|1/29/2023||Worship God in Every Season of Life|
Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
What is the highest good? What is the ultimate privilege? Here Jesus said it so clearly: we’re to love God.
We are to love Him thoughtfully with all our hearts. A full heart is no excuse for an empty head. Serve the Lord with knowledge and wisdom. Love Him in spirit and in truth. Then we love Him practically with all our strength—everything we do. Whatever we do in word or deed, we do to the glory of God. (See Colossians 3:17.)
What is worship? It’s giving God glory. The Bible says to serve your masters, according to the flesh, as if they were Jesus, for you serve the Lord God. (See Ephesians 6:5.) Your workplace can be your temple of devotion, your lampstand of witness, as you worship God with all your strength. That’s what Jesus was telling this woman. She said, “Do we worship here, or do we worship there?” Jesus said, “Woman, you worship in spirit and in truth.” There is no place that is not a holy place. There is no ground that is not sacred ground. There is no time that should not be a time of worship.
Where in your life is it hardest for you to worship God?
What would it look like to worship God as you work throughout your day?
Write down one way you can commit to worshiping God as you work in your home, at your job, or in any other place He has called you for this season.
|1/28/2023||How to Express Love to God|
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
I once had the pleasure of attending a father-daughter banquet with my daughter, Janice, and we were in the program for the evening. Janice stood up first and spoke of what her father meant to her. I could not tell you how my heart was blessed, how deeply moved I was, and how grateful I was to hear my child speak not only privately to me, but openly and publicly of her love and devotion to her father. That’s the way God’s great heart is. It gives Him pleasure when we worship. A father wants love.
Now, I’ve got some good news for you. Every Father’s Day little children wonder, “What can I get for daddy? What can we give daddy?” You could give him some slippers, or you could give him a tie, but you know what your daddy wants? Love! What can you give to God today? You say, “Well, I can’t sing like these people sing. I can’t preach like so-and-so. I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” There is nobody who can love God better than you can, and that’s what God wants more than anything else. Isn’t that great?
Have you ever felt inadequate to love and worship God? Why or why not?
How do you express your love for God?
Make an intentional effort today to express your love for God in a special way.
|1/27/2023||Victory Is Found In Jesus|
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
If you are in Christ Jesus, where does this passage say you are seated? In heavenly places. You are in Christ. When God raised Christ, He raised you. Jesus by death destroyed him that had the power of death, and now He is seated in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers that ever were, are, or will be. He is there living, risen, and victorious. Guess who’s there with Him? You are!
Has Jesus ascended? Yes. Have you ascended? Yes! Does Jesus have all power? Yes! Do you have all power? The word power means authority. It doesn’t mean you can fly or walk on water. Were demons subject to Jesus? Yes. Are they subject to you? Yes!
If you’re not living in dominion, it is not because the devil is so powerful. Satan has no power over you. Jesus said, “I give you authority over all the power of the enemy” You may say, “Then why don’t I have it?” Paul wrote this to remind us of what we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember what you have in Him!
How should knowing this truth about who you are in Christ change the way you will live today?
Who are some brothers and sisters in Christ you know who need to be reminded of who they are in Him?
Encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ about who they are in Him.
|1/26/2023||Why Do We Worship?|
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
1 Corinthians 3:18
Why would we worship? That’s what God wants of you. Say to yourself, “God wants me to worship.” We become like what we worship. That’s the reason idolatry is such a sin. First, the man molds the idol, and then the idol molds the man. We become like what we worship. That’s true in the negative sense, but it’s also true in the positive sense. The more you worship God, the more you will become like God.
When you worship God, you increasingly become like what you worship, and God’s fire will be in you. As you contemplate the Lord, as you worship the Lord, as you keep your heart open to the Lord, you will be changed to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do other people see Jesus in you? Answer this sincerely in your heart. Are you being changed day-by-day into the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
When was a season in your life when you were being changed day-by-day into the image of Jesus? What has changed? What has stayed the same?
What does it look like to worship in your day-to-day life?
Write down some ways to worship God in your everyday life. Ask a brother or sister in Christ to give you some more ideas of how you might worship God every day.
|1/25/2023||Why Do We Pray?|
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Why do we pray? To invite God to be a part of our lives so we can delight ourselves in the Lord. The Bible says there in 2 Corinthians 6:1 that we are, “Workers together with Him.” God loves us so much that He gives us the privilege of participating in His kingdom work through prayer.
God can work without our prayers, but we cannot work without God, and it is prayer that leads us to depend upon Him. God does not want us to live lives independent of Him. If God simply blessed us without our asking, what would that do? That would teach us to live life independently from God. But Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). God wants you to abide with Him. That’s the reason He has taught us to pray; to invite Him to take control of our lives.
The devil cannot keep God from answering. So, what will he do? He will endeavor to keep you from asking. But our Lord in today’s passage says, “Ask, seek, and knock.”
What kind of things do you pray about? What things do you not pray about?
Who do you know who lives as an example of someone who abides in Christ? How do you observe them doing this?
Consider some things you do not pray about enough. Bring those matters to God in prayer today.
|1/24/2023||Are Your Eyes Fixed on Jesus?|
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In a race, a runner doesn’t run while looking back at the other people. Runners lose seconds if they turn their heads any other way except facing the goal. Likewise, you must keep your eyes on the goal. Jesus puts you in the race. He sustains you in the race. And He is the goal that you’re running for. It is not great faith in God that you need; it is faith in a great God that you need. You need to quit trying to have great faith and start learning who Jesus is. The more you see Jesus, the more you understand Jesus, and the more your faith will grow.
Suppose I wanted to cross a major bridge and I’m standing on one side, afraid that the bridge can’t hold me up. So, I try to make myself believe the bridge can hold me up. I could try to work up my faith, or I could just observe the bridge. I could see cars and people going over the bridge; then the belief grows naturally. As I look at the bridge, faith is the byproduct of seeing and understanding that the bridge holds heavier weights than me. Faith is the byproduct of seeing and understanding Jesus Christ. Look to Jesus. Understand who the Christ of the Scripture is. Get in the Word of God. Look to Jesus as the author and the finisher of your faith. And lay aside the sin that dims your view of Him.
What are some things you know about Jesus? How has that changed your relationship with Him?
When have you struggled to keep your eyes on the goal of Jesus?
Write down some things you look at instead of your goal of Jesus. Write down what you are hoping to find in these things when they take your focus off Him.
|1/23/2023||Do You Have a Heart That Believes?|
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
Did you know in the Bible the existence of God is never explained; the existence of God is never argued? God is simply presented. The Bible just says to believe.
Have you ever had anybody come up and ask you, “Can you prove there’s a God?” When they ask me, I say, “No.” Then I say, “Can you prove He doesn’t exist?” And if they are honest, they will have to say no. We can neither prove nor disprove God. So the skeptic says, “You just live by faith. You’re just believers.” I say, “You live by faith also. You’re a believer also. I believe there is a God; you believe there is no God.” I accept by faith that God exists. They accept by faith that God does not exist. To take this world apart looking for God would be like taking a piano apart looking for a song. You can’t do it.
Unbelief in God is not really a matter of the mind, it is a matter of the heart. Now that doesn’t mean there’s not any evidence on our side. If you have seen creation, you are pointed to a Creator. That’s evidence, but not proof. Our faith is rooted in evidence and goes beyond the evidence. Faith is necessary for spiritual wisdom. By faith we understand.
How has your life changed through growing in faith in Jesus?
In what areas of your life do you struggle to believe in God?
Pray and be honest with God about the areas you struggle to have faith. Ask Him to grow your faith in those areas.
|1/22/2023||Have You Decided to Follow Jesus?|
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
What did God the Father say about who Jesus is? He said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). God the Father showed us who Jesus is through His actions. When they nailed Jesus up on that cross and put Him in that cold, dark tomb, they said, “He is worthy of death! Crucify Him!” Almighty God reversed the decision of the court and raised Him from the dead. He is shown to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. (See Romans 1:4.)
I have believed this good news and lived for this good news. Have you? The early apostles believed it. Many of them died for their faith. Men may live for a lie; few men will die for a lie. Men tell lies to get them out of trouble, not into trouble.
Now it’s time for you to consider what you will do with Jesus. Will you crown Him or crucify Him? Will you acknowledge Him or reject Him? Will you receive Him or deny Him? You will decide, and how you live will be evidence of that decision. You cannot wash your hands as Pilate did, and you cannot be neutral.
What does it look like to live for the good news of Jesus?
How do you acknowledge Jesus in your everyday life?
Consider and journal about what it would look like to grow in how you acknowledge Jesus every day.
|1/21/2023||Who Is Jesus To You?|
He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
The first trial of the Lord Jesus was a mockery of justice. I’m going to put Jesus on trial again today. And I’m going to ask you to decide on a pertinent, personal, present, and pressing decision. I’m going to ask you to answer the question, “What do you think of Christ?” You’re the jury. Look at the Word and see the strong testimony about who Jesus is. Look at Simon Peter, a fisherman who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Consider Martha, who hosted Jesus many times and observed Him in all sorts of situations. Martha said, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27).
What about the testimony of Jesus’ enemies? Why did the Pharisees want Jesus crucified? Because, they said, “This Man receives sinners” (Luke 15:2). Aren’t you glad He did? What about the centurion? He helped drive those scalding nails into Jesus’ quivering palms. He watched Him die and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
In a very real sense, Pilate represents every man, woman, boy, and girl on the face of the Earth. We are each faced with the same question: What will I do with Jesus? As Jesus was before Pilate, Jesus is before you today. What will you do?
How has your decision to follow Jesus changed the way you live?
What kind of testimonies have you heard about Jesus from others?
Write down a testimony about who you have seen Jesus to be.
|1/20/2023||Are You Trying to Stay Neutral About Jesus?|
Pilate said to them, What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They all said to him, Let Him be crucified! Then the governor said, Why, what evil has He done? But they cried out all the more, saying, Let Him be crucified! When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it. And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us and on our children. Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
It is not enough to tip your hat to Jesus; you must bow the knee. It is not enough to say, “I find no fault in Him,” and think you’re all right for doing so.
The thing Pilate did that convicted him, the verdict that condemned him, was that he attempted to remain neutral. He thought he could simply wash his hands of the whole matter.
What he thought was, “I’m washing my hands of this whole affair. I am not saying yes, and I’m not saying no. It is your decision. I am neutral!” You can’t be neutral about Jesus. When Pilate said, “I am neutral. I will not make a decision”—that was the worst decision Pilate ever made. Because not to decide is to decide. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30).
An ocean full of water could not have washed the sin from Pilate’s hands. And when the gavel fell in Pilate’s court, another gavel fell in Heaven. Pilate was condemned when he allowed Jesus to be condemned. You cannot be neutral concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. To be neutral is to be against Him.
Have you ever been tempted to stay neutral on matters of faith? Why or why not?
Who do you know who is neutral on the matter of Jesus? How can you pray or encourage someone to make a decision?
Take time to pray for a loved one or neighbor who desires to be neutral on matters of faith. Ask God to show you how to share His love with that person.
|1/19/2023||You Can’t Decide Not to Decide|
Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
What will you do with Jesus? This is the most important question.
It is a present question, and it is a personal question. It is not about what somebody else is going to do with Jesus. Very personally, you are going to decide what you’re going to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a very pertinent question; your destiny hangs on your answer. It is a pressing question; you will answer. You may say, “Nope, I’m not going to answer that question.” Oh, yes, you will. You will answer the question one way or another. You say, “I’m not going to decide.” You just decided not to decide and that was your decision. It is inescapable and unavoidable.
Everybody who lives will accept Him or reject Him, confess Him or deny Him, crown Him or crucify Him. Nobody can be neutral. You will do something with the Lord Jesus Christ.
What will you do with your relationship with Jesus today?
How would your life change if you asked yourself this question every day?
Pray and ask God if there is someone you need to ask this essential question.
|1/18/2023||Are You Holding On to Your Old Life?|
I have been crucified with Christ; 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, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Imagine there’s a wedding. The vows have been said. The cake has been cut. Tom and Susie are in the car. They’re driving off. Susie looks over to Tom and says, “Tom, would you please take me home?” He says, “Susie, I can’t take you home. We’re going on our honeymoon. And then I’ll take you home.” Susie says, “No, Tom. I don’t mean that home. I mean my home. I want you to take me back to my mother. I’m glad that you’re my husband, I know that you love me, and I want you to know I’m grateful to be your wife. I’ll try to come to see you on weekends, and if I get sick or need anything, I’ll call you, but Tom, I’m going back to my old way of life.”
That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Have you ever heard anybody say, “Now, Lord Jesus, I take You as my Savior. Thank You. That’s done. Now I’m going back to my old way of life. Oh, yes, Lord, I’ll come and see you a few times on weekends. And, Lord, if I need anything or if I get sick, I’ll call on You.”? That is the kind of religion that is filling Hell. People have never really made the authentic confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Have you recognized and submitted to Jesus Christ as your reigning Lord? Has that changed your life?
What former ways of life are you tempted to hold onto?
Think of someone you know whose life has been changed by Christ. Ask that person to share his or her testimony.
|1/17/2023||Who Are the People You Love Most?|
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Think of the person you love most. What is your deepest desire for that individual? What do you desire for those you love most? Your greatest desire for them is extremely important because it shows what you value. For example, parents, do you desire an education for your children? Is that your greatest desire? If that’s all you desire, you’re going to raise clever devils. That’s all. Do you desire culture for your children? Now, we’re trying to refine young intellects and add culture. But if that’s your heart’s desire, if culture is your hope, all you’re doing is making the world a better place to go to Hell from. Is that your desire? You may say, “Well, I want them to be materially well off. I want them to have sufficiency.” What difference will that make if they have it all and then die and rise in judgment to face a God they do not know?
You see, Jesus came not as a great philosopher, not as an educator, not as an economist, not as a social worker; Jesus came as a Savior because man’s greatest need is salvation. And the desire you ought to have for all your loved ones is salvation.
Who are the people you love most?
What is your desire for the people you love?
Consider what it would look like for you to express the desire that your loved ones know Jesus.
|1/16/2023||Have You Responded to the Light?|
Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, ‘This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.’
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
A man may blaspheme God the Father and say, “There is no God.” He may blaspheme Jesus Christ and say, “He’s a false prophet or a fictitious person.” But when the Holy Spirit of God comes, He demolishes those things.
The Holy Spirit of God pulls away the veil of darkness. He opens the eyes of the spirit so that people can see and understand. The Pharisees were not sinning against ignorance; they were sinning against light. When Jesus was on the cross, He could say to those who were crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” But these men knew what they were doing.
The ministry of the Father is to rule the Universe. The ministry of the Son, in conjunction with the Father, is to save. But the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to open our eyes to give light and to help us to understand. Before I preach, I get on my knees and say, “Oh, Holy Spirit of God, open eyes. Help people to understand. Help them know You today.” It’s the Holy Spirit that opens understanding. When men and women stand before God to be judged, they’re not going to be judged primarily by the sin they committed but by the light they rejected.
Have you ever prayed for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes? How did you experience answers to this prayer?
What are some matters in your life for which you need the Holy Spirit to open your eyes?
Write down some of the things you need God’s direction in and pray for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes about what to do.
|1/15/2023||What Will Be Your Eternal Reward?|
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
We’re going to die. In this verse, you see what we call the glories of Heaven. When the beggar died, an angel convoy took him to a place called, “Abraham’s bosom.” What does that mean? Abraham was the father of the faithful, the most revered of the Jewish leaders, and the brightest star in the heavenly kingdom for these Jews. To be with Abraham would be a place of incredible honor.
What does it mean to be in, “Abraham’s bosom?” When people had a banquet in that day, they would not sit around the table as we sit around the table. They would recline. And the best place to recline would be where your head would be near the chest, the bosom, of the host. This man, who’d been feeding on crumbs, was now at a banquet. And not only was he at a banquet, but he was at the very highest place of honor. What Jesus was showing is the great radical change that took place: this man, a beggar, an outcast on Earth, was carried by the angels to Heaven to a place of honor.
Death is not the end. I’m not inviting you to a funeral; I’m inviting you to a feast. That’s what our Lord is talking about.
Have you ever felt rejected by the world? How does it feel to know Jesus has a place of honor for His followers?
Do you ever look for the approval of people? How does this passage show the things that are most important?
Share with someone the joys of Heaven you are looking forward to.
|1/14/2023||Life After Death|
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The only thing we know about life after death is what the Bible reveals and what Jesus says. Now one thing that we know is that death is not extinction. Death is not annihilation. There is life after death. “How do you know, Adrian?” Because Jesus teaches it. Your soul will be in existence somewhere when the sun, the moon, and the stars have turned to cinders. Somebody said there is a tombstone and engraved on that tombstone are these words, “Pause, stranger, as you pass me by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. Prepare to die and follow me.” And someone wrote on that tombstone underneath it, “To follow you, I am not content until I know which way you went.” Don’t let life pass you by before you consider these things—how your life today will affect the life to come.
What have you learned about life after death?
How does knowing about the life to come change the way you live today?
Make a list of different things you treasure. Take a moment to consider which of these will fade and which are treasures being stored up in Heaven.
|1/13/2023||Are You Holding On to an Unreasonable Argument?|
To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Have you ever heard anybody say, “I’m not a Christian because there are hypocrites in the Church”? That’s a sin against reason. Anybody with a modicum of intelligence knows that is not reasonable. There may be some Christians who are hypocrites. Judas was a hypocrite.
Some eggs may be rotten, but you’ve probably had some for breakfast that weren’t the rotten kind. Some money may be counterfeit. Would you burn all the rest of your money if you saw a counterfeit bill? Imagine saying, “I just don’t believe in hypocrite bills. I’m going to get rid of my money.” You know better than that. It is the hypocrite who proves the validity of the real. Why do people counterfeit 50-dollar bills? Because of the worth of 50-dollar bills. People don’t make counterfeit gum wrappers.
When you say the Church is full of hypocrites, you know better. I’ve been preaching long enough to know the best people on the face of God’s green earth meet on Sunday morning to give Him glory and praise. I’m not going to let hypocrites keep me out of Heaven and then spend eternity with them forever in Hell. This is a sin against reason.
Have you ever been discouraged by seeing hypocrites in the Church? How do you respond to the type of logic given in today’s devotion?
Who are some people of sincere faith you have learned from?
|1/12/2023||Are You Living Like You Are Dying?|
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
When I was in seminary, I would commute with a young man named Bob. Bob was a tall, sun-crowned preacher, one of the most gifted soul winners I’ve ever met. Bob said to me, “Adrian, there’s an old man who lives near your church. His name is Mr. Bourgeois. He has had a serious heart attack, a number of them, and he only has days to live. Would you go by and tell Mr. Bourgeois how to be saved?” I went to the man and sat down and explained the marvelous, wonderful way a man can be saved by putting his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That old man prayed with me, gave his heart to Jesus, and was saved.
Just a few days after that, my friend, Bob, a young man in his 20’s, had lunch with his wife, wiped his mouth, put his napkin down on the plate, took a few steps across the living room, gave a gasp, and fell down dead. He had said to me, “Adrian, there’s an old man near your church who only has a few days to live.” That old man lived for years. It was Bob who only had a few days to live.
You may be thinking, “Well, I’m in good health right now.” You don’t know what accident you may have on the way home. I’m telling you, if you’re not ready to die, you’re not ready to live.
How does the brevity of life give you the urgency to live out your faith?
Who is someone with whom you feel burdened to share your faith?
Plan to meet up with someone you know needs the hope of Jesus, share with that person the hope you have in Him.
|1/11/2023||Are You Prepared to Face Eternity?|
Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.
Death is a very real subject but one we often don’t take seriously. Man is the only creature who knows he’s going to die, and he is desperately trying to forget it. If you mention death in some contexts, people will change the subject like they change the channels with their remote controls. They don’t want to talk about death. They don’t want to face death. Even though it’s something we avoid, reason tells us we’re going to die, experience tells us we’re going to die, and if you’re not prepared to die, you’re not prepared to live. No man is ever ready to live until he is no longer afraid to die.
Jesus is the master teacher. He taught that there are three great issues all of us must face. Those issues are life, death, and eternity. Everything else is a subset of those things.
How does being prepared to die change the way you live?
Why is it dangerous to avoid the subject of death?
Share with someone a testimony about how being prepared to die has changed the way you live.
|1/10/2023||Is Jesus Your Ark of Safety?|
And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.
God brought Noah into the ark and God shut the door. As the water began to rise, those who’d been laughing at Noah and those who’d been mocking Noah now began to wonder, “What is this?” After a while, when the water got up to dangerous proportions, they surely came and began to beat on the door of that ark and say, “Noah, let us in,” but it was too late. God had shut the door. God shut out the water, and God shut out these people who laughed and mocked and scoffed. And God shut His people in.
There is an Ark of safety today. His name is Jesus. If you will come to Him and put your faith in Him, I promise on the authority of the Word of God, He will change you, He will transform you, and He will give you joy unspeakable and full of glory. You may ask yourself, “What if it costs me?”
Well, when Noah drove that last nail into the ark, he may have had nothing left, but when he came out of the ark, he had inherited the Earth.
I’m telling you—it pays to serve Jesus. If you’re not saved, you need to get saved. I mean get saved, not just become a church member. You need to be born again. Jesus is the Ark of safety. If you put your faith in Him, He will save you.
What are some areas where you need a reminder that Jesus is your Ark of safety?
How have you been transformed by Jesus?
Remind a fellow Christian who is struggling that Jesus is the only Ark of safety.
|1/9/2023||Are You Ignorant or Indifferent to God’s Truth?|
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
There is a story of a man who asked another man on the street, “Do you know what the two biggest problems in the world are today?” The man said, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.” The story reflects those two great problems: ignorance and indifference. There are some things we cannot and should not be ignorant of and dare not be indifferent to. One of them is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Noah was a preacher. He preached with the wrath of God in the foreground and the ring of hammers in the background. A near contemporary was a man named Enoch. The preaching of these ministers in that day did not penetrate the hearts of the people. Why? The people were marrying and giving in marriage, eating and drinking. Their technology, art, culture, and entertainment distracted them. They had eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and saw themselves as rich and increased with goods and needing nothing.
Can you imagine what the newspaper columnists of our day would have done had they gone out to interview Noah? What a field day they would have had. Our generation has been warned. There has been so much faithful preaching, and the last days are going to be marked by solemn preaching and people who will not listen.
What are some things that distract you from the gravity of God’s truth?
How have you learned to apply what you receive from preaching and from time in God’s Word?
Identify some distractions in your life and take a fast from them. Share with a friend to help keep you accountable.
|1/8/2023||What Do You Value Most?|
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
There are some things you can replace. But if you lose your soul, it’s an irreversible loss. Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). You can’t gain the world. If you could gain it, you couldn’t keep it. If you could gain it and keep it, it wouldn’t satisfy you.
Suppose somebody comes to you and says, “I have an offer for you. I will give you anything and everything you want. Do you want money? You can have it. Do you want pleasure? You can have it. But there’s something I want from you. I want your little finger.” Would you take him up on that deal? Maybe you wouldn’t, but I’m telling you there are millions in this world who’d say, “Sure, it’s a deal.”
There are so many who are giving far more to gain far less. They are giving their souls, not their eyes, ears, or hands—their souls—and they are not gaining all the pleasures of this world.
How have you valued building up your faith rather than the things of this world? How have you valued the world over your faith?
Why do you think it is so easy to get lured in by the world?
Think about the people around you, do they know the value of their souls? Pray for one person you know is trying to gain the pleasures of the world at the cost of his or her own soul.
|1/7/2023||You are So Valuable to God.|
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
1 John 3:1-2
Do you want to know how much you’re worth? Go to bloody Calvary. See Jesus Christ in agony and blood, dying upon that cross. First Peter 1:18-19 says, “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Put your ear on the beating heart of God and hear God say, “I love you, and I want you.” Come down lower and see Jesus dying there upon the cross. Why? Because He wants your soul. He paid that price for you! That’s how desirable you are to Him.
I know an evangelist named Mike, who often would share how he got saved. He was just throwing his life away like so many kids are today and didn’t care about anything. One day somebody said to him, “Mike if you had something you really didn’t care about and really didn’t want and didn’t value at all, but somebody else wanted it very much, would you give it to them?” He said, “Sure.” Then the person said, “Mike, Jesus wants your soul. He desires you.” And somehow Mike’s eyes were opened, and he gave his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m telling you; you are desirable to Him.
Do you consider yourself desirable to God? Why or why not?
How does knowing your value to Christ change your relationship with Him?
Share with someone today that he or she is valuable to God.
|1/6/2023||Are You Duped by Religion?|
And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
In Revelation, a surprising group standing under the judgment includes those who have been duped by religion. These are church members. They have religion, but they don’t have Jesus Christ. They have been baptized. They may have been members of a Bible-preaching, Bible-believing church. The devil would just as soon send you to Hell from that pew as he would the gutter; it makes no difference to him. There are many people who get their names on the church roll but never have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I believe in the church, but the church is not the way to Heaven; the church is a sign that points to Heaven.
One day I planned to go to Forrest City, Arkansas, for a meeting. Suppose you came out on Interstate 40 and saw me sitting on a sign that said Forrest City. You would come to me and ask, “Pastor, what are you doing?” I would tell you, “I’m going to Forrest City. Don’t you see the sign that says, ‘This way to Forrest City’? I’m sitting on this sign, and I’m on my way to Forrest City.” You’d say, “No, Pastor, you don’t get there by sitting on a sign. The sign points you to the way. The sign is not the way.” The church points you to the way; it is not the way, my friend. The church is only a signpost saying, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What is the difference between putting your faith in a church and putting your faith in Christ?
When did you choose to follow Jesus? How did that change your life or your plans for yourself?
Think of times God has affected your life outside of your church experience. How can you share those experiences with someone else?
|1/5/2023||Are You Ready to Meet Jesus?|
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
In the end, Jesus Christ is your Judge—not your opinion of yourself, not some friend, not your mother or your father. Jesus is described in the Bible as a Lamb, but also as a Lion. Jesus is both Savior and Judge.
You’re going to meet Him as Lamb or Lion, Savior or Judge. Jesus Christ is the unavoidable, inescapable person in your life. You may have cursed Him, you may have mocked Him, you may have ignored Him, but one day I can promise you on the authority of the Word of God that you are going to meet Jesus Christ. He cannot be deceived. He cannot be discredited. He cannot be disputed. His voice is like the sound of many waters. When He speaks, it’s like a hundred cascading waterfalls. Can you imagine somebody standing and arguing with Niagara Falls?
This is the One who is sitting on the throne. When we stand before Him on our own power, everything stable is gone. Everything that men have depended upon and looked to is gone. Only in Him do we have a firm foundation.
How has knowing Jesus as Savior changed your perspective on life and death?
Who is someone close to you that needs to know Jesus as Savior?
Pray for the person you know who needs to know Jesus as Savior. Find a way to talk to or encourage that person today and ask God to give you more opportunities to be a witness for Christ in the future.
|1/4/2023||Do You View Yourself as God Does?|
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Think of the potential there is in one human soul. It is valuable not only because of what it is, but also because of what it can be. You, one day, can be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Do you believe that? You may not see yourself as God sees you with His creative genius. It has been said that one time Michelangelo, a great sculptor, said as he looked at a block of marble, “There’s an angel in that block, and I’m going to set him free.” And he made a magnificent statue. That’s what God wants to do for you.
There is a lecture called “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell Conwell, in which he talked about a man who owned a farm in Africa. This man wanted diamonds. So, he sold his farm and went off looking for diamonds. But the person who bought the land discovered the farm was loaded with diamonds. The seller didn’t realize what he had! He was searching for something else. Your heart is on a search. You are standing in acres of diamonds spiritually—the potential that is in you.
Where do you struggle to see your own potential?
What would it look like to see your potential as God does?
Pray and ask God to remind you of your potential in Him.
|1/3/2023||What is Valuable to You?|
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Suppose there’s a boy who falls in love with a girl, but he doesn’t really know how to ask her to marry him. So, he thinks if he just gives her an engagement ring, she’ll catch the idea. He has it beautifully wrapped, and inside the wrapping is that velvet box with the satin lining on the inside and a gorgeous ring. He gives it to her and says, “Look at this and tell me what you think.” He comes back and says, “What did you think about my present?” She says, “It’s beautiful. I love it.” And she pulls out the little box. She says, “Look at the hinge. See the little clasp. See how fuzzy it is. And look how soft it is on the inside. Look at that satin.” He says, “Yes, but what about what was on the inside?” She says, “You mean that piece of wire and glass? I threw that away, but this is a wonderful box. Thank you so much for it.”
It sounds funny, but there are people who are just like that. They don’t understand that the body is the box; the soul is the diamond. We pamper the box, and we neglect the diamond that is on the inside. Jesus told us it is a pitiful and bad bargain if a man were to try to exchange his soul even for everything in the world.
When have you been tempted to invest in things of the world that would keep you from investing in your relationship with God?
Name a few people you know who prioritize investing in their souls. What difference does that make in their lives?
Make a list of different priorities in your life. Look at the list and consider where you are investing in your soul.
|1/2/2023||Do You Speak Truth to Your Soul?|
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.
Did you know there’s someone who’s always talking to you? There’s that old flesh, and it is constantly talking to you, and that’s where negative thinking comes from. That mindset is the one we inherited from Adam. That soul is saying, “You deserve this. You can never be better. You’d be better off dead.” In those moments, do you know what you need to do? You need to talk back. That’s what David did. He took his soul by the scrap of the neck, looked it in the face, and said, “Why are you this way, O my soul?”
Do you ever talk to yourself? You should. David was talking to himself. He was taking a firm inward look and doing some spiritual analysis. He asked himself this question, “Why am I depressed?” You need to ask yourself that question and be honest. You can answer it perhaps better than anybody else because nobody knows you like you. There are so many reasons we find ourselves in this state, whether it is from a hurting heart or the loss of something or someone we love. I challenge you in those times when life looks grey to ask yourself that question: Why am I so depressed? “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” If you are struggling with clinical depression, go get a checkup. When you take this inward look, don’t tiptoe around it. Talking to yourself may be the first step to healing.
What kind of negative self-talk do you struggle with? What have been some of the reasons for that?
Who do you know who is struggling? How can you encourage that person today?
Think about someone you know who may be struggling with loneliness or depression after the holidays. Find a way to encourage or serve that person today.
|1/1/2023||Do You Really Believe God?|
So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water…the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
Joshua 3:14-15a, 17
Why is it that some of us don’t follow God? Why don’t we get into the Jordan? We don’t believe God. I’ll give you an illustration. The reason some people don’t tithe is that they don’t really believe God. Malachi 3:10 says “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” Now, if a person believed that verse, would he tithe? Sure, who wouldn’t want God to open the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing so great he couldn’t even receive it? Do you know why we never get into Jordan or whatever it may be that God commands us to do? It’s because we really don’t trust God. And you know why we don’t trust God? Because we don’t know God. You can’t trust someone you don’t know.
What is difficult for you when it comes to trusting God?
In what ways would you say you know God well? In what ways would you say you don’t know God well?
Write out some areas where you need to place your trust in God this year.
|12/31/2022||God is Faithful to Keep His Promises|
Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides.
While you are preparing for this coming year, keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only guide you through the unknown places but also grant you unfading promises. Do you know what a covenant is? A covenant is a promise that is unfading and unfailing. The Lord Jesus Christ had the last meal with His disciples and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). He is our ark of the covenant. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Him. He will guide us through unknown places. He will grant us the unfailing promises of God. Don’t let 2,000 years keep you from a promise. The promises didn’t die with Moses or Joshua. The promises are for all saints; they are for all seasons; they are for all situations. Don’t think that somehow God blessed these people, but God won’t keep His covenant with us. If you’ll say, “My New Year’s resolution is to follow the ark, and wherever it goes, I’ll go after it,” He will guide you in the uncharted places, grant you unfading promises, and guard you with unfailing power.
What are some New Year’s resolutions you have considered making? What would need to change for you to commit to “follow the ark”?
When have you been tempted to forget the promises of God?
Write a list of your New Year’s resolutions and write down some things in your life that might change if you commit to following the ark.
|12/30/2022||Are You Worried About Tomorrow?|
Therefore do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
I heard about some people who were out in a boat on a dark stormy night. The passengers were frightened, so they sent somebody to talk to the captain. He asked the captain about the boat’s condition. The captain said, “I’m going to give it to you straight. This is a leaky old ship, and we may go down. But the boilers on this ship are very weak. We may go up. Whether we go down or up, we’re going on.”
That’s where we are as we look at the year to come. It’s a dark and stormy night, and this old world is not what it ought to be. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We may go down. We may die. We may go up. Jesus may come this year, but whether we go down or up, we are going on. We don’t know what a new year brings. We have never passed this way before. But we don’t have to know where we are going. Abraham went out; he didn’t know where he was going. He marched under sealed orders. Had Abraham known where he was going, it would have put his eyes on the destination. So, where did he keep his eyes? On God. God may keep you in the dark so that you’ll keep your eyes on Him. Aren’t you glad you don’t know the future? What if you knew the demands that would be placed on you in the future? What if you knew the sorrows or challenges that might come? It might choke you down. But in Christ, we can have confidence, no matter what the day, month, or year brings.
How do you feel about the year to come? What are you excited about? Anxious about?
How has God changed the way you handle the unknowns in your life?
Pray and be honest with God about the unknowns of the coming year that scare you. Consider what it would look like to fix your eyes on Him in the future.
|12/29/2022||Following Jesus to Victory|
And they commanded the people, saying, When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.
Why are some Christians victorious and others not? All Christians possess Jesus. The difference in Christians is not in possession; it is in position. When the Lord becomes the leader, when the Resident becomes the president, when the Christ who abides comes to preside, when the Lord begins to lead, He leads to victory. Every Christian is a possessor of God’s ark of the covenant, but not every Christian follows the Lord Jesus Christ into victory.
Learn to follow after the ark. Consider your New Year’s resolutions this year. Think about committing to God. You may say, “I am not going to take a step without my eyes on the ark, wherever the ark goes that’s where I’m going.” When you live your life like that, I promise you’ll have good success, and you’ll have true victory. Victory is seeing which way God is going and then joining Him. That’s it. Are you experiencing victory?
Would you say you are living in victory in Jesus? Why or why not?
What are some areas where you have seen God at work in the world around you?
Consider what things you are planning for the year to come. What would it be like to make a resolution to look for where God is going and join Him?
|12/28/2022||Do You Believe in Miracles?|
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’ Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth! And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, Loose him, and let him go.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to give us an illustration of the greater spiritual truth of eternal life. When He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25), He shared the greatest truth we need to learn.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but He didn’t raise everybody from the dead in this life. So, what is the message in the miracle? Jesus is God’s answer to man’s death. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Miracles of glory speak of greater miracles of grace. We should believe in miracles but trust in Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying? These miracles are not to have us put our faith in miracles. Our faith is to be in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you want a full and wonderful life, and the abundant life that we’ve been talking about, you must experience life in Jesus.
How has your relationship with Jesus changed your perspective on death?
Who is one person you know that you have seen experience life in Jesus?
Ask a mature Christian you know to share a testimony about experiencing life in Jesus. Consider some lessons you can use in your own life.
|12/27/2022||The Key to True Life|
Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?
Jesus is the only reason we live. As a matter of fact, He came so that we might live. He said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” He’s the only reason I live.
Most people today don’t have life, they have existence. They are fighting to live while they’re living to fight. They’re growing and breathing, and one day is turning into another. They have existence, but they don’t have life. They’ve got it all backward.
Jesus has come that you might have life. Satan has come to rob you of life—he comes to steal, kill, and destroy (see John 10:10). And he has stolen, killed, and destroyed life from many people. They don’t understand life, and they look at it very pessimistically. Benjamin Disraeli said, “youth is a blunder, manhood a struggle, and old age a regret.” That may be true if you don’t know the Lord Jesus, but if you are in Christ, you have the key to true life.
How have you experienced life because of Jesus?
Who are some people you know who are only existing and not truly living because they do not experience the hope and life of Jesus?
Pray for someone you know who does not yet have the life and hope of Jesus.
|12/26/2022||How Do You Deal With Trouble?|
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
What is God’s plan for you? God wants to enlarge you, not indulge you. God is not so interested in making you happy and healthy as He is in making you holy. So, God will use the trouble in your life. The Lord Jesus wants to develop us. Psalm 4:1 says: “You have relieved me in my distress.” Now think about that. Think about the times when you have grown the most. When there was trouble, that’s when you were stretched, and that’s when your faith was enlarged. We all enjoy not having trouble, but I want to tell you—and I can give this testimony—that I have grown the most in my own life in times of deepest despair. I know that when Joyce and I had a little baby boy step over into Heaven, we grew a quantum leap during that time. I know when I had a daughter go through deep heartache and distress, God stretched my heart and my life. I would never want it to happen again, but it did happen, and I’m here to tell you that I’m a better person because of it.
When has God grown you during a time of trouble in your life?
How do you approach God when you experience trouble?
Take some time to think about the different ways God has grown your faith in the past year and what events or circumstances contributed to that.
|12/25/2022||Is Jesus the Secret of History?|
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.
Jesus is a strong lamb; He is a searching lamb. He is omnipotent. He is omniscient. He is the searching Lamb; He knows what you’re thinking about at this very moment. He sees every move you make. He is the sovereign Lamb. He and He alone is the secret of history.
If you were to ask Him, “What right do you have to take that scroll”? He would say, “I have the right of creation. I made it all, and I have the right of Calvary. I died; I shed my blood for it, and I have the right on conquest. I was raised from the dead. I have the right to take this book and to open it, for I AM the great I AM who was born a Lamb.” Mary’s Lamb is sovereign God.
You’ve seen the Lamb in prophecy, you’ve seen the Lamb in history, you’ve seen the Lamb in victory, but now see the Lamb in majesty. Mary had a little Lamb; His fleece was white as snow. Worthy is the Lamb. He is exclusively worthy, exceedingly worthy, and eternally worthy.
How have you recognized Jesus’ worth this Christmas?
How do you feel when you recognize the baby lying in the manger as the victory, strength, power, and peace of our God?
Take a moment today to celebrate Jesus for who He is, from before the manger, to His life on Earth, to His death and resurrection and the victory to come.
|12/24/2022||Are You Washed White As Snow?|
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power this Christmas season? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? I tried my hand at poetry, I thought I would try to rewrite, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Here’s what I wrote:
Mary had a little Lamb.
His fleece was white as snow.
Son of God from Heaven above, for sinners here below.
Mary’s Son, Eternal God, He, the Great I AM
With wool so white on Christmas night became a little Lamb.
Mary had a little Lamb. His fleece was white as snow.
That spotless Lamb was crucified to pay the debt I owe.
Oh, spotless Lamb, with wool so white, thy crimson blood, I know,
can take away my crimson sin and wash me white as snow.
I thank God for Mary’s little Lamb that died upon that cross. But not only was this Lamb a special Lamb, a slain Lamb, and a saving Lamb, Mary’s Lamb is to be a shared Lamb. That’s why when we come to the Lord’s table, we have a celebration. We feed on the Lamb.
How has your relationship with Jesus changed the way you celebrate Christmas?
How are you looking to share the hope of Jesus this Christmas season?
Pick one activity to do on your own or with your loved ones to feed on the Lamb as you prepare for Christmas Day.
|12/23/2022||Why Was Jesus Sinless?|
And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
Jesus was a Lamb without a spot, without blemish. He was the virgin-born Son of God. The Great I AM became a Lamb. The Infinite became an infant, and God lay in a manger.
Why was He born of a virgin? So that He could be sinless. Why did He need to be sinless? So that He could make a blood atonement. The Bible says it is the blood that makes atonement for your sin. There needed to be a sinless sacrifice that no child of Adam could satisfy, because in Adam all die. The bloodline comes from the father. While Mary was the earthly mother, God the Father was the heavenly Father, and the blood that flowed through the veins of Mary’s Lamb was the very blood of God.
He was a special Lamb and a slain Lamb. He came as He did, born of a virgin, to be what He was, sinless. He was born of a virgin that we might be born again. He was made the Son of Man that you and I might become sons and daughters of God. Thank God for that.
How does it make you feel when you consider all that God has done so that you might be reconciled with Him?
How does the humility of God in the nativity narrative challenge you?
Talk to a friend in the faith about how God exemplified humility as He became an infant and spotless lamb. Challenge one another in how you can grow in humility like Him.
|12/22/2022||Are You Sealed by the Holy Spirit?|
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
I want you to see the saving ministry of the Trinity. First, you’re selected by God the Father. If God had not first chosen you, you never would have chosen Him. Aren’t you glad that God took the initiative? God looked down through the corridors of time and chose you. God knew from all eternity that you would receive Him and trust Him. Then, you’re saved by the Son. Apart from the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, no one is saved. And once you trust the Lord Jesus, it’s the dear Holy Spirit of God who seals you unto the day of redemption.
In Scripture, the word seal is like a seal we would put on a document, a stamp. The Bible says the king’s seal no man can break. You’re sealed with the Holy Spirit. A seal in Bible times meant a finished transaction: signed, sealed, and delivered. It meant a transfer of ownership. You have been selected by the Father, saved by the Son, and sealed by the Spirit. Is that not wonderful? This is the saving ministry of the Holy Trinity.
When did you begin to follow Jesus?
How has your life been changed by the work of the Holy Spirit?
Reflect on your own testimony about how God has been at work in your life through the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
|12/21/2022||Do You Believe What You Can’t Understand?|
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.
1 Timothy 3:16
Don’t ever cast out matters of faith because you can’t understand them. How are you going to understand Almighty God, with you being finite and He being infinite? It may sound contradictory to you and outside the realm of logic, but I want to remind you that there are many things you must believe that are contradictory and outside the realm of logic. Here are a couple of examples.
Infinity. Which of you understands infinity—that things go on and on and on? Have you ever thought about that? Even though your mind cannot begin to conceive of infinity; you believe it.
Eternity. Everything we know has a beginning and an end. But we know that time cannot cease to exist. You can’t totally grasp that eternity never had a beginning and never has an ending, yet you believe it.
You also don’t understand that God is everywhere at the same time. It is contrary to human logic. But God is a presence whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. We don’t have to understand it. Likewise, the idea of the Trinity does not rise or fall on logic, but by divine revelation. It is a sacred mystery.
How do you react when it comes to matters of faith you don’t fully understand?
How do God’s vastness and mysteries grow your awe of Him?
Write out some of the questions of faith you wrestle with. Ask God to help you trust Him even in the things you won’t ever fully understand in this life.
|12/20/2022||Is Jesus Wonderful To You?|
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Do you stand in awe of the Lord Jesus Christ? Or have you become oblivious to Him? Do you get excited when you think of Jesus? If you don’t, you’ve lost the wonder. You have calluses on your soul. Jesus is wonderful. Wonderful in His birth. Wonderful in His life, in His death, in His resurrection, and in His second coming. His name is wonderful.
I heard of a man riding on a train looking out the window and he kept saying, “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.” The man sitting next to him said, “Why do you think everything is wonderful?” He said, “I’ve been blind, but I’ve just had surgery, and I’m seeing beautiful things that I had long since forgotten. They are wonderful to me.”
If Jesus is not wonderful to you, you need something done to your spiritual eyes so you can see just how wonderful He is. There is wonder in His name. There is also wisdom in His name because His name is Counselor. People come to me for counsel at times. I can’t solve their problems, so when I counsel them, I try to lead them to the One who can solve their problems—the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t want them dependent upon me. I want them to know Jesus. There is wonder and there is wisdom in His name.
Would you say you live in wonder of Jesus? Why or why not?
What are some things that amaze you about Jesus?
Think of someone you know who lives with wonder at Jesus. Ask that person to share a testimony with you about the day-after-day wonder of knowing Jesus.
|12/19/2022||Who Do You Worship?|
And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
Jesus said in Mark 12:17, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” I’ll guarantee you that when tax season comes around, you’re going to pay your taxes. You render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.
I want to ask you a question—have you rendered to Jesus the things that are His? Do you realize that He is King of kings and Lord of lords? Have you taken the crown from your head and put the crown upon His head? Do you say, “Lord Jesus, I surrender my gold to You. I pay tribute to You. I do homage to You. I bow my knee to You”? In every person’s heart, there’s a throne. When self is on that throne, Christ is on the cross; when Christ is on that throne, self is on the cross, and every person is in one of those two categories every day. Even the wise men fell and worshiped Jesus. These men were truly wise, not because of their accolades, but because they recognized His sovereign dominion.
What would it look like to recognize Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords in your life?
What are some areas in your life in which you have a hard time giving authority to God?
Ask a close friend in the faith to be your encouragement and accountability as you live to recognize Jesus as sovereign over all of your life.
|12/18/2022||Jesus Suffered for You|
And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
Jesus took your sufferings. He suffered because of sin. Nobody ever suffered as the Lord Jesus Christ did. There’s no grief like His, none. Nobody’s ever known the suffering He did. You say, “Well, other people have been crucified.” No, you don’t understand what happened there. He suffered the pain and separation from the Father He had been united with for all eternity. When Jesus died on the cross, the sins of the world were distilled upon Jesus, and the eternities were compressed upon Him. No one can ever describe how much He suffered.
Somehow, somewhere, sin must be paid for and Jesus, as my substitute, took my sin, my shame, my separation, my sorrows, and my sufferings, and Jesus paid it all. I want to tell you something: all to Him I owe. What a darling Savior. What a wonderful Savior that Isaiah spoke about seven hundred years before He was born.
How does knowing about Jesus’ suffering change your perspective on your own suffering?
Who do you know who needs to know the hope that Jesus can take away sin, shame, suffering, and separation?
Pray for someone you know who needs to know this good news about Jesus. Ask God to give you an opportunity to share His hope.
|12/17/2022||Are You Living Unashamed?|
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Have you noticed when we get caught doing something wrong, we often try to justify ourselves? Jesus was innocent, but He never spoke a word. Why was that? Why did He go like a lamb to the slaughter? Because not only was He taking my sin; He was also taking my shame.
When people stand before God as sinners—not saved—they’ll stand there speechless. The Bible talks about a man who tried to come in without a wedding garment: the Bible said he was speechless (see Matthew 22:11-12). When you are outside of Christ and stand before God, every excuse will falter, every alibi will be gone, and you will have absolutely nothing to say!
Jesus could not have justified Himself without condemning me. Jesus did not say, “Pilate, I want you to know, I’m going to go ahead and let you crucify Me. I’m laying down My life, but I’m not guilty. I am dying as an innocent substitute. I’m just bearing these sins.” Had He done that, He would’ve died in dignity, but He didn’t die in dignity. He died in shame! He died as a shameful sinner! He took my shame to the cross. I love Him for that. Because Jesus Christ took my shame, I made up my mind that I’m never going to be ashamed of Him. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it’s the power of God unto salvation (see Romans 1:16).
What shame are you carrying that Jesus has already taken care of?
Do you beat yourself up when you have done something wrong? Why or why not?
Write out some things that would change in your life if you allowed Jesus to carry the load of shame you have on your shoulders.
|12/16/2022||What is Jesus Worth to You?|
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The wisest thing you can do at Christmastime, or any time, is to worship Jesus. That is the bottom of all bottom lines. The wisest thing anybody could ever do is simply worship the Lord Jesus Christ. There are a lot of people who want the joys of Christmas without the worship of Jesus. Impossible! You may have a giddy time, but you’re never going to know the joys of Christmas until you learn to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.
The men in today’s passage were so interested in worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ that they did so despite great difficulty. They were going against Herod’s direction, and they faced a long journey. There were no planes and no hotels. They faced rugged terrain. They faced all of that to worship the Lord.
Does worship mean that much to you, or do you have sort of a take-it-or-leave-it attitude? The Bible says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God have mercy upon our half-hearted worship. If He’s worth anything, He’s worth everything. The word worship means “worth-ship.” What is Jesus worth to you?
How does the worship of the wise men challenge you?
How do you worship God in your everyday life? Where have you been guilty of worshiping comfort or convenience over Jesus?
Take some dedicated time and worship God, praising Him for who He is through word or song.
|12/15/2022||Why Do You Seek Jesus?|
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!
Why did Jesus Christ come the way He did? He laid aside all the glory and majesty that was inherently His and came as a baby. He was very ordinary and nondescript, yet there were people who believed in Him. You may think, “They believed in Him because of His miracles.” No. Some of the people who believed because of the miracles left Him. Why did He come the way He did? He wanted us to have faith. Jesus laid aside all of the splendor, but He laid aside none of the character of God. The eye responds to light when the eye is right, the ear responds to sound when the ear is right, and the heart responds to Jesus when the heart is right, not because of proof. If you get your heart right with God, and you look at Him as revealed in the pages of Scripture, you’re going to find your heart turning to Him.
Those who sought Jesus were looking for a dazzling Messiah. Israel rejected Him; the people were looking for a miracle worker; they were looking for some political Messiah. But He didn’t come that way. That’s the simple life of the King. It’s one of the great fulfillments of Scripture. If you want to know Him, you do so by faith.
What was most compelling to you when you first learned about Jesus?
What are some areas in your life where God is growing your faith in Him currently?
Share with another person about a time God blessed you in an unexpected way.
|12/14/2022||God is Working on Hearts|
And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’
I used to think as a young preacher that to get people saved you just had to tell them how to be saved—just turn on the light. But a person who is blind cannot see the light no matter how strong or how pure. It takes more than preaching to get people saved. I can preach the truth, but only the Holy Spirit can impart truth. That is the reason we must stay on our knees in prayer. That is the reason you must be a spirit-filled soul winner. We are dependent on God to open blinded eyes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We need to understand that nobody can be argued or educated into the kingdom of Heaven. I’m not against letting the light shine. You must let the light shine. You must preach. But remember there is another dimension. This man was face-to-face with the Light of the World, but he could not see. A Christian with a glowing testimony is worth a library full of arguments. We don’t argue people into the kingdom of God. We tell them the truth and trust God to work in their hearts.
When have you seen God at work in someone else’s life?
Do you trust the Holy Spirit to give those around you vision? Why or why not?
Make a list of those you know who are not followers of Jesus or are distant from Him right now. Ask God to give them vision to see who He is.
|12/13/2022||Fully Satisfied in Jesus|
For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.
You can have programs at church that will get people to come. You can get them there with fun, dinners, plays, and programs, but if that is all you give them, and you don’t give them Jesus, then you have missed the whole thing. What you catch them with is what you have to keep them with. There are different platforms for preaching the Gospel, but there is no substitute for the Gospel. Christ came as the Bread of Life, that people might be saved. They must be born again. So many churches are missing this today. Jesus is our spiritual bread.
Men are searching everywhere for satisfaction. They’ll never find it until they find it in the Lord Jesus. What did God create you for? You may think, “God created me to serve Him.” But if He only wanted someone to serve Him, He’d get somebody a lot better than you or I. He could get angels. God made you to love Him. That’s what you were made for—to know Him and to love Him. God made a bird to fly in the sky and a fish to swim in the sea. God made you to know Him, to love Him, and to worship Him, and until you do, you’ll be like a bird in the sea or a fish in the air; you’ll be out of your element. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).
Who do you know who lives a life that is satisfied in Jesus? How does that testimony shine through that person?
If God has made you to know Him and to love Him, how can you make these things more of a priority in your life?
Write out your normal routine. Now write another routine where knowing and loving God would be the top priority. Note what is similar and what is different.
|12/12/2022||Satan Blinds Our Hearts|
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’
If you visit Carlsbad Caverns, at one point the guide turns out all the lights and the darkness is so deep that you can almost slice it. Even if you have perfect vision, you can’t see in that dark cave because there’s no sight without light. There is no sight without light, but there can be light without sight. A man could be standing blind at high noon and still not see. Men need more than light to be saved.
In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Paul said, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” Satan cannot put out the light. So, what does he do? He blinds the heart; he blinds the mind. Once you have the light, you must learn to see. That’s the way people come to the Lord. God has to open their eyes. The Holy Spirit must give them spiritual insight, and then they begin to grow in knowledge.
Where do you need spiritual insight from God?
How have you pursued God’s truth in your life?
Make a list of situations in which you have been struggling with discernment on what to do. Ask God to give you spiritual insight in these situations.
|12/11/2022||Do You Act on Your Faith?|
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
Suppose you wanted to see the NBA playoffs, so you went to the ticket counter several days early and waited in a long line. But then a buddy comes up to you and says, “Hey Man! I’ve got two tickets, right down front. Best tickets available. I got them. Come on, let’s go!” Would you get out of line? Yes, if you believed him.
You see, Jesus says, “It is by grace, but it’s through faith. You just obey me. You just trust me.” The paralytic man in John 5 put his faith into action. Faith is belief with legs on it. You are saved by grace through faith unto good works.
Was the man healed because he walked, or did he walk because he was healed? He walked because he was healed. You’re not saved by doing good works, you’re saved unto good works. It is by grace through faith unto good works. You live the Christian life not to be saved but because you’re saved. Jesus did not say to this man, “Walk, take up your bed, and rise.” He couldn’t walk until he was up, and you cannot live the Christian life until after you receive the Christian life.
How did your life change once you began following Jesus?
What are some ways you put your faith into action?
Share with a friend a testimony of a time you put your faith into action.
|12/10/2022||Christianity is the Impossible|
“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Now, apply this verse to Jesus’ words in today’s verse, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” How was this man delivered? By grace. There was nothing he could do; he was paralyzed. The Bible says immediately he was made well.
Salvation is by the sheer grace of God. Had you and I been standing there, we might have asked, “How can you tell a paralyzed man to get up? If he could get up, he would’ve gotten up a long time ago. That’s impossible. And because it’s impossible, it’s unreasonable. And because it’s impossible and unreasonable, it’s unfair.” But even in our dispute, the man would rise.
Let me tell you what Christianity is. Christianity is the impossible, the unreasonable, and Jesus Christ. Jesus does the impossible, and He does the unreasonable, but it’s possible with Him. He says to a paralyzed man, “Rise.” And that’s what He says to every sinner. It is by grace, through faith.
When have you tried to work for God’s favor? What kind of obstacles did you face?
How do you feel knowing God has done the impossible in your own life, bringing you from death to life in Him?
Think of a friend who is struggling with hopelessness right now. Ask God to show you a way to encourage that person in the hope He has given you in the impossible moments of life.
A Deeper Hunger in Our Hearts.
On one of my trips to Israel, I knew we were going to go to the spot where Jesus fed the five thousand, so I thought I would make it memorable. I asked my guide, “Would you do me a favor? I want you to get me some loaves of bread and some fish and put them in a paper sack and bring it with you. When we get to this spot, I’m going to let everybody have a taste of the fish, and everybody a taste of the bread, and it’ll just remind us of the miracle that Jesus performed right at that spot.” The trip required a boat trip across the Sea of Galilee. The water was a little rough and the heat was extreme, and the people the night before had a big Arabic meal with many things they had never eaten before. It is safe to say that not many people had an appetite. When we arrived at the spot, I said, “Now it’s time for the loaves and the fish.” I brought out the fish and unwrapped the bread. It was so hot, and after a trip on rough water, one of the men with us looked at the loaves and the fish and said, “If everybody feels like I do, you can feed five thousand with that.”
When I thought about that, I realized there comes a time in our lives when the things of this world do not satisfy us. We want something more. And sometimes we just get fed up with the things of this world. Why is that? Because there is a deeper hunger in our hearts.
Think of a moment when you tried something for the first time. Why did you try it? What were you looking to get out of it?
Have you ever “wasted” your free time doing an activity you thought would bring you joy but didn’t? Why didn’t it bring you joy?
Make a list of things that make you feel satisfied (compliments, completing a job, etc.). Thank God for how these little moments point to a deeper, greater reality in which we receive true satisfaction in Christ.
We are Spiritually Weak.
We are sinners by birth, sinners by nature, sinners by choice, and sinners by practice. The Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). Sin is the primary source of our weakness. Many of us do not realize we are paralyzed. You may say, “I’m not weak. I lift weights. I’m very strong.” I’m not talking about physical weakness. You may say, “I’m not weak. I have a PhD.” I’m not talking about intellectual weakness. You may say, “I’m not weak. I have a million dollars in the bank.” I’m not talking about financial weakness. I’m talking about spiritual weakness that has paralyzed you.
Do you know what our weakness is? We don’t have the strength to be godly. We are without strength, so Christ died for the ungodly. God’s plan for all of us is that we be godly. I don’t care how hard you try to be godly; you don’t have what it takes. You see, you may be strong to do as you want, but you’re not strong to do as you ought. While we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly. The primary source of our weakness is sin, and the paralyzing force of our sin is that we cannot be what God would have us be.
Is it easier for you to see your strengths or weaknesses? Why?
How have you experienced hope through Jesus in the middle of your spiritual weakness?
Take some time and make a list of your weaknesses. Pray over those things, asking God to be the strength in your weakness.
Jesus Wants to Spiritually Heal.
In this passage, Jesus asked the paralytic a profound but very simple question: “Do you want to be made well?” That’s the question Jesus asked the man, but it is also one for you. Jesus is not merely in the healing business. He only healed one person in this passage. The Bible says there was a great multitude there. Had Jesus been only a great healer He would have healed them all. This miracle had a message: that we might believe Jesus is the Christ and believe that we might have life through His name (see John 20:31). We need to go beyond miracles and on to Jesus.
G. Campbell Morgan said every parable Jesus taught was a miracle of instruction and every miracle which Jesus wrought was a teaching. 1 Now, he didn’t mean the miracles were not real, but there is a miraculous message in the miracles. Jesus healed this one man to get a message across to all of us who feel we need spiritual strength. Apart from Christ, we are spiritually paralyzed and without strength, but in Christ, we have power for living. Jesus is God’s answer to man’s spiritual disability.
Who do you go to for help? Why do you go to that person?
Who do you see struggling right now that you could ask Jesus to make whole?
Ask God for help with something you know you can’t do on your own.
Trust and Believe in Jesus.
One time I was praying with a woman in the hospital, and I heard somebody down the hall call, “Come see me too.” So, I went there, and there in that hospital bed was a precious lady. Pain was on her face. Despair was in her heart. I could tell that she had very little time to live. She said, “I’m not ready to meet God. Can you help me?” I said I could, and I told her about Jesus. I told her, “If you’ll trust Him, He’ll save you.” She asked for my help, so I asked her to pray with me, repeating my words, “Dear God, I know You love me. I know You want to save me. Jesus, I believe God raised you from the dead. I open my heart, and I receive You now as my Lord and Savior. Amen.”
She repeated every word and when I opened my eyes, I expected to see peace on her face, but I saw a tortured look. She asked, “How can just saying that do any good?” And I said, “You’re right. It is more than words. It is believing and truly trusting in Jesus that saves you. Now, let’s pray it again and this time, put your faith in Jesus.” We prayed it again and she said, “Lord, I really trust you.” And I saw the peace of God come over that precious woman’s face.
That’s what miracles are about. Believe in miracles, but trust in Jesus.
When was a time you received encouragement that didn’t feel sincere? What was that like?
Have you ever read a promise in Scripture and just agreed without absorbing the full meaning? Have you found the Word of God to penetrate more when you reread a passage, giving it your full attention?
Ask a friend to speak to an area of your life where you may be saying the right words but not trusting God with a sincere heart.
Who Do You Say Jesus Is?
When the nobleman heard Jesus was coming out of Judea into Galilee, he went up to Him. At that point in time, he had just heard about Jesus. That in itself is a wonderful thing. Everybody should hear about Jesus. But when it came down to it, all he had was hearsay. He had only listened to other people talk about miracles Jesus had performed.
But secondhand faith is not saving faith. You can’t go to Heaven on your mother’s faith. You can’t go to Heaven on your pastor’s faith, your neighbor’s faith, or anybody else’s faith. You can hear about Jesus and what Jesus has done for others, but that is not strong faith, that is secondhand faith. In Matthew 16:13-15, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They responded, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” But then Jesus asked the pertinent question, “But who do you say that I am?”
This question is for you today. Do you know about Jesus, or do you know Him? Is your faith firsthand or secondhand?
Do you remember having a “secondhand” faith? What was that like? If you know Jesus, how did secondhand faith differ from the firsthand faith you have now?
If you need firsthand faith, will you invest in a personal relationship with Jesus today?
Write down your answer to Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”
The Relationship Gets Sweeter.
Years ago, I was walking through an alley behind a Sunday school. I did not go to Sunday school; my family did not attend church. I heard them singing a song. They were singing “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” I was in my early teen years, but I said to myself, “That is not true; that is impossible. Nothing can keep getting sweeter.” But since I have been saved, I know it is totally true.
I love the Lord Jesus Christ as much now as I ever have in my life, and yet, I’m looking forward to loving Him more tomorrow. You see, the devil gives the best first. That’s the way it is with life. You start out in life as a child with the joy and wonder of childhood, and then there’s the vision and the enthusiasm of youth and in manhood. But then about middle age, you get into the battle of life and the weariness of age, and things begin to deteriorate and run downhill if you don’t know the Lord. Without Jesus, life gets worse and worse.
I’m telling you, when Jesus performed His first miracle, it was a manifestation of His glory, but I can hardly wait for Him to come again. Thank God that we have hope as we age—we can look forward to His coming.
Have you ever gone into an experience questioning how it would turn out, only to be pleasantly surprised that things went well? What was it like?
What leads you to have low expectations? How can you change your thinking knowing that Christ is with you and for you?
Write out the parts of your walk with God where you feel His joy the most.
Jesus Wants to Transform You.
May I challenge you to make the words of Peter in this passage the motto of your life? “At Your word I will.” You do not have to understand the command of God to obey that command. Don’t parade it past the judgment bar of your reasoning to see if it makes sense or not. It may not make sense. Throwing the net out on the other side of the boat did not make sense; except it made sense to Jesus.
Jesus is in the transformation business. He transforms worthless water into sparkling wine. And He’s still in the business of transforming people today—human beings like me, like you. Someone wisely said, “Nature forms us, sin deforms us, education informs us, penitentiaries reform us, but Jesus transforms us.” He is a transformer, and He is changing us now.
I think about how He transformed Simon Peter, a blustering, big-mouth fisherman into the fiery apostle of Pentecost. I think about how He transformed the Apostle John, the Son of Thunder, into the apostle of love. I think about how He transformed Matthew, who was a tax collector, into the writer of the Gospel of Matthew. I think of how He transformed Mary, who was a demon-possessed harlot, into a herald of the resurrection. I think of how He transformed my own life. The miracle is in the transformation.
Have you ever followed someone’s advice, even if you didn’t think it would work? What happened? Why did you decide to listen?
What commands of God don’t seem to make sense to you or are hard for you to trust?
Write down the commands of Christ that seem hard to understand or follow.
Jesus Gives Us Abundant Life
The life Jesus gives is abundant life. There was more than enough wine for the wedding in John 2. When Jesus fed the five thousand in John 6, there were twelve baskets full left over. When the prodigal son returned to the father’s house in Luke 15, he remembered his father’s house had bread to spare. When our Lord saves us, He does more than just deliver us from Hell, He gives us life abundant and free. He doesn’t merely pardon our sin—the Bible says, “He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
If you have mistreated somebody and said, “Would you please forgive me?” and that person said, “That’s all right, I forgive you,” that is a pardon. But if he take you into his arms and embraces you, that is abundant pardon.
That’s the kind of pardon we have in our Lord. He gives us not only abundant pardon but also abundant provision. Our Lord abundantly blesses us. Jesus said in John 10:10, “that they may have life . . . abundantly.” And Ephesians 3:20-21 reminds us, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.” Jesus took our stony hearts and our vessels of clay filled with meaningless ritual and religion and then gave Himself as the well of endless joy.
What stirs in you when you consider the abundant pardon Jesus has given you?
When have you experienced abundant joy from Jesus?
Encourage someone you have seen exemplify joy from Jesus.
Jesus Turns Problems into Miracles.
The first miracle of Jesus took place at a wedding, a happy occasion. Jesus attended both weddings and funerals. Jesus never broke up a feast, but He often broke up a funeral. Jesus lived a life of great joy. This miracle He did at a wedding tells us that Jesus is not a cosmic killjoy, but He came that we might have abounding joy.
A little boy was setting the communion table at church, and he saw the cross on the communion table. He had just begun to go to school and learned addition and subtraction, and when he saw the cross on the communion table, he said, “Mother, what is that plus mark doing on that table up there?” Of course, that plus mark was a cross, but I remind you that the cross is a plus mark; it is not negative. Jesus has come so that we might have incredibly bright, beautiful, and joyful lives.
Jesus was present at the wedding in John 2 and turned what could have been a disaster into something delightful. Jesus has a way of turning the monotonous into the momentous. One of the most beautiful pictures in the Bible is when Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples in John 21. He is the Lord who cares about the things—even the little things—that concern you.
How have you experienced joy in your relationship with Jesus?
How has God cared for the small things in your life?
Serve a friend today to remind him or her that God cares for the small things in his or her life.
Jesus is Our Bridge.
A college student asked his pastor, “Do you think there is life on other planets?” The pastor said, “No, I don’t think so.” He said, “Then why did God go to all the trouble to make all that stuff?” The pastor said, “What trouble? It was no trouble. He spoke and it was so. The only trouble that God ever had was bloody Calvary.”
When Jesus died, He didn’t just speak and say, “Be forgiven.” No, by the blood of His cross He paid the sin debt and became both the just and the justifier of those who believe in Him. Your sin will be pardoned in Christ or punished in Hell, but it will never be overlooked. God is holy and knew for us to be reconciled with Him, there must be shedding of blood for the cost of our sin. There is a chasm of sin that separates man from God. But Jesus has reconciled us—He built the bridge that spans the chasm. Jesus is the One and only. He is the One who reveals the Father, He is the One who rules the universe, and He is the One who reconciles the lost. I am so glad that I can tell you He is my Savior and Lord, and I love Him with all my heart, and I want you to do the same.
Do you take sin seriously? Why or why not? What evidence does your life give to support your answer?
How has the work of Jesus changed your life?
Share with someone today how Jesus has changed your life.
Sometimes we come into church and pray nonchalantly saying, “Lord, show up here today. Reveal to us Your glory and Your majesty.” Imagine if one day God answered that prayer and boom, the back door opened, and He came down that aisle in the same way John saw Him in Revelation. Imagine, His hair glistening, whiter than snow. His face with a Shekinah glory, brighter than the sun. His feet glowing as if in a furnace. He comes, and His voice is deafening. He’s wearing regal robes, and He begins to walk down the aisle. What would you do? Would you ask Him your biggest question or give Him a hug? You’d fall on your face before Him, would you not? That’s what John did.
When you truly see the Lord Jesus as He is, it will bring your full submission. The Apostle John fell before Him prostrate as an acknowledgment of His lordship. Have you surrendered everything to Jesus? When we truly see the glory of God, it will bring us to full submission, giving us reverence for Him and great assurance.
What are some things you struggle with putting under the full submission of God?
How does knowing who God is change the way we respond to Him?
Take some time to silently reflect and focus on the glory of God.
When Jesus came to Earth the first time, He came to a tree—but when He comes again, He’s coming to a throne. When He came the first time, He came to redeem—but when He comes again, He will come to reign. When He came the first time, He came as a Savior—but when He comes again, He is coming as the Sovereign. I heard about an individual who was arrested for a crime and was guilty, but he thought perhaps he could find mercy in the court because the judge sitting on the bench had one time represented this man as a lawyer. The judge said to him, “I’m sorry to inform you of this, but I can show absolutely no partiality on your point. At that time, I was your lawyer to represent you, but now I am your judge to judge you.” I want to tell you this: if you do not allow the Lord Jesus Christ to be your Savior, you will meet Him as your Judge, and the Lamb will become the Lion when He returns. You may have cursed Him behind His back, but no one will curse Him to His face. How have you prepared to face Jesus as sovereign and judge at His return? How do God’s words in today’s verse give you confidence in your faith in Him? Practice This: Place a reminder that Jesus is returning as Sovereign somewhere you will see it every day.
What is God’s plan for you? God wants you to be mature. You may think God’s plan for you is health and wealth. That’s not it. You may think God’s plan for you is service and usefulness. He does want that, but that’s not God’s plan for you. So then, what is God’s plan for you? The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28-29, “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. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The word patience in James 1:4 is not the ability to thread a needle or build a model airplane; James used a Greek word that means “endurance.” You’ll never learn anything if you don’t learn patience. You won’t learn the piano or grow in that skill. You’re not going to learn Greek until you have enough patience to learn the verbs and you’re not going to learn to be a true child of God in true maturity until you learn patience. The only way you can learn endurance or patience to move toward maturity is by having something to endure. What are some plans you thought God had for you that turned out differently than you expected? What value have you seen in endurance in your own life? Practice This: Think about some of the difficult things that have happened in your life that have built endurance in your faith. Spend some time praising God for the different ways your relationship with Him has grown through these difficulties.
You Need Pain to Experience Comfort. Did you know that trouble in your life may give you a greater testimony? It may be through deep sorrow and pain that God gives you the greatest testimony. The Apostle Paul, who knew much sorrow, said this in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” This verse tells us God is the source of comfort, and it is God who comforts us in tribulation. If you didn’t have tribulation, you wouldn’t need comfort. It also says God takes that comfort He gives us and allows us to comfort others with that same comfort we have received from Him. Joyce and I experienced the loss of a child, and I’ve seen mothers—not just once, but many times—come to Joyce and receive comfort when they themselves lost children. And I have seen Joyce—not in a theoretical way, but in a very real way—share the comfort that she has received from the Lord with others. We’re able to comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves receive from God. Don’t get the idea that if we just sail through life with no difficulties, it’s going make us better witnesses. That’s not so. What is a trial or difficulty through which you’ve received the Lord’s comfort? When have you been comforted by someone else’s testimony of going through a difficult time? Practice this: Share your testimony about how God was with you through a difficult time with another person this week.
Have you ever heard a person say, “I went to church, but I didn’t get anything out of it?” It’s not about you. The question is, “Did God get anything out of it? Did you praise Him? Did you give Him glory?” What if somebody came to my birthday party and said, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of it.” It’s not about you; it’s about Him. We have come to worship Him and glorify Him. We’re to worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Some of you read about someone like the Samaritan woman and say, “I’m glad that wicked lady got saved. She sure needed it.” So do you. In the fourth chapter of John, we read of this woman from Samaria who was saved, and she needed it. In the third chapter of John, there was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and a religious leader. He also needed to be saved. What’s the lesson? There is no one so good they need not be saved and no one so bad they can’t be saved. Nicodemus was thirsty, and this woman was thirsty, and if you’re thirsty, what you’re thirsting for is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Water. He will save you, and He’ll keep you saved. Who do you relate with more: the woman at the well or the religious leader, Nicodemus? Why? When have you been focused on what you got out of worship instead of what you brought to God? What needs to change in your approach to worship? Practice this: Read the Word and worship God for who He is instead of focusing on what you are getting out of it.
What is your greatest strength? Your intellect, your money, your personality? No, your greatest strength is God. When we sail through life without any difficulties, though, we tend not to depend on God. Joyce and I read from the Oswald Chambers devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, almost every morning. In one devotion he said, “Unguarded strength is actually a double weakness, because that is where the least likely temptations will be effective in sapping strength. The Bible characters stumbled over their strong points, never their weak ones.” Difficulty and heartache cause us to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ. Many times, by His grace, God allows us to have trouble that brings us to depend on Him. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). If your trouble, your heartache, your tears, and your difficulty cause you to depend more on God, can’t you thank Him for it? In those moments, we can say, “Lord, I have to thank You because this has caused me to depend on You.” Where are you most likely to depend on yourself? When have you depended on God’s presence in a time of struggle?
There must be a determination that you will have God in your life. In this verse, Moses said, “Lord, I’m not going without You. If You don’t go, I’m not going.” And, you know, I think many of us would have settled for what God said to Moses. Many of us would say, “Lord, You promised me eternal life. I’ve got eternal life. You promised me Heaven. I’ve got Heaven. You promised me that You would see me through. You’re going to see me through. Thank You for the angel, Lord. Thank You for Heaven, Lord. Thank You for eternal security, Lord.” We might settle for that without the conscious presence of God, but I want to beg you not to do it. Do you know what that’s like? That’s like a husband and wife who remain married but separate, and he provides for her. He says, “All right. I’ll pay your rent, I’ll buy your groceries, and I’ll cut the grass, but we’re not going to live together.” Do you want that kind of relationship with God? Do you want what God will give without having God Himself? Or are you saying, “I am not satisfied with separate maintenance? I want to know the Lord intimately.” I pray that this determination is true for all of us so that we’ll say, “We want the conscious presence of God in our lives and in our church and we don’t want to go one step more without Him.” What would it look like to be determined in your faith this week? What are some areas that you want to grow in your faith? Practice This: Write out the areas that you want to grow in your faith and some steps to start growing in those areas.
Moses had an encounter with God. The life and presence of God was so real in Moses’ life that his face literally shone. He had to wear a veil over his face when he went out in public. He took the veil off his face when he went in to speak face-to-face with the Lord. The people knew Moses had a message from God because of his shining face. But the purpose of a veil is not only to hide beauty. Some wear a veil to hide shame. I’m wondering if there are some of you who are wearing veils, not to veil the glory, but maybe to hide the fact that the glory is not there. I wonder if there are not some deacons like that, some Sunday school teachers like that. Maybe for you, there was once a time when God was very real to you, and you still go through the motions, but inwardly you know you’re hiding behind a veil. What are some struggles in your faith you have not shared with others? What makes it difficult for you to share your struggles with others?
Did you know you are a priest? First Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” We are priests. We’re to offer to the Lord sacrifices day-by-day, and we’re to do it with enthusiasm, not weariness. You may ask me, “Don’t you ever get tired? Don’t you ever get weary?” Yes, I get weary in the work, but I’ve never been weary of the work. I’m as excited today about serving Jesus Christ as I have ever been in my whole life. God knows I’m telling the truth. There is so much I love about serving the Lord Jesus Christ, and every day it gets sweeter. I want you to keep the wonder in your worship. I want you to keep the fire in your faith. Jesus would rather have you cold than lukewarm. Why? At least a person who’s against Christ has enough respect for Him to be against Him. But a person who is lukewarm says, “I believe. I’m just not excited about it.” We come to church sometimes and yawn in the face of God. God says, “I’m a Father. Where is my honor?” That’s the reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). Let’s remember the God we serve, as we seek to honor Him today. How have you lived out your role as one of God’s priests? When do you struggle most with having enthusiasm as you serve God? Speak to another Christian today who has joy in his or her walk with Jesus; ask that person for some words of wisdom and advice to keep faith growing.
|11/20/2022||1 John 5:2-3|
A man came to talk with his pastor and said, “Pastor, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but God is not real to me anymore. I don’t have the joy and presence of God in my life like I used to.” The wise pastor asked him a direct question. He said, “Is there any unconfessed sin in your life?” The man said, “I used to bring a tithe of my income to God. But some time ago I got the idea that perhaps God didn’t need that as much as I needed it.” Then he said, “Yes, Pastor, I have ceased to be honest with God.” The pastor said, “Do you know what you’ve done? You’ve begun to steal from God. Would you steal from the offering plate when it is passed?” There will always be someone who will give you a reason or an excuse to disobey God; it may even be a religious leader. They’ll lead you into an unscriptural marriage, immorality, or some transgression of the commandments of God, and they’ll say, “Times have changed, and things are different.” But I remind you that Jesus says “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). What excuses have you made to God for your sin in the past? What would it look like to truly love God and keep His commands? What would change? What would stay the same?
Is there something you love more, fear more, serve more, or trust more than Almighty God? If there is, no wonder God’s presence is not real in your heart and in your life. You are holding onto an idol. You have divided devotion. If the glory of God is gone in your life—if God is not real to you—ask this question: Is there anyone or anything that takes precedence over God in my life? You say, “Well I give God a place in my life.” God doesn’t want a place in your life. You say, “Well I give God prominence in my life.” God despises prominence in your life. God demands preeminence in your life. He will take nothing less. God’s throne is not a duplex. Is there anything that is a greater controlling factor in your life? Is there anything that gets more of your attention than Almighty God? If so, it should not come as a surprise to you that because of that golden calf in your life, God says, “I’m not going with you.” Any direct disobedience, any divided devotion, will hinder your relationship with Him. What has been dividing your attention from God? What is the danger of having a heart that is divided, giving God only some of your attention? Practice this: Take a day to fast and pray about what is dividing your attention from God.
Did you know you can only grieve somebody who loves you? Let me illustrate, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The neighbors’ kids may frustrate you; your own children grieve you. What’s the difference? Grieve is a love word. The Holy Spirit of God loves you, but you can so grieve Him when you disobey the commandments of God that the Holy Spirit just closes up. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Do you know what the word “quench” means? It means to pour cold water on a fire. The Holy Spirit is like a gentle dove, like a glowing ember. You can frighten away that dove, and you can pour water on that ember. If you willfully, knowingly, and deliberately disobey God, you grieve the Spirit, you quench the Spirit. You may even wonder, “Am I saved?” I’ve met many people who doubt their salvation that I believe are truly saved, but they’re living in direct disobedience to God, and as a result, they do not have the manifested presence of God. How does it make you feel that God grieves when you are apart from Him? How does it give you hope to have the Holy Spirit—the presence of God—in your life?
It’s frightening to have success, to have possessions, and to have protection but not to have the presence of the Lord. That would be like people getting married and living in separate bedrooms. Don’t settle for seeming success without the Lord. When you have the presence of God, you need nothing more, but you should settle for nothing less. There are many who would say, “I have salvation and eternal security. I may not be walking in joy or victory, but I honestly expect to go to Heaven.” But if you would be honest with me, you might say, “God is not real in my life. I have His protection, His provision, and His promise, but I do not have the presence of God in my life.” Don’t think that just because you have provision and protection you’re right with God. Even a non-believer has certain provisions: food, air, clothes, and shelter. We can be so preoccupied with getting provision and protection, and with claiming God’s promises, that we fail to value His presence. Do you desire God’s presence in your life? Why is God’s presence so valuable? Make it a point to acknowledge God’s presence throughout your day.
There is something significant about our coming together to worship. The significance of coming to church is not primarily that we bring ourselves to worship but that we bring our worship to church. We have been with the Lord all week long. When we come together—all of us full of God—we don’t come here to get filled up; we’re already full of God. We come to celebrate together. What are you saying about your life when you come to church to worship? You’re saying, “God is important to me,” and you’re saying, “God’s people are important to me.” That’s why we do not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), but we exhort one another. We encourage each other with the sermon, songs, and every piece of our gathering. This worship continues through the rest of your week. Every day is a holy day, and every ground is sacred ground. But we still assemble as brothers and sisters in Christ, bringing our worship to the Lord and encouraging one another. How are you “filling up” in your relationship with Christ during the week? What value have you seen in corporate worship? Encourage your pastor or other leaders in your church; thank them for how they serve others as they worship.
Do you want answers from God? When I was a kid, my dad was a car salesman. I remember how my dad would carry his black leather folder with his paperwork inside. I never knew what those papers were all about, but I was fascinated by that thing. He’d put that folder in his hand and walk out of the house in the morning. I had no earthly idea where he went, what he did, or what he said. And when he would come back home, I would welcome him. I didn’t have to know what he did or how he did it to know him and love him or experience his love for me. He was my daddy. I don’t understand today where God goes when He goes to work, how He flings out the stars, scoops out the oceans, heaps up the mountains, and runs His mighty Universe. There are a lot of things about God I don’t know, and that doesn’t bother me. You don’t have to know all that your Father does for Him to be your Father. What are some questions you have for God? How do you trust Him with those questions? Do you ever feel like you need to have all the answers? Why or why not?
We’re on a Journey to Eternity. Sheep are nomadic. They always wander. If they’re not wandering, they’re being led by the shepherd. Beside the still waters, in the green pastures, through the dark valley, over hill, and beyond—they’re led (see Psalm 23). They don’t settle down and stay in one place. God doesn’t intend for us to settle down here because this world is not our home. We’re just passing through. Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” He didn’t have to know. By faith, he sojourned in the land of promise. Hebrews 11:10 says, “For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” I feel the same way. One of these days I’m going to settle down. All of us are just pilgrims right now. Heaven, our true destination, is going to be a place of constancy: a place of constant joy, a place of constant service, and a place of constant praise. What are some things you long for in Heaven? What would it look like to treat Earth like a temporary home without neglecting the things God has called you to while you are here?
The man in today’s passage owned property that brought forth so much that he said, “I have no room to stow my goods.” So, he said, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll pull down my barns and build bigger barns. I don’t want it to run over. I don’t want it to bless anybody else. I want it all for me.” Our response as followers of Jesus should be the opposite—freely we have received, so freely we give. Let the cup run over and be a blessing to somebody else. What do we have in the Lord Jesus? We have fullness in Christ; He prepares a table. We have freshness in Christ; He anoints our heads. We have freeness in Christ; our cup runs over. Don’t let the devil get you to think negatively about God or hoard His abundance only for yourself. Jesus says to you, “I prepared a table for you. Come and dine.” This is for your sake and the sake of others. When have you been blessed by someone sharing God’s goodness with you? What are some things you have because of your relationship with Jesus? Practice This: Share a blessing God has given you with someone else.
Do You See Everyday Miracles? I was thinking about all the feasts and the meals that our Lord prepared for His disciples. The Lord Jesus Christ fed the five thousand. He prepared a table of replenishment when there was the enemy of inadequacy. And you know, He has done that for me so many times. I feel so inadequate, and I run out of resources, but the Lord just prepares a table before me. I can’t even explain how He meets my needs day by day. And I’m not just talking about physical needs. I want to ask you a question. Is there any way you can explain the feeding of the five thousand? There’s not any way except God. What is there about your life that cannot be explained apart from God? If your neighbor can explain everything, and you’re just like him, only you’re religious, that won’t convince him. But when he sees God supernaturally meeting your needs and preparing for you a table of replenishment in your greatest need, then you’ll be believable. God will not only provide a table of replenishment but also a table of restoration. When have you seen God work in a way you could not explain? What are some areas in which you feel inadequate? How does God meet you in those times?
Many people ask what Heaven is going to be like. Are we going to have beds? Are we going to sleep? Will we eat? How old will we be? What will we do? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but that doesn’t bother me. For 1 John 3:2 says, “It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” You don’t have to know. Let me tell you what Heaven is going to be like. It’s going to be the presence of all that is good and the absence of all that is evil. Now, if that doesn’t satisfy you, let me give you something else. Heaven is going to be all that the loving heart of God can conceive, and the omnipotent hand of God can prepare. That is what Heaven is going to be. It’s a present place; it’s a perfect place; and it’s a purposeful place. What questions about Heaven have you wrestled with? What does it look like to hold to the certainty of Heaven without knowing exactly what it will be like? Cast on the Lord your fears and questions about death and Heaven. Ask Him to grow your trust in Him, believing His Word even if you don’t have all the answers.
God Has a Place Saved for You. Who sets the table in your house? It likely depends on who’s coming. If no one’s coming, I may set the table, but I never can get it quite right. But when we are expecting company, generally, Joyce will set the table. No longer do we have the placemats. We have the linen tablecloth. No longer do we have the glass. We get the crystal. No longer do we have ordinary dishes; the best China comes out, and there will be lit candles and fresh flowers on the table. Everything is just right, and the music will be playing softly in the background. We really love to set the table. Do you know why we set the table that way? To honor the person who’s coming. You see, here’s what David was saying: “God has put on an apron. God, Jehovah, has prepared a table for me. For me! The Lord of glory has prepared a table for me. He loves me. He welcomes me. I’m special to Him.” How does it feel to know God values your place at His table? Who is someone in your congregation who needs to be reminded that God has a place for him or her at His table?
How Do You View Death? There was a great preacher whose wife died when she was still a very young woman. She left behind a young daughter. The little girl didn’t understand all the intricacies of life and death. But sometime after her mom had passed, the girl and her father were downtown doing some shopping. The little girl was in the car, and she looked over at the wall of a department store and saw the shadow of a truck. The shadow was even larger than the truck, because the sun was setting low in the west and it made a huge shadow on the department store wall. The little girl said, “Daddy, look at the big shadow of the truck.” And he said, “Sweetheart if you had your choice, would you rather be hit by the shadow of the truck or by the truck?” She said, “Daddy, that’s easy. I’d much rather be hit by the shadow of that truck than be hit by that truck.” He said, “That’s right, darling. It was only the shadow that hit mama. The truck hit Jesus two thousand years ago at Calvary.” The truck hit Jesus. Jesus has taken the sting out of sin and the dread out of the grave. Jesus has become our Victor. And there cannot be a shadow unless there’s a light. How has knowing Jesus changed your perspective on death? Who do you know who needs to know this hope beyond the grave today?
The name Jehovah is the most sacred, solemn name for God in all of the Old Testament. And yet, it’s not found one time in the New Testament. Do you know why? Because Jesus is our Jehovah. Do you know what the name Jesus means? It means Jehovah saves. And if we are His sheep, and He is our Shepherd, we don’t want to disgrace that name. A good name is to be chosen over great riches. When I would take my little children to school, each morning I would say, “Daddy loves you. Remember who you are, and remember whose you are.” I believe the Lord would say to His sheep, “Remember who you are. You are My sheep, the people of My pasture; My name is linked to you. I want to lead you in the paths of righteousness for My name’s sake.” We know a good name is important. How much more important is the name of our God? There is in my heart a burning desire to give glory to that name. Do you feel that way? How do you remind yourself each day who you are and whose you are? What would it look like to make it a priority to give glory to God’s name every day?
Do you know what’s wrong with so many of us? We’re always trying to get out of trouble rather than get into righteousness. If you don’t go from restoration to righteousness, you’re going to be right back to the same old problem. So many of us simply want to get right, but we don’t get on the track of following God, and that’s the reason we fall back where we were. A person who has been restored ought to follow closer than ever. He who has been forgiven much, ought to love much (see Luke 7:47). We ought to be like that lamb with the broken leg that just nuzzles the shepherd and stays close to the shepherd so that He might lead it and guide it so that it will never go astray again. When are we going to learn? How many times are we going to slip and fall before we learn to stay close to the Good Shepherd? Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). To follow the Shepherd, you’ve got to love the Shepherd, observe the Shepherd, and obey the Shepherd. Sheep don’t have good eyesight. You have to stay close to the Shepherd. Only in Him can you be made righteous. When have you tried to get out of trouble more than you desired to be made right with God? What would it look like to stay close to the Shepherd in your life?
We are Created by God for God. What did God make a fish to do? Swim in the sea. What did God make a bird to do? Fly in the sky. If you take a fish out of the sea and put him in a tree, he’ll be an unhappy fish. If you take a bird out of the sky and put him in the sea, he’ll be an unhappy bird. Both are out of their elements. What is the element you were created for? God Himself. Until you know Him, you will be like a fish in a tree or a bird in the sea. You’ll be out of your element. A little girl misquoted the twenty-third Psalm, but I believe she had it just right when she said, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I’ve got all I want.” That is the secret of satisfaction. It is Jehovah Himself. “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). In Him, in the Shepherd, are the wellsprings of my heart’s desire and purpose. Have you ever wrestled with the purpose of your life? What was that like? How does knowing that your purpose is Christ Himself change how you live daily?
Jesus laid down His life for the sheep. He said, “No man takes My life from Me. No man can kill Me. I lay it down.” (See John 10:18.) It wasn’t the nails that held Him to the tree. The silver cords of love and the golden bonds of redemption held Jesus Christ to that cross. We can conceive of sheep dying for the shepherd when he wants food. But whoever heard of a shepherd dying for sheep? Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd that lays down His life for the sheep.” You say it’s unthinkable that a shepherd would die for sheep. It’s even more unthinkable that God would die for Man. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. When He laid down His life for the sheep, He dealt with the penalty of sin. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s what Jesus Christ paid. Your sin will be pardoned in Christ or punished in Hell, but it will never be overlooked unless there’s a Good Shepherd who has died for your sins. How do you feel when you consider that Jesus laid His life down for you? How does this message of Jesus’ selfless sacrifice change how you interact with others?
Only Treating the Symptoms? Suppose you go to the doctor with a terrible headache, fever, pain, and swelling in your arm. It seems like an infection on the inside, but all the doctor does is give you strong medicine to kill the pain and reduce the fever. If he never deals with the infection, he’s not a good doctor. I want him to kill the pain if he can, but he only really helps me if he gets at the infection, which is the real problem. People who are trying to be happy primarily in this life are only treating the symptoms. If you’ll seek after righteousness, you’ll be dealing with the infection. Seek righteousness and then you’ll be happy. What you need is to have the deepest need of your heart and your life met. It is to worship God. It is to drink of the Spirit. It is to feed on the Word of God. That’s the deepest need of your heart, and it will only be met in Jesus. When have you chased after worldly happiness? In what ways have you experienced joy as you began to follow Jesus?
God is our Gentle Shepherd. We’re the flock, the Lord’s the Shepherd. He shall gather the lambs with His arms. He shall carry them in His bosom. He shall gently lead those that are with young. Isn’t that great? Aren’t you glad the Lord is so tender to us? Aren’t you glad God gives us what we need and do not deserve? Has He ever carried you closely? He takes little baby Christians; those are the lambs. They don’t know anything yet. They come down the aisle and give their hearts to Jesus. We are wrong to put them through a theological test. We are wrong to say, “Now, you can’t do that; you must do this; and why did you fail?” Jesus doesn’t do that. Do you know what Jesus does for the little lambs? He picks them up. He carries them closely. When I was a little lamb, thank God, He carried me. If He hadn’t, I never would have made it. He didn’t just say, “Get yourself together.” He is a compassionate and caring Shepherd who carries us gently. When has another follower of Jesus led you gently in your faith? When have you allowed correctness to distract you from grace?
Do You Delight in God? So many people think the secret to satisfaction is having a God who can give you everything. That is not the secret to satisfaction. The secret of satisfaction is the Lord Himself. Jehovah is my Shepherd. Your needs will never be met until they’re met in Him. Things will never satisfy you. So many people misunderstand Psalm 37:4, which says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Many think that means if I love Jesus, I can have a luxury car; but that isn’t what it means. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desire of your heart. What that means is when you delight in the Lord, the deepest needs of your heart will be met. The desire of your heart is Jesus. That’s what your heart yearns for whether you know it or not. That’s what you were made for—for Him. The Bible says it is “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). You’ll never be satisfied apart from Him. It’s not what He gives me but that He gives me Himself. When have you felt your deep need for Jesus? What was that like? What would it look like to have Jesus as the desire of your heart? What things would change in your life immediately?
Is Anyone Truly Satisfied? True satisfaction only comes from the Lord. How many truly satisfied people do you know? People can have all of the things of this world and not be satisfied. John Muir, the great naturalist, was speaking to a Mr. Harriman—a man of great wealth and influence. John Muir said to Mr. Harriman, “I am richer than you are.” Mr. Harriman responded, “Well, how is that?” He said, “Because you don’t have all you want, and I do. So, I am richer than you.” Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver.” But it’s not just money that fails to truly satisfy. There’s really nothing that can satisfy us apart from the Lord. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” That’s the only way that anyone will ever have satisfaction. It is only when you can say that phrase wholeheartedly that you can also say, “I shall not want.” Is there a time in your life that you were truly satisfied? How does living with the Lord as our Shepherd change our struggle with contentment?
I read about a man who had a very fine dog. He’d trained the dog quite well, and the dog loved to play in the water. The dog was out in the lake, and the man wanted to go, so he called the dog, but the dog wouldn’t come. He called him several times. He still wouldn’t come. So, the man said, “I know what I’ll do,” and he got a stick, and threw it out in the water. When the dog saw it, he swam over, got the stick, came back, and laid it at his master’s feet. It may be that God has given you a burden because He can’t get your attention. It may be that God has given you a burden so that you might come and lay it at your Master’s feet, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). If you are a broken brother, there’s hope for you; a fallen sister, there’s hope. And if you are a spiritual person, there’s a responsibility for you. If your heart is aching and breaking, there’s a Savior who loves you. Cast your burden upon the Lord. He’ll sustain you when you need it most. When has a burden brought you back to remembering your need for God? Who do you need to share this hope with? God Wants Your Burdens. God wants your attention, and He may use burdens to get it. Cast your burdens on Him and experience His love and care for you.
Ms. Bertha Smith, a Christian missionary, and Dr. Charlie Culpepper, a seminary professor, were both a part of the Great Shantung Revival in China. Both said that, for a time, the missionaries on the field had been in conflict with one another over petty things. But it was not until they began to confess their faults one to another, pray one for another, ask for forgiveness, and reconcile, that a great and mighty revival was set loose. I believe a revival can take place like that today. In businesses, schools, churches, and communities. When people begin to believe in the Bible—the Word of God—and practice it, they are set free. So, here is your question: Is there anybody that you’re harboring hate toward or carrying a grudge over? Is there bitterness in your heart? In the name of Jesus, deal with it. If you don’t, you have destroyed the bridge over which you yourself must travel. How has forgiveness brought healing in your life? Who are some people in your faith community you need to reconcile with? Practice This: Confess your sin, and pray with another brother or sister in Christ.
|10/29/2022||2 Corinthians 5:18-19|
I had a brother in Christ that I loved very much and still do love very much. He wronged me, and there was anger that rose up in me that said, “I’m finished with him. I can’t trust him. He’s been dishonest.” As I paused and reflected, I thought, now why should I do that? I love this man. He is a brother. I refuse to let his mistake ruin what has been a good relationship. I prayed about it, gave it to God, and went and restored the relationship. You may ask, “What if the person who has wronged me is not a follower of Christ?” Well, he or she is still a potential brother or sister in Christ. If that person is not a follower of Jesus and if you have an unforgiving spirit toward him or her, what chance do you have to bring that person to Christ? Would you let a sense of revenge cut off an opportunity to bring a person to the Lord Jesus Christ? That person is more than a person who has hurt you; he or she is a person who needs you. Who have you been tempted to cut out of your life? Why? How is God calling you to take part in His ministry of reconciliation? Practice This: Think about a person you have been tempted to give up on. Pray about it, and make the first step toward reconciliation as you are led.
|10/28/2022||Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.|
Growing up, one of the things I loved to do with my brother was collect coconuts to sell. We learned how to climb coconut trees like monkeys to reach the leaves. One day, I was up in a tall coconut tree. I had my left arm around a palm frond, and my right hand was disconnecting a coconut when that palm frond broke. I did not look closely enough to see that it was a dying frond. When it broke, I fell about thirty feet. I fell on the grass, but my left arm fell on the sidewalk. As you can imagine, it was a bad situation. As I was lying there, having fallen because of my own carelessness, what did I need from my brother? I didn’t need a lecture. I didn’t need my brother to ignore me and walk away. I didn’t need my brother to go around and say, “Did you hear about Adrian? He fell out of a coconut tree.” I had that arm in a sling for a while, and it healed just a little crooked. But I can use it because I got what I needed—somebody to realize that I’d fallen. I needed somebody to come and help me. What do we do with broken brothers and sisters in Christ? We help restore them in the name of Jesus. How are you tempted to react when you hear about another person’s struggle? How has someone cared for you when you felt like you had fallen far from God? Practice extending love and restoration to someone in your community who has been rejected.
Forgive Others Because Jesus Forgave You. Think of someone who has wronged you. If you are harboring a hurt in your heart, I want to give you a compelling reason why you ought to forgive that individual. We ought to forgive one another because God has so willingly forgiven us. We owed a debt we could never repay, and God, in the riches of His mercy, forgave us. If God has forgiven us, then we ought to forgive others. I received a letter some time ago from a woman who was in the hospital in Memphis. She was from Rome, Georgia and she said, “I was away from home, and I needed surgery. Some young men from your church, who did not even know me, came to the hospital and donated blood on my behalf and left a note.” The note said, “We gave our blood for you because Jesus gave His blood for us.” Wasn’t that beautiful? In forgiveness, God has not called us to do anything He has not already done for us. I want to extend forgiveness to you because Jesus forgave me. How have you been changed by someone’s forgiveness? How has Christ’s forgiveness changed the way you forgive other people? If possible and appropriate, speak to a person who has wronged you and make steps toward reconciliation.
|10/26/2022||1 Corinthians 10:31|
Why did God make you? To know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. If you’ve not known Him, loved Him, and served Him, you’ve been walking on God’s Earth, eating God’s food, using God’s sunshine, breathing God’s air, and not returning to God that which is His—glory. Man’s basic problem is not that he’s a sinner because of what he has done. Man’s basic problem is what he has not done by failing to give God glory. Now, this may not seem as bad as other sins like murder or stealing, but sin isn’t always as it appears on the surface. Consider if you had to choose between a mountain of garbage and a teaspoonful of tasteless but deadly poison. One of those looks worse than the other, but the lesser of the two is more dangerous. The great sin is the sin of unbelief. It is the crowning sin, and it is proof of man’s wickedness. How have you been guilty of taking credit for yourself instead of giving glory to God? How does unbelief keep us from giving God glory? Praise God today for all that He is doing in your life. Share your testimony of God’s faithfulness with someone you know who struggles with unbelief.
I read about a missionary who went to the mission field. They showed her where the missionary residence was, and it was a nice little cottage, but the floor was filthy so she decided she would scrub the floor. And she scrubbed the floor, but she couldn’t get the dirt up. She proceeded to put on more water and more suds. She got down on her hands and knees and kept scrubbing, but it was still dirty. Over and over again she’d scrub but it was still dirty. Finally, somebody said, “Madam, I hate to tell you, but that is a dirt floor.” She was scrubbing a dirt floor, and the more she scrubbed the more dirt came up. You can never take your sinful nature and clean it up because your sinful nature is like that dirt floor. All people are sinful in their nature. You may think you have not done so many bad things, but God looks at your nature. This is why we all need Jesus. When have you tried to clean up your sin in your own strength? How does a right understanding of our nature help us understand the Gospel?
Are You Living Like Salt? Salt speaks of the saving life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And what does salt do? Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” He was speaking to fishermen who preserved their fish with salt. For one thing, salt decontaminates. There’s a purifying element to salt. It is the salty ocean that bathes the shores of this world, that keeps this Earth from decaying. If you took the salt out of the ocean, everything would turn to a stench. We need the decontamination of the salty Gospel in our world today. We can try to point to many different things, but the problem in our world is bigger than one issue. It is saltless saints. That’s where the problem is. The problem is in churches all around—salt that has lost its flavor in a world that is rotting. Jesus said, “You’re to be the salt of the Earth.” How will you respond?
I heard of a famous actor who was in a crowded theater when a fire broke out in the wings of the theater prior to his performance. The manager came to the actor and asked him to tell the audience to calmly leave the theater in an orderly fashion. This actor followed the instructions. He came forward and told everyone about the fire and asked everyone to leave calmly. They applauded. They thought it was part of the act. So, he came back a second time and shared the same message. But still, they did not understand. Then, realizing the gravity of the situation, he got down on his knees and with tears he said, please for your safety, leave the theater. The audience was moved by his performance but never understood that the message was for them. This illustrates how many people hear the Word of God from the preacher. But God said consider yourself deceived if you read the Word and hear the Word but don’t heed the Word. Be doers of the Word and not hearers only. How can you prioritize being a doer of the Word this week?
Do you know what the word filthiness is in the original Greek? It means, “ear wax.” God says if you want to hear, you’ve got to clean your ears. You can’t hear if your ears are stopped. God says sin in your life is like wax in your ear. You need to get rid of it. The reason God’s truth does not come to us is that we’ve got spiritual wax in our ears. As a result, it is absolutely crucial that when you study the Bible, you make a full confession of sin and ask God to search your heart and see if there is some wickedness in you. Get your heart clean; get your heart right with God. If you’re going to a garden, before you plant the seed, you weed the garden. That’s what it’s all about—get your heart right. After we weed the garden, then the seed will grow. After we get the wax out, then we can hear. Do you understand that? Receive the Word. Welcome the Word with a repentant heart.
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!
How Do You Receive the Word of God? I’ve had the joy of preaching overseas in different countries, including China. In my experience, the people there were wonderful and gracious. I learned from my guide that it is an honor for them to have you come under their roof. They know how to welcome you. They will say, you are welcome in our home, and serve you something. At that moment, you should receive what they give you to show that you accept their hospitality. The guide said when they serve you something—tea for example—never reach out and take it with one hand. That implies you’re grasping. Take it with both hands to express that you are receiving. Likewise, you don’t just reach out and take God’s Word. We lift our hands to Him, and we welcome the Word, we receive the Word, we take the Word by faith. It is by grace we let God’s Word come into our hearts.
Not only did we need to be saved in the past, but we also need to be saved in the present from the power of sin, and we will be saved in the future from the possibility of sin. But that day is not here yet. Only the truths found in the Word of God can save our souls. The Greek word for soul is psyche. That’s what the soul is, the psyche—your mind, your emotions, and your will. When your mind, your emotions, and your will are guided by the Word of God, then you’re living in the victory of Christ’s salvation. The thing that keeps me going is not primarily how I feel. It is what I know from the Word of God. I’ve been on the trail long enough to look back and analyze and consider, “What is it that keeps me? What is it that holds me?” It is the Word of God. He sanctifies us through His Word. His Word is truth.
Knowing God Helps You Trust God. There was a river that had frozen over, and there was a man who decided he would walk across the ice. He didn’t see anyone else out there but decided to move forward. As he got farther out, he became more nervous. Out of caution, he decided to crawl and then squirm across the river. Growing more anxious still, he began to cry and then he heard a cracking sound. He thought he was a goner, but as the noise got closer, the ice didn’t seem to be breaking. He looked up and saw a man with a team of horses with a wagon loaded with logs driving across that river. When he realized that was the noise he had heard, he brushed the ice off and strolled across the rest of the river with confidence. What was the difference between these two men? One knew the ice and the other did not. Where does faith come from? It comes from a knowledge of God. Those who believe in God will not be ashamed. Do you want to have a strong faith? Don’t try to make yourself believe. Get to know God.
Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Paul was talking about service to the Lord, and he went on to say in verse 2, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Do you want to find the will of God for your service? Present yourself to God. Say, “Lord here I am.” Your gift must have the power to operate, and God is the One who provides the power. Suppose you got married and received a lot of gifts. You got a waffle iron. You got a toaster. You got a blender. You got a TV. Then, you moved into an apartment with no power. What good is the gift if you can’t plug it in? You see, God gives you the gift when you get saved, but the gift begins to operate when you get the power to operate it. The power to operate that gift comes when you present yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ saying, “Here I am, Lord. I give myself to you.”
Do you know what wisdom is? Wisdom is seeing life from God’s point of view. When you pray and you have the Spirit of God and the Word of God in you, you will begin to have wisdom. Knowledge comes by looking around, but wisdom comes by looking up. God will lead you and give you wisdom. When a person is walking in the Spirit, he can say, “I have the mind of Christ.” He’s not afraid to trust what the Spirit says. That is not natural; it is supernatural. Wisdom is not a feeling like getting teary-eyed and warm around the heart. It is having a mind that is fixed on God, full of the Word of God, and led by the Spirit of God. The Bible says God will guide you with wisdom.
|10/15/2022||2 Timothy 2:15|
Imagine you pull your car in behind a man pushing an old car into a gas station. All four of his tires are flat. The headlights have been broken out. The battery is gone. All the fenders are dented and flopping. It has a gas tank but there’s a hole rusted in the bottom. You are sitting behind him, waiting to get gas for yourself, and you are amazed when you see his attempt to fill the tank up. If you were watching, what would you think? You’d likely wonder, What for? We say “Oh, God, show me your will.” God says, “Why? Why should I show you My will? You’re not prepared to do My will. You don’t really mean it when you say you want to know My will.” Are you yielded to God? Don’t say, “I want to know the will of God,” unless there is willingness. Unless there is meekness. Unless there is openness. All those things were there when the Apostle Paul prayed and said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6).
|10/14/2022||1 Corinthians 12:7|
If you have a spiritual gift, it is not a means to an end. It is not for your personal use. It is not to make you feel good. It is not to prove something. These gifts are meant to put you to work for the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given you a gift to profit others. One of my favorite stories is about a woman who’d taken a first-aid course, and later gave a testimonial to her class. She shared that in front of her house there was a horrible wreck—an old man driving a car had lost control, hit an oak tree, and was thrown out on the pavement. It was terrible. But she said, “I remembered my first aid. I remembered if I were to put my head between my knees I wouldn’t faint.” And she said, “I did; it was wonderful.” That’s the way some people think about gifts. They think a spiritual gift is supposed to be a particular blessing to them, but the Bible says here that the gift is a service to others. It is to profit the whole body. It is not for your enjoyment; it is for your employment.
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.
|10/12/2022||1 Corinthians 6:12|
An expedition is a journey. You’re going somewhere if you’re on an expedition. In the KJV, this verse is translated as “all things are not expedient.” The word expedient means, “something that brings you to your goal.” Every Christian ought to have some God-given goals. Every one of us ought to have a holy ambition in our lives. I have goals for my life. I believe they have been given by God, hammered out on the anvil of prayer, and they’ve become goals for my life. Now, I can tell whether a thing is right or wrong for me by assessing if it will bring me to my appointed goal or hinder me. Is this activity an anchor that keeps me out of God’s harbor, or is it something that propels me toward my God-given goal? But if you don’t have any God-given goals, then expediency makes no difference for you. God has laid His hand upon you. This was the great goal of the Apostle Paul. He said, “that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12b).
If you want to know the will of God, there must be willingness. And there must also be meekness. Saul said, “Lord what will you have me to do?” That is, “You are in control. I’m not in control.” Do you know what meekness is? Meekness means you are teachable. Psalm 25:9 says, “the meek will he guide” (KJV). Are you meek? If you’re not willing and you’re not meek, you won’t know God’s will. Now, here’s a third thing: Not only did Saul have willingness and meekness, but he also had openness. He sought the will of God. Have you been open to the will of God? Don’t just simply say, “If God wants to show me, He can.” Have you earnestly prayed and said, “Oh God, I want to know Your will”? Do you report for godly duty? Do you think it’s up to God to put His hand on your shoulder and snatch you and turn you around? Or, after you’ve met the Lord Jesus, are you going to be like Paul and say, “What is it Lord that you really want me to do?”
There are two great questions a person can ask. Question number one, “Who are You, Lord?” Question two, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Those are the two questions I want you to ask today. I was reading recently about a young Navy officer who made his first trip on a destroyer across the ocean. He had impeccable training, and so he was assigned to take the destroyer out of the harbor and bring it back to the United States. The deck was buzzing with action. He was barking commands here and there, and everything was moving like a Swiss clock as that destroyer set sail, and they were on their way in record time. Then someone came to the young officer and said, “You have a message from the captain.” He read it and the captain said, “Young man, you’ve done an excellent job. You’ve done it with great speed, with dispatch according to the book, but he said there is an unwritten rule that you’ve overlooked. The next time you set sail, make certain the captain is on board.” No matter how wise your plans are and how capable you are before you set off on a journey, you’d better make certain the captain is on board—that you are in the will of God.
When you come out of the waters of baptism, you’re saying, “I have come out of the grave of that old life. I have risen to walk with the Lord Jesus because I’ve been born again. I have a new life.” Baptism speaks of your past—you’re buried. It speaks of your present—a new life. And it also speaks of your future. One of these days they are going to put each of us in the grave, but I want to tell you that the grave that could not hold the Lord Jesus will not be able to hold you down. And we will be in the likeness of His resurrection, and the God who raised up Jesus Christ from the grave is the God who’s going to raise up each of us. Therefore, we don’t need to fear death. I want you to know, one of these days, we are all going to be caught up to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. We’d be foolish to be afraid of death in the same way a grubby, wormy caterpillar wouldn’t be afraid of being a butterfly.
Why should you be baptized? Baptism proclaims your commitment to Jesus. The Bible says, “We were buried with Him” (Romans 6:4). Baptism says, “Jesus, I’m identifying myself with You openly and publicly.” Someone may ask, “Does baptism make you a Christian?” No. But it does show you’re a Christian. I have a wedding ring I wear. Do you know what that ring means? It means I love Joyce. It says I belong to Joyce. It doesn’t make me married, but it shows I’m married. And it shows I’m not ashamed to let everybody know I’m married. I belong to another person. I belong to my wife that I love with all my heart, and when you get baptized, you’re saying, “I belong to Jesus.” When Jesus was baptized, He identified Himself with us, and when we get baptized, we identify ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The author of Hebrews said in effect, “I’d like to give you a steak today, but I can’t. If I gave it to you, you couldn’t chew it. If you could chew it, you couldn’t swallow it. If you could swallow it, you couldn’t digest it. You’re a little baby. So today I’m going to give you some formula. I’m going to give you some milk, but I can’t give you meat because you’re not able to digest it.” There are those who ought to be teachers, but you need somebody to teach you again the first principles. There are those who have been members of the church for their whole lives, and they’ve never taught anybody anything. They just say, “Feed me.” They want to come to church on Sunday, let the pastor give them a Bible, and burp them on the way out. God calls us to grow up into Christ so that we may pass on what we’ve received.
The problem with mankind is what we received at birth. We are born into the natural world. If you have an apple and see a wormhole in that apple, don’t worry about the worm having come in through that hole. He didn’t come in through that hole; he went out through that hole. The wormhole didn’t let the worm in; it let the worm out. You say, “How did the worm get in the apple?” He was born in the blossom. The egg was laid in the blossom and that worm came out of the heart of that apple. Likewise, Jesus said all the sins that are in mankind come out of the heart.
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.
“Who’s in the mirror?” the psychologists conducting the self-recognition test asked children. At eighteen months or younger, children don’t usually associate themselves with the image in the mirror. But as kids grow, they can understand they’re looking at themselves. Self-recognition is an important mark of healthy growth and maturation. It’s also important to the growth of believers in Jesus. James outlines a mirror recognition test. The mirror is “the word of truth” from God (James 1:18). When we read the Scriptures, what do we see? Do we recognize ourselves when they describe love and humility? Do we see our own actions when we read what God commands us to do? When we look into our hearts and test our actions, Scripture can help us recognize if our actions are in line with what God desires for us or if we need to seek repentance and make a change. James cautions us not to just read Scripture and turn away “and so deceive ourselves” (v. 22), forgetting what we’ve taken in. The Bible provides us with the map to live wisely according to God’s plans. As we read it, meditate on it, and digest it, we can ask Him to give us the eyes to see into our heart and the strength to make necessary changes.
|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.
|10/1/2022||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.”|
In today’s Scripture, David said, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Have you ever said that? Oh, God thank You for this sickness. Thank You for this suffering. Thank You for this adversity. Thank You for this problem. Thank You for this heartache. Thank You for this thing I’m going through. It takes a lot of faith to say it is good for me that I have been afflicted. And David said, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.” Did you know that affliction is sometimes the best teacher? We never see as clearly as when we see through eyes that have been washed through tears. When we get on our backs, it’s then that we begin to look up into the face of God. A sick bed can often teach more than a sermon.
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.
I used to play football. My team would work and practice and hit and do all these things to take a bag full of zipped-up air across a pasture and over a white line on that field. It actually sounds kind of dumb when you think about it. But when you finally get that piece of pigskin over that white line, they call it a touchdown, and everybody goes bananas. That’s the goal, but there’s a group of fellows on the other side that says, “You’re not going to do that.” That’s what the game’s all about. But let’s say I have figured out a secret to victory. We need to come out on the field at about 2:00 a.m. when the other team is not there. And then we can take that ball and shove it over that white line as many times as we want. Right? Well yes, theoretically. We could do that, but why don’t people do that? Because that’s no victory. If there’s no opposition, there’s no victory. God has not called you to a life of ease, but He has called you to a life of victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be unto God who causes us always to triumph in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How should we understand today’s verse? Think of it this way. You go to the supermarket and back in the dairy section there’s a table out with little squares of cheese. Each little square of cheese has a toothpick. You go and pick up that cheese and taste it. If you’re a cheese hound you might say, “Hey, that is really terrific cheese. I want two pounds of it.” So, they wrap up two pounds, and you go to the checkout stand, and you’re watching as she drags that cheese over the scanner. Then you see a number come up there, and you say, “Oh wait a minute, what’s that?” She says it’s the cheese. You say, “You’ve got to be kidding. That? You expect me to pay that much money for that cheese?” She says, “Well that’s a rare cheese. That’s imported cheese. That’s very expensive cheese. I thought you wanted it?” So, you say, “Well I thought I did too, but I didn’t know what it cost. Put it back.” In this scenario, you’re an individual who has tasted the cheese. You’ve sniffed it. You know what it is. You’ve rolled it around on your tongue. You are aware of exactly what you are doing, but you say, “I will not pay that price,” and you walk out. You refuse with your eyes wide open, and that’s your privilege. The Bible is telling us here that those who do the same with the truth of the Gospel are in great danger.
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.
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.
|9/22/2022||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.
In 1937, the Golden Gate bridge was built. I can remember very vividly the first time I saw that monumental structure as they began to build. At that time, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge. But as they worked, they built it high above those swirling, perilous waters. Many of the workers were afraid that they might fall—and it seemed like the very fear of falling caused them to fall. At first, they failed to build a safety net when they were building the bridge and 23 fell from the first section of the bridge. On the next section of the bridge, they spent $100,000 to build a safety net. Back in that time, that was a monumental sum, but they felt it was worth it. After they built the safety net, only 10 fell. But all 10 that fell were caught and were safe; lives were not lost. With the safety net there, the work went 25 percent faster. The people could concentrate on their work because they knew that beneath them was a safety net. So it is with the child of God! When we know our future is secure, we can concentrate on God’s work in the present.
The Bible is not the book of the month. It is the book of the ages. No book has ever faced as much opposition as the Bible. Men have laughed at it, scorned it, ridiculed it, made laws against it, and burned it. There was a time in Scottish history when it was a crime punishable by death to own a Bible. Many a time a man has preached a funeral for the Bible, declaring it dead. Ironically, the corpse has outlived the pallbearers. People die, but the Bible has survived, and it is applicable. It is always up to date. A man of God, a woman of God, a child of God can open this book and know more today of what’s going on in the world than everyone in the Pentagon and the White House put together. The Word of God is timeless, and it is true.
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.
|9/16/2022||1 John 5:12 reads “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” I’ve heard it said that if you cannot name the time and the place you were saved, you’re not saved. Have you ever heard that? There’s just one thing wrong with that—it’s not in the Bible. The Bible never tells you to look back to past experiences for proof of your salvation. It does not say, “He who believed has eternal life.” It says, “He who believes.” It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. If you’re not believing on Jesus today, you’re not saved. And if you are believing on Jesus today, you did believe on Jesus in the past. It’s impossible to presently believe on Him without having believed on Him in the past. Indeed, there was a time. Indeed, there was a place. But, if you’re not believing on Jesus now, whatever you call the past time and the place, there’s something wrong with it. The big question is: are you believing Jesus now? If you have the time and the place, wonderful. But if you don’t, that doesn’t mean you’re not saved. If you’re trusting Jesus right now, you are saved.|
|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||I believe the Bible is the Word of God because of its scientific accuracy. The skeptic, the atheist, or the unbeliever will say, “Well, of course, the Bible has scientific errors in it.” But before you say that, make certain that you know two things. Number one, you must know science. And number two, you must know the Bible. Many consider the Bible an old-fashioned book. They claim it’s not a book of science, it’s a book of religion. That is true. It is not a scientific textbook. It is not written to teach us science. It is written to teach us God. It has well been said, “The Bible was not given to tell us how the heavens go, but how to go to Heaven.” But the God of creation and the God of salvation are the same God. Science doesn’t take God by surprise. And you don’t have to check your brains at the door to believe the Bible is the Word of God.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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||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!|
|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.|
|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.|
|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||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||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.|
|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.|
|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||I’ve spoken to some Jewish people who say, “I don’t believe in God anymore.” I say, “Why don’t you believe in God?” They say, “Because of the Holocaust. I cannot believe in a God who would allow such suffering.” I’ve seen people, when a loved one is eaten away with some malady, whether it be cancer or some other disease, say, “I just don’t want to have anything to do with God. I don’t believe in God. I can’t understand this matter of suffering.” Here’s the way the human mind begins to think: “If God is a God of love, and He loves me so much, but He doesn’t do anything to relieve this suffering, then He must not have any power.” Or “If He has the power, but He doesn’t do it, maybe He has no love.” Or maybe they ask another question: “Maybe He doesn’t have any love. Maybe He doesn’t have any power. Maybe there is no God. If there is, why do people suffer?” Well, there’s a bigger question than that. Not why does God allow humans to suffer, but why does God allow Himself to suffer? Have you ever thought about God as a God who suffers? Have you ever thought about God as One who has pain? How did those scars come into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ? Those nail prints? That scar into His side? Because He willingly suffered in our place. The question is not “Why is there suffering,” but “Why did God take our suffering”?|
|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||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.|
|8/23/2022||Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.|
Suppose you’ve saved all your life for a vacation. The time for your trip has finally come, and you’re in Hawaii. You’re in the finest hotel. You and your spouse are celebrating without a care in the world. The weather is perfect. The food is sumptuous. You’re having a wonderful time. And let’s suppose that you’ve left your children home in the care of someone else, and one of your children is in an automobile accident while you’re in Hawaii. Would you want to know about it? Would you want somebody to get on the phone and call you and mess up your vacation? Or would you say, “Don’t bother me. We’re having a wonderful time. Yes, I understand that my child has been hurt, but I don’t want to know about it.” Every parent knows the answer, right? “Yes, I want to know. Forget the vacation.”
That’s why Jesus left Heaven. He could have said, “I just don’t want to know. I just don’t care.” But He’s a God of love. And He loved us so much that He stepped out of glory. He loved us so much that He walked the dusty shores and the streets of Nazareth and the sandy beach of Galilee. He loved us so much that He carried the cross to Golgotha and died in agony and blood.
And those scars Thomas saw there in His hands say that He’s a saving God. He has paid for our sins with His own blood.
|8/22/2022||There is a war over the Word. There are those who despise it. They simply hate God’s Word. They are against all that it stands for. Then there are those who don’t despise it, they just deny it. They say, “I don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God.” And then there are those who distort it. The Bible is put in their hands, but they twist it to their own destruction. There are those who dissect it. They come to the Bible with their measuring rod, with their scalpel, with their test tube, and they treat the Bible more like a math book than a love story. They’re ever learning, but they are never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. There are others who disregard it. They say it’s not relevant. But I suppose the greatest enemy of the Word of God is found in churches. These are they who say they believe the Bible. They give lip service to the fact that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, authentic Word of God. But they don’t study it. They don’t know it. They don’t live by it. They don’t stand on it. You’ve got to be able to say, “I know that I know that the Bible is the Word of God.” Especially in these days, when everything that is not nailed down is coming loose. The devil is pulling nails as fast as he can. But there’s really nothing he will be able to disturb you on if you can stand on this Book. God has given you the Word.|