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Setting Goals to Achieve God’s Plan

God has a purpose for our life, but we need goals to help us stay on track (Eph. 2:10). In Genesis 24, Abraham’s trusted servant demonstrated this well. He knew his goal, kept confidence, made a plan, and set a timeline. We should follow his example. Once we know the direction God wants us to take, we must:

• Have a picture of the goal. A defined mission helps us weigh the opportunities God presents.

• Be confident that we can succeed through Christ. We are to look at the future in light of God’s presence within us, His inexhaustible resources, and His promises (Phil. 4:19; 2 Corinthians 1:20).

• Desire to accomplish God’s plan. His sacrificial, unending love motivates us to stay on the path He has set for us (1 John 4:9-11).

• Set a course of action. Try breaking a large goal into smaller tasks, and cover each step with prayer that earnestly seeks instruction from God.

• Set a timeline. Deadlines help propel us forward, and they can be adjusted as circumstances change.

Are you moving step-by-step toward God’s purpose for you? If you’re unsure what that looks like, ask for divine wisdom and guidance.

Living Clean in a Tainted World

When Adam and Eve listened to Satan in the garden of Eden, the world was invaded by sin, and we’ve been battling it ever since. Over time, our world has become morally and spiritually contaminated.

We’re born physically alive but spiritually dead and in rebellion against the Lord (Eph. 2:1-2). Yet by trusting Jesus as our Savior, we receive a new nature and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This means believers have the power to say no to wrongdoing and yes to godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

With our new identity as children of God, we no longer share the same nature or purpose of unbelievers. Followers of Jesus are called to serve as His ambassadors, spreading knowledge of the Savior and yearning for righteousness. We exchange our own desires for His, admit when we’ve sinned, and ask for His forgiveness. But these values often make little sense to those who don’t know Christ.

Maintaining a godly focus in the world is difficult, but we can find support and encouragement from others who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Intimate friends and trusted advisors will help us stay pointed toward the Son.

Confronting Closed Doors

Closed doors can be frustrating. Paul knew exactly how that felt. On his second missionary journey, during which he had hoped to tell the good news in Asia, the apostle repeatedly found his way blocked by the Holy Spirit. It must have seemed strange that God would prevent him from sharing the gospel.

The Bible doesn’t say how long Paul and Timothy remained in Troas, but we think the apostle didn’t make a move until God showed him a new mission field (Acts 16:9-10). Paul’s actions illustrate the principle found in Proverbs 3:5-6—that God will make a straight path for those who choose to trust in Him rather than in themselves.

Christians in a period of waiting should seek God’s purpose and guidance. Ask the Lord why He has barred the way forward—perhaps the timing is wrong or we have unconfessed sin in our life. Whatever the reason, we must be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. We also want to be ready for the door that will open.

When an opportunity is blocked, remember that God has a reason. And He’s providing love and protection, even in your disappointment. The Lord is also keeping His promise to work everything for your good (Rom. 8:28). When one door has closed, another will open. Be wise and watch for it.

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!

A Passion to Know Christ

Claiming to know someone usually means we know facts about the person or simply are aware he or she exists. Unfortunately, that is how too many Christians “know” Jesus Christ—they’re aware He is the world’s Savior, who died in our place and rose again to sit at the Father’s right hand. Those are the facts, but simply collecting data won’t bring lasting satisfaction. Instead, ask, Who is this Jesus, and why did He willingly give up His life? The search for answers begins a journey to intimacy and true knowledge of Him.

By recognizing Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are blessed with redemption and a spiritual relationship. But though we have gained heaven, it is possible to miss the treasure of experiencing Christ as our Lord and friend. Few people will dig deep enough into Scripture and spend the time in prayer to claim Him as their life—as the One who makes us complete. The apostle Paul was so intimately acquainted with God that he viewed his own history and experiences as negligible when compared with knowing Jesus (Phil. 3:7).

If you want to thirst for Jesus as Paul did, Scripture and your experience with the Lord can fuel your passion. Start by opening the Word and drinking Him in.

How Comforters Are Created

When Job was suffering, he said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). Even hardship and pain have a place in God’s plan for each believer.

During a particularly painful time in my life, I decided that I should learn something from my distress, as Job did. That allowed God to develop greater compassion in me—which helps me understand and relate to those facing similar trials.

Consider the truth in Paul’s words—that God “comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Think about the kind of people you seek out when you’re hurting. You want someone who has felt your pain, right? A person who has already walked the path you’re on can understand your suffering and share wisdom. Going through what we sometimes call a “valley experience” prepares us to be a blessing and encouragement to others. But we must first accept that God has allowed this adversity in our life and then choose to learn from the situation.

God is the Lord of our life, and He has the right to use us as comforters and encouragers to those around us. As His servants, we must be willing to do His will, even when it hurts. Don’t waste your suffering! Instead, use it to bring God glory.

Fueling a Passion for Jesus

Studying the Bible and praying are the first steps to developing a passion for Christ. We need to understand His ways and promises before we can fall deeply in love with Him.

Like any loving relationship, intimacy with Jesus requires that we spend time with Him—worshipping and listening to Him, not just working through a list of to-dos. In order to achieve a true friendship with Him, we must talk with Christ as with a friend and listen to Him speak to us.

We should also look for evidence of the Lord’s work in everyday circumstances. He promises to give us direction and provide for us (2 Peter 1:3). If we’re on the lookout, we will see His promises in action. Sometimes a situation might seem too tragic to yield good, but if we continue to pray, study Scripture, and be patient, God will reveal His plan to us.

Consider keeping a journal to record Jesus’ work in your life—then, when your faith falters or you’re in a difficult situation, you can look back at His past faithfulness to you. A passion for Jesus doesn’t happen instantly. It’s a daily, lifelong pursuit, and we must lay aside everything that competes with our devotion to Him.

Fully Submitted

The Bible tells us that though Jesus was “in very nature God” (Phil. 2:6 NIV), He left heaven to come to earth, where He lived in submission to His Father’s plans. Giving the Father complete control over everything He did, the Son held nothing back—not even His life, which He sacrificed on the cross for our sake.

Why did Jesus do this? Because He had perfect trust in His Father—He knew that God has sovereign control over everything and that all His decisions are good, as they are based on divine love, mercy, and justice. He was also certain that God always takes into account what is best for us, and His will is to lead His children towards repentance and growth. Jesus obeyed to bring glory to the Father’s name (John 17:4).

We are to live the same way—surrendered to God’s will. This means acknowledging that He has the right to order our life, and we are to give Him control over every aspect, including finances, family, friends, and fun.

By submitting to God, we declare our trust in Him and our willingness to accept whatever He sends us—riches or poverty, health or sickness, marriage or singleness. Full submission is how we glorify the Father, grow in Him, and receive His favor.

Unconditional Surrender

Sometimes we’re amazed by a believer’s perseverance and confidence in God’s promises. With such people, we often sense a spiritual abundance that many of us wish we had.  So, how do we get that? By following Jesus’ example and surrendering our life to God.

We may find it hard to submit to Jesus because we like to be in charge. This has been our problem since the beginning. Adam and Eve ignored God’s warning and did what they wanted, which ended in disaster. Like them, we at times prefer to ignore God’s wisdom.

Another reason that we hold back is fear. We think, Maybe I won’t like what He chooses for me—what if He asks me to give up something or do something I don’t want to do? Or perhaps we’re wary of others’ opinions. Another possibility is that we might let selfishness and pride make us reluctant to let God lead.

But by giving control to God, we actually get to live a life where blessings overflow (John 10:10). We’ll experience His love, which satisfies like no other. Our usefulness in His service will be maximized as we operate in the Spirit’s power. And obedience also brings glory to Him as well as blessings to us.

Surrender is the way to abundance. Won’t you humble yourself and give it all to Jesus?

Salvation Is From God

Do you ever doubt that you’re saved? Once we ask Jesus into our heart, we’re saved. He never leaves us. John 10:28 says that nothing can snatch us out of His hand, but sometimes we might still feel uncertain. Maybe we can’t remember the specific time and place of our decision to follow Him. Or perhaps we’ve messed up and sinned so badly that we wonder how He could forgive us. Let’s see what the Bible says about it.

God made us alive Together with Christ by raising Him from the dead (Eph. 2:4-5). We’re all born dead in our sins. There’s nothing we can do to make ourselves spiritually alive; our salvation is the result of God’s love and mercy. And once He makes us alive, we can never become spiritually dead again.

We’re saved by God’s grace, not by our goodness or performance. Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works.” We didn’t do anything to deserve or earn God’s grace, yet He still chose to save us.

Our salvation isn’t because of our goodness or works, nor is it maintained by us. We’re saved simply through faith and should recognize that as God’s gift. As a result, we enjoy the blessings of belonging to His family, and one day we will know the full reality of being seated with Jesus in heaven (Eph. 2:6).

Developing a Tender Heart

The Lord wants to give each of us a “heart of flesh” so we will be responsive to Him. A tender heart assumes the form He desires, much like a lump of clay that allows the potter to shape the vessel. And to those who have accepted and obeyed previous guidance, the Holy Spirit can continue to give wisdom and instruction.

Resistance to God will cause a hardening, but those who regularly submit to Him quickly address sin and return to the place of obedience and blessing. When we yield to the Spirit’s promptings, our heart becomes increasingly pliable and sensitive to His leading. Then God can give us greater understanding of His Word.

People with a responsive heart tend to stay connected to the body of Christ and seek to build up and encourage others. Such individuals are not only receptive to what God wants to tell them; they’re also willing to listen and be corrected by others.

This week as you read your Bible and pray, open your heart to the words of God. Listen for His instructions, and rely on the Spirit’s power to help you yield. Let Him shape you into a beautiful vessel.

Last edited by Keith

A Faith-Filled Outlook

If anyone had reason to be discouraged, Joseph did. He not only endured his mother’s death and his brothers’ hatred but also faced slavery and imprisonment because of false allegations. Yet he was not an angry person.

Joseph kept his faith-filled outlook because he consistently relied upon God. When two royal servants were jailed, he acted with compassion and gave them aid. And notice how Joseph didn’t shrink back from speaking boldly about God to these men and to Pharaoh. When the Egyptian leader sought an answer, Joseph told him it would come from the Lord (Gen. 41:16).

Joseph’s story reminds us that in hard places, we too can experience our Father’s presence and thrive. You might be “held captive”—by unemployment, ill health, or a difficult relationship—but you can be hopeful because it is God who works in us. And His Holy Spirit will produce godly fruit in us when we depend upon Him (Gal. 5:22-23).

Joseph encountered much hardship in his life, but he saw that ultimately God always used it for good (Gen. 50:19-20). Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we can have a faith-filled perspective that enables us to glorify the Lord even in times of adversity.

The Message in the Storm

When we’re in the midst of a difficult life event, our instinct is often to react quickly and change things. But God frequently asks us to wait.

Take a look at today’s passage. The word wait has a different sense here—it means “pause for further instructions.” It’s not passivity; rather, we must choose to stop our actions and listen for God’s directive. Sometimes the Lord is silent for a season, but He has a purpose. He knows the perfect time for us to act, and until that moment, He wants us to wait. More strength and character are required to be still in the midst of a storm than to frantically seek our own solution.

I can tell you that I sometimes wait impatiently, too. There have been times I’ve become nervous and questioned God or complained. But that’s not how Jesus wants us to react. The apostle Paul tells us plainly to “be anxious for nothing” and to pray to the Lord, who offers peace (Phil. 4:6-7). So we are to pause with patience, trusting in God’s wisdom, love, power, and timing.

The key to finding peace in the storm is in waiting for God alone. He hears our every prayer, and we can’t go wrong when we rely on Him. Pray for patience and listen for His reply.

Putting Aside Childish Ways

Teenagers are known to measure themselves against peers, but I’ve noticed that many adults today also struggle with comparison. Social media platforms make it especially difficult to outgrow this type of thinking. When comparing ourselves to others, we tend to ...

Think security is based on what we own. This attitude tempts us to work longer hours or pressure others to do so. But since material things can’t bring lasting security, the search for better or more possessions can be endless. Real security is found only in our position as the heavenly Father’s adopted children (Eph. 1:5). Our place in heaven sets us free from materialism.

Believe we are failures. When we think this way, no success in business or personal life can be effective—we crave affirmation but can never get enough praise to really change our opinion of ourselves. But God says He has chosen us and made us co-heirs with His Son Jesus (Rom. 8:16-17). Our value comes from belonging to Him.

Let’s acknowledge any detrimental thoughts, surrender them to God, and intentionally embrace what He says is true about us. This is the path that leads to spiritual maturity and healthy relationships.

Unshakeable Peace

Have you ever thought that a vacation would relieve your anxiety or that you could work out your worries at the gym? I know I have. But the truth is, no one can achieve total freedom from heartache, burdens, or trouble.

However, we can have peace during anxious times. Serenity is a gift from our heavenly Father—it can’t be manufactured. The Holy Spirit produces a sense of calm in believers who seek the Lord’s protection against anxiety. In the often-quoted passage of Philippians 4:6-7, the Greek word translated as “guard” means “to keep with a garrison.” God wraps our heart and mind in His peace, safeguarding both against all-consuming worry or fear. Notice that He doesn’t make all of our problems go away. So while we may still be under pressure or prone to weep, we are cushioned against anxiety and surrounded by calm instead.

Jesus said to seek peace in Him because He has overcome this troublesome world (John 16:33). Let’s shift our focus from our vexing problem to God and ask for His peace to surround us today. Remember, He’s the only one with limitless resources and power, and He wants to meet our needs (Psalm 50:10; Rom. 8:11).

A Life of Peace

Let’s suppose I’ve got a problem that has my stomach in knots with persistent worry. Friends and family try to be understanding, but after a time they grow weary of me taking my anguish out on them. I’m so focused on this issue that it feels as if I’m carrying a heavy load on my shoulders. The Lord offers a liberating alternative: “Cast your burden upon [Me] and [I] will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). Though He doesn’t erase the ills that invade this life, He instead shields us from the weight of worry by taking our situation into His own hands.

However, the call to a peaceful life is impossible without confidence in the Lord. That trust is built through a relationship with Him—praying through trials and triumphs, seeking His guidance, and testing His Word to see that it is true and practical for life.

When we’ve experienced God’s faithfulness and believe He will continue to act on behalf of His followers (Isa. 64:4), that’s when peace is possible. In fact, it is not only possible but promised to the believer who trusts in Him (Phil. 4:6-7). But unshakeable peace isn’t instantaneous; it is cultivated through a consistent relationship with the Lord.

Two Gates, Two Ways

The broad path is easy to find. In fact, unless you make a conscious choice to avoid it, that’s where you’ll find yourself walking. Most people like this wide road because it’s comfortable, fairly easy, and culturally acceptable.

What those who travel the broad road fail to realize is that it doesn’t lead to life. All the “promises” it gives of satisfaction and fulfillment end in disappointment because it’s a path without God.

The narrow way, however, follows the direction and desires of the Father. In Matthew 7:14, when Jesus Christ talked about our options, He said, “The way is narrow that leads to life.” And what’s the narrow way? It’s “the way and the truth and the life”—in other words, Jesus Himself (John 14:6). Those who enter by the narrow gate of faith in Christ find the peace and joy of a relationship with Him, which truly satisfies the heart.

Which path would you say you’re traveling on today? The narrow way isn’t always easy, but it’s where we’ll find fullness of joy, peace, and righteousness (Psalm 16:11; Eph. 2:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30). And if we choose Jesus, He promises to be with us throughout eternity.

Feeling Hopeless

People disappoint us, circumstances cause pain, and our own limitations lead to frustration. Jesus told His disciples that struggles are part of this life (John 16:33), and many other Bible stories show evidence of this reality.

Hannah couldn’t have a baby. The longer she waited, the more her hope disappeared and sorrow and bitterness took hold of her (1 Samuel 1:6-10).

Paul was caught in a violent storm. Against his advice, the captain had the crew set sail, endangering him and everyone on board. After efforts to save the vessel, those on board had to swim ashore to survive (Acts 27:10-11; Acts 27:42-44).

A jealous Saul pursued David throughout the land and tried to kill him. In Psalm 13:1, David wondered if God had forgotten him.

What did these people do? They prayed. Hannah cried out to God and asked Him to give her a son. Her hope returned because she trusted Him with her future. Paul witnessed to the hopeless sailors and told them to have courage because God would deliver them. David didn’t dwell on his circumstances but instead focused on God’s unfailing love (Psalm 13:5-6).

Time with God can combat hopelessness. It moves our attention from the circumstances to the Father’s great love for us.

A Living Hope

Hope is a belief or expectation that something will happen. If it doesn’t, we may experience discouragement, depression, or even despair.

So how can we remain hopeful? First, remember the reason for our confidence: our relationship with Jesus. At salvation, we’re born into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3)—God made us a new creation, and we are no longer slaves to sin (2 Corinthians 5:17). His Spirit lives in us. We’ve been made co-heirs with Christ, and our true home is in heaven with Him.

Second, spend time in the Word. Romans 15:4 says that the Bible was written to give us encouragement and hope. The Psalms can be especially helpful in difficult times because they express the writers’ real feelings and provide comfort.

Third, rely on the Lord’s faithfulness. Trusting Him will always turn out for our good.

Believers shouldn’t react to trials the way the world does. Instead, we are to live by faith— “confidence in what we hope for” (Heb. 11:1 NIV). When circumstances overwhelm you, focus on Jesus. Look for encouragement in His Word and be reminded of what is yours in Christ (Eph. 1:3-8).

 

Can You Trust the Bible?

2 Peter 1:16-21

What you believe about the Bible is important. Some people think it is just an old book that’s irrelevant today. But it’s actually the most amazing document ever written because it came directly from God. He used human authors to pen words that He inspired.

The Bible is a timeless book filled with God’s truth, which is applicable to everybody. It’s without error and has been protected by Him throughout the ages. Within its pages, we discover who God is, how He has interacted with mankind since creation, and what He has promised to bring about in the future.

As Christians, we’re quick to say that the Bible is important, but our actions show what we really believe. If we seldom read Scripture, then our actions communicate that it’s actually not valuable to us and we don’t feel a need to hear from God regularly.

In Psalm 19, David said that God’s Word is sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:10). Do you agree with that? If not, be encouraged that the more you read and study it, the sweeter and more desirable His Word becomes.

God’s Grand Plan

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

God’s plan for us is greater than we can imagine. But not many people realize that. We usually get so preoccupied with the demands of life that few of us give much thought to what it will mean to be sanctified.

Sanctification is a process. When we get saved, God sets us apart for Himself. Then throughout the rest of our life, He works to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus. We all struggle with sin, but when we die, our spirits will ascend to heaven and be completely sinless. Then we’ll see Jesus as He truly is, and we won’t struggle with “all that is in the world” (1 John 2:16).

However, as great as this will be, it’s not the final step. Some day Jesus will descend from heaven and bring the souls of those who have died in Christ. They will be united with their resurrected bodies, and believers who are still alive on the earth will be changed (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Then sanctification will be complete—spirit, soul, and body.

Then, spotless and without blame, we will walk in the Lord’s presence for eternity. Knowing this, how will you live today? The promise of salvation isn’t meant just to give hope, but to encourage us to live a holy life.

How Obedience Relates to Love

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus reminded the disciples of some important matters. In John 14:21, He pointed out the connection between love and obedience, saying, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.” In other words, loving the Lord and obeying Him are inseparable.

What commands are we to obey? Jesus said the greatest commandments are: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). The Holy Spirit will show us how to live these out. When we let go of a selfish attitude and put someone else first, when we show forgive- ness instead of anger, or when we demonstrate a thankful heart in the midst of hard circumstances, we are expressing our love for Jesus.

Jesus’ life on earth was one continuous expression of love for the heavenly Father (John 14:31). To follow His example requires a heart that desires to please Him, a will that is bent toward obedience, and a mind that consistently seeks direction from Him. Develop the habit of asking yourself two questions: What does obedience to God look like in this situation? and What can I do to obey God more fully?

How Do We Prove We Love God?

Many people say “I love God” to express good feelings about the Lord, but Jesus taught that only those who obey God’s commands truly love Him. So, what are some actions that show that we love God?

Pray often. Jesus taught that frequent prayer is essential to the Christian life. However, when we pray with wrong motives—ones that center around what we want rather than what God wants—we’re not expressing affection for Him. True prayer seeks to determine God’s mind in order to carry out His agenda. This kind of prayer, accompanied by an obedient response, says “I love You” to God.

Read the Bible regularly. Since Jesus defined love as obedience, it’s essential that Scripture reading be accompanied by application. Otherwise, we’re just hearers of the Word (James 1:22).

Serve at church and in the community. If we ourselves choose how to serve instead of obeying the Lord’s direction, our efforts are simply good works rather than an expression of love to Him.

God’s love for us was demonstrated through the sending of His Son Jesus (1 John 4:9-10). Our compliance to the Father’s known will reveals how deeply we care about Him. Take steps each day to show God your love.

When Others Fail Us

As humans, we all sin. Every one of us has frailties and periods of suffering. Often when difficulties arise, we turn to loved ones for comfort. But these people are human, too, and they’re subject to their own weaknesses and failures. So, even if they don’t mean to, they might fail us.

One reason people let others down is self-centeredness, which can prevent empathy. Another involves feeling overwhelmed by someone’s stressful situation or inadequate to help. A third possibility is that a person who’s made a mistake might be abandoned by friends who don’t want to be associated with the sin. In God’s eyes, repentance clears away the stain of sin, but we humans aren’t always so quick to forgive.

We can have a judgmental spirit, can’t we? At times we withhold emotional support because we’ve made assumptions about what caused a situation, such as when a friend loses a job or the bank forecloses on his home. A healthier approach is to realize trials are often beyond a person’s control—for instance, a company’s financial troubles can necessitate layoffs, or a poor harvest can mean losing the farm.

Understanding the reasons others fail us—and why we fail others—does offer a small consolation, but God provides a source of perfect comfort no human can provide. He’s the believer’s strength, encouragement, and constant companion.

Responding to Others’ Failures

The apostle Paul sacrificed much. He faced hunger, shipwreck, beatings, and imprisonment to carry God’s Word to others. Consequently, he had every reason to expect the men and women he mentored to be faithful when he experienced a crisis. But Paul was virtually alone when he endured his Roman prison and trial before a government tribunal—only Luke continued to lend support.

Paul’s friends probably had reason to stay away—namely, fear that the tribunal would investigate them next, or confidence that the apostle’s faith would sustain him. Regardless of the reason, Paul had only these words for his deserters: “May it not be counted against them” (2 Timothy 4:16).

Paul’s words echo Stephen’s story. As Stephen was stoned for preaching the Word, Paul—at the time a Pharisee called Saul—looked on approvingly. When the apostle later repented after his experience on the road to Damascus, the memory of Stephen’s final words must have provided great comfort: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

While resentment and anger seem justified when others fail us, we don’t have the right to withhold forgiveness. Regard- less of the pain someone inflicted or the loneliness his or her absence caused, God’s expectation doesn’t change: We should forgive because Jesus forgave us.

Essentials of Effective Meditation

In our normal everyday routines, there are countless voices that vie for our attention. Our children cry for it, our employers insist on it, and our loved ones yearn for it. Amidst all these competing demands, it can be difficult to discern the most important voice of all—that of our heavenly Father. Is it any wonder, then, that He sometimes seems distant or we can’t clearly make out what He’s trying to tell us?

Unless we make an effort to retreat from life’s noisy demands for a moment or two, our ability to hear God’s voice will likely be weakened. Jesus was well aware of this need to pull away regularly to pray and meditate on Scripture. In teaching the disciples how to pray, Jesus told them to go into their rooms and close the door behind them (Matt. 6:6). He knew that in order to commune with the Father, “decluttering” our schedules and thoughts was vital.

You and I are blessed—and cursed—with constant communication through our phones, tablets, and computers. But true communion with the Lord demands some seclusion. So let’s turn off the TV, music, and phone notifications, and listen for God’s voice. Claim a block of time for the heavenly Father today, even if you start with only five minutes.

The Importance of Stillness

Have you ever heard the phrase “God helps those who help themselves”? I know I have. It sounds responsible and admirable, and the majority of Christians believe that this word of advice is in the Bible—but it is not. Too often, whether we voice the belief or not, we act as though God needs our help.

In actuality, this statement is completely contrary to what the Word of God tells us: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV). The Father knows we cannot help ourselves. That is the very reason He sent His Son to die—because we were utterly helpless to improve our sinful condition (Rom. 5:8).

God’s will for us includes His fundamental call to stillness. When we are quiet in His presence, we put ourselves in the most teachable position possible. It’s where we are most able to discern His Spirit.

Are you too busy to hear from God? Remember that He can accomplish far more through a surrendered spirit than we can in 24 hours of frenetic activity—even when our efforts are intended to benefit His kingdom. Acknowledge your dependence on the Lord, and rest. What you’ll discover in the stillness is a Savior who promises He is enough.

The Key to Financial Blessing

Most of us would love our own personal financial advisor to help us navigate unexpected expenses and economic turns. And according to the prophet Malachi, we do have one—almighty God.

Like all good financial advisors, God has a plan for our money, but His plan is superior to any man-made one: “You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord” (Ex. 23:19). In offering the first of our earnings, we acknowledge that God is the source of everything and we are completely dependent upon Him. Believers in the Old Testament set aside a tithe—10%—of all that the Lord generously gave. And keeping that portion for oneself, according to the book of Malachi, was equivalent to robbing the almighty God of what rightly belongs to Him (Mal. 3:8).

The Lord doesn’t need our money, but He knows that we need to give. Doing so with a generous and willing heart displays the character of Christ in our life and is a way to worship and honor Him. Remember, Jesus is a giver who gave His life for our salvation. You can never out-give your loving heavenly Father.