Not a Sermon only a Thought

Heirs With Christ

How often do you think of yourself as an heir of God? It’s not usually the first thing that comes to mind as we consider the blessings that are ours when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Perhaps this is because we don’t really know what it means to be God’s heir. Nor can we begin to comprehend what awaits us in eternity or when that will be.

Being an heir is usually associated with family ties, and the same is true of our relationship to God. When we were born again by His Spirit, we became His adopted children, and as such, we are heirs along with Christ. In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called “the firstborn of all creation.” In the ancient world, the firstborn son had a place of prominence in the family and was the chief heir of all that his father owned. In the same way, Jesus Christ holds the position of firstborn and is the heir of all creation.

What’s truly amazing is that He has promised to share His inheritance with us. When He returns in glory to take up His rightful place as King of Kings on earth, we will rule with Him, under His authority (Revelation 2:26-27). The Christian life is filled with undeserved favor. What we experience now of God’s grace is only the tip of the iceberg.

Realizing all that Christ has done and will do for His followers should prompt us to live for Him today. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, empowering us to put to death our fleshly desires and to follow God in obedience, even when it’s costly. Anything we suffer here for Christ’s sake is insignificant compared to the glory that awaits us.

A Living Hope

Discovering that a thief has broken into your home and stolen your valuables is a traumatic experience. It leaves you feeling shaken and vulnerable. Not only have you lost precious heirlooms and the possessions that required hard work and savings, but your sense of safety and security is also shattered.

Situations like burglary remind us that this world is not our home and one day we will leave everything behind. No one takes a moving van along after death. Therefore, we must make sure that what we view as treasure is not the things of this world (which will always lead to disappointment) but Christ, who gives us a living hope.

Look at all God has done to assure you of this hope:

• According to His great mercy, He caused you to be born again.
• Since Jesus was raised to life, you too will be resurrected.
• Everything on this earth is destined to perish (2 Peter 3:10-11), but God has reserved an inheritance for you in heaven—one that is imperishable, undefiled, and will never fade away.
• By God’s power through faith, you are being protected for the culmination of your salvation, which will be revealed in the last day.

Nothing can separate us from Christ, since God is the one who holds us. And He fulfills all His promises, so we can rejoice in this hope even while facing the trials of earth. So set your heart on heaven, where Christ is—and store your treasures there. Then your love for Him will grow because of His goodness toward you. And knowing what awaits you in heaven will increase your joy.

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!

Christ Is the Pattern

If Christ were not our burden bearer, every one of us would be lost and on our way to eternal separation from God. Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the cross so that we might live righteously (1 Peter 2:24). To those who are tired and downtrodden, He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Because our salvation is the result of Jesus being the sin bearer, He is our perfect role model.

God predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29). That’s why suffering alongside those enduring the trials of life is in our spiritual DNA—it’s part of being a child of God. The hallmark of a Christian is love, and this should be evident in the way we treat others.

But bearing other people’s burdens is difficult, particularly when we have cares and struggles of our own. Nevertheless, we should not try to wait until all of our problems are solved before deciding to emulate the work of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, who faced many obstacles, continued to serve others. He said, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). That means we can share someone else’s burden even when we have our own. God’s grace is more than sufficient for both.

God is never too busy to tend to our cares. People all over the world are hurting deeply today. The Lord knows how you can be a servant to someone who needs your friendship. Ask Him to use you as a healing salve to bring another person freedom from burdens.

Overcoming Giants

1 Samuel 17:31-52

The well-known story of David and Goliath teaches believers that obstacles in our life are no match for God. Whether our Goliath is a relational challenge or an overwhelming situation, we must realize that the Lord is sovereign over everything in heaven and on earth, and He has the power to give us the victory. 

David had unshakeable trust because past experience had proven that God was faithful. The young shepherd recalled how the Lord gave him the victory on two separate occasions, when a lion and a bear threatened his flock (1 Sam. 17:37).

Our faith is bolstered in a similar way by remembering God’s provision in our own life and by reading about His faithfulness to men and women in the Bible. This is why it’s helpful to keep a record of God’s faithfulness. Then when facing a trial, we can look back at what we’ve journaled and be strengthened, knowing that God has proven trustworthy in the past.

Trusting in the Lord gives us the courage to face our giants. Being so armed, we can respond to challenges on the basis of three important truths:

• Who Christ is in us—our Savior and Provider.
• Who we are in Christ—God’s adopted children, eternally secure and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
• What we have in Christ—the promise of access to almighty God.

Instead of fixing our attention on how big the obstacle is, let’s begin focusing on the greatness of our God. If we’ll trust and obey Him, His Spirit will equip us for the challenge, and our faith will glorify Him.

The Importance of Motive

1 Samuel 17:20-30

Our culture is action-oriented. Generally, when we see a problem, we plunge ahead with a solution. But before taking action, it would be wise to examine our motives. Not every good deed is prompted by a good motive.

When David arrived at the scene of Israel’s battle against the Philistines, he saw Goliath for the first time and heard the Philistine’s insults and mockery of the Israelites. Then someone told him about the rewards King Saul had promised to the man who would kill Goliath—great riches, the king’s daughter for a wife, and freedom from taxation. 

Such a generous reward was certainly a great motivator, and it obviously piqued David’s interest. However, what ultimately propelled him onto the battlefield was the desire to defend God’s name: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26).

As maturing Christians, we must examine our motives for desiring victory in any battle we face. Too often we are seeking a selfish end, such as release from our discomfort and a return to an easier way of life. But God is more interested in molding us into Christlikeness than He is in keeping us comfortable.

Think about the last conflict you faced, or maybe the one you’re experiencing right now. Are God’s honor and your spiritual growth the focus of your desires? If not, then you are at odds with what He is trying to accomplish in your life. But if His will is more important to you than your own agenda, you can be certain that He will use the battle for your good and His glory.

The Truth About the Trinity

John 14:16-20

Does the Holy Spirit seem mysterious to you? While the Bible speaks often of God the Father and God the Son, God the Spirit is not mentioned as much. Yet His personhood and work is just as important as the other two members of the Trinity.

The Godhead is composed of three distinct persons, each fully God with the same divine attributes but different roles. Each one plays a crucial part in the salvation of
a soul.

• The heavenly Father’s holiness and justice demand that the penalty for sin must be paid.
• The Son became the sinless sacrifice that satisfied the just demands of the Father.
• The Spirit convicts and regenerates the sinner to believe and call on the Lord for salvation.

When Jesus was soon to finish His mission on earth, He promised to send the disciples another Helper, the Holy Spirit. God the Spirit is so important to us that Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away ... if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). He’s the Spirit of truth who interprets God’s Word for us, and helps us remember and apply it to our life (John 14:26; John 16:13). He’s also our encourager, and He empowers us to obey.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t bring attention to Himself but always seeks to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). Perhaps that’s why He seems harder to know. But if we look closely, we will see how His fingers lovingly mold—just as a potter’s do to clay—guiding us, challenging us, and transforming us.

Discipline Determines Destiny

1 Corinthians 9:23-27

The apostle Paul compares our life to a race and points out that self-discipline—or the lack of it—determines the outcome. What he’s speaking about is not simply our place in heaven, which is secured by our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. He also has in mind our obedience and service for the Lord here on earth.

In order to fulfill the Father’s purposes for our life, we need to “exercise self-control in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Though we long to obey the Lord, we have flesh tendencies, which are bent toward sin. Therefore, we need to control our sinful thoughts, impulses, and actions by making our body our slave instead of letting fleshly desires rule us (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Paul says to live with a goal in mind rather than float aimlessly through life (1 Corinthians 9:26). God has prepared good works for us to accomplish during our lifetime (Eph. 2:10). As we live in obedience to the Lord, He guides our path and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to accomplish His will. 

Next, we must work toward God’s goal for us. Wishing and hoping never accomplish anything if there is no action. And effort that’s not directed at the right goal is like “beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26). We may be working hard for our own purposes, but if they’re not God’s goals, it’s all wasted effort.

Paul tells us to run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24), but what is the prize? As we fulfill God’s purpose, He does His sanctifying work in us and accomplishes His will through us. Then one day, when we finish our course and stand before Christ in heaven, we’ll receive eternal rewards that never perish.

God Works Through Our Trials

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

The troubles and suffering we experience in life are not random events without purpose. God works through them for our good (Rom. 8:28). We may not like or understand exactly what He’s doing, but knowing some of His general goals helps us trust Him and cooperate so we can reap the benefits of a season of affliction.

Protection. After Paul fervently prayed that his thorn in the flesh be removed, God revealed to him that it was a protection from pride. We all have areas of weakness that could lead us into sin, and God in His wisdom knows how to safeguard us. Sometimes pain accomplishes what nothing else can.

Reliance. Paul’s thorn, which made him weak, also taught him to endure by relying on Christ’s grace and strength. In the same way, the troubles in our life often bring us to the end of our rope so we’ll reach out to the Lord in humble dependence. Then we are positioned to receive the divine strength He promises to provide.

Divine Perspective. When Paul finally realized what the Lord was trying to accomplish in his life, he viewed his suffering in a totally different way. He stopped focusing on it as a pain and hindrance and instead became content: Paul could actually rejoice because he recognized that Christ’s power in him was more important than freedom from pain.

Unless we realize that God always prioritizes the eternal over the temporal, we won’t see the value of pain. According to 2 Corinthians 4:17, “Momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” Therefore, we don’t lose heart.

God’s Ultimate Purpose for Our Trials

Romans 8:29-30

Difficult situations are easier to bear if we know that something good is going to result from them. The problem is that our idea of good may not be the same as God’s. Since His ways and thoughts are much higher than ours, we must trust Him to know what is best, even if it causes us pain, frustration, or hardship (Isa. 55:9). The ultimate good the Lord is working to accomplish is our conformation to the image of His Son, and trials are one of the tools He uses in the process.

However, we should never think that God sends affliction into our lives and then sits back to see what will happen. Our loving heavenly Father oversees every aspect of the situation. 

The Lord designs our trials. God considers every adversity necessary to achieve a specific purpose in our life (1 Peter 1:6-7). He knows each of us intimately and sees where we need correction or spiritual growth to become more Christlike.

God determines the length of our trials. From our perspective, any suffering lasts too long. But when we depend on the Lord, He gives us grace and strength to endure until His purpose is accomplished (Phil. 4:13).

The Lord limits the intensity of our trials. He knows what we can handle and will not give us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Nothing in our life is random or meaningless. Even when we don’t understand what the Lord is doing, we can trust that He will use our trials to make us more like His Son in character, conduct, and conversation.

When Our Faith Wavers

James 1:2-8

We all experience variation in the strength of our faith. If all is well, we feel confident that the Lord is trustworthy, because we see His blessings all around us. But when troubles increase, so do our doubts about God’s faithfulness. We start to wonder whether He will ever answer our prayers for deliverance. As hard as we try, we can’t see Him working in the situation. And as our trials drag on, we begin to lose hope in God and may start looking for more reasonable ways to resolve the matter ourselves.

James points us to a different perspective. Instead of thinking that the Lord has forgotten about us, he reminds us of God’s divine purposes for our hardships. They test our faith in order to produce endurance and maturity. Our Father isn’t trying to break us; rather, He wants to grow us and provide what is lacking in our spiritual life.

What we really need in our trials is wisdom, and that is exactly what James 1:5 tells us to request from Him. Instead of focusing on the circumstances and letting feelings overcome our faith, we must shift our thoughts to the Lord and confidently believe He’ll give us the wisdom we need, both to handle the situation and to grow from it.

Giving in to doubts is dangerous, as it could develop into a lifestyle of spiritual uncertainty in which we’re “driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). When we handle our misgivings in this way, we’ll often make wrong decisions that are costly. How much better it would be to anchor ourselves to the Lord and His Word and ride out the storm in peaceful assurance.

Investing in Eternity

Mark 16:15-16

Christians are to invest in the lives of others. All the material riches of this world will pass away, and only those who believe in Jesus Christ will go to heaven. As His followers, we must devote ourselves to helping people meet Him.

God offers salvation to the entire world. However, there are people in every country who have not heard that Jesus Christ loves them and died on the cross for their sins (John 3:16). We don’t always associate the word unchurched with our neighbors, coworkers, and friends, but the reality is that those closest to us may not know the gospel.

Believers have found many ways to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. In Touch Ministries, for example, reaches around the world through print, radio, television, Messengers, and the internet. But person-to-person evangelism remains one of the most effective ways of telling people about the Savior, as unbelievers can get their questions answered and their concerns addressed in a personal way. Those who trust in Christ can then be discipled, which is vital to spiritual growth. It’s not enough just to give money so missionaries can do this work in distant countries. Nearby fields are also ready to harvest, but the workers are few (Matt. 9:37).

When it comes to reaching the lost, all believers are personally responsible. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). You cannot get involved in a wiser or more everlasting venture than pouring your spiritual wealth into another person’s mind and heart. Investing in souls is a pursuit of eternal value.

How Christ Modeled Humility

Philippians 2:1-11

Although humility is not highly valued in our society, it’s essential in the Christian life. And the one who set the pattern for it is Jesus Himself. Therefore, as His followers, we too should seek to have a humble spirit. Humility is lowliness of mind that does not seek to exalt or assert self, and from today’s passage, we learn that it’s characterized by several traits:

Humility is other-focused (Phil. 2:3-4). Christ was looking out for our interests when He came to earth to rescue us from sin and condemnation.

Humility doesn’t grasp rights and privileges (Phil. 2:6-7). Although Jesus was fully God, He emptied Himself and took on the limitations of humanity.

Humility willingly serves others (Phil. 2:7). The Lord didn’t come as a self-serving ruler who wanted to conquer and subjugate the world. Instead, He came as a lowly slave serving others.

Humility obeys God (Phil. 2:8). The Son came to earth in full obedience to the Father. He did and said only what His Father commanded Him (John 5:19), including His ultimate act of obedience: laying down His life on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind.

These qualities are the exact opposite of the ambition, self-promotion, and self-advancement our culture values. From the world’s perspective, humility is weakness. But which takes more strength—to deny self or to promote self? Humility requires the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our natural self-centeredness. Instead of being a sign of weakness, it’s actually a sign of Christ’s life in us.

The Comfortable Church

Isaiah 6:8

I think it’s fairly obvious that the society we live in is very self-centered, and this same characteristic can be present in a church. Whenever a local body of believers develops an inward focus, its fruitfulness in ministry begins to decrease, and each member’s Christian walk is hindered. Many believers want their church to be cozy and comfortable. They come to listen to a nice sermon, fellowship with friends, and have their needs met. But God never intended for the gathering of His people to be like a country club; He calls us to join an army that will bring the gospel into enemy territory.

An effective church—one that poses a real threat to the enemy—is a body of discipled people who have been taught the truth of Scripture, helped to mature spiritually, and trained for service. But all this is accomplished for the purpose of going out into the world, not for becoming a self-contained sanctuary of Christian comfort.

The urgency of the Lord’s command and the desperate condition of humanity should motivate us to leave the safety of our Christian fellowships and deliver the message of salvation through Jesus. To avoid this responsibility is to miss the Father’s plan for your life and the opportunity to help build His kingdom.

None of us want to waste time or energy on trivial things and thereby miss the exciting fulfillment of God’s will. He has called us, not to a life of comfortable tradition, but to an adventure of obedience. Answer His call—you’ll help fill His kingdom with people from every tribe and nation.

How to Have Steadfast Faith

Hebrews 11:1-31

The apostle James challenges us to understand the connection between faith and obedience. In James 2:17, he writes that faith without works is dead. In other words, we cannot have unshakeable beliefs without obeying.

Developing steadfast trust takes time. We are born spiritually through simple, childlike faith that receives Jesus as Savior. Convictions are nourished by a growing knowledge of God and a deepening confidence in Him. Experiencing His protection, provision, and power in moments of testing strengthens our beliefs. Daniel is a good example of this. Each time his loyalty was tested, he chose to depend on God. Sometimes the circumstances were thrust upon him—such as whether to eat food sacrificed to idols (Dan. 1:8). At other times, he voluntarily initiated a difficult situation in order to help (Dan. 2:24). In each case, he followed God’s leading.

Hebrews 11 lists other examples of obedience as critical to steadfast faith. Noah, when warned about things not seen, obeyed God and built the ark. And at the Lord’s direction, Abraham left home to go to a place not yet known to him. Then in the New Testament, Paul was planning to arrest Christians when he encountered the Savior. He made a complete turnaround: Despite threats, beatings, and shipwrecks, he obeyed God and preached the gospel.

Knowing and trusting God through His Son, experiencing His presence, and living obediently are the elements needed to develop an unshakeable faith. Jesus Himself said that our work is to believe in Him (John 6:29). With the Holy Spirit’s help, each of us can have unwavering faith.

The Danger of Anger

Ephesians 4:26-27

Anger is a powerful emotion that often causes damage, but it can also be righteous. In Isaiah 64:9, the prophet prays, “Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord.” This verse implies God measures His anger in a way that fits each occasion. Today’s passage teaches that the Lord also expects us to learn to control our anger so it’s appropriate and doesn’t cause us to sin.

There is a line that must not be crossed if we want to guard against sinful anger. It’s obvious that verbal abuse and physical violence should be ruled out, but anger can lead to other sins that are just as deadly. When we see the following characteristics in our life, we’ve crossed the line: 

Strife. Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up strife.” Although strife can take many forms, it always pits one person against another.

Bitterness. Psalm 30:5 says that the Lord’s anger is for a moment, and Ephesians 4:26 warns against staying angry overnight. Extended anger festers and eventually leads to bitterness.

Isolation. Whenever anger is nursed, people become separated from each other. Proverbs 16:28 warns against this by pointing out that “a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

Retaliation. Romans 12:19 addresses this directly: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God.”

What should you do if you recognize any of these in yourself? The first step is to confess it as sin and make a determined effort to turn from it. Every time a bitter thought pops up, repent and release it to the Lord.

Crying Out to God

Psalm 34:15-17

When we face a crisis, the Lord is willing and able to help. But before He will become involved and release His divine energy into our situation, He requires one thing: a righteous heart.

This, of course, is not an expectation that we live a perfect life, which our Father knows would be impossible. When a sinner turns to God for salvation, He cleanses the heart of iniquity and gives that person a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet even believers will follow old flesh patterns at times, so the Lord calls us to confess and repent when we miss the mark. Then He will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Thankfully, He hears us in our imperfection as long as we desire to walk in His way. The problem arises, however, when a Christian knowingly lives in sin and chooses not to turn from it—the Lord will not hear an unrepentant heart.

Today’s passage shows that the heavenly Father wants His children to cry out to Him. During trials, we tend to pray this way—with increased focus, passion, and sincerity. Hannah is a good example. Heartbroken over her barrenness, she went to the temple and beseeched the Lord with such emotion that the priest thought she was drunk! God answered her plea and opened her womb (1 Samuel 1:1-20).

When a crisis comes, cry out to our almighty God, but be sure you do so with a righteous heart. Then He will hear and answer—either fulfilling your hoped-for request or providing a different solution. Because He is omniscient, loving, and sovereign, you can fully trust that His answer is in your best interest.

Effective Witnesses

Philippians 2:12-16

Some of the most effective witnesses are those who have gone through painful, trying circumstances. Consider how the gospel has spread in parts of the world that are poor, oppressed, and troubled. Or think of your response to the triumphant stories of former criminals, people who have suffered abuse, and religious prisoners. God’s power is manifest in man’s weakest moments.

Whether believers develop into stronger witnesses as a result of difficulties depends on their response to crisis. Many people make the mistake of focusing on the will of man instead of God’s sovereignty. Then they find it impossible to believe that God will bring positive results from their pain.

Those who rise above their circumstances understand that God uses every experience for good. (See Gen. 50:20.) To trust that principle, we must realize that any situation we face is under the authority of a kind, loving Father. Paul’s time in prison yielded better and more abundant fruit than he could have produced any other way (Phil. 1:13). He spread the gospel to Roman guards because he was chained to one after another every day for years. As we turn our attention to Christ, He reveals opportunities for impacting people with the gospel. These are often chances we wouldn’t have had apart from trying circumstances.

You are always in God’s hand. I understand that in hard times, it’s not easy to focus on His sovereign will and the good He has in store for you. But I also know that God never allows anything to touch us that He will not turn to our benefit and the good of His kingdom.

The Main Function of the Church

Acts 2:37-47

If someone asked what the primary purpose of the church is, how would you answer? There are many opinions regarding this issue—and since all the activities of the church are vital, it’s a challenge to be definitive about which one is most important. To help us find an answer, let’s see what Scripture says about the first church in Jerusalem, which was born on Pentecost.

Today’s passage describes what happened after Peter gave his first sermon: Many of the Jews believed in Jesus, and the church grew from 120 to around 3,000 people (Acts 1:15; Acts 2:41). From this, we can conclude that preaching about Jesus is an essential activity of the church. But is it the most important?

Next, we see that Christians would come together and focus on the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. In addition, they met in homes to partake of meals and also shared materially with fellow believers who were in need. These things certainly make a faith community desirable, but there were still other vital activities taking place in the first church.

Love and generosity for one another witnessed powerfully to observers, as did faith and praise of God. Acts 2:47 says the Lord kept adding to the number of believers, so we can say this church had a powerful evangelistic ministry. Then, is that supposed to be the primary focus of the church?

The answer is that all of these things together can be summed up as worship of God and His Son Jesus Christ. And worship is the primary function of the church—as long as these elements are done according to God’s Word and with the purpose of glorifying Him.

A Compass for Life’s Journey

Proverbs 3:1-6

If you’ve ever been lost in the woods, you know the concerns, confusion, and panic such a situation causes. Now think what a difference it would have made to know that a compass was in your pocket. Spiritually speaking, we have such a compass—God’s Word. But it does no good unless we let it guide us.

At times, we may fail to follow scriptural guidance because of ...

Neglect. Sometimes we are so busy walking through life that we forget to look at God’s compass to make sure we’re headed in the right direction.

Pride. We often want to determine our own destiny. Many of us prefer to plan a course of action by relying on our strength, wisdom, and abilities.

Distractions. The Lord’s path of obedience isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it can be extremely challenging. Satan offers other trails that promise pleasure and ease if we will just ignore the compass and follow him. Although these routes seem pleasant at first, they lead to heartbreak and discouragement.

Difficulties. Whenever obstacles appear on the trail, our natural tendency is to try and find a way around them. But by ignoring God’s compass and stepping off the path, we’ll miss the blessings He wants to give us through the rough patches—benefits such as strong faith and godly character.

Why should we wander when the Lord’s compass is available? Let Scripture be your guide on life’s journey. God promises productive days and fruitful years if you follow His path. He’ll direct each step of your way, and His peace will sustain you, even during the difficult times.

God’s Compass for the Heart and Mind

Proverbs 3:7-12

Yesterday we discussed the importance of depending on Scripture as our compass throughout life. Following God’s directions will change our behavior and challenge our attitudes, desires, and thought processes. He leads us to think differently about ourselves, our values, and even the difficulties facing us.

We naturally want to determine our own course in life. It seems like the only logical way to get where we want to go. But being wise in our own eyes is pride. To combat this tendency, the Lord instructs us to fear Him and turn away from evil (Prov. 3:7). This “fear” is not a horrified dread of the Father, but an attitude of respect that motivates us to obey Him for both our good and His glory.

We naturally want to keep our money for ourselves. A desire for a better lifestyle or fear of not having enough leads us to hang on to everything we get. But our compass directs us to honor God by giving Him the first part of all we have, trusting Him to provide for our needs (Prov. 3:9-10).

We naturally dislike God’s discipline. His painful reproofs seem to imply that He doesn’t care about us. But our heavenly Father says His discipline is evidence of His love and delight in us as His children (Prov. 3:11-12).

Sometimes in our desire to follow the Lord, we focus on obedient actions—doing what He says—yet miss His directions concerning our attitudes and thought patterns. To stay on God’s path for our lives, we must make course corrections not only in our behavior but also in our heart and mind.

The Unavoidable Appointment

Hebrews 9:27-28

There are many options in life, especially for those who live in a relatively free country. Where we live, whom we marry, and what kind of career we pursue—all these are very much influenced by our desires and choices. But there is one event over which we have no control, and that’s our appointment with death. 

Adam and Eve, the very first human beings, actually did have a choice regarding life and death. When God gave Adam the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He said, “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But Adam and Eve did eat of the forbidden tree, and sin and death became a constant companion of the human race from that day forward. In the genealogy of mankind, as recorded in Genesis 5, one phrase repeatedly drives this point home: “and he died.”

Although we can no longer choose whether to live or die, there was one other man who could. His name was Jesus Christ. In the book of John, He said, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me” (John 10:17-18). Jesus, the eternal Son of God and source of all life, chose to take on human flesh in order to die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

Because Jesus chose death, man can now have life eternal by believing in Him. Our human bodies will one day die, but if we’ve trusted in Christ’s death as the payment for our sins, we’ll be resurrected as He was and enter heaven to be with Him forever.

Keith posted:

The Unavoidable Appointment

Hebrews 9:27-28

There are many options in life, especially for those who live in a relatively free country. Where we live, whom we marry, and what kind of career we pursue—all these are very much influenced by our desires and choices. But there is one event over which we have no control, and that’s our appointment with death. 

Adam and Eve, the very first human beings, actually did have a choice regarding life and death. When God gave Adam the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He said, “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But Adam and Eve did eat of the forbidden tree, and sin and death became a constant companion of the human race from that day forward. In the genealogy of mankind, as recorded in Genesis 5, one phrase repeatedly drives this point home: “and he died.”

Although we can no longer choose whether to live or die, there was one other man who could. His name was Jesus Christ. In the book of John, He said, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me” (John 10:17-18). Jesus, the eternal Son of God and source of all life, chose to take on human flesh in order to die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

Because Jesus chose death, man can now have life eternal by believing in Him. Our human bodies will one day die, but if we’ve trusted in Christ’s death as the payment for our sins, we’ll be resurrected as He was and enter heaven to be with Him forever.

not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

You need to dig deeper and learn the true meaning of this statement. Don't take it at face value.

 

Running With Endurance

Hebrews 12:1-3

A marathon is a taxing race. The runner must overcome muscle cramps, blisters, and the urge to quit. But each step reaffirms his commitment to keep going until he triumphantly crosses the finish line.

In many ways, this is what the Christian life is like. It’s not a fast sprint to heaven but a long, obedient marathon. There are obstacles that could cause us to stumble and burdens we need to lay aside so we can run unencumbered.

The one word that summarizes our earthly race is endurance. This term implies going through something difficult without quitting. It includes the concept of abiding under hardship with patient, sustaining perseverance. Christ hasn’t promised us an easy life. In fact, He told His disciples, “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33).

How can we keep going? The answer is to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the hardships and obstacles in our life. He set the pattern for us by enduring the cross for the joy set before Him. To focus on the Lord, we must read the Scriptures. Then we’ll be able to see what He would have us do, how we’re to respond to various situations in life, which resources He’s provided to help us, and what He has promised us at the finish line.

The joy set before us includes an imperishable, undefiled inheritance reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4) and an eternal weight of glory far beyond comparison to our earthly suffering (2 Corinthians 4:17). But best of all, when we finally cross the finish line, we will enter into Christ’s presence to be with Him forever.

skeldon_man posted:
 
 

not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

You need to dig deeper and learn the true meaning of this statement. Don't take it at face value.

 

I don't take anything at face value not even what you would try to promulgate. By the way, why don't you enlighten us of your understanding of the statement above.

No Longer I, But Christ

Galatians 2:20

Hudson Taylor was a missionary in China during the mid-1800s. At one point, he felt overwhelmed with financial concerns, the responsibilities of running a mission, and the ever-increasing pile of mail awaiting his attention. All the letters he wrote to friends and family were filled with defeat and discouragement.

Seeing his need, a missionary friend wrote back to him, asking, “Hudson, when you think about Jesus, does He have a furrowed brow? Is He worried and anxious because He doesn’t know what’s going to happen next or if there will be enough money?” Then he added, “When your life becomes Jesus’ life, there’s no need to worry, because it will no longer be Hudson who bears the burdens but Jesus, and He’ll never be swamped by problems.”

God changed Hudson Taylor in that moment. His circumstances were the same; in fact, the problems became greater, but there was a difference in Taylor’s response. Whereas before he was fretting and wrestling, now he was resting in the Lord and trusting with a calm, quiet, and peaceful spirit. Those who knew him could discern the dramatic change.

Sometimes we think that being crucified with Christ is all about what we give up—practicing self-denial and saying no to sin, temptations, and worldly pleasures. But it also includes living in the power of His resurrected life. Jesus Christ makes His abode in us, empowering us to overcome sin and live righteously. But He also carries our burdens and encourages our spirits to trust Him. Just as we are saved by faith, so also we live by faith, trusting the Lord day by day with all our needs and concerns.

A Clear Conscience

Acts 24:10-16

When facing hard decisions, do you pay attention to your conscience? And is it necessarily wise to trust this inner voice?

God gave everyone an internal sense of right and wrong. In fact, reflecting His truth inwardly is one way that He reveals Himself to mankind. The conscience is a divine alarm system that warns us of oncoming danger or consequences. Its primary purpose is protection and guidance.

The problem, however, is that sin warps perception and can lead us astray. So it’s important to understand the difference between following your heart and allowing a clear conscience to help with decisions. To make a determination, ask, What is the greatest influence on my morality? If the world’s system of what is acceptable has infiltrated your heart, then your conscience cannot be trusted. But if you have allowed God’s Word to permeate and transform your thinking (Rom. 12:2), that inner voice is likely trustworthy.

The Holy Spirit, along with a divinely informed conscience, guides believers. In order to keep that internal guidance system healthy, we should continually meditate on Scripture. The Ten Commandments are a solid basis for morality, and we are wise to internalize them—especially the two Jesus highlighted: to love God above all else and to love others (Matt. 22:36-40).

What would you say has the greatest impact on your belief system? Is it the truth of Scripture? Or do the world’s standards of right and wrong infect your heart? Almighty God knows what is best for you, His child—and He provided a conscience to guide you toward wise decisions.

Ignoring the Conscience

1 Timothy 1:18-19; 1 Timothy 4:1-2

Are you making certain choices today that your conscience would not have allowed in the past? If so, you may have become desensitized. That is a dangerous place to be.

As we discussed yesterday, God gave us an internal sense of right and wrong to use along with the Holy Spirit’s guidance when making daily choices. The conscience serves as an “alarm system,” intervening when a Christian is about to take part in ungodly behavior. In that way, it offers protection. But sin can throw off the system’s sensitivity.

The insidious process begins if we choose to disobey and then refuse to deal with our rebellion. The conscience warns us repeatedly, but it will eventually become silenced and ineffective if we persist in ignoring the distress signal. When that happens, there are no longer any signals from the heart to point us back toward godliness—in other words, the conscience has become seared.

This situation is akin to removing all traffic lights from a busy intersection: it is a recipe for disaster. If you are at this place, get on your knees and repent, immersing yourself in God’s Word and bathing your life in prayer. Pursue accountability and fellowship with other believers. A healthy conscience is worth the effort.

Are your internal signals in good working order, or have they been stifled? Don’t delay. Scripture warns us that we have a real enemy who desires to lure us away from godliness and into destruction. God uses a clear conscience to guide, protect, and lead us into His light and peace.

Peace With One Another

2 Corinthians 13:11

As Christians, we have a special relationship with each other because of our union with Jesus. You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve met a stranger with whom you sensed a bond and soon discovered that you were both Christians.

Scripture calls us to be a source of encouragement and help to our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet most of us know at least one believer with whom we have more conflict than comfort. Perhaps our personalities don’t mesh, or we have different convictions that sometimes result in arguments. The problem could also be a matter of miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Whatever our natural differences may be, we can overcome them through Jesus Christ and live in peace with one another. Instead of building walls, we can express grace to others in the following ways:

Prayer. Make it a habit to lift up the other person in prayer to the Father.

Communication. Discuss the relational issue openly and honestly. Clear up any incorrect assumptions and uncover the source of conflict. Be willing to share concerns and listen to the other point of view.

Counsel. To work though the conflict, it may sometimes be necessary to enlist the aid of a godly counselor.

Restoration. Once the root issue is resolved and harmony is restored, both parties should agree to address new conflicts promptly as they arise.

God calls us to live in peace, and He has provided everything we need to obey Him. When we allow His indwelling Holy Spirit to control us, His goodness and grace will flow through us to others, creating harmony.

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!

When Burdens Seem Unbearable

Psalm 13:1-6

Which is more influential in your life—circumstances or your perspective? Although we may long for a pleasant life filled with abundance, comfort, and good experiences, the reality is that we live in a fallen world. Almost nothing is as it should be, but the way we perceive life’s hardships and burdens depends largely on our perspective.

For example, when we are overburdened, the world might look dark even when the sun is shining. The birds may be singing, but all we hear are the sorrowful cries of our own heart. The burdens seem so overwhelming that we may even distance ourselves from others, yet that only encourages us to dwell even more on our problems and leads us further into despair.

But when we open the book of Psalms, the words penetrate our bleak circumstances, inviting us to draw near and find rest in the Lord. How gracious of Him to give us this amazing book of comfort. But greater still are the lessons we learn from it.

In today’s psalm, David is weighed down with burdens. He asks, “How long?” Have you ever felt like that? He describes his troubles and pleads for an answer, but by the end of the psalm, his perspective shifts when he remembers that God is trustworthy.

If you feel as if you’re bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders, stop and look up to your heavenly Father. Remember a time in the past when God carried you through hard circumstances, and rejoice in His steadfast faithfulness. He didn’t fail you then, and He will not fail you now.

Look for the Good Way

Jeremiah 6:16-17

If you’re a hiker, you know how important it is to stick to the marked trails in unfamiliar territory. To venture off on your own could lead to disaster if you get lost and can’t find your way back to safety.

This is similar to what happened to the nation of Judah. They veered from the Lord to make their own way by adopting foreign gods. As a result, God told the prophet Jeremiah to point them back to Him. Sadly, they refused to listen and continued in the wrong direction.

But we don’t have to follow in their footsteps. The Lord will lead us onto His path if we’ll heed these commands from Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV):

“Stand at the crossroads and look.” God sometimes uses trouble to open our eyes and let us see we’re at an intersection. This is the time to stop and immerse ourselves in God’s Word so we can discern His way.

“Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is.” Saints from the past have left footprints for us to follow. After meditating on psalms or prayers offered by people in the Bible, we should ponder how their petitions reveal trust in God. It’s also helpful to notice what happened next in the scriptural accounts.

“Walk in it, and ... find rest for your souls.” With eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and with full reliance on the Holy Spirit’s strength, we can walk the road of obedience and follow Christ to sweet, soul-satisfying rest.

If you’re uncertain regarding God’s will, avoid the tendency to run faster. Pause, follow Jeremiah’s instructions, and trust the Lord to show you the good way. Then start walking.

Be Steadfast in Prayer

Luke 18:1-8

While the Israelites engaged in physical combat, a spiritual battle was simultaneously being waged nearby. Scripture tells us that as Moses was praying, he grew weary in the midst of a critical situation (Ex. 17:12). If this can happen to one of God’s greatest leaders, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when we feel defeated or discouraged.

As battles loom, we oftentimes lose heart because our eyes are focused on the circumstances. We allow the enemy to skew our perspective of the conflict, which makes barriers before us seem unlikely to give way. Then it’s not uncommon to feel panicky and wonder, Lord, what am I going to do? We may even stop praying because it seems apparent there’s no solution, no way out, no hope of victory. We’re just too tired and disappointed.

Jesus knew that we would at times feel fainthearted, which is why He told the parable of the persistent widow in today’s reading. The Lord wanted to encourage His followers to be tireless in prayer. This requires faith, without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

Let’s remember that the enemy rejoices when we give up, but defeat is never our only option! If we could see the situation through God’s eyes, we would see a completely different landscape. We may need to pray strenuously, as if we’re tunneling through a mountain, but when we do, our faith and perseverance will grow.

So keep praying, and let the Word of God encourage you personally. You’ll hear His assurance as He fights for you.

The Key to Enduring Hardship

Genesis 50:15-21

God has given us many amazing promises in His Word. Yet, though we are assured of His steadfast love (Rom. 8:38-39), provision (2 Corinthians 9:8), and guidance (Prov. 16:9), He has not promised us an easy, trouble-free life. What we can count on, however, is that the Lord will work everything—including adversity—for our good (Rom. 8:28). 

Long before Paul wrote this word of encouragement to the church at Rome, Joseph learned the same principle by experiencing its truth. His affirmation of it, however, came several years after his unfair suffering had ended. In the midst of his difficulties, it’s doubtful that he understood what God was doing in his life.

The same is true for us. When our hearts and minds are agitated because of turbulent events, it’s hard not to stare at circumstances in horror or confusion. But we must decide to believe what the Bible says about God’s character, activity, and purposes. That choice forces our attention off the storm and onto the One responsible for ushering us safely through.

In His presence, fears dwindle and doubts dissolve; peace and a sense of oneness with the Lord will take their place. Our responsibility is to keep our eyes on God and trust His Holy Spirit to provide strength, wisdom, and courage.

Turning to the Lord will not necessarily bring an end to the hardship, but He will help us see that we are exactly where He wants us. He has a reason for the discomfort and desires that we grow in Christ through it. Whatever the situation, the safest place in the world is the center of His will.

The Call to Serve

Galatians 5:13

Jesus commanded that we serve one another, but obeying this is not natural for us. Sure, there are times we like to help others. But service that involves self-sacrifice—especially for someone we deem undeserving—is much more difficult to do.

What does it mean to serve? Consider Christ’s example. He gave up everything in heaven to live among us, subjecting Himself to dishonor and human frailty. And He loved even those who rejected Him. Think about how He humbled Himself and washed the disciples’ feet at Passover. This was a disgusting, lowly task that a slave might be assigned—far from anything a king should do. He even knew these men were about to abandon Him but served them anyway.

Ultimately, Christ gave His life for us. And He did so while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Serving others was His lifestyle—part of who He was and what He did. As His followers, we should strive to be like Him.

Therefore, service involves first dying to our selfish attitudes and motives. Only then can we live to glorify Christ. Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God wholeheartedly and to love others (Matt. 22:37-39). Ironically, it is only when we humbly serve others that we experience God’s fullness in our own lives.

Many try to achieve happiness by striving after their own desires. The result? Tired, unsatisfied people. True contentment happens only when we walk closely with Jesus. He shows where we can humble ourselves and take care of others. These actions, done through His strength, will be blessed.

Taking Risks of Faith

Matthew 14:22-33

Have you ever taken a risk in your obedience to God? Perhaps He’s given you an assignment that strikes you as beyond your abilities. Demonstrating faith in God may appear to be risky business, but it’s actually the safest thing to do. Furthermore, it’s the way the Lord expects His followers to live.

Can you imagine what the other disciples thought when Peter stepped out of the boat? It seemed like a crazy thing to do, yet Peter trusted that Jesus would keep him from sinking into the raging water.

And Peter did a pretty good job of walking on the water until he took his eyes off Jesus. As long as his total focus was on Christ, he was fine. Yet when he allowed himself to be distracted by human fears, he fell deep into trouble—literally!

This demonstrates an important principle: When doubts prevent us from obeying God, we are doomed to failure. But when we step out in faith, God always assumes full responsibility for the consequences of our obedience.

The story of Peter’s walk on the sea teaches us three things.

• God will lead us into challenging situations that call us to walk by faith.
• Christ stands ready to rescue us when we cry out to Him.
• The Spirit of God will never let us fall beyond His reach.

Are you facing a situation that requires full trust in the Lord as you step out in obedience to Him? The real risk lies in your temptation not to obey Him. Keep your eyes on the heavenly Father, and He’ll see you safely to the other side.

Grounded in the Faith

Colossians 2:1-8

Do you remember what it was like when you got saved? You probably didn’t know much about the Bible, but you knew your life had changed forever. Your guilt was gone, and heaven was now your eternal destiny. The newness of salvation prompted you to want to tell whoever would listen to what had happened to you.

In time, however, we tend to settle down in our Christian life, get involved in church, and maybe even start to take our salvation for granted. Although we love and serve Jesus faithfully, we may be more interested in what the Bible says about how we’re to live than we are about the beliefs that form the foundation of our faith.

In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the importance of stability in our faith—stability that results from “the rich experience of knowing Christ with real certainty and clear understanding” (Col. 2:2 TLB). Knowing what Scripture says about the essentials of our faith guards us from deception. When we’re firmly rooted, built up, and established in biblical teachings, we’ll recognize when false teachers offer messages that don’t align with God’s Word. However, unless we know what we believe and why we hold these beliefs, we could become prime targets for cults that specialize in adding just enough truth to error to make their message seem believable.

Can you defend your faith? Do you know what the Bible teaches about Jesus, salvation, and the essentials of Christianity? Knowing the truth about these things protects you from deception and also allows you to knowledgeably share the message of salvation with others.

Beware of Spiritual Swindlers

Matthew 7:15-23

Physical safety is a Natural concern for people today because the world is filled with instability, global conflicts, and terrorist attacks. We should rightly be concerned about protecting our community, yet when it comes to spiritual safety, churches often neglect protection against people who undermine our faith. Jesus called them wolves in sheep’s clothing and issued some stern warnings to alert us.

These wolves are false teachers and prophets who appear to be genuine spiritual guides but are actually full of schemes to advance their own agenda. They look and sound good, but inside they are consumed with lust and greed. None of this is apparent right away because they preach a fine gospel in a most compelling manner. Gradually, however, they blend inaccuracy with facts, and at this point, people seem to forget that truth mixed with error is no longer truth but has become deception. You can recognize these folks in a number of ways. Jesus said they would bear fruit that would eventually reveal their true character.

• They subtly question the Bible’s authority and relevance for today.
• Little is said about living a holy life or obeying the whole counsel of God.
• Obedience to the Lord is equated with living the way you desire.
• The welfare of the sheep concerns them less than having followers.

This is a wake-up call for anyone snoozing in the pews. We can’t afford to believe everything we hear. Follow the example of the Bereans, who were commended for using Scripture to evaluate whatever was taught (Acts 17:11).

The Believer’s Security System

2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 2:18-22

Spiritual dangers are all around, but God has given believers a “spiritual security system.” He’s also provided godly shepherds in the church to protect the flock from spiritual predators.

These predators are false teachers who exploit the ignorance of immature believers. They also hunt down people with unresolved guilt and use phony remedies in an attempt to soothe consciences.

Churchgoers who fail to confess and forsake sin according to Scripture are highly susceptible to such trickery. Also at risk are those who know about Jesus and religious practices but are not genuinely saved—they might even be baptized church members, but unless they have the Holy Spirit, they cannot discern truth or live holy lives.

Thankfully, God has provided a way for believers to avoid these dangerous spiritual potholes. First and foremost, we have to saturate our mind continually with God’s Word. In so doing, we will eventually develop a mental filter that reacts in alarm when something false comes our way. In this manner, we become rooted and grounded in the truth.

Christians also have the indwelling Holy Spirit, who gives understanding of God’s Word, directs our way, and enables us to distinguish truth from error. He educates our conscience to provide timely warnings when we start down the wrong path.

The Lord has provided everything we need to avoid deception, but our spiritual security system will protect us only if it is well tuned with the Word of God and obedient to His Spirit.

Put On a Heart of Compassion

Colossians 3:12-14

Have you ever noticed that some people are more naturally compassionate than others? Maybe it’s their personality or upbringing. Nevertheless, in the church, every believer is told to “put on a heart of compassion” (Col. 3:12). When empathy doesn’t come naturally, some Christians may wonder if something is wrong with them. So, what can we do to develop a greater sense of caring?

While emotions cannot be manufactured on demand, we can change our thoughts, which in turn affect our emotions. Compassion, like all the other qualities listed in today’s passage, is possible only when we think of others before ourselves. Self-centeredness keeps us from seeing the needs and hurts of those around us and acting on their behalf. What we need is a renewed mind.

We are all born with a selfish, sinful nature, referred to as the “old self.” But when a person puts his trust in Jesus, he receives a “new self” created in righteousness by God. (See Eph. 4:22-24.) As our minds are renewed with His Word and we grow in obedience, Christ’s love and compassion begin to flow through us. Instead of our being oblivious to the pain and suffering around us, God will open our eyes and use us to comfort those in need.

A heart of compassion is achieved not through self-effort but through a God-focused life. As we draw near to Him through His Word and His Son, He transforms our focus, thoughts, and feelings. What a relief to know that God has provided everything we need to follow Jesus’ example of caring. He always equips us to obey His every command.

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