|5/31/2023||Jesus Will Rule the New World Order.|
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.
We are the bride of Christ and like with every wedding, the bride must be ready. Every bride is beautiful. God wants a beautiful bride. Just as a woman spares no expense to be beautiful on her wedding day, the Church needs to make herself beautiful.
There will be no world order until the King is on the throne. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Have you ever played checkers? In checkers, you move the checkers on the board, seeking to move your piece into the king’s row. Then you say, “Crown me.” The kingdoms of this world are being moved around like checkers, but soon God will move His Son into King’s row and say, “Crown Him.” And He’ll be King in Zion. I cannot wait for the time until our Lord comes, and we are going to have a new world order. On that day, the Church, Israel, Satan, and Jesus will be in their rightful places.
How do you invest in the bride of Christ, the Church?
Is Jesus king of your life? Why or why not?
Take time to consider how you are preparing for the day when Jesus will be fully recognized as King.
|5/30/2023||Jesus is Our Most Valuable Gift.|
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
After Joyce and I had determined to get married, I bought an engagement ring. I was working my way through college, and I had many jobs to be able to pay for school and living, but I also wanted to buy an engagement ring.
I remember going into the jewelry store and finding the ring I wanted to give to Joyce. It’s a very small ring with a very flawed diamond, and there have been so many times I have asked Joyce, “Would you let me buy you another diamond?” But I cannot even begin to get her to consider it. That ring is precious to her because, at that time, it cost me so very much. Though it may have been minimum to somebody else, it was maximum to me. I would go in each week and pay a little on that ring, and with great joy, I gave Joyce that ring.
Knowing the value of what you have been given is important. We need to understand what the Lord Jesus paid for us. He sought us. He bought us. He gave us the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. When we know the value it cost Him, that changes us.
What is something valuable to you? How do your actions show the value you place on that item?
How valuable is Jesus to you? How is that evident in your life?
Make a list of different reasons Jesus is valuable to you. Consider what changes you might need to make in your life to properly demonstrate that value.
|5/29/2023||We Are Made to Know God.|
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.
There are many differences between man and animals. One main difference is man has a concern for destiny. No animal knows he’s going to die. He doesn’t think about dying. God gave animals instincts that He didn’t give to human beings, but He gave human beings spiritual insight and revelation that He didn’t give to animals.
A bee can build a six-sided cell in the honeycomb. Beavers can build dams. Spiders can build webs. But the spider cannot build a six-sided cell, and the bee cannot build a beaver’s dam. They have instinct; they don’t have knowledge. They don’t have logic. A man may not have instincts like this, but he knows that he is here for more. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has set eternity in the hearts of humans. We are not mere animals. We don’t believe in immortality because we prove it; we prove it because we believe in it. Immortality is instinctive in us.
Augustine, a church father, said our hearts are restless until they rest in God. You’re made in the image of God. You are made to know Him and to rest in Him.
How would your life change if you lived like you were made for God?
What are some areas in life where you need to rest in God?
Take some time to rest in God today by reading Scripture and meeting with Him in prayer.
|5/28/2023||God’s Love Reaches Hurting People.|
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
We need to be people of love. If we’re against abortion, and we are, we must ask ourselves, “What are we doing to help? How are we helping young, pregnant women?” Sometimes our attitudes just simply push them away. If we believe in the permanency of marriage, and we do, how are we responding to those who have experienced the trauma of divorce and broken homes, some by their own choosing and others not by their choosing? These people are hurting! They don’t need to be pushed further down. They need to be loved. Do we have open hearts and open arms to those different from us—to those who don’t know Jesus? Only then can we tell them about Jesus and His power to radically, dramatically, eternally transform people. But we must be very careful that we do not show such hostility and negativity that others would never come to us to learn about Jesus. We live in a society that is hurting, and we’ve got to bind the wounds up with salve, not with salt. They need the love of Jesus Christ, and people need to understand not only what we’re against but also what we’re for. The world is looking for answers. We need a Christian worldview that’s backed up by a Christian lifestyle. If we have all the values but none of the lifestyle, we are in trouble.
Why is it important to have a worldview backed up by a Christ-like life of love and service?
Who is easy for you to love? Who is difficult to love?
Love and serve someone you find difficult to love.
|5/27/2023||Are You Like a Gardenia in a Desert?|
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Has anyone ever asked what was different about you? I want to submit: if we’re living under the lordship of Christ, if we’re living as the Apostle Peter says we ought to be living, people will ask for an explanation of our lives. Paul and Silas were perfect examples of this. In Acts 16, they were in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were in the innermost prison, a disgusting place, and at midnight, they were praying and singing praise to God. The jailer had probably heard cursing from prisoners, but not praising. He’d often heard moaning, but not singing. He could not understand it. After an earthquake hit the jail, when Paul and Silas did not flee, the jailer came and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). Why? He saw the difference in Paul and Silas. I hope people can see a difference in my life. I hope people who know me can say, “He is different.” I hope people who know you can say, “He has hope! She has hope! This person stands out like a gardenia in a desert of mediocrity and filth.”
Who have you seen live differently because of their relationship with Jesus?
What challenges are you facing that could be opportunities to stand out in faith and joy?
Encourage a Christian you know who has stood out by living differently.
|5/26/2023||Humans and Animals Were Created Differently.|
Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
Man is born and given a capacity and a craving for deity. Genesis 1:26 says, “And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image.’” And God is Spirit. Only man has a spirit. Man is made in the image of God, and the Bible says, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). And the Bible says God “breathed into [our] nostrils the breath”—the spirit—“of life” (Genesis 2:7)! That makes man different from animals. With our bodies, we know the world beneath us. With our souls, we know the world around us. But with our spirits, we know the world above us. Only people are created in the image of God.
In Colossians 3:9-10, Paul talks about what happens when we get saved. He says, “You . . . have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” This image makes us moral creatures and makes us different from animals. Ephesians 4:24 says, “you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Animals don’t know righteousness. Animals don’t know holiness. We’re created in righteousness, and our new creation brings us holiness.
How does knowing that you are made in the image of God change the way you live?
What are some things that come to mind when you think about who you are and who you are made to be?
Take a walk in nature and thank God for how He designed all of creation, including you.
|5/25/2023||Are You Rooted in God’s Word?|
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The days in life are short. We need to know who we are, what we believe, and why we believe it. There are good answers to the questions that come up from the Bible and life, and we are to be ready to give an answer to those who ask about these things. It is so important that we see the Bible as the Word of God—the incontestable and incorruptible Word of God. We need to see it as the indestructible Word of God. We need to see it as the indispensable Word of God. There is so much in the world that could change radically and quickly if we had a generation of preachers, church leaders, and church members—anointed with the Holy Spirit and a heart full of love from a pure life—who would teach, “This is what God says.”
If this is going to happen, let it start in my heart. Let it start in your heart. Let it start in your church. Let’s stand up and speak up while God gives us a voice. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us, and see if there be some wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24). Cleanse us from every sin and set us free to live lives that show who You are and that Your Word is truth.
How has God’s Word changed your life?
When was a time you recognized the value and beauty of God’s Word? What helps you do this?
Take some extra time to read God’s Word today and see the beauty that is there.
|5/24/2023||Truth Is the Most Valued Commodity.|
Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Did you know there is a difference between knowledge and truth? For example, knowledge will double and triple, but genuine truth does not. In school, there is a lot of study of the facts, but there’s a difference between facts and truth. Facts are like a recipe; truth is like a meal. Digest a truth, and it will change your life. God wants us to have truth. Why did God give us the Bible? Jesus said in John 17:17, “Your word is truth.” Why did God send us the Holy Spirit? He’s called in the Bible “the Spirit of truth” (see John 16:13). Why did the Messiah come? He said, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). Why do we have the Church? It is the pillar and the ground of truth. What is the greatest desire for every Christian parent? To echo the words of the Apostle John, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
It’s truth that we need today. Truth is to your spirit what food is to your body, what light is to your eyes, and what sound is to your ears. You only have one short life to live, and in this life you ought to make it your desire, your aim, your burning ambition, to discover, to know, and to practice truth. To know truth is to know God, and to know God is to know truth.
What is the difference between having a lot of knowledge about God and being changed by the truth of God?
Do you have a hunger to be changed by God’s truth? Why or why not?
Spend some time thinking about the things you know about God from His Word. Then consider how you have been changed by that truth.
|5/23/2023||Meekness Is Not Weakness.|
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
May I tell you that the Church is saturated with both ignorance and arrogance? The Bible teaches that you and I are to live a lifestyle of meekness. Meekness is not a weakness. Jesus said, “I am meek and lowly” (Matthew 11:29 KJV). He was and is not weak. He’s the One who spent 40 days and nights fasting in the wilderness. Jesus was the One who took a whip and drove the moneychangers out of the temple. But Jesus said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Meekness means strength under control.
The world calls the Church hate-mongers. They call us insensitive. The problem is that we often react to that with angry rhetoric, and it escalates on both sides. James 1:19 says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” And then verse 20 is key, “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” There are many Christians you can find with their faces red, their fists in the air, or screaming and calling names. Do you think that’s going to win anything for the Lord? It will not! The Bible says we are to have meekness and fear. We are to be slow to speak and quick to hear. The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Think about a recent time you lost your temper in a way that did not honor God? How did that affect the people around you?
When have you witnessed meekness in someone else? How can you seek to live in meekness as Jesus did?
Find a prayer or verse to recite when you feel ungodly anger welling up inside you.
|5/22/2023||Does Anything Come Before Jesus?|
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
1 Peter 3:15
Christians have faced bad times throughout history. Christians in the Roman Empire were perceived as enemies. The early Christians Peter wrote to were accused of insurrection because they would not proclaim Caesar as lord. Peter’s letter was more or less of a handbook for survival for Christians in that time. Peter spoke to those Christians in distress, and in verse 15, he said, “Sanctify the Lord.”
This is for us too. The very first thing we’re to deal with is the principle of lordship. “Sanctify the Lord.” You have to make up your mind that nothing will stand in the way of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you enthroned Him as Lord? Or have you come down the aisle of church and gotten baptized only because you want fire insurance and don’t want to go to Hell? He must be Lord. Everything in your life must get in line behind the lordship of Jesus Christ, never ahead of it. Our job is not ultimately to save America. Our first responsibility is not to preserve our freedoms, as important as they are. Our prime responsibility is to stand up for Christ and witness to His grace and His power, telling and showing the world, “Jesus is Lord.”
What are some things that have come before, or threaten to come before, Jesus in your life?
How do you need to take action to make Jesus Lord of your life?
Talk with an accountability partner about how you can encourage one another to keep everything in line behind Jesus.
|5/21/2023||Are You a Truth-Teller?|
Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.
Christians are called to lead by example. For parents, that means confessing and asking for forgiveness when you’ve done wrong. Let your children know you are a truth speaker.
You can fail in many ways and still come out fairly good with your children. But if you fail to keep your word, to keep your promises, or to tell the truth to your children, I promise you that your home is on the road to disaster. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for parents to tell the truth.
Do your children know you tell the truth? Do you ever teach children to lie for you? If we teach them to lie for us, we should not punish them when they lie to us. I actually heard about a mother who told her son, “Johnny, if you don’t stop lying, there’s a green man that lives on the moon who’s going to catch you and make you pick up sticks the rest of your life.” Why would we expect our children to tell the truth based on the threat of a lie? Simply live the Word of God. Moms and dads, tell the truth and keep your word.
How has a lie affected your perception of someone? How did it shape your relationship?
How can you prioritize truth-telling in your life?
Pray and ask God to help you value truth and keep your word to others. Consider anywhere you have lied and what you might do to rectify that.
|5/20/2023||We are Called to be a Faithful Witness.|
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
When God says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16), by implication God is saying you shall bear faithful witness. Jesus Christ is called “the faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5), and we’re to be witnesses to Him. My home and your home ought to be witnesses to the saving power of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When the Bible says the Early Church took the Gospel from house to house (Acts 5:42), that does not mean someone went door to door. It means the Gospel goes from the Jones’ house to the Smith’s house, and from the Smith’s house to the Brown’s house, and so forth. In other words, one family becomes a witness to another family. Our families are to bear witness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Has Jesus Christ saved you? Has He changed your home? Is He real to you? A witness tells what he or she has seen and heard. Jesus did not call you to be His lawyer. A lawyer argues a case. A witness simply shares what he’s seen and heard. Just tell people what Jesus Christ has done for you and how you know He has done it. Don’t give witness about things you don’t know; witness about things you do know. If you fail, that’s even a part of your witness. Tell how you failed and how God forgave you and gave you another chance. Your neighbor is waiting to hear the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Who has been a faithful witness of Christ to you?
How do you interact with your neighbors? Does your life give evidence that you are a witness for Christ? Explain.
Serve a neighbor today by witnessing about what Christ has done in your life.
|5/19/2023||Jesus Satisfies Our Deepest Longing.|
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
One day, I was witnessing to a man, and I asked him to give his heart to Christ. He said, “I’m doing just fine. I’ve got a steady income. I have a good wife. My house and car are paid for. I’m doing fine. I really don’t need what you’re talking about.” I looked him right in the eye and said, “Sir, would you be absolutely honest with me?” I asked him, “Sir, do you have peace in your heart?” I saw his eyes as they welled up with tears and he said, “No! I don’t have peace. How did you know?” I said, “Because the Bible says, ‘There is no peace . . . for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:21). If you don’t have peace, you’re poor! I don’t care what else you have. If you have the peace of God that passes understanding, if you have a hope that is steadfast and sure, then you are abundantly rich.
What is the secret of satisfaction? Trust in the Lord; get to know Him. A covetous person is a person who has not put his or her eyes on the Lord. Only God can satisfy the deepest longing of your heart. God has engineered you so that this world will not satisfy the hole in your heart.
How has your relationship with God given you peace?
Who in your circle does not live at peace with God?
Pray for those you know who do not have peace with God.
|5/18/2023||Are You Tempted to Lie?|
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
When I was younger, I was driving down to my little country church with one headlight, hoping I could make it back to school and get it fixed. The highway patrolman stopped me and said, “Son, do you know you only have one headlight.” I responded, “I only have one headlight?” On one hand, you could say I told him the absolute truth. I only had one headlight. But the way I said it insinuated that I didn’t know that. When I got back in the car, the Holy Spirit tore me up and convicted me about my lie.
We can lie with the tone of our voice, and we also lie when we slander others. The Bible says in James 4:11, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren.” It doesn’t say whether or not it’s true. We are not to slander. We’re not to speak with an evil spirit. A.B. Simpson, the great Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, once said, “I would rather play with forked lightning, or take in my hands living wires with their fiery current, than speak a reckless word against any servant of Christ, or idly repeat the slanderous darts which thousands of Christians are hurling on others, to the hurt of their own souls and bodies.” When you listen to slander, you’re as guilty as the person who spreads it.
When have you felt convicted about how you spoke against someone or told a lie?
How do you respond when you hear someone speak against a brother or sister in Christ?
Consider your habits and practices regarding speaking negatively about others or telling lies. Repent and surrender those things to God.
|5/17/2023||Are You Teaching Your Children to Give?|
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
If you were to clench your hand for a long time, eventually you would feel pain. The relief comes when we let go. So many people go along in life with clenched fists, saying, “That’s mine.” Life is made up of takers and givers. Teach children, and there’s so much they can give. Give them understanding, and they’ll give you understanding. There are many people today who look for someone to understand and care. It’s an amazing thing. Give acceptance. Give forgiveness to your children. Don’t let bitterness poison you and them. Give love. Love means, “I’ll do you good no matter what you do to me.” Teach children to give this way.
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, a great man of God said, “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” Teach children integrity. Teach children industry. Teach children charity and generosity. Clean up a neighbor’s yard. Help a widow carry groceries inside. Teach children to bring their own money to church. Give them their allowance. Teach them to take out of their allowance a gift. It may not be much, but let the children have the joy of bringing their offerings to the Lord. Exemplify a life of giving.
What lessons have you learned from your parents?
What are some valuable lessons you have received that you want to pass on to the next generation? How can you live as a model?
Make a list of children and young people you know and pray for each of them.
|3/16/2023||Are You Stealing from God?|
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
God’s Word says, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Do you know the worst thievery is to steal from God? And so many are stealing from God. You may ask, “How am I stealing from God?” Well, have you given Him your life? You belong to Him. You are His by creation. He made you. You are His by redemption. He died for you. And when you live your life for self alone, as if Jesus Christ never lived or died, you are a thief. You have taken from God that which belongs to Him. You walk God’s green Earth. You breathe God’s air. You live the life that God has given you, yet you don’t pour your life back out to God.
Do you know why we tithe? The tithe is a symbol that everything belongs to God. Don’t get the idea that 10 percent of what you have belongs to God. All you have belongs to God, because the One who owns the sheep owns the wool. When we steal—whether withholding tithe, doing a dishonest day’s work, failing to give love, or failing to honor God as we ought, we are ultimately robbing ourselves! It pays to serve Jesus—it pays every day and every step of the way. You have defrauded yourself. Ironically, in seeking to get, you’re the one who loses.
What does it look like to live daily like you belong to God?
What are some ways you have learned to glorify God with your body and your spirit?
Speak to another Christian about how you may be stealing from God and from yourself. Encourage one another with practical ways you can live like you belong to God.
|5/15/2023||Love Your Family Supernaturally.|
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
I have some tips for getting your marriage back on track: first, decide to live for Christ. Give your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have failed or sinned, bring it to Him. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” When you come to Him, He will forgive; He will not hold grudges. He will bury every stain, every blot, every blur, and every blemish in the grave of God’s forgetfulness. Come to Jesus, and I promise you on the authority of the Word of God, He will cleanse you.
Now it’s important to decide to live for Christ and depend on Christ. Let His life in you energize you and give you power. He doesn’t merely forgive you and then say, “Now do better.” He comes to live in you, to energize you, to give you power day by day. Finally, begin to pour out your love to Christ and your family. Love God and love your spouse with a supernatural love.
Anyone who chooses to love can love. The Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25). That’s not a suggestion; it’s a command. Decide to love and then devote yourself to a love for God and a love for your family.
How has dependence on God changed your relationship with others?
How has Jesus given you life and energy when you needed it?
Spend some time talking to God about the areas of life where you need to depend on Him more.
|5/14/2023||Are You Choosing Spiritual Life?|
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Part of choosing life is presenting spiritual life. I have four children on Earth and a little boy in Heaven. My children are a long way from perfect, but they all love God. When my son, Steve, was a teenager, I watched him and noticed I didn’t see the beauty of Jesus in his life, though he’d walked down the aisle and made a profession of faith. I said, “Steve, get in the car with me. Let’s go for a ride. Let’s go out and walk in the woods.” During that day together I said to him, “Son, daddy has got to know that you know Jesus.”
We talked, and out there in the woods we kneeled and prayed. During our conversation, he assured me, “Daddy, I love Jesus.” From then on, I started to notice him showing it through his life. One day I prayed, “Lord, if any of my children are not saved, I don’t want to go to Heaven without all my children.” I didn’t say anything to my wife, Joyce, or the children about it. But the next Sunday when I gave the invitation, my oldest daughter, Gayle, came down the aisle and she said, “Daddy, I don’t believe I’ve ever really and truly been saved. I want to be saved.” I believe that was directly related to that prayer. Families need to choose spiritual life.
Whose spiritual health do you regularly pray for?
How can you choose spiritual life through your daily routines?
Pray for any family members who don’t seem to show fruit of the Spirit in their lives or who have wandered away from their faith.
|5/13/2023||Are You Living Abundantly in Jesus?|
Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Jesus gives spiritual life. When He said, “I am the way,” He meant, “Without Me there is no going.” When He said, “I am the truth,” He meant, “Without Me there is no knowing.” And when He said, “I am the life,” He meant, “Without Me, there is no growing. I give supernatural, spiritual life.” Christians are not just nice people trying to do better who have accepted some creed or some code. They are new creatures regenerated supernaturally by Jesus Christ who transforms them by sending His Spirit into their hearts and giving them supernatural life.
Jesus, who gives physical and spiritual life, also gives eternal life. John 10:10 says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In verses 27-28 of that same chapter, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” Jesus is the author of physical life, spiritual life, and eternal life. What does eternal life mean? It speaks of the quality of life and quantity of life. He adds years to life and life to the years.
How has Jesus provided spiritual life for you?
How can you share your testimony about the abundance of life Jesus gives?
Talk to a friend about how Jesus has provided abundant life for you.
|5/12/2023||God’s Plan for Family Priorities.|
And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’
Marriage has the highest priority. The highest priority of human relationships is not parent to child or child to parent, but husband and wife to one another. Therefore, we as parents must be preparing our children to leave us. We must come to a place where the eagles stir the nest to send out those children so they can have homes of their own.
Now the little eagle doesn’t want to leave the nest. It’s so comfortable in the nest and the mother eagle comes with little bits of fish or big fat juicy worms to feed that little eaglet there in the nest. But there comes a time when that eagle must fly and get out of the nest. It would be easy to do everything for the bird and never really teach that baby eagle how to fly. What a mistake!
Marriage deals with more than simply a sexual union, though that is included. It means one flesh physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Two become one. Marriage is a romance, and in the first chapter, both the hero and the heroin die, and they become one new person. This does not end when you have children, you are still one, and you need to still prioritize that relationship, preparing for the day your child will be sent out.
What are some relationships that have a high priority in your life?
How can you pour into the next generation, preparing them to leave the nest?
If you are married, prioritize your spouse today. If you are not married, ask a couple you know if there is a way you could serve and pray for their family.
|5/11/2023||God Looks on the Heart.|
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Life is God’s wonderful gift. Therefore, we should enjoy life and choose life. Jesus is the great Life-Giver. Satan is the great life-destroyer. When Jesus referred to, “the thief,” He was not talking about a thief in the general sense; He was talking about Satan. Satan came to steal and destroy; Jesus came to give life.
Our Lord said if we allow hatred in our hearts, we have transgressed against Him. First John 3:15 says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This includes mental murder. Is there somebody you hate? You may say, “I’m not overtly evil.” Do you hate anybody? Is your heart a headquarters for hate? Any kind of hate is not from Jesus, the Author of life.
When are you most prone to hate? What people or groups of people make you the angriest?
Where have you seen the damage of hate in your life?
Pray and repent from the habits of hate in your life.
|5/10/2023||What Can You Do on Sundays?|
This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
If we’re not under the Old Testament laws of the Sabbath, how do we keep the Lord’s Day? What are the regulations for keeping the first day of the week? I cannot give you any rules because the Bible does not give any. Be careful that you don’t try to take the Old Testament rules concerning the Sabbath and apply them to Sunday, the Lord’s Day. That doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten the Ten Commandments, which say, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). We simply see its ultimate fulfillment as it applies to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it a holy day? Absolutely—because it is the Lord’s Day! But it’s a day of love and not legalism.
So, is it alright to watch television on Sunday? Is it alright to go to a ball game on Sunday? Could I play softball on Sunday? Could I go out on a boat on Sunday? Could I go to the grocery store if we’re out of milk on Sunday? Good questions, but I’m not the one to answer them. It’s not my day. It’s the Lord’s Day. Ask Him, “Lord, how can I honor You on this day? How can I take this day and give You glory, reverence, and praise so at the end of that day I can say ‘Lord that was Your day’”?
What is your typical Sunday routine?
What would change if you were to ask God how to spend your day?
Ask God to guide you in how to spend the Lord’s Day so that it honors Him.
|5/9/2023||Do You Honor the Lord’s Day?|
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
When I stand under the sun outside, I can see my shadow. The light is up there, the shadow is down there, and I am there in middle. Have you ever seen a dog chasing the shadow of a bird on the ground? He’s chasing the shadow, but the bird is up there. When people try to keep the covenant Sabbath according to the Old Testament, they are only chasing shadows. The Sabbath was a shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ. The substance is Christ. The Sabbath is the shadow that pointed to the substance. Don’t miss Jesus! That’s the reason Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He is your rest. He has made you a new creation. He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father. It is done. It is finished. It is paid in full. The Lord Jesus is our finished rest.
The reason we gather for worship on Sunday is because Jesus broke the bonds of death and came out of the grave upon the first day of the week! Revelation 1:10 calls the first day of the week, “the Lord’s Day.” The Sabbath was never called the Lord’s Day in the Old Testament, but the new creation Calvary Sabbath is called the Lord’s Day.
How has Jesus given you rest in Him?
What changes when you think about Sunday as the Lord’s Day, not just a general day to rest?
Intentionally plan a restful and worshipful Lord’s Day this week.
|5/8/2023||Are You an Encourager?|
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Wise encouragement is better than lavish praise. Children need encouragement.
I once planted some flowers. They were beautiful, but after a little while they started to wilt. So, I went and got the hose and sprinkled them. When I woke up the next morning, they were beautiful again. Children need encouragement like plants need water. They need it repeatedly. You need to catch them doing something right and let them know through your encouragement that you believe in them. Let your speech affirm them.
What is the difference between encouragement and praise? Praise tells a child, “I get approval when I do good. If I will do good, then they will approve of me. When my performance is good, the approval rate goes up. When my performance is bad, then my acceptance goes down, and my self-image goes down with it.” Praise says, “You are great because you did something.” There’s nothing wrong with praise, but I’m saying that encouragement is twice as strong as praise. Encouragement looks at a child and values that child, not primarily for what the child can do, but for who the child is. Encouragement says, “You can do it. Thank you. I’m so grateful for you.”
When have you been impacted by a word of encouragement?
Who are some people you can encourage today?
Encourage someone close to you today.
|5/7/2023||Creating a Family Culture of Worship.|
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
We become like what we worship. It is so important that we have a proper conception of God. We must understand who God is and what God is like. Therefore, God has absolutely forbidden the making of anything material as an object of worship. Why? Because God is not a material God; He is spiritual. That is His essence. God is spirit and to worship Him, we must worship Him in spirit and truth. What material thing can represent spirit? God is like a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. How would you make the image of a God like that? You cannot do it. So, we are forbidden from making anything material to show what God is like.
We communicate love for God with our worship. How are you teaching your children about the worship of God? The greatest thing you can do for your children is teach them to worship. How you worship will go on down to your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren. The way you worship has a result that will last long after you are gone.
What have you learned from the way in which your mothers and fathers in the faith worshiped?
How do you worship God on a regular basis? Think outside the boundaries of Sunday morning service alone.
Identify one way you can worship God with your family and implement that this week.
|5/6/2023||Are You Worshiping Any Idols?|
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
There are all kinds of false idols, each one we need to be aware of and guard against. For example, you can make an idol of yourself. When we do that, we go from theology to me-ology. We are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator. Anything or anyone that you love more, fear more, and serve more than God is an idol.
Others have made a god of money. The reason some won’t come to church is they say, “All they want down there is my money.” But the truth of the matter is, that kind of attitude can be a sign of greed. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and [money]” (Matthew 6:24). Either God is God, or money is god. And there are many who worship money.
There are some who worship the family. You will make a terrible mistake if you put your family before your relationship with Jesus. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). The best thing you can do for your family is not to put them first. Joyce doesn’t mind being second place in my heart, and she is second; God is first. I love her so much more because God is first place in my heart and in my life. Don’t make a god of your family.
Where are you most tempted to devote yourself to someone or something else more than to God?
What would it look like to give God first place in your heart?
Put into practice one habit that will help you remember to keep God first place in your heart.
|5/5/2023||Are You Trying to be Perfect?|
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
Don’t get the idea that you must be a perfect parent. You’re not a perfect parent, and your children are not perfect children.
God gave your children each a will. I don’t have goals for my children; I have desires for my children. Do you know who I have goals for? For myself. Why? Because I can’t control my children; I can control me, by God’s grace. So, my desire is that I will have godly children; my goal is I will be a godly dad. Do you understand the difference? With God helping me, I will be a godly dad.
I want to relieve you from the burden of perfectionism—from thinking if your child fails, it’s because you weren’t perfect. If their success depends upon your perfection, they won’t ever succeed; they will fail because no one is perfect.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the desire to be a perfect parent or perfect person?
How does Jesus’s work on our behalf relieve the pressure for us to be perfect?
Encourage some parents you know in a tangible way, whether by a word of encouragement or a thoughtful gift.
|5/4/2023||How to Take God’s Name in Victory.|
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
Sometimes we’re such hypocrites. We sing, “My Jesus, I love Thee. I know Thou art mine. For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.” Do you sing that and still keep sin in your heart? We sing, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold.” And yet we hold onto our possessions with all of our might. We sing, “Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to Thee till death,” and think nothing of skipping church if a good excuse comes up. We sing, “All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give.” If you don’t mean that, you are taking the name of God in vain. You can do it with profanity. You can do it by frivolity. You can do it through hypocrisy.
But in the negative, there is a positive. When we learn to take His name in victory, we’ll certainly be afraid to take His name in vanity. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” That’s taking His name in victory.
When have you used God’s name in vain?
What is something you could do to take the name of God in victory?
Write down a list of things you do in a day, then consider what it would look like to do those things in the powerful name of Jesus.
|5/3/2023||Leading Your Children to Worship God.|
You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
A woman came to her pastor and said, “Pastor, when should I begin the spiritual training of my child? When he’s five years old?” Pastor said, “No.” “When he’s three years old?” “No.” “When he’s three months old?” He said, “No.” “Well, when shall I begin?” The pastor said, “With his grandparents.” The faith that was first in your grandmother and now in your mother and now in you (see 2 Timothy 1:5). Don’t you want your children to love God? Show them through how you worship. It is so important that we teach our families to worship.
Do you worship the one true God? Do you worship Him in spirit and truth?
Do your children know that you love Him more than anything else? I’ve got four kids, and one thing they know is their dad is not perfect. They know it. But I’ll tell you something else they know. All four of them will tell you that dad is not a phony—he loves God. They know that God is number one in my life. The best thing you can do for your kids is not to give them a college education or leave them a legacy but to teach them to worship God.
What does a life of worship look like for you?
Who have you seen exemplify a life of worship before God? How has that impacted you?
Tell someone who truly lives a life of worship before God how he or she has impacted you.
|5/2/2023||Do You Love God Selflessly and Strongly?|
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!
Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Your soul is yourself.
The whole self, the total self, needs to be given over to God. There should be no area in your life that is off limits to God. How are you going to teach your children there is one Lord? They are to see in you that one love. They are to see in you a sincere love and a selfless love for our Lord.
Do you know how I can measure any person pretty well? I only need to see two things. I’m talking about your calendar and your bank account. Where are you putting your time? Where are you putting your money? You’re to love God selflessly.
There is also to be a strong love. You’re to love God with all your might—every inch, every ounce, and every nerve. He’s not just talking here about physical strength. He’s talking about whatever strength you have: emotional strength, financial strength, intellectual strength. Love Him selflessly. Love Him strongly.
Which one do you struggle with more: loving God selflessly or strongly?
What areas have you made “off limits” to God?
Pray about what areas you consider off limits to God and surrender those things to Him.
|5/1/2023||Children Can See Through Phony Love.|
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
We are to love God supremely. We’re to love Him with sincere love, with all of our hearts. Jesus spoke of people who honored God with their words, but He said, “But their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8). Do you know what your children need to see in your home? They need to see sincere love. They need to see in you a burning, passionate, emotional sincerity when it comes to the things of God. Kids can spot a phony a mile away, and they know whether or not you love God with all of your heart. And it is the phoniness of parents, by and large, that turns kids off to the things of God.
There was a young Jewish boy who lived with his father in Germany. His father was a successful merchant. They had moved from Germany to England. Having always practiced Judaism, the boy was surprised to see his father joined a Lutheran church. That boy asked, “Dad, why did you join a Lutheran church?” And the father said, “Well son we, we live in a different place now and there are so many Lutherans in this particular place in this particular town. It is good for business.” At that moment, that boy, who had a deep interest in religion, lost it all. Kids can spot a phony. You’re to love God with a sincere love.
What does it look like to be phony in your faith?
What does it look like to love God with a sincere love?
Speak to someone you have seen love God with a sincere love; ask for a word of encouragement or insight on what motivates that person to live with sincere faith.
|4/30/2023||Remember God’s Provision to Increase Faith.|
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.
Every person who has walked with God very far knows God has seen you through dark times. The passage is basically saying, “Remember and don’t throw in the towel. Don’t cast away your confidence!” After God has brought you through things, you initially say, “I will never ever doubt God again.” Have you said that? But later, you find yourself doubting God again.
One time, Joyce looked at me and said, “Adrian, you’re so wonderful. If I ever criticize you about anything, I want you to remind me of what I’m saying right now about how wonderful you are.” And you know, I’ve had to remind her many times. We forget sometimes just how good our God is. Then we get into difficulties and trials and God brings us through, and we say, “Thank You, Jesus. I’ll never forget.” But then another trial comes, and we do forget.
The first thing you do when you want to hold onto a promise is to remember yesterday’s provision. God took care of you yesterday, and He will be with you in the future.
When have you witnessed God’s faithfulness? When have you forgotten God’s faithfulness?
How can you make an active practice of remembering God’s faithfulness?
Encourage someone you know is struggling to remember God’s past faithfulness.
|4/29/2023||Are You Seeking God Diligently?|
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
God wants us to be diligent. When I was growing up and playing with my friends, we would sometimes go ring a doorbell and run away. The person would come to the door, and there’d be nobody there. I think sometimes we do that with God. Too often, before God ever gets there to answer the prayer, we’re gone.
Some of our prayers are easily offered and soon forgotten. No wonder we don’t inherit the promise. Some of our prayers are wandering generalities rather than specific requests. This means many of us could not even remember what we’ve prayed for—whether or not God has answered our prayer.
God wants us to be diligent and devoted. The writer says we are to diligently seek Him. Often we are seeking the blessing rather than seeking the Lord, the Blesser. We are called to seek His face, who He is. We’re not to only seek His hand, the things we can receive from Him. We are to hold onto God, even when the promise does not seem to come right away.
How difficult do you find it to be diligent in prayer?
What is the difference between seeking God’s face and merely seeking His hand? Why is it important to make the distinction between the two?
Consider your recent prayer requests; evaluate what you have been seeking from God and how diligent you have been in seeking Him.
|4/28/2023||Are You Steadfast as You Wait on God?|
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.
Endurance means the ability to bear up under trials and difficulties. Many people fail to receive because they fail to endure. This is really the language of athletics. For a time, I ran track, and I would run distance races. In those distance races, if you run a mile and you’re a hundred yards ahead but you quit running, you’re going to lose the race, no matter what.
Now, what is patience? Patience is more than waiting. It is more than passive resignation to trials. The word patience from the Bible does not have a good English synonym. The word in the Greek language literally means “to abide under.” It has the idea of steadfastness. It has the idea of constancy. It has the idea of staying in power. Patience is the bridge between doing the will of God and receiving the promise.
You need patience so that you might inherit the promises of God.
Remember yesterday’s provision. He saw you through then. He’ll see you through again. Remember, it is not patience that solemnly waits in the dark; it is patience that gloriously anticipates the dawn. And then, rest in tomorrow’s promise. I encourage you to take hold of the Word of God and never let it go.
How have you actively pursued God when you needed to be patient?
When you think about the future, do you most often look with joy or despair? Why?
Consider areas of your life in which you need to practice pursing God as you are patient.
|4/27/2023||Do You Have Dangerous Zeal for God?|
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
There is a zeal that is divisive, destructive, and deadly. You can take a hammer and build a house with it, or you can cause someone harm with it. Anything taken to an extreme can become bad. We need to learn the difference between zeal and moderation. Let your moderation or your gentleness be known unto all men. Zeal and moderation are not enemies; they’re friends.
That doesn’t mean we compromise our beliefs, but we need to learn to live by grace. The cause of Christ has been hurt by misguided zeal many times. When Jesus was in Samaria, the Samaritans were mistreating the Lord Jesus Christ. James and John were with Jesus, and they became very zealous for Jesus. They said to Him in Luke 9:54, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But Jesus turned, and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56). The manner of spirit they had was that of a misguided zealot. They saw the way the Samaritans were living, and they said “Lord, let’s get them.” The cause of Christ has sometimes been hurt far more in the house of its friends than in the house of its enemies.
What is an issue that easily riles you up? How can you guard against misguided zeal?
When have you been tempted to take justice into your own hands?
Talk to another Christian who knows you well and ask where you tend to have misguided zeal. Ask your friend to keep you accountable for submitting those things to God.
|4/26/2023||Are You Trying to Be Accepted by God?|
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
Perfectionism is a thief. It promises rewards, but it steals joy. Why? Because perfection is an unattainable goal.
If you get the idea that God is going to accept you based on your performance, that is a trap. Think about it. If you believe God is going to accept you based on your performance in your quiet time, Bible study, giving, and witnessing, then you will never know if you’ve done enough. You will never truly feel accepted.
If we could achieve perfection, we wouldn’t need a Savior. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll end up angry with God because things don’t work out just right. Everything in life is not neat; something is going to happen that’s going to make you a little angry with God. Or maybe you’re going to be afraid of God.
We get the idea that God is up in Heaven judging us. He’s sort of a hard-nosed teacher or parent saying, “David gets a C-. Bob did terrible. Scotty did all right, but he sure could do better.” This is our idea of God, and we’ll never be able to live up to the demands He has on us that we have made for ourselves. We began in the Spirit when we were saved, but now we’re trying to prove to God just how good we can be.
What comes to mind when you think about who God is?
In what areas do you put high standards on yourself?
Identify the areas in which you wrestle with perfectionism and repent.
|4/25/2023||Are You Yielding to Jesus?|
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
In the matter of spiritual victory, it is not your ability that counts. It is not your responsibility; it is your response to Jesus’ ability. Your responsibility is your response to His ability. You can’t do it without Him. He will not do it without you. You must yield.
I heard about the driver of a little pickup truck; he jumped out on the interstate and never slowed down to look and see if someone was coming. He nearly caused an accident, so the driver of a big eighteen-wheeler pulled over and leaned out the window and said, “Hey, didn’t you see that sign?” The man said, “What sign?” The trucker said, that sign that said, “Y-I-E-L-D.” The man responded, “Well, I opened the window and yelled as loud as I could.”
You cannot yield half-heartedly; you are to yield with all of your heart. I’m going to sum it up and tell you something that has absolutely gripped my heart. When temptation comes, you must yield, and you will yield. That much is settled. The only question is, which way will you yield? Will you yield to Satan or to Christ? That’s the only question. When temptation comes, you must yield. You must and you will. Choose today to yield to Jesus.
What does it look like to yield to Jesus in your life?
What is something you like to have control over? How can you yield to Jesus in this area?
Ask a spiritual mentor how he or she seeks to continually yield to Jesus.
|4/24/2023||Why Were We Crucified with Jesus?|
Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
When Jesus died, the old Adrian died. Calvary doesn’t just deal with my sin. Jesus didn’t just take my sin to the cross. He took me to the cross. You see, if He had simply died for my sin, that would still leave me. And I’m the problem. The cross does not merely deal with my sin, it deals with me—the source of my sin.
This is a simple and profound truth. When we follow Jesus, our old man is crucified with Him. When He died, He died for me; therefore, I died with Him on that cross. Dr. Robert G. Lee, the former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, once went to the Holy Land and to the place called Calvary. It was the first time he’d ever been to Israel and the guide asked this question, “Have any of you ever been here before?” Dr. Lee raised his hand. The guide said, “When was that?” He said, “Two thousand years ago.” Through Jesus, there was a very real way he was there at Calvary. I was there. You were there. Jesus Christ died on that cross for our sins, and we died with Him. He dealt with the penalty of sin but also with the power of sin.
How does it change your perspective to recognize that your old self died with Jesus?
What are some things about your old self that you are still tempted to hold onto?
Pray and thank God for dealing with you and your sin on the cross.
|4/23/2023||Future Glory Means God’s Best is Yet to Come.|
That having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
I want you to see our future glory through Jesus. Titus 3:3 speaks of our guilt. Titus 3:4-6 speaks of grace. And Titus 4:7 speaks of glory. “That having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” That’s talking about what is coming. That is talking about our future. We are heirs of God and joint heirs of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:7).
Do you know what a joint heir is? A joint heir means we share in the same way. We are heirs of God. We inherit all things. The best is yet to come.
Now, the Bible calls the Holy Spirit that we have right now the down payment. He is the earnest of our inheritance. Do you know what the word earnest means? If you’re going to buy something large, like a house, you give earnest money. It’s the start of what is to come. The Holy Spirit in your heart is the earnest money. You’ll get the full legacy later. You don’t have it all now; it is future glory. That’s the reason we remember this world is not our home. We’re just pilgrims, passing through to a future glory that awaits us.
In your walk with Jesus, do you experience hope for what is to come? Why or why not?
How have you shared the hope of Jesus with others?
Write down some things that make you dread the future, then write down reasons from Scripture that give you hope for the future.
|4/22/2023||Do You Have God’s Grace for Daily Living?|
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
What is present grace? It’s the love of the Father; it’s the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. He makes you new, and He keeps renewing. This means continuous action. Day by day, moment by moment, He keeps us, He renews us, He restores us, and He refreshes us. His mercies are new every day. He doesn’t just forgive us and then say, “That’s it.” This is the grace of God. It is the sovereign love of the Father. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and the saving death of the Son.
Throughout our lives with Jesus, the Holy Spirit just drops little gems into our hearts. He sees our fears, and He sees our tears. A jewel of joy, a pearl of peace—they are gifts for today, but we will get the full legacy later. Right now, we have the earnestness of the Spirit. He is giving little tokens, little down payments, and there will be future glory. We’re going to inherit all things. Aren’t you glad you are saved? Think of your past guilt. Think of your present grace. Think of your future glory with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the amazing grace of God. When you receive Jesus, you receive the eternal life that’s in Him. You can’t have that life without Jesus. Through Him, you will be forgiven, transformed, and receive future glory.
When was a moment you felt worn out in your faith? How did God renew you?
Who do you know who is in a difficult season and may need some spiritual renewal?
Pray for and serve the person you know who needs spiritual renewal.
|4/21/2023||Are You a Slave to the Law?|
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. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Under legalism, you’re a slave to yourself. Under criticism, you’re a slave to others. Under legalism, you’re a slave to circumstance, but the grace of God will set you free from all that. It’s all centered on the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is our statue of liberty; it is the cross that tells us of our freedom. The cross sets us free from legalism because every demand of the law was paid with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The cross sets us free from criticism. You can criticize me, but I know who I am, and He loved me enough to die for me.
Because you died with Christ, the law has no more demand on you. It is an exchanged life. He gave Himself for us so that He might give Himself to us. He inhabits our humanity. The life I now live, I live by the faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Why is Jesus worthy of our full trust every day?
How would life look different if you truly lived with full faith in the Son of God each day?
Make a list of your daily activities and responsibilities. Note next to each listed item how it might look different if it were undertaken by faith in the Son of God.
|4/20/2023||Are You Religious or Redeemed?|
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
It is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). You can’t beg it, you can’t buy it, you can’t borrow it, you can’t steal it, and you can’t earn it. It is the grace of God; salvation was bought by Christ on the cross. When Christ finished, it was accomplished. You cannot deplete it, and you can’t add to it—it is the supernatural work of God. It is the grace of Christ. He is the subject of the Gospel. It is about Him: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You may say, “Well, I believe the plan of salvation.” You can believe the plan of salvation and go straight to Hell, because you’re not saved by the plan of salvation, you’re saved by the man of salvation. It’s not a creed. You may say, “I believe if you live right, you’ll go to Heaven.” Paul said if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (Galatians 2:21).
Do you know why we have so much religious mayhem in the world today? Because people have met creeds, not Christ. They’ve entered into codes of living but not met Christ. They’ve joined churches without meeting Christ. Salvation is not believing something; it is receiving Someone. Jesus is just not a good way to Heaven; He’s the only way to Heaven.
What are some other things you can think of that people put their faith in instead of Jesus?
What are you tempted to put faith in over Jesus?
Pray for a friend or loved one who has not put his or her faith in Jesus. Confess any ways you need to turn back to Jesus or turn to Jesus for the first time.
|4/19/2023||Our Salvation is Not Dependent on Us.|
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
When I played high school football, there was a game when it was pouring rain, and there was water standing on the field. During the game, just by happenstance, a pass was intercepted by our defensive tackle. Now, he was not the pass-intercepting type. We blocked every opposing team member to get him down the field, and he scored on that play. I roomed with him that night, and all night long he talked about those brilliant moves and how he went down the field. I’d hate to be in Heaven with people talking about how they got themselves to Heaven. The Bible says it’s “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9). We’re going to Heaven by the grace of God, and all glory, praise, and honor goes to Him. What is the grace of God? It is the sovereign love of the Father, and it is the supernatural work of the Spirit.
He also regenerates us—we’re sanctified through Him. You may have been an adulterer. You may have been sexually perverted. You may have been a thief or an extortioner. But when you get saved, you are washed whiter than snow in the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
When have you bragged or been tempted to brag about your good works?
When have you felt like you couldn’t measure up to the standard of God’s law?
Consider which side you tend toward: bragging about your own good works or feeling ashamed because you can’t measure up to the law. Ask God to correct your thinking.
|4/18/2023||Why Do We Need God’s Grace?|
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared…
We’re blessed because God loves us. That’s grace. God doesn’t love us because we’re valuable; we’re valuable because God loves us. That’s what the Gospel is all about.
Those of you trying to work your way to Heaven, how are you going to do it? You don’t have any righteousness. There is nothing you can do that will take away what you’ve already done. It is not subtraction. There is nothing you can stop doing; you’ll still be missing reconciliation with God. What I’m trying to say is sin is sin, and it must be atoned for. If you try anything other than the grace of God, it will never work.
I read somewhere about a man who fell out of a rowboat into the Niagara River. The river was flowing toward the falls, and they tried to save him, so they threw him a rope. He held the rope for a while, but then he saw a log coming past and let go of the rope to grab hold of the log. No matter what else you hold onto, if you are not linked by the rope of grace to the heart of God, you’re going to perish. Salvation is not by works of righteousness, but according to His mercy—He saved us.
When have you valued your good works too highly?
How have you tried to sustain your faith by your own strength? Why is this impossible?
Write down some “good works” you have done recently. Surrender those things to God.
|4/17/2023||How Do You Resist Temptation?|
Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His special own people, zealous for good works.
You need to learn to resist the pull of the world. We all feel that pull of the world. The Bible says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 5:12). What temptation pulled on Lot in Genesis 13? It was the money, pleasure, and social life available to him from the world. Lot had no prayer. He wasn’t seeking God. There wasn’t a thought for the welfare of his children.
Often, young people are told, “Make all the money you can, just so you make it honestly.” And we say, “Well, a man has to live.” No, he has to die. And after he dies, he has to face God. First John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Lot saw the lust of the flesh, Sodom with its pleasures. He saw the lust of the eyes, Sodom with its possessions. There was the pride of life, Sodom with its philosophy. Now, Lot’s sin was not a sin only the rich have. You can be poor and covetous. You can have nothing and still feel the pull of the world. This world flirted with Lot. He was enticed. He became a friend of the world and committed adultery against God. Those same forces that worked on Lot are working on you and me day by day. Resist the pull of the world.
Where do you feel the pull of the world most strongly?
How do you respond when you feel the pull of the world?
Speak to an accountability partner about the areas where you feel the pull of the world. Pray together about those things.
|4/16/2023||Have You Received God’s Grace?|
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
When I was a young Christian, I would often fail. The same old words sometimes would come out of my mouth. That fiery temper would come back. There was a battle going on that lasted about two years.
During those two years, I began to listen, and the grace of God began to teach me some things. On a walk one night I prayed, “Oh, God, I’m so miserable. I don’t know whether I’m lost and the Holy Spirit has me under conviction, or I’m saved and the devil’s trying to make me doubt it.” Have you ever been there? I continued, “I just don’t have peace, God, and I want to get it settled tonight. You remember when I went forward in that church, and I was sincere, but God, I’ve been riding a roller coaster up and down and I want it stopped. With every fiber of my being, I trust you to save me. I’m not depending on myself. I don’t look for a sign, and I don’t ask for a feeling; I stand on Your Word. You died for me; You paid my sin debt. I receive You now once and for all as my Lord and Savior.” After that prayer, a river of peace began to flow in my heart, and it’s still flowing. What made that possible? It was the grace of God that brings salvation.
What are some things you’ve needed to surrender to God even after becoming a Christian?
How has God’s grace transformed your life?
Share with someone about how God’s grace transformed something in your life.
|4/15/2023||God’s Grace Bought Your Freedom.|
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
In the past, when a general went to war and won a great victory, he would often take a part of the prize of the battle. He would get a treasure and bring it back home as a trophy for himself—his special possession.
The Bible says in the ages to come, you and I will be trophies of God’s grace. We are His special possession. The Captain of our salvation went to bloody Calvary, defeated Satan, and paid the sin debt. He then redeemed unto Himself a special people. That’s what grace bought. We’re purchased. We’re purified. We’re special. We’re different. Grace brought salvation, it taught sanctification, and it sought service.
Jesus did not bathe this world with His blood to have you serve the world of the flesh. What has grace sought? He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for Himself a special people zealous of good works. “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!” That’s what it’s all about.
How has your relationship with Jesus changed the way you live? Why is this always necessary?
What is an area where you still struggle to choose to serve Christ?
Take some time for self-reflection and pray about an area where you may still be serving the desires of your flesh.
|4/14/2023||Grace Frees Us to Live for God.|
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
God’s grace leads Him to give to us where there is no merit. God’s grace leads Him to give to us when there are many demerits. And God’s grace leads Him to give at great cost to Himself. Anybody, any place, any time, no matter how wicked or how vile, can come to Him in repentance and faith and be gloriously, instantaneously, radically, dramatically, and eternally saved by His grace. There is not one thing to earn, but there is much to learn.
Our passage says, “For the grace of God . . . has appeared to all men, teaching us” how to live “soberly, righteously, and godly in” this present world. The devil does not want you to hear the message of grace. But if he cannot deny grace, he will try to distort grace. He would have you believe that after you have received grace, it doesn’t make any difference how you live. Grace does more than free us from sin; it frees us to live for God and follow His Son Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What are some things that are different about your life since you became a Christian? What things in your life are the same? What still needs to change?
Who do you know that needs the grace of God?
Share with another person how God’s grace has transformed your life.
|4/13/2023||We Have Grace to Do Good.|
Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility.
I got a letter from a person the other day, and I know the person meant well. The letter said, “Pastor, I enjoyed the message on grace. It was so good when you took the offering, and you said, ‘Because of the grace of God, we give.’ I’m so glad that you didn’t mention that because you know tithing is the Old Testament law.” This letter grieved me because the person had missed the point. Because I’m saved, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to give to the level of the tithe; it means I want to give more.
The Bible says the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us. It’s not that we say, “Now that I’m saved by grace, I’ll live by a lower standard.” No, we live by a higher standard because we have the love of Jesus on the inside.
The law says, “Don’t commit adultery” (see Exodus 20:14); grace doesn’t mean you can. The law says, “Don’t steal” (see Exodus 20:15); that doesn’t mean I can. Instead, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us. William Henry Griffith Thomas once said, “I will not work my soul to save, for that work my Lord has done; but I will work like any slave, for the love of God’s dear son.”
What are some of the laws of Scripture that you struggle with?
Since you became a follower of Jesus, how has your attitude toward good works changed?
Write down the laws or teachings of Jesus you struggle with most. Ask God to transform your heart in those areas to serve Him with gladness.
|4/12/2023||Are You Growing in God’s Grace?|
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Once you are saved, you come out of law school, and you get into grace school. Unlike law school, grace school never closes. The teacher never fails to show up. You’re continually being taught.
In salvation, there is nothing to earn but there is much to learn. Do you know what discipleship is? It simply means learning. A disciple is a learner. You’re learning to live as you should. That’s the reason none of us has a diploma yet. There’s not one of us who can say, “I have graduated from grace school.” We are being discipled by the grace of God, and He’s still working on us.
John Newton wrote the song many of us know and love: “Amazing Grace.” John Newton also wrote, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” You see, He’s still working on us, and we are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What are some lessons in grace you have learned?
How have you prioritized learning the things of God over the rules of man?
Think about when you first became a Christian. Make a list of some of the lessons of grace you have learned since then.
|4/11/2023||Are You Sinking in Legalism?|
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
The denial of grace is legalism. Many Christians are prone to legalism. One person might preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, a message that calls people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved, that you are saved by grace through faith alone. But it does not take long for someone else to come to that new believer with a lot of rules, rituals, and laws to follow. If a new believer is insecure in the liberty he or she has in Jesus, that person will go back into the playpen of legalism because it is easier.
Don’t let anybody make a legalist out of you. You are not saved by keeping laws or by ritual. You’re not saved by anything other than the grace of God. A person who tries to be saved or sanctified by rules is like a person trying to get out of quicksand. The more he struggles, the more he sinks. Ten thousand rules will not make you one bit more like Jesus.
When have you focused more on following legalistic rules than on the grace of God?
How have you extended God’s grace to others recently?
Make a list of the differences between legalism and grace. Do you approach people with legalism or grace? What needs to change?
|4/10/2023||Are You Leaving a Spiritual Legacy?|
To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
A Christian who doesn’t share the Gospel of Christ is like a bus driver who won’t drive a bus or a barber who won’t cut hair. Jesus said, “You shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). The question is, do you have any spiritual children? Is there anyone you have passed your legacy of faith on to? Not only was Paul a spiritual father, but he was a grandfather because now Titus was winning others to Christ. Spiritual impact can be passed on to many generations.
On April 1, 1885, there was a man named Kimball who went into a shoe store where there was a shoe clerk he had a burden for. The shoe clerk’s name was Dwight. Mr. Kimball went in, and he stuttered and stammered, but he told Dwight about Christ. There in the shoe racks, this young 19-year-old clerk bowed his head and gave his heart to Jesus and became Mr. Kimball’s spiritual son. That young man gained a heart to share Jesus. He lived in Chicago and began to gather boys and girls for Sunday school to tell them about Christ. His name was Dwight L. Moody. This uneducated shoe clerk began to preach and hold great crusades; thousands came to know Christ through his ministry. What about you? Who is your spiritual parent, and who are your spiritual children?
Who has influenced you in your faith?
Who have you been pouring into as you walk with Jesus? Who do you need to begin to do this with?
Write a note of gratitude to specific people who have been influential in your walk with Jesus.
|4/9/2023||Remain Steadfast While You Wait on Christ’s Return.|
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58
There is a reason Paul wrote about the mysteries of what is to come and the hope we have because death has lost its sting. He had an application in mind, not just information. He said, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast.” You can have stability. Don’t get blown around. Stay in there. Seek stability in Christ, be unmovable in the hope you have in Him, and you will have fervency—“always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
If you believe Jesus Christ is coming again, what should you do? Go live for Jesus. Occupy your time by loving others like He does until He comes. Get your head out of the clouds of prophecy and get your feet on the pavement of soul-winning. The great proof that you believe the prophecies of the Bible to be true is you follow God’s instruction. There needs to be stability. There needs to be fervency. The labor you are doing for the Lord is not in vain.
Have you ever lived as if your service to Jesus didn’t really matter?
Who have you shared your faith with? What was that experience like?
Take some time to pray and consider who you can express Jesus’ love to today. Take action to share the hope of Jesus with that person.
|4/8/2023||Are You Afraid to Die?|
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
A woman and her two children were in their garden enjoying a beautiful day when a big bee sat on the little boy and stung him. The little boy began to cry, and the sting began to swell. Then the bee began to buzz around the little girl, and she was terrified. By this time the little boy had quieted down, and the mother said to the little girl, “Darling, don’t be afraid. Come over here and let me show you something. Look closely at your brother’s arm. Do you see the stinger that’s there? When that bee stung little brother, he left his stinger.” Did you know that a bee does that? He can’t sting but one time. She continued, “Now sweetheart, that bee can’t hurt you because he left his stinger in little brother. He may buzz, and he may frighten you, but he can’t hurt you.”
The sting of death was taken by Jesus Christ. Death cannot hurt you. Death may frighten you, but Jesus has taken the sting out of death and the gloom out of the grave.
What feelings arise for you when thinking about the reality of death?
How does the hope of Christ lead us to grieve differently, even though we’re sad someone has died?
Pray and tell God any reasons you are afraid of death. Take some time to look up and reflect on Scripture passages that speak to the hope followers of Jesus have after death.
|4/7/2023||Jesus Won the Final Victory.|
And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:45
I read of four men who were climbing the Matterhorn—that majestic mountain in Switzerland—together. There were two guides and two tourists. To complete this climb, they had to be tied together. Climbing up the mountain, there was a guide, then a tourist, a guide, and then a tourist. They were going up that steep icy slope, and the last man tied to the rope put his foot down on the ice, slipped, and swung over the side. The man who fell was tied to the second man who was the guide and a skilled Alpine climber, but he was dragged over. When he went over, he pulled the next man over.
When the lead guide felt the tug on the rope, he knew what was happening, and he dug his cleats in, put his pickax into the ice, strained his muscles, and held for all he could. These other three men were dangling, but they finally got their feet back on, and all four of them went up the mountain together. Using this account as a theological picture, the first man who slipped was Adam, but the last man who held was Jesus. We’re all tied together, but thank God for that last man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has survived for us.
When have you felt like you fell away in life? How did Jesus save and restore you?
How does knowing Jesus’ strength change the way you interact with the challenges in life?
Consider one area of life where you feel like you are slipping. Call out to God for His help and ask Him to remind you of the strength you can have in Jesus, even when the situation seems grim.
|4/6/2023||Jesus Came in Humility.|
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
When you think about God coming to Earth through Jesus, you might expect He would come in a jeweled chariot. But how did He arrive? He was born as a baby in Bethlehem—a small, insignificant town. You might expect He would have been raised in a royal court, but He was raised as a carpenter’s son in another obscure, hated village called Nazareth. You might expect that Jesus would come with wealth, opulence, and power, but He walked about in sandal shoes with no home and no place to lay His head.
The natural eye looks at Jesus and asks, “What’s so great about Him?” If we started to talk about His life completely, we never would be able to finish. There are so many miracles. He went about doing good and showed great love in the way that He lived. He was not without sorrow, but He was without sin. The virtuous life of the Lord Jesus is nothing glamorous at first glance, but it is full of glory and worthy of praise.
What are some things that come to mind when you think about who Jesus is?
What does Jesus’s life on Earth teach you about humility? Where do you struggle with humility?
Think about someone you have seen exhibit humility and service. Ask that person to share how he or she came to that point.
|4/5/2023||Who are Your True Friends?|
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
There was a publication that ran a contest for a definition of friendship, and there were some great entries. One of them was, “A friend is somebody who multiplies our joys and divides our grief.” Another was, “A friend is somebody who understands our silence.” Those things are true of friendship, but here’s the one that won the prize: “A friend is someone who comes in when the whole world goes out.”
We need friends! We need friends who will strengthen us with their prayers, who will bless us with their love, and who will encourage us with their hope. A friend is on the scene when you need him or her. A friend is somebody wise enough to leave you alone when needed. A friend is there to help you to celebrate when there’s something to celebrate.
A friend is somebody who sharpens. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” A good friend will sharpen you, but a false friend will blunt and dull your life. Our English word friend relates to the word freedom because a friend is somebody who sets you free to be all that you can be. A friend is somebody who encourages you and knows how to speak the word that will draw you out and lead you on.
Who has been a good Christian friend to you?
How have you been sharpened by that friend?
Reach out to a friend that has been there for you and sharpened you. Tell your friend about the impact he or she has made on your life.
|4/4/2023||God Wants You to Talk with Him.|
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
Do you know the great privilege of being saved? It is not about merely having our sins forgiven, having provision, having a future, or having a missionary charge: through reconciliation, we can have a relationship with Jesus. Jesus is real to me. I talk to Him often. He is a dear friend. Did you know God wants you to talk with Him? God is a God of love, and what good is love if there’s not someone to love and someone to love back? That’s why God created us. God didn’t make you only to serve Him. If He only wanted servants, He has angels. God made us so that He could love, talk, and share with the creation made in His image.
Joyce and I will call our son David in Spain. International phone calls cost, but it’s worth it. When we speak to him, we like to hear about everything, not just the big things, but also the small, incidental things. Sometimes you might get the idea that God doesn’t want to hear from you about small things, but He does because He loves you. Do you think you’re a bother to Him? Do you think our son is a bother to us when we share little things together? No, that’s the joy, that He loves us enough to share those small things as well as the big things. Can you think of anything that’s really big to God? There’s nothing really big to Him.
How often do you talk to God? What do you talk to Him about?
When is it hardest for you to talk to God?
Consider when you struggle to speak with God. Ask God to grow your communication with Him in those times.
|4/3/2023||Do You See Your Sin as God Does?|
Then Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph; does my father still live? But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, Please come near to me. So they came near. Then he said: I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
People are not saved until they see the sovereignty of God and recognize themselves as people who deserve judgment. There is no conversion without conviction. Sometimes people come forward to join churches like they’re doing God a favor, but they have never been terrified by their sin and realized the weight of their sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.
I don’t think anyone has ever been saved until he or she has seen himself or herself as a Hell-deserving sinner. If you have little children, and you wonder if they are ready to be saved, I don’t think it’s good to berate them and say, “You’re a no good, unworthy sinner.” But the time will come when, through Bible teaching, they will come under a conviction of sin, and then they’re going to be ready for a Savior. Don’t just simply ask a little child, “Do you believe in Jesus?” Little children will believe whatever you tell them to believe. That’s not the point. Has that child understood sin in the sight of a righteous and holy God? If he or she has, then that child is ready for a Savior.
The same is for adults—there must be conviction of sin before there is conversion.
When did you realize the gravity of your sin? What was that like?
What happens when we forget the weight of our sin? How does that affect our walk with Jesus?
Reflect on the weight of your sin and take time to praise Jesus for your conversion.
|4/2/2023||Why God Gifts His Children Differently.|
For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
1 Corinthians 12:8-11
God brings us together as a body. Some are eyes, some are ears, and some are feet. We all have different gifts, and yet those gifts are to be put to work in the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Do you want to know what your spiritual gift is? You will discover your spiritual gift in the context of the Body of Christ. I had no idea that God would call me into ministry. Once upon a time, a person in my church invited me to be the youth week pastor. This was an opportunity for youth to fill the roles of the church and learn where they were gifted and how the church operated. I was scared when I received this invitation, but I got up and preached, and after, I received words of encouragement and affirmation on my gift of preaching. We find our spiritual gifts by operating in the Body of Christ. You are a gifted child. God doesn’t want you just to sit in the church pew. You have a spiritual gift with which to serve Him.
Have you ever been invited to serve in an area in your church that you had never considered for yourself? How did that experience help you grow?
What have you learned about yourself and your gifts as you have been part of your church community?
Speak to a spiritual leader in your church and ask that person where your church may need you to serve. Ask him or her for help in identifying your spiritual gifts.
|4/1/2023||Do You Have “Me-ology” or Theology?|
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
1 Corinthians 12:7
There was a lady who took a first aid course. Later she said, “I am so glad I took my course in first aid. Out in front of my house, there was a terrible car accident. An old man, driving a car, went up the curb and hit an oak tree. He was thrown out of the car. When I got there this man was in terrible condition, and the scene was gruesome. It was horrible!” Then she said, “I remembered my first aid. I remembered if I would put my head between my knees I wouldn’t faint.” That’s the kind of theology that many have today, which is really “me-ology.” Many people are only thinking about themselves.
Your spiritual gift is given to profit the entire body. We are to, as the hymn says, “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.” That’s why you have a spiritual gift. The gift is designed so that you might be a blessing to your entire church. God wants you to be a blessing to your church and make the church a blessing to your community and your community a blessing to the world.
When have you sought to use your gifts purely for your own benefit? Why is this easy to do?
How have you seen someone else use his or her spiritual gifts to bless the Body of Christ?
Encourage someone you know to use his or her spiritual gifts to bless the Body of Christ. Tell that person how he or she has impacted your life through obedience to Jesus.
|3/31/2023||Remaining Disciplined and Devoted to God.|
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.
Have you ever said to God, “I am here. You can have all there is of me. I present myself as a sacrifice. All my plans, my goals, my so-called possessions—I sacrifice them to you Lord”? Does that seem strange to you? If we are honest with ourselves, there are so many of us that want to take Christianity and tack it onto our regular lives. We want to hold onto our lives, our rights.
A sacrifice in the Old Testament was killed; it had no more plans of its own. On the altar, they had two hooks and those hooks would be put into that sacrifice that was to be burned to hold it on the altar. Do you know what will hold you on the altar? Discipline and devotion will hold you there as a living sacrifice, but most of us don’t want those flesh hooks.
Many will say, “I don’t want to get bound down. I would teach a class, join a church, and make a pledge to the love offering, but I don’t want to get bound down. I want to be free.” No. This is a sacrifice. And what happened to an Old Testament sacrifice was this—it was consumed; it was burnt up. You do not truly worship God until you are consumed.
If you are honest with yourself, what are the things you aren’t willing to give up to follow Jesus?
Do discipline and devotion to Jesus have a prominent place in your life? Why or why not?
Speak to a person you know who has sacrificed a lot to follow Jesus. Ask that person to share insights about discipline, devotion, and living sacrificially.
|3/30/2023||Are You Easily Irritated?|
Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:5-7
Love is not irritable. Do you have a hair-trigger temper? Are you a person who easily flies off the handle or is easily irritated?
Years ago, when I was working my way through school, there was a deacon in our church who hired me to work for him. I thought he was one of the most wonderful men I’d ever known. I worked with this man, and on one occasion I saw this man I greatly respected get so angry. He picked up a tool and threw it all the way across the room, muttering something that I would not want to repeat. I was so hurt because I’d looked up to him. He was a leader in our church, and I was just a young person. I thought how sad that this man was so easily provoked.
We all have our faults. There have been those moments when I have taken my eyes off the Lord and gotten provoked, and the Holy Spirit has reminded me, “Adrian, the reason you did that is because that’s what you were full of.” What spills out is what you’re full of. We need to learn to drown insults in a river of love. One of the precious virtues of love is that it is not irritable.
How easily are you irritated? What are specific things that set you off?
How has someone’s patience made an impact on your life?
Ask someone you are close with to keep you accountable for times you are easily irritated. Resolve to drown insults you receive in a river of love.
|3/29/2023||Does God’s Love Shine Through You?|
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.
1 Corinthians 13:4
A woman once told a preacher, “You have brought me to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.” And the preacher said, “I’m grateful for that. I like to know how God uses me. What was it I preached that brought you to Christ?” She said, “It was nothing you preached. I was standing around when somebody criticized you to your face, and I watched you respond to that person with kindness. I knew that what you had was real.”
Love is kind. There are many people who are religious, but not necessarily kind. That’s the reason a little girl prayed, “Lord, make all the bad people good, and all the good people nice.” Love enables us to be patient. It enables us to be kind. It enables us not to envy. Envy and love don’t dwell in the same heart. Do you know how to see if you have love or not? If somebody else is being blessed and you rejoice, then you have love. If you cringe when other people are being praised, there’s no love in your heart. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.”
When have you felt justified to be unkind to someone else?
What causes you to envy others?
Assess where envy might live in your heart. Submit this before the Lord and ask Him to lead you to love others.
|3/28/2023||The Same Source of Power.|
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
When Joyce and I got married, we got all kinds of gifts, as do many couples when they get married. It’s a custom. These gifts might include waffle irons, blenders, toasters, can openers, and coffee makers. All these items have different functions. But they all have to be plugged in; they don’t operate without power. It’s the same power that operates them all, but they all have different functions and different capacities. That is what Paul is saying about the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have different capacities and different functions, but it is the same Spirit. We’re all plugged into Him. What you need to do is to plug in your spiritual gift. Your ministry is your place of service, but God is the source of life for us all; He is the source of power for every gift.
God doesn’t want us all to be alike. We’re not a congregation of clones. God makes us different. Unity is not uniformity—everybody doing the same thing. Unity comes from the life of the Spirit within. We all share the same Holy Spirit, and we all have unique gifts to be used for His glory.
When have you sought to use a spiritual gift in your own strength—without relying on the Holy Spirit?
How have you pursued unity in your church? How can you do so further?
Think about someone you have had a difficult time getting along with in your church. What would it look like to have unity of the Spirit with that person? Pursue unity in one practical way this week.
|3/27/2023||Are You Using God’s Gifts?|
For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
1 Corinthians 14:31-33
I want my life to count for Jesus. I’m tired of sitting around, drawing breath, drawing a salary, and fighting to live while I live to fight. Do you want your life to count? Are you content to only sit around and endure until you die? One of these days soon we’re going to give an account.
God has called you to serve Him, and God has equipped you to serve Him. God has given to you at least one spiritual gift and possibly more.
As you use these gifts, remember, real revival doesn’t put you out of control; real revival brings you under the control of the Holy Spirit. God is the One who gives direction according to His Word. Your life is to be used for His purpose.
You are to take His gifts, discover them, develop them, and deploy them for Jesus.
What would it look like to make your life count for Jesus by using His gifts in your life?
How is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life?
Write down the spiritual gifts you see reflected in yourself. Write another list of the ones you would like to learn more about.
|3/26/2023||Seeing God at Work.|
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13
The motivating power of Jesus’ body is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to be the life of the Church. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no power in the Church! There is a difference between an organism and an organization. The Church is organized, but it is not an organization; it is an organism. An organization does not necessarily have life. There are so many wonderful organizations, but none like the Church. The life of God is to be in us.
Granted, you can get a group of people together, get a beautiful building, get a man who can speak well, get them organized around some causes, and call it a church, but it may not be the Lord’s Church. It may be a wonderful organization. But there’s a distinct difference when the Spirit of Almighty God is working and moving among His people.
There is a spiritual dynamic in the Church. Just as my human spirit is the life of my body that is motivating me right now, the Holy Spirit of God is the life of the Church.
There is a song that says, “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.” The Church is not a corporation with Jesus as the president. It is a body with Jesus as the head.
How have you seen the Holy Spirit at work in your church?
When have you seen the Holy Spirit alive in other members of your church?
Pray for your church and ask God to make His Holy Spirit alive in your local church body.
|3/25/2023||Are You Available to Jesus?|
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
1 Corinthians 12:17-18
Now my body is not supposed to have any plans of its own. I would be afraid of my body if it had plans of its own. My body is to serve me; I’m not to serve it, and it’s only to serve me at my command. Suppose I woke up this morning and my hand somehow had the ability to speak and say, “Good morning, Mr. Rogers. I have some plans today. I’m going to scratch your ear, I’m going to shave you, I’m going to take a pen and write some words for you, and I’m going to shake some hands for you.” I’d say, “I don’t want you to have any plans of your own. Just be there.” I would be afraid of that thing!
So many times, we’re telling Jesus what we’re going to do for Him. He doesn’t want us to do anything for Him. Does that surprise you? He wants to do something through you. Your body is here to minister to you! Our purpose as followers of Jesus is to hear what the head says and to do it. That’s what we’re here to do. And therefore, we must listen to what our Lord is saying. We are to minister to Him.
The best ability is availability. That’s it. Are you available? Are you responsive to Him? In a body, there is a ministering purpose. The body is to minister to the purpose of the person who lives in that body.
When have you told God what you were going to do for Him?
How have you made yourself available to be used by God?
Think about a time recently you told God what you were going to do. Repent and ask God to help you trust His purpose for you.
|3/24/2023||Jesus Manifested Through You.|
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. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
How is the world going to know the Lord Jesus Christ? Through His body. Through us. That’s kind of frightening, isn’t it? When you think about it, how is this world going to know the Lord Jesus Christ? God is spirit, and a spirit is invisible. My spirit, the real me that lives inside this earthly body, is invisible. Jesus lives in His body, which is the Church, and Jesus is manifested by His body. We are here to tell our communities what Jesus Christ is like. We are to manifest the Lord Jesus. In a body, there is a manifested person. The Church is the visible part of the invisible Jesus, and Jesus is the invisible part of the visible Church. As His body, we manifest the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, there’s only one who’s ever lived the Christian life. Do you know what His name is? It’s Jesus. If Jesus’ life is being lived behind my pulpit, it’ll be Jesus in Adrian doing it. It won’t be Adrian; it’ll be Jesus in me. If Jesus is manifested in your home, it’ll be because Jesus is manifesting Himself through you. If you try to imitate Jesus in your own power, all you will be is a cheap imitation.
Who has been a manifestation of Jesus in your life?
How do you seek to make Jesus visible in your life?
Call the person that has been a manifestation of Jesus to you. Encourage him or her regarding the impact this person has made on your life.
|3/23/2023||Do You Love What Jesus Loves?|
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12
In Scripture, there are many ways that the Church is described. For example, the Church is described as the bride of Christ. He is the Bridegroom, and we are the bride. The Church is described as His building, not a physical building, but a spiritual building with Christ as the foundation and us as living stones. The Church is described as a flock of sheep. We’re the sheep of His pasture, and Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads His flock. Finally, the Church is the body of Christ. He is the head, and we’re the members. Whether it be a bride, a flock, or a building, all these illustrations of the Church speak of community. None speaks of individualism. It speaks of togetherness. We’re in this together. The Bible teaches we are members, one of another.
Now if people say, “I believe in Jesus, but I don’t believe in the Church,” there is a lot they don’t understand. Jesus and the Church are not identical, but Jesus and the Church are inseparable like a bride and a groom; a head and a body; a foundation and a building; or a shepherd and a flock. All of these go together. So don’t say yes to Jesus and no to the Church. When you say that, you are missing a major part of the heart of God. Love for Jesus and love for what Jesus loves are inseparable.
When have you struggled to love the Church? Why can this be difficult?
How have you been blessed by the Church?
Find a way to practically love and serve others in your church.
|3/22/2023||Are You Working in God’s Field?|
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
There’s never been a greater time to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The great revivalist Vance Havner said, “Too many are willing to sit at God’s table but not work in His field. …God has a place and purpose for you, somewhere for you to be and something for you to do. You never will be happy elsewhere, nor can you please God anywhere but there.”
Remind yourself today and say out loud: “I have been called into the ministry. I am saved to serve. God, make me a servant. God, make me a minister.” God has called you. Think what will happen if all of us really begin to minister. We’ll turn the world upside down and inside out for Jesus Christ. We could change the world for Jesus if we each understood we’ve been saved to serve. God has called you into the ministry. You don’t just sit in church to soak and sour but to serve.
Where have you served in your church?
What have been some of your hesitations about serving God?
If you aren’t yet serving, contact someone on staff at your church and ask him or her how you can serve in your church.
|3/21/2023||You Are Called into Ministry.|
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the Church is to give Jesus Christ glory and honor, to make Him known to our neighbors and to the nations, and to move believers in Him toward maturity and ministry. The Church exists to help you grow up so that you can serve.
There is no such thing as an inactive Church member. That’s an impossibility. Every Church member is active. Either we’re building up, or we’re tearing down. Either we’re a part of the team and helping, or we’re not a part of the team and hurting. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” Every member of the Church is gathering or scattering. Every member of the Church is working with the Lord Jesus or working against Him.
Let me say again, nobody is excluded. If you are reading this, this message is not “to whom it may concern”—it is to you. It has your name and address on it, and God wants you to serve and minister. You’ve been called into the ministry.
Do you consider yourself part of the ministry of your church? Why or why not?
Who is an active member of your church that has made an impact on your life? How can you seek to influence others similarly?
Write down different ways you have been impacted by people who tried to build up your church. Consider what you have done to contribute to that effort.
|3/20/2023||Are You a Stumbling Block?|
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
Unity is a matter of lordship, liberty, and love. Romans 14:15 says, “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.” Let me tell you what love will do in a church. Love will keep your brother from stumbling.
Love says, “I’m not going to give him a reason to stumble.” There are certain things in life that I don’t do, not because I think they would hurt me, but because I think they may hurt someone else who observed me. We are called not to cause another person to stumble.
Love does not give a reason for sorrow. The point of Romans 14:15 is this: I don’t need to do anything that would break your heart, even if I could argue I have every right to do it. Paul was saying, “Don’t destroy your brother with your rights.” The word destroy here actually means to overthrow or ruin. Don’t mar another person’s well-being through personal preference.
Have you ever abstained from something because you knew it was a stumbling block for someone else?
What has been a stumbling block for you? How could you share this with others who might help you guard against it?
Share with a trusted Christ follower some of your stumbling blocks and ask him or her to support you as you seek to avoid those things.
|3/19/2023||Sharing Jesus with Our Country.|
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
1 Peter 3:15
We are called to preach to the people in our country. God’s people dare not be silent. We dare not identify the Christian faith with the Democrat or the Republican Party. We need to be free to tell people in both parties to repent and get right with God.
We should be civil, but we can’t be silent. Nathan warned David. Elijah preached to Ahab. Eleazar warned Jehoshaphat. Daniel preached to Nebuchadnezzar. Moses warned Pharaoh. John the Baptist preached to Herod.
Would you pray for the people in America right now? And remember when you’re praying for those in America, you’re praying for yourself too. Lord, help us, we deserve judgment, but we need mercy. Bring people in this nation to You.
Whether America survives or not, there is another kingdom and another King. His name is Jesus. And you need to render to God the things that are God’s. Your life belongs to God, and you need to give it back to Him. Jesus died for you on the cross. You are invited to live reconciled with Him through faith and to invite others in your country, state, nation, and beyond to be reconciled with Him as well.
With whom you have been nervous to share your faith?
When have you seen people share the hope they have with conviction and meekness?
Seek opportunities to share your faith with at least one other person this week.
|3/18/2023||Do You Pray for Your Leaders?|
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
We are to pray for our government. First Timothy 2:1-3 says, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” You may ask the question, “Should I pray for my leader if he’s wicked?” If that is the case, you should pray all the more for him. Why? Because God can change a ruler, remove a ruler, and overrule a ruler. Pray for those who are in authority.
One of the mightiest rulers in the Old Testament was a king named Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar ruled over ancient Babylon. Daniel was in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar where the king’s power came from. In Daniel 2:37, God said through Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory.” Nebuchadnezzar was not a godly king. He was so full of himself that God brought judgment on Him. God set him up, and God brought him down. We can pray for even the most wicked leaders, asking our heavenly Father to deal with them rightly.
Have you ever struggled to pray for those in leadership? Why or why not?
What would it look like to pray fervently for leaders even when you do not agree with them?
Do some research and find out the names of your local, state, and national government leaders if you don’t know them. List their names and pray for them in their roles.
|3/17/2023||Why We Pursue Unity.|
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.
Jesus wants unity in His Church. One of the things that gives Joyce and me great joy is to see our children loving one another. We pray for our children and grandchildren. We want them to love Jesus, we want them to love us, and we want them to love one another. Likewise, God wants you to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, all His children.
Unity is the delight of the saved. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than to be in a church where there’s division. There’s nothing more glorious than to be part of a church in which you have sweet fellowship and oneness of spirit. What a fellowship and what a joy divine!
Unity is the dread of Satan. Satan gets very nervous when God’s people dwell together in unity because this makes us a winning team. The celebrated basketball coach, John Wooden of UCLA, was asked, “What does it take to make a winning team?” He said, “Get the players in condition. Teach them the fundamentals of the game. Teach them to play together as a team.” Isn’t that simple? That’s exactly what it takes to make a great church. Get in condition, get right with God, learn the fundamentals of the game, learn what being a Christian is all about, and then, live in unity for the Lord Jesus Christ.
When have you struggled to pursue unity in your church? Why?
What are some steps that you can take toward pursuing unity in your church now?
Reach out to one person for the sake of pursuing unity and reconciliation as needed.
|3/16/2023||Are You Wearing Jesus?|
Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
In these verses, Paul called us to put on Jesus Christ as Lord. He is my Master; I am His slave. Is Jesus Christ your Master? He is if you put Him on. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus means Savior. The name Jesus means, “Jehovah saves.” Not only do you put on the Lord Jesus as Master for direction, but you put on the Lord Jesus as Savior for deliverance. It’s a vile world out there, and as you go out, you must be clothed. You need someone who can deliver you, dress you in the robes of righteousness, protect you, cleanse you, and keep you clean. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ where you’re dressed in His righteousness alone because he is Lord and Savior.
The word Christ means, “Messiah” or “king.” He is the one who rules over me and teaches me how to rule in this life because He is the Messiah, He is the king, He is Lord of lords and King of kings. We are to wear Jesus like a suit of armor, the armor of light.
What is your morning routine? What reminds you to put on Christ Jesus as Lord?
How has your life changed since giving God authority over your life? Where do you need to give Him further authority?
Consider what it looks like to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider how you can practice that daily.
|3/15/2023||Does God Want You to Pay Taxes?|
For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Jesus paid His taxes; you ought to pay your taxes. As a matter of fact, there’s a wonderful story from when it was time for Jesus to pay His taxes. (See Matthew 17:24-27.) He told Peter (paraphrased), “Go cast a hook in the sea. Take the first fish that comes up and look in his mouth; you’ll find a coin.” Jesus said, “I’m a citizen of another world but I’m doing this lest I should offend.” Now, ever-increasing taxes are a burden, but we are to pay for our government. We’re to render all their due, custom to whom custom, and so forth. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar.” And Jesus said, “Render to God the things that belong to God.” To God is our highest, greatest allegiance, but God has also called us to submit to the governing authorities He has put in place.
Have you ever considered paying your taxes as a way to be obedient to God? Why or why not?
How does following Jesus’ instruction in this area help you to better trust Him with all your life?
Pray for the money that you are paying in your taxes; ask God to use it for His purposes and help you give it honestly.
|3/14/2023||Do You Respect Authority?|
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
The Word of God and the Book of Romans speak very clearly about the matter of Christian citizenship.
Paul says, “Let every soul be subject unto the governing authorities.” He is literally talking about the civil magistrate, the governmental leaders. Let every soul be subject unto the civil magistrate. “For there is no authority except from God,” that is the rulers, the leaders, the magistrates that be, “are appointed of God.” Now you might think of your minister as an ordained minister, but have you ever thought of your governor as an ordained governor? “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God.”
Who was the authority when Paul wrote this? Caesar. The Roman government was in power. The Christians were disenfranchised. They had no political power. Still, even in that time, Paul wrote, if you resist these authorities, you’re resisting God, because it is God that set them up.
Why do we often struggle with authority?
How can you show respect to your God-appointed leaders?
Ask a friend who knows you well about your attitude toward authority. Give that person space to speak some critique as well as encouragement.
|3/13/2023||Do People See Jesus in You?|
And 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.
I want people to see Jesus in me. Don’t you want people to see Jesus in you? The little boy said to his father, “Dad, is Jesus bigger than I am?” Dad said, “Well, yeah, son, I guess He is.” He said, “Well then if Jesus is in me, He’ll stick out, won’t He?” He sure will if you’ll let Him! The inner nature of a Christian is Jesus.
When there comes transformation, then there comes revelation. When you’re changed by Christ, you gain the mind of Christ. Why did God renew your mind? So, you could think with it. After he talks about renewing your mind, Paul essentially says, “Think, think, think! Don’t be afraid to use your mind. You have the mind of Christ.” The will of God is found between your ears when you get right with God.
When you present yourself to Him, a living sacrifice, you’re transformed, you get the mind of Christ, you can use the mind of Christ, and you’re able to make assessments that you could never make before. You think, not with human rationality, not with human intellect, not with human intuition, but with divine guidance because you have the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you been transformed by Jesus? How has that changed the way you think?
Think about your old ways. How did you think before you were transformed by Jesus?
Share with someone your testimony about how Jesus transformed your life.
|3/12/2023||How Do You Pray to God?|
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
God is in the business of getting glory for Himself, and the reason many of our prayers are not answered is that we are not interested in the glory of God. We’re interested in our own personal gain. When you get interested in the glory of God, you’re going to see prayers start being answered. James said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) We’re to ask God for the glory of God.
This is why we pray in the name of Jesus. We are to ask in His name that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (See John 14:13.) Why do we pray in the name of Jesus? That God will be glorified. That’s what it means to pray in the name of Jesus.
In prayer, are you more likely to ask something of God or offer Him praise? Why?
When have you started a prayer with praise to God? How did that change your attitude as you prayed?
Spend time offering thanksgiving to God.
|3/11/2023||God Wants Me to Pray.|
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9
Why has God allowed us to pray? Have you ever thought about that? Prayer is so mysterious. What is the purpose of prayer?
God has given us the privilege of working with Him. God in His administration of the Universe has called us to be laborers together with Him. We work together with God as we work with one another, and we work with God in administrating the Universe. God wants to move through His people. Why would He do it that way? I’ve often used the illustration of flying an airplane. I don’t know how to fly an airplane, but there have been times when I’ve been up with the pilot and he would say to me, “Do you want to fly this airplane?” I’d say, “Sure.” So, he’d turn the airplane over to me. He was sitting there alongside me, of course, and he had his hands on his controls. I had mine on the other controls and was flying the airplane. I want to make it very clear that he could do it without me. However, I couldn’t do it without him, but there’s the joy of that fellowship as he says, “I’m going to let you help me fly this airplane.” That’s the way God wants to work with us through prayer.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a laborer with Christ? How does that change the way you see your purpose in the day-to-day?
What would it look like to pray as a laborer with Christ?
Pray with a friend for God to work in your community, church, town, and beyond for His glory.
|3/10/2023||Sacrificing to Know God Personally.|
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.
Sacrifice is personal. You present yourself. I can’t do it for you; you can’t do it for me. You don’t need to ask, “Lord, what would You have Adrian do?” But each one of us must say, “Lord, today, I present myself.” It is personal.
In the Old Testament, a sacrifice was an animal slain and put on an altar. Are you willing to present yourself as a sacrifice today? Many of us don’t know God because we aren’t willing to die to ourselves. When you die, you have no more rights. Your wife, your husband, your children, your car, your home, your ambitions, your education, and your business all belong to Him. God doesn’t want you to take Him into your business as your partner. He’s your boss. He owns it; it is His. You can’t have half a sacrifice. God will not accept half a sacrifice. You are to present yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto Him.
When have you given your life to God as a sacrifice? What does that require of you?
What are some things that hold you back from living as a sacrifice to God daily?
Talk to a friend in the faith today about the things that are holding you back from making the commitment as a living sacrifice.
|3/9/2023||Prayer Bonds Us With God.|
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
What is the origin of effectual prayer? Its roots are in the purpose of God. The prayer that gets to Heaven starts in Heaven. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Prayer is God’s way of getting Heaven’s will done on Earth, not man’s way of getting man’s will done in Heaven.
Why has God allowed us to pray? Have you ever thought about that? Prayer is so mysterious. God knows what we need before we ask Him, so why should I ask God for what He already knows I need? Could God do it without our praying? He will not do it without our praying, and if we don’t pray, we will not have, for the Bible says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
But God has given us the privilege of working with Him. God, in His administration of the Universe, has called us laborers together with Him. When we pray, we have the privilege of working with God. And through prayer, we also bond with Him. If we didn’t pray, many of us would never think about God. Many of us would take His blessings for granted. But God wants us to be perpetually dependent upon Him, so He teaches us to pray.
What aspects of prayer have you struggled with?
How has prayer grown your relationship with God?
Take some intentional time in prayer to focus on God and His will, which is found in His Word.
|3/8/2023||Do You Marvel at God’s Creation?|
Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; he calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.
It’s the Lord Jesus who fuels the sun with its power. It’s the Lord Jesus who veils the moon with its beauty. It’s the Lord Jesus who guides the planets. There’s no natural law. It’s the laws of God that nature obeys.
Joyce and I took a vacation some years ago down on a little island in the Bahamas and there was no television and no radio—just a little place there on the beach; we loved it. There was a dock out in front, and at nighttime Joyce and I would just go down and get flat on our backs on the dock and look up at the stars and just lie there and talk and marvel at the stars in the Universe.
You see, Jesus is the producer of creation. Jesus is the preserver of creation. By Him, all things exist. And Jesus is the purpose of creation. Colossians 1:16 says, “All things were created through Him and for Him.” The Universe came from Him, the Universe is sustained by Him, and everything comes back to Him. People ask, “What’s the world coming to?” It’s coming to Jesus, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).
When was a time you marveled at God’s work in creation? How did that impact you?
How does the truth that God is reconciling all things to Himself encourage you?
Go outside or look out your window and spend time praising God for all He has done in creation and for how He is reconciling all things to Himself.
|3/7/2023||Believing God When We Don’t Understand.|
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
There are many things about faith and the ways of God that we do not understand. None of us will ever fully understand everything about God. How do I know this? The Apostle Paul didn’t know. He essentially said, “Who can understand this? Who has been God’s counselor? His ways are past finding out.” We should quit trying to fully understand His ways and begin to live by the Word of God and what God has revealed to us.
It’s not up to you to synthesize these things; it’s not up to you to put these things together. You just simply believe. When the Bible says, “Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17), believe it. And when the Bible says, “God wants everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), believe it. And when the Bible says, Christ died for the whole world, (See 1 John 2:2.) believe it.
What matters of faith have you struggled to wrap your brain around?
When have you taken God at His Word?
Write down some of the things of faith that you don’t understand. Ask God to help you trust Him with those things.
|3/6/2023||God’s Plan for Israel.|
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
Paul became the apostle to the Gentiles, and you and I are reading from a Jew who wrote to us the Book of Romans. We’re blessed by the mysterious plan of God. But God said that came about in a strange way when the Jews turned from the Gospel and the Gentiles were blessed. In effect, God is saying in this Scripture: “If I keep my Word to the Gentiles, how much more, then, will I keep My Word to Israel and bring her people back to Me?” Remember that Israel was not to be just simply a reservoir through which God poured His blessings, but it was a pipeline through which God dispersed His blessings. In Genesis, God said to Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3). Abraham is the tree, and we who are Gentiles have simply been grafted in. We’re the wild olive. If God can take unbelieving pagans and make believers out of them, how much more can He bring Jews to their true Messiah?
How does it affect you to think of the way God has brought you into His family? How has that changed your life?
What friends have you prayed for who need salvation and reconciliation with God?
Consider those you know who are far from God. Get to know them and their stories and seek to share how your faith has changed your life.
|3/5/2023||How to Accomplish God’s Will.|
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!
Faith is not man’s way of getting the will of man done on Earth; faith is God’s way of getting God’s will done in Heaven. So many of us think that faith is something that we can use for ourselves. Romans 10:12 says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.” God’s will is for you to be saved.
The preacher doesn’t originate his own message. No, I am to be a messenger boy with beautiful feet, running with glad tidings. I have been sent where God says, “Go tell them this.”
We have workers at our church who buy things for the church, like cleaning supplies, paper goods, snacks, and so on. We don’t just say, “Go buy whatever you think you want or whatever you think we need.” There is a requisition, a purchase order, something that is given so that they come back with the right stuff. The objective of someone who goes to the supply store with a purchase order is to get what the leader says is needed. Faith is God’s way of getting the things He wants to be done through us. Have we asked Him what He wants for you or have you assumed you know His plan?
Is God calling you to share the Good News about Him with someone?
When have you taken matters into your own hands instead of seeking direction from God?
Pray and seek God to find out who He would have you encourage or share your faith with today.
|3/4/2023||God Enables Us to Believe.|
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
You can have natural faith in the natural realm; we all live by natural faith. You’re putting faith in the chair that you’re sitting in right now. When you go to a restaurant, you’re putting faith in the cook.
But biblical faith is in the supernatural realm. You don’t generate that. God gives it, so you don’t work it up; it comes down. In 2 Peter 1:1, Peter talks about those who have obtained precious faith. People cannot believe in God unless God enables them to believe.
The only way you can believe in God is to hear from God, and God must enable you to believe. The instrument God uses to enable you to believe is His Word. Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s a step in the light. You hear from God. But without a word from God, you have no basis for faith. There are some people today who say, “You name it and claim it.” But here is the fact of the matter: you can’t claim it unless God names it. He is the Author of our faith.
Where do you turn when you have doubts in your faith?
Have you ever asked God to help you grow in your faith? What was that like?
Share with a friend some areas of faith you struggle with. Ask that friend to share about how God has grown his or her faith in Him.
|3/3/2023||Are You Looking Unto 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.
Some people don’t have faith because they have their eyes on everything other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t look at others; look to Jesus. Don’t look at yourself; look to Jesus. Don’t look at circumstances; look to Jesus. Don’t look at Satan; look to Jesus. Look away from everything else. That’s literally what the Greek word means when it says, “Looking unto Jesus.” It literally means, “Looking away from everything else and looking to Jesus.” Faith is “Forsaking all, I trust Him.” The object of your faith must be God. Your faith is no better than its object.
Don’t put faith in faith; put faith in Jesus. The devil used to pull that trick on me. He used to ask, “Adrian, how do you know that you really believe enough?” After a while, I learned how to turn the tables on him. I’d say, “You know, devil, you’re right, my faith is weak, but Jesus is wonderful. I’m not putting my faith in my faith. I’m putting my faith in Jesus.” Jesus never said, “Look at your look.” He says, “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!” (Isaiah 45:22). Don’t look at your look, and don’t put faith in faith—put faith in Jesus. Faith in faith is positive thinking. Faith in Jesus is salvation.
Have you ever doubted your faith? What was that like?
What is the difference between putting your faith in faith and putting your faith in Jesus?
Make a list of things that you may be looking to instead of Jesus. Repent and ask Jesus to help you look to Him completely.
|3/2/2023||Have You Called Upon Jesus?|
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
I’ve been walking with the Lord now since I was a teenage boy. I’ll tell you this: I’ve failed Him sometimes, but He has never failed me. His resources have been there for me every time I’ve called on Him. I’m not talking about financial resources, though He has done that. I’m talking about the life of God that’s in my heart. He has met my need.
There is a hymn that says, “Friends all around us are trying to find what the heart yearns for by sin undermined. I have the secret, I know where ‘tis found, only in Jesus true pleasures abound.” He is rich unto all who call upon Him, not only some, but anyone who wants to be saved. Paul told those who were very religious, who had a zeal for God but not according to knowledge, they needed to be saved. There’s nobody so good he need not be saved, and there’s nobody so bad he cannot be saved. That’s what it’s all about.
When was a time that God met your need?
Have you believed you were too good to need to be saved or too bad to be saved? What brought you to surrender to Jesus?
Make a list of your needs right now and ask God to meet those needs.
|3/1/2023||Leaning Your Whole Weight on Jesus.|
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.
John Paton was a missionary in the South Sea Islands, and he was with a tribe that did not have a Bible. So, he took on the work of translating the Bible into the language of the tribe. When he got to the word believe he asked, “What is the word for belief?” The people gave him the word for intellectual belief, as in, “I believe that two and two equal four.” He said, “No, that’s not the word I want.” He said, “I want the word for belief that means trust, confidence, reliance upon.” And he kept asking but they couldn’t give him the word.
One day as he was working on this translation, a man came in while Paton was sitting in a chair. Paton put his whole weight on the chair, with his feet off the floor and asked, “What am I doing?” The local gave him a word that means “to lean your whole weight upon,” which he put in the Bible translation for reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ. When we say, “Lord Jesus, I just cast myself upon You,” that is not just an intellectual belief, it is a deep reliance.
How has your faith been marked by a deep reliance upon Jesus?
What is the difference between intellectual belief and deep reliance?
Think about an area of your life in which you may be depending more on intellectual belief than deep reliance on Jesus. Pray about those things. Determine to lean your whole weight upon Jesus.
|2/28/2023||Priorities and Prayer Shape The Family.|
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Your family may hear people preach about God, but the home is the real classroom. How will your family members see God at work in your home? First, they’ll see God in your worship. They’re going to watch you when company comes, whether you miss church. They’re going to watch your priorities in your worship. They’ll see the way you spend your money. They’re going to watch how you use your time. Let them see God as a vibrant reality in your life.
Our kids know we’re not perfect, but our kids need to know God is number one. If I were to bring one of your children up here and ask, “What is the priority of your parents?” What would that child say? Let your children see God at work in your home. The next step is to cover your family members constantly with prayer. If you are the archer, and the children are the arrows, the bow is prayer. That’s what sends them forth. A parent without prayer is like an archer with an unstrung bow. You need to pray for your children regularly.
What priorities have you observed in people you have looked up to spiritually?
Who regularly prays for you? How has that impacted your life?
Take some time to pray for your children, your grandchildren, or the people you mentor.
|2/27/2023||Are You Leaving A Legacy Of Faith?|
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
What is my responsibility as a dad? My responsibility is to shape, sharpen, and shoot arrows at the enemy. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of one’s youth. My highest ambition is not to be primarily a good pastor or a good preacher; it’s to be a good husband and a good father. If I had to choose between my profession and my family, I’d choose my family. There are many pastors and preachers in the world, but my kids only have one dad.
As a matter of fact, the Bible says that, if a man doesn’t practice it at home, he won’t be able to do it outside the home either (see 1 Timothy 3:4-5). A pastor ought to be one who has his family under his spiritual leadership. The archer of these arrows must be strong: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior.” We’re not talking about physical strength here, because some of us could not qualify. We’re talking about spiritual strength, and any can qualify. Be strengthened in the Lord so that you can pass on the legacy of faith.
Who passed down a legacy of faith to you?
Who do you have the opportunity to share your legacy of faith with?
Consider ways to pass on your legacy of faith to another and take a specific action this week that moves toward that goal.
|2/26/2023||God Pours His Love Through Us.|
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Let me give you some words to remember to help you keep your marriage on track.
The first one is decision. Make a decision that you’re going to live for God. God will not force His will on you. Listening to sermons will not change you unless you decide to obey the Word of God. “Choose . . . this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Give your heart to the Lord.
The next word is dependence. It is not enough to decide, because you do not have the strength in your own power to live for God. But God can deliver you if you will depend on Him.
The third word is devotion. Begin to love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul, and love your wife as yourself. After this decision and after this dependence, let God pour His love through you. You are to love each other, not if you feel like it, but because God commands it. Love for one another comes primarily from Almighty God.
Fourthly, development. Continue to feed your love daily. You must nurture your love. It is a growing thing. It’s like a flower that needs to be cultivated. It needs to be protected, and its full beauty can be developed through life.
When have you had to depend on God in order to love someone else?
What does it look like to make an intentional effort to love another person?
If you are married, find an intentional way to nurture your marriage. If you are not married, find an intentional way to love someone else the way Jesus loves.
|2/25/2023||God’s Purpose for Intimacy.|
Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.
God gave us sex, not only for procreation, but for fellowship, communion, joy, comfort, and mutual love. In the Bible, when a husband and wife would come together sexually, it was said that they knew one another. What does that mean? It means that sex is a form of communication that cannot be put into words. It is a way of saying “I love you” that cannot be said any other way. God’s law in Scripture is not trying to keep sex from you; God is keeping sex for you. Did you get that? Sex is a wonderful, beautiful gift from God.
If you had a piece of art from Rembrandt or Van Gogh, chances are you wouldn’t have that hanging on your family room wall. It would be in a vault somewhere. And God has protected sex because it is so intrinsically beautiful and wonderful. God is not negative concerning the sexual life; He is very positive concerning sex rightfully given. Sex is like the sod in your yard—it’s beautiful there, but take a shovel full and put it on your living room floor, and it’s just dirt. In its place it is right. Out of its place, it is so wrong.
Have you ever had a tough time trusting that God’s law was for your good? What was that like?
How has God’s law been a blessing in your life?
Think about the instructions in Scripture that you wrestle with the most. Ask God to help you in those areas.
|2/24/2023||Do You Honor Your Parents?|
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
The Bible says in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother.” What does the word honor mean? It means your parents are not to be taken lightly. They are to be given weight in your life.
One of the main ways you can honor them is by showing respect. Leviticus 19:3 says, “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father.” That does not mean to tremble in their sight; it means to have respect and never speak disrespectfully to your parents. Leviticus 20:9 says, “For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.” In the Old Testament, under the theocracy, if a child were to curse his father or his mother, it was a capital crime. The Bible is clear. You may say, “Well, my parents are not worthy of respect.” But only perfect children can demand perfect parents. Adolescence and middle age are both difficult times. Parents go through stages too, but you’re to respect and honor your parents as God has commanded.
When has it been most difficult for you to honor your parents?
What does it look like to show someone respect even when you don’t agree with that person (or may even have to keep your distance for reasons of safety and well-being)?
Ask God for forgiveness for the times you have not treated your parents with honor. Seek to honor them today in the way you speak to them and the way you speak about them to others.
|2/23/2023||Do You Prioritize Marriage?|
And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.
Marriage is supreme above any other earthly commitment. Parents are not the supreme commitment. We’re to honor our parents, but the Bible teaches that a man is to leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife.
Children are not the prime commitment. We’re to love our children and care for our children, but we make a tragic mistake if we pour all our devotion into our children but not into our spouses; the children, sooner or later, will leave the home. Mate to mate is a higher relationship in the Bible than child to parent. That’s what God’s Word teaches.
Business life is not the supreme commitment. Many of you are in danger of sacrificing your home on the altar of your business. Many business people are expected to give supreme loyalty to their businesses. One man was told by his company that he had to transfer and go to another place. His wife thought that would be upsetting. He said, “Well she’ll just have to get used to it. If she wants to stay with me, she ought to realize that my job is important. I can always find another wife.” Do not neglect the primary earthly commitment you made.
Are you married? How can you invest in that primary commitment?
Is there a married couple you feel called to serve? How can you serve, love, and encourage this week?
If you are married, make an intentional effort to invest in this primary commitment. If you are not married, ask God to put a couple on your heart that you can love and serve in a way that encourages the marriage commitment.
|2/22/2023||Are You a Sweet-Smelling Aroma?|
But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy.
1 Peter 1:15-16
Here’s what Scripture says older women are to teach younger women: “…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (Titus 2:3). Notice here that it says they are to be holy in their behavior. As I studied this, I learned this means they are to have an aura of holiness about them. It literally infers they are to have the fragrance of holiness. It has the picture of the priest who has gone into the sanctuary to minister, and when he comes out, the sweet perfume of incense is still in his garments. And as you breathe in, you feel His presence. You can tell that person has been in the holy place. That’s the idea of becoming holy. Have you known people like this? I have. Just to be in their presence is like being in a holy place. They have the fragrance and the beauty of Jesus Christ in their lives.
Who do you know who has “the fragrance of Jesus”?
How has God’s presence in your life changed your “fragrance”?
Encourage someone you know who has the aroma of Jesus.
|2/21/2023||Who Are You Mentoring?|
That the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.
God’s way is for a woman to leave a legacy. Today’s passage says older women have a ministry from God to teach the younger women. It says here very clearly that the aged women are to teach the younger women. That is God’s plan.
Through the years, we have had a very wonderful program in our church—it’s called Woman to Woman. The older women minister to and disciple the younger women because many don’t have mentors to disciple them. God’s Word says older women are to teach these young women. If we miss God’s call on our lives, we’re failing God and missing a blessing. Don’t neglect to pass on the legacy of faith.
Who have you passed your faith on to? How have you been a mentor to someone?
Who has mentored you? How did that make a difference in your life?
Pray for the person you mentor, or ask God who you could mentor (or who might mentor you) in this season.
|2/20/2023||Leaving a Legacy for Your Family.|
For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.
Children don’t make a rich man poor; they make a poor man rich. The rich man can’t take his money to Heaven, but I’m taking my kids to Heaven. I’m taking my grandkids too. We’re going to Heaven. This is our wealth. How is our faith to be carried on? From generation to generation.
When my first boy was born, I was a student in college. He wasn’t happenstance; he was planned. But thank God for the happenstance—they’re planned also. We wanted to begin our family, and we did, and God gave us a boy. We named him Steve, after Stephen in the Bible. When I looked at that little red face, I saw my wife, kissed her, and thanked her for going down into the valley of the shadow of death to bring life into the world. Then I dropped to my knees, and I wept. I said, “Oh God if I never amount to much, if I fail as a pastor, if I don’t know how to preach, if I am never heard of—oh God, make me a good daddy. Make me a man of God that my children can look up to.”
How have you invested in creating a legacy of faith, whether you have children or not?
Who has left a legacy of faith with you?
Think about three people you can invest in and pray for to continue the legacy of faith you have received.
|2/19/2023||How to Avoid Appeasement.|
That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
Don’t practice avoidance, and don’t practice appeasement. It’s a very unhealthy marriage when one mate always gives in to have peace and appease the other. When one mate gets his or her way most of the time and seems to dominate, your marriage is in serious trouble. One man said, “I like to go to the seashore, my wife likes to go to the mountains, so we compromise and go to the mountains.” If that’s the kind of marriage you have, it’s going to end up on the rocks.
One of these days those smoldering rags that are down in your heart will burst into an open flame, and your home will be engulfed. And if it doesn’t erupt into a raging fire because you keep your feelings stuffed down inside you, you’re going to be a self-pitying person. You will be living—though you may not separate—with an emotional divorce.
Don’t practice avoidance or appeasement; instead, do as Ephesians 4:15 says and “speak the truth in love.”
What is your tendency in relationships: dominating or appeasing?
What does it look like to speak the truth in love?
Think through the last few arguments you have had. Consider where you need God’s help to grow in love during those times.
|2/18/2023||Do You React in Anger Often?|
Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
James 1:19 says we are to be “slow to wrath.” That means don’t get upset so easily, don’t get disturbed so quickly. The Amplified Bible Classic Edition says it this way, “Be slow to take offense and to get angry.”
The Bible describes those with uncontrolled tempers in several ways. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Anger rests in the bosom of fools.” Don’t go explaining it away with excuses. You are a very foolish person if you’re angry.
Proverbs 16:32 says, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” If you don’t learn to control your anger, it will bring you into all other kinds of sins. And Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression.” That’s the reason the Bible says, “…be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). When you get angry, it’s like throwing a rock into a wasp nest. You’re going to stir up things that you wish you never had.
When are you most prone to anger? How do you act in those times?
How have you learned about the danger of reacting in anger?
Write down the moments you are most prone to react in anger. Repent and ask God to equip you to live as a person of peace.
|2/17/2023||Reflect the Glory of God Through Your Family.|
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Marriage was made for communication. Adam said this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. If you take that passage and go all the way to Ephesians 5, you’ll find out that the Bible also uses that as an analogy for Christ and the church. A husband and his wife are to communicate a principle. They are to be a picture of the Church and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you know the greatest sermons preached on Earth are not necessarily preached from pulpits, but from homes like yours? The greatest testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ is a Christian home. Christianity in the Early Church went from house to house. That does not mean somebody went down a street knocking on every door. What that means is our homes are to give praise to Him. You see, it’s not your marriage; it’s His marriage. It’s not your home, it’s His home. They’re not your children; they belong to Him.
Marriage is to communicate praise to our great God. Your home is to be the center of God’s glory.
How do you treat the people in your household? Does it reflect the heart of Jesus?
How can you grow in loving the people of your household and showing them who Jesus is?
Write out the hopes you have for your family and loved ones, then pray and surrender your desires for them, asking God to show them who He is.
|2/16/2023||Knowing God Helps Us Trust God.|
And He said, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
There’s an often-repeated illustration about the bookmark some of us have in our older Bibles. It’s an embroidered bookmark; on one side is just a mass of tangled threads, but on the other side it says, “God is love.” Now some just look at it from the back, and they only see that tangled mass of threads. That is often like our faith—we don’t see the ways of God—that God is love—and it all looks like a mess to us. But our ways and God’s ways are so different.
Peter and James were both put in prison. They were servants of the Lord Jesus, apostles of Christ, arrested and put in prison for preaching the Gospel. Do you know what happened to James? His head was cut off. Do you know what happened to Peter? He was delivered miraculously from the same prison. (See Acts 12.)
How are we to explain that? If all you see are the works of God, you will be hopelessly confused and push the panic button all the time. You will never rest until you know God intimately. To know God intimately is the way of tranquility. Nothing will bring rest to your troubled soul like an intimate knowledge of God. If all you see is what God does in the world, you will be one nervous Christian. Change comes when we come to know Him intimately.
When was a time you were confused by the ways of God?
How has God’s presence been comforting to you in a time of trouble?
Think about how you spend time with God now and consider how you might seek to know Him more intimately.
|2/15/2023||Listen Carefully and Speak Wisely.|
With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
The old rabbis used to say God gave us two ears that are out, exposed, and easy to be seen, but God put our tongue behind some iron bars, guarded and inside to show that we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.
Sometimes, we want to be the judge, the jury, and the executioner. We want to play the blame game and blame our mates. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Adam wanted to blame Eve. We assign guilt. We say, “It’s all your fault; you should be ashamed.” Listen, if you find yourself saying words like, “You always,” or “You never”—that’s destructive. Don’t ever begin the sentence with “You-this” or, “You-that,” because you’re playing the judge, and that’s not your role. The Bible says, “Love is kind.” Rather than saying, “You always,” or “You never,” try, “I feel,” “I need,” or “It seems to me.” The Bible says we’re to guard our tongues (see Proverbs 21:23). When you listen, listen carefully. When you speak, speak wisely.
When have your words been hurtful to someone else?
How have you been affected by the hurtful words of others?
Think about someone you may have hurt recently with your words. Repent and make peace.
|2/14/2023||Are You a Good Listener?|
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
I have an occupational hazard; I am a preacher and I like to talk. As a result, I’m not necessarily a good listener, but I am learning. We all need to learn to listen.
When you listen, you encourage others to talk. If another person has the idea that you’re not listening, that person is not going to want to talk. When you listen, you encourage people to talk. Well, what good does that do? It helps you understand. You cannot understand somebody you’re not listening to. And when you understand your mate, it follows as night follows day that understanding will bring you closer together. You’re going to achieve intimacy. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that.
The reason many of us don’t listen is, number one, we’re defensive. Our ego is there. We don’t want to hear; we don’t want anybody to tell us anything. Number two, we assume we already know what others are going to say, and we finish their sentences for them before they ever get to the end. Number three, while they’re talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say and how we’re going to answer. Instead of listening, we’re preparing our own speeches in response. The Bible says we need to learn to listen.
When do you struggle to listen to others?
How have you been impacted when someone took the time to listen to you?
Ask someone how he or she is doing today and practice really listening.
|2/13/2023||Selfishness Does Not Foster Unity.|
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
One of the many reasons we experience failure to communicate is self-centeredness. What is the biggest problem in relationships? Selfishness. We want to be the king or queen on the throne of our own lives.
We say we have our rights, but Jesus, the Lord of glory, “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:6-7). He laid down His life for the Church, which is His bride. Self-centeredness is a hindrance to good communication. Most arguments are not over problems—they’re about ego. There are no problems too big to solve, just people too small to solve them. The problem is, we’re full of rotten pride. Rather than attacking the problem, we attack one another because we are selfish by nature, and we’re so full of pride, we want to be right. But if both husband and wife would center on the problem rather than trying to prove who’s right or wrong, then we would have communication.
When has selfishness gotten in the way of your communication?
What would it look like to look to the interest of others?
Intentionally serve another person in relationship this week.
|2/12/2023||Do You Have a Flexible Family?|
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
Which is better: male or female? Neither is better. We are just different. When they built the San Francisco bridge, the engineers built the bridge so that all the parts inter-fit, but they all swayed. In the middle of that suspension bridge, that one-mile span, it will sway as much as twenty feet. It’s concrete and steel, it’s all bolted and welded together. There’s flexibility but also strength. The towers go down to bedrock, and all of those cables connect everything to those two great towers. There is strength in flexibility; it is not a weakness. What keeps that bridge up? Two things. Number one, the foundation. Number two, the flexibility. Both of those components are necessary for the bridge to be effective.
Now, what should be the two great towers for your home? One: love for God and love for one another. That’s the bedrock. Two: the flexibility that keeps your bridge from falling down. Never forget the power of flexibility in your family. Neither male nor female is better. We are different, but our differences don’t have to be our weaknesses—they can be our strengths when we have flexibility.
How have you made the love of God and love for one another a bedrock in your life and family?
When are you most tempted to demand your own way instead of being flexible?
Speak to a Christian couple you admire. Ask this husband and wife how they keep love for God and love for others as their bedrock, and how they exercise flexibility in their family.
|2/11/2023||How Do You Respond to the Differences?|
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
What is a man’s greatest desire? He wants to be admired; he wants to be respected. She is a lover, but he is an achiever. God gave woman a nurturing instinct, but God told man “to tend and keep” the garden (Genesis 2:15). God equipped him mentally to do that; God gave him that tough exterior. The man wants to be admired by the woman. I want Joyce to admire me. I get more of a blessing when Joyce admires me and says, “Adrian, you are wonderful.” She gets a blessing when I am romantic and loving and tender toward her.
When a woman tells a man a problem, do you know what the average man will do? He’ll try to fix it. She doesn’t want you to fix it. Joyce was in the airport in Knoxville, and she missed a plane. She called me and said, “I just missed the plane.” I said, “Well, go to another counter.” She said, “I did that, I’m telling you I just missed the plane.” She did not want me to fix it. Trying to fix it didn’t allow me to hear her; she wanted sympathy. Men, your wives don’t always want you to fix it, they just want you to hug them and love them. They want love, but what does a man want? A man wants admiration. We can serve one another when we understand and celebrate our differences.
Do you view differences with others as positive or negative? Why?
How can knowing your differences change the way you serve others?
Consider how you can grow in respect or love for your spouse if you are married. If you are not married, consider how you can grow in understanding how to serve those around you.
|2/10/2023||Do You Say What You Really Mean?|
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
I want you to think about the awesome power of communication. Jesus is the example of this. Jesus spoke the truth; He is called the Word. His life is full of grace and truth. Jesus taught us that real communication comes out of the heart. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). If you want to know what’s in the heart, listen to the words.
There is a saying that goes, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.” Harsh words, a harsh heart. Negative words, a negative heart. Overly reactive words, an unsettled heart. Boastful words, an insecure heart. Filthy words, a dirty heart. Critical words, a bitter heart. Encouraging words, a happy heart. Gentle words, a loving heart. Truthful words, an honest heart. If you want to know what’s in the heart, listen to the words.
What do your words reveal about what’s in your heart?
How has your relationship with Jesus changed the way you communicate with others?
Think of someone you struggle to communicate with. Make a step toward them in love and peace this week.
|2/9/2023||God’s Design for Unity|
And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
In the garden, Adam named the animals, but he was evidently looking for a mate. He had a certain loneliness about him and none of the animals seemed to fit. God saw his need and made Adam this woman He called Eve. When Adam saw her, what did he say? It loses something in translation. He says, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Now, what did he mean by that? What he was saying was, “She is not another animal; she has a skeletal structure, and she’s a person like me.” “This is bone of my bones.” He’s been looking at all the animals, and they’re so different, and then he looks at her and he says, “I like that. This is bone of my bones; this is flesh of my flesh. She is like me.” If you want to know what God’s pattern for the home is, right here we see it. God made for Adam someone like him. He not only liked her because she was like him, but he also liked her because she was not like him. God brought together both things in perfect harmony.
How well was God’s design for unity in marriage modeled in the home in which you grew up? How can you improve the unity in your home now?
What are some ways you celebrate similarities and differences?
Write a list of reasons that you are thankful for God’s design.
|2/8/2023||Unity in Our Differences|
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
I want to ask you a question: who is better, the man or the woman? The answer to that question is: “Yes.” A man is infinitely superior to a woman at being a man, and a woman is infinitely superior to a man at being a woman. God made us different so that He might make us one. Never forget it. Neither is superior to the other, but we are different.
You know Joyce and I are a lot alike, but Joyce and I are also very different. We have this idea that the differences we see divide us, but it is actually the opposite—it’s these differences that unite us. God made us different so that He might make us one. When we look, there are definitely some differences between men and women, and these are more than mere psychological proclivities. These are there by divine design.
What does it look like to value unity the way God does?
Do you look at differences as a good or bad thing? Why?
Pray and ask God to help you see differences the way He does, as part of His design for the purpose of unity in Him.
|2/7/2023||Do You Love Like Jesus?|
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Do you know what my assignment from God is? My assignment from God is to love Joyce as Christ loved the Church. And how does Jesus love the Church? The verse says that He loved it this way, “[He] gave Himself for her, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” Do you know what spots are? That’s defilement. Do you know what a wrinkle is? It’s an inward scar. But many husbands have failed to love as they ought.
My chief assignment from God is to make Joyce a more radiant, beautiful Christian. If you are a married man, that is your chief assignment also—take it seriously.
The bottom line is, you cannot have a Christian home without having Christians, any more than you could have a cherry pie without cherries. And if you want God in your home, then you’ve got to give your heart to God and be transformed by Him. Through Him, you can truly know His love and extend it to others.
How has the love of Christ changed the way you love others?
Where is God calling you to love others in a specific way this week?
Pray and ask God to show you someone to whom you can extend His love. If you are married, do something special to extend God’s love to your spouse.
|2/6/2023||The Most Valuable Family Foundation|
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
The marriage relationship is meant to be the most intimate of all human relationships. The word intimate comes from the Latin word intimus which means “inmost.” Marriage is where we share the inmost part of our natures with another person. When we don’t build our homes on God’s definition of intimacy, we see that homes unravel and fall apart.
Somewhere years ago, I read about a city that had a landfill. After it was filled, an enterprising entrepreneur bought it from the city authorities. He went out there and began to haul dirt on top of the garbage. After he had covered it with dirt, he laid it out into a subdivision, and it became a beautiful sight for homes. Young couples moved in and bought those homes and it was a wonderful community. Little children were riding around on their tricycles. Everything was fine for a number of years until the walls in those houses began to sag and roofs began to crack, and the subsoil gave way. After a while families moved out, and it was deserted. The community was built on garbage, and it could be hidden for a little while, but the truth became evident.
This is what happens to us often—we try to build our homes on garbage. We don’t understand the truth of God’s Word. One wise man said, “When the bottom falls out, maybe you ought to examine the foundation.” This is a question that matters: What did God intend for the family?
What are some things that influenced your family?
What would it look like to have a family built on Christ’s foundation?
Pray for five families you know and ask God to build their families on His foundation.
|2/5/2023||The Humility of Love|
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
1 John 3:16-17
Knowledge puffs up but love fills up. Through Christ’s love, you can be humble. Not only does love enable you to be humble, but love also enables you to be courteous. Do you know what courtesy is? Love in little things. Love that says please, and love that says thank you. Love steps back and gives the other first place. We can talk about love in great flowering and swelling words, but our homes, the places we work, and the places where we worship would be much sweeter places if we’d learn to be courteous.
Don’t you think it’s time we started putting an emphasis on our responsibilities to other people? Christ’s love enables you to be unselfish, humble, and courteous.
How has someone’s humility, unselfishness, and courtesy had an impact on your life?
What would it look like to prioritize these things in your life when you are tempted to react based on your emotions?
Consider selfishness and discourtesy in your life. Pray, repent, and pursue peace with the people you’ve hurt.
|2/4/2023||Are You Loaded Up on God’s Love?|
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
We hear people say, “love is blind,” but love isn’t blind. Love sees more, but the difference is that we still forgive. Love forgives seventy times seven. Love does not give a person what he or she deserves; it gives a person what he or she needs.
A little girl was heard praying, “Lord, make all the bad people good and make all the good people nice.” Wouldn’t it be great if all the good people were nice? Love enables you to be patient; it’s long-suffering. Love enables you to be kind, and love enables you not to envy. Do you want to take a test and see whether or not you’re an envious person? Do you rejoice in the success of other people? I’m not talking about the success of somebody who is in a completely different field or social circle than you. I’m talking about one of your peers. Can you rejoice when somebody else has success? Do you cringe when somebody else is praised? If you do, dear friend, you need to load up on love.
When has someone loved you when you did not expect it?
Who do you envy or struggle to love?
Extend Christ’s love to someone who is difficult for you to love.
|2/3/2023||Choose Love Over Knowledge|
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.
|2/2/2023||Losing Direction and Doubling Your Speed|
And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And they went to another village.
There is a zeal that is ugly in service to the Lord. You can get so zealous in serving the Lord that you run ahead of God. It’s just as bad to run ahead of Him as it is to run behind Him. There’s enough time in every day to gracefully do everything God wants you to do. Jesus said, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Some people think that to deny yourself you must be somber. Jesus wasn’t somber, Jesus was a man of joy. Jesus went to parties. Little children sat on His lap.
There’s an extremism that is foolish and fruitless. I’m talking about misguided zeal. In this passage, Jesus was dealing with the Samaritans. Now you know the Samaritans and the Jews had quite a rivalry going. The disciples spoke to Jesus and said “Let’s get these Samaritans, Lord. We’re going to bring down fire on these people.” But notice Jesus rebuked them.
What am I saying? There ought to be a burning, blazing, passionate, emotional love for the Lord Jesus Christ, a zeal that displays grace. But God keeps us from a zeal that distorts grace and makes us fanatics. Do you know what a fanatic is? Somebody who’s lost his direction and doubled his speed. Churches today are full of these people. It’s the grace of God that we need.
Have you ever been tempted to defend yourself the way the disciples did?
What was that like?
How does Jesus’ response challenge you?
Think about a time you took matters of God into your own hands. Repent, and consider what it would mean to live like Jesus in those moments.
|2/1/2023||Are You Spiritually Hot or Cold?|
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Are you moderate about your love for Jesus? God have mercy on you. Does your religion make the Lord nauseous? He would rather have you outright against Him—absolutely cold—than have you pretending to be on His side and not zealous about it. He said, “I could wish that you were either cold or hot,” just don’t be lukewarm. You say, “That doesn’t make sense to me. It would be better to be lukewarm about it than to be cold.” No. The cause of Christ has been hurt by lukewarm Christians—Sunday morning benchwarmers who claim to be on the Lord’s side but don’t love Him and don’t live for Him. The problem is we can’t reach the goal if we’re stumbling over our own players. Jesus said, “I wish that you were either hot or cold. But now that you’re lukewarm, I’m going to spew you out of My mouth.” And then He says in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” There is the zeal that displays the grace of God. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11), and because of that we’re to be zealous of good works. Yes, we’re saved by grace, but we should never be nonchalant about it.
How would others describe your faith? Are you hot, cold, or lukewarm?
Who do you know who lives a life zealous for Jesus?
Speak to someone you know who exemplifies what it looks like to live on fire for Jesus. Ask that person to share his or her testimony.
|1/31/2023||God Always Answers with What We Need|
Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Have you ever asked God for something and didn’t get it, but later your eyes were opened and you thanked God for that unanswered prayer? This is a silly illustration, but when I was a kid, I saw an old car that was being sold for $125, and I prayed for God to give me the money to get it. God didn’t answer my prayer. Somebody else got that car, the motor fell out of it, and I had to thank God that He did not answer that prayer. You see, prayer may be specifically denied. It may be strategically delayed, and it may be significantly different than you expected.
On a more serious note, I once fasted and prayed for something and did not receive an answer from God. One day, God spoke to me. He said, “Adrian, I heard your prayer a long time ago. You’re asking me to do something that I’m not going to do. You’re asking me to reach in and change somebody’s heart against that person’s will, and I don’t operate that way. But Adrian, I know the need of your heart. I know what you want. I know what you need. And your prayer is heard.” As I look back, I see how clear that was and how great our God is. If God doesn’t give us what we ask, He will give us something better and sweeter than we ask, if we ask Him in the wonderful name of Jesus.
When in your life have you wrestled with unanswered prayers?
Who can you remind of God’s love and of His ability and faithfulness to answer prayer?
Encourage someone you know who is wrestling with unanswered prayer. Ask your friend how he or she is doing and really listen. Then remind that person that God hears and will do exactly what is needed!
|1/30/2023||Are You Seeking the Will of God?|
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Sometimes our prayers are utterly selfish rather than God-centered. That’s one reason we don’t get our prayers answered. But do you know what enmity with God means? It’s talking about warfare. When James mentioned adulterers and adulteresses, he wasn’t talking literally; he was talking spiritually. Christ is the bridegroom and we’re the bride. And if we want anything that the bridegroom does not want, we are flirting with this world, and we are taking away our love from our Lord and Savior the bridegroom. To love this world is spiritual adultery, and it is enmity, warfare, with God. Don’t have a girlfriend called “This World,” if you are a Spirit-filled man. And if you’re a Spirit-filled woman, don’t have a boyfriend called “This World.” That is spiritual adultery. Many times, we ask God for things in this way. We ask God to underwrite our worldliness. We ask God to underwrite our carnality.
Whenever you pray about anything and the answer doesn’t come, ask yourself this question: Are my motives pure? Am I earnestly, sincerely, with all my heart, seeking the will of God? And sometimes the answer, therefore, may be simply denied.
When have you prayed with selfish intentions?
What does it look like to earnestly seek the will of God with all your heart?
Read Psalm 51:10. Take some time to pray and ask God where there has been selfishness in your heart.
|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.|