Let the Spirit Control Your Mind.
Our toughest battles are fought with the person we face in the mirror.
How we think determines how we will behave, so we must learn to think of ourselves the way God does—as new creations no longer under sin’s mastery. We can be “more than conquerors” regardless of our previous sins (Rom. 8:37 NIV).
We also need to recognize the enemy’s lies and fight back with God’s truth that declares Christ’s Spirit is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4). We’re to focus our mind on things that matter spiritually (Philippians 4:8) so we’ll learn to distinguish between what fits us as believers and what does not. Finally, we must choose what is suitable and reject what is ungodly. The longer we are Spirit-led, the more sensitive we’ll become to His warnings about temptation. Not only that, but we’ll be better prepared to win the battle for our thought life.
The Spirit-filled life starts with the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who receive Christ as Savior. As we choose to place ourselves under the Spirit’s control, His divine power is released into our life. For our part, diligence is needed to resist temptation and maintain our surrendered state. So trade in your “independent mind,” and experience the victories God gives to those who are Spirit-filled.
God sees and rewards every act of obedience, no matter how small it may seem.
At first glance, the final verses of Colossians seem to have little theological impact. Most of the people listed here, with the exception of Luke and Mark, are unfamiliar. We could easily dismiss these verses, skipping over them to delve into 1 Thessalonians. But these verses carry the subtle message that no ministry is unimportant.
For instance, Tychicus, the first mentioned, played an incredible role—wherever he appears in Scripture, he is running errands for Paul (Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12). Thanks to this man, the Colossian epistle traveled over 1,300 miles to its destination, then moved from church to church to be read repeatedly and copied. Without Paul’s conscientious assistant, modern believers might not have this valuable letter.
We tend to judge types of service as important or unimportant. Too often pride inhibits our approval of a particular ministry. We want a big, impressive job to prove to everyone how much we love God. However, what the Lord desires is the exact opposite: He wants our love to motivate us to do anything He asks, no matter how insignificant or unnoticeable it may seem.
What is God asking you to do that you are resisting? Repent of your pride and humble yourself to do all that He desires. None of God’s work is unimportant.
When we discover our God-given purpose, life becomes a fulfilling and joy-filled adventure.
When we place trust in Jesus, God doesn’t take us straight to heaven. Instead, He leaves us here on earth and gives each of us a ministry to carry out with Christ’s all-sufficient power.
God has specifically designed a place of service to fit our personality, gifts, and abilities. He also equips and strengthens us to be able to meet the challenges of that calling. The believer’s responsibility is to obey with joy.
Too many Christians approach ministry with stingy hearts, investing as few hours as possible so that they can return to work or personal pursuits. But our jobs don’t own us; neither do we belong to ourselves. We are adopted sons and daughters of the Father God, and as such, we honor Him first.
If people were here only to work a job, pay bills, and have a few laughs, no one would ever enjoy long-term fulfillment. But believers find peace and joy in serving God every day according to His call. As today’s passage says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (v. 10). That is the only way to end well.
May we live with the freedom, peace, and joy Jesus died to give us!
Throughout life, there will be times when our sins and failures might lead us to conclude that God is disappointed or angry with us. When that happens, we need to fix our eyes on the truth of Scripture and ask the questions Paul posed in Romans 8:
• “If God is for us, who is against us?” (v. 31). Our heavenly Father proved His loyalty to mankind when He delivered His own Son over to death in order to save us.
• “Who will bring charges against God’s elect?” (v. 33). No accusation against us can stand, since at the moment of salvation, the Lord justified us. This means we were legally declared righteous, while still in our sinful condition. No one can reverse this transaction and make us guilty again.
• “Who is the one who condemns?” (v. 34). Although Satan rails against us, Jesus’ death and resurrection are proof that we are right with God. Christ took our condemnation and gave us His righteousness in return. Now He sits at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us.
When doubts about the Lord’s love and faithfulness arise, focus on truth. If we judge His loyalty to us by our circumstances or feelings, we will never get an accurate view of God. True security lies not in our good performance but in our relationship with Christ, and no one can take that from us.
Untold blessings await those who pay attention to our Father’s voice.
The Lord wants us to pay attention to Him, but sometimes we ignore His voice and miss His blessings. Learning to listen to God is as important as learning to talk to Him—if not more so. Generally, we find it much easier to rattle off a prayer than to sit quietly and wait to hear what He has to say.
Since two-way conversation is essential in developing a relationship, being able to hear the Lord’s voice is a vital part of the Christian life. Sometimes we have the notion that after being saved, we just automatically know Him. But that is not true in any kind of relationship. Just as we grow to know another person through communication, so we become more intimately acquainted with God through listening and talking to Him.
Not only do we need ears to hear His voice; we also must have discernment to accurately understand what He is saying. Being grounded in the Scriptures sharpens our discernment and protects us from deception.
Have you ever considered that neglect of God’s Word is a rejection of Him? The Lord continually calls out, “Oh that My people would listen to Me” (Ps. 81:13). He is ready and willing to speak to those who will humble themselves, take the time to listen, and respond obediently to whatever He says.
Peace can be yours if you determine to know and obey God.
Allowing ourselves to dwell on stressful things like war, economic crisis, and tragedy invites anxiety. But the Lord has a better way. Jesus assured us that though we would face difficulty, we could rest in Him (John 16:33). However, we cannot trust someone we don’t know. For this reason, we should seek to find out who God is.
Truths from Scripture are a good place to start. The Bible tells us God is our Lord and Master. He is omnipresent, omniscient, faithful, and powerful. He loves unconditionally and offers forgiveness to all who trust His Son as Savior. The Lord adopts believers as His own children and wants the best for every Christian’s life—so much so that He chastises us when we disobey. And He desires that we love Him above everyone and everything else.
Knowing these facts is only the beginning. As in any relationship, time together fosters closeness. We can read the Bible, pray, meditate on God’s Word, and listen to His Spirit to better understand how He thinks. We can also watch God work in other people’s lives to know His ways.
Jesus is trustworthy, and He offers rest in the midst of a troubled world. Do you know Him well enough to experience His peace?
Our blessed Savior has come—and is coming again!
Throughout Advent, we have watched. We have waited in hope for God’s peace, joy, and love. And now our redemption draws near. Glory to God in the highest! Alleluia! Amen!
Today, Christmas Day, we are reminded once again that waiting on the Lord is never a vain exercise. Even when waiting on Him appears fruitless, it is a rich, rewarding practice—one that sustains us with great hope.
No matter how long the night may feel, we are never lost or forgotten; we are not without hope of redemption. We rejoice because the promised One—the one we call “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”—has come (Isaiah 9:6).
So today, bask in the light and glory of Christ. Raise your voice with believers around the world who rejoice in tongues too numerous to count, and say, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.”
Think about it:
It’s challenging to carry the joy of Christmas Day through the end of the old year and into the new. Make a plan—what can you do each day to remember who and Whose you are?
Our wise heavenly Father can bring beauty from disaster.
Sometimes it is difficult to see, but God can draw value from even the most disastrous of circumstances.
Before the rise of Rome, the predominant world power was Greece, led by Alexander the Great. As he conquered lands, he forced subjugated men to serve in his military and made them learn common Greek. On discharge, these men took the new language home, creating a shared tongue between many people groups. This would become the perfect way to spread the revolutionary message of Jesus a few centuries later.
Then, as the Romans conquered territories, they paved roads and guarded both land routes and seacoasts from encroaching enemies. Doing this enabled early Christian missionaries to carry the gospel to different places. Perhaps Joseph and Mary traveled one of those roads on their trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But in any event, God again turned hardship—a forced census—into blessing: Jesus the Messiah was born at precisely the time and place prophesied.
From the moment in Eden when Satan’s defeat was promised until the instant Christ fulfilled that prophecy on the cross, the Father continually brought good from bad situations. In this way, He advanced His plan to save the world. The Romans made the roads, but God paved the way for a Savior.
God has been writing our salvation story since the beginning of time.
When looking at a Nativity scene, have you ever thought about what led to that remarkable event? Let’s pause to consider not just Joseph and Mary’s tiring trip to be counted in the census but also the trail blazed through history by God Himself.
The route began in Eden, where blood was first spilled to atone for sin (Genesis 3:21). The temporary solution—animal sacrifice—would suffice until God enacted His permanent plan in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4 ESV). Later, withdrawing protection as Israel turned to false gods, God allowed His own people to be taken captive to Babylon. There, they built synagogues to worship God. When the Babylonians were defeated 70 years later, the Israelites brought home adaptations of Judaism that they’d been practicing. Later, those synagogues hosted men like Paul, who preached and sent letters about the Messiah born in Bethlehem. And today we still use his epistles—and all of Scripture—to lead unbelievers to faith.
Throughout the centuries, some countries erupted into political turmoil and others arose with new ideals. Peoples were displaced and rulers were conquered. Meanwhile God was carving a path to the Holy Land, the perfect cradle for the Messiah. Together, prophecy and history reveal the Lord paved the way from the manger to modern faith, preparing generations to know His Son.
If you are trapped in recurring patterns of sin, call on the Lord for help.
Years ago, I found myself taking on too much responsibility. At first I thought doing so revealed my motivation and obedience. But as weariness set in, I realized my true motive behind the excess work: It was an attempt to prove I was adequate.
Insecurity, inadequacy, and lack of self-worth can, at best, distract us from God’s purpose. At worst, they can lead to transgression—and Scripture tells us that a recurring pattern of wrongdoing indicates captivity to sin. So how can we break free? Here are three steps to take.
1. Recognize enslavement. It’s possible a blind spot prevents your seeing a sin that’s obvious to others. Accountability to a trusted friend may be appropriate.
2. Trace sin to its root. What purpose does your sin serve? Is it a way to avoid responsibility? transparency? discomfort?
3. Choose to be free. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are offered the greatest freedom possible: reconciliation to God.
Some people find liberation quickly, while others embark on a slow journey toward freedom. But one thing is clear for everyone—the Lord can break the enslavement of sin and insecurity in your life. So ask for His help and walk toward restoration.
God blesses those who choose to labor with integrity, honoring Him with their finest efforts.
God’s plan for us includes work of various kinds. Not only are we to help others and be involved in mission-related pursuits; we’re also expected to serve our employers.
Regardless of your boss’s actions or temperament, the Lord is our ultimate authority, and one way we honor Him is by doing our job with integrity. He expects that whether we work in transportation, technology, education, or any other field, we will carry out our tasks with excellence.
To do anything else dishonors God. Lazy employees might abuse company time, execute duties poorly, or do the bare minimum. Often their focus is exclusively on the paycheck. But work is not simply about receiving a wage; the Lord wants His followers to better themselves and their organization. Certainly, these outcomes are rewards in and of themselves. But God also shows favor to His followers who choose diligence and integrity.
Wherever the Lord places us is where we are to work for His glory. So, as children who want to please our heavenly Father, let’s offer our finest efforts in all we do.
The Lord is good to give us our next breath, and so much more!
Whether we live or die, we do so for Christ (Rom. 14:8). That’s what is meant when we talk about His Lordship. And as believers, we recognize that the only safe way to live is in submission to Him. We bow before Him—not in fear or dread but in gratitude and worship.
Some people think that only those who claim Christ as King come under His authority. But the truth is, He reigns over the entire universe. At present relatively few people submit to the Lord’s rule. The rest refuse to acknowledge His sovereignty or surrender to His will. They want to control their own destinies, never realizing that their next breath comes from Him.
But the Lord’s supreme reign can never be thwarted—and despite resistance now, a day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will praise Him (v. 11). At that time all dissent will be silenced before Jesus, who will “judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).
Many will unwisely wait until they’re forced to kneel in homage to the Lord; tragically, they will face a harsh future. The time to bend the knee to Christ is now, when we can do so of our own volition. And what blessings are in store for those who choose to follow Jesus! He is a kind, loving Master, who has cleansed us from sin and promised to make us heirs with Him in His kingdom.
We will one day see Jesus in all His glory and discover even more wondrous things about Him.
In the last verse of his Gospel, John says much more could have been written about the things Jesus did—but the world wouldn’t be able to contain that many books (John 21:25). In today’s passage, the same writer gives a compact summation, highlighting the Lord’s identity and work. He tells us that Jesus Christ is …
The faithful witness. Jesus came to earth as God’s witness. The words He spoke and the works He accomplished were only what His Father commanded (John 12:49-50; John 17:4).
The firstborn from the dead. His was the first resurrection, and it is the guarantee that we will be resurrected in the same way (Romans 6:5).
The ruler of the kings of the earth. He establishes kingdoms and tears them down, and the book of Revelation describes how He will one day take dominion of the entire world.
The one who loves us and has released us from our sins. All our wrongdoing is forgiven.
This is our amazing Savior, and we can look forward to a future with Him that is secure and glorious.
Read the rest of Revelation 1 with the awareness that you will one day see the Lord in all His glory.
God is faithful to His people, even during their times of failure.
The Bible is filled with love. It begins with God’s mighty acts of creation—separating light from darkness, filling the firmament, and creating every living thing, including us (Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, divine love never faltered. Instead of eternally condemning His children, God promised salvation (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20).
As the story continues, we see love at work as God dwelt with His people in the wilderness, the Promised Land, and in exile. Even when Israel doubted, even when they disobeyed, God remained faithful. And in His love, He led them back and carried them through all manner of suffering.
But He didn’t stop there. Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s love transformed the world. It also transformed us so that we might love more abundantly and fulfill the calling from our beautiful Lord and Savior (1 John 4:7-12).
Think about it:
As Christmas draws near, set aside time to pray, thanking God for His great love. Ask Him to help you receive that love more fully and to present many opportunities for sharing it.
It’s easy to slip into sin, but we can quickly get back on track.
Salvation frees us from eternal condemnation, yet we still struggle with sin. The devil tries to deceive us, the world seeks to conform us, and our fleshly nature yearns to be satisfied. Thankfully, we’re not helpless in the face of these temptations: God has given us His Spirit and His Word to guide us.
Though our victory against sin won’t be complete in this life, we’ll make greater strides against it the more we get to know the Lord and become like Him. But we should be aware of four ways that we rebel against God.
By neglecting to obey His commands. Our rebellion can be something obvious, like stealing or lying. Or it can be subtle and private, such as harboring a bitter, unforgiving spirit.
By actively pursuing what God forbids. He has declared certain things off limits because they dishonor Him and have devastating consequences in our lives. Respecting His decrees is wise.
By doing what the Lord says, but in the wrong manner. God evaluates not only our actions, but also our motives and attitudes.
By insisting on our own agenda. Since Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master, we’re to submit to His will and wait patiently for His guidance.
Instead of justifying, rationalizing, or ignoring your rebellion, quickly confess and repent when you are aware of sin. And let God’s discipline teach you to love and keep His Word.
Disobeying God leads to suffering, but following Him brings good into our life.
Do you ever feel that God’s commands are restrictive and oppressive? This is a common attitude in our culture, but it’s not one that believers should have. Our heavenly Father’s commands are for our good. They train us in righteousness and protect us from sin. Contrary to the view that God’s law hinders happiness, obedience to Him is actually the source of great pleasure and contentment.
Defying God’s authority in any area of our life gives Satan an opportunity to wreak spiritual havoc (Ephesians 4:27). And, as Galatians 6:7 tells us, rebellion against the Lord is always costly. In fact, the harsh truth is that we don’t merely reap what we sow but often reap more than we sow and later than we sow.
None of us want to find ourselves standing in a field of thorny weeds that we caused to grow. Remember, it’s never too late to start planting righteous seed. And the same principle applies: If we’ll sow to the Spirit rather than to the flesh, we’ll reap His fruit and eternal life.
As the Sovereign of the universe, our loving Father has our best in mind. Realizing that, wise men and women love His Word and make every effort to do what it says (Psalm 119:9).
Now is the time to decide where you will spend eternity.
Death is inevitable, but most people give that reality little thought until it’s too late. Now is the time to think seriously about what follows our earthly existence—while we still have the opportunity to make a decision that will affect our ultimate destination.
This life is not all there is; eternity awaits all of us. Some will live eternally in God’s presence, but the alternative is to experience everlasting torment, forever separated from Him. If we receive Jesus as Savior, our penalty for sin is paid, we are adopted into God’s family, and heaven is our eternal home. But if we suppress the truth and reject Jesus, we remain alienated from God, under condemnation for our sin, and destined for unending agony.
Some say that there are many ways to God, but don’t believe it. There is just one way—through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6). He is the only mediator between fallen mankind and holy God (1 Timothy 2:5).
God welcomes every person who comes to Him through faith in His Son, regardless of background, age, or current situation. If you realize you’re a sinner and believe Jesus died on your behalf, ask Him to be your Savior. Then you can be confident that you’re forgiven and are now and forever a part of God’s family.
It’s never too late to accept the mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life Jesus offers.
Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Just hours before their deaths, something absolutely glorious occurred for one of them—he was forgiven and redeemed right in front of the mocking crowd who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. The outlaw’s name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and heaven rejoiced.
What evidence do we have that his last-minute conversion was real?
Change in behavior. At first both criminals hurled insults and blasphemies against Jesus. In a total turnaround, one of them later chastised the other man for his words (Luke 23:40).
Admission of guilt. Then the penitent convict publicly acknowledged that he was being justly punished for his wicked deeds (v. 41).
Expression of faith in the Lord. The man said to Jesus, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (v. 42). In this way, he acknowledged that the Lord was in fact King, as stated on the inscription above Christ’s cross (v. 38). And Jesus answered him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43).
Every one of us is just a heartbeat away from dying. Let this sobering thought propel you to examine your life: Are you ready to face death and eternity?
God wants to remove the heavy burden of performance and give us freedom through Christ.
A wealthy man came to Jesus and asked, “What shall I do so that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). His erroneous belief was that eternal life could be earned and he qualified by keeping God’s commandments. But when Jesus challenged him to give up his wealth, he walked away. That directive wasn’t the way to eternal life, but it revealed the true condition of his unrighteous heart.
Satan continually promotes the false idea that we can make ourselves acceptable in God’s eyes. Just like the rich man, many today believe the Lord will accept them because they have done good deeds. In thinking this way, they have established their own standard of acceptability while ignoring the only standard that matters—God’s.
The disciples found it surprising that entering God’s kingdom is hard for even the well-off. They asked, “Then who can be saved?” and Jesus answered, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (vv. 26-27).
Every person is born a sinner worthy of eternal condemnation, and nothing we do will pay for our sin debt. Only through faith in Christ, who died in our place, can we be made acceptable to God. Consider what an amazing blessing it is that through Him, our sins are forgiven and we receive life everlasting.
Is it your heart’s desire to please the One who saved you?
The word Lord should not be used carelessly. It’s unacceptable to speak of Jesus as Lord in our conversations and prayers but then to contradict the claim by defying His will and His Word. A lot of believers probably think that statement doesn’t apply to them. But we should all realize resistance can be subtle—perhaps by qualifying our obedience with conditions like “I’ll follow the Lord if …” or “I want to do what is right, but …”
When Jesus is identified as Lord in the Scriptures, it signifies that He is the sovereign ruler over life and all creation. When we assert that He’s our Lord, we’re claiming that He is our Savior and Master, which means we submit to Him in all things. If we attest to this verbally but don’t actually do what Jesus says, then are we really serving Him?
None of us can obey Christ perfectly, but once we’re born again, submitting to Him should be our heart’s desire and our practice. After all, He purchased us with His precious blood and now rules over us for our good. So, though we may struggle at times, our lives should be characterized by obedience to our Lord because we are His.
Our relationship with Christ transcends our circumstances and allows us to rejoice always.
Last Sunday we talked about shalom, which is God’s perfect peace. With peace comes the promise of joy—a promise for the future, but also for right now. If the Lord’s joy were a house, we wouldn’t just be welcomed in; it would be our home address. (See John 15:10-11.)
Biblical joy is different than what many people think. It’s more than a simple emotion or a sense of overall cheerfulness. Joy in Christ isn’t dependent upon our situation or mood—it flows from our connection with the Lord and transcends our circumstances. Because of all He’s done and continues to do, we can rejoice in Him no matter what happens. (See Nehemiah 8:9-10.)
In Advent, Christ is the reason we wait with great expectation. Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that on the cross, “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” So as Christmas draws near, take heart. The One “who is, and who was, and who is to come” is near.
Think about it:
What’s standing in the way of you experiencing the fullness of joy in Christ? Ask the Holy Spirit for help in recognizing any obstacles and for grace to overcome them.
Freedom comes when we confess our sin and believe that God has the best plan.
What might start as a minor comparison between our own life and someone else’s can all too easily escalate out of control. Envy is like a snowball that grows larger and larger, and its consequences can be spiritually devastating.
Jealousy fills the heart with discontent, anxiety, and bitterness, distorting our thoughts until it’s nearly impossible to keep God’s plan in view. Our focus gets fixed on what we don’t have, which takes us down the crippling path of resentment toward others who have the desired object or trait.
What’s more, jealousy dishonors the Lord and is, in fact, sinful. James says it’s demonic in origin, causing disorder and leading to all kinds of evil (3:15-16). And Paul lists it as one of the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-20). The attitude amounts to finding fault with God—essentially claiming we deserve what someone else has and accusing Him of withholding the better blessing.
If you find evidence of jealousy in your life, follow the steps in James 4:7-10. Submit to God, resist the devil, confess it as sin, and turn away from the temptation of comparison. Focus on God’s goodness, and trust that His plan for your life is best.
|12/9/2022||1 Samuel 18:5-16|
Comparing ourselves with others leads to destructive thought patterns.
We all have desires and hopes for life. But our plans aren’t always God’s will, and the things we see others experiencing may not be what He has in store for us. We must be careful not to compare ourselves with anyone else because that leads to envy and jealousy.
In appointing Saul as Israel’s first king, the Lord gave him power and authority over the nation. However, when Saul heard women attributing greater praise to David than to him, he became envious and suspicious. He began to fear that he’d lose the kingdom to David, and eventually his jealousy led to that very outcome.
Perhaps this seems like an extreme example, yet there may be jealousy hiding in your own heart. Ask yourself if anyone’s material, physical, or relational success is stirring up anger, discontent, or anxiety within you. These emotions are often an indicator of a jealous mindset.
There is a fallacy in this kind of thinking: We assume that getting what we want will make us happy. But contentment doesn’t come from having our own way. Rather, it comes from learning to accept whatever God gives us as His best. He alone sees beneath the surface and gives us what we need for our spiritual well-being.
As we spend time in the Word and learn more about God, our love for Him deepens.
Whenever the psalmists penned songs of worship, they spoke about the Lord’s specific attributes or actions. These songs were compiled into the book we now call Psalms, and the collection can be seen as a biography of God—one that relies upon the language of praise to describe and exalt Him.
The ability to worship grows out of love for the Lord. And since genuine love is always cultivated by learning about the other person, the true root of praise is knowledge of the Lord. As we spend time with Him in His Word, discovering new facets of His character deepens both our love for Him and our understanding of why He deserves praise.
In addition, we also learn to know the Lord through our walk with Him. As we observe how He meets our needs and showers us with mercy and compassion, we experience His faithfulness, and our trust in Him increases. Our lives become a display of accumulated praise for His abundant provision, comfort in times of pain, and intervention during adversity. Not only that, but our transformation becomes a testimony of gratitude for the trials and hardships He’s used to shape us into the image of Christ.
When we know the Lord and realize how much He has done for us, we can’t help but love and praise Him!
The Lord described David as a man after His own heart, who would do all His will (Acts 13:22). What does that look like? How can we know whether this characterizes us?
The answer is found in David’s psalms. The Lord was the priority of his life and the object of his trust and worship. His love for God overflowed in his words of praise. In fact, this description applies to anyone whose heart resembles the Lord’s.
In Psalm 63:3, David said, “Because Your favor is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Is this how you feel toward the Lord? Do you love Him with the same unashamed enthusiasm David exhibited? Of course, some people are more prone to fervent displays of worship than others, but our hearts should all be motivated by the same kind of love and devotion.
The Lord is worthy of praise. He is our King, our Protector, and our refuge. What’s more, He saved us from condemnation and eternal death! Since God deserves to receive praise offerings from His people, let’s give Him the glory that is rightly His.
Human logic may be attractive, but only God’s truth has the power to change hearts permanently.
Every church needs believers who are gifted to teach. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul urges teachers to “proclaim the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). When the Word of God is taught with accuracy, people are transformed by what they hear and behave accordingly.
That’s why it’s essential for pastors and teachers to be led by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, not by their own ideas. Human reasoning may seem appealing, but it has no power to permanently change lives for the better. Only Scripture taught accurately can do that.
Sound doctrinal teaching challenges not only our behavior but also our attitudes, motives, and way of thinking. By faithfully absorbing and applying Scripture, we learn to deny ungodliness and sinful desires, while seeking to live righteously in this evil world (v. 12).
If you attend a church where biblical truth is taught, there may be times when the quantity of information presented seems boring or overwhelming. But keep in mind that the teacher’s goal is to present enough truth so you can live in a manner that pleases the Lord. The Word instructs leaders to do this, so our response should be to thank God for making sure we receive sound teaching.
Teachers, who faithfully study and share truth with others, are God’s provision for the church.
God has given believers spiritual gifts for the common good of the body of Christ. And teaching is an essential gift for church leaders, who must be able to exhort and correct while holding firmly to the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). But this God-given ability isn’t limited to church authorities. Other members in a fellowship are also endowed with this competency and are responsible to use it faithfully.
The gift of teaching isn’t characterized merely by the ability to speak eloquently, for there are many empty talkers who sound good but are spreading deception. True teachers combine good communication skills with diligent study of the Bible. In fact, they delight in deepening their understanding of God’s Word and long to share what they’ve learned. Such Christians are organized and analytical in their thinking, as well as thorough and accurate in their explanations of Scripture.
Have you been blessed with this ability? If so, God’s intention is that you use it faithfully and carefully for the benefit of your church. And keep in mind both the privilege and responsibility inherent in the gift of teaching—that “whoever speaks is to do so as one who is speaking actual words of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
Believers can experience God’s perfect peace right now.
If you could pick one word to describe the world today, what would it be? With everything going on, few of us would choose the word peaceful. Nevertheless, God promises us this very thing.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which means so much more than the absence of conflict. It’s a term that speaks of completeness and soundness. It is the ideal both for our lives and for the world—a return to creation as it was before sin and separation. In other words, it’s perfect peace, which is possible only with God.
Look at Isaiah 11:1-10. Does the prophet’s description of the future kingdom seem impossible to you? We’re so accustomed to sin and death that it’s difficult to imagine a world without violence. “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,” God promises, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (v. 9). Such is the greatness of God’s shalom—a reality can we experience even now.
Think about it. Spend time reflecting on God’s promises. How can focusing on them help you experience peace here and now?
|12/3/2022||1 Timothy 2:1-7|
Let’s be faithful to pray for the salvation of leaders and others living in darkness.
In 1 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul gives us some guidelines for living in a way that will attract others to Jesus. For one thing, praying for all people—including our governing authorities—can lead to “a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” Recognizing this can make people want to “come to the knowledge of the truth” and be saved according to God’s desire (1 Tim. 2:2-4).
There is no righteousness or goodness in the fallen human heart that makes us worthy of salvation in God’s eyes. Nevertheless, He has chosen to love and save us as a display of “the boundless riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Fallen angels can never receive forgiveness, but redeemed humanity will be eternal trophies of God’s grace in the ages to come.
When we live with righteousness and respect, we become like lights in this dark, sinful world. In that way, we point others to the Lord Jesus Christ so they too can receive God’s salvation and likewise give Him glory forever. So let’s be faithful in making “requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving … in behalf of all people” because this is good and acceptable to God (1 Tim. 2:1, 3).
|12/2/2022||1 John 3:1-10|
Our Father loves us and has provided everything we need to live righteously.
When we trust in Christ, we become children of God. By using this language, Scripture indicates the nature of our relationship with Him: He is our Father, and we should respond as His children. This means we must learn to listen, obey, and love Him more and more.
The Father speaks clearly to us through Scripture. Many people claim they’re interested in hearing from God yet struggle to find time to read His Word. Then there are those who say, “I don’t understand it” and give up. But living within every child of God is the Holy Spirit, who helps to overcome any hindrances and brings correct interpretation of the Word. If you keep reading the Scriptures faithfully, He’ll give you understanding.
Once a person is born into God’s family, nothing can ever destroy that relationship—not even sin. However, disobedience grieves the Father and hinders fellowship and communication with Him. Restoration, which is essential for spiritual growth, comes through confession and repentance (1 John 1:9).
Today’s Scripture passage gives characteristics of the children of God. Are you a member of His family? If so, your life should be characterized by obedience and righteousness.
Because Jesus chose us to be His friends, we have the privilege of interacting with Him daily.
Jesus Christ is so many things to us—Savior, Master, and Lord. But amazingly He also calls us His friends. Can you imagine any greater compliment from the Creator of heaven and earth? And our part in this divine friendship involves spending time with the Lord and getting to know Him.
The Lord thinks of us not merely as slaves (although that is what we are, since we’ve been purchased with His precious blood); He’s also raised us to the level of friends in whom He confides. That’s why Jesus said to His disciples, “All things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). And today we have the completed Scriptures, which give us explanations about God’s will, purposes, commands, and desires.
The disciples were blessed to have the opportunity to live and interact with the incarnate Christ. But we’re also privileged because we can have the same intimate relationship with the Savior that those first-century followers had. What’s more, His Spirit lives within every believer, continually revealing more of the Father and Son to us through His Word.
Enduring satisfaction comes only from God.
King Solomon is traditionally considered the author of Ecclesiastes. According to Scripture, he was the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:12) and had wealth beyond imagination. What’s more, he was blessed with the privilege of building God’s temple. So we might expect that he’d have been content.
In searching for that deep fulfillment, Solomon explored all kinds of things. Ecclesiastes tells us that he indulged in the pleasures of the world, even dabbling in pursuits he knew were folly. But the satisfaction Solomon sought evaded him, so he tried another avenue. He undertook great projects, such as building houses, gardens and parks, and an extensive irrigation project (Eccl. 2:4-6). But in the end, he concluded it was all without meaning. The story has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? Our culture pursues pleasure and does not accept limits on its passions.
Solomon had the wisdom and resources to accomplish whatever he chose to do. Yet the goals he pursued brought no lasting satisfaction. He concluded that the best course was to obey God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). True enjoyment comes when we align ourselves with His will. Any other way is meaningless.
|11/29/2022||2 Corinthians 5:16-19|
Experiencing the forgiveness God offers will transform every part of life. Before the apostle Paul’s conversion, if someone had suggested that he would impact the world for Jesus, he probably would have laughed. But God’s grace can impact anyone. Contrary to what many think, being a Christian doesn’t mean adding good deeds to our life. Instead, believers receive forgiveness and a new nature by God’s grace. Then our inward transformation results in obvious outward changes.
Transformation occurs in many areas. For example, our attitudes change—salvation by God’s grace results in humility and gratitude. Out of thankfulness for this undeserved free gift flows compassion for the lost and a desire to share the gospel with them. Experiencing Christ’s forgiveness also results in a longing to serve Him. This doesn’t need to be in a formal church setting; we serve Him by loving others, helping those in need, and telling people about Him.
While there are still natural consequences for our sin, God offers us forgiveness and redemption through Jesus. He made a way to restore our broken relationship with Him. What’s more, our Father transforms our lives so we will become more like His Son and reflect His heart to others.
|11/28/2022||1 Timothy 1:12-17|
Jesus breaks the power of sin and offers hope to all who trust Him. Our lives are hopeless without God. We are born with a fleshly nature, and we continue to sin throughout life. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God. No one is exempt from this biblical truth, and there’s nothing that we can do to change the situation. Enter God’s grace, His unmerited favor toward us. Consider the apostle Paul, who persecuted anyone claiming the name of Jesus. He played a significant role in the violence aimed at Christians and, in his own words, was the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15 KJV). Nothing he did deserved God’s tender concern. But God lovingly transformed him into a man who dedicated himself to sharing the gospel message. Paul’s life beautifully illustrates grace. Salvation is possible only because of grace—we simply can’t do enough good deeds to earn our own way to heaven. The One who took the punishment for our sin deserves all credit for our redemption. And thankfully, there is no transgression too great for Him to forgive. We can’t add to His act of atonement; all we can do is receive this free gift. If we trust in Christ as Savior, God will save us, making us His children forever.
The hope we have in Christ is a sure and reliable anchor for our soul. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time of expectant waiting to celebrate Christ’s birth and prepare for His second coming. The word comes from the Latin term adventus, which means “arrival” or “coming.” Today we focus on hope, which is so much more than wishful thinking. Hope holds us firm and keeps us trusting and looking forward, no matter how dark the world seems to be. This season is a time to remember that God is both the light at the end of a long tunnel and our faithful companion who will never desert or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). The Jewish people expected and longed for the Messiah—the One who would put an end to suffering, establish an eternal kingdom, and “uphold it with justice and righteousness” (Isaiah 9:1-7). And that expected Savior came, fulfilling every prophecy ever written about Him. Because those assurances were proven true, we have hope. We can trust in Jesus’ promise to come again in glory—and knowing that where He is, we will one day be also.
|11/26/2022||1 John 5:9-13|
Do you have doubts about your salvation? You can settle the issue today. The most important issue we must settle in this life is our eternal destiny. Throughout history, churches have been composed of both believers and unbelievers, and it’s often difficult to tell the difference. That’s why John wrote his first letter. He wanted to assure the true Christians of their salvation and warn those who professed belief but lacked saving faith. John gives a four-fold test describing the beliefs and practices of genuine believers.
1. Right understanding of Christ and salvation (1 John 2:18-27). To be saved, we must have the true gospel and the right Savior, as described in God’s Word.
2. Right attitude toward sin (1 John 1:5-10; 1 John 2:1-2). True believers hate their sin and are quick to confess and turn from it.
3. Right practice of obedience (1 John 2:3-6). God’s commands are not burdensome to those who belong to Christ. Although they fail at times, their life is primarily characterized by obedience.
4. Right relationship with God’s people (1 John 2:7-11). Christ produces within His followers both a love for fellow believers and a desire to be with them.
If you have doubts about your salvation, reading the book of 1 John will help you settle the issue.
When we don’t know how to pray for someone, the prayers recorded in the Bible are a good place to start. Sometimes we don’t know how to pray. That can happen when others ask us to pray for them but they feel uncomfortable sharing personal details. Or maybe we’ve lost touch with a person on our prayer list, so we aren’t sure about the best way to intercede on his or her behalf. We can also be confused about our own requests, especially when circumstances are complicated. Whenever we’re unsure, we can seek God’s guidance from the prayers recorded in Scripture. Although we often tend to focus on practical concerns involving our circumstances, the Lord’s priority is spiritual health. That’s what we see in Paul’s petition for the Christians at Philippi. He prayed that their love for each other would increasingly overflow and that they’d “keep on growing in knowledge and understanding”; his prayer was also that they would grasp what really mattered in order to “live pure and blameless lives” (Phil. 1:9-10 NLT). These are good guidelines for requests because they deal with emotions and judgments, both of which can lead us astray unless guided by godly discernment and wisdom. We all need the Lord’s help in these areas, so let’s not hesitate to ask Him for it.
The rewards are great for those who consistently demonstrate gratefulness to God. Bringing our requests to God through prayer is just one aspect of our communication with Him. Another part of prayer—which is frequently overlooked—is thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). The Father wants His children’s lives to be characterized by gratefulness. His Word tells us that an appreciative attitude should be evident in our worship (Psalm 95:2-7; Colossians 3:16), giving (2 Corinthians 9:12), relationships (Phil. 1:1-3), and the way we approach spiritual battles (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). In other words, thankfulness should permeate everything we do (Romans 14:6). In the Scriptures, the Lord actually mandates our gratitude because He knows how being grateful affects the heart. Expressing thanks to God helps us . . .
-Be aware of His presence.
-Focus on Jesus Christ and diminish our pride.
-Look for His purpose in challenging situations.
-Remember His goodness.
-Depend on Him continually.
-Replace anxiety with peace and joy.
When we maintain an attitude of thanksgiving in both happy and difficult seasons, our life will feel purposeful and fulfilling. But more importantly, God will be glorified. Ask Him to bring blessings to mind so you can say “Thank You.”
Consider the spiritual riches that Jesus died to give you—and thank Him today for those blessings. The Bible instructs us, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It’s interesting that this instruction was written by Paul, whose loyalty to Christ earned him severe persecution. How was he able to be grateful to God? While the apostle’s circumstances were difficult, he knew that his riches in Jesus far outweighed any earthly discomfort. And those same blessings are available to all believers. First, we gain a personal relationship with the one true God—the sovereign, omniscient, and omnipresent Lord of all creation. Second, our Creator loves us with an everlasting and unconditional love. Third, He sent His Son to pay our sin-debt so that we could spend eternity with Him. What’s more, when we trust in Jesus, we are freed from the fear of death. And the list of blessings keeps going: God adopts believers as His children (Ephesians 1:5). He has a plan for every life—and bestows special gifts to make it happen. He also promises to meet every need through His limitless resources (Philippians 4:19) and provides His Word and indwelling Spirit to guide us. No wonder Paul was grateful! Count his blessings as your own, and let God know how appreciative you are.
|11/22/2022||1 Peter 3:13-16|
Believers should be careful to share the good news of Christ with gentleness and respect. God doesn’t want his children merely to know God’s Word for themselves. Rather, He wants all believers to share His good news with others. 1 Peter 3:15 says to be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” The term “defense” has to do with answering for oneself. In other words, believers should be ready to give an explanation of their hope in Christ. Many Christians have never taken the time to really think through the reasons for their beliefs. Then, when someone challenges them, they feel a sense of panic. Giving an account for our faith must be accompanied by a gentle, respectful delivery. Dumping a load of truth on a questioning person rarely leads him or her to the Lord, but a gentle answer opens hearts as well as ears. What’s more, all that we profess must be backed up with a life of integrity. It’s important to remember that a hypocritical lifestyle can damage our testimony for Christ. Peter’s verses were not written to scholars; they were intended for ordinary people with jobs and families. The Lord will help you think through your defense, but it requires your intentional participation.
|11/21/2022||2 Timothy 1:12-14|
The Bible is our protection against deception. All people have a belief system, whether they realize it or not. Even those who claim there is no God have faith that He does not exist. Some base their convictions on what fits their lifestyle, reasoning, and desires. Jesus’ followers, however, are called to base their lives on the authority of God’s Word. Any time we add other philosophies or ideas to Scripture or pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe, we create our own version of faith based on personal reasoning. God’s Word is a true and reliable foundation for belief because it contains the recorded thoughts of an eternal, all-knowing God. Any other concept must be measured against God’s Word to determine its validity.
Knowing what the Bible says is essential for developing a sound system of beliefs founded on the truth and wisdom of the Lord. This world will offer you a variety of philosophies, but a faith anchored in the Bible is your protection against deception. Each time you face a problem or decision, search the Scriptures for help in coming up with the answer. Begin your day by reading the Word, and ask God to help you understand what He is saying. He loves communicating with you, and He will make Himself known.
Because God provides for our needs, we can give abundantly to others. Hermit crabs are fascinating creatures. Their soft abdomens leave them vulnerable to predators, so for protection, they live in abandoned shells that they carry everywhere. When a threat comes, they simply tuck themselves tightly inside their borrowed homes until the danger passes. It can be tempting to do that when something threatens us or our resources. Often, we hoard wealth, possessions, or even our time. But Scripture tells us to do the opposite. For instance, Proverbs 11:25-26 says, “A generous person will be prosperous, and one who gives others plenty of water will himself be given plenty. One who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.” Notice there are no caveats, no exceptions to this wisdom. We are meant to be givers out of a sense of gratitude toward the One who gives to us so lavishly. Because we serve a God of abundance, we too can give abundantly, knowing our Father will always provide for our needs. Think about it. Take a look at the many things you’re blessed to own or experience. Offer a prayer of gratitude for them, and ask God to help you decide what should be shared with others.
God invites us to be a part of His work on earth and promises to reward our efforts. As Jesus’ followers, we are to carry out His work. And we’re to be living extensions of His life as we do so. Following His example, believers must:
1. Live as God’s servants. We need to release control over our time, talent, and treasure and accept our commission to work in His kingdom. Like our Savior, we’re not to act independently (John 5:19). Our assignment is to do whatever God asks of us.
2. Answer His call to aid others. We tend to limit our circle to people like ourselves, but we must fight against this inclination. We should be willing to respond to the needs of strangers and friends alike. And the Lord can help us recognize those opportunities.
3. Motivate one another to good deeds. We’re to spur each other toward godliness and service rather than worldly pleasure and self-centeredness. Believers should foster in each other gratefulness for what He has done and confidence about what He will do.
Good works don’t earn salvation, but they do affect eternal rewards. Believers’ deeds will one day be evaluated: Works done without direction from God will be burned up, while those accomplished in obedience to the Spirit will be remembered and acknowledged (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Let your love for God stimulate you to labor in His kingdom.
|11/18/2022||1 John 2:12-14|
Are you burdened by your past? By pouring out your heart to God, you can find peace and freedom. When we come to Christ in repentance and faith, all our sins are forgiven. They will never be held against us because Jesus took our sin and guilt to the cross and bore the penalty of God’s wrath on our behalf. When we’re quick to confess and repent of our sins, there’s no reason to hold onto guilt or live in shame. Yet sometimes we’re bound by self-reproach long after the feeling should have been resolved. Satan always looks for opportunities to accuse us. Sometimes his accusations are about transgressions we’ve already confessed. In such cases, God has fully forgiven us. But we must also forgive ourselves—otherwise we remain vulnerable to the torment of guilt as well as to Satan’s condemnation. So how can we tell where a feeling of guilt comes from? God-given conviction focuses on a specific sinful action or attitude, whereas the enemy’s accusations are usually generalized and directed at us and our worth. Remember, his purpose is to degrade us so we’ll live in shame and uncertainty about God’s love.
Whether your sense of remorse is true or false, it needs to be dealt with quickly—the feeling won’t just go away. So stop running, and face the source of your guilt. It’s time to end your captivity and start walking in the joy of God’s forgiveness.
Conviction leads us to repentance so that we can experience God’s forgiveness and joy. Guilt over doing something that violates the conscience is good. The Lord designed feelings of culpability and regret to serve as a reminder that we’ve done wrong and need to repent. In fact, without a sense of guilt, we’d never recognize that we’re sinners in need of a Savior. And after salvation, guilt is the way the Lord shows us we’re on the wrong path so we can turn back to Him in obedience. Many in our culture claim that all guilt is bad, but that’s not the case. When you feel its pangs, you probably know exactly what you did to set off your conscience. The proper response is to come to the Lord in repentance, as David did. Delay would likely mean feeling God’s heavy hand upon you. But with confession, your sins are forgiven, your guilt is gone, and the joy of your salvation returns. (See 1 John 1:9.) An amazing side effect of confronting guilt in this way is a willingness to be open about your struggles and failures. Through your experience, you can show others who are burdened with shame how they, too, can be set free and experience God’s peace and joy.
When our focus is on God rather than our problems, our faith grows stronger. Do you sometimes doubt that all things are possible with God? It’s likely most of us have felt this way at one time or another—probably when something we asked of the Lord failed to happen. Faith is not a means to coerce God into doing what we want; it’s simply believing that He will do what He’s said. Doubts come when we use human wisdom and logic instead of relying on God’s Word. Then fear and uncertainty about the outcome interfere with trusting biblical truth. It may seem as if we’re going out on a limb, but in reality, trusting the Lord is a firmer foundation than relying on ourselves and human reason. When we focus on God instead of on the situation, our faith grows stronger. In many ways, we’re like the father in today’s story—we believe in Jesus but sometimes struggle to trust that He’ll help in our time of need. That’s when we should cry out to Him the way the desperate father did: “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Then we should also read and meditate on His Word. As our knowledge of God grows, so will our trust in Him.
|11/15/2022||1 Peter 1:3-9|
If we respond correctly to adversity, God will make us stronger and fill us with joy. We all go through troubling times, and it’s easy to get disheartened when that happens. But the Bible teaches that even during periods of challenge and adversity, we can respond correctly. Today’s passage tells us to rejoice. This doesn’t mean we’re to be glad about the hardship, but we should rejoice because we’re protected by God for the eternal glory that awaits us in heaven. Another reason for joy is that trials are designed to produce endurance and spiritual maturity in us (James 1:2-4). God wants us to hang in there so we can derive the full benefit of whatever lesson He has in mind. Our heavenly Father also uses trials to prove to His children that their faith is genuine (1 Pet. 1:7). When we persevere through each difficulty, our faith is tested and refined, reassuring us of our salvation. As we learn that God brings benefit from our adversities, we’ll begin to face challenging times with confidence, knowing He always has our best interest in mind. This leads to joy, because we know He is building our endurance, purifying our heart, and making us people with unshakable trust in Him.
God will provide all that is needed for you to do His will. Every society depends on its elders to pass down those things that help preserve its history and moral center. For this reason, parents and grandparents have the awesome responsibility of passing down biblical truths and principles. When I was 17, I decided to visit my granddad. I had an entire week to spend at his home, and all I wanted to do was listen to him. One of the most impactful things he said to me was, “Charles, obey God. If He tells you to run through a brick wall, head for the wall. And when you get there, God will make a hole for you.” He shared that his youthful passion had been to preach, but this dream was blocked by his lack of education. With no schooling, he didn’t see how he could ever be a pastor. But he did learn to preach—by crying out to God for help and reading his Bible. From that humble beginning, he started to minister, and as the Lord opened opportunities, my grandfather eventually established numerous churches. He taught me that when we really want to do God’s will, our heavenly Father will move heaven and earth to show us the way.
Christians are often told, “Be careful what you pray for!” If we pray for patience, we will likely encounter interruptions, delays, and distractions. If we pray for generosity, we will likely meet with people or situations that could benefit from our resources. And if we pray for perseverance, we will likely experience trials and tribulations. In other words, character traits are only developed by situations which test those traits in our life. When James wrote his letter to believers who had been scattered abroad, he told them that the testing of their faith would produce patience (or perseverance, in some translations). And that patience has a goal: our spiritual and emotional maturity. Immature people become discouraged easily. Therefore, we need experiences which will teach us not to become discouraged and will make us more mature. Another way of saying “maturity” is Christlikeness. God uses everything in life—especially the hard things—to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). If you experience troubles or trials today, look for how you might grow more mature by exercising patience and perseverance. And be careful how you pray!
Difficult times are opportunities to praise our faithful Father. As Christians, we have the opportunity to experience deep and abiding joy. It’s a blessing we receive because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, knowing that He’s at work in every detail of our life. But that doesn’t mean our days are problem-free. Think back to Peter as he walked on the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee. The disciples’ vessel had been battered all night, leaving them exhausted and fearful, but despite all that, Peter had the courage to call to His Lord and step out onto turbulent waters. It was only when he took his eyes off Jesus that the disciple began to sink. But even then, the Savior refused to abandon His beloved friend. Instead, He “took hold of him” and brought Peter back to safety. The same is true for us whenever we are facing adversity. If we are conscious of the Lord’s continuous presence with us, we can express gratitude no matter what, because God will provide a way through the challenge. Think about it What is your “default setting” in times of adversity? Is it fear, anger, or despair—or do you view hard times as a chance to rely on and rejoice in God’s provision?
|11/12/2022||1 John 3:14-18|
Ask God to show you how to love someone in your world today. While growing up, I had several Sunday school teachers, but Craig Stowe is the one I remember most. A few times a month, Mr. Stowe stopped on his way home when he saw me delivering newspapers. He’d ask how I was doing and inquire if there was anything he could pray about for me. And before he pulled away, he always bought a newspaper—for five times its worth. Those brief conversations with Mr. Stowe had a significant impact on my life. I knew he cared about me because he took the time to look me in the eye and make sure I was doing well. That feeling of love is one I try to pass on, even if I have just a few minutes with a person. Believers are called to love one another “in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). You can make a big difference in someone’s life with simple acts of service and kindness—a hug, a conversation, a meal. You don’t have to reach a large crowd; just let God use you to show one person at a time that you care. All it takes for someone to feel God’s love is a little bit of thoughtful attention.
God is a perfect Father, whose love and care for us are constant. When Christ taught His disciples to pray, He began by addressing God as “Our Father.” All of us who’ve been born again into God’s household have this same right. Since our concept of the heavenly Father is limited by our perceptions of earthly dads, let’s consider what Scripture says about His care for us.
1. Our heavenly Father loves us. 1 John 4:16 tells us His love will never cease. Even when we disobey, it’s demonstrated in discipline (Hebrews 12:6).
2. He hears our prayers. God is never too busy for us. He invites us to draw near to His throne with confidence to receive grace, mercy, and help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
3. The Father is our provider and protector. He promises to supply all that we need and protect us from the evil one (Matt. 6:11; Matt 6:13). Every event in our life is filtered through His sovereign will.
4. The Lord is our guide. He’s given us His Word to direct our path (Psalm 119:105).
By viewing the Father through the truth of Scripture instead of our preconceptions, we’ll see Him as He truly is and discover a security we’ve never known before.
Through Christ, we can have a close relationship with our heavenly Father. God is called by a variety of names in the Bible, and each one sheds light on an aspect of His nature. When referring to Him, Jesus often chose to use the title “Father.” While this name for God is used in the Old Testament, we see its use increase exponentially in the New Testament. Many of God’s names speak of His majestic and lofty attributes that separate Him from His created beings, but what’s unique about Father is that it conveys intimacy. Jesus used this name not only because He was God’s Son but also to communicate that God is a Father to all who believe in Christ. Throughout His time on earth, Jesus revealed by example what this kind of loving relationship was like. He depended completely on His Father for daily direction, power, and provision and obediently carried out every instruction. He often found a secluded place to spend private time in prayer. Do you long for the intimacy with God that our Savior had? Have you entered into this kind of relationship through faith in Jesus? If so, God has given you the privilege of drawing near to Him. In fact, before the foundation of the world, He chose you to be in His family.
Sometimes we shine brightest for Christ in our darkest moments. Today’s psalm calls us to continually exalt and magnify the Lord, regardless of the situation. As we gaze at God through His Word, our understanding of Him becomes greater, as if we’re looking through a magnifying glass. We see the wonders of His nature and deeds more clearly and can’t help but respond in praise. To grasp this concept of magnifying the Lord, consider how Paul responded to being imprisoned in Rome (Philippians 1:12-14). Instead of complaining about the situation, he accepted it with grace, knowing that this was God’s path for him. Through it all, he kept praising and exalting Christ. Even though Paul couldn’t preach or start churches as he once did, the Lord opened up a new way to serve—prison ministry and written correspondence that eventually ended up in the New Testament. Whatever is happening in your life—good or bad, long-term or short—you have the opportunity to magnify the Lord through it. This not only benefits you with a greater appreciation of Him, but it also encourages others who see your witness. When a believer passes through trials peacefully and praises the Lord, even unbelievers notice.
|11/8/2022||1 Corinthians 12:14-30|
God wants us to appreciate the unique gifting of every member in His church. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians addressed several problems in the church, including the misuse of spiritual gifts. The people in that fellowship valued only certain gifts—believers with the “better” ones were elevated above others, while those without the preferred abilities were considered less important. In teaching about spiritual gifts, Paul warned church members not to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Romans 12:3). The gifts are not given to exalt certain individuals but to benefit the congregation, and no gift is more important than any other. God considers them all necessary for the health of a local church. Each believer receives at least one gift in accordance with the Spirit’s purposes and choosing. It’s God’s business to decide who has which ability. We must be careful not to assign undue value to certain gifts. Nor should we place unwarranted emphasis on giftedness as a way to assess one’s spiritual maturity or importance in the church. Let’s release any preconceived ideas about the value of spiritual abilities and instead celebrate how God builds each local body of believers. Our omniscient Father places His children where they can minister through their gifts and also be blessed by others doing likewise.
|11/7/2022||1 Corinthians 12:1-13|
Are you using your gifts to serve others? To be effective, the church needs the participation of every believer. God has prepared work for us to do, and He’s equipped us with spiritual gifts to do it. Spiritual gifts are special abilities the Lord gives us to serve others in the body of Christ. These gifts are given to us, but they’re for the benefit of others. Though they come in several varieties, can be used in various ministries, and have a wide range of effects in the church, they all originate from the Holy Spirit. He’s the One who chooses which gift each believer will receive. When all church members serve the body using their particular gifts, everyone benefits spiritually. The Lord has a specific purpose in mind for each of us, and He’s gifted us accordingly (Ephesians 2:10). Without our individual contribution, the local church will lack something. Part of living in the power of the Holy Spirit involves employing our divine endowments as God directs. By operating in our area of giftedness, we’ll have the motivation, ability, and confidence needed for effective service. If you don’t know what gift you have, start by volunteering at something of interest, and eventually you’ll discover it.
God knows us intimately and yet still loves us extravagantly. How many people do you truly know? For most of us, the number would be small because it takes great effort and intention to love someone well. We’re finite beings and simply cannot give 100 percent of ourselves to everyone we meet. Not so with God. Though there are 7.9 billion people on earth, the Lord knows all of them intimately. And He speaks to His children on an individual basis, according to each one’s needs and experiences. That shouldn’t surprise us—the Bible says we’re valuable to our heavenly Father and that He’s the one who wove us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). But we, like David, might still marvel, Who are we to receive such personalized attention, such uninhibited love? (See Psalm 8:4.) The realization that we’re fully known and treasured by God should fill us with gratitude. We don’t have to fight for His affection or work to gain His acceptance. We are His beloved ones, redeemed and destined to experience the “fullness of joy” that comes from being in His presence eternally (Psalm 16:11).
Since it’s easy to become discouraged, we need to remember that God is working for our good. Hope is usually defined as a desire for something, accompanied by the anticipation of receiving it. If our expectation isn’t fulfilled, it’s easy to become discouraged. We have an enemy who wants to steal our hope. As the father of lies, Satan tries to keep us focused on our circumstances so we will doubt God’s love and care for us. So at times we may feel desperate and abandoned, but emotions are not reliable. As children of the heavenly Father, we’re never in hopeless circumstances because He promises to work everything for our good (Romans 8:28). But His concept of “good” doesn’t always match ours. Too often we set our hopes on the things of this world, whereas God prioritizes our spiritual well-being. Disappointment and discouragement are the result of setting our hopes on the wrong aspiration. This doesn’t mean we can’t have dreams and expectations. But we should hold them loosely, with an attitude of submission to God and trust that He’s still working for our good when they don’t come to fruition. Our expectations for this life are temporary, but we have a living hope in Christ that’s unfailing and eternal.
When difficulty comes, choose to trust God. Life doesn’t always meet our expectations. Even when our plans are according to God’s will, we may nevertheless face difficulties. I remember a season of life when I felt all alone and abandoned by the Lord. My mind said God was with me, but my feelings said He wasn’t. To counter those emotions, I had to pray and focus my mind on Scripture. In today’s passage, the weather threatened Paul’s voyage to Rome. Even though the Lord was clearly directing His path, a violent storm arose on the sea. The sailors worked hard to save the ship, but gradually they gave up hope of being saved. The only one who persevered in hope was Paul, and he encouraged the crew with his confidence in God. Frustration over obstacles can lead to discouragement. Many times we can’t change what has happened—whether it’s a job loss, a loved one’s death, or a devastating diagnosis. Circumstances over which we have no control are often the ones that trip us up. In times of discouragement, you have a choice. Will you focus on your circumstances, or will you fix your gaze on God and His Word?
Anytime believers face overwhelming problems, they can rely on the Holy Spirit for the help they need. Are you facing what seems like an insurmountable obstacle? It might be a problem too complex to solve, a task beyond your ability, a sin too tempting to overcome, or a situation over which you have no control. Facing such things can make us feel weak, helpless, and vulnerable. But always remember that we have an almighty God, and nothing is too difficult for Him. Zerubbabel was a Jewish leader who, together with 50,000 of his countrymen, returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. They set about rebuilding the temple, but the obstacles were daunting. The people became disheartened, so God gave His prophet Zechariah a vision to encourage them. The message reminded Zerubbabel that progress is made “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zech. 4:6). This same truth applies to us today. Your obstacles may seem like mountains too big to move, and in your own strength, they certainly are. But as a believer, you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Although your circumstances may not change, He’ll give you His comfort, joy, peace, patience, and strength to go through it. The Spirit is God’s promise of continual help to His weary people.
|11/2/2022||2 Peter 1:1-4|
Some of God’s promises require that we meet a condition before He responds. Christianity rests on a foundation of God’s promises. There are two kinds—unconditional and conditional. Fulfillment of an unconditional promise rests solely with the Lord. One example is God’s covenant to never again destroy the entire earth by flood (Genesis 9:11). On the other hand, if a promise is conditional, fulfillment depends on certain requirements being met. The transaction can be expressed as an “if-then” statement. James 1:5-7, for example, tells us that if we request wisdom from God by asking in faith without doubting Him, then He will give it generously. And in Matthew 6:32-33, Jesus promises that if we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, then everything we need will be provided. The Lord will do exactly what He has promised, but when there’s a condition, you must satisfy the requirements He has set. If you’re still waiting for God to keep a particular promise, check the context for a stipulation. Then make certain you’re carrying out your part. And remember that while the fulfillment is certain, the timing is always in the Lord’s hands.
Because it is impossible for our holy God to lie, we can trust Him completely. Have you ever felt as if there’s a promise God failed to keep? If so, then today’s passage is for you. Let’s look at three things we can learn from it.
1. There is no one greater than the Lord. He has infinite power, knowledge, and wisdom. Nothing can thwart His purposes, so everything He commits to do, He will do. Today’s passage reassures us that the Lord never fails His children, even if we have to wait for His answer.
2. God is unchangeable. That means His Word and His plans for the ultimate good of His children do not change. You can count on Him to do whatever He says He will do. Though everything around us changes, our heavenly Father never wavers.
3. It’s impossible for God to lie. He is true and the source of all truth. Because He’s holy, there is no sin in Him. All His commitments are based on His truthfulness.
A promise is valuable only if the one making it is trustworthy. Since God alone perfectly meets this qualification, we can base our entire life on the certainty of His promises. What’s more, His absolute faithfulness means we can also be sure of His devotion and unconditional love.
Does God Love Me? In moments of doubt, choose to believe the truth of God’s Word. Life can hit us with the most unexpected and undesirable circumstances. When that happens, we might wonder, Does God really care about me? Here are three truths to remember:
1. Scripture tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This means His very nature is characterized by compassion and concern. Love originated with God, and He is the greatest example of how to express it. Together with the reality that God is holy, this means our Father is perfect in His love—He’ll never make a mistake in the way He cares for us.
2. God loves us because He calls us His children. “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” writes John in his gospel (John 1:12 NIV). Sadly, for some who’ve had a difficult upbringing, this may not be encouraging news. But God is the perfect parent, and He loves us perfectly.
3. God gave the supreme demonstration of His love at the cross. God’s Son came to earth as an expression of His Father’s infinite love and sacrificially did for us what no one else could do.
After considering these three facts about God’s love, how could we not expect Him to take care of even the smallest details of our life? Look for ways He is expressing His love to you, and remember Jesus’s own words on the subject: “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Healing is possible after we have been hurt by others. It is necessary that we know what it means to be members of a community—along with the blessings and requirements that come with such involvement. God made us to serve and live alongside one another, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Nor does it mean we’ll avoid getting hurt along the way. At some point, we’re likely to fail each other. When that happens, we might find it helpful to limit—for a time—the people we allow into our life. Doing so can help us recover from past pain and find a way forward, but we can’t remain in that state forever. The Lord calls us to love and forgive one another, just as He has done with us. If we can give ourselves to this process, we’ll eventually be willing to take risks again—to open up and share our true self. That can be scary at times, but when we choose to be vulnerable, we experience the deeper, more fulfilling relationships God wants us to enjoy. Think about it. If you’ve been hurt in the past, ask a trusted friend to help you process what happened. If you have hurt another person, be brave and offer him or her an honest apology. Both actions can bring about great healing and joy.
Spirit-filled believers demonstrate stability, joy, and resilience, even in difficult circumstances. As believers, we all want the fruit of the Spirit. Yet even unbelievers can sometimes display these qualities, so how can we know if ours are truly from Him? It’s important to realize that the fruit of the Spirit is not something we do; it’s who we are. And these nine admirable qualities are often most evident in us when circumstances are difficult. Here are two characteristics to help us recognize these traits in our life:
1. Fruitful believers are not controlled by their environment.
Everybody experiences trials and pain, but those who are filled with the Spirit don’t lose His fruit because of their situations. They keep their joy even when life is hard. Because the Holy Spirit is in control, He is free to produce His fruit no matter what the circumstances are.
2. Fruitful Christians recover quickly after a fall. These believers are not perfect, but they are sensitive to the Spirit’s conviction and are quick to repent. In fact, they are grateful for the correction and praise God, not only for revealing their weakness but also for drawing them back to Him.
None of us produce these amazing qualities by ourselves. Trying harder to be godly will never work. Character transformation occurs when we submit to God, giving Him complete control of our life. Only then will the Spirit be free to produce fruit that remains even in the deepest, darkest storms.
What Is the Spirit-Filled Life? As we surrender to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed. God wants all of His children to be filled with the Spirit, but many of us aren’t sure what this means. While every believer is indwelt by God’s Spirit, the extent of His rule is determined by our obedience. Try thinking of it as a voluntary choice to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s control—to be sensitive to His leadership and guidance, obedient to His promptings, and dependent upon His strength. Those who have surrendered to the Spirit’s leadership are continually being transformed into Christ’s likeness, but the degree of surrender determines the level of transformation. Even though good works and faithful service come from the Spirit, they’re not automatically signs that we are fully yielded to Him. Remember, the surrender we’re talking about involves character, not simply our actions. Serving in some manner can sometimes be easier than loving the unlovable or being patient with difficult people. But when the Spirit is in charge of our life, He is able to do through us what we can’t do ourselves. Each believer decides who rules his or her life. Even those who try to avoid the issue by making no choice at all unknowingly opt for self-rule. The fullness of the Spirit and godly character await those who choose God over self.
|10/27/2022||2 Corinthians 3:4-6|
Since God is faithful to equip us, we don’t have to fear difficulties in our path. Trusting God is easy when life’s good or we’re feeling competent. But is that genuine faith or a form of self-reliance? The apostle Paul said, “Our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). If the Lord calls us to do something that seems impossible or unreasonable, He will equip us for it. However, if we let feelings of fear, inadequacy, or unworthiness cause us to doubt Him, we could miss the opportunity. Sometimes we’re afraid to venture into a new endeavor, because we’re listening to the wrong voices. The devil is always trying to deceive us and plant doubts in our mind so we won’t trust the Lord (John 8:44). He hates to see a believer put aside fear, choose to believe God, and move forward in obedience. A challenging assignment from the Lord is often a fork in the road. When God presents an opportunity to serve Him, we must decide if we’ll take His path even though we might feel unqualified. We’re called to live by faith, not fear. If you are standing at a crossroads, remember that your adequacy is not in yourself but in God, and nothing is too difficult for Him. Trust Him and take a step.
What are you asking God to do in your life? Let these words from Ephesians 3:20 slowly sink in: “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” What an amazing description of God’s ability to work within His followers! So often we focus on what we want Him to do around us, but He invites us to think and ask bigger—He wants to change us! The Lord has a purpose for your life, and He is constantly working to achieve it. Although the Father has unique plans for each one of His children, He also has the goal of conforming every believer to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. In order to accomplish this, He may have to bring us through some struggles and heartaches. It might make no sense to us, but God knows exactly what He’s doing. Spiritual fruit takes time to grow and mature. That’s why we need patience and faith to believe He is working even when we don’t see the results right away. God is never in a hurry and won’t ever give up on us. What would you like to see the Lord do within you? As you read the Scriptures, look for qualities that God considers precious, and ask Him to work them out in your life. Then rely on His wonderful promise to do even more than you have asked or imagined.
One person choosing to obey God can make a huge impact in the lives of others. In the book of Ezekiel, God says, “I searched for a man among them who would build up a wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it” (Ezekiel 22:30). And this is true for us today—the eyes of the Lord are scanning the earth for godly men and women who will exalt righteousness in their land. The “gap” in this verse refers to a place where error or falsehood has crept in, allowing evil confusion and inviting the judgment of God. Sometimes these gaps are so serious that they carry entire nations to the brink of destruction. This actually happened to Israel after the exodus, but God’s Word records this remarkable statement: “He said that He would destroy them, if Moses, His chosen one, had not stood in the gap before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them” (Psalm 106:23). In all likelihood, most of us will never be called upon to save a nation. But we can still encourage righteousness in our communities by speaking the whole counsel of God and resisting the perversions of our age. In Moses’ day one man made all the difference. Why not be the one who makes a difference today?
|10/24/2022||1 Corinthians 1:25-31|
God can do great things through any heart submitted to Him. If you were asked to name influential people, strong individuals with impressive credentials might come to mind. But today’s passage tells us that God has chosen the weak, the base, and the foolish things of the world to shame the things that are strong and wise (1 Cor. 1:27-28). This principle is woven throughout the fabric of biblical history: A prostitute named Rahab made a right choice and became the ancestor of the Messiah. A widow named Ruth chose the God of Israel and became the great-grandmother of King David. An infertile wife named Hannah poured out her soul to God and gave birth to Samuel the prophet. A man called Abram responded to God, left his relatives behind, and became the father of all who believe. A woman named Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, and she’s still memorialized by her lavish, loving act more than 2,000 years later. Those with great influence are the ones who follow the Lord and have proven themselves to be “blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). You may not think your light is very bright by this world’s standards, but the opinion that matters belongs to God—the one who is Himself light (1 John 1:5).
John 3:16 clearly states that the whole world is the object of God’s love. Though Jesus was sent first to the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24; Romans 1:16), it was so Israel might be readied to fulfill her role of being a “light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). From the beginning, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). When Israel failed to fulfill her role, Christ called out a people to take the Good News of God’s love into all the world. In His last days on earth, He commissioned His apostles to go into the world and make disciples by baptizing and teaching everything He had taught them during His time on earth. The Church in every generation has inherited that Great Commission as a responsibility to be carried out until Christ’s return. The world today is hungry for good news. And there is no better news than “God so loved the world.” Look for a way to share that message today.
How can you share with someone today? We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the cold-hearted miser who hoarded wealth and refused to share with people in need. He’s an extreme case, but let’s be honest—aren’t we all tempted to be a little like him at times? Feeling overextended, tired, or worried about our circumstances, we want to keep our time and resources for ourselves—even though we know we’re called to give generously (Matthew 5:42; 2 Corinthians 9:6). Despite realizing that all we have is from God and that believers are to give because He gave first, we find generosity to be a struggle. It’s important to remember no individual can answer every need—and it’s rarely possible for one person to fully address even a single need. But the community of faith can help. By each of us doing our part in answering God’s call for generosity, we become more effective at bearing one another’s burdens. When we realize those needs aren’t ours to handle alone, we’ll more likely feel liberated to give what we can—openly, sacrificially, and without shame or resentment. Think about it. What can you share with others? What could you offer that might not have a financial cost?
When we fall in love with someone, we spend time with him or her and willingly tend to the relationship. But when it comes to a relationship with Jesus, believers often rush through Bible reading and prayer, keeping faith alive by habit rather than worship. Lasting intimacy with God, however, comes by means of purpose and determination.
Purpose. Notice what King David advised the leaders of Israel: “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19). Believers must choose to pursue God and incorporate spiritual disciplines into their life; it doesn’t just happen. In your next quiet time, be intentional about praying to understand the Lord’s ways—He loves answering that plea.
Determination. Isaiah told Yahweh, “Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently” (Isaiah 26:9). Even when we don’t feel like investing time in our relationship with Christ, we must resolve to do so. A revelation from God will not come every day, but those who diligently seek the Lord experience His presence frequently in their worship.
Jesus brings joy into a believer’s life, but we must give Him the time to do so—and not simply our leftover minutes. God gives us His best; we should put forth no less in return.
|10/21/2022||2 Corinthians 5:1-9|
What happens immediately after a believer’s death? Does the soul enter heaven right away, go to sleep until the resurrection, or suffer for certain sins before coming into the presence of God? At death, believers move directly from life on earth to life in heaven. In writing to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul referred to the dead as being asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:14), which some interpret as a state of “suspended animation” until the resurrection. However, Jesus told the thief on the cross that they would be together in paradise that very day (Luke 23:43). Others think that before we go to heaven, additional cleansing through punishment is required. But Scripture is clear: Jesus paid the price for all sins. His work of atonement was finished on the cross (1 Peter 3:18). Those who have received Jesus as Savior move immediately from life on earth to life in heaven. Unfortunately, people who die without Jesus suffer until they face judgment (Luke 16:22-23). Since belief in Christ is the only way to heaven, the lake of fire will be their final destination (Revelation 20:11-15). This is a hard truth, but the good news is that knowing our ultimate destiny encourages us to face our unbelieving loved ones—and empowers us to pray for and witness to them.
Walter Wilson, a physician, was noted for his soul winning, which he wrote about. On one occasion, he said, “Our Lord describes beautiful feet if they have the proper shoes. In Song of Solomon 7:1 we read, ‘How beautiful are thy feet with shoes.’ No one seems to be proud of the feet. Advertisements describe beautiful eyes and attractive teeth, but whoever read of beautiful feet. Our Lord has provided for beautiful feet by saying, ‘Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’” The beautifully shod feet of our Lord’s disciples are careful to avoid the mud puddles of temptation and compromise. There are a lot of muddy spots in this world. The news today is filled with turmoil. We seldom hear good news from the world stage. But when we share the Gospel with others, we bring them Good News that not only changes their lives today, it secures their heavenly destination as well. Let your feet be as beautiful as your smile as you take the Good News to others!
Because of the cross, death for believers is just the doorway to heaven. Most people prefer to focus on living, but death is a reality we must all face. Scripture says, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Rom. 5:12 NLT). In the garden of Eden, Adam—together with Eve—broke the only command God had given them: “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17 NIV). Disobedience broke their intimacy with God and brought physical death to humanity. Because of sin, then, our bodies are mortal (Romans 6:23)—and there’s no escape unless Jesus returns while we’re living. As Adam’s descendants, we are born “dead in [our] offenses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and we remain spiritually dead unless we unite with God through faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22). By receiving the Savior, we are reconciled to our heavenly Father and guaranteed eternal life with Him (John 3:15). How thankful we should be that Jesus gave His life to free us from our fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). So even though our bodies die, we have hope because of the everlasting life we are promised in heaven. The cross transformed death from a dead end to a doorway into Jesus’ presence.
Our hunger for God is both satisfied and deepened as we spend time in His Word.. Faith in Christ is about more than merely doing “Christian things” like attending church, giving, praying, and reading the Bible occasionally. Genuine conversion is evidenced by a yearning to know God more deeply and intimately. One of Christianity’s basic principles is that the more we know of the Lord, the more we want to learn of Him. A mind set on the things of this world will miss the spiritually fulfilling path. However, pursuing the Lord doesn’t imply abandoning all our plans and dreams. It simply means we prayerfully subject our hopes to His will. As we strive to know God, our desires change to reflect His. How does a believer go about seeking God? It begins with studying His Word and trusting the Spirit to open our mind to understand. Then, as the Lord reveals more of Himself to us through Scripture, we will increasingly crave His presence. If your focus is set on the things of earth, your desires will bend in that direction. But if you turn your attention to the Word of God, your desire for Him will become stronger than all other longings.
Knowing and pursuing God gives us our best life. How do we achieve the good life? Well, it depends on what you pursue and what you consider “good.” The world defines good things as items and experiences that make us happy. But from the Lord’s perspective, the good things in life are those that fit into His purpose and plan for us. God’s will could include material prosperity, health, and opportunities, but He also considers periods of trouble, need, and suffering as valuable. The Lord prioritizes our spiritual well-being over physical or material comfort and ease. Our Father wants us to seek Him rather than the treasures and pleasures of this life. If we do this, He promises we’ll “not lack any good thing” (Ps. 34:10). We’re told to ask the Lord to meet our needs, but we should also come to Him with an open heart that seeks to know and love Him more. God Himself is the highest good we could possibly seek. Everything that He gives, whether much or little, is a good and perfect gift from Him (James 1:17). When our pursuit is the Lord rather than the things of this world, we’ll be content with whatever we have (Psalm 37:4).
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Meister Eckhart was a medieval German preacher whose principal subject was the presence of God. He said: “I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and the presence of God.” How do we cultivate a sense of God’s presence? It’s important to begin and end the day with the Lord, making time for silence, Bible reading, and prayer. Between getting up and retiring, we should learn to pray quietly about whatever comes. “Lord, bless this phone call.” “Lord, help me rest on this flight.” “Father, encourage that sad face I just passed.” If the evil in the world troubles you, imagine how it hurts the Lord to see it too. But we’re not alone. We have a faithful Defender, Friend, and Confidant who walks with us through life. He will guard us from the evil one. We have the presence of a faithful God enveloping us day and night. In that thought we can rest.
|10/17/2022||2 Chronicles 20:1-18|
When fear strikes, choose to focus on our almighty and faithful God instead of the situation. Once, when someone once asked if I’d ever heard myself pray, I decided to record my voice as I prayed about a matter of deep concern. After listening to the recording, I realized it was filled with negative descriptions of how bad the situation was and how discouraged I felt. My focus was all wrong. On encountering a fearful situation, Jehoshaphat chose a different approach: God-centered prayer. Instead of coming to the Lord with a “woe is me” attitude, Jehoshaphat began by focusing on God’s power and sovereignty (2 Chron. 20:6), His past faithfulness to Judah (2 Chron. 20:7-8), and His promise to hear and deliver His people (2 Chron. 20:9). Only after strengthening his faith through these reminders of God’s adequacy did the king make his petitions (2 Chron. 20:10-12). In prayer, we can choose to magnify either the Lord or our difficulty. Are you concentrating on the faithfulness of almighty God or your overwhelming problem and negative feelings? Let’s keep our eyes on Him and wait with complete confidence until we see the great things He’ll do for His glory and our good.
|10/16/2022||1 Corinthians 12:14-18|
The whole body of Christ benefits when believers use the skills God gave them. It’s often at this time of year that church members gather to tend to their buildings and grounds, preparing for winter and giving everything a thorough cleaning. There are many tasks to accomplish, and no one person is meant to do them all. The strongest workers tackle the heavy jobs like moving furniture or hefty tree limbs, while those with nimble fingers clean the dust from tiny spaces. Energetic little ones run supplies, while others can prepare refreshments for all to enjoy. When the congregation labors as a team, all the tasks are completed, and everyone benefits. The key is mutuality. In mutual relationships, we aren’t always equally equipped, but we should be equally committed to helping as best we can with the skills and talents God has given us. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, “The body is not one part, but many,” and “God has arranged the parts, each one of them in the body, just as He desired.”
|10/15/2022||1 Samuel 18:1-4|
Strong friendships require mutual respect, love, and commitment.
We all long to have good, reliable friends who love us, but how do we go about making these relationships? The biblical account of David and Jonathan helps us learn how to foster genuine, close friendships (1 Samuel 18:1-30, 1 Samuel 19:1-24 1 Samuel 20:1-42). Their story demonstrates that true companionship is built upon a foundation of mutual respect, love, and authentic commitment. Jonathan was the prince of Israel, while David started out as a lowly shepherd boy. Social status didn’t interfere with the cultivation of their friendship. When one experienced joy or sadness, the other did, too, because their hearts were knit together. Trying circumstances couldn’t weaken their commitment. Jonathan even risked his life and future kingship in order to save David from death. We were designed by God for true companionship. But developing this kind of relationship requires not only time and selfless devotion but also transparency, which means a willingness to reveal who we really are. Taking such a risk requires trust, but unwavering friendships are well worth the effort.
Intentional efforts to seek and maintain friendships can bring great reward.
How many true friends do you have? At first, a lot of names may come to mind, but the longer you consider the question, the more likely it is that the number will dwindle. The reality is that we do not have many genuine friends—in other words, the ones who remain loyal no matter what circumstances arise. Most people long for intimate friendships. In fact, God created us to need relationships with one another. Without them, we can easily suffer from loneliness and depression. Yet healthy friendships don’t just happen. They require intentional effort. For Christians, the goal is to choose godly friends who share our faith and seek to walk obediently with the Lord. Our closest companions need to be people we can depend upon for good advice, support, and encouragement. Another important component is mutual commitment. As today’s verse says, we need “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This dependable, intimate closeness is what the Lord wants for us, but it’s a rare treasure. If you have such friends, express to them your appreciation and admiration. And thank God for giving you such a valuable gift.
If you long for radical renewal in your life, commit to know God’s Word.
Paul’s priority was to know Christ. The apostle spoke of counting all things as loss in comparison to His relationship with the Lord, and he was given spiritual blessings that surpassed anything the world had to offer.
When we seek Christ through His Word, we too can expect the following spiritual blessings:
1. A Quiet Spirit. As we read and meditate on God’s Word, He restores our souls (Psalm 19:7). Then, instead of having stress and worry, we’ll experience peace of mind.
2. A Stronger Faith. Studying Scripture enlarges our view of God and gives us insight into His desires, ways, and will. The bigger the Lord becomes to us, the more we will trust Him in every circumstance.
3. A Purified Heart. God’s Word reveals our sins so we can repent and receive forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).
4. A Renewed Mind. When we read Scripture and apply its principles, our mind will be renewed to think biblically about God, ourselves, and the world.
Because Christ was the pursuit of his life, Paul knew joy amidst trials and received the strength to face turmoil and difficulty. These blessings are ours as well when knowing Jesus is our highest goal.
Unless we determine to put God first, we can easily lose days, weeks, or years to lesser things. Which sister in today’s story best describes you? Are you distracted and stressed, or eager to learn from the Lord? During Jesus’ visit, Martha let serving Him become more important than listening to Him. Even though the sisters were both expressing their love and care for Jesus through their actions, Mary chose the better way. Sometimes in the busyness of life, we lose sight of how important it is to refresh our soul with God’s presence. Although the Lord doesn’t want us to neglect our responsibilities, we need to spend part of each day praying, reading, and meditating on Scripture. Our relationship with the Lord should have first place above all else in life. Our mind and spirit need daily renewing with God’s Word so that our thoughts, attitudes, affections, and actions will flow from the application of spiritual truths. But as we’ve all probably discovered, this is not easy. Our own selfish nature clamors for supremacy, and the world with all its pursuits, pleasures, and temptations encourages us to indulge ourselves. Nothing should supersede your relationship with Christ. Like Mary, make time to listen and learn from Jesus through His Word.
|10/11/2022||2 Timothy 3:16-17|
Studying and obeying the Bible can help us avoid painful correction.
No one likes the pain of discipline, but parents know it’s necessary. In a family, there may be one child who learns lessons the hard way—through disobedience and the resulting penalty—while another child observes, learns, and does what’s necessary to avoid painful discipline. The same is true for us as believers—we can be trained by our heavenly Father the hard way or the easy way. Because we aren’t perfect, it’s impossible to avoid all discipline, but we can lessen it. By diligently studying the Scriptures, we learn what pleases and displeases God. The Word teaches us who God is and how He wants us to live. It also rebukes us when we sin and shows us how to correct course. Then it explains how to live in a manner worthy of the Lord. Being part of a sound biblical church is also a safeguard. We need godly people to counsel us and hold us accountable. You needn’t fear God’s discipline. Though His correction may hurt, it brings great spiritual benefit. So whenever you sin, be quick to humble yourself, admit your wrongdoing, and turn back to the Lord with a heart of obedience.
God’s discipline is another example of His great love for us.
Do you remember how much you dreaded your parents’ discipline when you were a child? They were doing it for your sake so you’d learn that sin and disobedience have negative consequences. Their goal was to train you to be responsible and good. Our heavenly Father also disciplines His children, but His purposes are even higher. He does it to train us in holiness so we’ll reflect His likeness. Divine discipline is corrective; the Lord uses difficult trials and painful circumstances to turn us away from unholy practices and to teach us the way of godliness. So when experiencing God’s discipline, we should understand that we’ve sinned and take His correction seriously. Instead of fighting the process, we’d be wise to cooperate by strengthening our area of weakness so we don’t fall again. At the same time, we should keep our eyes fixed on the promised harvest of righteousness and peace. If your troubles are a result of your own ungodly actions, confess them immediately and turn back to the Father in repentance and obedience. Not every hardship is a result of sin, but God will use all of our adversity to build faith and develop Christlike character.
|10/9/2022||Imagine if all people were alike. We would read the same books, listen to the same music, and eat the same foods. We’d have the same opinions and think the same thoughts. We’d also have the same limitations. How unbelievably dull—and dangerous—that would be. Thankfully, as believers, we’re called to unity, not uniformity. Unity is “the state of being united into one.” Uniformity, on the other hand, means “overall sameness.” See the difference? The first allows for the possibility of “iron sharpening iron” (see Proverbs 27:17), while the second gives only the illusion of harmony and safety. That’s why Jesus prayed His disciples would experience the Trinity’s unity: “The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (John 17:22-23). This means we can enjoy our differences and the oneness of being found in Jesus. What a blessing!|
|10/8/2022||2 Peter 1:1-11|
God’s promises are precious and magnificent. They became ours at the moment of our salvation so we’d have everything we need for life and godliness. They not only remind us of His care and love for us but also provide hope and encouragement during difficult times. Sometimes we’re shortsighted and think only of what the Lord can do for us in this life. We may try to claim biblical promises in hopes of getting what we want, but that’s not God’s purpose. He’s working for His glory and our long-term spiritual good, not our temporal desires. The Lord wants us to take hold of all the promises that come with salvation—and to rely on every resource He provides for our continual growth in faith, obedience, godly character, and love. The Holy Spirit, our instructor, works powerfully in us to enlarge our trust in God through the Scriptures. He also provides the strength necessary for obedience and develops the fruit of patience as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s commitments. As you read the Bible, look for all of God’s magnificent promises that you can claim as yours. Then count them as true, and rest in them.
Today’s passage says God is faithful to fulfill His promises. But if you’re like most Christians, you have probably felt as if He’s let you down at some point. Perhaps you found a promise in Scripture and believed the Lord would do it, but He hasn’t. The problem isn’t God’s faithfulness; more than likely, there’s a misunderstanding of His promises. So, when evaluating whether a passage applies to you, ask these questions:
1. Is it limited or does it pertain to all believers? Certain scriptural promises were given to a particular individual, while others were for the whole nation of Israel. And sometimes a promise concerned a specific event or circumstance. But God’s Word contains many that are intended for all of His followers throughout history. Always check the context.
2. Is there a condition to the promise? If so, we must meet that requirement. Otherwise, it won’t apply to us.
3. Am I asking for a need or a desire? God assures us He’ll provide whatever He considers necessary to complete His work in our life (2 Peter 1:3). But that doesn’t include everything we want.
These guidelines will help us discern which promises are ours. But we should remember that some might be fulfilled only in eternity. When that’s the case, we can look to the saints of Hebrews 11 as role models. They took God at His word—even if they didn’t see His promises fulfilled in their lifetime.
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Not only does God grant us the strength to endure, but He also rewards us for that endurance. What grace! Today, right now, we can be blessed with a sense of inner peace even in the midst of troubles that don’t seem to quit. When hardships multiply, grace abounds. When our attempts to fix our problems fail, grace keeps us standing. When we handle trials God’s way rather than through our own efforts, we receive a sense of contentment, satisfaction, patience, and even deep joy. We realize God is nurturing our character with the long view in mind.
Words are powerful. They can either tear down or build up. As we saw yesterday, harsh remarks can cause a destructive chain reaction—like the damage a lit match could do to a forest. In contrast, kind comments feel like a light summer rain that brings relief from the day’s heat. We should always be careful about what we say. Scripture clearly condemns gossip, deception, complaining, slander, angry outbursts, foul language, and vulgar joking. Yet the goal isn’t simply to avoid all bad speech; it’s to speak truth in an uplifting manner. After all, even correction can be delivered in a way that’s encouraging. Sometimes the problem is not so much what we say but how we say it. Oftentimes our tone of voice and body language convey much more than our words do. Nonverbal signals can reveal impatience, resentment, anger, malice, and bitterness—all of which tear others down. But wordless signals can instead edify by showing love, compassion, appreciation, and gratitude. In terms of godly behavior, we all fall short of perfection, but if we saturate our mind with God’s Word, He’ll transform our heart, attitudes, and speech. And when our words are gracious, others are blessed and God is glorified.
At the end of his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul highlighted some essentials of the Christian life—devotion to prayer, an attitude of gratefulness, and wise dealings with unbelievers. And our words should always be a reflection of our Savior. Paul understood the power of gracious words. They’re not only pleasing to God but also beneficial to those who hear. In contrast, James describes the damage an uncontrolled tongue can cause. He likened it to sparks that set a forest on fire or a restless evil that can poison (James 3:5; James 3:8). Sadly, we see this truth displayed in social media, workplaces, families, and even churches. What portrait of Christ do your words paint for others? Is your conversation seasoned with grace, or do you speak thoughtlessly, harshly, or rashly? Are you quick to criticize and judge others, or do you respond with compassion for those trapped in sin? As representatives of Jesus, we must learn to speak words of grace. We do this by cultivating humility, courtesy, and kindness toward those without Christ, while at the same time offering them the gospel, which can set them free from sin and hell.
The Lord is often ignored, reviled, belittled, and denied, but one day every eye will see Christ clothed in majesty and power. John 12:41 says that Isaiah was given a vision of Christ’s glory, and today’s reading records the prophet’s response. On seeing the Lord seated upon a throne in all His splendor, Isaiah recognized the depths of his own sinful condition and cried out, “Woe to me, for I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). Peter had a similar reaction to Christ. When Jesus miraculously filled the fishing nets to overflowing, Peter fell down before Him, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). But the religious leaders of the time responded in a very different way. When they heard Jesus’ preaching and saw His miraculous signs, they became angry and attributed His power to Satan (Luke 11:15). As believers, we are Christ’s ambassadors in the world, and there are varied responses to our presence. Some welcome the message we bring, while others react with reluctance or even outright hostility. In fact, Jesus warned us this would be the case (John 15:18), but we should never let negative reactions discourage us from faithfully sharing the gospel or living righteously.
The scene in today’s passage gives us a glimpse of a holy God who is worthy of mankind’s worship. He’s perfectly pure in His thoughts, motives, choices, and actions, and His holiness is also revealed in His separateness from all evil and transgression. Since God cannot tolerate or ignore sin, every wrong must be punished—with the penalty paid either by the offender or by an adequate substitute. And Jesus Christ is the fully sufficient substitute who paid what every one of us owed. What’s more, He’s the only one who can reconcile sinful mankind to God. The Son of God took on human flesh and lived a sinless life. Then, as 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV) tells us, Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the cross” to pay the penalty of divine wrath. His resurrection is the proof that the sacrifice was acceptable to His heavenly Father. All who trust in Christ as their substitute are reconciled to God, but those who reject the Savior must themselves bear God’s wrath for their sin. If we’ll acknowledge our unworthiness, confess our sins, and trust in Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, our sins will be forgiven. The Judge of all humanity declares us not guilty. What’s more, He also credits us with Christ’s righteousness. And someday we’ll join the saints in heaven praising our gracious, holy God.
|10/2/2022||1 Corinthians 6:19|
How are we to be filled with the Holy Spirit? This is a command and everything that God requires of us He also teaches us how to do. Do not think of the Holy Spirit as a substance. The Holy Spirit is a person. Don’t refer to the Holy Spirit as “it.” Refer to the Holy Spirit as Him. Jesus said, “He will teach you all things” (John 14:26). You wouldn’t say of a person, “It wore a maroon tie.” You’d say, “He did.” Don’t depersonalize the Holy Spirit. Don’t think of being filled with the Spirit as if you are a vessel and the Holy Spirit is a liquid, or as if you are a battery and the Holy Spirit an electrical charge. No, the Spirit is a Person, and you are a temple.
When Paul arrived in Athens, he found religious people seeking to please their various gods. To make sure all their bases were covered, there was even an altar inscribed to an unknown god. The Athenian religious culture may seem totally foreign to us, but today many people are likewise seeking to please false gods. Some who claim to follow the true God are actually worshipping an image of their own making. That’s why every Christian must answer three questions correctly.
1. Who is the one true God? He is the Creator who made the world as well as everything in it—including you and me. In fact, He keeps us alive and has determined where and when each of us will live.
2. How can we appease Him? There’s nothing we can do to make ourselves right with a holy God, because everything mankind does is tainted by sin.
3. What has God done to help us? In His Word, God has instructed us all to repent and believe in His Son, who paid the penalty for our sin and was raised from the dead.
How did you do? Do your answers confirm that you’re worshiping the one true God? If not, seek Him right now.
Put simply, we are God’s personal project. He is committed to the task of working in us, developing us, rearranging, firming up, and deepening us so that the character traits of His Son—called here “the image”—begin to take shape. The emerging of the Son’s image in us is of primary importance to the Father. In fact, it is impossible to thwart His commitment to the project. His work goes on even though we scream and squirm, doubt and debate, run and shun. There’s no denying it, the tools He uses hurt, but it all “works together for good.”
The value we place on something determines how we treat it. For example, you probably wouldn’t give much thought to an old shoebox. But if someone put $10,000 inside it, you’d protect it. Similarly, once we realize the worth of Scripture, we no longer read merely out of obligation. Here are six things God tells us about how to read His “instruction manual for life.”
1. Turn to it daily with eager expectation for what the Lord will reveal.
2. Meditate upon the Word to more fully absorb its meaning and implications.
3. Study God’s truth. There are a variety of ways to do this. For example, using a concordance or search engine, follow a specific word through the Old and New Testaments.
4. Believe what the Lord says.
5. Obey. In other words, apply what you read to your life situation.
6. Share what you learn. This will encourage others while strengthening you and sinking the lesson deep in your heart.
The Bible is living truth that protects and guides, pierces and encourages. From it, we learn how to be saved. When we grasp Scripture’s value, our interaction with God’s Word will prove its worth.
Step into almost any bookstore, and you can find a volume on pretty much any topic you have in mind. Want new direction for your life? Are your children disobeying? Are you hoping to live in a healthier way? There are books that were written to help, but do the authors have trustworthy credentials? There is a place to find accurate information and true guidance: The Bible will bless and benefit everyone who reads and applies its wisdom. Here’s what Scripture’s Author—“the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16)—says about His own Word:
The Bible gives direction for life (Psalm 119:105). God uses His Word to lead us, no matter what our circumstances may be.
Scripture strengthens us in grief or difficulty (Psalm 119:28; Psalm 119:116). By spending time processing what God says, we’re reminded that He loves us, cares about our situation, and can handle whatever we’re facing.
God’s Word helps us understand our inner motivations (Hebrews 4:12). Scripture acts like a mirror that lets us see ourselves as we truly are.
The Bible is the very mind of God put into words so that we can know Him more fully. To what extent do you depend upon this amazing Book as your foundation for life?
Yesterday I shared with you about a time when the Lord reminded me that I am not the vine—He is. For years I had tried to accomplish by myself what Jesus wanted to achieve through me. My desire was to impress God and earn His approval. His goal, on the other hand, was for me simply to abide. The Holy Spirit’s job is to live the life of Christ through us. This is known by a variety of names, including the exchanged life, the Spirit-filled life, and the abiding life. All of these describe the joyful existence Paul spoke of in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” Seen from the outside, a branch does not appear to be doing anything. But that doesn’t mean that the abiding life is passive. Jesus was the perfect example of a Spirit-filled life, and He certainly didn’t sit around! He worked hard out of a reservoir of divine energy (John 8:28). All of Christ’s wisdom, knowledge, and courage was drawn from God through the Holy Spirit. Christians bear fruit through surrender. We “take root” in the Lord by meditating on His Word, praying, and serving. We reserve nothing for ourselves to control but fully rely upon Him. That’s not passive living; it’s an abiding life.
|9/27/2022||1 John 2:3-6|
There was a time when I was so disheartened that I wondered whether to remain in the ministry. How could I tell people that Jesus would give them peace and joy when I didn’t feel it myself? God let me stew in my anxiety until I was fully committed to finding out if His Word was true or not. I found my answer in a biography of missionary Hudson Taylor. For a long time he, too, felt that his efforts fell short of the Lord’s expectations. But Taylor realized God wanted believers to trust Him fully and rest on His promises. As a child, I was taught that a person got saved and then went to work for God. You did the best you could to think, speak, and act in a wise, godly manner. When your best wasn’t good enough, well, you tried harder. Such an impossible expectation was wearing me out. This idea of letting Jesus Christ work through me sounded both biblical and liberating. A grape branch doesn’t bear fruit because of its determined efforts to get sunshine; rather, it simply abides in the vine, and fruit appears. The vine does all the work. In the same way, believers are to be in union with their Savior so that spiritual fruit can grow in their life.
The word delight means “to gain great pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness.” Isn’t that the kind of relationship you want with the Lord—one in which both you and He enjoy each other’s presence? Well, God also wants that kind of connection, and our part in helping it develop is through commitment, trust, and patience.
First, a believer must commit his or her ways to God. This means we invite Him to examine our desires and plans and alter whatever does not fit His purpose or plan for our life.
Second, a believer must trust God. Who is more worthy of our faith than the Father, who gave Jesus Christ to save undeserving sinners? The One who would not spare His only Son will certainly provide all that His children need (Romans 8:32).
Third, a believer must rest in God. When we fret, we’re neither committing ourselves to the Lord nor trusting in Him. Waiting on God is rarely easy, but He alone knows when circumstances and timing are aligned with His will.
Enjoying our relationship with the Lord requires effort, but it is a labor of love—because we were made to find joy in God’s presence. The greatest pleasure we can experience is to walk hand in hand with our Father.
If something matters to us, we are often willing to do whatever it takes to protect or care for it. Consider how parents save to send their children to college, or how a spouse sacrifices personal dreams and goals to care for an unwell partner. If we love someone, we’re willing to pay high costs and make deep sacrifices. But for believers, these things are more than the right thing to do. They are a holy calling, a way to “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) and love one another as Christ loved us (John 15:12). When we give sacrificially, two marvelous things happen. First, we experience the joy that comes with growing in Christlikeness—of “being transformed into [Christ’s] image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV). And second, our light shines before people who see our good works and praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). God-pleasing sacrifice might not be easy, but it’s always worth the cost.
If we could look through mighty telescopes or listen to electronic soundings, we could hear and see the metallic stars which both Russia and America have put into space in the past years. None of these synthetic stars have brought peace to the world. But God’s star promised peace to the whole world, if man would believe and trust. Too often man’s synthetic stars bring fear and anxiety. Our gadget-filled paradise, suspended in a hell of international insecurity, certainly does not offer us the happiness of which the last century dreamed. But there is still a star in the sky. There is still a song in the air. And Jesus Christ is alive. He is with us, a living presence, to conquer despair, to impart hope, to forgive sins, and to take away our loneliness and reconcile us to God.
I remember being severely chastised once while in a meeting at another organization. I wanted to react, but instead I turned to God, and He enabled me to remain calm and respond in a godly manner. Turning to the Lord in prayer is always the best response in a crisis. We can ask Him to provide:
Spiritual discernment. God perfectly understands the situation, and He can help us understand too. With His assistance, we can gain insight into the source of the problem and move forward toward resolution.
A quiet spirit. It’s natural to react quickly and defend ourselves. But we need to deliberately focus our attention on the Lord and experience the inner peace that He promises (John 14:27).
Wisdom. God told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would give them wise words to say when they faced hostile authorities (Luke 12:11-12). He will do the same for you. If tempted to speak hastily, ask the Spirit to seal your lips until God provides the words and the proper time to respond (Psalm 141:3).
No matter what the situation may be, God has called us to represent Him the same way that Christ did—through dependence on our heavenly Father. Next time someone speaks critically to you, how will you respond?
When people argue, they can say harsh words, create turmoil, and cause emotional pain. But there’s hope—our beliefs can positively influence how we respond in conflict. Consider God’s sovereignty, for example. If you believe the scriptures proclaiming God’s rule over nature (Psalm 135:6), government (Job 12:23), and mankind (Acts 17:25), then you know that nothing in heaven or on earth is hidden from Him or outside of His control. This means our heavenly Father, who has promised to protect His children, knows when people verbally attack us. Nothing can touch us apart from His permissive will. His sovereign control also gives Him the power to work pain into something beneficial (Romans 8:28). We have hope because His will cannot be thwarted, even in bad circumstances. When we believe in the Lord’s sovereign rule, our perspective on conflict changes. Instead of responding with fear, anger, or resentment, we turn to Him for guidance. Fighting is inevitable in our fallen world. When it’s our fault, we are to apologize; when others are responsible, we may have to confront them. But regardless of the circumstances, we’re called to forgive without exception—and we can because God is in control. As Christ’s ambassadors, the way we respond matters.
When Moses learned he was to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage, his initial reaction was, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11). But God assured him, “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12 NLT). The Lord’s divine presence was a key part of Moses’ equipping as a leader. And God’s response to believers today is the same. We can confidently accept the responsibility He gives us—no matter the role—because He has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). But Moses wondered whether the Hebrew people would listen to him. He had been away from Egypt for a long time, and his last interaction with the Israelites had been a negative one (Exodus 2:11-14). What kind of influence could he have? God responded that the only credential Moses needed to give them was that he was sent by God—the I AM (Ex. 3:14). In addition, the Lord gave Moses a helper: his brother Aaron. When the Lord gives us a task, He will bestow the spiritual authority we need to carry it out, and He will provide us with people to help. God has promised to equip us for His work. What is your response when asked to serve?
Sometimes we find ourselves out of money, out of strength, out of ideas, or out of opportunities. But the Christian is never out of everything, for we always have God. And with God, we have everything. That fact alone is enough to motivate us to worship Him and wait for His answers. That’s what King Jehoshaphat of Judah did when his nation was surrounded by three neighboring nations’ armies. Judah was far outnumbered. Jehoshaphat prayed a lengthy prayer of praise, concluding with these words: “Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12). All they had was God, so a prophet directed the king to set out for battle, praising and worshiping the Lord as they went. And God routed the enemy armies and delivered Judah. God was all they had, and in the middle of worshiping Him, they were delivered. If you are at the end of your resources today, if you don’t know what to do, put your eyes on God in praise and worship and wait for His deliverance.
Have you ever experienced a situation that seemed impossible to endure? Years later, did you realize how that trial prepared you for things to come? The Scriptures tell us that the Lord sometimes allows us to be “sifted” for greater service. In other words, He may give Satan permission to affect an area of our life and thereby transform us into stronger witnesses for Him. In today’s passage, Jesus explains this process to Peter: “Satan has demanded to sift you men like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail; and you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knew what was coming—His death, resurrection, and ascension—and He expected Peter to lead the disciples and accomplish great things for the kingdom. But Peter wasn’t ready. So the Lord allowed Satan to “sift” Peter. In so doing, God separated the “wheat” from the “chaff”—the righteous areas of Peter’s life from the ungodly areas. Ultimately, the disciple grew from the experience and played a key role in spreading the gospel. Had God not allowed this sifting, Peter wouldn’t have been prepared for the events to come. Ask God to bring into focus similar ways that He’s used difficulties for your ultimate good.
I want to give you a challenge. Find anywhere in the Bible where anybody was ever saved twice. You can’t do it. Do you know why? It’s impossible to be saved twice. Nowhere in the Bible will you ever find someone who was saved twice. Some people believe you can get saved and lose your salvation. They believe you must be born again and again and again and again. They believe you keep on getting saved. But as today’s verse reminds us: by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. Did you know for you to be saved twice Jesus would have to die twice? When you were saved, you received a ticket marked good for one salvation. You are perfected forever. Jesus is never going back to that cross. He’s never going to die again. By one offering we’re perfected forever.
Prayer is the heartbeat of the believer’s walk with God, and He commands us to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). But we sometimes wonder what kind of influence our conversations with the Lord really have, and we find ourselves asking the following two questions: If God controls all things, why does He want us to pray? He’s self-sufficient and needs no help to accomplish His purposes, so what could any of us possibly contribute? Would God’s plans fail if we chose not to pray? The Lord isn’t subservient to us. His plans are contingent only upon Himself. He works all things according to the counsel of His will, not necessarily on the basis of our prayers. These truths reveal the Lord’s grace toward believers. He doesn’t need us, yet He’s chosen to include us in His eternal purposes by letting us participate in His work through prayer. Though we may not understand the influence our prayers have, we know God chooses to use them in achieving His purposes. So keep praying. Being consistent in prayer helps maintain a sense of humble dependence upon the Lord. And answered prayer produces increasing trust in Him, along with greater gratitude for His sovereign care and protection.
No one likes to be at odds with a friend or loved one. But thankfully, the gift of forgiveness is always available to us. And it’s one we must learn to both give and receive repeatedly on the long road of sanctification. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive a brother’s failings, and the disciple’s estimate falls dramatically short: Up to seven times, he suggests. Jesus’ answer is shocking in its extravagance: He tells Peter that he must forgive “up to seventy times seven” (KJV). What the Lord means is that forgiveness has no limits. In the Christian life, our goal is to become like Christ in every way, and our attitude toward releasing others from their wrongs is no exception. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” but we are also called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways we demonstrate that love.
Daniel’s integrity and godliness were well established over a lifetime of frequent challenges to his faith. Since his teen years, he faithfully lived out his commitment to the Lord. And when he was an old man, he was thrown into a den of lions because of his refusal to compromise. In this way, God displayed His power and faithfulness to His servants while also using Daniel as a witness to a pagan king. Is your unwavering devotion to Christ a witness to others? Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They’ll stay faithful as long as it’s safe and doesn’t involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they cave to pressure. What kind of witness is that? Who will want to follow our God if we ourselves won’t follow Him? Remember, the way we respond either draws others to Jesus or pushes them away. If you desire to be like Daniel, practice your commitment to Christ both privately and publicly. The time you spend alone with God in His Word will transform your character and strengthen your resolve to stand for truth in an unbelieving world.
Abraham began walking with the Lord many years before he was asked to offer Isaac on the altar. His first step had been to leave his home and relatives and travel to the land that God would show him. But now he was being told to give up Isaac, who was the son of promise: Through Isaac, the Lord had promised to bring forth a great nation and bless the entire world. Abraham’s obedience in this crucial test was based on his faith in God. He believed that the Lord would keep His promise to give him descendants through Isaac, even if it required raising the boy from the dead. That’s why Abraham confidently declared to his servants that he and his son would return to them after worshipping. He knew the Lord was faithful. If you’re going through a time of testing, God is seeking to increase your trust in Him. He wants to prove to you that He’s faithful to fulfill His promises. This challenge is designed to help you grow in faith, obedience, and spiritual maturity. The testing may be painful, but the Lord will wrap you in His love and carry you to victory.
|9/15/2022||The apostle Paul wrote extensively about the character and conduct of believers. He urged Christians to live in a manner worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1) and to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). His letters to the churches all include an explanation of what it means to live a godly life. One important goal is to eliminate sinful habits and behaviors and instead take on those that are acceptable to God. The acts of the “flesh” are no longer to be a part of us. We now have a new nature and should conduct ourselves accordingly. So let’s look again at the Galatians 5 passages that we read a couple of days ago. In verses 19-21, Paul lists specific behaviors that have to cease, and among them are those fueled by anger—hostilities, strife, outbursts of anger, and dissensions. These ungodly attitudes and actions are to be replaced by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If we’re full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we won’t be hot-tempered. Instead of speaking rashly, we’ll interact with others with the wisdom of Christ. We all struggle with some form of ungodly behavior, but we don’t have to continue in it. Change is possible because Christ has broken sin’s power over us, and His Spirit works continually to transform us.|
|9/14/2022||Anger is a powerful emotion that often causes great damage. It fuels inner resentment and bitterness, shuts down communication, and breaks relationships. If unchecked, it boils over into explosive rage that hurts not only the intended target but others as well. While we often try to justify our anger, seldom can it be classified as righteous. We’re rarely offended for God’s honor. Our motives are usually born of self-defense, thwarted desires, or outrage over perceived wrongs against us. James wrote that our anger does not bring about God’s righteousness in our life. The book of Proverbs gives God’s perspective on the subject. Quick-tempered people act foolishly (Proverbs 14:17), stir up strife, and abound in wrongdoing (Proverbs 29:22). There are also warnings not to associate with such individuals so we won’t learn their ways (Proverbs 22:24-25). In contrast, those who are slow to anger have great understanding (Proverbs 14:29) and demonstrate wisdom by holding their temper (Proverbs 29:11). Jesus paid our sin debt with His life in order to set us free from sin, and that includes uncontrolled anger. If God has convicted you of unrighteous anger, confess it as sin and ask Him to reproduce Christ’s character in you.|
|9/13/2022||Galatians 6 teaches “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith”. This passage contains an important scriptural truth: Our actions and words have consequences. Or put another way, we get back what we put in. And this is especially obvious in our relationships. Earlier in Galatians, Paul explained that there’s a battle between a believer’s new nature, which is ruled by the Spirit, and the “flesh,” which is ruled by the sin patterns that linger in us. Then he listed some of the deeds of the flesh, many of which are relational: strife, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy (Galatians 5:20-21). In contrast, Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Which one of these lists more accurately reflects how you treat others? Admittedly, there are some people who are difficult to love, yet sowing the fruit of the Spirit in those relationships will reap a forgiving heart, godly character, and faithful obedience in us. But sowing to the flesh has a corrupting influence in our life. Before you interact with anyone, ask yourself what kind of harvest you’d like. You’ll never go wrong by letting the Spirit guide you.|
God often delivers His best gifts to us in unexpected ways . . . with surprises inside the wrappings. Through apparent contradictions. Somewhat like the therapy He used when Elijah was so low, so terribly disillusioned. How did the Lord minister to him? By an earthquake? In a whirlwind? Through a scorching fire? You’d expect all the above since Elijah was such a passionate, hard-charging prophet. But no. The story from 1 Kings 19 makes it clear that Jehovah was not in the earthquake or the wind or the fire. Too obvious. Too predictable. That’s not the Sovereign’s style. After all the hullabaloo died down, there came “a gentle blowing” and shortly thereafter, ever so softly, “a voice” came to him (vv. 12–13) with words of reassurance and affirmation. Not, “You oughta be ashamed of yourself!” Or “What’s a man of your stature doing in a crummy place like this?” None of that. No blame, no shame, no sermon, no name-calling, no blistering rebuke. In contradiction to the popular idea of confrontation (and surely surprising to Elijah himself), the Lord encouraged His friend to go on from there. He gave him a plan to follow, a promise to remember, and a traveling companion to help him make it through the night.
|9/12/2022||In Matthew 5:5 Jesus said that “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”. In His characteristic way Jesus was saying something quite shocking and revolutionary to His listener with these words, “Happy are the meek.” He was saying something quite the opposite of our modern concept of the way to happiness. We say, “Happy are the clever, for they shall inherit the admiration of their friends”; “Happy are the aggressive, for they shall inherit a career”; “Happy are the rich, for they shall inherit a world of friends and a house full of modern gadgets.” Jesus did not say, “Be meek and you shall inherit the earth.” He, more than anyone else, knew that meekness was a gift of God, a result of rebirth. Jesus was not issuing a command in this Beatitude nor saying, “You ought to be meek, that is the way to live.” No! He was saying that if we want to find the secret of happiness, that if we want to enjoy living, then “meekness” is a basic key.|
|9/11/2022||The Holy Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that God is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with his Son, Christ our Lord. The question remains, “How can God be just—that is, true to Himself in nature and true to Himself in holiness—and yet justify the sinner?” Because each man had to bear his own sins, all mankind was excluded from helping, since each was contaminated with the same disease. The only solution was for an innocent party to volunteer to die physically and spiritually as a substitution before God. This innocent party would have to take man’s judgment, penalty, and death. But where was such an individual? Certainly, there was none on earth. There was only one possibility. God’s own Son was the only personality in the universe who had the capacity to bear in His own body the sins of the world. Only God’s Son was infinite and thus able to die for all.|
The Swiss Army knife is a remarkable invention. Small and compact, it contains blades and screwdrivers as well as a corkscrew, can opener, saw, and scissors—every tool a person might need to get through the day. But no such claim can be made about human beings. None of us are designed to meet all the needs of another individual, and it isn’t fair to expect one person to fulfill that kind of role. In order to thrive, we must have multiple relationships. What’s important for us to recognize is that even the strongest bonds will prove insufficient unless we nurture a still greater one—the relationship we have with our Creator, who loves us beyond anything our mortal minds can grasp. (See Deuteronomy 7:9; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 4:16.) All of the people we share life with teach us something about God’s love, but they can never be an adequate substitute for Him and His perfect affection. Think About It. Is there a person you expect too much of? Or does someone demand too much of you? Ask the Lord to help you see your relationships through His eyes—and to give you the strength to make necessary changes.
|9/10/2022||The Bible says in Revelation 2:10 “Be thou faithful unto death”. In our day much of the world believes little or nothing. People are broad but shallow. Agnosticism, anxiety, emptiness, meaninglessness, have gripped much of the world—and even the church. Our youth are desperately searching for a purpose and a meaning in their lives. They are searching for fulfillment which they are not finding in sex and drugs. By contrast, our Pilgrim forebears stand as shining examples of men who were narrow but deep, certain of what they believed, unswerving in their loyalty, and passionately dedicated to the God they trusted, and for whom they would willingly have died. I say to you, more than 350 years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed in the New World: Dream great dreams, embrace great principles, renew your hope, but above all, like them, believe in the Christ who alone can give total meaning and an ultimate goal to your life. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”|
|9/9/2022||A testimony is an account of what a person has seen or experienced. For us as Christians, it’s a declaration of who Jesus Christ is and what He’s done in our life. The authenticity of our testimony is displayed in three ways.|
1. Character. Starting at salvation, the Spirit begins the process of conforming us to Christ’s image. Then our thinking should align more and more with Scripture. As that happens, sinful attitudes will be replaced by godly ones, and our heart will desire to obey the Lord. If the internal change is genuine, it will be manifested externally.
2. Conduct. The way we act should confirm who we are in Christ. If we follow God’s instructions only occasionally but ignore Him the rest of the time, our testimony will be hypocritical. But a truly transformed life will be marked by obedience.
3. Conversation. We speak out of whatever fills our heart (Matthew 12:34). A transformed heart should overflow with gracious words and be quick to tell others about the Savior, who rescues us from sin and condemnation.
When our character, conduct, and conversation match who we are in Christ, we’ll have a testimony that encourages fellow Christians and draws unbelievers to the Savior.
|9/8/2022||The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that “God loveth a cheerful giver”. The greatest blessing of giving is not on the financial side of the ledger but on the spiritual side. You receive a sense of being honest with God. You receive a consciousness that you are in partnership with God—that you are doing something constructive—that you are working with Him to reach the world for Jesus Christ. You are also enabled to hold on to this world’s goods loosely because the eternal values are always in view. How do you give? Is it liberally and cheerfully? Or is it sparingly and grudgingly? If you have been giving God the leftovers of your substance and your life, you have been missing the true joy and blessing of Christian giving and living.|
|9/7/2022||Are you seeking to know and understand the Lord? Even though He’s beyond human comprehension in many ways, God has revealed much of Himself in His Word. And as we search for Him in Scripture, we’ll grow in our understanding of His nature. But this isn’t merely an academic pursuit. Knowing God practically impacts every area of life. For one thing, knowledge of God influences our prayers. Instead of asking for whatever we want, we’ll seek to ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). And we won’t limit our requests in size or scope because we’ll realize that nothing is impossible with God. The way we view the Lord also affects how we think, behave, and relate to other people. Knowing Him intimately transforms our natural tendency toward doubt and sin. Then we desire to walk obediently before Him, with a pure heart. Instead of loving the world, we seek to please Him by loving His people unselfishly and resisting sinful lusts. Paul thought knowing the Lord was so important that he made it the primary pursuit of his life (Philippians 3:8-10). Could that be said of you? Self-reformation soon fails, but knowledge of God renews you from the inside out.|
|9/6/2022||Suppose you’re faced with the most tragic situation you could possibly envision. For some of you, this requires little or no imagination because you are presently in the middle of the toughest trial of your life. Here’s what it looked like for the disciples: Their hopes and dreams were shattered when Jesus broke the news of His imminent departure. Life as they’d known it was coming to an end. Yet Jesus assured them that He was leaving His peace with them. This was His will for them, and it’s still what He desires for us today. The key to experiencing the peace of Christ is to believe in Him (John 14:1). But in addition to believing in Him, we must also trust what He says. God always works for our good, even in hardship. Trusting His motive and purpose is the basis for our peace. Life is an obstacle course with trouble lurking around every corner. It’s not a matter of whether storms and trials will come, but when. Yet we don’t have to live in fear and anxiety, because it’s God’s will that we take hold of His peace by trusting Him.|
A harnessed horse contributes much more to life than a wild donkey. Energy out of control is dangerous; energy under control is powerful. God does not discipline us to subdue us, but to condition us for a life of usefulness and blessedness. In His wisdom He knows that an uncontrolled life is an unhappy life, so He puts reins on our wayward souls that they may be directed into the “paths of righteousness.” That is what God seeks to do with us; to tame us, to bring us under proper control, to redirect our energies. He does in the spiritual realm what science does in the physical realm. Science takes a Niagara River with its violent turbulence and transforms it into electrical energy to illuminate a million homes and to turn the productive wheels of industry.
|9/5/2022||Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If we are alive and breathing, God is not finished with us yet. He has a plan for good for each of us. However, His “good” and our “good” sometimes look like two very different things. When we picture “good,” our minds conjure up sunny skies, carefree days, cars that never break down, jobs without difficult co-workers, children that never go astray, health, wealth, puppies, and rainbows. When Paul spoke those words, “good” in that statement means God-like. To rephrase it: God is working in the life of the believer to make us more like Him. And sometimes, that takes strong medicine!|
Most of us want peace in our heart, our relationships, and the world. But the most important area of peace is with God. Without it, we’re doomed. When Adam and Eve sinned, a barrier was erected between humanity and the Creator. The harmony that had previously existed between God and man was destroyed, and only God could restore it. The cost of reconciliation was the horrific death of God’s Son as He hung on the cross, bearing the weight of mankind’s sin. That day Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for our transgressions. At the moment of His death, the massive temple veil dividing the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom, signifying that reconciliation had been accomplished. Now peace with God was possible. Though an instrument of brutality and death, the cross will stand forever as a symbol of peace. But peace with God is given only to those who through faith receive Jesus as their Savior (John 1:12-13). What greater peace could there be than the certainty of perfect harmony with God? Have you received this gift?
|9/4/2022||Relationships are among God’s greatest blessings in life. He made us to need and flourish with one another, and the people He surrounds us with are meant to walk alongside us in both good times and bad. (See Romans 12:15.) But these bonds don’t magically happen—they’re built over time. For that to happen, we must clearly articulate our needs and also willingly listen to the desires of those we care about. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus calls us to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the same wants and needs we do. For instance, perhaps you feel cherished when someone gives you a thoughtful gift. But if someone important to you finds gift giving difficult and avoids it, you might feel unappreciated. Or perhaps a friend feels most loved through deep conversation. If that’s not in your wheelhouse, some work will be required. It may not be easy, but doing the work to love well always leads to blessing.|
|9/3/2022||God from the beginning chose you for salvation. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says that salvation is the act by which God saves us from sin, death, and hell. If you aren’t sure you’ve passed this mile marker in your life, sincerely pray now, asking the Lord to forgive your sins. Tell Him you believe Jesus died for you and rose again. Give Him your whole life from this day. With your mouth, make confession unto salvation. It’s a small prayer, but it’s a big moment! Your salvation depends on what Christ has done for you, not on what you can do for Him.|
It is widely reported that the 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther once said: “If I knew for sure that Jesus was coming back tomorrow, I’d plant a tree today.” Luther wasn’t trying to be cute, nor did he think that his words were contradictory. He was simply pointing out that no amount of speculation or confidence or doubt or belief about when Jesus might return should ever undermine the fulfillment of our basic ethical obligations or lead us to abandon the routine responsibilities set forth for us in Scripture. Sadly, many Christians through the centuries have taken an altogether different and unbiblical approach to this problem. Convinced that Christ was to return very, very soon, they abandoned their daily tasks and embraced a form of hyper-spirituality that served only to bring reproach on the name of Christ and disaster to their own lives. As you think about your final days on this earth, as you reflect on the glory and majesty of the return of Christ in the heavens, as you envision the skies above set ablaze by the myriad angels who will accompany Jesus at His return, as you contemplate the destruction of His enemies and the impending inauguration of the eternal state … love one another.
|9/2/2022||All life is a struggle—that is the nature of things. Even within our physical bodies, doctors tell us, a conflict for supremacy is going on. The bacteria in our bloodstream are waging a constant war against alien germs. The red corpuscles fight the white corpuscles constantly in an effort to maintain life within the body. A battle is also raging in the spiritual realm. “We fight,” the Bible says, “against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Darkness hates light. I have a dog that would rather dig up a moldy carcass to chew on than to have the finest, cleanest meal. He can’t help it—that is his nature. Men cannot help that it is their nature to respond to the lewd, the salacious, and the vile. They will have difficulty doing otherwise until they are born again. And until they are changed by the power of Christ, they will likely be at enmity against those who are associated with Christ.|
Too often we let our circumstances determine our attitude. If life is going smoothly, then we feel good, but when it gets hard, our mood drops. As Christians, we don’t have to live this way. Like the apostle Paul, we can learn to be content with whatever God brings or allows in our life. God allows various kinds of suffering to help us mature in faith and become more like Jesus. (See Romans 5:3-5.) In these situations, contentment is the ability to accept life as it is—not wanting anything more or different. Such acceptance is possible only if we maintain a biblical perspective and rely on God’s strength in our weakness. But if we fight against our circumstances, we’ll be miserable because we’re resisting the Lord and His purposes for us. He’s working out His perfect plan through each event in our life—even the ones we don’t like. (Of course, when hardship is due to abuse or certain other sinful situations, pastors or Christian counselors can help us discern whether self-protection is necessary.) Submission and trust are essential for contentment. As long as we try to control the situation or maneuver our way out of it, we’ll be stressed and discontent. But if we realize that whatever God allows is for our good, we’ll be able to surrender our will and desires. Then, by relying on the Lord’s wisdom and strength, we’ll discover the contentment only He can give.
Marina Noyes, a pastor’s wife in Ukraine, explained how her family dealt with the hardships that fell on their nation earlier this year. “When the trouble comes, we cry. When it gets bad, we pray. When it becomes unbearable, we sing.” The difficulties of life trigger wide-ranging emotions within us. God created us as emotional people, and He gave us personalities equipped to process the events of life. Just as Jesus wept by the tomb of His friend, we cry. But we don’t stop there. We pray. We trust. We seek out God’s comfort. We find His promises and claim them, which allows us to walk by faith. But we also sing, for the song in our heart comes from the Holy Spirit, whose fullness spurs us to render psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-19). The psalmist had his enemies, but his secret weapon was offering sacrifices of joy before God and singing praises to the Lord. What’s your favorite hymn or praise song? Why not sing or listen to it now?
|9/1/2022||What kind of life do you think brings contentment? You might assume it’s one with few problems, good health, financial security, and a loving family. But that was not the apostle Paul’s experience. His life was filled with dangers, rejection, personal attacks, beatings, and imprisonment, yet he claimed to have learned the secret of being content in every circumstance. The source of his contentedness was obviously not his situation, and that can be true for you as well. The secret that he discovered was to focus on and rejoice in the Lord. Paul knew he was spiritually rich and had been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). The comforts and pleasures of this life were not worthy to be compared to the eternal glory that awaited him (Romans 8:18). Contentment is hard to find and even harder to keep. There’s always something newer and better to acquire or a more appealing relationship to pursue. What’s more, the hardships of life can easily drag us down if we don’t keep our focus on the Lord. When you feel unsatisfied, remember all you have in Christ and respond according to these truths rather than your feelings.|
|8/31/2022||Joseph’s enslavement lasted for 13 years and went from bad to worse. He lost his favored position in Potiphar’s household and went to prison when the master’s wife told lies about him. His hope for release from jail died when the king’s servant forgot his promise (Genesis 40:14; Genesis 40:23). His future looked bleak. Despite the evidence of circumstances, God was carrying out His plan to bless Joseph and his entire family. In fact, Joseph was God’s appointed person to rescue them from the coming famine. But for that to happen, he had to learn the Egyptian language and culture, develop leadership abilities, and mature spiritually. The Lord’s plan made it all possible. Joseph learned two helpful lessons. First, the Lord is a faithful companion who uses our troubles to prepare us for His work. Second, once the Lord has accomplished His purposes, the difficulty will end. At God’s chosen moment, Joseph was freed from jail, rewarded with a high-ranking appointment, and reconciled with his family. Adversity can be painful, but the Lord uses it to further His purposes and equip us to carry out His plan. What is He trying to teach you in the midst of your trials?|
Scripture encourage us to pray and to keep praying. There is nothing wrong with repeatedly asking for the same thing. As long as what you are praying for is within the will of God (James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15), keep asking until God grants your request or removes the desire from your heart. Sometimes God forces us to wait for an answer to our prayers in order to teach us patience and perseverance. Sometimes we ask for something when granting it is not yet in God’s timing for our lives. Sometimes we ask for something that is not God’s will for us, and He says “no.” Prayer is not only our presenting requests to God; it is God’s presenting His will to our hearts. Keep on asking, keep on knocking, and keep on seeking until God grants your request or convinces you that your request is not His will for you.
|8/30/2022||One of the keys to walking through a valley is to embrace the reality of God’s presence with us. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live permanently within us and seals us as belonging to God forever. Because of Him, we are never apart from the Lord. No circumstance, suffering, or loss can separate us from Him or His love.|
None of us know how many times the Lord’s protecting hand has saved, guarded, defended, and watched over us. None of us know how busy the angels have been keeping us from harm and evil. In His love, God protects us, even in the midst of hardship. Romans 8:28 is very real: “All things work together for good.”
Jesse Mooney Jr.
Do you know what real faith is? Real faith is not receiving from God what you want; real faith is accepting from God what He gives. Learn that and you won’t get offended at God. If things don’t work out like you think they should—if you’re serving God but you end up in a dungeon—just remember that God is God. He is good, and He is in control.
A porch light is akin to a welcome sign, reminding weary travelers that there’s a comfortable place still open where they can stop and rest. The light invites those passing by to come on in and escape from the dark, weary journey. Jesus says the lives of those who believe in Him should resemble that of a welcoming light. He told His followers, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). As believers, we’re to illuminate a dark world. As He directs and empowers us, “others may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven”. And as we leave our lights on, they will feel welcomed to come to us to learn more about the one true Light of the World—Jesus (John 8:12). In a weary and dark world, His light always remains on. Have you left your light on? As Jesus shines through you today, others may see and begin radiating His light too.
|8/29/2022||A long-haired blonde from a southern university seemed to be enjoying a satisfactory student career when her grades began to slip. “Life had become one long case of the blahs,” she confessed later. “I wasn’t walking around with a steady load of blues, but I wasn’t enjoying life. Small things made me blow up. I met some kids who seemed to know something I didn’t know, but I couldn’t get in on it. We went to several meetings, and one night the speaker said that we don’t earn God’s love. He takes us as we are. It was then I realized it wasn’t a matter of clocking up a certain number of hours doing good deeds. Instead, I had to make myself available. Through faith, I had to let Him take over. It came together all at once, when I accepted Christ as my personal Savior. I know that God is in me in everything I do. My life has taken on a new dimension.” Does your life have this new dimension? It can! Just begin now with Jesus Christ! When you make this beginning, it will be your first step toward realizing personal fulfillment, meaning, and joy.|
It is often helpful and interesting to compare how Jesus and Paul approached the same subject in their teachings. Jesus was the plainspoken Shepherd and Teacher who used metaphors and illustrations familiar to His audience. Paul, on the other hand, was a theologian and rabbinic scholar who wrote and spoke in eloquent terms. Comparing their differences provides an expanded understanding of a topic both addressed. Take eternal security; both taught the same truth but expressed it in different ways. Jesus addressed it when describing Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10). His sheep would never perish because they are secure in His and the Father’s hand (verses 28-29)—no one could “snatch” them away. Paul, on the other hand, described a long list of more than fifteen circumstances, none of which can separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39). Both Jesus and Paul taught that believers are eternally secure, using different words. When you go through challenging times, read Jesus’ and Paul’s assuring words. Then rest in the love of God in Christ.
|8/28/2022||Deep, honest relationships require time and effort. But as human beings, we all have physical, mental, and emotional limits that we can’t ignore. Even Jesus, who was all-powerful, took time to step away from the crowds and His disciples to recharge by connecting with the Father (Luke 5:16). When we can’t give as much to our relationships as we hoped, it might be our turn to receive. Sometimes the best thing we can do is let our family and friends help. God designed us to lean on one another as we see in the following scripture:|
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand,
1 Corinthians 12:18-26
|8/27/2022||Jesus told us to continue His work on earth—to share the good news about God’s saving grace (Matthew 28:18-20). Following this command, however, isn’t always easy—especially with people who might be different from us. It may feel easier to befriend someone who shares our values, yet Jesus told us to “make disciples of all” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added). While some opportunities may look like a waste of time from human perspective, the truth is that we never know who may be led to Jesus through our obedience. Just look at Jesus’ life: He ate dinner with hated tax collectors (Matthew 9:10; Luke 19:5) and gently spoke His message of hope to an adulterous woman (John 4:7-27). And to anyone—disciple or Pharisee—shocked by His associations, He explained that He “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). We are to tenderly point men and women of all nationalities and backgrounds toward our forgiving God. If Jesus were on earth today, He’d be ministering to the needy, the addicted, and the downtrodden. To be like our Savior, let’s love others and help them meet Him.|
|8/26/2022||Life is challenging, so we can easily get distracted and allow circumstances to dictate our emotions. But if we operate that way, then when life is good, we’re happy; when times are tough, we’re frustrated; and when hardship pours in, we’re miserable. On the other hand, unwavering commitment to the Lord is a cornerstone of faith. When we are situated on that foundation, we can focus solely upon God. In order to hold on to the Lord through any trial or temptation, commit to trust and follow Him all of your days. Lay claim to His promises: The unchanging Lord and Savior is committed to caring for you in all circumstances and will never leave or forsake you.|
Ah! believe me, whatever we may say about the reckless, heedless multitude of mankind, those whom God blesses, and those whom God uses, cannot fall until the day’s work is done.
Edwin Paxton Hood
|8/25/2022||What a blessing to have Christian friends to encourage and support us as we serve Christ! Our loads are too heavy to carry alone, and we need someone to rejoice and to weep with us. It begins when we make ourselves available to rejoice and weep with someone needing us. Today the Lord may bring across your path someone needing your simple presence. Be there!|
|8/24/2022||Strength is not always revealed in a dramatic display; at times, it’s demonstrated in determined endurance. Jesus could have freed Himself with one spoken word, but love kept Him there on the cross. With mankind’s eternal destiny at stake, Christ hung on until our salvation was attained.|
How do we talk when around non-believers? Do we speak like the world, trying to fit in? Or do we speak graciously in ways that build up our hearers? Are our words attractive, conveying love and grace? How we speak to non-Christians is as important as what we say to them.
Romans 11:25 says this is God’s program, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in”. When the last Gentile gets saved, a number that only God knows, then Jesus will come back. What an opportunity for each of us today, to witness to Gentiles as well as Jews. Just think, you could lead that last Gentile to Jesus, and then Jesus would come.