Not a Sermon only a Thought

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Attaining God’s Best

Psalm 145:18-19

Yesterday we saw that idolatry involves giving something or someone priority over the Lord—and it leads to missing His best. Scripture also warns about other obstacles that hinder our receiving God’s blessings.

As followers of Jesus, we are to pray to our heavenly Father when we desire or need something (Phil. 4:6). Sadly, many of God’s children fail to do so. Some are “too busy” to bring their requests to the Lord. Others talk to the Lord in a general or mechanical way, without the genuine, heartfelt communication He desires.

Christians should come humbly before His throne, bringing requests with a submissive spirit (1 Peter 5:5-6). This means that we are to yearn for God’s will above all else—even above what we think is best. It is important to acknowledge that He may have something better in mind. Then, as we faithfully pray, God may remove or alter certain longings so that our desires begin to align with His.

Furthermore, the Bible tells us to approach God with confidence and faith (Heb. 4:16; James 1:6). In other words, when we pray and seek the Father’s will, we should anticipate that He will answer. As Isaiah 64:4 reminds us, God “acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.”

Our Father desires to pour blessing into the lives of His children. Don’t allow prayerlessness to prevent His best. Express your needs and wants to God confidently and specifically. Then submit your will to His, and wait expectantly. He is faithful—you will see!

I have been waiting for 50 years. I probably need to phone him and ask him what's taking so long.

How can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection, see Romans. 5:10.

Romans. 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever!

Expectation of Suffering

Philippians 1:27-30

One of the greatest gifts we can give new believers is the knowledge of what they can expect in the Christian life. After receiving the forgiveness of sins and being made new creations in Jesus Christ, they might expect that life will be wonderful from that point forward. And indeed, it is because we have the Holy Spirit and Christ’s peace and joy within us. However, there is also the potential for suffering.

Christ saved us from sin, not from trouble. All the pain, suffering, hardship, and problems in the world originated in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve’s transgression. From then on, mankind has lived in a fallen environment and in personal bondage to sin. Christ set us free from the guilt and penalty of our wrongdoing, but He has not exempted us from the pain and trouble that is common to man.

In fact, once we believe in Christ, an additional area of trouble becomes possible in our life: suffering for Christ’s sake. We’d like to think that everyone around us will be just as excited about Jesus’ offer of salvation as we are. But in reality, there are many opponents to the gospel. At times family members may disparage or reject us and people at work make fun of us. In some areas of the world, believers suffer physical and even fatal persecution.

So what are we to do, and how are we to behave? When the world stands against us, we desperately need the fellowship and encouragement of the church. Together, we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel, stand firm in one spirit, and strive together for the faith.

Test Yourself

Hebrews 3:12-19, Hebrews 4:1-2

Many of us love the Bible because it’s filled with words of assurance, promise, and encouragement. However, it also contains warnings that we’d be wise to consider and heed. Like the nation of Israel in the wilderness, the church throughout history has also had some people who were characterized by unbelief.

Jesus said that although many call Him Lord, the proof of salvation is displayed in an obedient life (Matt. 7:13-23). You may have noticed the fruit of salvation—or the lack of it—in your church. Consider the following signs that may indicate a person in need of salvation:

• They are oftentimes involved in conflict and disunity in the church because they lack the fruit of the Spirit.

• Sometimes they prefer the spectator role and are reluctant to get involved or make a commitment to a local congregation of believers.

• If they are serving in the church, they may feel frustrated because they are trying to do the supernatural work of God without the power of His Spirit.

• They have trouble understanding the Bible but little desire to read it.

• Because they are resisting the Spirit’s conviction, they are uncomfortable or irritated when the pastor gives an invitation for salvation.

The purpose of God’s warning isn’t to have us judge the salvation of others; rather, He wants us to both examine ourselves and lead people to the truth. The consequences are eternal, so it’s important to do as Scripture says: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Pray that God will enable you to point others to Jesus—and that He’ll help you to grow ever more Christlike.

Misplaced Priorities

Luke 12:16-21

The Lord’s parable of the foolish wealthy man is a study in misplaced priorities. Modern believers can learn from three mistakes he made: providing for himself, not others; providing for his body, not his spirit; and providing for this life, not the one to come.

There is a penalty for misplaced priorities. This foolish man passed away with no opportunity to enjoy his goods. What’s even worse, he died with a bankrupt soul.

Serving the Lord and His kingdom is the key to setting correct goals. When believers make service for God a main concern, they will use a lens of righteousness to order their priorities. The question we ought to be asking is not “What shall I do?” but rather “Lord, what would You have me do?” The answer—which should be prayerfully sought and biblically evaluated—dictates which things we must put first in order to achieve God’s purpose for us.

Life is not something that simply happens to people. Where we are today is largely determined by the way we prioritized our concerns in previous months and years. This means that we can positively impact our future by organizing our priorities according to biblical guidelines. Then, unlike the foolish man in Jesus’ parable, we will learn the eternal value of providing for others so that our own soul is fed. More than that, we will “store up for [our]selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matt. 6:20).

How to Set Right Priorities

Matthew 6:33

The Scriptures contain many cautionary examples of men and women who had misplaced priorities. Often, these are the otherwise godly people who had a momentary lapse. This should give every believer pause to consider the importance of taking captive detrimental thoughts and desires.

For good purposes or bad, we set priorities in one of three ways: by evaluating which things ought to carry the most importance; by succumbing to pressure and letting people or circumstances dictate how we should prioritize; or by drifting into habits and modes of thinking that become a way of life. Wise believers will certainly want to avoid the drifting option, as this approach accompanies a life that feels meaningless. And priorities ought to be in place before we face trying circumstances and people—in that way, we can be steadfast in our commitment. The only viable choice, then, is to prioritize deliberately. We do so by setting a goal to live in accordance with God’s purpose and plan.

The priorities we choose are determined by what we value. Sometimes, though, prioritizing can be frustrating since there are so many distractions diverting our focus.

If we consider a right relationship with God to be of utmost importance, then we will put first those actions and thoughts that strengthen our connection with Him. We need to be disciplined in following our goals, because living purposefully is rarely easy. However, the good news is that God knows our heart, and He will honor our sincere attempts to put Him first.

Responding to Closed Doors

1 Samuel 13:1-14

As believers, we want to follow God’s will for our life, but sometimes we don’t know which way to go. Perhaps we’re standing at a crossroads, wondering which pathway is the Lord’s. Or maybe after making good progress, we suddenly encounter a closed door. What are we to do when the path we want to travel is blocked?

Imagine yourself standing at one of these doors. First, you try the knob, but it won’t budge. So you pull out your keys and look for one that fits. When that fails, you call your friends to ask if they know how to open it. Finally, in frustration, you grab a crowbar and pry the door open. The problem with all these methods is that they won’t get you where the heavenly Father wants you to go.

King Saul found this out when he pried open a door the Lord had closed. He should have waited for Samuel, as only the priests were allowed to offer sacrifices. But Saul looked around at the circumstances, became frightened, and took matters into his own hands. Instead of standing at the door, trusting in the Lord, and waiting for Him to open it at the right time, Saul forced his way in, and as a result, lost his kingdom.

The costs of disobedience are always higher than the benefits of pushing through a closed door. If the Lord has sealed off an entry, it’s for your protection. The right response is to wait patiently and be faithful in your present situation. In time, He’ll either open the door or redirect you to the path that leads to His will.

A Spiritual Pottery Lesson

Isaiah 64:8

I decided to take a cue from the prophet Jeremiah, who visited a potter’s studio at the Lord’s request (Jer. 18:1-6). So I stopped by an art institute to observe a class—my sole purpose was to better understand the biblical metaphor of God as the Potter and people as the clay. Here’s what I learned when I walked into a room full of whirring pottery wheels.

The Potter has power over the clay. He can do what He chooses. We humans do have limited free will, but God’s will is greater. So even if we try to resist His sculpting hand, He continues to work toward His purpose. The master Craftsman has set out to achieve a particular design in us, and He has a plan to make it take shape.

The Potter works the clay with patience. Since God knows that spiritual maturity can’t be rushed, He forms our Christlike character slowly—one experience at a time. That means He must also have perseverance, as human clay sometimes shifts off-center and becomes misshapen. Just as clay can be fashioned only when it sits precisely in the middle of the wheel, Christians must be in the Father’s will to grow spiritually. The Potter maneuvers the drifting believer back into position and begins remolding. He never discards His vessels but tirelessly works to perfect them.

Our God is a personal Potter. His creations reflect His personality and character. And His Spirit is poured into each human vessel so He can be an intimate part of our life. The result is a work of true beauty—a saint wholly committed to Him.

Hindrances to Hearing

1 Kings 19:8-18

Have you ever put a seashell to your ear? The common belief is that if you do so, and if you stay perfectly still and quiet, then you can hear the sound of the ocean inside the shell. It seems unlikely, yet when we try it, we always seem to hear something, don’t we?

There are many things in life that we simply cannot hear until we become quiet and focus our hearing intently. When we concentrate on a shell, we hear the ocean. But what can we expect if we turn our attention to God?

In today’s passage, we see Elijah in desperate need of a word from the Lord. First a mighty wind blows through the mountains where he is resting, but God is not in the wind. Then an earthquake shakes the very ground, but God isn’t in the earthquake, either. Finally a brilliant, consuming fire appears, but Elijah knows this is also not God.

Then, after the dramatic occurrence of these three mighty forces—all of which could have been a fine representation of God’s power—the Lord approaches in a gentle breeze. And Elijah recognizes Him immediately.

God does not always speak to us in the way we expect. It is possible to expend so much energy searching for Him in the powerful, distracting “noise” of life that we can overlook His most intense call—which often comes through silence.

What might God be whispering to you today? Calm your mind and become quiet before Him; He may just shock your senses with His compelling, small voice.

Seeking the Lord

Hosea 10:12

As Christians, we all probably spend some time seeking the Lord, but to be truly successful at it, we must learn to adjust our focus. The reason focus is important is that what we behold, we become. If we fix our attention on the sensual and materialistic, it won’t be long before we ourselves start leaning in that direction. Try giving up television for a couple weeks, and see how it impacts your mind. While you might not notice its influence, it actually has a subtle but gripping effect on you and alters the way you think.

On the other hand, if you focus your love and attention on Jesus, you will become like Him. It’s almost like osmosis—we absorb His characteristics as He pours Himself into us. We can fix our mind on Him when we pray, when we study the Scriptures, and when we meditate on God’s truths.

But more than that is involved. We must go deeper, to the point that we are listening and sharing our hearts with Him. If we are open and transparent before Him, He will speak and fill us with Himself.

When we learn to receive from Him in this way, we’ll find that our hunger and thirst for everything else begins to diminish. It’s not that our desires will disappear, but instead, they become redirected.

You will discover you have a growing hunger for the Lord and a longing to know Him in a warm and personal way. And you will notice your joy bubbling up and overflowing so that it cannot be stopped or stifled. Why? Because once you have begun to seek the Lord, you will recognize Him as your all-in-all.

Resisting Compromise

2 Timothy 3:14-17

Yesterday, we saw how King Solomon’s life illustrated the peril of compromise. Concession begins in a seemingly insignificant way. For instance, someone might want you to make a financial decision that you know in your heart is unwise. But you go along with the plan because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. You have compromised the message of the Holy Spirit, who warned you.

Small compromises lead to more serious ones. With each successive concession, our conscience is weakened. Ultimately, whenever we give way to evil—whether we let go of a doctrinal belief or simply listen to music that taints our thoughts—we always lose.

We compromise for a variety of reasons. Many do so from a fear of rejection or of being unappreciated. Some choose this route to avoid conflict. Still others may begin to doubt God’s trustworthiness or goodness; as a result, they give up on Him, compromising their basic beliefs and undermining their reason for assurance.

To be men and women who are strong enough to resist making concessions, we need to develop some essential armor. First, we must have strong convictions about the Bible and depend on it as a guide for daily living. Next, we need to have faith in God’s promise to supply all of our needs. Finally, we must find the courage to trust in Him, even when we are misunderstood, persecuted, or falsely accused. When we surrender our life to God, He replaces enslavement to compromise with security in Him.

Called to Ministry

Colossians 4:7-18

The last chapter of Colossians contains a long list of people who served alongside Paul. What’s not highlighted in these verses is these individuals’ talents, skills, abilities, wealth, or position in society. Instead, Paul focuses their character, their service for Christ, and his love and appreciation for each one.

We are each called to ministry in one form or another. Although we tend to think of ministry as something that’s done inside a church, in reality it encompasses everything we do all week long, no matter where we are. In God’s eyes, there’s no division between sacred and secular activities.

For example, while Luke was a physician by profession, he was also an evangelist, a missionary, and a divinely inspired writer of Scripture. His career was not his primary source of purpose and self-fulfillment; rather, it was a means through which he served Christ by ministering to others. A faithful friend and traveling companion to Paul, Luke offered him encouragement and comfort until the day of the apostle’s execution (2 Tim. 4:11).

Luke was perfectly suited for the work the Lord planned for him. He had an analytical, detailed mind which made him a skilled doctor. It also served him in carefully investigating and writing an accurate account of Jesus’ life (the gospel of Luke) and the events of the early church (the book of Acts).

Each of us has been created and fitted by God to fulfill the particular ministry He’s chosen specifically for us. We have been placed on this earth not simply to enjoy ourselves, accumulate wealth, and achieve prominence but to serve the Lord. Our responsibility is to respond with obedience to His call.

A Passionate Faith

Romans 6:5-14

Paul served the Lord enthusiastically. The apostle’s zeal was motivated by three things: gratitude for the amazing but undeserved gift of salvation; conviction that the gospel message was true; and the realization that through the cross, sin’s power over him had been broken.

Before salvation, we were slaves to sin and unable to break free. But now, having been united with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:5-6), we have received the power to say no to temptation and can choose God’s way instead. Paul knew his old selfish nature had been crucified with Christ; sin no longer had control over him. This knowledge fueled his passion to follow Jesus and live for Him (Gal. 2:20).

Guided by his commission from Christ, Paul expressed his zeal through obedience to the Lord’s direction. Our heavenly Father wants us to focus our passion on carrying out His plan (Matt. 28:19-20).

Like Paul, we are called to live a crucified life—one in which we make the Lord first in our thinking, attitudes, and actions. Such a life includes learning how to walk by faith and stand firm against temptation. While we are unable to do this in our own strength, it is possible through the Holy Spirit. He empowers us to let go of self-centered ways and replace them with godly ones.

Paul’s faith and commitment to the Lord were integral parts of his thinking, conversation, and work. His passionate faith kept him moving forward, even in times of great adversity. The apostle knew that salvation brought forgiveness of the past and a way to live victoriously in the future.

True Ministry

2 Corinthians 3:4-8

What do you think it means to serve the Lord? We know this is something commanded in the Bible, but at times we’re just not sure what to do. Often, we don’t think we are adequate for the task. Or perhaps we’re so busy with all our other duties and responsibilities that finding the time or energy to serve God seems impossible.

Instead of looking at ministry through the lens of obstacles blocking our path, let’s see what God says about it. True service is not something we do for the Lord, but something He does through us. This pattern was set for us by Jesus Christ Himself, who said, “The Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10). The apostles’ lives also show this is what God had in mind. When Jesus gave them the command to be His witnesses, He said to wait until they were “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49)

By regarding service as God’s work through us, we can have confidence—not in ourselves and our abilities, but in God, who makes us adequate for whatever He gives us to do. This perspective also keeps us from taking any credit for what we accomplish. Without the Lord’s directive and the Spirit’s empowerment, our service is worthless in God’s eyes, no matter how productive it looks from a human standpoint.

What makes an effective servant of Christ is not natural abilities, creativity, or human initiative, but total dependence on Him for both direction and adequacy. God uses those who are weak, humble, submissive, and obedient so that He alone gets the glory.

A Divine Guarantee

Matthew 6:31-34

Today’s passage contains one of the most amazing promises in all of Scripture. If we truly believed it and lived accordingly, our lives would be transformed, and worry would lose its grip on us. Yet if we keep seeking our security in the things the world values—bank accounts, stable jobs, and a strong national and global economy—we will be filled with anxiety at every fluctuation.

Instead, why not take God up on His guarantee in Matthew 6:33? Make Him your number one priority, seeking both His kingdom (His rule over you) and His righteousness (His transformation of you). What that means is obeying His instructions and submitting to whatever He uses to transform your character, whether it be hardship, suffering, or ease. What I’m talking about is not a sinless life but, rather, the desire to live in God’s will and become increasingly like Christ.

When we make a commitment toward that goal, the Lord promises to take full responsibility for providing whatever we need. Now, this doesn’t mean He will give us everything we ask for, but aren’t you grateful that He doesn’t? Just think back to some of the foolish things you’ve requested in the past. He alone knows what our true needs are.

God has a plan for each believer’s life, and the spiritual benefits of living in His will are amazing. But our loving Father doesn’t stop there—He promises to provide for our physical needs as well. So even though each day will have its own trouble (Matt. 6:34), you can rest in the faithfulness of the heavenly Father and trust Him to keep His Word.

Faithful Messenger

Ephesians 6:21-24

What’s the most valuable item you’ve ever transported? We usually associate value with an expensive physical possession, but Tychicus brought something far more precious than gold from a Roman prison to the church in Ephesus. He carried God’s Word, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the apostle Paul while he was imprisoned.

Tychicus is one of those behind-the-scenes people who worked with Paul. His home was originally in Asia Minor (Acts 20:4), and he is mentioned five times in the New Testament. In all but one of these passages, he is sent somewhere by Paul. Running errands may not seem like a glorious job, but his service for Christ was essential: He delivered Paul’s letters to the Ephesian and Colossian churches along with encouragement and information about the apostle’s circumstances (Col. 4:7-8).

These letters have been instructing, challenging, and encouraging Christians throughout the world ever since. And the job Tychicus had—to deliver Scripture—is a task still entrusted to believers today. God has given us His Word for our benefit but also so we can share it with others. It’s the only sure source of absolute truth because it came directly from God through men who were inspired by His Spirit. 

The Bible is our most precious possession. We should treat it with care and share it with fellow believers as well as those who need to know our great God and Savior. The next time you open the Scriptures, ask the Lord to make you like Tychicus, a faithful messenger of His Word.

God—The Greatest Lover of All

God’s love is totally different from ours. For one thing, His love is everlasting. He bestows it on us continuously, and there is absolutely nothing that can interrupt or interfere with it. This is because His love is not based on a feeling but flows from His very nature. Therefore, it is perfect, unchangeable, and trustworthy (1 John 4:8). In contrast, disagreements and other circumstances can cause human love to fluctuate or fail.

What’s more, God’s love is unconditional—there’s nothing we can say or do to either deserve or deter it. We never have to wonder if the Lord still loves us. Every day you and I walk under the canopy of His love, which remains unaffected by our behavior, whether good or bad. Even if we wander from His will or fall into disobedience, we don’t have to worry that the canopy will be removed. We did not build it, so we can’t dismantle it. The source of God’s love is God Himself, and His love is eternal, perfect, and without any conditions whatsoever.

Notice I did not say you would necessarily enjoy life because He loves you; nor did I say that God would overlook transgressions. Disobedience is a matter of grave consequence for the Christian. Yet even in our foolishness and sin, the Lord is our loving Father, who faithfully disciplines His children. We must always remember that sin does not affect God’s boundless love for us.

The heavenly Father has always loved you, and He always will. As you release any misconceptions about His everlasting love, you’ll be able to rejoice under His canopy.

The Love of God

Genesis 3:1-6

Signs on the highway show us many different sorts of things. Speed limits. Animal crossings. How to find a rest stop or avoid a construction site. Similarly, all of creation is a sign communicating God’s message to us. He speaks to us through a full moon, waves crashing against rocks, or a vividly colored aspen tree. As we look upon the wonders of nature, something inside us resonates with the glory, power, love, and beauty of the Creator.

The Lord expresses His message in still another way that may initially be hard for us to comprehend as love: through the fall of man. You might wonder, If God loves us, then why would He let the first couple sin, spoiling the perfection they enjoyed in the garden and breaking the fellowship they had with Him?

The connection between God’s love and man’s sin is freedom. In giving Adam and Eve the option to obey or disobey, God demonstrated that He has not created us as robots, incapable of making choices. His love does not restrict our freedom to do right or wrong—even if that involves our saying “no” to the God who created us. However, having the freedom to choose means we will make mistakes and disobey the God who loves us.

But the wonderful news is that God expresses His love toward those who have rebelled against Him, through His gracious offer of salvation and forgiveness. Jesus Christ, who paid our sin debt on the cross, is the ultimate expression of divine love. Have you responded to His love by believing in Christ and receiving Him as your personal Savior?

Answered Prayer: Our Assurance

John 16:23-27

Are you confident that the Lord will hear and answer your prayers? One of the reasons we may struggle with doubts is because we don’t realize all that God has done to make it possible for us to bring our requests before Him.

Association. Our sin once separated us from God, but Christ gave His life on the cross as payment of the penalty we owed. At the moment of our salvation, we enter into an intimate association with God the Father through His Son.

Access. With our new relationship comes access to the throne of grace, where we can boldly and confidently bring our concerns to God.

Authority. In the Gospels, the Lord’s prayers always carried the power of His divine position. Now, because of our association with Him through salvation, Jesus Christ has given us the privilege of praying in His name according to His power and authority.

Agreement. But prayer offered in Jesus’ name should always be in agreement with what He would ask. In other words, our requests must align with the character of God and the content of His Word. It does no good to tack “in Jesus’ name” on a petition for something outside His will.

Assurance. When Jesus told His disciples He would answer requests offered in His name, He was saying that we can pray with assurance because of our association and agreement with Him. 

When we’re uncertain whether our requests are in accordance with what Jesus would ask, we can take comfort in knowing that Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand, always interceding for us according to God’s will.

Encouragement in Every Season

Psalm 62:5-8

Maybe there’s not enough money in the bank to cover that bill. Or a loved one died. Or your family is facing hard times. In difficult or painful circumstances, many believers turn to the Bible in search of comfort and guidance. Within its pages, we find assurance that encourages us through every season of life: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

God truly is faithful. In other words, we can count on Him to be and do exactly what He says. For instance, the Bible assures us that the Lord is trustworthy, loving, and incapable of failure (Psalm 37:5; Rom. 5:8; Josh. 1:5). Out of deep love for us, He’ll  use any aspect of His multifaceted nature to provide exactly what He knows we need. He’s our Savior, Comforter, and Discipliner, who safely guides us through life’s changes and challenges.

No matter what hardships we face, we can trust God because He knows all things. He’s aware of the duration and intensity of our current season and uses His knowledge to offer us the best possible help and support. What’s more, the Lord is all-powerful, which means He is more than adequate to meet needs and change circumstances according to His plan. And our Father is everywhere, including right beside us in whatever we face. He promises, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

Difficulties may cause us to question God’s dependability. But if we’ll place our trust in our omniscient, omnipotent Father, we can begin each morning with a fresh sense of His faithfulness, which will carry us through the day.

Acceptable Worship and Service

Malachi 2:1-9

Malachi delivered a hard message to the priests of Israel. Many years earlier the Lord had chosen the descendants of Levi to have charge of the temple service and to instruct the people. This sacred duty was an honor—it should have caused them to stand in awe of the Lord and serve Him with fear and reverence. But in Malachi’s day the priests had dishonored Him with their attitudes and actions.

At first glance, it may seem that this Old Testament passage has nothing to do with us, but as believers in Christ, we are a holy priesthood who offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5). This truth should cause us to pause and consider whether we are fulfilling this sacred duty with the right attitudes and actions. The failures of the priests in Malachi 2 warn us of attitudes that will lead us down the path of irreverence and disobedience.

• First, the priests dishonored God’s name by serving Him in a careless manner and offering unacceptable sacrifices. (See Mal. 2:1-3.)

• Second, they were ungrateful for God’s covenant, which gave them close access to Him through their priestly service. (See Mal. 2:4-6.)

• Third, they didn’t preserve knowledge of God’s Word but led people astray with their instructions. (See Mal. 2:7-9.)

Since we are now God’s holy priesthood, we must ask ourselves if we have dishonored His name with careless worship, ingratitude, or a failure to uphold His truth as revealed in Scripture. Salvation is a marvelous blessing, but it comes with responsibilities. Our worship and service are acceptable only if they are offered according to God’s desires and standards—not ours.

The Power of Love

Luke 15:11-24

The limitations of the English language at times diminish our understanding of scriptural concepts. For instance, there is only one word for love in English, but the New Testament uses two different Greek words. One of them, phileo, refers to brotherly concern and affection, but the more powerful term agape signifies a sacrificial commitment to another’s satisfaction, security, and development. This is the kind of love that God has for us—and that the Holy Spirit produces in and through believers.

Perhaps the best way to understand agape is to see what it looks like. In His parable of the prodigal son, Jesus describes a father’s sacrificial love for his wayward son. When the young man demanded an early inheritance, the father didn’t deny his request, though he knew it would lead only to bitterness. So despite personal and financial sacrifice, he gave the son his share. Then the father waited patiently while the prodigal learned a difficult lesson.

No doubt that was a trying time for the father because a good dad wants to protect his children from mistakes and the resulting consequences. But a wise man also knows that some hard truths must be learned through painful experience. At times the best thing we can do is trust the Lord to reach defiant hearts.

But agape love doesn’t just let go; it also forgives and restores. When the prodigal son returned home humbled and contrite, his father reached out to receive him and restore him to the family—just our heavenly Father does for us.

Avoiding Confusion About Salvation

God never intends to trick or puzzle believers. He wants us to be confident about our salvation and has clearly laid out the plan. So if uncertainty should arise in your mind, realize the problem isn’t with the Lord.

Someone else, however, does want us confused: Satan knows that doubts will make us less effective as Christians. Here are four major tactics he uses:

1. Sin When we give in to temptation, our enemy piles on feelings of guilt so we’ll think, How can I be saved when I’m living like this? But Scripture assures us there’s no condemnation for believers in Christ (Rom. 8:1).

2. Ignorance Unless we’re immersed in God’s Word, it’s easy to have just a hazy notion of what transpired when we came to faith. But if we’re well grounded, we’re less likely to question our salvation in tough times.

3. Feelings Once we are saved, nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28-29). And yet sorrow and shame can make us want to hide instead of confessing and keeping lines of communication with God clear. (See Gen. 3:8; 1 John 1:9.) Be aware that feelings have nothing to do with the truth of our salvation.

4. Harassment Sometimes the devil comes at us like a roaring lion, other times like an angel of light (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14). Whatever his approach, he wants to take our eyes off Jesus. Scripture, however, promises that no weapon formed against believers will prosper (Isa. 54:17).

Spending time in God’s Word will help you to stand securely in your salvation. Then you’ll be better prepared to resist Satan’s strategies.

Where Battles Are Won

In today’s reading, we find the nation of Israel engaged in combat with the Amalekites. While Joshua led the troops, Moses went up onto a hill overlooking the battlefield and, in an attitude of prayer, observed the action. The Lord gave the Israelites success as long as Moses’ arms were raised, but whenever he lowered them, the enemy gained the advantage. So Aaron and Hur helped him to maintain the posture that assured victory.

This historical account teaches an important lesson for every believer: Life’s battles are won or lost in the place of prayer. We may think that conflicts are decided on the battlefield, but victory depends on children of God coming before their Father and seeking His face. It is not the size of our army or the strength of our opponents’ forces that ultimately determines the outcome. When we spend time alone with God, we will be equipped by the One who knows the end from the beginning and understands the reality of all circumstances, regardless of appearances.

God foresees every snare and temptation of Satan just as He discerns what people are thinking and plotting. So it is wise to trust His battle plan instead of our own instincts—and we can do so with confidence that we will not suffer defeat.

Faith will allow you to keep your eyes focused on the Lord, even in the midst of frightening circumstances. When you acknowledge Him as the source of everything you need, your sense of direction will become clear. No matter what enemy is facing you, God will reveal what needs to be done.

The Principles of Sowing and Reaping

Satan wants us to believe the lie that our actions have no natural results or consequences. But the truth is that you can’t rebel against God and not reap the fruit of that choice later. You also can’t obey God without eventually receiving the blessing. The choices you make are the seeds you plant, and they determine the kind of crop you’re going to harvest in the future.

The heart of this principle is that all our choices are important. How we think and act matters, and not only for ourselves. Our choices always impact those around us, for good or bad. Think about the seeds others sowed that affected your view of yourself and the world. You either rejected or accepted them, and the things you accepted eventually manifested in your life.

At some point, we all have made choices we’ve regretted. Since consequences never simply evaporate, you may find yourself harassed or even governed by things you’ve seen, said, or participated in. Yet God will forgive everything you genuinely repent of, and He will work with you to redeem those past choices. The road to redemption often includes obstacles, but the Holy Spirit can enable you to overcome. Lay your burden down before the Lord every time it weighs on you, and request that He cleanse and shape you into the person you were created to be.

Ask yourself the following three questions: What kind of life do I want to live? What do I want my character to be like? Who do I want to become years from now? Let God’s Spirit speak to you about your choices—past, present and future—and His plans for you.

Sowing to the Spirit

James 3:9-18

In all our daily choices, we either “sow to the flesh” or “sow to the Spirit” (Gal. 6:8). With our actions and thoughts, we plant seeds that affect what kind of person we’re growing into and the level of impact our life will have for God.

The “flesh” is the part of us that wants to live and act independently of the Lord. As humans, all of us have to deal with the pull of this attitude; we don’t lose it automatically when we’re saved. However, the Holy Spirit frees us from slavery to the flesh. He begins to change us so we can turn from the deceptive lure of living for self and instead start to live according to the truth. The choices we make contribute to the process of transformation, and when they’re in alignment with the Spirit’s work, they plant good seeds that result in even more new growth.

When you’re sowing to the Spirit, you are accepting God’s truth into your mind and heart. Then you will begin to experience eternal life, which comes from truly knowing the Lord (John 17:3). The fruit of the Spirit grows naturally from these seeds of godly truth and influences every aspect of your life. When you feed your spirit with the things of God, you’re going to become stronger, more Christlike, and more full of His life in your thoughts and actions.

Are you feeding your spirit and the wellspring of your life, or are you feeding the part of you that wants to act independently of God? Do your choices sow seeds that are building you up, making you different, and letting streams of living water flow from you to nourish others? (See John 7:37-39.)

Enjoying God

Psalm 5:11-12

The Scriptures are full of verses that speak of the enjoyment God’s people find in Him, and this sometimes leaves us wondering why our experience doesn’t match theirs. If we aren’t delighting in the Lord on a consistent basis, there may be some hindrances in our life.

We may not know God. No one can have a personal relationship with the Father except through His Son Jesus. But when we believe in Christ as Savior and Lord, we become children of God. Then through His Word, we learn He’s not a Father who is quick to punish us for breaking His rules, but He’s one who tenderly watches over us and restores us when we fall.

We may be afraid of God. When the Scriptures tell us to fear the Lord, it means to honor, revere, and obey Him as a child does a parent. But if we see Him as a tyrannical Father, we’ll be afraid of Him, and this kind of fear keeps us from experiencing joy in our relationship with Him. We must remember that our heavenly Father loved us so much that He sent His Son to rescue us and has placed us securely in His loving family.

Sometimes the problem is sin. When we disobey the Lord, our fellowship with Him—but not our relationship with Him­—is broken. If we confess our sins, then He is faithful to forgive us and restore our intimacy with Him. (See 1 John 1:9.)

When we really enjoy the Lord, we find ourselves slow to leave His presence and desiring to linger. Does this describe your relationship with your heavenly Father?

The Power of Christ Over the Flesh

Romans 6:14-18

Bookstores devote entire sections to self-help titles. However, the self-help concept is flawed, since people cannot get rid of their fleshly nature. We can clean up our attitudes and actions temporarily, but lasting change is possible only through the Lord Jesus Christ. When His Spirit is living within us, we can be shaped into successful followers of God.

It’s critical to realize that the Law wasn’t intended for salvation. The commands given through Moses were designed to teach us what sin is and how mankind violates holiness. To lead a God-pleasing life, we must follow biblical principles, but doing so isn’t enough to get us into heaven. The Law was created to drive us to the Savior for salvation; through it, we understand our inability to adhere to the Lord’s rules without His help (Gal. 3:24).

The Law warns that the penalty of sin is death. (See Gen. 3:3; Rom. 6:23.) Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law since He took our sin upon Himself and died. When we accept His sacrifice on our behalf, we’re covered by divine grace, and the Holy Spirit comes to permanently indwell us.

Using Scripture, God’s Spirit challenges Christians to bring fleshly habits and thought patterns under submission. He illuminates the believer’s mind with regard to biblical meaning and application. Therefore, the Word is useful for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Lord doesn’t want us to go to the self-help section of the bookstore; He wants us to trust Him and surrender to the work of His Spirit. We are to depend on God’s strength, not our own, to conquer the flesh.

Finding Favor With God and Man

Proverbs 3:1-4

One of our basic human needs is acceptance. Without it, we feel alienated or maybe even rejected. In the Bible, acceptance is often referred to as “favor.” For example, when Joseph was sold into slavery, Genesis 39:4 says he “found favor” in the sight of his master Potiphar and was put in charge of the official’s entire household. Joseph found acceptance and approval because of his exemplary behavior.

Whose favor are you longing to receive? Do you desire God’s approval? Today’s text shows us how we can find favor with both God and man.

First, we should value the Lord’s teaching. God blessed us by giving us His Word, but not everyone makes it a priority. We should recognize Scripture as our most valuable earthly possession because it is God’s revelation of Himself and His instructions for us.

Second, we should make obedience to God a matter of the heart. Following His commands is about far more than just external rule keeping; it involves not only our actions but our attitudes and thoughts as well. 

Third, we are to let kindness and truth characterize our life. When we are wholeheartedly living in obedience to God’s commands, the effect will spill over into our relationships, as kindness and truth become the guardians of our words and actions.

Although the Christian faith may evoke a negative response from some, believers shouldn’t be discouraged. A life that reflects Christ pleases God. And in bringing light to a dark world, an obedient life will also bring the favor of many in its circle of influence.

Wait for God’s Peace

Many believers look for a sense of peace as a sign to help them determine God’s will in their life. However, a peaceful feeling may not be enough evidence to verify that a person’s decisions line up with the Lord’s plans. It’s wise to ask ourselves, Whose peace are we experiencing? Sometimes our sense of tranquility can be attributed to our own satisfaction about a choice we’ve made.

Today’s passage talks about letting “the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15). This kind of settledness originates from Jesus Christ and is the umpire that determines whether your decisions fit with God’s will. The word peace indicates harmony and oneness. So to have God’s peace about a matter means your decision must be aligned with His will. The only way to determine this is by comparing your thoughts and choices with His Word. Are you thinking the same way He does? Did you make your decision using scriptural principles or your own human understanding?

One of the reasons we often make choices without the guidance of Scripture is because we want a quicker method for finding an answer. The Lord doesn’t just pour His thoughts into our brain without our cooperation. He molds us gradually, day by day, as we read His Word and let its truths sink into our mind.

Building steadily over time is the only way to internalize a foundation of God’s truth. With His instructions as your basis, you can make decisions with confidence, knowing you are following His will. Then you’ll have a sense of oneness with the Lord, and His peace will guard your way.

The God to Whom We Pray

What’s your view of God? Do you see Him as the One who can handle every challenge you bring before Him? Nehemiah knew the Father in this way. On hearing of Jerusalem’s destruction, he mourned, fasted, and prayed for intervention.

For a glimpse into how Nehemiah viewed the Almighty, let’s look at his supplication. Notice that in verses 5-11 of today’s passage, Nehemiah addressed God in different ways. For example, he first used the name Yahweh—a term that means “I Am” and indicates One who never changes. Then he referred to the Lord as Elohim, a name that speaks of sovereignty. In presenting his request, the prophet chose language that indicated his full confidence in God.

And the Lord answered that prayer in a powerful, dramatic way. As cupbearer in the palace, Nehemiah tasted food and drink first to protect King Artaxerxes from possible poisoning. For a servant in this position, to look sad was risky, yet the terrible news disheartened him (Neh. 2:1).

The Lord worked powerfully: When the king asked what was troubling his cupbearer, Nehemiah expressed concern for the Jewish people. Instead of punishing him, Artaxerxes let him go to rebuild what had been destroyed and even supplied the materials! God handled what seemed like an overwhelming, impossible burden for Nehemiah, and He can do the same for us.

Having the right view of the Lord will allow us to approach Him with absolute confidence. And we know that He will hear and answer our prayers (Psalm 86:7). Remember, He is absolute in faithfulness and infinite in power. Our heavenly Father is the ruler over all.

Developing Discernment

We live in a fast-paced culture that demands instant results. For many people, waiting has become a lost art. But God’s way of maturing us in our faith is different from how the world works. The character qualities He values take time to develop.

Discernment is one such trait. Far from being a ready-made skill, it is cultivated by saturating the heart and mind with Scripture. The transcendent Lord of the universe wants to share His thinking with us through His Word. What could be more important or valuable in life than having the capacity to know the mind of God?

Our lives are filled with situations that require discernment. Sometimes we can be so busy trying to determine God’s will and direction for our next step that we fail to hear His voice. He is calling us to come and spend some quiet, unhurried time absorbing the truth of His Word and listening to Him.

After listening to the Lord, we can begin applying what we have learned. Only as we put His Word into practice in our lives will we have our “senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). The Scriptures open our eyes to see all of our experiences from God’s perspective so that we are able to make wise choices.

Our challenge for today and every day is to make it a priority to spend time with the Lord in His Word. We may have to reorganize our schedule or wake up earlier. But it’s well worth the effort—discernment and wisdom await us if we put into practice the truths we absorb daily.

Intimacy With God

The length of a relationship is not always an accurate gauge of intimacy. You can spend a lifetime with someone yet never really know him or her. What’s required for an intimate relationship is mutual willingness to open up and reveal ourselves.

This same truth applies to our relationship with God. For His part, the Lord already knows everything about us: our thoughts, desires, ways, values, and priorities. He has also provided everything necessary for us to truly know Him—through His Son. But are we responding to His self-revelation, or have we settled for superficial knowledge of Him?

The prophet Isaiah had his understanding of the Lord dramatically deepened when God suddenly revealed Himself “sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Isa. 6:1). Isaiah’s mind was awestruck with the knowledge that He was in the presence of the majestic King. His ears resounded with cries of the seraphim calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:3). Nothing was ever the same for Isaiah after that. He was willing to do anything God said to do—no matter where he had to go, no matter what the task involved. (See Isa. 6:8.)

Although it’s unlikely that we will ever have such a vivid vision of the Lord, we hold in our hands something no less authentic—the Word of God. If we’ll submerge ourselves in His Word, spending time focused solely on Him and absorbing the truths He reveals about Himself, our intimacy with Him will increase. The result will be a mind and spirit attuned to God’s voice, sensitivity to His continual presence, and unrestrained obedience.

The Blame Game

As children, we all played “the blame game.” If caught doing something wrong, we accused a sibling or friend in hopes of escaping discipline. This tactic seldom worked, because the one we accused was quick to give a different account. No one wins by shifting blame and refusing to take responsibility. Sadly, though, many people continue to play the blame game, even as adults.

Shifting responsibility isn’t new. It began in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. When God held them accountable for rebelling against Him, Adam claimed he ate the fruit because Eve gave it to him. She, in turn, accused the serpent, who had deceived her. Yet they both incriminated themselves with these words: “I ate” (Gen. 3:12-13). Blaming someone else didn’t alter the facts—they were each responsible for their choice and course of action.

So, if we know the futility of the blame game, why do we still play it? Do we think we can avoid the undesirable consequences? Is it an attempt to cause others to regard us more favorably? Sometimes it’s not even other people we blame but circumstances—the way we were raised or the way we were treated. Regardless of the cause, sin is never justifiable, and God always holds us accountable.

While it’s difficult to swallow our pride and admit that we are wrong, it’s always best to take full responsibility for our attitudes, responses, and behavior. That is the only way to walk humbly with the Lord, which pleases and honors Him.

Ending the Blame Game

Galatians 5:19-25

There’s something within our human nature that resists being controlled by others. Although we may outwardly submit to authority, submissiveness may not reach into our hearts. Inwardly, we could very well be acting like a child who is being disciplined by a parent: outwardly obeying by sitting for time out, but thinking, I’m standing up on the inside!

This is the attitude that leads to the deeds of the flesh described by Paul in today’s passage. Although we have no power to control what others do or say, we have the Holy Spirit, who can govern how we respond. Too often we try to blame our responses on the behavior of someone else. We justify our actions by saying, “But he made me so mad!” In reality, we chose to be angry—justifiably or not.

Whenever someone hurts or frustrates us, we can decide whether to react in a godly or worldly fashion. No matter how much blame we attempt to offload onto others, the Lord is not misled by our maneuvering. He looks at the heart. Each of us is accountable to Him for both our attitudes and responses.

We may think the blame game makes us look better, but God is not fooled. Followers of Christ are called to sow peace and bear the spiritual fruit of love, joy, and kindness (Gal. 5:22-23). If we are clinging to blame, all that is growing are the emotional “weeds” separating us from God. The responses He desires are forgiveness when we are hurt and repentance when we have sinned against another person.

God’s Loving Rescue

Christianity is unique among world religions—the others all require certain behaviors for people to become acceptable to their god. Therefore, they must perform intense labor, undergo self-denial, or observe specific rituals. But none of us can earn a place in heaven, because we can never reach the Lord’s standard of utter perfection and holiness.

God has provided an entirely different way of salvation. In His wisdom, He reached down to us by sending His Son. Jesus came to live a perfect life and then, by dying on the cross, paid the penalty our sin deserved. Why did God choose to rescue us? The reason was not that we deserved it but because of His great love and mercy. Instead of punishing us for our sin, God poured out His wrath on His Son, thereby satisfying divine justice. Now all who believe in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross are forgiven and accepted as children of God.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t require working or pleading for the heavenly Father’s acceptance. Our salvation comes through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ­—God’s only begotten Son, who went to the cross to die in our place, thereby paying our sin debt in full.

What do you believe about Jesus Christ? Choosing to trust in Him is the most important decision you’ll ever make. After this life is over, all people will have to give account to God for their life. (See Rom. 14:12.) There will be no condemnation for those who have received the Savior, but for anyone who has rejected Him, the outcome will be eternal separation from God.

Devotion to Prayer

Are you devoted to prayer? That’s a convicting question, isn’t it? Almost all of us recognize that our prayer life could use some improvement. Part of the problem is that we’re inundated with pressures and activities in this fast-paced world. As a result, prayer often becomes a quick sentence or two before rushing out the door, or it’s combined with some other activity in an effort to multitask.

However, lack of time isn’t an excuse for not sitting down quietly with the Lord to read His Word and talk with Him. The real problem is our priorities. We’re consumed with the urgent and have lost sight of what’s truly important. By neglecting prayer, we forfeit greater love for Christ, a deeper relationship with Him, and His power in our weakness.

But our lack of prayer also affects other people. When Paul told the Colossians to devote themselves to prayer, he requested that they include him and his ministry. As Christians, we have been given the responsibility and privilege of interceding for each other. This is one of the ways we contribute to God’s work in the world and display our love for fellow believers.

Knowing what’s at stake is a great motivation for faithful prayer. To make this a priority in your life, begin by setting aside a time and place to meet with the Lord each day. Then find scriptural passages about people praying, and model your requests, praises, and thanksgiving after these examples. Try keeping a written record of your requests and God’s answers, and you will see your faith strengthen, your love for Christ deepen, and your devotion to prayer increase.

Responding to Conflict

Matthew 18:21-35

Conflict is a part of life. It may originate from misunderstandings, a difference of opinion, or deep convictions. But that discord often stems from envy, pride, or hunger for power.

We can’t control another person’s response to conflict; we’re accountable only for how we handle it. Many people naturally have unhealthy reactions to disagreement. Some repress any discomfort, ignoring the issue or pretending it doesn’t exist. Others place blame while defending themselves.

These negative responses often indicate one of three underlying scenarios. First, past hurt can leave a person emotionally insecure and unable to handle criticism. Second, perfectionists set such high benchmarks that they can never live up to their own standards—then it’s hard to acknowledge mistakes. Finally, pride makes it hard for some people to admit when they’re wrong or to ask forgiveness.

Unless we respond correctly to conflict, we limit our potential to grow, because we aren’t learning what the Lord is teaching. Also, we develop an unforgiving spirit, which leads to bitterness and resentment. Eventually, such an attitude can destroy relationships.

There is a better way to handle conflict, modeled by our Savior. Luke 23:34 reveals how Jesus responded when He was wrongly accused, unfairly judged, and crucified despite His innocence. Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

How do you deal with accusations and criticism? Forgiveness is the only response that will keep you from becoming a victim of bitterness.

Maintaining a Quiet Spirit

Proverbs 26:4

When conflict arises, we oftentimes want to rush in and defend our position. Perhaps we even feel justified in blaming others. However, James 1:19 gives different advice for dealing with tension and disputes: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” In other words, more can be accomplished through a calm approach to the situation. Scripture also suggests that we ...

Pray. First, we should ask the Lord to guard our mouth and give us the right words to say (Luke 12:12). Also, we ought to request discernment with regard to the root issue and insight as to whether we might be at fault.

See with divine perspective. Our sovereign Lord works every situation for the believer’s benefit (Rom. 8:28). Not only does God use difficulties to teach us, but He also allows us to demonstrate the life of Christ by the way we respond.

Forgive. Even if someone has hurt us by causing the conflict, we should forgive. Jesus died to pardon all of our sin, and we, in turn, should forgive others. In fact, if we don’t, our lives will become burdened by resentment and broken relationships.

Respond. If we have done something wrong, we must apologize and ask forgiveness. We should express appreciation that the other person took time to share his concern. Then we ought to acknowledge his feelings and carefully consider his comments.

How do you respond to conflict? Pray for the strength to stay calm and do what is right­—even during difficult, emotional situations.

Finishing Well

Hebrews 12:1

In a race, what’s most important isn’t how one begins but how one finishes. Prizes are awarded only for crossing the finish line, not for great starts. And this is also true for the Christian life. Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” In 2 Timothy 4:9-11, we see a contrast between two runners: Mark (also known as John Mark) and Demas.

When Paul and Barnabas left for their first missionary trip, Mark went with them. But early in the journey, he left to return home (Acts 13:5; Acts 13:13). From Paul’s perspective, this seemed like a desertion, so a couple of years after that, he refused to let Mark come on a second missionary trip (Acts 15:36-40).

Although Mark had not begun well, Scripture shows us that the situation changed. On nearing death two decades later, Paul requested Mark’s company because the younger man was “useful to [him] for service” (2 Tim. 4:11). Mark had proven himself faithful by persevering in obedience and service to the Lord, and eventually he wrote the gospel bearing his name.

Demas, on the other hand, though also called a “fellow worker” of Paul’s (Philem. 1:24), deserted the apostle several years later because of love for worldly things (2 Tim. 4:10). It’s so easy to get caught up in the pleasures and pursuits of earthly life and forget that as Christians, we have a higher priority.

That’s why Scripture reminds us to lay aside every encumbrance hindering our race (Hebrews 12:1-2). Once we cross the finish line and see Christ face-to-face, all worldly pleasures will fade in comparison to the joy of hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21 NIV).

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