Nebuchadnezzar ordered that food from his table be given to Daniel, that posed a dilemma: Was it better to obey the Lord and risk angering the king or to disobey God and please the ruler?
The underlying issue was allegiance to God. Daniel could have rationalized breaking the divine command by telling himself he was a servant and had no choice. Instead, he resolved not to eat the royal food and sought a solution that would honor the Lord and keep His law.
Today, many things that our world finds acceptable are outside God’s will for His children. The struggle comes down to this: Our desire as Christians is to obey the Lord, whereas our fleshly side wants to please ourselves. However, obeying God is always the right choice.
To become like Daniel, we must consistently apply Scripture to our decision-making. Then, when challenges come, we’ll have the courage to obey God’s commands.
|3/16/2023||2 Chronicles 20:1-4|
Do you turn to God first when trouble comes?
What does it take for the Lord to get your attention? In times of great crisis, fear, tragedy, or sickness, do your eyes and thoughts lift heavenward to seek God’s help and wisdom?
Those who already have a habit of seeking the Lord’s direction know how to respond when emergencies arise. That’s what we see in King Jehoshaphat’s reign. The Lord was with him because he followed the example of King David by obeying and seeking to honor God. So when a dangerous situation arose, Jehoshaphat’s first response was to fast and pray for His help.
Is seeking the Lord’s will the habit of your life, or does He have to use harsher means to get your attention? Through the Scriptures, He instructs and teaches us the way we should go—as long as we’re paying attention. But if we’re stubborn “like the horse or like the mule” (Psalm 32:8-9), God’s ways of reaching us may be more painful.
The Lord has much to say and wants us to train ourselves to stay attuned to Him. Don’t let the busyness and distractions of life keep you from connecting with Him every day through His Word and prayer.
How God Gets Our Attention.
Life’s interruptions are opportunities to trust the Lord and see Him work.
A whistle gets our attention quickly, wouldn’t you agree? It’s used to control unruly behavior, signal the start or finish of an event, or interrupt action. Have you ever considered that God has a “whistle”? It’s not one we hear with our ears, but it’s effective in getting our attention and redirecting our life.
In today’s passage, God used a donkey as His “whistle” to redirect Balaam, but the man was oblivious until his animal spoke. Although you won’t hear a talking donkey, God still has His ways of getting your attention.
Sometimes He uses a restless spirit or some vague dissatisfaction with one’s life. At other times, it may be a Scripture passage or something a person says that causes us to pause. God’s “whistles” come in many forms—illness, financial reversals, tragedies, disappointments, loss, difficulties, or failures.
Whatever situation the Lord uses, our response should be to quickly seek Him in prayer. He deserves our undivided attention, but too often we get preoccupied with our circumstances and fail to recognize them for what they are. The next time the Lord interrupts your life in any way, let the situation prompt you to turn to Him and seek His guidance.
|3/14/2023||2 Corinthians 3:1-6|
The Work of the Holy Spirit.
God doesn’t expect us to figure life out on our own; He equips and guides those He has called.
God has a plan for every believer’s life, and He’s provided talents, abilities, and circumstances to fit with these individualized goals (Eph. 2:10). But God’s purposes for us can be fulfilled only as we depend on the Holy Spirit. Too often we try to tackle life by ourselves. For a while, we may succeed, but in the long run, self-reliance fails.
We cannot accomplish God’s plan our way and in our own power. It simply won’t work. In fact, being adequate in ourselves actually hinders us from doing what the Lord desires and stifles our spiritual growth. If we persist in arrogant self-reliance, we may have to experience failure so we’ll realize how weak we truly are. God lovingly breaks our pride by showing us that we’re inadequate without Him. Only by His strength and direction are we able to succeed.
Have you surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s control by acknowledging your weakness and recognizing His power, omniscience, and wisdom? The Lord doesn’t call you to live the Christian life in your own strength, which is a human impossibility. Rather, He wants you to yield control and let Him live His life through you.
The Holy Spirit—An Absolute Essential.
Are you living with the strength, wisdom, and joy the Lord wants to give?
Of the three members of the Trinity, perhaps the most overlooked is the Holy Spirit. Yet He’s co-equal with the Father and the Son. The opening chapter of Scripture tells us that He existed before the formation of the earth and participated in creation (Genesis 1:2; Genesis 1:26). Today, He plays a critical role in the salvation, spiritual growth, and empowerment of believers.
At the moment of salvation, God’s Spirit comes to permanently dwell within each new believer. His presence within us isn’t something we have to earn or acquire; it’s a gift to every child of God. His work is to transform us into the image of Christ, give us understanding of Scripture, convict us when we sin, empower us to overcome temptation and walk in obedience to God, and guide us throughout life. When we yield to His leadership, we’ll receive all the benefits of His work within us.
Are you experiencing the fullness of the Spirit? Though we’re never promised happy circumstances throughout life, the Holy Spirit can produce joy and contentment within us, even in trying situations. If you’re lacking in this area, pray for sensitivity and responsiveness to the Spirit’s instruction and leadership.
Grow as You Go.
We mature as believers when we aim to strike a balance between time alone with God and doing life together in the body of Christ.
How-to guides are all the rage, and that’s no surprise—western culture places high value on the idea of mastering life. But unlike changing a flat tire or roasting your first turkey, authentic biblical discipleship isn’t about technique or skill. And though there are common tools all believers share—spiritual disciplines handed down through the ages—the pursuit of becoming like Jesus isn’t a one-size-fits-all, predictable process.
Our lives take different turns with unique challenges along the way, and God reaches each of us in a manner that speaks to our experiences. Yet there’s one element we all share: the need for other Christians. (See Hebrews 10:24-25.) We can hear thousands of sermons, attend years’ worth of Bible studies and prayer meetings, and spend countless minutes in quiet time. But it’s life together in the body of Christ that gives discipleship its power.
Think about it:
How important to you is doing “life together” with other believers? What steps are you taking to make that part of your daily or weekly schedule?
Intimacy With God.
The most precious gift our Lord gives us is the privilege of a close personal relationship with Him.
What’s the goal of the Christian life? Some may say it’s to become increasingly righteous or to tell others the good news of salvation. But the apostle Paul said his goal was to know Christ intimately. Is that your primary pursuit as well? When that’s our great desire, righteous living and passion for the gospel will follow.
Intimacy grows as we immerse ourselves in God’s Word. Through our reading, study, and meditation on Scripture, the Lord reveals Himself to us.
But intimacy isn’t merely an exercise of the mind. It includes the engagement of our emotions as we love, serve, and worship Him. The more we get to know the Lord through His Word, the deeper our love and devotion to Him will become.
Another vital aspect of intimacy with God is an increased desire to obey Him. As we attune our hearts and minds to care about the things that matter to God, we’ll delight to do what He says.
Have you settled for a superficial connection with the Lord? Salvation isn’t just the door to heaven; it’s the pathway to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior until we have the most satisfying of all possible relationships.
|3/10/2023||1 Peter 1:1-5|
What Does It Mean to Be Saved?
Available to everyone and freely given, all the benefits of a relationship with God come only through Jesus.
Christians often talk about salvation, but do we really understand what it requires? Too many of us think that being saved is our own responsibility, but it’s really the work of God. He causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3). Our part is to respond to the gospel message in faith when His Spirit opens our heart to understand.
The path to redemption begins with the realization that it’s impossible to make ourselves righteous, because we cannot correct our sinful nature. To find favor with the Lord, we must trust in the sacrifice our Savior made on our behalf. His crucifixion was a demonstration of God’s hatred for sin and immense love for mankind. Jesus—the blameless One— bore the penalty for sin so corrupt people like us could be made righteous through faith in Him.
Your good works and righteous acts can never earn God’s forgiveness and favor. The only way you can be forgiven of your sins is through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial, substitutionary atoning death at Calvary. No matter what you’ve done, you can be declared righteous if you’ll turn from your sins and trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
A God of Grace.
Our Lord delights in His children and offers abundant blessings to each one.
God’s character is misunderstood and distorted by the world, but even believers can have the wrong perception of Him. Some see our loving Father as authoritarian, harsh, or stingy, but every good gift we have comes from Him.
God has freely given us forgiveness, redemption, righteousness, providential care, adoption into His family, and a glorious inheritance in heaven. It’s all ours at salvation, yet there is a misguided notion among some believers that the Lord’s grace to us varies according to our behavior or level of spiritual maturity.
But this can’t be true, because the Lord never changes. His boundless, unmerited favor is lavished on all His children whether they’re aware of it or not. And spiritual growth will broaden their capacity to recognize and enjoy it.
Our heavenly Father is not tightfisted. He opens His hand wide to pour out grace upon us. Instead of sampling meager bites of His Word, we ought to devour whole “meals” every day. Follow the psalmist’s advice: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
The Riches of God’s Grace.
There are marvelous blessings available for each child of God—today.
Imagine an elderly couple living in a dilapidated farmhouse. They can barely afford a few groceries and the medications they need. There isn’t even enough money to keep the heat on all winter. Shortly after they both die, a huge deposit of oil is discovered on the old homestead. All their years of poverty were lived out sitting on top of untapped wealth.
Sadly, many Christians go through life like that elderly couple. They’ve distilled Christianity down to its most basic parts: God saved me, and someday I’ll go to heaven. Spiritually poor Christians fail to tap into the reservoir of God’s grace that’s available right now. There’s no reason to wait until heaven to start enjoying the riches of His favor, which He’s already lavishing on us.
True riches are not measured by your bank account but by the abundance of God’s grace. You’ve received Christ’s righteousness, forgiveness of sins, adoption as God’s child, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and an eternal inheritance. As a joint heir with Christ, you have access to God’s riches, which include unspeakable joy, unconditional love, and peace beyond understanding. Don’t wait until heaven; tap into these divine blessings every day of your life, beginning today.
|3/7/2023||1 John 1:5-10|
The Believer’s Tools.
God provides everything we need to enjoy a close relationship with Him.
As we mature spiritually and gain wisdom from Scripture, we should recognize that confession, repentance, and obedience are necessary tools for maintaining an intimate relationship with God. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, the right response is to quickly confess the wrong to God and turn away from it so we won’t continue to grieve our Father.
Confession means agreeing with God that our transgression is wrong and violates His will. Sin impacts our fellowship with the Lord, and until we confess it to Him, we cannot receive the cleansing He offers. But when we do, He’s faithful to forgive us.
Yet confession is incomplete unless we also repent—that is, turn away from sin through the power of the Holy Spirit and turn to the Lord in obedience. Sadly, true repentance is increasingly neglected as our society rejects all shame and encourages tolerance of sin.
Don’t believe the world’s lies. See your sin as God sees it, and let your heart be grieved. To keep your life pure before Him, use all the tools He’s given—confession, repentance, and obedience.
|3/6/2023||2 Corinthians 7:8-11|
God’s Call to Genuine Repentance.
Healing comes when our heart’s desire is to please our heavenly Father.
In the kitchen sits a full cookie jar, and 6-year-old Todd is determined to have one. When his mom walks in, she finds him—one arm still in the jar—chewing fast. The first words out of his mouth are, “I’m sorry.” He obviously regrets being caught and is unhappy about the punishment that may follow, but he’s probably not remorseful for eating the cookies.
Believers sometimes approach confession and repentance the same way. Sorrow usually accompanies admission of guilt, and feelings of shame and remorse are labeled as repentance. Yet too often our repentance is shallow. We’re sad over the consequences of our actions and upset that we’ve failed to live up to our own standards of good behavior. But genuine repentance goes deeper than self-reproach; it involves a sense of grief over having wronged God by sinning against Him.
Our desire should be to please our heavenly Father, not grieve Him. So genuine repentance leads us to forsake the sin and practice obedience. When we humble ourselves and truly repent, the Holy Spirit pours His power and strength into our life. Then we are enabled to turn from that sin in order to walk in obedience to our Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18
The Christian’s goal is not faultlessness but the pursuit of Jesus, which leads to the abundant life.
It’s common to hear Christians say, “You don’t have to be perfect—God loves you just the way you are.” And that statement is true, except it’s not the whole picture.
Yes, the Lord’s love is unconditional; we can do nothing to change it. At the same time, His plan for all believers is to make us increasingly like Himself. It’s a perfection that transcends our understanding of the term—a perfection found not in how we perform but in our willingness to surrender our life to Him.
In Matthew 5:48 (NIV), Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Instead of hearing those words as an impossible expectation, think of them as an invitation. He’s welcoming you to the abundant life, the healing of your soul, the recovery of your true self. It’s what we know as the process of sanctification.
To be sanctified—in other words, to become holy—is not a pursuit of faultlessness but rather one of becoming more and more like Jesus. And there’s just one way to do that: Say “yes” to His invitation each day.
Think about it:
Read Matthew 5:6 and 2 Corinthians 3:18. How do these verses make you feel about Jesus’ command to be perfect?
Hope in the Storm.
To receive peace when your world is in chaos, call on Jesus for help.
Many people in the world—maybe even you—are facing terrible storms in their life. Broken homes, joblessness, loneliness, loss, financial struggles, and world crises slash at the very fabric of hope. Some may even feel as though they’re lost, adrift at sea in a small boat during a hurricane. And many wonder, How on earth will we be able to reach the shore safely?
The disciples faced this fear as well. While they were crossing the Sea of Galilee in their boat, the weather took a frightening turn. In desperation, they woke Jesus and cried, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” (Matt. 8:25). He rebuked them for their lack of faith and proceeded to calm the storm, showing Himself to be Lord over all creation.
This story teaches us where we should turn when storms arise in our own life. Sometimes people interpret challenging events as an indication that God isn’t paying attention. That’s what the disciples thought until Christ calmed the turbulent waters. But even when the world seems out of control, remember that Jesus is in the boat with you, and He’s still Lord of all.
Hope: The Anchor of the Soul.
If you are feeling battered by a storm in your life, remember God’s promises cannot fail.
God’s purposes and promises are unchangeable. That’s hard for us to imagine since we live in a world that’s constantly in flux. There doesn’t seem to be much that we can count on to steady our lives. Jobs can be lost, loved ones may die, plans must sometimes be altered, and dreams are often dashed. Yet our souls do have an anchor, which holds fast no matter how many storms we experience.
A nautical anchor does its work of steadying a ship in the hidden depths of the waters. And that’s sometimes how God’s promises seem to us—blocked from our sight and far away. But as the waves of circumstances rage around us, our anchor of hope holds fast. We haven’t been promised an easy earthly life, free from trouble and suffering, but the eternal hope for our souls is steadfast and sure.
The reason we have such a hard time remembering our anchor of hope is because our lives are above deck, where the storms rage. To regain our hope, we must regularly peer into the depths of God’s Word to be reminded of the eternal promises that cannot fail.
Look for opportunities around you, and trust the Holy Spirit to provide all you need to help others.
God sends opportunities every day to positively impact lives around you. Your “service” may simply be an encouraging word, a listening ear, or a kind act. But in other situations, helping someone may involve the sacrifice of long periods of time away from your regular routine or giving generously of your resources. Whether serving in large or small ways, when God’s love flows through you, you’ll be able to unselfishly adjust your schedule or budget and not count the cost.
No matter what you do, your service should always be done “in Jesus’ name.” This means it is motivated by love, done in harmony with God’s revealed will and in submission to His authority. And as today’s passage urges, we are to be “fervent in spirit” as we serve the Lord and “not lagging behind in diligence” (Rom. 12:11). To live out your faith in this way requires dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s power. Only by yielding to His control can your work produce real spiritual fruit.
As ambassadors of Christ, we must serve with humility so that God receives the glory He deserves. Whatever success we experience belongs to the Lord, whose Spirit is working through us. Pray for Him to make you alert to the service opportunities He places before you.
The Companion of Faith.
When we believe in Jesus, the change on the inside will be visible on the outside through the choices we make.
We know that salvation is by God’s grace through faith-—not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). So some Christians might assume that our deeds are of no importance. But that’s not true. While good works cannot save us, they’re a steady companion of faith after salvation.
In fact, as James tells us, faith without the evidence of good works is “dead” (2:17). That’s because genuine faith always expresses itself through action. And when good deeds flow from our trust in the Lord, we will see He’s working through us to benefit others and also in us, drawing us closer to Himself. In this way, genuine faith is revealed through godly conduct—both in deeds that others observe and in things we do that go unnoticed.
We were created in Christ Jesus for good works that God ordained for us to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10). He uses us to encourage and strengthen one another, provide for the needy, and share the good news of salvation with those in spiritual darkness. If our life looked no different than before our profession of faith, we would have no assurance that our faith was authentic. Are good works evidence of your transformed life, both to others and to you yourself?
Sowing to the Spirit.
Are you planting seeds that result in a good harvest for you and others?
Yesterday we discussed how, in all of our choices, we either sow to the flesh or sow to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). We plant seeds that affect what kind of person we’re growing into and the level of impact our life will have for the Lord.
The “flesh” is the part of us that wants to live and act independently of God. We all must deal with the strong pull of this attitude; it doesn’t simply vanish when we’re saved. However, the Holy Spirit ensures that we’re not enslaved to the flesh. He begins to change us so we can live according to the truth. The choices we make contribute to the process of transformation, and when they’re in alignment with the Spirit’s work, they plant good seed that results in even more new growth.
When you’re sowing to the Spirit, you’re accepting God’s truth into your mind and heart. The fruit of the Spirit grows naturally from this seed of godly truth and influences every aspect of your life. When you feed your spirit with the things of God, you’re going to become stronger, more Christlike, and full of His life in your thoughts and actions.
Are you feeding your spirit or the part of you that wants to act independently of God? Choose to sow seeds that build you up, letting streams of living water flow from you to nourish others (John 7:37-39).
The Principle of Sowing and Reaping.
Each new day brings the opportunity to choose the path of blessing and to rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength.
Satan wants us to believe the lie that our actions have no natural results or consequences. But the truth is that you can’t rebel against God without reaping the fruit of that choice later. You also can’t obey God without eventually receiving His blessing. The choices you make are the seeds you plant, and they determine the kind of crop you’re going to harvest in the future.
The heart of this principle is that all our choices are important. How we think and act matters. At some point, we all have made choices we’ve regretted. Since consequences never simply evaporate, you may find yourself harassed or even governed by things you’ve seen, said, or participated in. Yet God will forgive everything you genuinely repent of, and He will work with you to redeem those past choices. The road to redemption often includes obstacles, but His Spirit can enable you to overcome. If consequences from your past are weighing on you, lay those burdens down before the Lord, and request that He cleanse and shape you into the person you were created to be.
Ask yourself the following three questions: What kind of life do I want to live? What do I want my character to be like? Who do I want to become years from now? Let the Holy Spirit speak to you about your choices—past, present, and future—and His plans for you.
|2/26/2023||1 Corinthians 12:4-7|
1 Corinthians 14:26
Gifted to Serve.
Living in community helps us discover our spiritual gifts and use them to bless others.
Have you wondered how to discover your spiritual gifts? There’s an abundance of quizzes and questionnaires online, but as helpful as those resources can be, they’re not authoritative. What if, instead of relying on self-assessments, we approached identifying our gifts as an opportunity to engage our community of believers?
Something beautiful happens when we invite our brothers and sisters in Christ to speak into our lives. In fact, the only way we truly come to know ourselves is in community—seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard, loving and being loved in return.
Over the next few days and weeks, explore these questions with God: What needs draw my attention? How do I like to help? What needs do others consistently bring to me? What kind of service brings me life? And don’t just stop there. Take time to ask wise and trusted people what gifts they see in you. And always seek confirmation from the Holy Spirit.
Think about it:
Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 and 1 Corinthians 14:26. Do you struggle with believing you have a special gift to offer the church? How do these verses affect your perspective?
Let Go and Grow Up.
Maturity and freedom come when believers completely surrender to God and rely on His strength.
As Christians, we know our Father wants us to follow His commands and instructions. Too often, though, we try to obey but our old “flesh” keeps emerging.
Sometimes this is because of ignorance. Maybe we don’t realize that a certain lifestyle isn’t meant to be the norm for believers. However, the primary reason believers live in a fleshly manner is because we haven’t made up our mind who will be in control of our life. Maybe there’s something we’re unwilling to surrender to God—it could be a desire, habit, or source of security. Another possibility is that we have sensed His call on our lives but are running from Him in fear or rebellion.
The consequences of living this way are devastating. Without submitting to the Spirit, the carnal Christian is spiritually immature and ruled by desires, rights, and expectations. Because he has not applied previously learned biblical truths (compared to milk in today’s passage), he cannot understand the deeper things of Scripture (likened to solid food). The result is stunted spiritual growth.
If you find yourself described here, take courage. You don’t have to remain in this condition. What are you holding on to? Letting go can be very difficult, but the power of almighty God resides within you through His Spirit. Relax your grip, surrender to Him, and rely on His strength.
Today is a gift that will be gone tomorrow; don’t throw it away.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul shares how to walk wisely. In today’s passage, he gives three instructions.
First, he says to “be careful how you walk” (v. 15). Because we live in a sinful world, we must be vigilant about how we think and act.
Second, the apostle instructs us to make the most of our time (v. 16). So often we are tempted to squander our time and energy on our own pursuits without a thought of what our heavenly Father may have in mind for us.
Third, Paul tells us to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (v. 17). In its broadest sense, God’s will for us is that we would each become the person
He created us to be and do the work He planned for us (Ephesians 2:10). Knowing this, we should look at every decision with consideration of whether our choice will further or hinder our heavenly Father’s purposes for us.
The Lord wants us to walk wisely so that we can enjoy all the marvelous benefits He has promised in His Word. Wasted opportunities and time misspent can never be reclaimed. Let’s commit to make our lives count for Christ instead of merely living for ourselves.
The Foundation of Wisdom.
Truly understanding who God is will change our entire outlook on life.
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Initially, however, the connection may not be clear, and we may wonder, How can fearing God make us wise?
First, let’s look at what the expression means. “To fear God” conveys awesome reverence for Him. And that mindset moves us to acknowledge the Lord as the sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth, submit to His will, and walk in obedience.
Those who commit themselves to living for God’s purposes will gain greater understanding of Him. The Holy Spirit will enable them to see circumstances and people from His divine perspective. This kind of wisdom reaches beyond human perception and gives us discernment to make decisions that fit into the Lord’s plans for our life.
What is your attitude toward the Lord? If you truly revere Him, you will listen for His directions and heed His warnings. A desire to honor and please Him will motivate you to turn from evil and seek to live in obedience. And the result will be wisdom beyond human understanding.
Being a Good Steward.
The Bible teaches that sound financial management includes saving and giving.
The choices that believers make should align with God’s will—and finances are no exception. Our heavenly Father has provided us with resources and expects us to manage them wisely. The Bible helps us understand His perspective and offers guidance in setting financial goals.
Not everyone is able to plan years and years into the future. Sometimes there are seasons we can look ahead only a month or two. But even when finances are tight, the Lord wants us to plan for the future. Otherwise, shortsighted thinking can lead to high credit card debt, overdue bills, and inadequate savings.
Then there are those of us who already have a financial plan—say, for college education, medical savings, or retirement—and are adhering to it. In this situation, the temptation can be to become overly protective of what we have. Luke 12:16-20 tells of a rich man who built bigger barns for storage instead of sharing what he had—and the Lord called him a fool. We certainly don’t want to be foolish in God’s eyes.
Whether we have little or much, seeking God’s priorities for our spending, saving, and giving will help us use His money wisely. Imagine what can be accomplished when we follow His instructions for handling finances and invest our resources in His kingdom work.
|2/21/2023||1 Peter 2:9-12|
Understanding Your Call.
Thinking that certain facts about Jesus are true is not the same as trusting Him.
Which term describes your Christian life: believer or Christ-follower? A believer can be certain of things without necessarily putting them into practice. But a follower chooses the path of action. What does it look like to follow Jesus?
First, we must trust Him (John 14:1) because we will not follow someone we don’t trust. Trust develops as we abide in Him and discover the beauty of His character, His love, and His plan.
Secondly, we must obey Him (John 14:15). A true follower of Jesus will combine trust with obedience, endeavoring to say “Yes, I will” when it’s difficult, “Yes, I will” when it’s unpopular, and “Yes, I will” even when it may cause us heartache.
Lastly, we must serve Him. God doesn’t want His children to be mere observers but to be active participants in His work. We are called to use our spiritual gifts and do our part as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27-28).
Jesus provided the perfect example: He trusted His Father completely, obeyed Him sacrificially (Phil. 2:8), and lived a life of service (Matt. 20:28).
We are called to emulate our Lord and Savior. In what area do you need help? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a trusting, obedient spirit.
God wants you to enjoy all the benefits of an intimate relationship with Him.
God offers three invitations to every person He created. We are invited …
To receive Jesus and become a child of God (John 1:12-13). The Lord calls us to receive Him as our Savior and to have a personal relationship with Him through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. This invitation includes laying down the burden of trying to work out salvation ourselves (Matthew 11:28-29). Instead, Christ invites us to trust Him to do the transforming work in us.
To abide in Jesus. Abiding means listening to God speak through Scripture, living in growing dependence on Him, knowing Him more intimately, and drawing upon His power in order to live a godly life.
To follow Jesus. In order to follow the Lord, we must be familiar with His character and His plans. The evidence that we are following Him will appear in our attitude, conduct, character, conversation, and relationships.
God loves every individual He created and wants each one to know Him personally. Through the gift of salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit, who enables us to abide in Jesus and follow Him. This is the path to the joy and contentment God has planned for us.
We All Win Together.
Are you working to build your kingdom or God’s?
Church should be a place where Christians shed the world’s competitive spirit. But instead, it’s sometimes yet another arena where people strive for personal glory.
When we treat our sanctuaries like stages, chasing the spotlight, we end up building our own kingdoms instead of God’s. And our brothers and sisters in Christ can become stepping stones or, worse, collateral damage.
This problem isn’t new, nor is its solution. What Jesus taught the disciples to abandon was not the pursuit of excellence but the path of self-exaltation. In other words, if we’re competing for anything, it should be for last place—so that we might all triumph together in becoming a true reflection of Christ.
Do you see something of yourself in these descriptions? If so, ask the Holy Spirit for help correcting course and aligning your heart with His.
Think about it.
Read Romans 12:10-21 and Matthew 20:1-15. Are there any specific areas of your life that need to be reoriented so that they align with these verses? With whom are you competing? How can you shift toward honoring and serving them instead?
|2/18/2023||2 Corinthians 3:1-6|
Spending time in the Word and in prayer deepens our trust in the Lord.
Did you know you can build your confidence in God? It grows the more we meditate on His Word, know who He is, and draw near to Him through prayer. Confidently trusting the Lord brings many blessings:
Spiritual Growth. Relying on God means we respond to difficulties by seeking Him for guidance and strength. In turn, we experience the Holy Spirit’s presence, provision, and power and, as a result, spiritual growth. We’ll be capable of accomplishments far better than we imagined when our assurance comes from the Lord (Ephesians 3:20).
Peace. When our security rests in God and we show conviction about His promises, peace follows. Isaiah 26:3 says, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” Our calm demeanor will waver, however, when we mix trusting Him with relying on ourselves.
Influence. Others will take notice when they observe that God inspired our confidence. As they see us achieve something unexpected, grow spiritually, or exhibit inner peace, they’ll want what we have. Then, hopefully, we can inspire them to know the Savior.
Do your actions reveal self-reliance or Christ-centered confidence? The Lord is worthy of our trust (Revelation 5:12). What steps will you take to deepen your belief in Him?
The Positive Power of Confidence.
Believers who rely on Jesus can face life’s challenges with boldness.
Paul was a confident man. Before his salvation, the apostle’s self-assured attitude came from trusting in his credentials, background, education, and position. However, his encounter with the Lord led him to realize these things were of little worth (Phil. 3:4-8). So, what was then the source of his boldness?
Paul’s relationship with Jesus formed the new foundation for his very existence (vv. 8-10). He not only recognized the inadequacy of everything he had previously relied upon—his knowledge, achievement, and authority; he also relinquished any notion of living independently of the Lord. The apostle lived his life through reliance upon God (Galatians 2:20).
Because of Paul’s unwavering trust in the Lord, He believed God’s promises to strengthen and equip him, guide him in every situation, meet all his needs, and never leave him. Paul took the Lord at His word and was empowered to meet adversity with boldness. His confidence was not in himself but in God’s presence, provision, and power; therefore, it remained strong.
Do you see why we can be confident followers of Christ? It isn’t who we are, what we believe about ourselves, or what strengths and abilities we have that matter. Developing a wholehearted trust and reliance on Jesus is what brings about confidence. How much do you trust Him?
|2/16/2023||2 Peter 1:1-11|
Salvation: An Ongoing Blessing.
Our lives are transformed when we make a daily choice to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Some people think of Salvation as a single point in time. And it’s true that the moment trust is placed in Jesus, a person permanently becomes a member of God’s family. But limiting the definition to that single faith decision gives an incomplete picture.
Salvation includes three parts: 1) justification—the moment our sins are forgiven and Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to us; 2) sanctification—the process of becoming increasingly righteous in this life; and 3) glorification—the completion of the process, when we’re made perfectly sinless at the resurrection.
It’s a package deal. Those who are justified are being sanctified and will be glorified (Romans 8:29-30). We can’t claim we’re saved if sanctification isn’t happening in our lives. The degree of godliness and fruitfulness varies with each individual, but God has promised to complete the good work He began in our life (Philippians 1:6).
Jesus is our Master because He purchased us from sin with His blood. And Romans 10:9 says we must confess Him as Lord in order to be saved. The question is whether you’re submitting to His process of sanctification. Has your life changed since you first professed Christ? Are you diligently cooperating with the Holy Spirit so that your life reflects Jesus’ image?
|2/15/2023||1 Corinthians 13:8-11|
Love’s Hidden Enemy.
Childish thinking can block our ability to fully enjoy love.
What keeps you from loving others? Paul penned a beautiful description of biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) and then concluded, “When I became a man, I did away with childish things” (v. 11). I believe childish thinking is a hidden enemy of loving relationships. When we are young, a mental grid forms in the mind, and we interpret life through it. Over time, that grid changes as some ideas are dropped and others are incorporated.
The same is true for us spiritually: As we mature, our mental framework should increasingly be shaped by Scripture—and that includes our understanding of love. Childish, self-seeking ideas of love must be replaced with truths about mature love that wants what’s best for others.
Our relationship with God can also be affected by childish thinking. We may believe that His love is dependent on our performance. Or we could mistakenly assume God is withholding love if He doesn’t fulfill our desires.
What faulty thinking is hindering your ability to love and be loved? By putting away your immature beliefs, you’ll be freed to experience God’s unconditional love and express Christlike love to others.
|2/14/2023||1 Corinthians 13:4-7|
Forgiveness: An Act of Love
Healing for our heart comes when we let go of an offense and trust God.
Forgiving people who’ve wronged us is a tough command to follow. We naturally want to lash out at those who hurt us. Instead of releasing the offense, we replay the mistreatment, relive the pain, and stoke the anger. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t do that with us? We’re never more like Christ than when we forgive.
First Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter, but did you know that the descriptions of love in verse 5 also relate to forgiveness?
Love does not seek its own benefit. When we’ve been wronged, we want our rights, but God’s love seeks what’s best for the other person.
Love is not provoked. It’s to our glory if we overlook wrongdoing rather than respond with irritation or anger (Proverbs 19:11). “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), but rage and resentment add to the problem.
Love does not keep an account of a wrong suffered. Keeping a list of grudges kills relationships, but forgiveness brings healing and possible restoration.
People at times will wrong us. But if we’re yielded to the Holy Spirit, we can have a peaceful, loving heart that’s not preoccupied with our rights, easily provoked, or burdened with grudges.
|2/13/2023||2 Timothy 3:14-17|
The Question of Inerrancy.
Believers can have confidence that the Bible is true from beginning to end.
Pointing out “inconsistencies” has long been a popular pastime among critics of the Bible. Tragically, even some people in influential Christian positions hold the opinion that portions of Scripture aren’t inspired by God. Of course, these critics cannot agree upon which sections are inaccurate. Some would erase a phrase here and there, while others would toss out entire books.
This leaves Christians confused about the authority of Scripture, as they wonder which expert is most credible. I have the answer to that: Trust God as the final authority. The Sovereign of the universe had no trouble keeping Scripture pure. Reading the Bible as a whole document reveals that each part is consistent with every other. God allowed for writers’ differences in viewpoint, background, and vocabulary, which at times can give the appearance of discrepancy. But further study always reveals how the various parts fit together.
It’s critical for believers to trust in the inerrancy of the Scriptures. A flawed book could never tell us how to be saved because it would only be the product of man’s hand. But the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. His Spirit did the writing, no matter whose hand penned the message.
|2/12/2023||1 Corinthians 2:14|
Gaining Wisdom From the Past.
Looking back can help us discover new truths and move forward with a
Moving forward by looking back may seem like nonsense, but then again, much of godly wisdom sounds foolish to earthly ears. So, what does this look like in practice?
As a Jewish person, Jesus grew up celebrating Passover, a holiday commemorating the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt. At His final Passover meal—which we know as the Last Supper—Jesus used its rituals to reveal His identity as the perfect sacrificial lamb, the atonement for all humanity’s sin. And the Lord chose to make this astonishing disclosure by honoring tradition.
When you next attend church, keep an eye out for any important practices—like taking Communion, being baptized, saying the Lord’s Prayer, or reciting the Apostles’ Creed—that connect your congregation to the history of God’s people. If you can, dig a little deeper into each to find meaning you may have missed before.
Think about it:
After the resurrection, two disciples walked with Jesus without recognizing Him (Luke 24:13-35). What opened their eyes? How could church history bring a similar revelation of Jesus’ presence in your life?
What Do You Desire?
We can trust God to answer our prayers according to His wisdom, goodness, and love.
If I were to ask you to name the desire of your heart, what would you say? Most of us, usually fueled by selfish motives, have a seemingly endless list of things we want. But godly desires—like greater love for Him, deeper understanding of His Word, and ready obedience—are what we really need for a satisfying life.
Our temporal wants come and go, but spiritual desires bear fruit for eternity. If you’ve never taken the time to evaluate the subject matter of your prayers, then you may not know whether your motives are godly. There’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord to provide material or physical blessing as long your chief desire is to submit to whatever way He chooses to answer your petitions.
When Jesus told His disciples that He would give them anything they requested in His name, He wasn’t talking about passing wants. Christ was entrusting the founding of the church to them, and they needed to know that He would give them whatever was required to accomplish this task. The same is true for us. You can trust that your desires will be granted if they fit into God’s plan for your life.
Confidence in Prayer…
Our loving heavenly Father delights in meeting the needs of His children.
Yesterday we discussed how our prayers are a kind of worship that brings God glory. But that’s not the only reason we are to pray. Bringing our concerns to God helps us grow in dependence on Him and in gratitude for His faithfulness and provisions. As a loving Father, He delights in giving good gifts that assist us in our walk with Him. And in that way, His thoughts, desires, and strength become ours as well.
Prayer also enables us to participate in God’s work in the world. At any given moment, you can pray for anyone anywhere on earth and have confidence that the Lord of the entire universe will hear you and respond in the most effective way possible. What a wonderful privilege it is to be used by God to expand His church and to help fellow believers.
Another reason the Lord bids us to pray is so that our faith in Him will grow. He promises to answer when we ask, seek, and knock. The result may not be in the form we expected, but our heavenly Father always gives us what is right according to His will. If you set aside time daily to talk to Him, you’ll learn firsthand just how faithful He is to His children.
The Right Attitude in Prayer…
Because God knows best, our goal in prayer should be to align our heart with His.
Prayer is a crucial discipline for believers’ spiritual growth. In fact, it’s difficult to mature in Christ without it, because prayer is how we communicate with God and thereby develop a relationship with Him. Furthermore, praying is an act of spiritual worship that brings Him honor.
When we pray to our heavenly Father, we’re acknowledging Him as “the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15). He alone deserves glory, and we ascribe honor to Him when we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Think of this as maintaining a God-ward attitude throughout the day while seeking His wise governance over every detail of our life.
When we approach God, our motives and the condition of our heart are important. The Lord dwells both in “a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). Approaching prayer as a means to get our way doesn’t honor God, nor does it produce petitions that He will answer. Instead, come to the Lord in prayer with a humble, repentant attitude of worship.
Our faith is strengthened when we obey God in challenging situations.
Yesterday we learned about the importance of trusting God’s plan. But sometimes obeying Him isn’t easy. Whenever you face a difficult call, remember Abraham. In today’s passage, he was given one of the greatest tests recorded in the Bible, yet he obeyed willingly and promptly. His response teaches important lessons about yielding to God.
Sometimes obedience collides with human reason. The covenant God set up with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:7) would pass down to Isaac, the child of promise (Gal. 4:28). Yet now the Lord was telling Abraham to sacrifice the boy.
Obedience always requires trust in God. Abraham obeyed because he trusted the Lord to fulfill the promise even if that meant his child would be raised from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19). He told his servants, “I and the boy will go over there; and we will worship and return to you,” indicating they’d both return (Gen. 22:5).
Obedience leaves the outcome to God. Abraham fully expected the Lord to preserve Isaac in order to keep His promise. But it was unexpected that God would provide a ram as a substitute sacrifice (vv. 12-14).
The Lord tests us in order to increase our obedience and faith in Him. Will you count God as trustworthy and yield to Him, or will you rely on your own imperfect human reasoning?
Abraham’s Lesson on Patience…
Seasons of waiting produce spiritual fruit.
Abraham is someone from whom we can learn valuable lessons. Over the course of his life, his faith grew. He came to understand how important trusting God is—and how costly impatience can be.
Abraham learned the hard way that manipulating circumstances can bring heartache. When he and his wife tried to help God out, the immediate result was jealousy, anger, and family strife. There was also a long-term consequence: a bloody conflict that still rages today between the descendants of Hagar’s son Ishmael and Sarah’s son Isaac.
The Lord promised Abraham and Sarah a baby, but they ended up waiting for the fulfillment until childbearing was humanly impossible. When Isaac was finally conceived and born, all the glory went to God.
Have you considered that delays in your life can also glorify God? Or are you trying to help Him out in an attempt to get what you want more quickly? Waiting is difficult, but it’s the only way we learn patience, which is precious to the Lord. When you experience a delay, use it as an opportunity to build your trust in God and your confidence in His wisdom and perfect plan.
Into All the World…
Only the gospel provides the hope every human being needs, and our lives should proclaim it.
Paul described the church as “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The truth it guards, however, cannot stay within its four walls but must be proclaimed to an unbelieving world. Jesus considered this so important that His last words to the apostles were, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
Do you understand how important it is that we obey this command? Many institutions do the important work of feeding the hungry and helping the needy. But the church has the additional, unique calling to share the gospel of Christ. It is the single most important message anyone can hear—God uses the good news of salvation to rescue people from eternal condemnation and transfer them into His kingdom.
The gospel is relevant to every age, need, and season of life. It contains simple truths that the youngest or most uneducated can understand, and it’s superior to all other philosophies and religions. Our message is absolutely sure, with eternal truths that need no correction or alteration. What’s more, it reveals the only path that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you examine the message that your life and words proclaim. Only the gospel of Christ saves.
|2/5/2023||2 Timothy 1:2-6|
Sunday Reflection: An Inheritance of Faith…
Have you thanked God for the people He sent into your life to share His love?
Where does faith come from? For some people, trust in Jesus almost seems genetic—like red hair, a distaste for cilantro, or a quick wit. For others, following the Lord was an unexpected detour from family expectations or cultural traditions.
Salvation is solely the work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, but for most Christians, being born again came about with the help of spiritual “midwives.” These are the Sunday school teachers, parents, evangelists, pastors, friends, and strangers who helped usher unbelievers from death to life.
Write down your spiritual family tree, listing the people who shaped your walk with God. In what ways does your faith look like theirs? What beliefs and behaviors did you inherit from them? Repeat this process, going back as many “generations” as you can, to sketch the fullest picture of your spiritual DNA.
Think about it:
In 2 Timothy 1:2-6, the apostle Paul is writing to a young pastor, but imagine him writing a similar letter to one of your descendants. How would he describe your faith?
Liberated to Live…
We can overcome sinful habits by trusting the Lord to meet our needs and asking Him for strength.
Christ has set believers free from the condemnation of sin, but fighting against it is still a challenge. We can all identify with Paul’s struggle in Romans 7 because we too may feel enslaved to sinful acts, habits, or attitudes. So, how can you enjoy the freedom Christ has won for you?
First, recognize that your problem is spiritual. When you were saved, you received a new nature created in righteousness, holiness, and truth, but you still live in a fleshly, fallen body that’s bent toward sin. That’s why you’re feeling an internal conflict.
Second, examine your motives and desires. Ask yourself, Why do I indulge to the point that I am mastered by this temptation?
Third, cry out to the Lord for help. Fill your mind with biblical truth. Then, believe that the Holy Spirit will enable you to deny your sinful desires and walk in obedience to God.
The Lord is progressively setting you free from the power of sin. Although you will always battle it to some degree in this life, the outcome is certain. After death or when Christ returns, you’ll be completely free from sin and won’t ever struggle with it again.
Living in Bondage…
When we stop listening to the Holy Spirit, the temptation can be strong to meet our needs with sinful options.
Freedom is one of humanity’s most prized treasures. Yet every human being is born in captivity to sin. Jesus said anyone who commits sin is a slave to it (John 8:34). The only way to be set free is if the Lord releases you. Salvation is the permanent liberation spoken about here, but the Savior also continually sets believers free from the sins entangle them.
Ungodly habits typically begin as an attempt to fulfill a desire or need in the wrong way. If feelings of guilt come, we may quickly rationalize them away. Over time, we become desensitized to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and the ongoing trespass becomes a comfort. Eventually it controls us, and we feel powerless to stop.
As believers, however, we’re never without strength, because the Holy Spirit indwells us. With His help, we’re no longer slaves to sin but instead become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:12-19).
Take an honest look at your life. Are there any habits that own you? If so, it’s time to fight the good fight. As you submit yourself in obedience to God, He’ll begin to set you free.
|2/2/2023||1 Corinthians 3:5-9|
Sowing Spiritual Seeds…
Be watchful today so you can notice opportunities to influence others for God.
Think about everything that contributed to your salvation story. It’s probably not possible to count all the spiritual seeds God used to draw you to the Savior. And most likely, some of the people who sowed them never saw the outcome.
It’s important to recognize the value and cumulative effect of how others have worked to expand the kingdom. When we do, we then realize our own opportunity: We can sow spiritual seeds in the lives of friends, coworkers, children, grandchildren, and even strangers. God uses what we plant and leads others to spread further seed or water the ground, but He alone causes the growth.
When you display Christlike qualities and sow truth into others’ lives, God feeds their spirit, changes their heart, enlarges their spiritual understanding, and increases their desire to live for Him. Whether or not you ever see the results, the Lord is using you to accomplish His will.
God is interested in more than the big things His children do for Him. He also sees all the small ways believers try to influence others for Christ. He values quiet manifestations of the fruit of His Spirit, for which no credit or praise is expected. Your love, kindness, patience, gentleness, and self-control are seeds that impact others.
|2/1/2023||2 Corinthians 4:1-18|
The Fruit of Perseverance…
Don’t underestimate the impact of your faithfulness on future generations.
The apostle Paul often wrote about perseverance. If anyone demonstrated endurance, it was Paul. He urged believers not to tire of following Christ, even when persecuted. He’d been beaten, stoned, whipped, driven out of town, shipwrecked, reviled, and abandoned. Despite having a thousand reasons to be disheartened, he knew his obedience to God wasn’t in vain.
Consider the awesome harvest that resulted from the apostle’s faithfulness. The gospel spread across the Roman Empire, and the early church grew far beyond the Jewish world. What’s more, the seeds Paul planted by writing his epistles have resulted in billions of lives being transformed. And to think that any strength or insight we draw from these letters is fruit of the hardships he endured!
Do you realize how impactful your life is? Don’t be deceived by Satan’s lie that your suffering or obedience will amount to nothing. Your faithfulness to God never goes to waste. Paul didn’t know the extent of the fruit God would produce through his steadfast obedience. Neither can you gauge how the Lord will use you. So don’t lose heart. Keep your focus on eternal things, not the hardships of this life.
Go to the Ant…
God tells us in His Word that we can learn much from His creation.
God is a masterful Creator. He has integrated many of His principles into the fabric of nature so we can learn about Him by observing His handiwork (Psalm 19:1-6). If you desire wisdom, look outdoors for His lessons.
Of course, the outdoors sometimes comes inside. If you have ever battled ants in your kitchen or pantry, wisdom probably isn’t the first trait you’d attribute to them—you would likely choose a description more like determination. But to the lazy person, God points out these tiny creatures as an example of wise living. Simply consider how many characteristics of the ant would be smart for people to adopt: preparation, cooperation, perseverance, diligence, unity, and the list goes on. So, interacting with righteous men isn’t the only way to acquire wisdom. God also wants us to observe the lowly ant, which He designed to work in community.
There’s much to learn from the created world. Our quest for wisdom is to be rooted in Scripture and covered in prayer. But don’t overlook the many lessons unfolding right outside the front door. Ask God for eyes that truly see (Mark 8:18). Then take every chance to grow in understanding so your capacity to live by His principles will be strengthened.
How to Acquire Wisdom
The immense rewards of wisdom make pursuing it well worth the effort.
Knowledge may be a prized commodity in the world, but what the Lord values is wisdom (Proverbs 8:11). He wants us to see life from His viewpoint and evaluate everything according to biblical principles.
So how do we gain wisdom? The obvious answer is that we must pursue it. Too often, however, people who say they want to be wise do little to actually make that happen.
The first place to look for wisdom is the Bible. There, we are told to pay attention to God’s life-giving words and hold His commands in our heart (Proverbs 4:20-22). Another source of wisdom is the counsel of godly men and women (Proverbs 12:15); God brings fellow believers into our life to offer biblical advice, encouragement, or reproof. In fact, according to that same verse, those who ignore the words of a righteous person are labeled “fool.” So surround yourself with other followers of Christ who pursue what the Lord values.
Our heavenly Father ensures that those who seek wisdom will find it (Prov. 8:12, Proverbs 8:17). Diligent believers will discover they possess abundant treasure: In addition to godly insight, they’ll have knowledge, discernment, and prudence—rare riches in the modern world and indispensable tools for furthering God’s kingdom.
|1/29/2023||1 John 4:8|
Sunday Reflection: Ready and Waiting
God already loves you, and He always will–no matter what you’ve done or will do.
Can you think of a pivotal moment that led to your relationship with Jesus? Most of us can name a special person or set of circumstances that helped us get to know Him. Or perhaps you’re reading this out of curiosity, and you don’t know Him at all. Regardless of what state your relationship with God is in, the fact remains: He loves you and will never give up on you.
Paul writes, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And John explains that the Lord doesn’t just love us, but He Himself is love (1 John 4:8). In other words, God doesn’t have to try to love or talk Himself into loving us—it’s simply who He is.
No matter what we do, even if it involves deliberate sin against Him or drifting away in apathy, God won’t ever cease to be merciful and loving. He’ll never stop showing up, leaning in, and inviting us to the abundant life found only in Him—a life of peace, freedom, and joy. Whatever you were and are, God has great plans for what you will be, and He’s here for you.
Think about it:
Take a moment to imagine God’s open hand reaching out to you. How do you want to respond to Him?
|1/28/2023||1 Corinthians 12:12-13|
Do We Really Need One Another?
Our wise Father has uniquely created each believer for a needed role in the local church.
As believers, we are called to worship and serve God. Where and how we serve is based upon our talents, skills, and calling. But we are all expected to give of ourselves in the local church.
When you were saved, God baptized you by the Holy Spirit into His church. You then chose, in accordance with the Lord’s will, to become part of a group of believers. He placed you there because He knows that you are needed (1 Corinthians 12:18). You are significant to your home church.
The church is more than a community. It’s an interdependent body with individual members who were created by God to function in communion with one another. Christians, like the world at large, are a diverse group, so we won’t always agree with each other. That means we have to pursue unity. But our differences are actually something to be celebrated, because each person uniquely contributes to God’s purpose. A church that is truly operating as a unit—with all its varied gifts, talents, personalities, and intellects aimed toward kingdom goals—must be a beautiful sight from the Lord’s perspective.
Christianity isn’t a spectator religion. We all have jobs to do in God’s kingdom. The body of Christ functions best and most beautifully when all members serve God and each other to the best of their ability (1 Corinthians 12:25). How are you serving your church?
The Greater Purpose of Blessings…
God wants to work through you to impact the lives of others.
It is God’s nature to bless. However, we need to understand that His ultimate goal encompasses far more than just our happiness, protection, and prosperity. In fact, it is never the Lord’s intention for His blessings to end with us. Rather, He wants them to flow out to others as part of His plan for the whole earth.
As we can see in today’s psalm, the Lord blesses us so that His salvation, ways, and justice may be known to everyone (vv. 1-4, 7). He is always acting with this larger picture in mind—even while working personally in our individual life.
Knowing this should fill us with an awesome yet humbling sense of significance. Every believer has a part in helping others to know and understand the one true God. Each blessing He gives not only benefits us personally but is also intended to help others.
We should keep in mind, though, that the Lord at times withholds things we want, because they don’t contribute to His higher purpose. But if we’re willing to submit to His plans, we will position ourselves to be used greatly by Him.
When the Lord blesses you, He’s not only doing something for you; He’s also doing something in and through you to affect others’ lives. Ask God how to use His kindnesses to point people to Him.
The Blessings of God…
God’s gifts provide eternal security, hope, and joy—even when circumstances seem bleak.
We all face difficult times, and when we’re in the midst of them, we may feel as though God isn’t blessing us. But even in the midst of hard times, we experience many of His amazing gifts; we just have to open our eyes to them. Below are several examples of blessings that we can enjoy on bright or dark days:
• We are assured that our almighty God chose us before the foundation of the world and predestined us to be adopted as His children (Eph. 1:4-5).
• Jesus Christ redeemed us, providing salvation through His death and resurrection (v. 7). As a result, believers receive a brand-new nature and daily forgiveness (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 1:9).
• The Holy Spirit resides within all who trust in the Savior. He guides, warns, and fills us so we are never without counsel or comfort. He also seals us so that our eternity is secure (Eph. 1:13).
• Our Father prepares an inheritance for us that is imperishable (1 Peter 1:4). We may experience momentary troubles, but we can look forward to living eternally in God’s presence, where there is joy and no suffering.
In painful situations, it may be easy to feel as if God’s hand is not resting on your life. But believers have wonderful spiritual blessings at all times. So express gratitude, even in difficulty.
Though we may not always understand God and His ways, we can find encouragement in His goodness to us.
For the believer, discouragement can come in many forms, but Satan is usually the instigator. He wants to keep our focus on negative things instead of on God.
One form of spiritual discouragement is subtle—the idea that we cannot please the Lord. If you were to write down everything you thought you must do to please God, how long would the list be before it was complete? You might assume you should read the Bible more, pray more, give more, witness more. All of us could probably fill both sides of our paper. But then we’d realize it’s impossible to consistently accomplish every task on the list. That’s the trap. What pleases the Lord is our obedience, not our adherence to a long checklist of duties.
Another source is unanswered prayer. God does not necessarily answer in the manner we want or with the timing we would prefer. When that happens, we might want to give up on prayer or even on the Lord Himself.
Next time you’re feeling disheartened, turn your focus to God and pray three things aloud: Thank Him for being with you through the discouragement, admit He’s in control of your life, and acknowledge that He loves you and is working circumstances for good.
Walking Away From God…
Our heavenly Father will always lovingly and joyfully welcome repentant wanderers.
When we insist on going our own way, God will let us—much like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Our heavenly Father will not force us to remain with Him. So, what happens if we move outside of God’s plan?
Our fellowship with the Father is significantly affected. The prodigal son was no longer in close contact with his dad; their relationship was not as important to him as it once had been. If we wander from the Lord, we will also experience a disconnect with our heavenly Father.
Our resources—time, talent, and treasure—are wasted. The wayward son squandered his money on frivolous things and ended up worse off than the laborers at his father’s house. In the same way, God gives us spiritual gifts, resources, and guidance to build His kingdom, but pursuing our own plan wastes what He has given us.
Our deepest needs go unmet. Chasing after dreams that don’t align with God’s will lead to discontent. Only in Christ can we find true fulfillment.
Poor choices have consequences, but they need not dictate our future. Our heavenly Father never gives up on his children. He will welcome us with great joy and love when we turn back to Him.
Becoming a Prodigal…
In a world that lures us to always want more, we can easily drift into a self-centered mindset.
How did the Prodigal Son’s journey begin? Perhaps he wanted to leave behind the restrictions that come with living under a parent’s roof. Or maybe he wanted money to pursue life’s pleasures with friends. Whatever the case, the prodigal son’s desire emboldened him to prematurely ask for his inheritance and then to abandon home and the things he’d been taught.
A Christian who has turned away from God might follow a similar path. First, we begin with a craving for something other than what we have. The longer we allow the idea to linger, the stronger our desire is to have it—and we eventually find ways to justify what we want. Then, based on that faulty reasoning, we move toward our own self-centered goals. Like the wayward son, we may enjoy the pleasures of the world for a time, but ultimately, we will find ourselves lacking certain essentials: unconditional love, security, and a meaningful purpose for living.
We should understand the reality of our situation: You and I are up against an active Enemy, a world that doesn’t value God, and our own tendency to prefer pleasure over obedience. If we want to avoid self-deception, we must make Scripture the basis for our thought life and choices (Romans 12:2).
|1/22/2023||Sunday Reflection: Staying Close to God…|
Sometimes we may feel far away from our Father, but nothing can alter our relationship with Him.
A devastating event can certainly strain how we see our relationship with God, but sometimes it’s the everyday grind and goings-on—the mundane things—that most distract us. Yet there’s no need to spiral into shame about the struggle to remain aware of (and present with) Him. In fact, it’s often in the stuff of daily life that we best learn how to maintain a rich connection with the Lord. And when nothing else is helping, we have the gift of His creation to lead our hearts home.
Remember that there’s nothing wrong with struggling to stay focused—we all go through days, weeks, or seasons where connecting feels a little harder. Instead of concentrating on our frustrations and failures, we can choose instead to nurture gratitude in our heart. Connecting with God’s Word daily positions us to hear from Him. And let’s be watchful for the many opportunities our loving Father provides for us to practice knowing Him better.
Think about it:
Isaiah 40:11 says, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them in the fold of His robe; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” What do you enjoy about this description of God?
|1/21/2023||1 Timothy 1:12-17|
Grace on Display…
Even the worst of sinners is welcome to receive God’s extravagant mercy and love.
Paul described himself as the worst of sinners and as someone to whom the Lord had expressed His favor and love (1 Tim. 1:16 NIV). How could he be both? That’s the power of God’s grace: Though sinners, we become spiritually alive and receive a new purpose for living.
After Paul met the Savior, he cared deeply about those who did not yet know God, and he also desired to help Christians grow in their faith. For the rest of his life, he shared the gospel, encouraged fellow believers, and met the needs of others. He acted as God’s ambassador to the Gentiles, and his letters became biblical wisdom for future generations.
Through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, Paul began to display more and more Christlike qualities. In his writings, we see compassion, great humility, and appreciation for God’s blessings. Only the grace of God could enable a well-educated and influential man to count all his credentials a “loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
Paul’s life is an example of God working through sinners and transforming them. The Holy Spirit seeks to do the same for you and me. Are you allowing God’s favor and love to work within you?
Life Before Grace…
Whether pursuing sin or goodness, people are without hope apart from Christ.
Grace is the unmerited love that God shows to sinful people. He expressed this love through the sacrificial death of His Son, and it becomes ours when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. Because of grace, we are forgiven by God and adopted into His family.
Today’s passage describes our life before grace—when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. This means that every one of us is born with no spiritual life, numb to the things of God. Our nature leans away from the Lord and instead toward ourselves and the ways of the world.
Before encountering grace, Saul of Tarsus (later known as the apostle Paul) was very religious but blind to God’s perspective and plan. He actively opposed those who followed Christ (Acts 26:9-11). With a goal of destroying the church, he sought to eradicate the Christian faith, which he deemed false. He continued persecuting believers until he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6). There he surrendered his will to the Lord and became a true follower of Christ.
Like Paul, some people are religious and yet lack a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Does that describe you? God offers every one of us grace and salvation today through faith in Him.
Training in Godliness
Loving parents teach their children that there are consequences for disobedience.
As Christian parents, we desire to help our children mature into godly men and women. We want them to trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior and to realize God has a plan for them and they are accountable to Him.
I remember teaching my children from a young age about these truths because I wanted biblical principles to shape their thinking and choices. If kids think their only accountability is to parents, then when they’re apart from Mom and Dad, they’re likely to think they don’t have to answer to anyone.
Protecting children through discipline is another aspect of godly parenting. When this is done with love, it helps them understand the wisdom of God’s boundaries and the importance of self-control. They need to know that there are painful consequences for disobedience, whether to parents or to the Lord.
Training in godliness should begin early in a child’s life, even before he or she understands God’s plan of salvation. Then as our children grow, we should continue teaching them the truths of Scripture and interceding for them. Let’s never stop modeling righteousness or encouraging our sons and daughters in their relationship with God.
Training Our Children
Intentional parenting can influence generations for Christ.
We can’t afford to overlook children or to think of them as unimportant; they are the future. Girls and boys are always observing the behavior of the adults in their lives, which means we have a wonderful opportunity to be examples of godliness and influence them for Christ.
We start by investing our time. Whether it’s through outdoor activities, reading together, or playing games, we’re modeling Christian living. As we listen to them closely, we’ll understand the way they think and the struggles they face. Then we can offer scriptural guidance to influence them toward righteousness. By sharing something of our past and admitting our mistakes, we’re making it easier for them to identify with us and accept our counsel.
Showing children God’s love is a great way to help them grow in godliness. Although we can’t do this perfectly, each time we love them unselfishly and unconditionally, we’re helping them realize how much the heavenly Father loves them.
Born-again parents, family members, teachers, and friends can all help to raise godly Christ-followers. So whether it’s at home or in your neighborhood or church family, look for opportunities to spend time with children. Listen to what’s on their heart, and demonstrate Christ’s love for them. You may influence a young life for the Lord.
|1/17/2023||2 Corinthians 11:2-3|
How to Set Right Priorities
What actions are you taking to live out what you believe?
The Scriptures contain many cautionary examples of people who had misplaced priorities. This should give every believer pause: Take a moment to consider the importance of taking captive wrong thoughts and desires that could lead away from “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
For good purposes or bad, we usually set priorities in one of three ways: by evaluating which things are most important to us; by letting people or circumstances influence what we value; or by drifting into habits and thought patterns that become a way of life. But no matter how we determine priorities, they’ll be misplaced unless we take into account how God wants us to live and what’s most important to Him.
In order to remain steadfast for Christ we must prioritize deliberately, or we will miss the mark. Those things of greatest importance to the Lord should be in place before circumstances, our own desires, or other people tempt us to waver.
Since devotion to Christ is of utmost importance, we must set goals in accordance with God’s Word. Self-discipline is also needed because living purposefully is rarely easy. Keeping Christ first makes it harder for other pursuits and pleasures to distract us.
When our top priority is to please God with our life, we can expect treasure in heaven.
Jesus’ parable of the foolish wealthy man is a study in misplaced priorities. The man neglected God and spent his life greedily accumulating treasure for himself on earth. Then he died with no opportunity to enjoy his goods. But worse than that, he died with a bankrupt soul.
Serving the Lord is the key to setting goals that will benefit us eternally. The question we ought to ask is not What shall I do? but, rather, What does God want me to do? The answer—which should be prayerfully sought and biblically evaluated—dictates which things we must put first to please the Lord.
Life isn’t something that simply happens to us. Where we are today is largely determined by the priorities we set previously. This means we can also begin the process of re-evaluating them according to biblical guidelines and changing those that are misplaced.
What do you prioritize in life? There’s nothing wrong with having earthly plans and goals, but we should also store up treasure in heaven, which can never be lost. Our top priority should be to live a life that honors the Lord.
Sunday Reflection: Together Again
Because of Jesus, believers look forward to an eternal home with the Father in paradise.
We might think of Eden as the infamous place of mankind’s ultimate failure. But what happened there didn’t just ruin humanity’s track record—it also severed our relationship with God. Before Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17), they existed in perfect union with the Lord. They walked with Him freely, unhindered in their ability to receive His love and love Him in return (Genesis 1:26-31). That’s hard to picture, isn’t it?
Imagine the grief they experienced in leaving their first home, as God expelled them from the garden and sealed its entrance. The gates of that earthly paradise closed forever. The thought of it would be unbearable if it weren’t for what God did— He so wanted to be with us that He sent His only Son to die on the cross and rescue us from sin and death. Jesus Himself became the door to paradise, restoring our relationship with the Father for all eternity.
Think about it:
Read Isaiah 43:1-7. According to this passage, why does God want to be in relationship with you?
God’s Great Providence
Even when we don’t understand the mind of God, we can trust the heart of God.
I was signing books one day when a young man came forward for an autograph. He told me he had been on the verge of killing himself but then heard me speaking on television about suicide. After listening, he laid the gun down and dedicated his life to Jesus Christ.
I’ve heard similar stories of the Lord’s intervention in other lives. God does this by leading a person to the gospel. The messenger isn’t responsible for the individual’s salvation. Only God can draw someone to Himself, transform a heart, and change a sinner into a saint.
The world talks about accidents, luck, and fate, but all these terms imply we’re victims of circumstance. The truth is, God is sovereign, and the entire world is under His control. Anything that enters our life—whether it’s blessing or trial—comes because the Lord has a use for it in His plan, which is always for our good.
Sometimes we wonder why God doesn’t put an end to our troubles and hardships; He has the power to do so. But He’s working every event in our life according to the counsel of His will. We won’t understand it all until we see Him in glory. So until then, we must trust Him and His good purposes.
God’s Greatness: A Source of Comfort
The Lord is bigger than any problem you face today.
Never take God’s greatness for granted, as it’s a source of comfort for all who take refuge in Him. The Lord is immeasurably beyond us in all ways, yet He says, “I dwell in a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). If you’re a Christian, He’s your refuge, sustainer, and protector.
Comfort and strength for life come as you dwell on God’s amazing attributes.
He is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12). Even when you feel isolated or friendless, you’re not alone. In fact, after placing trust in Jesus, you’ve never been apart from God for so much as a single moment.
God’s understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5). He knows everything, including your feelings and needs. You may not understand what’s going on in your life, but the Lord knows and will give the strength and guidance you need.
The Lord never changes (Malachi 3:6). Since His character is constant, you can always trust that He will be faithful, gracious, and merciful to you in every situation.
When we recall the greatness of God and meditate on His attributes, our problems become smaller, the Lord becomes greater, and His comfort surrounds and sustains us.
|1/12/2023||1 John 5:14-15|
Pray With Confidence
We can trust God to answer with what is best, even when it’s not what we requested.
Prayer is the Christian’s most powerful God-given means for effecting change. Yet we’re often unsure whether the Lord will answer our appeals. Today’s verses assure us that He hears and grants our petitions when they’re in accordance with His will. But knowing God’s will can seem perplexing—we aren’t always sure whether our requests fit that condition.
Here’s what we do know: Anything that God commands us in the Scriptures is His will. This includes everything pertaining to our sanctification, holiness, and spiritual growth (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). And there are other attitudes and behaviors God forbids in His Word. For example, we can’t expect Him to answer any request motivated by pride, jealousy, selfish ambition, or sinful desires (James 4:3-5). As for insignificant matters (like what to wear or eat) or issues of conscience, such things are left to our discretion (Romans 14:1-23).
But what about petitions that don’t fit these categories? When we’re uncertain whether our request is according to God’s will, we must submit it Him, release our grip on the outcome we want, and trust the Lord to answer rightly. Remember, our confidence is not in the answer we want, but in the God whose knowledge, wisdom, and power are perfect, infinite, and eternal.
Pray Without Losing Heart
Don’t be discouraged when God’s answers don’t come as quickly as you want—He is up to something good.
One of the most difficult aspects of prayer is perseverance. Not only do our newly made commitments to be more consistent often fail; our willingness to continue petitioning the Lord also tends to wane with time when answers aren’t forthcoming. But God’s promise to answer His children’s prayers hasn’t proven false—even if we don’t see results as soon as we hoped.
The Lord, who is sovereign over heaven and earth, works everything according to His purposes. With our limited human understanding, we don’t always know whether our petitions fit God’s plan or timetable. But whether He grants our requests or not, we can be certain that His way and timing are always best and for our good.
It’s in the wait that the Lord accomplishes spiritual work in our life—training us to trust Him in the delays, rest in His wisdom to decide what’s best, and persevere in prayer as He commands. To demand immediate answers to our requests would be to act like spiritual toddlers. The ability to wait is a sign of maturity, and that’s what God desires for us. So keep praying, be patient, and persevere, because in the process, you’re becoming more like Christ.
Persistence in Prayer
God is delighted to answer the prayers of believers who earnestly seek His will.
The privilege of prayer rests on our relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Only those who have been born again are members of God’s family (John 3:3-6)—they can claim Him as their Father and know He will respond to their supplications. He makes no such commitment to unbelievers. The one exception is the sinner who comes in repentance and faith to ask for forgiveness and receive Christ as Savior and Lord.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses three verbs to describe prayer: ask, seek, and knock. Notice the progression in intensity from a simple request to an intensive search and then to deliberate action. Prayer is more than merely making requests of God. It involves seeking His will to guide our entreaties. And it also includes the more physical action of exploring options to help determine the Lord’s mind. When we make efforts to pray this way, God will give an answer, show us His will, and open the door that leads to His good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
Instead of trying various methods of prayer prescribed in books or the media, ask the Lord to teach you to pray the way Jesus modeled. Then put into practice what you learn, and wait in assurance for His answer.
Idols in the Life of the Believer
Until we fully trust the Lord to meet our every need, we’ll be tempted by other gods.
Idolatry isn’t limited to the past but is still prevalent today in various forms. Many religions worship false gods—some with tangible images and some without. But idolatry is actually a matter of the heart, so it is possible for believers to sin in this way. That’s why John says, “Guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
If we treasure anything or anyone above the Lord, we’re practicing idolatry to one degree or another. What we value most is often revealed by the amount of time we devote to it, the sacrifices we make for it, and the money we spend on it. Idols distract us from wholehearted devotion to God and deceive us into thinking satisfaction and fulfillment are found in them rather than in Him.
Ridding ourselves of idols of the heart will be futile until we learn to value the Lord more than anything or anyone else. It’s like playing Whack a Mole. As soon as we push one idol down, another pops up. The key to overcoming idolatry is learning to develop greater love and understanding of the one true God through His Word. When He is the ultimate desire of our soul, all other gods will be pushed out of our heart.
Sunday Reflection: The Best Offering
Have you given God your whole heart, or are you offering Him substitutes?
The prophet Hosea spoke a condemning word to the nation of Israel at a time when they were prospering. In fact, the Israelites were so successful, and so diligent in offering sacrifices to God, that they began to rely on Him less and less—and more on themselves. That’s what prompted the Lord to speak through Hosea: “For I desire loyalty rather than sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).
Jesus echoes this phrase later in the company of Pharisees, saying, “Now go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). Though Christians don’t offer animal sacrifices to the Lord, we can be tempted to think in a similar way about our good deeds, sound theology, and hours logged in church. But what God wants from us is our very selves—He values our trust and reliance more than anything else we might offer Him.
Think about it:
What is something you typically “offer” to God? Consider setting it aside this week. How can you genuinely connect with Him apart from that?
The Risk of Faith
God empowers and equips every believer who trusts Him enough to act on His Word.
Sometimes obeying the Lord feels as if we’re taking a chance. Like Peter, we may find ourselves in a precarious situation, overcome by fear. Although life is filled with uncertainties, biblical truths never change. As we focus on them, we’ll be able to obey with confidence—not in our desired outcome, but in the Lord’s faithfulness.
We can count on God being with us. It’s impossible for believers to live a single day without His presence because our relationship with Him through our Savior Jesus Christ is a permanent one (Heb. l3:5). God’s love for us is deep and abiding, and His promises are sure. When He calls us to leave our “comfort zone,” we can obey because He’s there at our side.
God’s enabling power is ours. The Holy Spirit gives us divine strength to do what the Father says. Obedience isn’t achieved by self-effort but by complete dependence on the Lord. His grace is sufficient for every situation, and His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Is there something God wants you to do that you’re resisting? The Lord has provided everything you need in order to obey. So fix your eyes on Him, and step out in faith.
Facing danger with the Lord is always better than seeking safety apart from Him.
Do you like playing it safe, or are you more adventurous in your choices? Many Christians don’t like risk because the outcome is uncertain and may involve loss or other unwanted results. From a human viewpoint, eliminating potential harm makes sense. But for Christians, uncertainty is part of walking by faith. There are times when obedience may seem risky to us, but from God’s perspective, there’s no danger since He controls all things and never fails to accomplish His purposes.
The Bible tells of real people who obeyed the Lord in unpredictable situations. One of them is Ananias, a disciple sent by God to minister to the newly converted Saul. Ananias risked his life by visiting this notorious opponent of Christianity. Saul, too, lived with risk after his conversion, facing peril almost every day of his life as he obediently preached the same gospel that he’d previously opposed. By focusing on God, His character, and His promises, both of these men obeyed despite uncertainty and were used greatly by the Lord.
Where is God calling you to trust Him? Remember, each time you face risk, it’s an opportunity to experience His faithfulness firsthand.
|1/5/2023||2 Corinthians 5:14-21|
The Believer’s Transformation
The Holy Spirit is gradually shaping believers into people who live and love like Christ.
The metamorphosis of a crawly caterpillar is amazing. It disappears into a chrysalis created from its own body, and before long a delicate and graceful winged butterfly emerges.
Our change at the moment of salvation is even more radical and miraculous. From a death-bound, sinful, depraved heart, God brings about a brand-new creature—one that’s forgiven and made righteous, in whom His Holy Spirit takes up residence.
But if we’ve been miraculously transformed after trusting Christ as Savior, why do we still struggle with sin? The answer is that even though we now have a new nature that’s “been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24), we remain in fallen fleshly bodies, which are subject to sin. As long as we’re on earth, there will be an ongoing battle between the Spirit and the flesh.
Throughout our life, God is conforming us to the likeness of His Son. His indwelling Spirit helps us combat sin and teaches us to live righteously. This process, called sanctification, is something that will last until we’re called home to heaven. Thankfully, as we yield to the Spirit, our behavior and thinking will be transformed as well.
From Condemnation to Reconciliation.
On the cross, Jesus paid for our wrongs so we can have a relationship with God.
Separation, rejection, and alienation are unpleasant experiences. We usually try to avoid these at all costs, but in a fallen world, we can’t totally escape them. Isolation from other people is bad enough, but alienation from the Lord is much worse—it’s tragic.
Yet as vital as our relationship with God is to our well-being, something stands in its way. In our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior, we’ve all violated His commands and holy standard (Romans 3:23). This is known as sin, and its penalty—death—means eternal separation from the Lord (Romans 6:23).
What a bleak outlook for mankind! But the Father solved this dilemma by sending His Son to pay our penalty. Fully God and fully man, Jesus lived the perfect life, took all our iniquity upon Himself, and died a gruesome death on the cross. No longer are we condemned for our wrongs, because Christ paid our penalty for sin and gave us His righteousness.
Salvation, which is available to anyone who believes in Jesus and receives God’s remarkable gift of grace, results in reconciliation to the Father. In this way, faith in Christ puts an end to our alienation and condemnation—and opens the door to eternal life with God.
We Have a Trustworthy Guide.
Jesus will lead us through life’s joys and sorrows—and into eternity.
In my office is a print of the Lord Jesus standing behind a young man and pointing ahead. Jesus’ hand is on the man’s shoulder, and I imagine Him saying, “This is the way we’re going. I’ll get you to the destination.” Although the road will be marked with both joy and suffering, the Lord leads His followers all the way to their eternal home.
It takes honesty to admit that we’re ill-equipped to go through life alone—in our own strength, limited knowledge, and human reasoning, we simply cannot be sure our decisions are wise. Thankfully, the Lord is willing and able to guide us if we’ll let Him. To fall in step with God, follow His lead by regularly spending time in His Word and applying biblical principles in your life.
For those of us who follow the Lord, eternity in heaven lies just beyond our last heartbeat. And that’s where our Savior is leading us. The path may not be clear to our eyes, but Jesus is guiding us there with a steady and sure hand. Our part is to follow in obedience so that when we reach heaven, we’ll hear the Father say, “Well done” (Matthew 25:21).
The Path of Life.
Life is uncertain, but if we listen to the Lord, He’ll guide us and give us His strength for the road ahead.
The future is an untraveled trail with complex twists and turns. Appealing activities can be detours that lead away from the Lord, and engaging philosophies are paths that often end in a mire of muddled thinking. Even the best route isn’t all sun-dappled meadows and quiet riverside lanes. At times we’ll journey over rugged terrain or through dark valleys. The only way to be sure we’re walking on the right path is to follow one who knows the way.
God is your perfect Guide for life, who lovingly and intentionally created you for this time and place. He watches over your steps and teaches you His paths as revealed in His Word. What’s more, He is the Comforter, who promises to walk by your side so you never face life’s challenges alone.
The Lord knows the path before you, and if you’ll humble yourself and reverence Him, He will give instructions about the way you should choose. Because He sees every discouraging obstacle and entrapping temptation, He wants to guard your steps so you won’t stumble off course. Decide to trust Him and pursue His will rather than what might feel good or look right. Then you’ll be on your way to the destination of blessing.
|1/1/2023||Turn Your Attention:|
The believer’s primary focus should be on knowing and loving God, not on merely following rules.
The Gospel of John tells us about a group of Pharisees who want to stone a woman accused of adultery (John 8:3-11). The men are so focused on the technicalities of the law that they fail to understand why the law exists in the first place: to help human beings know and experience God. If their hearts weren’t so hardened, they might have discovered that the law is fulfilled not by punishing wrongs but by love (Romans 13:8 NIV).
When Jesus tells the woman that she is free of condemnation, He does so having sympathized with her every weakness (Hebrews 4:15-16); He has compassion regarding all the trials she’s faced and knows each detail of her background (Psalm 139:1-24). He is a Savior of infinite understanding.
When we redirect our attention from rule-following to God Himself, we discover both His true character and His will for us. And like this woman, we encounter a God full of mercy and grace—one we’re eager to love.
Think about it:
Today is a good day to focus your attention on God and remember what you love about Him. Read Psalm 139. What stands out to you?
Let the Spirit Control Your Mind.
Our toughest battles are fought with the person we face in the mirror.
How we think determines how we will behave, so we must learn to think of ourselves the way God does—as new creations no longer under sin’s mastery. We can be “more than conquerors” regardless of our previous sins (Rom. 8:37 NIV).
We also need to recognize the enemy’s lies and fight back with God’s truth that declares Christ’s Spirit is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4). We’re to focus our mind on things that matter spiritually (Philippians 4:8) so we’ll learn to distinguish between what fits us as believers and what does not. Finally, we must choose what is suitable and reject what is ungodly. The longer we are Spirit-led, the more sensitive we’ll become to His warnings about temptation. Not only that, but we’ll be better prepared to win the battle for our thought life.
The Spirit-filled life starts with the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who receive Christ as Savior. As we choose to place ourselves under the Spirit’s control, His divine power is released into our life. For our part, diligence is needed to resist temptation and maintain our surrendered state. So trade in your “independent mind,” and experience the victories God gives to those who are Spirit-filled.
God sees and rewards every act of obedience, no matter how small it may seem.
At first glance, the final verses of Colossians seem to have little theological impact. Most of the people listed here, with the exception of Luke and Mark, are unfamiliar. We could easily dismiss these verses, skipping over them to delve into 1 Thessalonians. But these verses carry the subtle message that no ministry is unimportant.
For instance, Tychicus, the first mentioned, played an incredible role—wherever he appears in Scripture, he is running errands for Paul (Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12). Thanks to this man, the Colossian epistle traveled over 1,300 miles to its destination, then moved from church to church to be read repeatedly and copied. Without Paul’s conscientious assistant, modern believers might not have this valuable letter.
We tend to judge types of service as important or unimportant. Too often pride inhibits our approval of a particular ministry. We want a big, impressive job to prove to everyone how much we love God. However, what the Lord desires is the exact opposite: He wants our love to motivate us to do anything He asks, no matter how insignificant or unnoticeable it may seem.
What is God asking you to do that you are resisting? Repent of your pride and humble yourself to do all that He desires. None of God’s work is unimportant.
When we discover our God-given purpose, life becomes a fulfilling and joy-filled adventure.
When we place trust in Jesus, God doesn’t take us straight to heaven. Instead, He leaves us here on earth and gives each of us a ministry to carry out with Christ’s all-sufficient power.
God has specifically designed a place of service to fit our personality, gifts, and abilities. He also equips and strengthens us to be able to meet the challenges of that calling. The believer’s responsibility is to obey with joy.
Too many Christians approach ministry with stingy hearts, investing as few hours as possible so that they can return to work or personal pursuits. But our jobs don’t own us; neither do we belong to ourselves. We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father God, and as such, we honor Him first.
If people were here only to work a job, pay bills, and have a few laughs, no one would ever enjoy long-term fulfillment. But believers find peace and joy in serving God every day according to His call. As today’s passage says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (v. 10). That is the only way to end well.
May we live with the freedom, peace, and joy Jesus died to give us!
Throughout life, there will be times when our sins and failures might lead us to conclude that God is disappointed or angry with us. When that happens, we need to fix our eyes on the truth of Scripture and ask the questions Paul posed in Romans 8:
• “If God is for us, who is against us?” (v. 31). Our heavenly Father proved His loyalty to mankind when He delivered His own Son over to death in order to save us.
• “Who will bring charges against God’s elect?” (v. 33). No accusation against us can stand, since at the moment of salvation, the Lord justified us. This means we were legally declared righteous, while still in our sinful condition. No one can reverse this transaction and make us guilty again.
• “Who is the one who condemns?” (v. 34). Although Satan rails against us, Jesus’ death and resurrection are proof that we are right with God. Christ took our condemnation and gave us His righteousness in return. Now He sits at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us.
When doubts about the Lord’s love and faithfulness arise, focus on truth. If we judge His loyalty to us by our circumstances or feelings, we will never get an accurate view of God. True security lies not in our good performance but in our relationship with Christ, and no one can take that from us.
Untold blessings await those who pay attention to our Father’s voice.
The Lord wants us to pay attention to Him, but sometimes we ignore His voice and miss His blessings. Learning to listen to God is as important as learning to talk to Him—if not more so. Generally, we find it much easier to rattle off a prayer than to sit quietly and wait to hear what He has to say.
Since two-way conversation is essential in developing a relationship, being able to hear the Lord’s voice is a vital part of the Christian life. Sometimes we have the notion that after being saved, we just automatically know Him. But that is not true in any kind of relationship. Just as we grow to know another person through communication, so we become more intimately acquainted with God through listening and talking to Him.
Not only do we need ears to hear His voice; we also must have discernment to accurately understand what He is saying. Being grounded in the Scriptures sharpens our discernment and protects us from deception.
Have you ever considered that neglect of God’s Word is a rejection of Him? The Lord continually calls out, “Oh that My people would listen to Me” (Ps. 81:13). He is ready and willing to speak to those who will humble themselves, take the time to listen, and respond obediently to whatever He says.
Peace can be yours if you determine to know and obey God.
Allowing ourselves to dwell on stressful things like war, economic crisis, and tragedy invites anxiety. But the Lord has a better way. Jesus assured us that though we would face difficulty, we could rest in Him (John 16:33). However, we cannot trust someone we don’t know. For this reason, we should seek to find out who God is.
Truths from Scripture are a good place to start. The Bible tells us God is our Lord and Master. He is omnipresent, omniscient, faithful, and powerful. He loves unconditionally and offers forgiveness to all who trust His Son as Savior. The Lord adopts believers as His own children and wants the best for every Christian’s life—so much so that He chastises us when we disobey. And He desires that we love Him above everyone and everything else.
Knowing these facts is only the beginning. As in any relationship, time together fosters closeness. We can read the Bible, pray, meditate on God’s Word, and listen to His Spirit to better understand how He thinks. We can also watch God work in other people’s lives to know His ways.
Jesus is trustworthy, and He offers rest in the midst of a troubled world. Do you know Him well enough to experience His peace?
Our blessed Savior has come—and is coming again!
Throughout Advent, we have watched. We have waited in hope for God’s peace, joy, and love. And now our redemption draws near. Glory to God in the highest! Alleluia! Amen!
Today, Christmas Day, we are reminded once again that waiting on the Lord is never a vain exercise. Even when waiting on Him appears fruitless, it is a rich, rewarding practice—one that sustains us with great hope.
No matter how long the night may feel, we are never lost or forgotten; we are not without hope of redemption. We rejoice because the promised One—the one we call “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”—has come (Isaiah 9:6).
So today, bask in the light and glory of Christ. Raise your voice with believers around the world who rejoice in tongues too numerous to count, and say, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.”
Think about it:
It’s challenging to carry the joy of Christmas Day through the end of the old year and into the new. Make a plan—what can you do each day to remember who and Whose you are?
Our wise heavenly Father can bring beauty from disaster.
Sometimes it is difficult to see, but God can draw value from even the most disastrous of circumstances.
Before the rise of Rome, the predominant world power was Greece, led by Alexander the Great. As he conquered lands, he forced subjugated men to serve in his military and made them learn common Greek. On discharge, these men took the new language home, creating a shared tongue between many people groups. This would become the perfect way to spread the revolutionary message of Jesus a few centuries later.
Then, as the Romans conquered territories, they paved roads and guarded both land routes and seacoasts from encroaching enemies. Doing this enabled early Christian missionaries to carry the gospel to different places. Perhaps Joseph and Mary traveled one of those roads on their trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But in any event, God again turned hardship—a forced census—into blessing: Jesus the Messiah was born at precisely the time and place prophesied.
From the moment in Eden when Satan’s defeat was promised until the instant Christ fulfilled that prophecy on the cross, the Father continually brought good from bad situations. In this way, He advanced His plan to save the world. The Romans made the roads, but God paved the way for a Savior.
God has been writing our salvation story since the beginning of time.
When looking at a Nativity scene, have you ever thought about what led to that remarkable event? Let’s pause to consider not just Joseph and Mary’s tiring trip to be counted in the census but also the trail blazed through history by God Himself.
The route began in Eden, where blood was first spilled to atone for sin (Genesis 3:21). The temporary solution—animal sacrifice—would suffice until God enacted His permanent plan in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4 ESV). Later, withdrawing protection as Israel turned to false gods, God allowed His own people to be taken captive to Babylon. There, they built synagogues to worship God. When the Babylonians were defeated 70 years later, the Israelites brought home adaptations of Judaism that they’d been practicing. Later, those synagogues hosted men like Paul, who preached and sent letters about the Messiah born in Bethlehem. And today we still use his epistles—and all of Scripture—to lead unbelievers to faith.
Throughout the centuries, some countries erupted into political turmoil and others arose with new ideals. Peoples were displaced and rulers were conquered. Meanwhile God was carving a path to the Holy Land, the perfect cradle for the Messiah. Together, prophecy and history reveal the Lord paved the way from the manger to modern faith, preparing generations to know His Son.
If you are trapped in recurring patterns of sin, call on the Lord for help.
Years ago, I found myself taking on too much responsibility. At first I thought doing so revealed my motivation and obedience. But as weariness set in, I realized my true motive behind the excess work: It was an attempt to prove I was adequate.
Insecurity, inadequacy, and lack of self-worth can, at best, distract us from God’s purpose. At worst, they can lead to transgression—and Scripture tells us that a recurring pattern of wrongdoing indicates captivity to sin. So how can we break free? Here are three steps to take.
1. Recognize enslavement. It’s possible a blind spot prevents your seeing a sin that’s obvious to others. Accountability to a trusted friend may be appropriate.
2. Trace sin to its root. What purpose does your sin serve? Is it a way to avoid responsibility? transparency? discomfort?
3. Choose to be free. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are offered the greatest freedom possible: reconciliation to God.
Some people find liberation quickly, while others embark on a slow journey toward freedom. But one thing is clear for everyone—the Lord can break the enslavement of sin and insecurity in your life. So ask for His help and walk toward restoration.
God blesses those who choose to labor with integrity, honoring Him with their finest efforts.
God’s plan for us includes work of various kinds. Not only are we to help others and be involved in mission-related pursuits; we’re also expected to serve our employers.
Regardless of your boss’s actions or temperament, the Lord is our ultimate authority, and one way we honor Him is by doing our job with integrity. He expects that whether we work in transportation, technology, education, or any other field, we will carry out our tasks with excellence.
To do anything else dishonors God. Lazy employees might abuse company time, execute duties poorly, or do the bare minimum. Often their focus is exclusively on the paycheck. But work is not simply about receiving a wage; the Lord wants His followers to better themselves and their organization. Certainly, these outcomes are rewards in and of themselves. But God also shows favor to His followers who choose diligence and integrity.
Wherever the Lord places us is where we are to work for His glory. So, as children who want to please our heavenly Father, let’s offer our finest efforts in all we do.
The Lord is good to give us our next breath, and so much more!
Whether we live or die, we do so for Christ (Rom. 14:8). That’s what is meant when we talk about His Lordship. And as believers, we recognize that the only safe way to live is in submission to Him. We bow before Him—not in fear or dread but in gratitude and worship.
Some people think that only those who claim Christ as King come under His authority. But the truth is, He reigns over the entire universe. At present relatively few people submit to the Lord’s rule. The rest refuse to acknowledge His sovereignty or surrender to His will. They want to control their own destinies, never realizing that their next breath comes from Him.
But the Lord’s supreme reign can never be thwarted—and despite resistance now, a day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will praise Him (v. 11). At that time all dissent will be silenced before Jesus, who will “judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).
Many will unwisely wait until they’re forced to kneel in homage to the Lord; tragically, they will face a harsh future. The time to bend the knee to Christ is now, when we can do so of our own volition. And what blessings are in store for those who choose to follow Jesus! He is a kind, loving Master, who has cleansed us from sin and promised to make us heirs with Him in His kingdom.
We will one day see Jesus in all His glory and discover even more wondrous things about Him.
In the last verse of his Gospel, John says much more could have been written about the things Jesus did—but the world wouldn’t be able to contain that many books (John 21:25). In today’s passage, the same writer gives a compact summation, highlighting the Lord’s identity and work. He tells us that Jesus Christ is …
The faithful witness. Jesus came to earth as God’s witness. The words He spoke and the works He accomplished were only what His Father commanded (John 12:49-50; John 17:4).
The firstborn from the dead. His was the first resurrection, and it is the guarantee that we will be resurrected in the same way (Romans 6:5).
The ruler of the kings of the earth. He establishes kingdoms and tears them down, and the book of Revelation describes how He will one day take dominion of the entire world.
The one who loves us and has released us from our sins. All our wrongdoing is forgiven.
This is our amazing Savior, and we can look forward to a future with Him that is secure and glorious.
Read the rest of Revelation 1 with the awareness that you will one day see the Lord in all His glory.
God is faithful to His people, even during their times of failure.
The Bible is filled with love. It begins with God’s mighty acts of creation—separating light from darkness, filling the firmament, and creating every living thing, including us (Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, divine love never faltered. Instead of eternally condemning His children, God promised salvation (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20).
As the story continues, we see love at work as God dwelt with His people in the wilderness, the Promised Land, and in exile. Even when Israel doubted, even when they disobeyed, God remained faithful. And in His love, He led them back and carried them through all manner of suffering.
But He didn’t stop there. Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s love transformed the world. It also transformed us so that we might love more abundantly and fulfill the calling from our beautiful Lord and Savior (1 John 4:7-12).
Think about it:
As Christmas draws near, set aside time to pray, thanking God for His great love. Ask Him to help you receive that love more fully and to present many opportunities for sharing it.
It’s easy to slip into sin, but we can quickly get back on track.
Salvation frees us from eternal condemnation, yet we still struggle with sin. The devil tries to deceive us, the world seeks to conform us, and our fleshly nature yearns to be satisfied. Thankfully, we’re not helpless in the face of these temptations: God has given us His Spirit and His Word to guide us.
Though our victory against sin won’t be complete in this life, we’ll make greater strides against it the more we get to know the Lord and become like Him. But we should be aware of four ways that we rebel against God.
By neglecting to obey His commands. Our rebellion can be something obvious, like stealing or lying. Or it can be subtle and private, such as harboring a bitter, unforgiving spirit.
By actively pursuing what God forbids. He has declared certain things off limits because they dishonor Him and have devastating consequences in our lives. Respecting His decrees is wise.
By doing what the Lord says, but in the wrong manner. God evaluates not only our actions, but also our motives and attitudes.
By insisting on our own agenda. Since Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master, we’re to submit to His will and wait patiently for His guidance.
Instead of justifying, rationalizing, or ignoring your rebellion, quickly confess and repent when you are aware of sin. And let God’s discipline teach you to love and keep His Word.
Disobeying God leads to suffering, but following Him brings good into our life.
Do you ever feel that God’s commands are restrictive and oppressive? This is a common attitude in our culture, but it’s not one that believers should have. Our heavenly Father’s commands are for our good. They train us in righteousness and protect us from sin. Contrary to the view that God’s law hinders happiness, obedience to Him is actually the source of great pleasure and contentment.
Defying God’s authority in any area of our life gives Satan an opportunity to wreak spiritual havoc (Ephesians 4:27). And, as Galatians 6:7 tells us, rebellion against the Lord is always costly. In fact, the harsh truth is that we don’t merely reap what we sow but often reap more than we sow and later than we sow.
None of us want to find ourselves standing in a field of thorny weeds that we caused to grow. Remember, it’s never too late to start planting righteous seed. And the same principle applies: If we’ll sow to the Spirit rather than to the flesh, we’ll reap His fruit and eternal life.
As the Sovereign of the universe, our loving Father has our best in mind. Realizing that, wise men and women love His Word and make every effort to do what it says (Psalm 119:9).
Now is the time to decide where you will spend eternity.
Death is inevitable, but most people give that reality little thought until it’s too late. Now is the time to think seriously about what follows our earthly existence—while we still have the opportunity to make a decision that will affect our ultimate destination.
This life is not all there is; eternity awaits all of us. Some will live eternally in God’s presence, but the alternative is to experience everlasting torment, forever separated from Him. If we receive Jesus as Savior, our penalty for sin is paid, we are adopted into God’s family, and heaven is our eternal home. But if we suppress the truth and reject Jesus, we remain alienated from God, under condemnation for our sin, and destined for unending agony.
Some say that there are many ways to God, but don’t believe it. There is just one way—through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6). He is the only mediator between fallen mankind and holy God (1 Timothy 2:5).
God welcomes every person who comes to Him through faith in His Son, regardless of background, age, or current situation. If you realize you’re a sinner and believe Jesus died on your behalf, ask Him to be your Savior. Then you can be confident that you’re forgiven and are now and forever a part of God’s family.
It’s never too late to accept the mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life Jesus offers.
Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Just hours before their deaths, something absolutely glorious occurred for one of them—he was forgiven and redeemed right in front of the mocking crowd who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. The outlaw’s name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and heaven rejoiced.
What evidence do we have that his last-minute conversion was real?
Change in behavior. At first both criminals hurled insults and blasphemies against Jesus. In a total turnaround, one of them later chastised the other man for his words (Luke 23:40).
Admission of guilt. Then the penitent convict publicly acknowledged that he was being justly punished for his wicked deeds (v. 41).
Expression of faith in the Lord. The man said to Jesus, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (v. 42). In this way, he acknowledged that the Lord was in fact King, as stated on the inscription above Christ’s cross (v. 38). And Jesus answered him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43).
Every one of us is just a heartbeat away from dying. Let this sobering thought propel you to examine your life: Are you ready to face death and eternity?
God wants to remove the heavy burden of performance and give us freedom through Christ.
A wealthy man came to Jesus and asked, “What shall I do so that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). His erroneous belief was that eternal life could be earned and he qualified by keeping God’s commandments. But when Jesus challenged him to give up his wealth, he walked away. That directive wasn’t the way to eternal life, but it revealed the true condition of his unrighteous heart.
Satan continually promotes the false idea that we can make ourselves acceptable in God’s eyes. Just like the rich man, many today believe the Lord will accept them because they have done good deeds. In thinking this way, they have established their own standard of acceptability while ignoring the only standard that matters—God’s.
The disciples found it surprising that entering God’s kingdom is hard for even the well-off. They asked, “Then who can be saved?” and Jesus answered, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (vv. 26-27).
Every person is born a sinner worthy of eternal condemnation, and nothing we do will pay for our sin debt. Only through faith in Christ, who died in our place, can we be made acceptable to God. Consider what an amazing blessing it is that through Him, our sins are forgiven and we receive life everlasting.
Is it your heart’s desire to please the One who saved you?
The word Lord should not be used carelessly. It’s unacceptable to speak of Jesus as Lord in our conversations and prayers but then to contradict the claim by defying His will and His Word. A lot of believers probably think that statement doesn’t apply to them. But we should all realize resistance can be subtle—perhaps by qualifying our obedience with conditions like “I’ll follow the Lord if …” or “I want to do what is right, but …”
When Jesus is identified as Lord in the Scriptures, it signifies that He is the sovereign ruler over life and all creation. When we assert that He’s our Lord, we’re claiming that He is our Savior and Master, which means we submit to Him in all things. If we attest to this verbally but don’t actually do what Jesus says, then are we really serving Him?
None of us can obey Christ perfectly, but once we’re born again, submitting to Him should be our heart’s desire and our practice. After all, He purchased us with His precious blood and now rules over us for our good. So, though we may struggle at times, our lives should be characterized by obedience to our Lord because we are His.
Our relationship with Christ transcends our circumstances and allows us to rejoice always.
Last Sunday we talked about shalom, which is God’s perfect peace. With peace comes the promise of joy—a promise for the future, but also for right now. If the Lord’s joy were a house, we wouldn’t just be welcomed in; it would be our home address. (See John 15:10-11.)
Biblical joy is different than what many people think. It’s more than a simple emotion or a sense of overall cheerfulness. Joy in Christ isn’t dependent upon our situation or mood—it flows from our connection with the Lord and transcends our circumstances. Because of all He’s done and continues to do, we can rejoice in Him no matter what happens. (See Nehemiah 8:9-10.)
In Advent, Christ is the reason we wait with great expectation. Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that on the cross, “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” So as Christmas draws near, take heart. The One “who is, and who was, and who is to come” is near.
Think about it:
What’s standing in the way of you experiencing the fullness of joy in Christ? Ask the Holy Spirit for help in recognizing any obstacles and for grace to overcome them.
Freedom comes when we confess our sin and believe that God has the best plan.
What might start as a minor comparison between our own life and someone else’s can all too easily escalate out of control. Envy is like a snowball that grows larger and larger, and its consequences can be spiritually devastating.
Jealousy fills the heart with discontent, anxiety, and bitterness, distorting our thoughts until it’s nearly impossible to keep God’s plan in view. Our focus gets fixed on what we don’t have, which takes us down the crippling path of resentment toward others who have the desired object or trait.
What’s more, jealousy dishonors the Lord and is, in fact, sinful. James says it’s demonic in origin, causing disorder and leading to all kinds of evil (3:15-16). And Paul lists it as one of the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-20). The attitude amounts to finding fault with God—essentially claiming we deserve what someone else has and accusing Him of withholding the better blessing.
If you find evidence of jealousy in your life, follow the steps in James 4:7-10. Submit to God, resist the devil, confess it as sin, and turn away from the temptation of comparison. Focus on God’s goodness, and trust that His plan for your life is best.
|12/9/2022||1 Samuel 18:5-16|
Comparing ourselves with others leads to destructive thought patterns.
We all have desires and hopes for life. But our plans aren’t always God’s will, and the things we see others experiencing may not be what He has in store for us. We must be careful not to compare ourselves with anyone else because that leads to envy and jealousy.
In appointing Saul as Israel’s first king, the Lord gave him power and authority over the nation. However, when Saul heard women attributing greater praise to David than to him, he became envious and suspicious. He began to fear that he’d lose the kingdom to David, and eventually his jealousy led to that very outcome.
Perhaps this seems like an extreme example, yet there may be jealousy hiding in your own heart. Ask yourself if anyone’s material, physical, or relational success is stirring up anger, discontent, or anxiety within you. These emotions are often an indicator of a jealous mindset.
There is a fallacy in this kind of thinking: We assume that getting what we want will make us happy. But contentment doesn’t come from having our own way. Rather, it comes from learning to accept whatever God gives us as His best. He alone sees beneath the surface and gives us what we need for our spiritual well-being.
As we spend time in the Word and learn more about God, our love for Him deepens.
Whenever the psalmists penned songs of worship, they spoke about the Lord’s specific attributes or actions. These songs were compiled into the book we now call Psalms, and the collection can be seen as a biography of God—one that relies upon the language of praise to describe and exalt Him.
The ability to worship grows out of love for the Lord. And since genuine love is always cultivated by learning about the other person, the true root of praise is knowledge of the Lord. As we spend time with Him in His Word, discovering new facets of His character deepens both our love for Him and our understanding of why He deserves praise.
In addition, we also learn to know the Lord through our walk with Him. As we observe how He meets our needs and showers us with mercy and compassion, we experience His faithfulness, and our trust in Him increases. Our lives become a display of accumulated praise for His abundant provision, comfort in times of pain, and intervention during adversity. Not only that, but our transformation becomes a testimony of gratitude for the trials and hardships He’s used to shape us into the image of Christ.
When we know the Lord and realize how much He has done for us, we can’t help but love and praise Him!
The Lord described David as a man after His own heart, who would do all His will (Acts 13:22). What does that look like? How can we know whether this characterizes us?
The answer is found in David’s psalms. The Lord was the priority of his life and the object of his trust and worship. His love for God overflowed in his words of praise. In fact, this description applies to anyone whose heart resembles the Lord’s.
In Psalm 63:3, David said, “Because Your favor is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Is this how you feel toward the Lord? Do you love Him with the same unashamed enthusiasm David exhibited? Of course, some people are more prone to fervent displays of worship than others, but our hearts should all be motivated by the same kind of love and devotion.
The Lord is worthy of praise. He is our King, our Protector, and our refuge. What’s more, He saved us from condemnation and eternal death! Since God deserves to receive praise offerings from His people, let’s give Him the glory that is rightly His.
Human logic may be attractive, but only God’s truth has the power to change hearts permanently.
Every church needs believers who are gifted to teach. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul urges teachers to “proclaim the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). When the Word of God is taught with accuracy, people are transformed by what they hear and behave accordingly.
That’s why it’s essential for pastors and teachers to be led by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, not by their own ideas. Human reasoning may seem appealing, but it has no power to permanently change lives for the better. Only Scripture taught accurately can do that.
Sound doctrinal teaching challenges not only our behavior but also our attitudes, motives, and way of thinking. By faithfully absorbing and applying Scripture, we learn to deny ungodliness and sinful desires, while seeking to live righteously in this evil world (v. 12).
If you attend a church where biblical truth is taught, there may be times when the quantity of information presented seems boring or overwhelming. But keep in mind that the teacher’s goal is to present enough truth so you can live in a manner that pleases the Lord. The Word instructs leaders to do this, so our response should be to thank God for making sure we receive sound teaching.
Teachers, who faithfully study and share truth with others, are God’s provision for the church.
God has given believers spiritual gifts for the common good of the body of Christ. And teaching is an essential gift for church leaders, who must be able to exhort and correct while holding firmly to the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). But this God-given ability isn’t limited to church authorities. Other members in a fellowship are also endowed with this competency and are responsible to use it faithfully.
The gift of teaching isn’t characterized merely by the ability to speak eloquently, for there are many empty talkers who sound good but are spreading deception. True teachers combine good communication skills with diligent study of the Bible. In fact, they delight in deepening their understanding of God’s Word and long to share what they’ve learned. Such Christians are organized and analytical in their thinking, as well as thorough and accurate in their explanations of Scripture.
Have you been blessed with this ability? If so, God’s intention is that you use it faithfully and carefully for the benefit of your church. And keep in mind both the privilege and responsibility inherent in the gift of teaching—that “whoever speaks is to do so as one who is speaking actual words of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
Believers can experience God’s perfect peace right now.
If you could pick one word to describe the world today, what would it be? With everything going on, few of us would choose the word peaceful. Nevertheless, God promises us this very thing.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which means so much more than the absence of conflict. It’s a term that speaks of completeness and soundness. It is the ideal both for our lives and for the world—a return to creation as it was before sin and separation. In other words, it’s perfect peace, which is possible only with God.
Look at Isaiah 11:1-10. Does the prophet’s description of the future kingdom seem impossible to you? We’re so accustomed to sin and death that it’s difficult to imagine a world without violence. “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,” God promises, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (v. 9). Such is the greatness of God’s shalom—a reality can we experience even now.
Think about it. Spend time reflecting on God’s promises. How can focusing on them help you experience peace here and now?
|12/3/2022||1 Timothy 2:1-7|
Let’s be faithful to pray for the salvation of leaders and others living in darkness.
In 1 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul gives us some guidelines for living in a way that will attract others to Jesus. For one thing, praying for all people—including our governing authorities—can lead to “a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” Recognizing this can make people want to “come to the knowledge of the truth” and be saved according to God’s desire (1 Tim. 2:2-4).
There is no righteousness or goodness in the fallen human heart that makes us worthy of salvation in God’s eyes. Nevertheless, He has chosen to love and save us as a display of “the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Fallen angels can never receive forgiveness, but redeemed humanity will be eternal trophies of God’s grace in the ages to come.
When we live with righteousness and respect, we become like lights in this dark, sinful world. In that way, we point others to the Lord Jesus Christ so they too can receive God’s salvation and likewise give Him glory forever. So let’s be faithful in making “requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving … in behalf of all people” because this is good and acceptable to God (1 Tim. 2:1, 3).
|12/2/2022||1 John 3:1-10|
Our Father loves us and has provided everything we need to live righteously.
When we trust in Christ, we become children of God. By using this language, Scripture indicates the nature of our relationship with Him: He is our Father, and we should respond as His children. This means we must learn to listen, obey, and love Him more and more.
The Father speaks clearly to us through Scripture. Many people claim they’re interested in hearing from God yet struggle to find time to read His Word. Then there are those who say, “I don’t understand it” and give up. But living within every child of God is the Holy Spirit, who helps to overcome any hindrances and brings correct interpretation of the Word. If you keep reading the Scriptures faithfully, He’ll give you understanding.
Once a person is born into God’s family, nothing can ever destroy that relationship—not even sin. However, disobedience grieves the Father and hinders fellowship and communication with Him. Restoration, which is essential for spiritual growth, comes through confession and repentance (1 John 1:9).
Today’s Scripture passage gives characteristics of the children of God. Are you a member of His family? If so, your life should be characterized by obedience and righteousness.
Because Jesus chose us to be His friends, we have the privilege of interacting with Him daily.
Jesus Christ is so many things to us—Savior, Master, and Lord. But amazingly He also calls us His friends. Can you imagine any greater compliment from the Creator of heaven and earth? And our part in this divine friendship involves spending time with the Lord and getting to know Him.
The Lord thinks of us not merely as slaves (although that is what we are, since we’ve been purchased with His precious blood); He’s also raised us to the level of friends in whom He confides. That’s why Jesus said to His disciples, “All things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). And today we have the completed Scriptures, which give us explanations about God’s will, purposes, commands, and desires.
The disciples were blessed to have the opportunity to live and interact with the incarnate Christ. But we’re also privileged because we can have the same intimate relationship with the Savior that those first-century followers had. What’s more, His Spirit lives within every believer, continually revealing more of the Father and Son to us through His Word.
Enduring satisfaction comes only from God.
King Solomon is traditionally considered the author of Ecclesiastes. According to Scripture, he was the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:12) and had wealth beyond imagination. What’s more, he was blessed with the privilege of building God’s temple. So we might expect that he’d have been content.
In searching for that deep fulfillment, Solomon explored all kinds of things. Ecclesiastes tells us that he indulged in the pleasures of the world, even dabbling in pursuits he knew were folly. But the satisfaction Solomon sought evaded him, so he tried another avenue. He undertook great projects, such as building houses, gardens and parks, and an extensive irrigation project (Eccl. 2:4-6). But in the end, he concluded it was all without meaning. The story has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? Our culture pursues pleasure and does not accept limits on its passions.
Solomon had the wisdom and resources to accomplish whatever he chose to do. Yet the goals he pursued brought no lasting satisfaction. He concluded that the best course was to obey God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). True enjoyment comes when we align ourselves with His will. Any other way is meaningless.
|11/29/2022||2 Corinthians 5:16-19|
Experiencing the forgiveness God offers will transform every part of life. Before the apostle Paul’s conversion, if someone had suggested that he would impact the world for Jesus, he probably would have laughed. But God’s grace can impact anyone. Contrary to what many think, being a Christian doesn’t mean adding good deeds to our life. Instead, believers receive forgiveness and a new nature by God’s grace. Then our inward transformation results in obvious outward changes.
Transformation occurs in many areas. For example, our attitudes change—salvation by God’s grace results in humility and gratitude. Out of thankfulness for this undeserved free gift flows compassion for the lost and a desire to share the gospel with them. Experiencing Christ’s forgiveness also results in a longing to serve Him. This doesn’t need to be in a formal church setting; we serve Him by loving others, helping those in need, and telling people about Him.
While there are still natural consequences for our sin, God offers us forgiveness and redemption through Jesus. He made a way to restore our broken relationship with Him. What’s more, our Father transforms our lives so we will become more like His Son and reflect His heart to others.
|11/28/2022||1 Timothy 1:12-17|
Jesus breaks the power of sin and offers hope to all who trust Him. Our lives are hopeless without God. We are born with a fleshly nature, and we continue to sin throughout life. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God. No one is exempt from this biblical truth, and there’s nothing that we can do to change the situation. Enter God’s grace, His unmerited favor toward us. Consider the apostle Paul, who persecuted anyone claiming the name of Jesus. He played a significant role in the violence aimed at Christians and, in his own words, was the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15 KJV). Nothing he did deserved God’s tender concern. But God lovingly transformed him into a man who dedicated himself to sharing the gospel message. Paul’s life beautifully illustrates grace. Salvation is possible only because of grace—we simply can’t do enough good deeds to earn our own way to heaven. The One who took the punishment for our sin deserves all credit for our redemption. And thankfully, there is no transgression too great for Him to forgive. We can’t add to His act of atonement; all we can do is receive this free gift. If we trust in Christ as Savior, God will save us, making us His children forever.
The hope we have in Christ is a sure and reliable anchor for our soul. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time of expectant waiting to celebrate Christ’s birth and prepare for His second coming. The word comes from the Latin term adventus, which means “arrival” or “coming.” Today we focus on hope, which is so much more than wishful thinking. Hope holds us firm and keeps us trusting and looking forward, no matter how dark the world seems to be. This season is a time to remember that God is both the light at the end of a long tunnel and our faithful companion who will never desert or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). The Jewish people expected and longed for the Messiah—the One who would put an end to suffering, establish an eternal kingdom, and “uphold it with justice and righteousness” (Isaiah 9:1-7). And that expected Savior came, fulfilling every prophecy ever written about Him. Because those assurances were proven true, we have hope. We can trust in Jesus’ promise to come again in glory—and knowing that where He is, we will one day be also.
|11/26/2022||1 John 5:9-13|
Do you have doubts about your salvation? You can settle the issue today. The most important issue we must settle in this life is our eternal destiny. Throughout history, churches have been composed of both believers and unbelievers, and it’s often difficult to tell the difference. That’s why John wrote his first letter. He wanted to assure the true Christians of their salvation and warn those who professed belief but lacked saving faith. John gives a four-fold test describing the beliefs and practices of genuine believers.
1. Right understanding of Christ and salvation (1 John 2:18-27). To be saved, we must have the true gospel and the right Savior, as described in God’s Word.
2. Right attitude toward sin (1 John 1:5-10; 1 John 2:1-2). True believers hate their sin and are quick to confess and turn from it.
3. Right practice of obedience (1 John 2:3-6). God’s commands are not burdensome to those who belong to Christ. Although they fail at times, their life is primarily characterized by obedience.
4. Right relationship with God’s people (1 John 2:7-11). Christ produces within His followers both a love for fellow believers and a desire to be with them.
If you have doubts about your salvation, reading the book of 1 John will help you settle the issue.
When we don’t know how to pray for someone, the prayers recorded in the Bible are a good place to start. Sometimes we don’t know how to pray. That can happen when others ask us to pray for them but they feel uncomfortable sharing personal details. Or maybe we’ve lost touch with a person on our prayer list, so we aren’t sure about the best way to intercede on his or her behalf. We can also be confused about our own requests, especially when circumstances are complicated. Whenever we’re unsure, we can seek God’s guidance from the prayers recorded in Scripture. Although we often tend to focus on practical concerns involving our circumstances, the Lord’s priority is spiritual health. That’s what we see in Paul’s petition for the Christians at Philippi. He prayed that their love for each other would increasingly overflow and that they’d “keep on growing in knowledge and understanding”; his prayer was also that they would grasp what really mattered in order to “live pure and blameless lives” (Phil. 1:9-10 NLT). These are good guidelines for requests because they deal with emotions and judgments, both of which can lead us astray unless guided by godly discernment and wisdom. We all need the Lord’s help in these areas, so let’s not hesitate to ask Him for it.
The rewards are great for those who consistently demonstrate gratefulness to God. Bringing our requests to God through prayer is just one aspect of our communication with Him. Another part of prayer—which is frequently overlooked—is thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). The Father wants His children’s lives to be characterized by gratefulness. His Word tells us that an appreciative attitude should be evident in our worship (Psalm 95:2-7; Colossians 3:16), giving (2 Corinthians 9:12), relationships (Phil. 1:1-3), and the way we approach spiritual battles (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). In other words, thankfulness should permeate everything we do (Romans 14:6). In the Scriptures, the Lord actually mandates our gratitude because He knows how being grateful affects the heart. Expressing thanks to God helps us . . .
-Be aware of His presence.
-Focus on Jesus Christ and diminish our pride.
-Look for His purpose in challenging situations.
-Remember His goodness.
-Depend on Him continually.
-Replace anxiety with peace and joy.
When we maintain an attitude of thanksgiving in both happy and difficult seasons, our life will feel purposeful and fulfilling. But more importantly, God will be glorified. Ask Him to bring blessings to mind so you can say “Thank You.”
Consider the spiritual riches that Jesus died to give you—and thank Him today for those blessings. The Bible instructs us, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It’s interesting that this instruction was written by Paul, whose loyalty to Christ earned him severe persecution. How was he able to be grateful to God? While the apostle’s circumstances were difficult, he knew that his riches in Jesus far outweighed any earthly discomfort. And those same blessings are available to all believers. First, we gain a personal relationship with the one true God—the sovereign, omniscient, and omnipresent Lord of all creation. Second, our Creator loves us with an everlasting and unconditional love. Third, He sent His Son to pay our sin-debt so that we could spend eternity with Him. What’s more, when we trust in Jesus, we are freed from the fear of death. And the list of blessings keeps going: God adopts believers as His children (Ephesians 1:5). He has a plan for every life—and bestows special gifts to make it happen. He also promises to meet every need through His limitless resources (Philippians 4:19) and provides His Word and indwelling Spirit to guide us. No wonder Paul was grateful! Count his blessings as your own, and let God know how appreciative you are.
|11/22/2022||1 Peter 3:13-16|
Believers should be careful to share the good news of Christ with gentleness and respect. God doesn’t want his children merely to know God’s Word for themselves. Rather, He wants all believers to share His good news with others. 1 Peter 3:15 says to be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” The term “defense” has to do with answering for oneself. In other words, believers should be ready to give an explanation of their hope in Christ. Many Christians have never taken the time to really think through the reasons for their beliefs. Then, when someone challenges them, they feel a sense of panic. Giving an account for our faith must be accompanied by a gentle, respectful delivery. Dumping a load of truth on a questioning person rarely leads him or her to the Lord, but a gentle answer opens hearts as well as ears. What’s more, all that we profess must be backed up with a life of integrity. It’s important to remember that a hypocritical lifestyle can damage our testimony for Christ. Peter’s verses were not written to scholars; they were intended for ordinary people with jobs and families. The Lord will help you think through your defense, but it requires your intentional participation.
|11/21/2022||2 Timothy 1:12-14|
The Bible is our protection against deception. All people have a belief system, whether they realize it or not. Even those who claim there is no God have faith that He does not exist. Some base their convictions on what fits their lifestyle, reasoning, and desires. Jesus’ followers, however, are called to base their lives on the authority of God’s Word. Any time we add other philosophies or ideas to Scripture or pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe, we create our own version of faith based on personal reasoning. God’s Word is a true and reliable foundation for belief because it contains the recorded thoughts of an eternal, all-knowing God. Any other concept must be measured against God’s Word to determine its validity.
Knowing what the Bible says is essential for developing a sound system of beliefs founded on the truth and wisdom of the Lord. This world will offer you a variety of philosophies, but a faith anchored in the Bible is your protection against deception. Each time you face a problem or decision, search the Scriptures for help in coming up with the answer. Begin your day by reading the Word, and ask God to help you understand what He is saying. He loves communicating with you, and He will make Himself known.
Because God provides for our needs, we can give abundantly to others. Hermit crabs are fascinating creatures. Their soft abdomens leave them vulnerable to predators, so for protection, they live in abandoned shells that they carry everywhere. When a threat comes, they simply tuck themselves tightly inside their borrowed homes until the danger passes. It can be tempting to do that when something threatens us or our resources. Often, we hoard wealth, possessions, or even our time. But Scripture tells us to do the opposite. For instance, Proverbs 11:25-26 says, “A generous person will be prosperous, and one who gives others plenty of water will himself be given plenty. One who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.” Notice there are no caveats, no exceptions to this wisdom. We are meant to be givers out of a sense of gratitude toward the One who gives to us so lavishly. Because we serve a God of abundance, we too can give abundantly, knowing our Father will always provide for our needs. Think about it. Take a look at the many things you’re blessed to own or experience. Offer a prayer of gratitude for them, and ask God to help you decide what should be shared with others.
God invites us to be a part of His work on earth and promises to reward our efforts. As Jesus’ followers, we are to carry out His work. And we’re to be living extensions of His life as we do so. Following His example, believers must:
1. Live as God’s servants. We need to release control over our time, talent, and treasure and accept our commission to work in His kingdom. Like our Savior, we’re not to act independently (John 5:19). Our assignment is to do whatever God asks of us.
2. Answer His call to aid others. We tend to limit our circle to people like ourselves, but we must fight against this inclination. We should be willing to respond to the needs of strangers and friends alike. And the Lord can help us recognize those opportunities.
3. Motivate one another to good deeds. We’re to spur each other toward godliness and service rather than worldly pleasure and self-centeredness. Believers should foster in each other gratefulness for what He has done and confidence about what He will do.
Good works don’t earn salvation, but they do affect eternal rewards. Believers’ deeds will one day be evaluated: Works done without direction from God will be burned up, while those accomplished in obedience to the Spirit will be remembered and acknowledged (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Let your love for God stimulate you to labor in His kingdom.
|11/18/2022||1 John 2:12-14|
Are you burdened by your past? By pouring out your heart to God, you can find peace and freedom. When we come to Christ in repentance and faith, all our sins are forgiven. They will never be held against us because Jesus took our sin and guilt to the cross and bore the penalty of God’s wrath on our behalf. When we’re quick to confess and repent of our sins, there’s no reason to hold onto guilt or live in shame. Yet sometimes we’re bound by self-reproach long after the feeling should have been resolved. Satan always looks for opportunities to accuse us. Sometimes his accusations are about transgressions we’ve already confessed. In such cases, God has fully forgiven us. But we must also forgive ourselves—otherwise we remain vulnerable to the torment of guilt as well as to Satan’s condemnation. So how can we tell where a feeling of guilt comes from? God-given conviction focuses on a specific sinful action or attitude, whereas the enemy’s accusations are usually generalized and directed at us and our worth. Remember, his purpose is to degrade us so we’ll live in shame and uncertainty about God’s love.
Whether your sense of remorse is true or false, it needs to be dealt with quickly—the feeling won’t just go away. So stop running, and face the source of your guilt. It’s time to end your captivity and start walking in the joy of God’s forgiveness.
Conviction leads us to repentance so that we can experience God’s forgiveness and joy. Guilt over doing something that violates the conscience is good. The Lord designed feelings of culpability and regret to serve as a reminder that we’ve done wrong and need to repent. In fact, without a sense of guilt, we’d never recognize that we’re sinners in need of a Savior. And after salvation, guilt is the way the Lord shows us we’re on the wrong path so we can turn back to Him in obedience. Many in our culture claim that all guilt is bad, but that’s not the case. When you feel its pangs, you probably know exactly what you did to set off your conscience. The proper response is to come to the Lord in repentance, as David did. Delay would likely mean feeling God’s heavy hand upon you. But with confession, your sins are forgiven, your guilt is gone, and the joy of your salvation returns. (See 1 John 1:9.) An amazing side effect of confronting guilt in this way is a willingness to be open about your struggles and failures. Through your experience, you can show others who are burdened with shame how they, too, can be set free and experience God’s peace and joy.
When our focus is on God rather than our problems, our faith grows stronger. Do you sometimes doubt that all things are possible with God? It’s likely most of us have felt this way at one time or another—probably when something we asked of the Lord failed to happen. Faith is not a means to coerce God into doing what we want; it’s simply believing that He will do what He’s said. Doubts come when we use human wisdom and logic instead of relying on God’s Word. Then fear and uncertainty about the outcome interfere with trusting biblical truth. It may seem as if we’re going out on a limb, but in reality, trusting the Lord is a firmer foundation than relying on ourselves and human reason. When we focus on God instead of on the situation, our faith grows stronger. In many ways, we’re like the father in today’s story—we believe in Jesus but sometimes struggle to trust that He’ll help in our time of need. That’s when we should cry out to Him the way the desperate father did: “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Then we should also read and meditate on His Word. As our knowledge of God grows, so will our trust in Him.
|11/15/2022||1 Peter 1:3-9|
If we respond correctly to adversity, God will make us stronger and fill us with joy. We all go through troubling times, and it’s easy to get disheartened when that happens. But the Bible teaches that even during periods of challenge and adversity, we can respond correctly. Today’s passage tells us to rejoice. This doesn’t mean we’re to be glad about the hardship, but we should rejoice because we’re protected by God for the eternal glory that awaits us in heaven. Another reason for joy is that trials are designed to produce endurance and spiritual maturity in us (James 1:2-4). God wants us to hang in there so we can derive the full benefit of whatever lesson He has in mind. Our heavenly Father also uses trials to prove to His children that their faith is genuine (1 Pet. 1:7). When we persevere through each difficulty, our faith is tested and refined, reassuring us of our salvation. As we learn that God brings benefit from our adversities, we’ll begin to face challenging times with confidence, knowing He always has our best interest in mind. This leads to joy, because we know He is building our endurance, purifying our heart, and making us people with unshakable trust in Him.
God will provide all that is needed for you to do His will. Every society depends on its elders to pass down those things that help preserve its history and moral center. For this reason, parents and grandparents have the awesome responsibility of passing down biblical truths and principles. When I was 17, I decided to visit my granddad. I had an entire week to spend at his home, and all I wanted to do was listen to him. One of the most impactful things he said to me was, “Charles, obey God. If He tells you to run through a brick wall, head for the wall. And when you get there, God will make a hole for you.” He shared that his youthful passion had been to preach, but this dream was blocked by his lack of education. With no schooling, he didn’t see how he could ever be a pastor. But he did learn to preach—by crying out to God for help and reading his Bible. From that humble beginning, he started to minister, and as the Lord opened opportunities, my grandfather eventually established numerous churches. He taught me that when we really want to do God’s will, our heavenly Father will move heaven and earth to show us the way.
Christians are often told, “Be careful what you pray for!” If we pray for patience, we will likely encounter interruptions, delays, and distractions. If we pray for generosity, we will likely meet with people or situations that could benefit from our resources. And if we pray for perseverance, we will likely experience trials and tribulations. In other words, character traits are only developed by situations which test those traits in our life. When James wrote his letter to believers who had been scattered abroad, he told them that the testing of their faith would produce patience (or perseverance, in some translations). And that patience has a goal: our spiritual and emotional maturity. Immature people become discouraged easily. Therefore, we need experiences which will teach us not to become discouraged and will make us more mature. Another way of saying “maturity” is Christlikeness. God uses everything in life—especially the hard things—to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). If you experience troubles or trials today, look for how you might grow more mature by exercising patience and perseverance. And be careful how you pray!
Difficult times are opportunities to praise our faithful Father. As Christians, we have the opportunity to experience deep and abiding joy. It’s a blessing we receive because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, knowing that He’s at work in every detail of our life. But that doesn’t mean our days are problem-free. Think back to Peter as he walked on the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee. The disciples’ vessel had been battered all night, leaving them exhausted and fearful, but despite all that, Peter had the courage to call to His Lord and step out onto turbulent waters. It was only when he took his eyes off Jesus that the disciple began to sink. But even then, the Savior refused to abandon His beloved friend. Instead, He “took hold of him” and brought Peter back to safety. The same is true for us whenever we are facing adversity. If we are conscious of the Lord’s continuous presence with us, we can express gratitude no matter what, because God will provide a way through the challenge. Think about it What is your “default setting” in times of adversity? Is it fear, anger, or despair—or do you view hard times as a chance to rely on and rejoice in God’s provision?
|11/12/2022||1 John 3:14-18|
Ask God to show you how to love someone in your world today. While growing up, I had several Sunday school teachers, but Craig Stowe is the one I remember most. A few times a month, Mr. Stowe stopped on his way home when he saw me delivering newspapers. He’d ask how I was doing and inquire if there was anything he could pray about for me. And before he pulled away, he always bought a newspaper—for five times its worth. Those brief conversations with Mr. Stowe had a significant impact on my life. I knew he cared about me because he took the time to look me in the eye and make sure I was doing well. That feeling of love is one I try to pass on, even if I have just a few minutes with a person. Believers are called to love one another “in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). You can make a big difference in someone’s life with simple acts of service and kindness—a hug, a conversation, a meal. You don’t have to reach a large crowd; just let God use you to show one person at a time that you care. All it takes for someone to feel God’s love is a little bit of thoughtful attention.
God is a perfect Father, whose love and care for us are constant. When Christ taught His disciples to pray, He began by addressing God as “Our Father.” All of us who’ve been born again into God’s household have this same right. Since our concept of the heavenly Father is limited by our perceptions of earthly dads, let’s consider what Scripture says about His care for us.
1. Our heavenly Father loves us. 1 John 4:16 tells us His love will never cease. Even when we disobey, it’s demonstrated in discipline (Hebrews 12:6).
2. He hears our prayers. God is never too busy for us. He invites us to draw near to His throne with confidence to receive grace, mercy, and help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
3. The Father is our provider and protector. He promises to supply all that we need and protect us from the evil one (Matt. 6:11; Matt 6:13). Every event in our life is filtered through His sovereign will.
4. The Lord is our guide. He’s given us His Word to direct our path (Psalm 119:105).
By viewing the Father through the truth of Scripture instead of our preconceptions, we’ll see Him as He truly is and discover a security we’ve never known before.
Through Christ, we can have a close relationship with our heavenly Father. God is called by a variety of names in the Bible, and each one sheds light on an aspect of His nature. When referring to Him, Jesus often chose to use the title “Father.” While this name for God is used in the Old Testament, we see its use increase exponentially in the New Testament. Many of God’s names speak of His majestic and lofty attributes that separate Him from His created beings, but what’s unique about Father is that it conveys intimacy. Jesus used this name not only because He was God’s Son but also to communicate that God is a Father to all who believe in Christ. Throughout His time on earth, Jesus revealed by example what this kind of loving relationship was like. He depended completely on His Father for daily direction, power, and provision and obediently carried out every instruction. He often found a secluded place to spend private time in prayer. Do you long for the intimacy with God that our Savior had? Have you entered into this kind of relationship through faith in Jesus? If so, God has given you the privilege of drawing near to Him. In fact, before the foundation of the world, He chose you to be in His family.
Sometimes we shine brightest for Christ in our darkest moments. Today’s psalm calls us to continually exalt and magnify the Lord, regardless of the situation. As we gaze at God through His Word, our understanding of Him becomes greater, as if we’re looking through a magnifying glass. We see the wonders of His nature and deeds more clearly and can’t help but respond in praise. To grasp this concept of magnifying the Lord, consider how Paul responded to being imprisoned in Rome (Philippians 1:12-14). Instead of complaining about the situation, he accepted it with grace, knowing that this was God’s path for him. Through it all, he kept praising and exalting Christ. Even though Paul couldn’t preach or start churches as he once did, the Lord opened up a new way to serve—prison ministry and written correspondence that eventually ended up in the New Testament. Whatever is happening in your life—good or bad, long-term or short—you have the opportunity to magnify the Lord through it. This not only benefits you with a greater appreciation of Him, but it also encourages others who see your witness. When a believer passes through trials peacefully and praises the Lord, even unbelievers notice.
|11/8/2022||1 Corinthians 12:14-30|
God wants us to appreciate the unique gifting of every member in His church. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians addressed several problems in the church, including the misuse of spiritual gifts. The people in that fellowship valued only certain gifts—believers with the “better” ones were elevated above others, while those without the preferred abilities were considered less important. In teaching about spiritual gifts, Paul warned church members not to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Romans 12:3). The gifts are not given to exalt certain individuals but to benefit the congregation, and no gift is more important than any other. God considers them all necessary for the health of a local church. Each believer receives at least one gift in accordance with the Spirit’s purposes and choosing. It’s God’s business to decide who has which ability. We must be careful not to assign undue value to certain gifts. Nor should we place unwarranted emphasis on giftedness as a way to assess one’s spiritual maturity or importance in the church. Let’s release any preconceived ideas about the value of spiritual abilities and instead celebrate how God builds each local body of believers. Our omniscient Father places His children where they can minister through their gifts and also be blessed by others doing likewise.
|11/7/2022||1 Corinthians 12:1-13|
Are you using your gifts to serve others? To be effective, the church needs the participation of every believer. God has prepared work for us to do, and He’s equipped us with spiritual gifts to do it. Spiritual gifts are special abilities the Lord gives us to serve others in the body of Christ. These gifts are given to us, but they’re for the benefit of others. Though they come in several varieties, can be used in various ministries, and have a wide range of effects in the church, they all originate from the Holy Spirit. He’s the One who chooses which gift each believer will receive. When all church members serve the body using their particular gifts, everyone benefits spiritually. The Lord has a specific purpose in mind for each of us, and He’s gifted us accordingly (Ephesians 2:10). Without our individual contribution, the local church will lack something. Part of living in the power of the Holy Spirit involves employing our divine endowments as God directs. By operating in our area of giftedness, we’ll have the motivation, ability, and confidence needed for effective service. If you don’t know what gift you have, start by volunteering at something of interest, and eventually you’ll discover it.
God knows us intimately and yet still loves us extravagantly. How many people do you truly know? For most of us, the number would be small because it takes great effort and intention to love someone well. We’re finite beings and simply cannot give 100 percent of ourselves to everyone we meet. Not so with God. Though there are 7.9 billion people on earth, the Lord knows all of them intimately. And He speaks to His children on an individual basis, according to each one’s needs and experiences. That shouldn’t surprise us—the Bible says we’re valuable to our heavenly Father and that He’s the one who wove us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). But we, like David, might still marvel, Who are we to receive such personalized attention, such uninhibited love? (See Psalm 8:4.) The realization that we’re fully known and treasured by God should fill us with gratitude. We don’t have to fight for His affection or work to gain His acceptance. We are His beloved ones, redeemed and destined to experience the “fullness of joy” that comes from being in His presence eternally (Psalm 16:11).
Since it’s easy to become discouraged, we need to remember that God is working for our good. Hope is usually defined as a desire for something, accompanied by the anticipation of receiving it. If our expectation isn’t fulfilled, it’s easy to become discouraged. We have an enemy who wants to steal our hope. As the father of lies, Satan tries to keep us focused on our circumstances so we will doubt God’s love and care for us. So at times we may feel desperate and abandoned, but emotions are not reliable. As children of the heavenly Father, we’re never in hopeless circumstances because He promises to work everything for our good (Romans 8:28). But His concept of “good” doesn’t always match ours. Too often we set our hopes on the things of this world, whereas God prioritizes our spiritual well-being. Disappointment and discouragement are the result of setting our hopes on the wrong aspiration. This doesn’t mean we can’t have dreams and expectations. But we should hold them loosely, with an attitude of submission to God and trust that He’s still working for our good when they don’t come to fruition. Our expectations for this life are temporary, but we have a living hope in Christ that’s unfailing and eternal.
When difficulty comes, choose to trust God. Life doesn’t always meet our expectations. Even when our plans are according to God’s will, we may nevertheless face difficulties. I remember a season of life when I felt all alone and abandoned by the Lord. My mind said God was with me, but my feelings said He wasn’t. To counter those emotions, I had to pray and focus my mind on Scripture. In today’s passage, the weather threatened Paul’s voyage to Rome. Even though the Lord was clearly directing His path, a violent storm arose on the sea. The sailors worked hard to save the ship, but gradually they gave up hope of being saved. The only one who persevered in hope was Paul, and he encouraged the crew with his confidence in God. Frustration over obstacles can lead to discouragement. Many times we can’t change what has happened—whether it’s a job loss, a loved one’s death, or a devastating diagnosis. Circumstances over which we have no control are often the ones that trip us up. In times of discouragement, you have a choice. Will you focus on your circumstances, or will you fix your gaze on God and His Word?
Anytime believers face overwhelming problems, they can rely on the Holy Spirit for the help they need. Are you facing what seems like an insurmountable obstacle? It might be a problem too complex to solve, a task beyond your ability, a sin too tempting to overcome, or a situation over which you have no control. Facing such things can make us feel weak, helpless, and vulnerable. But always remember that we have an almighty God, and nothing is too difficult for Him. Zerubbabel was a Jewish leader who, together with 50,000 of his countrymen, returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. They set about rebuilding the temple, but the obstacles were daunting. The people became disheartened, so God gave His prophet Zechariah a vision to encourage them. The message reminded Zerubbabel that progress is made “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zech. 4:6). This same truth applies to us today. Your obstacles may seem like mountains too big to move, and in your own strength, they certainly are. But as a believer, you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Although your circumstances may not change, He’ll give you His comfort, joy, peace, patience, and strength to go through it. The Spirit is God’s promise of continual help to His weary people.
|11/2/2022||2 Peter 1:1-4|
Some of God’s promises require that we meet a condition before He responds. Christianity rests on a foundation of God’s promises. There are two kinds—unconditional and conditional. Fulfillment of an unconditional promise rests solely with the Lord. One example is God’s covenant to never again destroy the entire earth by flood (Genesis 9:11). On the other hand, if a promise is conditional, fulfillment depends on certain requirements being met. The transaction can be expressed as an “if-then” statement. James 1:5-7, for example, tells us that if we request wisdom from God by asking in faith without doubting Him, then He will give it generously. And in Matthew 6:32-33, Jesus promises that if we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, then everything we need will be provided. The Lord will do exactly what He has promised, but when there’s a condition, you must satisfy the requirements He has set. If you’re still waiting for God to keep a particular promise, check the context for a stipulation. Then make certain you’re carrying out your part. And remember that while the fulfillment is certain, the timing is always in the Lord’s hands.
Because it is impossible for our holy God to lie, we can trust Him completely. Have you ever felt as if there’s a promise God failed to keep? If so, then today’s passage is for you. Let’s look at three things we can learn from it.
1. There is no one greater than the Lord. He has infinite power, knowledge, and wisdom. Nothing can thwart His purposes, so everything He commits to do, He will do. Today’s passage reassures us that the Lord never fails His children, even if we have to wait for His answer.
2. God is unchangeable. That means His Word and His plans for the ultimate good of His children do not change. You can count on Him to do whatever He says He will do. Though everything around us changes, our heavenly Father never wavers.
3. It’s impossible for God to lie. He is true and the source of all truth. Because He’s holy, there is no sin in Him. All His commitments are based on His truthfulness.
A promise is valuable only if the one making it is trustworthy. Since God alone perfectly meets this qualification, we can base our entire life on the certainty of His promises. What’s more, His absolute faithfulness means we can also be sure of His devotion and unconditional love.
Does God Love Me? In moments of doubt, choose to believe the truth of God’s Word. Life can hit us with the most unexpected and undesirable circumstances. When that happens, we might wonder, Does God really care about me? Here are three truths to remember:
1. Scripture tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This means His very nature is characterized by compassion and concern. Love originated with God, and He is the greatest example of how to express it. Together with the reality that God is holy, this means our Father is perfect in His love—He’ll never make a mistake in the way He cares for us.
2. God loves us because He calls us His children. “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” writes John in his gospel (John 1:12 NIV). Sadly, for some who’ve had a difficult upbringing, this may not be encouraging news. But God is the perfect parent, and He loves us perfectly.
3. God gave the supreme demonstration of His love at the cross. God’s Son came to earth as an expression of His Father’s infinite love and sacrificially did for us what no one else could do.
After considering these three facts about God’s love, how could we not expect Him to take care of even the smallest details of our life? Look for ways He is expressing His love to you, and remember Jesus’s own words on the subject: “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Healing is possible after we have been hurt by others. It is necessary that we know what it means to be members of a community—along with the blessings and requirements that come with such involvement. God made us to serve and live alongside one another, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Nor does it mean we’ll avoid getting hurt along the way. At some point, we’re likely to fail each other. When that happens, we might find it helpful to limit—for a time—the people we allow into our life. Doing so can help us recover from past pain and find a way forward, but we can’t remain in that state forever. The Lord calls us to love and forgive one another, just as He has done with us. If we can give ourselves to this process, we’ll eventually be willing to take risks again—to open up and share our true self. That can be scary at times, but when we choose to be vulnerable, we experience the deeper, more fulfilling relationships God wants us to enjoy. Think about it. If you’ve been hurt in the past, ask a trusted friend to help you process what happened. If you have hurt another person, be brave and offer him or her an honest apology. Both actions can bring about great healing and joy.
Spirit-filled believers demonstrate stability, joy, and resilience, even in difficult circumstances. As believers, we all want the fruit of the Spirit. Yet even unbelievers can sometimes display these qualities, so how can we know if ours are truly from Him? It’s important to realize that the fruit of the Spirit is not something we do; it’s who we are. And these nine admirable qualities are often most evident in us when circumstances are difficult. Here are two characteristics to help us recognize these traits in our life:
1. Fruitful believers are not controlled by their environment.
Everybody experiences trials and pain, but those who are filled with the Spirit don’t lose His fruit because of their situations. They keep their joy even when life is hard. Because the Holy Spirit is in control, He is free to produce His fruit no matter what the circumstances are.
2. Fruitful Christians recover quickly after a fall. These believers are not perfect, but they are sensitive to the Spirit’s conviction and are quick to repent. In fact, they are grateful for the correction and praise God, not only for revealing their weakness but also for drawing them back to Him.
None of us produce these amazing qualities by ourselves. Trying harder to be godly will never work. Character transformation occurs when we submit to God, giving Him complete control of our life. Only then will the Spirit be free to produce fruit that remains even in the deepest, darkest storms.
What Is the Spirit-Filled Life? As we surrender to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed. God wants all of His children to be filled with the Spirit, but many of us aren’t sure what this means. While every believer is indwelt by God’s Spirit, the extent of His rule is determined by our obedience. Try thinking of it as a voluntary choice to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s control—to be sensitive to His leadership and guidance, obedient to His promptings, and dependent upon His strength. Those who have surrendered to the Spirit’s leadership are continually being transformed into Christ’s likeness, but the degree of surrender determines the level of transformation. Even though good works and faithful service come from the Spirit, they’re not automatically signs that we are fully yielded to Him. Remember, the surrender we’re talking about involves character, not simply our actions. Serving in some manner can sometimes be easier than loving the unlovable or being patient with difficult people. But when the Spirit is in charge of our life, He is able to do through us what we can’t do ourselves. Each believer decides who rules his or her life. Even those who try to avoid the issue by making no choice at all unknowingly opt for self-rule. The fullness of the Spirit and godly character await those who choose God over self.
|10/27/2022||2 Corinthians 3:4-6|
Since God is faithful to equip us, we don’t have to fear difficulties in our path. Trusting God is easy when life’s good or we’re feeling competent. But is that genuine faith or a form of self-reliance? The apostle Paul said, “Our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). If the Lord calls us to do something that seems impossible or unreasonable, He will equip us for it. However, if we let feelings of fear, inadequacy, or unworthiness cause us to doubt Him, we could miss the opportunity. Sometimes we’re afraid to venture into a new endeavor, because we’re listening to the wrong voices. The devil is always trying to deceive us and plant doubts in our mind so we won’t trust the Lord (John 8:44). He hates to see a believer put aside fear, choose to believe God, and move forward in obedience. A challenging assignment from the Lord is often a fork in the road. When God presents an opportunity to serve Him, we must decide if we’ll take His path even though we might feel unqualified. We’re called to live by faith, not fear. If you are standing at a crossroads, remember that your adequacy is not in yourself but in God, and nothing is too difficult for Him. Trust Him and take a step.
What are you asking God to do in your life? Let these words from Ephesians 3:20 slowly sink in: “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” What an amazing description of God’s ability to work within His followers! So often we focus on what we want Him to do around us, but He invites us to think and ask bigger—He wants to change us! The Lord has a purpose for your life, and He is constantly working to achieve it. Although the Father has unique plans for each one of His children, He also has the goal of conforming every believer to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. In order to accomplish this, He may have to bring us through some struggles and heartaches. It might make no sense to us, but God knows exactly what He’s doing. Spiritual fruit takes time to grow and mature. That’s why we need patience and faith to believe He is working even when we don’t see the results right away. God is never in a hurry and won’t ever give up on us. What would you like to see the Lord do within you? As you read the Scriptures, look for qualities that God considers precious, and ask Him to work them out in your life. Then rely on His wonderful promise to do even more than you have asked or imagined.
One person choosing to obey God can make a huge impact in the lives of others. In the book of Ezekiel, God says, “I searched for a man among them who would build up a wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it” (Ezekiel 22:30). And this is true for us today—the eyes of the Lord are scanning the earth for godly men and women who will exalt righteousness in their land. The “gap” in this verse refers to a place where error or falsehood has crept in, allowing evil confusion and inviting the judgment of God. Sometimes these gaps are so serious that they carry entire nations to the brink of destruction. This actually happened to Israel after the exodus, but God’s Word records this remarkable statement: “He said that He would destroy them, if Moses, His chosen one, had not stood in the gap before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them” (Psalm 106:23). In all likelihood, most of us will never be called upon to save a nation. But we can still encourage righteousness in our communities by speaking the whole counsel of God and resisting the perversions of our age. In Moses’ day one man made all the difference. Why not be the one who makes a difference today?
|10/24/2022||1 Corinthians 1:25-31|
God can do great things through any heart submitted to Him. If you were asked to name influential people, strong individuals with impressive credentials might come to mind. But today’s passage tells us that God has chosen the weak, the base, and the foolish things of the world to shame the things that are strong and wise (1 Cor. 1:27-28). This principle is woven throughout the fabric of biblical history: A prostitute named Rahab made a right choice and became the ancestor of the Messiah. A widow named Ruth chose the God of Israel and became the great-grandmother of King David. An infertile wife named Hannah poured out her soul to God and gave birth to Samuel the prophet. A man called Abram responded to God, left his relatives behind, and became the father of all who believe. A woman named Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, and she’s still memorialized by her lavish, loving act more than 2,000 years later. Those with great influence are the ones who follow the Lord and have proven themselves to be “blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). You may not think your light is very bright by this world’s standards, but the opinion that matters belongs to God—the one who is Himself light (1 John 1:5).
John 3:16 clearly states that the whole world is the object of God’s love. Though Jesus was sent first to the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24; Romans 1:16), it was so Israel might be readied to fulfill her role of being a “light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). From the beginning, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). When Israel failed to fulfill her role, Christ called out a people to take the Good News of God’s love into all the world. In His last days on earth, He commissioned His apostles to go into the world and make disciples by baptizing and teaching everything He had taught them during His time on earth. The Church in every generation has inherited that Great Commission as a responsibility to be carried out until Christ’s return. The world today is hungry for good news. And there is no better news than “God so loved the world.” Look for a way to share that message today.
How can you share with someone today? We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the cold-hearted miser who hoarded wealth and refused to share with people in need. He’s an extreme case, but let’s be honest—aren’t we all tempted to be a little like him at times? Feeling overextended, tired, or worried about our circumstances, we want to keep our time and resources for ourselves—even though we know we’re called to give generously (Matthew 5:42; 2 Corinthians 9:6). Despite realizing that all we have is from God and that believers are to give because He gave first, we find generosity to be a struggle. It’s important to remember no individual can answer every need—and it’s rarely possible for one person to fully address even a single need. But the community of faith can help. By each of us doing our part in answering God’s call for generosity, we become more effective at bearing one another’s burdens. When we realize those needs aren’t ours to handle alone, we’ll more likely feel liberated to give what we can—openly, sacrificially, and without shame or resentment. Think about it. What can you share with others? What could you offer that might not have a financial cost?
When we fall in love with someone, we spend time with him or her and willingly tend to the relationship. But when it comes to a relationship with Jesus, believers often rush through Bible reading and prayer, keeping faith alive by habit rather than worship. Lasting intimacy with God, however, comes by means of purpose and determination.
Purpose. Notice what King David advised the leaders of Israel: “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19). Believers must choose to pursue God and incorporate spiritual disciplines into their life; it doesn’t just happen. In your next quiet time, be intentional about praying to understand the Lord’s ways—He loves answering that plea.
Determination. Isaiah told Yahweh, “Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently” (Isaiah 26:9). Even when we don’t feel like investing time in our relationship with Christ, we must resolve to do so. A revelation from God will not come every day, but those who diligently seek the Lord experience His presence frequently in their worship.
Jesus brings joy into a believer’s life, but we must give Him the time to do so—and not simply our leftover minutes. God gives us His best; we should put forth no less in return.
|10/21/2022||2 Corinthians 5:1-9|
What happens immediately after a believer’s death? Does the soul enter heaven right away, go to sleep until the resurrection, or suffer for certain sins before coming into the presence of God? At death, believers move directly from life on earth to life in heaven. In writing to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul referred to the dead as being asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:14), which some interpret as a state of “suspended animation” until the resurrection. However, Jesus told the thief on the cross that they would be together in paradise that very day (Luke 23:43). Others think that before we go to heaven, additional cleansing through punishment is required. But Scripture is clear: Jesus paid the price for all sins. His work of atonement was finished on the cross (1 Peter 3:18). Those who have received Jesus as Savior move immediately from life on earth to life in heaven. Unfortunately, people who die without Jesus suffer until they face judgment (Luke 16:22-23). Since belief in Christ is the only way to heaven, the lake of fire will be their final destination (Revelation 20:11-15). This is a hard truth, but the good news is that knowing our ultimate destiny encourages us to face our unbelieving loved ones—and empowers us to pray for and witness to them.
Walter Wilson, a physician, was noted for his soul winning, which he wrote about. On one occasion, he said, “Our Lord describes beautiful feet if they have the proper shoes. In Song of Solomon 7:1 we read, ‘How beautiful are thy feet with shoes.’ No one seems to be proud of the feet. Advertisements describe beautiful eyes and attractive teeth, but whoever read of beautiful feet. Our Lord has provided for beautiful feet by saying, ‘Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’” The beautifully shod feet of our Lord’s disciples are careful to avoid the mud puddles of temptation and compromise. There are a lot of muddy spots in this world. The news today is filled with turmoil. We seldom hear good news from the world stage. But when we share the Gospel with others, we bring them Good News that not only changes their lives today, it secures their heavenly destination as well. Let your feet be as beautiful as your smile as you take the Good News to others!
Because of the cross, death for believers is just the doorway to heaven. Most people prefer to focus on living, but death is a reality we must all face. Scripture says, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Rom. 5:12 NLT). In the garden of Eden, Adam—together with Eve—broke the only command God had given them: “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17 NIV). Disobedience broke their intimacy with God and brought physical death to humanity. Because of sin, then, our bodies are mortal (Romans 6:23)—and there’s no escape unless Jesus returns while we’re living. As Adam’s descendants, we are born “dead in [our] offenses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and we remain spiritually dead unless we unite with God through faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22). By receiving the Savior, we are reconciled to our heavenly Father and guaranteed eternal life with Him (John 3:15). How thankful we should be that Jesus gave His life to free us from our fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). So even though our bodies die, we have hope because of the everlasting life we are promised in heaven. The cross transformed death from a dead end to a doorway into Jesus’ presence.
Our hunger for God is both satisfied and deepened as we spend time in His Word.. Faith in Christ is about more than merely doing “Christian things” like attending church, giving, praying, and reading the Bible occasionally. Genuine conversion is evidenced by a yearning to know God more deeply and intimately. One of Christianity’s basic principles is that the more we know of the Lord, the more we want to learn of Him. A mind set on the things of this world will miss the spiritually fulfilling path. However, pursuing the Lord doesn’t imply abandoning all our plans and dreams. It simply means we prayerfully subject our hopes to His will. As we strive to know God, our desires change to reflect His. How does a believer go about seeking God? It begins with studying His Word and trusting the Spirit to open our mind to understand. Then, as the Lord reveals more of Himself to us through Scripture, we will increasingly crave His presence. If your focus is set on the things of earth, your desires will bend in that direction. But if you turn your attention to the Word of God, your desire for Him will become stronger than all other longings.
Knowing and pursuing God gives us our best life. How do we achieve the good life? Well, it depends on what you pursue and what you consider “good.” The world defines good things as items and experiences that make us happy. But from the Lord’s perspective, the good things in life are those that fit into His purpose and plan for us. God’s will could include material prosperity, health, and opportunities, but He also considers periods of trouble, need, and suffering as valuable. The Lord prioritizes our spiritual well-being over physical or material comfort and ease. Our Father wants us to seek Him rather than the treasures and pleasures of this life. If we do this, He promises we’ll “not lack any good thing” (Ps. 34:10). We’re told to ask the Lord to meet our needs, but we should also come to Him with an open heart that seeks to know and love Him more. God Himself is the highest good we could possibly seek. Everything that He gives, whether much or little, is a good and perfect gift from Him (James 1:17). When our pursuit is the Lord rather than the things of this world, we’ll be content with whatever we have (Psalm 37:4).
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Meister Eckhart was a medieval German preacher whose principal subject was the presence of God. He said: “I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God.” How do we cultivate a sense of God’s presence? It’s important to begin and end the day with the Lord, making time for silence, Bible reading, and prayer. Between getting up and retiring, we should learn to pray quietly about whatever comes. “Lord, bless this phone call.” “Lord, help me rest on this flight.” “Father, encourage that sad face I just passed.” If the evil in the world troubles you, imagine how it hurts the Lord to see it too. But we’re not alone. We have a faithful Defender, Friend, and Confidant who walks with us through life. He will guard us from the evil one. We have the presence of a faithful God enveloping us day and night. In that thought we can rest.
|10/17/2022||2 Chronicles 20:1-18|
When fear strikes, choose to focus on our almighty and faithful God instead of the situation. Once, when someone once asked if I’d ever heard myself pray, I decided to record my voice as I prayed about a matter of deep concern. After listening to the recording, I realized it was filled with negative descriptions of how bad the situation was and how discouraged I felt. My focus was all wrong. On encountering a fearful situation, Jehoshaphat chose a different approach: God-centered prayer. Instead of coming to the Lord with a “woe is me” attitude, Jehoshaphat began by focusing on God’s power and sovereignty (2 Chron. 20:6), His past faithfulness to Judah (2 Chron. 20:7-8), and His promise to hear and deliver His people (2 Chron. 20:9). Only after strengthening his faith through these reminders of God’s adequacy did the king make his petitions (2 Chron. 20:10-12). In prayer, we can choose to magnify either the Lord or our difficulty. Are you concentrating on the faithfulness of almighty God or your overwhelming problem and negative feelings? Let’s keep our eyes on Him and wait with complete confidence until we see the great things He’ll do for His glory and our good.
|10/16/2022||1 Corinthians 12:14-18|
The whole body of Christ benefits when believers use the skills God gave them. It’s often at this time of year that church members gather to tend to their buildings and grounds, preparing for winter and giving everything a thorough cleaning. There are many tasks to accomplish, and no one person is meant to do them all. The strongest workers tackle the heavy jobs like moving furniture or hefty tree limbs, while those with nimble fingers clean the dust from tiny spaces. Energetic little ones run supplies, while others can prepare refreshments for all to enjoy. When the congregation labors as a team, all the tasks are completed, and everyone benefits. The key is mutuality. In mutual relationships, we aren’t always equally equipped, but we should be equally committed to helping as best we can with the skills and talents God has given us. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, “The body is not one part, but many,” and “God has arranged the parts, each one of them in the body, just as He desired.”
|10/15/2022||1 Samuel 18:1-4|
Strong friendships require mutual respect, love, and commitment.
We all long to have good, reliable friends who love us, but how do we go about making these relationships? The biblical account of David and Jonathan helps us learn how to foster genuine, close friendships (1 Samuel 18:1-30, 1 Samuel 19:1-24 1 Samuel 20:1-42). Their story demonstrates that true companionship is built upon a foundation of mutual respect, love, and authentic commitment. Jonathan was the prince of Israel, while David started out as a lowly shepherd boy. Social status didn’t interfere with the cultivation of their friendship. When one experienced joy or sadness, the other did, too, because their hearts were knit together. Trying circumstances couldn’t weaken their commitment. Jonathan even risked his life and future kingship in order to save David from death. We were designed by God for true companionship. But developing this kind of relationship requires not only time and selfless devotion but also transparency, which means a willingness to reveal who we really are. Taking such a risk requires trust, but unwavering friendships are well worth the effort.
Intentional efforts to seek and maintain friendships can bring great reward.
How many true friends do you have? At first, a lot of names may come to mind, but the longer you consider the question, the more likely it is that the number will dwindle. The reality is that we do not have many genuine friends—in other words, the ones who remain loyal no matter what circumstances arise. Most people long for intimate friendships. In fact, God created us to need relationships with one another. Without them, we can easily suffer from loneliness and depression. Yet healthy friendships don’t just happen. They require intentional effort. For Christians, the goal is to choose godly friends who share our faith and seek to walk obediently with the Lord. Our closest companions need to be people we can depend upon for good advice, support, and encouragement. Another important component is mutual commitment. As today’s verse says, we need “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This dependable, intimate closeness is what the Lord wants for us, but it’s a rare treasure. If you have such friends, express to them your appreciation and admiration. And thank God for giving you such a valuable gift.
If you long for radical renewal in your life, commit to know God’s Word.
Paul’s priority was to know Christ. The apostle spoke of counting all things as loss in comparison to His relationship with the Lord, and he was given spiritual blessings that surpassed anything the world had to offer.
When we seek Christ through His Word, we too can expect the following spiritual blessings:
1. A Quiet Spirit. As we read and meditate on God’s Word, He restores our souls (Psalm 19:7). Then, instead of having stress and worry, we’ll experience peace of mind.
2. A Stronger Faith. Studying Scripture enlarges our view of God and gives us insight into His desires, ways, and will. The bigger the Lord becomes to us, the more we will trust Him in every circumstance.
3. A Purified Heart. God’s Word reveals our sins so we can repent and receive forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).
4. A Renewed Mind. When we read Scripture and apply its principles, our mind will be renewed to think biblically about God, ourselves, and the world.
Because Christ was the pursuit of his life, Paul knew joy amidst trials and received the strength to face turmoil and difficulty. These blessings are ours as well when knowing Jesus is our highest goal.
Unless we determine to put God first, we can easily lose days, weeks, or years to lesser things. Which sister in today’s story best describes you? Are you distracted and stressed, or eager to learn from the Lord? During Jesus’ visit, Martha let serving Him become more important than listening to Him. Even though the sisters were both expressing their love and care for Jesus through their actions, Mary chose the better way. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we lose sight of how important it is to refresh our soul with God’s presence. Although the Lord doesn’t want us to neglect our responsibilities, we need to spend part of each day praying, reading, and meditating on Scripture. Our relationship with the Lord should have first place above all else in life. Our mind and spirit need daily renewing with God’s Word so that our thoughts, attitudes, affections, and actions will flow from the application of spiritual truths. But as we’ve all probably discovered, this is not easy. Our own selfish nature clamors for supremacy, and the world with all its pursuits, pleasures, and temptations encourages us to indulge ourselves. Nothing should supersede your relationship with Christ. Like Mary, make time to listen and learn from Jesus through His Word.
|10/11/2022||2 Timothy 3:16-17|
Studying and obeying the Bible can help us avoid painful correction.
No one likes the pain of discipline, but parents know it’s necessary. In a family, there may be one child who learns lessons the hard way—through disobedience and the resulting penalty—while another child observes, learns, and does what’s necessary to avoid painful discipline. The same is true for us as believers—we can be trained by our heavenly Father the hard way or the easy way. Because we aren’t perfect, it’s impossible to avoid all discipline, but we can lessen it. By diligently studying the Scriptures, we learn what pleases and displeases God. The Word teaches us who God is and how He wants us to live. It also rebukes us when we sin and shows us how to correct course. Then it explains how to live in a manner worthy of the Lord. Being part of a sound biblical church is also a safeguard. We need godly people to counsel us and hold us accountable. You needn’t fear God’s discipline. Though His correction may hurt, it brings great spiritual benefit. So whenever you sin, be quick to humble yourself, admit your wrongdoing, and turn back to the Lord with a heart of obedience.
God’s discipline is another example of His great love for us.
Do you remember how much you dreaded your parents’ discipline when you were a child? They were doing it for your sake so you’d learn that sin and disobedience have negative consequences. Their goal was to train you to be responsible and good. Our heavenly Father also disciplines His children, but His purposes are even higher. He does it to train us in holiness so we’ll reflect His likeness. Divine discipline is corrective; the Lord uses difficult trials and painful circumstances to turn us away from unholy practices and to teach us the way of godliness. So when experiencing God’s discipline, we should understand that we’ve sinned and take His correction seriously. Instead of fighting the process, we’d be wise to cooperate by strengthening our area of weakness so we don’t fall again. At the same time, we should keep our eyes fixed on the promised harvest of righteousness and peace. If your troubles are a result of your own ungodly actions, confess them immediately and turn back to the Father in repentance and obedience. Not every hardship is a result of sin, but God will use all of our adversity to build faith and develop Christlike character.
|10/9/2022||Imagine if all people were alike. We would read the same books, listen to the same music, and eat the same foods. We’d have the same opinions and think the same thoughts. We’d also have the same limitations. How unbelievably dull—and dangerous—that would be. Thankfully, as believers, we’re called to unity, not uniformity. Unity is “the state of being united into one.” Uniformity, on the other hand, means “overall sameness.” See the difference? The first allows for the possibility of “iron sharpening iron” (see Proverbs 27:17), while the second gives only the illusion of harmony and safety. That’s why Jesus prayed His disciples would experience the Trinity’s unity: “The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (John 17:22-23). This means we can enjoy our differences and the oneness of being found in Jesus. What a blessing!|
|10/8/2022||2 Peter 1:1-11|
God’s promises are precious and magnificent. They became ours at the moment of our salvation so we’d have everything we need for life and godliness. They not only remind us of His care and love for us but also provide hope and encouragement during difficult times. Sometimes we’re shortsighted and think only of what the Lord can do for us in this life. We may try to claim biblical promises in hopes of getting what we want, but that’s not God’s purpose. He’s working for His glory and our long-term spiritual good, not our temporal desires. The Lord wants us to take hold of all the promises that come with salvation—and to rely on every resource He provides for our continual growth in faith, obedience, godly character, and love. The Holy Spirit, our instructor, works powerfully in us to enlarge our trust in God through the Scriptures. He also provides the strength necessary for obedience and develops the fruit of patience as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s commitments. As you read the Bible, look for all of God’s magnificent promises that you can claim as yours. Then count them as true, and rest in them.
Today’s passage says God is faithful to fulfill His promises. But if you’re like most Christians, you have probably felt as if He’s let you down at some point. Perhaps you found a promise in Scripture and believed the Lord would do it, but He hasn’t. The problem isn’t God’s faithfulness; more than likely, there’s a misunderstanding of His promises. So, when evaluating whether a passage applies to you, ask these questions:
1. Is it limited or does it pertain to all believers? Certain scriptural promises were given to a particular individual, while others were for the whole nation of Israel. And sometimes a promise concerned a specific event or circumstance. But God’s Word contains many that are intended for all of His followers throughout history. Always check the context.
2. Is there a condition to the promise? If so, we must meet that requirement. Otherwise, it won’t apply to us.
3. Am I asking for a need or a desire? God assures us He’ll provide whatever He considers necessary to complete His work in our life (2 Peter 1:3). But that doesn’t include everything we want.
These guidelines will help us discern which promises are ours. But we should remember that some might be fulfilled only in eternity. When that’s the case, we can look to the saints of Hebrews 11 as role models. They took God at His word—even if they didn’t see His promises fulfilled in their lifetime.
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Not only does God grant us the strength to endure, but He also rewards us for that endurance. What grace! Today, right now, we can be blessed with a sense of inner peace even in the midst of troubles that don’t seem to quit. When hardships multiply, grace abounds. When our attempts to fix our problems fail, grace keeps us standing. When we handle trials God’s way rather than through our own efforts, we receive a sense of contentment, satisfaction, patience, and even deep joy. We realize God is nurturing our character with the long view in mind.
Words are powerful. They can either tear down or build up. As we saw yesterday, harsh remarks can cause a destructive chain reaction—like the damage a lit match could do to a forest. In contrast, kind comments feel like a light summer rain that brings relief from the day’s heat. We should always be careful about what we say. Scripture clearly condemns gossip, deception, complaining, slander, angry outbursts, foul language, and vulgar joking. Yet the goal isn’t simply to avoid all bad speech; it’s to speak truth in an uplifting manner. After all, even correction can be delivered in a way that’s encouraging. Sometimes the problem is not so much what we say but how we say it. Oftentimes our tone of voice and body language convey much more than our words do. Nonverbal signals can reveal impatience, resentment, anger, malice, and bitterness—all of which tear others down. But wordless signals can instead edify by showing love, compassion, appreciation, and gratitude. In terms of godly behavior, we all fall short of perfection, but if we saturate our mind with God’s Word, He’ll transform our heart, attitudes, and speech. And when our words are gracious, others are blessed and God is glorified.
At the end of his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul highlighted some essentials of the Christian life—devotion to prayer, an attitude of gratefulness, and wise dealings with unbelievers. And our words should always be a reflection of our Savior. Paul understood the power of gracious words. They’re not only pleasing to God but also beneficial to those who hear. In contrast, James describes the damage an uncontrolled tongue can cause. He likened it to sparks that set a forest on fire or a restless evil that can poison (James 3:5; James 3:8). Sadly, we see this truth displayed in social media, workplaces, families, and even churches. What portrait of Christ do your words paint for others? Is your conversation seasoned with grace, or do you speak thoughtlessly, harshly, or rashly? Are you quick to criticize and judge others, or do you respond with compassion for those trapped in sin? As representatives of Jesus, we must learn to speak words of grace. We do this by cultivating humility, courtesy, and kindness toward those without Christ, while at the same time offering them the gospel, which can set them free from sin and hell.
The Lord is often ignored, reviled, belittled, and denied, but one day every eye will see Christ clothed in majesty and power. John 12:41 says that Isaiah was given a vision of Christ’s glory, and today’s reading records the prophet’s response. On seeing the Lord seated upon a throne in all His splendor, Isaiah recognized the depths of his own sinful condition and cried out, “Woe to me, for I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). Peter had a similar reaction to Christ. When Jesus miraculously filled the fishing nets to overflowing, Peter fell down before Him, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). But the religious leaders of the time responded in a very different way. When they heard Jesus’ preaching and saw His miraculous signs, they became angry and attributed His power to Satan (Luke 11:15). As believers, we are Christ’s ambassadors in the world, and there are varied responses to our presence. Some welcome the message we bring, while others react with reluctance or even outright hostility. In fact, Jesus warned us this would be the case (John 15:18), but we should never let negative reactions discourage us from faithfully sharing the gospel or living righteously.
The scene in today’s passage gives us a glimpse of a holy God who is worthy of mankind’s worship. He’s perfectly pure in His thoughts, motives, choices, and actions, and His holiness is also revealed in His separateness from all evil and transgression. Since God cannot tolerate or ignore sin, every wrong must be punished—with the penalty paid either by the offender or by an adequate substitute. And Jesus Christ is the fully sufficient substitute who paid what every one of us owed. What’s more, He’s the only one who can reconcile sinful mankind to God. The Son of God took on human flesh and lived a sinless life. Then, as 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV) tells us, Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the cross” to pay the penalty of divine wrath. His resurrection is the proof that the sacrifice was acceptable to His heavenly Father. All who trust in Christ as their substitute are reconciled to God, but those who reject the Savior must themselves bear God’s wrath for their sin. If we’ll acknowledge our unworthiness, confess our sins, and trust in Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, our sins will be forgiven. The Judge of all humanity declares us not guilty. What’s more, He also credits us with Christ’s righteousness. And someday we’ll join the saints in heaven praising our gracious, holy God.
|10/2/2022||1 Corinthians 6:19|
How are we to be filled with the Holy Spirit? This is a command and everything that God requires of us He also teaches us how to do. Do not think of the Holy Spirit as a substance. The Holy Spirit is a person. Don’t refer to the Holy Spirit as “it.” Refer to the Holy Spirit as Him. Jesus said, “He will teach you all things” (John 14:26). You wouldn’t say of a person, “It wore a maroon tie.” You’d say, “He did.” Don’t depersonalize the Holy Spirit. Don’t think of being filled with the Spirit as if you are a vessel and the Holy Spirit is a liquid, or as if you are a battery and the Holy Spirit an electrical charge. No, the Spirit is a Person, and you are a temple.
When Paul arrived in Athens, he found religious people seeking to please their various gods. To make sure all their bases were covered, there was even an altar inscribed to an unknown god. The Athenian religious culture may seem totally foreign to us, but today many people are likewise seeking to please false gods. Some who claim to follow the true God are actually worshipping an image of their own making. That’s why every Christian must answer three questions correctly.
1. Who is the one true God? He is the Creator who made the world as well as everything in it—including you and me. In fact, He keeps us alive and has determined where and when each of us will live.
2. How can we appease Him? There’s nothing we can do to make ourselves right with a holy God, because everything mankind does is tainted by sin.
3. What has God done to help us? In His Word, God has instructed us all to repent and believe in His Son, who paid the penalty for our sin and was raised from the dead.
How did you do? Do your answers confirm that you’re worshiping the one true God? If not, seek Him right now.
Put simply, we are God’s personal project. He is committed to the task of working in us, developing us, rearranging, firming up, and deepening us so that the character traits of His Son—called here “the image”—begin to take shape. The emerging of the Son’s image in us is of primary importance to the Father. In fact, it is impossible to thwart His commitment to the project. His work goes on even though we scream and squirm, doubt and debate, run and shun. There’s no denying it, the tools He uses hurt, but it all “works together for good.”
The value we place on something determines how we treat it. For example, you probably wouldn’t give much thought to an old shoebox. But if someone put $10,000 inside it, you’d protect it. Similarly, once we realize the worth of Scripture, we no longer read merely out of obligation. Here are six things God tells us about how to read His “instruction manual for life.”
1. Turn to it daily with eager expectation for what the Lord will reveal.
2. Meditate upon the Word to more fully absorb its meaning and implications.
3. Study God’s truth. There are a variety of ways to do this. For example, using a concordance or search engine, follow a specific word through the Old and New Testaments.
4. Believe what the Lord says.
5. Obey. In other words, apply what you read to your life situation.
6. Share what you learn. This will encourage others while strengthening you and sinking the lesson deep in your heart.
The Bible is living truth that protects and guides, pierces and encourages. From it, we learn how to be saved. When we grasp Scripture’s value, our interaction with God’s Word will prove its worth.
Step into almost any bookstore, and you can find a volume on pretty much any topic you have in mind. Want new direction for your life? Are your children disobeying? Are you hoping to live in a healthier way? There are books that were written to help, but do the authors have trustworthy credentials? There is a place to find accurate information and true guidance: The Bible will bless and benefit everyone who reads and applies its wisdom. Here’s what Scripture’s Author—“the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16)—says about His own Word:
The Bible gives direction for life (Psalm 119:105). God uses His Word to lead us, no matter what our circumstances may be.
Scripture strengthens us in grief or difficulty (Psalm 119:28; Psalm 119:116). By spending time processing what God says, we’re reminded that He loves us, cares about our situation, and can handle whatever we’re facing.
God’s Word helps us understand our inner motivations (Hebrews 4:12). Scripture acts like a mirror that lets us see ourselves as we truly are.
The Bible is the very mind of God put into words so that we can know Him more fully. To what extent do you depend upon this amazing Book as your foundation for life?
Yesterday I shared with you about a time when the Lord reminded me that I am not the vine—He is. For years I had tried to accomplish by myself what Jesus wanted to achieve through me. My desire was to impress God and earn His approval. His goal, on the other hand, was for me simply to abide. The Holy Spirit’s job is to live the life of Christ through us. This is known by a variety of names, including the exchanged life, the Spirit-filled life, and the abiding life. All of these describe the joyful existence Paul spoke of in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” Seen from the outside, a branch does not appear to be doing anything. But that doesn’t mean that the abiding life is passive. Jesus was the perfect example of a Spirit-filled life, and He certainly didn’t sit around! He worked hard out of a reservoir of divine energy (John 8:28). All of Christ’s wisdom, knowledge, and courage was drawn from God through the Holy Spirit. Christians bear fruit through surrender. We “take root” in the Lord by meditating on His Word, praying, and serving. We reserve nothing for ourselves to control but fully rely upon Him. That’s not passive living; it’s an abiding life.
|9/27/2022||1 John 2:3-6|
There was a time when I was so disheartened that I wondered whether to remain in the ministry. How could I tell people that Jesus would give them peace and joy when I didn’t feel it myself? God let me stew in my anxiety until I was fully committed to finding out if His Word was true or not. I found my answer in a biography of missionary Hudson Taylor. For a long time he, too, felt that his efforts fell short of the Lord’s expectations. But Taylor realized God wanted believers to trust Him fully and rest on His promises. As a child, I was taught that a person got saved and then went to work for God. You did the best you could to think, speak, and act in a wise, godly manner. When your best wasn’t good enough, well, you tried harder. Such an impossible expectation was wearing me out. This idea of letting Jesus Christ work through me sounded both biblical and liberating. A grape branch doesn’t bear fruit because of its determined efforts to get sunshine; rather, it simply abides in the vine, and fruit appears. The vine does all the work. In the same way, believers are to be in union with their Savior so that spiritual fruit can grow in their life.
The word delight means “to gain great pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness.” Isn’t that the kind of relationship you want with the Lord—one in which both you and He enjoy each other’s presence? Well, God also wants that kind of connection, and our part in helping it develop is through commitment, trust, and patience.
First, a believer must commit his or her ways to God. This means we invite Him to examine our desires and plans and alter whatever does not fit His purpose or plan for our life.
Second, a believer must trust God. Who is more worthy of our faith than the Father, who gave Jesus Christ to save undeserving sinners? The One who would not spare His only Son will certainly provide all that His children need (Romans 8:32).
Third, a believer must rest in God. When we fret, we’re neither committing ourselves to the Lord nor trusting in Him. Waiting on God is rarely easy, but He alone knows when circumstances and timing are aligned with His will.
Enjoying our relationship with the Lord requires effort, but it is a labor of love—because we were made to find joy in God’s presence. The greatest pleasure we can experience is to walk hand in hand with our Father.
If something matters to us, we are often willing to do whatever it takes to protect or care for it. Consider how parents save to send their children to college, or how a spouse sacrifices personal dreams and goals to care for an unwell partner. If we love someone, we’re willing to pay high costs and make deep sacrifices. But for believers, these things are more than the right thing to do. They are a holy calling, a way to “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) and love one another as Christ loved us (John 15:12). When we give sacrificially, two marvelous things happen. First, we experience the joy that comes with growing in Christlikeness—of “being transformed into [Christ’s] image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV). And second, our light shines before people who see our good works and praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). God-pleasing sacrifice might not be easy, but it’s always worth the cost.
If we could look through mighty telescopes or listen to electronic soundings, we could hear and see the metallic stars which both Russia and America have put into space in the past years. None of these synthetic stars have brought peace to the world. But God’s star promised peace to the whole world, if man would believe and trust. Too often man’s synthetic stars bring fear and anxiety. Our gadget-filled paradise, suspended in a hell of international insecurity, certainly does not offer us the happiness of which the last century dreamed. But there is still a star in the sky. There is still a song in the air. And Jesus Christ is alive. He is with us, a living presence, to conquer despair, to impart hope, to forgive sins, and to take away our loneliness and reconcile us to God.
I remember being severely chastised once while in a meeting at another organization. I wanted to react, but instead I turned to God, and He enabled me to remain calm and respond in a godly manner. Turning to the Lord in prayer is always the best response in a crisis. We can ask Him to provide:
Spiritual discernment. God perfectly understands the situation, and He can help us understand too. With His assistance, we can gain insight into the source of the problem and move forward toward resolution.
A quiet spirit. It’s natural to react quickly and defend ourselves. But we need to deliberately focus our attention on the Lord and experience the inner peace that He promises (John 14:27).
Wisdom. God told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would give them wise words to say when they faced hostile authorities (Luke 12:11-12). He will do the same for you. If tempted to speak hastily, ask the Spirit to seal your lips until God provides the words and the proper time to respond (Psalm 141:3).
No matter what the situation may be, God has called us to represent Him the same way that Christ did—through dependence on our heavenly Father. Next time someone speaks critically to you, how will you respond?
When people argue, they can say harsh words, create turmoil, and cause emotional pain. But there’s hope—our beliefs can positively influence how we respond in conflict. Consider God’s sovereignty, for example. If you believe the scriptures proclaiming God’s rule over nature (Psalm 135:6), government (Job 12:23), and mankind (Acts 17:25), then you know that nothing in heaven or on earth is hidden from Him or outside of His control. This means our heavenly Father, who has promised to protect His children, knows when people verbally attack us. Nothing can touch us apart from His permissive will. His sovereign control also gives Him the power to work pain into something beneficial (Romans 8:28). We have hope because His will cannot be thwarted, even in bad circumstances. When we believe in the Lord’s sovereign rule, our perspective on conflict changes. Instead of responding with fear, anger, or resentment, we turn to Him for guidance. Fighting is inevitable in our fallen world. When it’s our fault, we are to apologize; when others are responsible, we may have to confront them. But regardless of the circumstances, we’re called to forgive without exception—and we can because God is in control. As Christ’s ambassadors, the way we respond matters.
When Moses learned he was to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage, his initial reaction was, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11). But God assured him, “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12 NLT). The Lord’s divine presence was a key part of Moses’ equipping as a leader. And God’s response to believers today is the same. We can confidently accept the responsibility He gives us—no matter the role—because He has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). But Moses wondered whether the Hebrew people would listen to him. He had been away from Egypt for a long time, and his last interaction with the Israelites had been a negative one (Exodus 2:11-14). What kind of influence could he have? God responded that the only credential Moses needed to give them was that he was sent by God—the I AM (Ex. 3:14). In addition, the Lord gave Moses a helper: his brother Aaron. When the Lord gives us a task, He will bestow the spiritual authority we need to carry it out, and He will provide us with people to help. God has promised to equip us for His work. What is your response when asked to serve?
Sometimes we find ourselves out of money, out of strength, out of ideas, or out of opportunities. But the Christian is never out of everything, for we always have God. And with God, we have everything. That fact alone is enough to motivate us to worship Him and wait for His answers. That’s what King Jehoshaphat of Judah did when his nation was surrounded by three neighboring nations’ armies. Judah was far outnumbered. Jehoshaphat prayed a lengthy prayer of praise, concluding with these words: “Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12). All they had was God, so a prophet directed the king to set out for battle, praising and worshiping the Lord as they went. And God routed the enemy armies and delivered Judah. God was all they had, and in the middle of worshiping Him, they were delivered. If you are at the end of your resources today, if you don’t know what to do, put your eyes on God in praise and worship and wait for His deliverance.
Have you ever experienced a situation that seemed impossible to endure? Years later, did you realize how that trial prepared you for things to come? The Scriptures tell us that the Lord sometimes allows us to be “sifted” for greater service. In other words, He may give Satan permission to affect an area of our life and thereby transform us into stronger witnesses for Him. In today’s passage, Jesus explains this process to Peter: “Satan has demanded to sift you men like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail; and you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knew what was coming—His death, resurrection, and ascension—and He expected Peter to lead the disciples and accomplish great things for the kingdom. But Peter wasn’t ready. So the Lord allowed Satan to “sift” Peter. In so doing, God separated the “wheat” from the “chaff”—the righteous areas of Peter’s life from the ungodly areas. Ultimately, the disciple grew from the experience and played a key role in spreading the gospel. Had God not allowed this sifting, Peter wouldn’t have been prepared for the events to come. Ask God to bring into focus similar ways that He’s used difficulties for your ultimate good.
I want to give you a challenge. Find anywhere in the Bible where anybody was ever saved twice. You can’t do it. Do you know why? It’s impossible to be saved twice. Nowhere in the Bible will you ever find someone who was saved twice. Some people believe you can get saved and lose your salvation. They believe you must be born again and again and again and again. They believe you keep on getting saved. But as today’s verse reminds us: by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. Did you know for you to be saved twice Jesus would have to die twice? When you were saved, you received a ticket marked good for one salvation. You are perfected forever. Jesus is never going back to that cross. He’s never going to die again. By one offering we’re perfected forever.
Prayer is the heartbeat of the believer’s walk with God, and He commands us to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). But we sometimes wonder what kind of influence our conversations with the Lord really have, and we find ourselves asking the following two questions: If God controls all things, why does He want us to pray? He’s self-sufficient and needs no help to accomplish His purposes, so what could any of us possibly contribute? Would God’s plans fail if we chose not to pray? The Lord isn’t subservient to us. His plans are contingent only upon Himself. He works all things according to the counsel of His will, not necessarily on the basis of our prayers. These truths reveal the Lord’s grace toward believers. He doesn’t need us, yet He’s chosen to include us in His eternal purposes by letting us participate in His work through prayer. Though we may not understand the influence our prayers have, we know God chooses to use them in achieving His purposes. So keep praying. Being consistent in prayer helps maintain a sense of humble dependence upon the Lord. And answered prayer produces increasing trust in Him, along with greater gratitude for His sovereign care and protection.
No one likes to be at odds with a friend or loved one. But thankfully, the gift of forgiveness is always available to us. And it’s one we must learn to both give and receive repeatedly on the long road of sanctification. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive a brother’s failings, and the disciple’s estimate falls dramatically short: Up to seven times, he suggests. Jesus’ answer is shocking in its extravagance: He tells Peter that he must forgive “up to seventy times seven” (KJV). What the Lord means is that forgiveness has no limits. In the Christian life, our goal is to become like Christ in every way, and our attitude toward releasing others from their wrongs is no exception. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” but we are also called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways we demonstrate that love.
Daniel’s integrity and godliness were well established over a lifetime of frequent challenges to his faith. Since his teen years, he faithfully lived out his commitment to the Lord. And when he was an old man, he was thrown into a den of lions because of his refusal to compromise. In this way, God displayed His power and faithfulness to His servants while also using Daniel as a witness to a pagan king. Is your unwavering devotion to Christ a witness to others? Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They’ll stay faithful as long as it’s safe and doesn’t involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they cave to pressure. What kind of witness is that? Who will want to follow our God if we ourselves won’t follow Him? Remember, the way we respond either draws others to Jesus or pushes them away. If you desire to be like Daniel, practice your commitment to Christ both privately and publicly. The time you spend alone with God in His Word will transform your character and strengthen your resolve to stand for truth in an unbelieving world.
Abraham began walking with the Lord many years before he was asked to offer Isaac on the altar. His first step had been to leave his home and relatives and travel to the land that God would show him. But now he was being told to give up Isaac, who was the son of promise: Through Isaac, the Lord had promised to bring forth a great nation and bless the entire world. Abraham’s obedience in this crucial test was based on his faith in God. He believed that the Lord would keep His promise to give him descendants through Isaac, even if it required raising the boy from the dead. That’s why Abraham confidently declared to his servants that he and his son would return to them after worshipping. He knew the Lord was faithful. If you’re going through a time of testing, God is seeking to increase your trust in Him. He wants to prove to you that He’s faithful to fulfill His promises. This challenge is designed to help you grow in faith, obedience, and spiritual maturity. The testing may be painful, but the Lord will wrap you in His love and carry you to victory.
|9/15/2022||The apostle Paul wrote extensively about the character and conduct of believers. He urged Christians to live in a manner worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1) and to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). His letters to the churches all include an explanation of what it means to live a godly life. One important goal is to eliminate sinful habits and behaviors and instead take on those that are acceptable to God. The acts of the “flesh” are no longer to be a part of us. We now have a new nature and should conduct ourselves accordingly. So let’s look again at the Galatians 5 passages that we read a couple of days ago. In verses 19-21, Paul lists specific behaviors that have to cease, and among them are those fueled by anger—hostilities, strife, outbursts of anger, and dissensions. These ungodly attitudes and actions are to be replaced by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If we’re full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we won’t be hot-tempered. Instead of speaking rashly, we’ll interact with others with the wisdom of Christ. We all struggle with some form of ungodly behavior, but we don’t have to continue in it. Change is possible because Christ has broken sin’s power over us, and His Spirit works continually to transform us.|
|9/14/2022||Anger is a powerful emotion that often causes great damage. It fuels inner resentment and bitterness, shuts down communication, and breaks relationships. If unchecked, it boils over into explosive rage that hurts not only the intended target but others as well. While we often try to justify our anger, seldom can it be classified as righteous. We’re rarely offended for God’s honor. Our motives are usually born of self-defense, thwarted desires, or outrage over perceived wrongs against us. James wrote that our anger does not bring about God’s righteousness in our life. The book of Proverbs gives God’s perspective on the subject. Quick-tempered people act foolishly (Proverbs 14:17), stir up strife, and abound in wrongdoing (Proverbs 29:22). There are also warnings not to associate with such individuals so we won’t learn their ways (Proverbs 22:24-25). In contrast, those who are slow to anger have great understanding (Proverbs 14:29) and demonstrate wisdom by holding their temper (Proverbs 29:11). Jesus paid our sin debt with His life in order to set us free from sin, and that includes uncontrolled anger. If God has convicted you of unrighteous anger, confess it as sin and ask Him to reproduce Christ’s character in you.|
|9/13/2022||Galatians 6 teaches “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith”. This passage contains an important scriptural truth: Our actions and words have consequences. Or put another way, we get back what we put in. And this is especially obvious in our relationships. Earlier in Galatians, Paul explained that there’s a battle between a believer’s new nature, which is ruled by the Spirit, and the “flesh,” which is ruled by the sin patterns that linger in us. Then he listed some of the deeds of the flesh, many of which are relational: strife, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy (Galatians 5:20-21). In contrast, Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Which one of these lists more accurately reflects how you treat others? Admittedly, there are some people who are difficult to love, yet sowing the fruit of the Spirit in those relationships will reap a forgiving heart, godly character, and faithful obedience in us. But sowing to the flesh has a corrupting influence in our life. Before you interact with anyone, ask yourself what kind of harvest you’d like. You’ll never go wrong by letting the Spirit guide you.|
God often delivers His best gifts to us in unexpected ways . . . with surprises inside the wrappings. Through apparent contradictions. Somewhat like the therapy He used when Elijah was so low, so terribly disillusioned. How did the Lord minister to him? By an earthquake? In a whirlwind? Through a scorching fire? You’d expect all the above since Elijah was such a passionate, hard-charging prophet. But no. The story from 1 Kings 19 makes it clear that Jehovah was not in the earthquake or the wind or the fire. Too obvious. Too predictable. That’s not the Sovereign’s style. After all the hullabaloo died down, there came “a gentle blowing” and shortly thereafter, ever so softly, “a voice” came to him (vv. 12–13) with words of reassurance and affirmation. Not, “You oughta be ashamed of yourself!” Or “What’s a man of your stature doing in a crummy place like this?” None of that. No blame, no shame, no sermon, no name-calling, no blistering rebuke. In contradiction to the popular idea of confrontation (and surely surprising to Elijah himself), the Lord encouraged His friend to go on from there. He gave him a plan to follow, a promise to remember, and a traveling companion to help him make it through the night.
|9/12/2022||In Matthew 5:5 Jesus said that “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”. In His characteristic way Jesus was saying something quite shocking and revolutionary to His listener with these words, “Happy are the meek.” He was saying something quite the opposite of our modern concept of the way to happiness. We say, “Happy are the clever, for they shall inherit the admiration of their friends”; “Happy are the aggressive, for they shall inherit a career”; “Happy are the rich, for they shall inherit a world of friends and a house full of modern gadgets.” Jesus did not say, “Be meek and you shall inherit the earth.” He, more than anyone else, knew that meekness was a gift of God, a result of rebirth. Jesus was not issuing a command in this Beatitude nor saying, “You ought to be meek, that is the way to live.” No! He was saying that if we want to find the secret of happiness, that if we want to enjoy living, then “meekness” is a basic key.|
|9/11/2022||The Holy Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that God is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with his Son, Christ our Lord. The question remains, “How can God be just—that is, true to Himself in nature and true to Himself in holiness—and yet justify the sinner?” Because each man had to bear his own sins, all mankind was excluded from helping, since each was contaminated with the same disease. The only solution was for an innocent party to volunteer to die physically and spiritually as a substitution before God. This innocent party would have to take man’s judgment, penalty, and death. But where was such an individual? Certainly, there was none on earth. There was only one possibility. God’s own Son was the only personality in the universe who had the capacity to bear in His own body the sins of the world. Only God’s Son was infinite and thus able to die for all.|
The Swiss Army knife is a remarkable invention. Small and compact, it contains blades and screwdrivers as well as a corkscrew, can opener, saw, and scissors—every tool a person might need to get through the day. But no such claim can be made about human beings. None of us are designed to meet all the needs of another individual, and it isn’t fair to expect one person to fulfill that kind of role. In order to thrive, we must have multiple relationships. What’s important for us to recognize is that even the strongest bonds will prove insufficient unless we nurture a still greater one—the relationship we have with our Creator, who loves us beyond anything our mortal minds can grasp. (See Deuteronomy 7:9; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 4:16.) All of the people we share life with teach us something about God’s love, but they can never be an adequate substitute for Him and His perfect affection. Think About It. Is there a person you expect too much of? Or does someone demand too much of you? Ask the Lord to help you see your relationships through His eyes—and to give you the strength to make necessary changes.
|9/10/2022||The Bible says in Revelation 2:10 “Be thou faithful unto death”. In our day much of the world believes little or nothing. People are broad but shallow. Agnosticism, anxiety, emptiness, meaninglessness, have gripped much of the world—and even the church. Our youth are desperately searching for a purpose and a meaning in their lives. They are searching for fulfillment which they are not finding in sex and drugs. By contrast, our Pilgrim forebears stand as shining examples of men who were narrow but deep, certain of what they believed, unswerving in their loyalty, and passionately dedicated to the God they trusted, and for whom they would willingly have died. I say to you, more than 350 years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed in the New World: Dream great dreams, embrace great principles, renew your hope, but above all, like them, believe in the Christ who alone can give total meaning and an ultimate goal to your life. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”|
|9/9/2022||A testimony is an account of what a person has seen or experienced. For us as Christians, it’s a declaration of who Jesus Christ is and what He’s done in our life. The authenticity of our testimony is displayed in three ways.|
1. Character. Starting at salvation, the Spirit begins the process of conforming us to Christ’s image. Then our thinking should align more and more with Scripture. As that happens, sinful attitudes will be replaced by godly ones, and our heart will desire to obey the Lord. If the internal change is genuine, it will be manifested externally.
2. Conduct. The way we act should confirm who we are in Christ. If we follow God’s instructions only occasionally but ignore Him the rest of the time, our testimony will be hypocritical. But a truly transformed life will be marked by obedience.
3. Conversation. We speak out of whatever fills our heart (Matthew 12:34). A transformed heart should overflow with gracious words and be quick to tell others about the Savior, who rescues us from sin and condemnation.
When our character, conduct, and conversation match who we are in Christ, we’ll have a testimony that encourages fellow Christians and draws unbelievers to the Savior.
|9/8/2022||The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that “God loveth a cheerful giver”. The greatest blessing of giving is not on the financial side of the ledger but on the spiritual side. You receive a sense of being honest with God. You receive a consciousness that you are in partnership with God—that you are doing something constructive—that you are working with Him to reach the world for Jesus Christ. You are also enabled to hold on to this world’s goods loosely because the eternal values are always in view. How do you give? Is it liberally and cheerfully? Or is it sparingly and grudgingly? If you have been giving God the leftovers of your substance and your life, you have been missing the true joy and blessing of Christian giving and living.|
|9/7/2022||Are you seeking to know and understand the Lord? Even though He’s beyond human comprehension in many ways, God has revealed much of Himself in His Word. And as we search for Him in Scripture, we’ll grow in our understanding of His nature. But this isn’t merely an academic pursuit. Knowing God practically impacts every area of life. For one thing, knowledge of God influences our prayers. Instead of asking for whatever we want, we’ll seek to ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). And we won’t limit our requests in size or scope because we’ll realize that nothing is impossible with God. The way we view the Lord also affects how we think, behave, and relate to other people. Knowing Him intimately transforms our natural tendency toward doubt and sin. Then we desire to walk obediently before Him, with a pure heart. Instead of loving the world, we seek to please Him by loving His people unselfishly and resisting sinful lusts. Paul thought knowing the Lord was so important that he made it the primary pursuit of his life (Philippians 3:8-10). Could that be said of you? Self-reformation soon fails, but knowledge of God renews you from the inside out.|
|9/6/2022||Suppose you’re faced with the most tragic situation you could possibly envision. For some of you, this requires little or no imagination because you are presently in the middle of the toughest trial of your life. Here’s what it looked like for the disciples: Their hopes and dreams were shattered when Jesus broke the news of His imminent departure. Life as they’d known it was coming to an end. Yet Jesus assured them that He was leaving His peace with them. This was His will for them, and it’s still what He desires for us today. The key to experiencing the peace of Christ is to believe in Him (John 14:1). But in addition to believing in Him, we must also trust what He says. God always works for our good, even in hardship. Trusting His motive and purpose is the basis for our peace. Life is an obstacle course with trouble lurking around every corner. It’s not a matter of whether storms and trials will come, but when. Yet we don’t have to live in fear and anxiety, because it’s God’s will that we take hold of His peace by trusting Him.|
A harnessed horse contributes much more to life than a wild donkey. Energy out of control is dangerous; energy under control is powerful. God does not discipline us to subdue us, but to condition us for a life of usefulness and blessedness. In His wisdom He knows that an uncontrolled life is an unhappy life, so He puts reins on our wayward souls that they may be directed into the “paths of righteousness.” That is what God seeks to do with us; to tame us, to bring us under proper control, to redirect our energies. He does in the spiritual realm what science does in the physical realm. Science takes a Niagara River with its violent turbulence and transforms it into electrical energy to illuminate a million homes and to turn the productive wheels of industry.
|9/5/2022||Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If we are alive and breathing, God is not finished with us yet. He has a plan for good for each of us. However, His “good” and our “good” sometimes look like two very different things. When we picture “good,” our minds conjure up sunny skies, carefree days, cars that never break down, jobs without difficult co-workers, children that never go astray, health, wealth, puppies, and rainbows. When Paul spoke those words, “good” in that statement means God-like. To rephrase it: God is working in the life of the believer to make us more like Him. And sometimes, that takes strong medicine!|
Most of us want peace in our heart, our relationships, and the world. But the most important area of peace is with God. Without it, we’re doomed. When Adam and Eve sinned, a barrier was erected between humanity and the Creator. The harmony that had previously existed between God and man was destroyed, and only God could restore it. The cost of reconciliation was the horrific death of God’s Son as He hung on the cross, bearing the weight of mankind’s sin. That day Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for our transgressions. At the moment of His death, the massive temple veil dividing the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom, signifying that reconciliation had been accomplished. Now peace with God was possible. Though an instrument of brutality and death, the cross will stand forever as a symbol of peace. But peace with God is given only to those who through faith receive Jesus as their Savior (John 1:12-13). What greater peace could there be than the certainty of perfect harmony with God? Have you received this gift?
|9/4/2022||Relationships are among God’s greatest blessings in life. He made us to need and flourish with one another, and the people He surrounds us with are meant to walk alongside us in both good times and bad. (See Romans 12:15.) But these bonds don’t magically happen—they’re built over time. For that to happen, we must clearly articulate our needs and also willingly listen to the desires of those we care about. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus calls us to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the same wants and needs we do. For instance, perhaps you feel cherished when someone gives you a thoughtful gift. But if someone important to you finds gift giving difficult and avoids it, you might feel unappreciated. Or perhaps a friend feels most loved through deep conversation. If that’s not in your wheelhouse, some work will be required. It may not be easy, but doing the work to love well always leads to blessing.|
|9/3/2022||God from the beginning chose you for salvation. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says that salvation is the act by which God saves us from sin, death, and hell. If you aren’t sure you’ve passed this mile marker in your life, sincerely pray now, asking the Lord to forgive your sins. Tell Him you believe Jesus died for you and rose again. Give Him your whole life from this day. With your mouth, make confession unto salvation. It’s a small prayer, but it’s a big moment! Your salvation depends on what Christ has done for you, not on what you can do for Him.|
It is widely reported that the 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther once said: “If I knew for sure that Jesus was coming back tomorrow, I’d plant a tree today.” Luther wasn’t trying to be cute, nor did he think that his words were contradictory. He was simply pointing out that no amount of speculation or confidence or doubt or belief about when Jesus might return should ever undermine the fulfillment of our basic ethical obligations or lead us to abandon the routine responsibilities set forth for us in Scripture. Sadly, many Christians through the centuries have taken an altogether different and unbiblical approach to this problem. Convinced that Christ was to return very, very soon, they abandoned their daily tasks and embraced a form of hyper-spirituality that served only to bring reproach on the name of Christ and disaster to their own lives. As you think about your final days on this earth, as you reflect on the glory and majesty of the return of Christ in the heavens, as you envision the skies above set ablaze by the myriad angels who will accompany Jesus at His return, as you contemplate the destruction of His enemies and the impending inauguration of the eternal state … love one another.
|9/2/2022||All life is a struggle—that is the nature of things. Even within our physical bodies, doctors tell us, a conflict for supremacy is going on. The bacteria in our bloodstream are waging a constant war against alien germs. The red corpuscles fight the white corpuscles constantly in an effort to maintain life within the body. A battle is also raging in the spiritual realm. “We fight,” the Bible says, “against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Darkness hates light. I have a dog that would rather dig up a moldy carcass to chew on than to have the finest, cleanest meal. He can’t help it—that is his nature. Men cannot help that it is their nature to respond to the lewd, the salacious, and the vile. They will have difficulty doing otherwise until they are born again. And until they are changed by the power of Christ, they will likely be at enmity against those who are associated with Christ.|
Too often we let our circumstances determine our attitude. If life is going smoothly, then we feel good, but when it gets hard, our mood drops. As Christians, we don’t have to live this way. Like the apostle Paul, we can learn to be content with whatever God brings or allows in our life. God allows various kinds of suffering to help us mature in faith and become more like Jesus. (See Romans 5:3-5.) In these situations, contentment is the ability to accept life as it is—not wanting anything more or different. Such acceptance is possible only if we maintain a biblical perspective and rely on God’s strength in our weakness. But if we fight against our circumstances, we’ll be miserable because we’re resisting the Lord and His purposes for us. He’s working out His perfect plan through each event in our life—even the ones we don’t like. (Of course, when hardship is due to abuse or certain other sinful situations, pastors or Christian counselors can help us discern whether self-protection is necessary.) Submission and trust are essential for contentment. As long as we try to control the situation or maneuver our way out of it, we’ll be stressed and discontent. But if we realize that whatever God allows is for our good, we’ll be able to surrender our will and desires. Then, by relying on the Lord’s wisdom and strength, we’ll discover the contentment only He can give.
Marina Noyes, a pastor’s wife in Ukraine, explained how her family dealt with the hardships that fell on their nation earlier this year. “When the trouble comes, we cry. When it gets bad, we pray. When it becomes unbearable, we sing.” The difficulties of life trigger wide-ranging emotions within us. God created us as emotional people, and He gave us personalities equipped to process the events of life. Just as Jesus wept by the tomb of His friend, we cry. But we don’t stop there. We pray. We trust. We seek out God’s comfort. We find His promises and claim them, which allows us to walk by faith. But we also sing, for the song in our heart comes from the Holy Spirit, whose fullness spurs us to render psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-19). The psalmist had his enemies, but his secret weapon was offering sacrifices of joy before God and singing praises to the Lord. What’s your favorite hymn or praise song? Why not sing or listen to it now?
|9/1/2022||What kind of life do you think brings contentment? You might assume it’s one with few problems, good health, financial security, and a loving family. But that was not the apostle Paul’s experience. His life was filled with dangers, rejection, personal attacks, beatings, and imprisonment, yet he claimed to have learned the secret of being content in every circumstance. The source of his contentedness was obviously not his situation, and that can be true for you as well. The secret that he discovered was to focus on and rejoice in the Lord. Paul knew he was spiritually rich and had been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). The comforts and pleasures of this life were not worthy to be compared to the eternal glory that awaited him (Romans 8:18). Contentment is hard to find and even harder to keep. There’s always something newer and better to acquire or a more appealing relationship to pursue. What’s more, the hardships of life can easily drag us down if we don’t keep our focus on the Lord. When you feel unsatisfied, remember all you have in Christ and respond according to these truths rather than your feelings.|
|8/31/2022||Joseph’s enslavement lasted for 13 years and went from bad to worse. He lost his favored position in Potiphar’s household and went to prison when the master’s wife told lies about him. His hope for release from jail died when the king’s servant forgot his promise (Genesis 40:14; Genesis 40:23). His future looked bleak. Despite the evidence of circumstances, God was carrying out His plan to bless Joseph and his entire family. In fact, Joseph was God’s appointed person to rescue them from the coming famine. But for that to happen, he had to learn the Egyptian language and culture, develop leadership abilities, and mature spiritually. The Lord’s plan made it all possible. Joseph learned two helpful lessons. First, the Lord is a faithful companion who uses our troubles to prepare us for His work. Second, once the Lord has accomplished His purposes, the difficulty will end. At God’s chosen moment, Joseph was freed from jail, rewarded with a high-ranking appointment, and reconciled with his family. Adversity can be painful, but the Lord uses it to further His purposes and equip us to carry out His plan. What is He trying to teach you in the midst of your trials?|
Scripture encourage us to pray and to keep praying. There is nothing wrong with repeatedly asking for the same thing. As long as what you are praying for is within the will of God (James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15), keep asking until God grants your request or removes the desire from your heart. Sometimes God forces us to wait for an answer to our prayers in order to teach us patience and perseverance. Sometimes we ask for something when granting it is not yet in God’s timing for our lives. Sometimes we ask for something that is not God’s will for us, and He says “no.” Prayer is not only our presenting requests to God; it is God’s presenting His will to our hearts. Keep on asking, keep on knocking, and keep on seeking until God grants your request or convinces you that your request is not His will for you.
|8/30/2022||One of the keys to walking through a valley is to embrace the reality of God’s presence with us. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live permanently within us and seals us as belonging to God forever. Because of Him, we are never apart from the Lord. No circumstance, suffering, or loss can separate us from Him or His love. |
None of us know how many times the Lord’s protecting hand has saved, guarded, defended, and watched over us. None of us know how busy the angels have been keeping us from harm and evil. In His love, God protects us, even in the midst of hardship. Romans 8:28 is very real: “All things work together for good.”
Jesse Mooney Jr.
Do you know what real faith is? Real faith is not receiving from God what you want; real faith is accepting from God what He gives. Learn that and you won’t get offended at God. If things don’t work out like you think they should—if you’re serving God but you end up in a dungeon—just remember that God is God. He is good, and He is in control.
A porch light is akin to a welcome sign, reminding weary travelers that there’s a comfortable place still open where they can stop and rest. The light invites those passing by to come on in and escape from the dark, weary journey. Jesus says the lives of those who believe in Him should resemble that of a welcoming light. He told His followers, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). As believers, we’re to illuminate a dark world. As He directs and empowers us, “others may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven”. And as we leave our lights on, they will feel welcomed to come to us to learn more about the one true Light of the World—Jesus (John 8:12). In a weary and dark world, His light always remains on. Have you left your light on? As Jesus shines through you today, others may see and begin radiating His light too.
|8/29/2022||A long-haired blonde from a southern university seemed to be enjoying a satisfactory student career when her grades began to slip. “Life had become one long case of the blahs,” she confessed later. “I wasn’t walking around with a steady load of blues, but I wasn’t enjoying life. Small things made me blow up. I met some kids who seemed to know something I didn’t know, but I couldn’t get in on it. We went to several meetings, and one night the speaker said that we don’t earn God’s love. He takes us as we are. It was then I realized it wasn’t a matter of clocking up a certain number of hours doing good deeds. Instead, I had to make myself available. Through faith, I had to let Him take over. It came together all at once, when I accepted Christ as my personal Savior. I know that God is in me in everything I do. My life has taken on a new dimension.” Does your life have this new dimension? It can! Just begin now with Jesus Christ! When you make this beginning, it will be your first step toward realizing personal fulfillment, meaning, and joy.|
It is often helpful and interesting to compare how Jesus and Paul approached the same subject in their teachings. Jesus was the plainspoken Shepherd and Teacher who used metaphors and illustrations familiar to His audience. Paul, on the other hand, was a theologian and rabbinic scholar who wrote and spoke in eloquent terms. Comparing their differences provides an expanded understanding of a topic both addressed. Take eternal security; both taught the same truth but expressed it in different ways. Jesus addressed it when describing Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10). His sheep would never perish because they are secure in His and the Father’s hand (verses 28-29)—no one could “snatch” them away. Paul, on the other hand, described a long list of more than fifteen circumstances, none of which can separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39). Both Jesus and Paul taught that believers are eternally secure, using different words. When you go through challenging times, read Jesus’ and Paul’s assuring words. Then rest in the love of God in Christ.
|8/28/2022||Deep, honest relationships require time and effort. But as human beings, we all have physical, mental, and emotional limits that we can’t ignore. Even Jesus, who was all-powerful, took time to step away from the crowds and His disciples to recharge by connecting with the Father (Luke 5:16). When we can’t give as much to our relationships as we hoped, it might be our turn to receive. Sometimes the best thing we can do is let our family and friends help. God designed us to lean on one another as we see in the following scripture:|
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand,
1 Corinthians 12:18-26
|8/27/2022||Jesus told us to continue His work on earth—to share the good news about God’s saving grace (Matthew 28:18-20). Following this command, however, isn’t always easy—especially with people who might be different from us. It may feel easier to befriend someone who shares our values, yet Jesus told us to “make disciples of all” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added). While some opportunities may look like a waste of time from human perspective, the truth is that we never know who may be led to Jesus through our obedience. Just look at Jesus’ life: He ate dinner with hated tax collectors (Matthew 9:10; Luke 19:5) and gently spoke His message of hope to an adulterous woman (John 4:7-27). And to anyone—disciple or Pharisee—shocked by His associations, He explained that He “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). We are to tenderly point men and women of all nationalities and backgrounds toward our forgiving God. If Jesus were on earth today, He’d be ministering to the needy, the addicted, and the downtrodden. To be like our Savior, let’s love others and help them meet Him.|
|8/26/2022||Life is challenging, so we can easily get distracted and allow circumstances to dictate our emotions. But if we operate that way, then when life is good, we’re happy; when times are tough, we’re frustrated; and when hardship pours in, we’re miserable. On the other hand, unwavering commitment to the Lord is a cornerstone of faith. When we are situated on that foundation, we can focus solely upon God. In order to hold on to the Lord through any trial or temptation, commit to trust and follow Him all of your days. Lay claim to His promises: The unchanging Lord and Savior is committed to caring for you in all circumstances and will never leave or forsake you.|
Ah! believe me, whatever we may say about the reckless, heedless multitude of mankind, those whom God blesses, and those whom God uses, cannot fall until the day’s work is done.
Edwin Paxton Hood
|8/25/2022||What a blessing to have Christian friends to encourage and support us as we serve Christ! Our loads are too heavy to carry alone, and we need someone to rejoice and to weep with us. It begins when we make ourselves available to rejoice and weep with someone needing us. Today the Lord may bring across your path someone needing your simple presence. Be there!|
|8/24/2022||Strength is not always revealed in a dramatic display; at times, it’s demonstrated in determined endurance. Jesus could have freed Himself with one spoken word, but love kept Him there on the cross. With mankind’s eternal destiny at stake, Christ hung on until our salvation was attained.|
How do we talk when around non-believers? Do we speak like the world, trying to fit in? Or do we speak graciously in ways that build up our hearers? Are our words attractive, conveying love and grace? How we speak to non-Christians is as important as what we say to them.
Romans 11:25 says this is God’s program, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in”. When the last Gentile gets saved, a number that only God knows, then Jesus will come back. What an opportunity for each of us today, to witness to Gentiles as well as Jews. Just think, you could lead that last Gentile to Jesus, and then Jesus would come.