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.

Compassion for the Lost

Matthew 9:36-38

Throughout the Gospels, a phrase commonly used of the Lord is “He felt compassion” (Matt. 9:36). These words describe what Jesus often experienced when He encountered people in a helpless condition: He was moved to alleviate their suffering. 

Man’s greatest suffering is due to alienation from the Lord because of sin. Even though many people don’t realize it, they are enemies of God and can do nothing to make themselves right with Him. Thankfully, Jesus felt compassion for us and reached down to save us; otherwise, we would all be doomed to the everlasting punishment of separation from God’s presence. Yet often we fail to show that same compassion for the lost all around us. Like the Pharisees, we may avoid people because their behavior is sinful, but God desires that we show them kindheartedness rather than withdraw into religious isolation.

Jesus pictured the multitude of lost people as sheep without a shepherd and a field ripe for harvest. All that’s needed is for the Lord to send workers into His harvest, and that’s exactly what Jesus did when He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

There are multiple ways to show Christ’s compassion to those who are suffering physically, financially, or emotionally, and we should do what we can to help. However, temporal suffering is minuscule compared to what awaits the unbeliever eternally. That’s why the most compassionate thing we can do is to make people aware of their helpless condition before God and share the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

As Independence Day approaches this year, we have many reasons to be thankful, but there’s also cause for concern as we observe the tragedies that have happened in our country in the last few years. When we hear about school shootings, terror attacks, and bombings that take innocent lives, we may wonder where God is in all this. Why does He allow these tragedies? Couldn’t He do something to prevent them?

The most basic answer to these questions is that we live in a fallen world. Disasters, crime, evil, violence, hatred, and death are the result of sin, which entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Everything and everyone has been affected by it, and none of us are exempt.

Yet knowing this, we may still question why God allows these tragedies to occur. If He’s good and loving, wouldn’t He protect His creation from harm? The truth is there are some things in life we will simply not be able to understand. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’ ... ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

So how are we to respond to tragedies when we don’t understand what God is doing? For believers, our first response should be to trust God (Prov. 3:5). It’s easy to trust Him when we can feel His loving hand reaching out to strengthen and guide us. But when God’s wisdom and purposes transcend our limited minds, and we aren’t capable of comprehending His ways, we must rely on what He has told us about Himself in His Word and trust Him like small children trusting their parents.

We need to get into God’s Word to see what He says about Himself. And the best time to do this is before tragedy strikes so we’ll have a firm foundation to support us in times of need. Once we have a scripturally accurate view of God, we will understand how to respond and go through calamity because we’ll know the God who loves us and holds us in His sovereign hand.

Second, we should respond with courage. Terrorist attacks and mass shootings naturally cause fear. For those who don’t know Christ, this can be overwhelming, but Christians have a confidence that transcends circumstances. Psalm 56:3-4 says, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”

Third, we should respond with compassion. When we hear about the atrocities done to people, our hearts should go out to them in sympathy. This is an essential character trait of anyone who is a follower of Jesus. Look at His response in Matthew 9:36: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”

Sometimes our reaction to a national tragedy is to shrug our shoulders and say, “I’m glad I wasn’t there.” But Christians are told to put on a heart of compassion and kindness (Col. 3:12). This applies to both those whom we know and those we’ve never met. Although we may not be able to put a comforting arm around strangers on the other side of the country, we can express empathy for them by bringing them before the throne of God in prayer, not only for physical and emotional healing but for salvation as well.

Fourth, we need an eternal perspective. The unexpected loss of life has a way of opening our eyes to the fact that life is transitory. James reminds us not to presumptuously expect our lives to turn out as we’ve planned, saying, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If there’s one thing we can learn from calamities, it’s that we will die, and we don’t know when. That’s why we must always be ready to meet the Lord and to share the gospel with the lost so they will have the opportunity to be saved.

It may be tempting to withdraw in fear as we see the world becoming a more dangerous place, but this is the time when Christians need to be salt and light to a dark world. Although we don’t have all the answers to why tragedies happen, we are the only ones who have the message that can change someone’s eternal destiny. And offering them the good news of the gospel is the most compassionate and loving thing we can do in times of calamity.

As we walk in these uncertain times, let’s make it our ambition to live godly lives that are honoring and pleasing to God. Although we have no assurance that tragedy will not one day come our way, we can have confidence in the goodness of God. He has promised to work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. Even though our nation has experienced increasing evil and the resulting calamities, we can still rejoice in the freedoms we currently have to worship God and share the gospel. Let’s thank the Lord for these blessings as we celebrate the Fourth of July this year.

A Lasting Impact

Matthew 5:14-16

Have you ever stopped to consider this question: How do you use the gift of freedom? God gives all believers true liberty through His Son Jesus Christ. Do you squander that blessing or share it with others? The problem is, some people are so focused on their own needs and desires that they fail to impact even their closest neighbor.

Think about the people you see every week. Do you know how many of your neighbors are sick? Are there people in your church who struggle to make it from day to day? Do you know if any of your coworkers are going through hardships? Most likely, there are individuals all around you who could use assistance. But being self-focused limits our ability to notice those people, let alone reach out to them.

Jesus taught His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matt. 5:13). In order for salt to remain useful, it must maintain its purity and potency. Likewise, we must endeavor to lead holy, humble, and loving lives, focusing on the Savior’s will rather than our own. God has prepared the good works that we are to walk in (Eph. 2:10). Our job is to carry them out.

Whether or not we affect our world positively depends on the focus of our heart. Do you look inward to consider how you can do more to get ahead and add to your lot in life? Or do you look outward and think about ways that you can do more to serve others?

The Danger of Drifting

Proverbs 14:15-16

One fine afternoon, my best friend and I came upon an abandoned boat floating in the river. The paddles were broken, but that wasn’t a deterrent for a pair of teenage boys. We shoved off and drifted downstream talking, joking, and carrying on. I’m not sure how much time passed as we floated aimlessly along, but we knew we were in trouble when a loud roar reached our ears. Up ahead, water was rushing over the dam. Panicked, we grabbed the broken paddles and pulled hard against the current. We managed to get close enough to the shore to safely jump out into shallow water, but the boat went over the edge. What started out as pure fun nearly ended in disaster.

That’s happens to many people today. What begins as fun and pleasure ends in shipwreck because people drift along, neglecting to think ahead or notice how fast they’re moving away from the safety of the Lord’s plan. According to the prevailing attitude of modern society, God isn’t needed as long as the stream runs smoothly. In other words, when income is good, the family is safe, and health is stable, going with the flow seems fine. But in reality, a drifting man is being swept along by the world’s currents, which are dangerous without Christ.

Today’s passage reveals that the wise look to the future to avoid ruin. Let me put it another way: Drifting is foolish. In countless arenas of life—including marriage, family, vocation, and finances—we need to have a goal and navigation plan if we expect to be successful. Thankfully, God provides both in His Word. (See Prov. 3:6.)

Listening to God

Proverbs 2:1-7

Psychologists refer to a phenomenon known as dissociation to describe a mental state in which someone inhabits two worlds simultaneously. Many of us might have experienced this in its mildest form while driving. Our thoughts drift, and we fly right by our exit, traveling many miles before we recognize our mistake.

As Christians, we sometimes suffer from spiritual dissociation. With good intentions, we open our Bibles and begin reading only to realize several verses later that we have no idea what we just read. Although God was speaking, we failed to hear His voice. Usually, this situation can be easily remedied by rereading with focused concentration, but there are other times when we fail to hear God for more serious reasons.

Sometimes an inability to hear the Lord is simply the result of spiritual immaturity, but it could also indicate a perilous state of spiritual indifference or, worse still, rebellion. In that state, we run the risk of becoming like the man who hardens his neck after much reproof and is suddenly broken beyond remedy (Prov. 29:1).

Let’s not make it difficult for God to get through to us. He’s a loving Father who keeps speaking in order to turn us away from evil and direct us back to Himself. His goal is to transform us from stubborn children needing firm control to mature followers who can be counseled merely by a word or a nudge from Him. The more receptive we become to His instructions, the more we’ll experience His lovingkindness and the joy of obedience and righteousness.

The Coming Judgment

Acts 10:42-43

Have you ever been required to appear in court before a judge? Even if your only offense was a parking or speeding ticket, the courtroom experience can be very intimidating. Your wrong cannot be undone, and you must give an account for your actions and accept whatever consequences the judge decrees.

There will come a day when every human being will be required to stand before the Judge of the universe. At that point, there’s no turning back, no chance to start over. We will each be held accountable by almighty God for our choices and actions in this life.

If you’ve trusted in Jesus, you will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This isn’t a judgment of your sins, because they were judged when God’s wrath was poured out on His Son at Calvary. Since the Savior has already secured your eternal destiny, you will stand before God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. The purpose of this judgment is evaluation of your works to determine if they are worthless or deserving of a reward. 

The Great White Throne Judgment is reserved for people who have rejected Jesus as Savior (Revelation 20:11-15). The works they have done will be evaluated according to God’s record books. Since their names are not written in the book of life, their eternal destination will be the lake of fire.

Although no one can avoid being judged, the good news is that you have a choice regarding which judgment seat you will appear before. But the only time you can make that choice is in this lifetime. Once your earthly life ends, your destiny is set.

When God Doesn’t Seem Just

Deuteronomy 32:1-4

Can you think of a situation in your life that felt like an exception to the promises of Scripture? In today’s passage, Moses declares that the Lord is faithful and all His ways are just, but we have all been in circumstances that seemed wrong and unfair. And because God did not intervene, we’ve struggled to reconcile our experience with Moses’ statement about Him.

The Scriptures are filled with examples of godly people who faced hardships that seemed totally unfair. For example, Joseph was sold as a slave, David was hunted by King Saul, and Paul suffered with a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Situations like these can cause us to question whether God is good and just. If left to fester in our minds, these doubts may give way to discouragement. We can easily start thinking, What’s the use of serving the Lord? Look at what it’s gotten me—suffering!

It’s important to remember that what we know about God from His Word is more accurate than what we feel. Scripture tells us that God is good and just, so we can know with certainty that He has a fantastic purpose for us in whatever we experience.

The Lord allows each of us to face some trials that we won’t understand to our satisfaction this side of heaven. Our job is not to comprehend everything He does and permits in our lives, but to know how to respond. He’ll make all things right in eternity. In the meantime, trust the solid Rock when all else is shaky.

The Shed Blood of Jesus

John 1:29-34

When John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching, he declared Christ to be the Lamb of God.

This concept was familiar to the Israelites, since their law required blood offerings as atonement for sin (Lev. 17:11). Jesus became our sacrificial Lamb, paying once for all the sin debt owed by mankind (1 Peter 3:18). His death secured forgiveness and eternal life for everyone who trusts Him as Savior. With regard to salvation, nothing else is required or acceptable to God.

Jesus was the one who set things right between the Father and man. He died to bring us ...

Redemption. This was a word that was used to describe a marketplace transaction—one that buys back something of value. All humanity was in bondage to sin and unable to pay the penalty (Rom. 6:23). As our sacrificial lamb, Jesus willingly died in our place and with His blood, redeemed us for His Father (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Forgiveness. As God’s adopted children, we have been saved by the blood of Christ and pardoned for our transgressions. The penalty for our actions has been fully paid. So at the moment of salvation, guilt for all of our sins—past, present, and future—is wiped away.

Meditate on what the Savior did at Calvary. As the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus exchanged His life for ours and gave it up to pay what we owed. His death redeemed us, secured our forgiveness, and gave us a permanent place in God’s family. Thank You, Jesus, for bringing redemption!

What Christ’s Blood Does for Believers

Romans 3:21-26

Knowing what we believe is key to a life-sustaining faith. Yesterday we saw two of the blessings that are ours through the blood of the Savior. Today we will look at two more.

By trusting in Christ as Savior, we are ...

Justified. Justification is the process by which God sees us as not guilty— just as if we had not committed any wrong. Romans 3:23 condemns all mankind as sinners who are under a sentence of death and facing a dreadful eternity apart from God and His blessings. But everything changes for the person who accepts Christ’s shed blood as payment for his or her sins—through Jesus, that sinner is declared “not guilty” and is provided with Christ’s righteousness. And the new believer is adopted into God’s own family (Gal. 3:26). Jesus’ sacrifice has satisfied our sin debt, and His death is counted by God as our own (Rom. 5:9).

Reconciled. Before salvation, we were separated from the Lord and spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). We had no way to span the gap between Him and us. Christ sent His Holy Spirit to convict us of our guilt (John 16:8), make us aware that we need a Savior, and bring us to saving faith. Jesus, the Lamb of God, removed the barrier of sin that separated us from God. Christ died to reconcile us to God, “having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).

As believers, we should understand what occurred when we received Jesus as Savior. Through His sacrifice, we are redeemed, forgiven, justified, and reconciled to God. That is, Christ’s blood has brought us from death to life—and has let us enter into an eternal relationship with the Father.

Let Christ Bear Your Burdens

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus’ compassion is displayed repeatedly throughout the Gospel accounts, and in today’s passage, He shows loving concern by inviting us to come to Him for relief. Is there anything more needed in this world than the feeling of being set free from whatever is weighing us down?

Jesus invites us to come, take His yoke upon us, and learn from Him. At first glance, a yoke may sound like an additional burden, but to understand what Jesus means, we must look at these verses from their historical context. A yoke was a bar that fit over the neck and shoulders of two animals. When a heavy load had to be transported, two oxen were yoked together, thereby distributing the weight evenly between them.

What our Lord is describing is a lifelong process that encompasses coming to Him for salvation and learning to know Him—His perfect character, His priorities for life, and His plans for us and the world. Jesus is asking us to place ourselves under the yoke of His lordship. He promises that a life of submission will fit us well and provide relief.

Our Savior offers to be with us in every trial we face. Sometimes He removes the difficulties that weigh us down, while at other times, He lifts the burdensome feelings that accompany our trials. But there will be occasions when He walks with us through the hardships and suffering, giving us the grace and strength to endure. Even then we will discover that His yoke is easy and His burden is light because His compassion and mighty power carry us through.

Choosing to Forgive

Ephesians 4:31-32

Isn’t it interesting that young children generally don’t hold grudges? They may cry and throw tantrums, but once their anger has been vented, they let it go. Adults, however, have a tendency to hang on to offenses. When people wrong us or our loved ones, we want them to pay for what they’ve done, to suffer as we have. It only seems fair to expect restitution of some kind, and unless that occurs, we withhold forgiveness.

As Christians, however, we are called to a different standard and way of thinking—one that’s consistent with God’s character. He is a merciful Father who wants His children to show mercy to others (Luke 6:36). His Son’s life on earth demonstrated this. As Jesus hung on the cross, He prayed for those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). God expects us to forgive as Jesus did, regardless of circumstances.

This command seems impossible to carry out until we start to grasp the enormity of what took place on the cross. Christ’s death made us recipients of a mercy so great it defies comprehension. The Savior took all our sin upon Himself and died in our place. He experienced the outpouring of God’s wrath so we might be forgiven and reconciled to the Father. Although we deserve condemnation, through Jesus Christ we have instead received God’s mercy.

Now as new creations in Christ who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we have His power to truly let go of the wrongs done to us and extend mercy to others, just as God has given mercy to us.

An Unforgiving Spirit

Matthew 18:21-35

Because of man’s propensity to sin, we’re surrounded by opportunities to forgive others. Perhaps we’ve been unfairly criticized, disappointed by a broken promise, or harmed financially or physically. In this broken world, the list of wrongdoings is endless. The question is: How are we to deal with the offenses of others?

Peter was wondering the same thing, so He asked Jesus how often he should forgive a brother who sins against him. He probably thought he was being very generous by suggesting, “Up to seven times?” But Jesus replied, “Up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). In other words, forgive every single time you’re wronged. Forgiveness doesn’t mean finding reasons to justify or excuse someone’s behavior, nor is it about forgetting what happened or pretending it never occurred.

Genuine forgiveness requires deliberate action on our part. While acknowledging that a wrong has been committed, we choose to release the offender from any obligation toward us and surrender our perceived right to hurt him or her back. In essence, we’re no longer holding the unfair, hurtful behavior against the person but are extending mercy, just as God has done toward us.

The only alternative is to hold onto anger and bitterness. Though we may think we are punishing the wrongdoer, we’re actually hurting ourselves. Resentment is like sludge that contaminates the mind, clogs the heart, and poisons the soul. Untreated anger turns into bitterness, which hinders our relationship with God and others and leaves us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (Eph. 4:26-27). The only remedy is forgiveness.

Jesus: A Servant

Matthew 20:20-28

Believers like to talk about Jesus as Lord, Master, and especially Savior, but rarely is He mentioned as Servant. Yet describing His own mission, Christ said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He entered the world to offer Himself for the Father’s purpose and mankind’s need.

Because every human being is born enslaved to sin, Jesus came to set us free. He voluntarily exchanged His glory for flesh because only as a human could He die in our place to pay the penalty for our sin. The greatest service He offered was His sacrifice on the cross. He allowed His purity to be violated by our transgressions. In fact, God made Jesus “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf” so that we could gain His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Our sinless Savior suddenly and painfully felt the burden of guilt, the vileness of sin, the weight of a tarnished soul, and a wretched separation from His Father. He suffered the injustice of dying for our sins in order that God’s holiness and our imperfection could be reconciled, and we could be shown mercy.

Jesus was the Father’s servant, agreeing to an atonement plan that made Him a sacrifice. And He is your servant as well—He humbly endured the punishment you deserved. To receive the benefit of His sacrifice, you need only believe and call on Him for the forgiveness of your sins. When you receive Him into your life, then you too will know the Servant, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord.

Wisdom for Life

Proverbs 4:10-27

Sometimes life seems like a confusing maze of options, and we don’t know which path to choose. What we need is God’s wisdom to guide us. Our first source for insight is His Word, but that is not the end. With scriptural principles as our foundation, God provides other opportunities that can help us grow in wisdom.

Discernment. Instead of blindly accepting cultural ideas, we should compare what we hear and see around us with what God has said in His Word. Then we’ll recognize evil and deception and have the wisdom to avoid that path.

Observation. By noticing actions of godly and ungodly people, we gain wisdom. As we observe their mistakes and successes, as well as our own past, we learn the blessings of obedience and the consequences of wrongdoing.

Godly counsel. The Lord will sometimes use other people to give direction for our life (Prov. 12:15). Whether they speak encouragement or correction, we can trust their advice when it lines up with Scripture and is confirmed by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Wise Associates. There’s great benefit in spending time with those who know the Lord and routinely respond in a godly manner (Prov. 13:20). Before developing close relationships, we should learn what people value. As we recognize which individuals reflect wisdom in thought and deed, we can cultivate a relationship with them and emulate their discerning ways.

God wants us to pay attention to what we see and hear—and to be deliberate in our choice of companions. Wisdom isn’t just having the right information; it’s an ability to perceive between right and wrong, good and best.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

Daniel 2:20-22

How many of us have listened to the global or national news and wondered, What in the world is going on? Without a firm foundation of biblical truth, we can easily be overcome with fear and despair. Despite the upheaval in political and financial realms, Christians can find peace in the knowledge that our God is sovereign over every nation and ruler on earth.

Though the future of a nation appears to be in the hands of its rulers and lawmakers, an omnipotent hand is orchestrating a good and glorious plan: The Lord is the one who “removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan. 2:21). Ultimately, every governmental leader is put into office, not by voters, political campaigns, or personal abilities, but by the hand of God.

Nothing that the Lord does is carried out in isolation. He’s working all things according to His divine plan. We tend to think that a ruler has to be righteous for God to use Him, but Proverbs 21:1 tells us the Lord can direct the heart of any national leader wherever He wishes. In fact, He describes two pagan kings—Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus—as “My servant” (Jer. 25:9) and “My shepherd” (Isa. 44:28). Unbeknownst to them, God guided their paths to fulfill His purposes for Israel.

When the news threatens to dislodge your peace or cause despair, remember who holds the nations and rulers in His hand. The Lord’s plans for this world are moving along according to His divine purposes, and no unrighteous ruler can thwart Him. Just keep singing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

Our Anchor in Stormy Times

Hebrews 6:17-20

One thing common to everyone is the experience of going through storms. Whether these are literal weather events, personal trauma, or the turmoil caused by war and social unrest, we all face circumstances over which we have little control. Some storms are over quickly, whereas others seem unending. Some tempests cause little damage, but others leave great devastation in their wake.

• Where do these storms come from? At times we bring them into our own life through choices we make, but other times they’re caused by someone else’s actions. It may even be that the devil has stirred up some adversity to distract or hinder us. And there are occasions when God’s work in our life requires a storm to fulfill a special purpose.

• Why does the Lord allow storms in our life? Difficulties tend to turn our focus toward God. We either start questioning Him or go to Him for help and strength. He may want our attention because there’s a sin we need to deal with. Or perhaps He wants us to let go of something we need to surrender to Him. It could be that He wants to conform us to His image (Rom. 8:29) or equip us to serve Him.

• How do we respond to storms? When we struggle against God because we don’t like the hardship we’re going through, that’s an indication we don’t trust Him. Instead of trusting that He is working good in our life, we may wrongly believe He’s trying to hurt us. At such times knowing Scripture is crucial for the believer. His Word is the immovable anchor in our storm. We can trust the Bible because, like God, it never changes!

The Christian’s Walk

Ephesians 4:1-2

After placing trust in Jesus, a person should begin to walk in a new direction. Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and therefore have real purpose; it isn’t fitting for Christians to live aimlessly. The apostle Paul presents a dramatic contrast between who we once were and who we’re to be after coming to faith. (See Eph. 4:15-24.) Formerly, we might not have felt too bad about sin, but now that we are one with Jesus Christ, our mind is being renewed and our behavior should become increasingly God-pleasing.

As God’s children, we’re also to walk weighty—that is, leaving an imprint and an influence wherever we go. When we understand who we are in Christ and commit to walking in holiness, we begin to reflect the Lord Jesus to others. The joy we have in Him becomes an expression of His presence in our life and evidence of our relationship with Him.

So think of all the people you cross paths with each day. You might be reflecting Jesus to some who have been blind to the truth of God. In addition, your oneness with the Lord and your unity with other believers make you an asset and an encouragement to the body of Christ, too. You have no idea how many lives might be touched by yours. 

I’m certainly one who believes in the value of sermons, but God’s people must do more than simply sit and listen. Our life must change so that everybody who meets us will meet Christ in us. Our old life—how we lived before meeting the Lord—was self-centered; our new life is Christ-centered. Is that becoming more evident in you?

Walk in the Light

Ephesians 5:6-16

Yesterday we saw that when we walk in holiness, we change direction from our old life and leave an imprint wherever we go. Now let’s consider one more aspect of this new journey: walking in the light. (See 1 John 1:5-7.)

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul challenges us to consider this question: “What partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” He’s saying that just as Christ and Satan can’t have fellowship with each other, neither can good and evil. In other words, sin should become a foreign thing to everyone who knows Christ as Savior. His Holy Spirit helps us become sensitive to the presence of sin.

The Bible says that before we come to Christ, we are not only in darkness, but we are darkness. The ungodly are darkened in their understanding, ignorant of the truth, callused in their heart, and hardened in their spirit; they have turned themselves over to sin. All of this changes when a person places faith in the Lord. The believer experiences forgiveness and redemption, and what’s more, something else wonderful happens: Darkness is replaced with God’s light and righteousness.

Everyone who chooses to follow God is given a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), but patterns of the old self linger. You may think that because you sometimes struggle with sins, godliness is an unattainable goal. However, it is not your own strength that makes you holy, but the Holy One in your heart. When you make Christ the center of your life and daily make the decision to walk in His light, He enables you to live holy in this dark and unholy world.

Blessing Our Enemies

Luke 6:27-28

As stories of the persecuted church reach us, we learn about Christians who respond to imprisonment, beatings, and harassment with unimaginable grace and dignity. These saints have learned to obey Christ’s command to “love your enemies” (Luke 6:27), even in the harshest of circumstances.

We may never face physical persecution for our faith, but we will run across people who hate and mistreat us. The most natural response is to dislike them in return, but harboring ill will and bitterness chokes our witness and poisons our souls. Instead, Jesus instructs us to love our adversaries and treat them well.

The Greek word for this kind of love is agape—this is not a feeling based on the other person’s likability or favor toward us but, rather, an action of the will that does what is best for the other person. It’s the type of love God has and, therefore, is not something we can muster within ourselves. But as the Holy Spirit produces His fruit in us, agape love will flow through us, even to our enemies.

When someone wrongs or hurts us, it’s an opportunity to be a witness for Christ. Rather than harboring animosity or seeking revenge, we are told to pray for our adversary. Instead of begging the Father to defeat our enemy, we can ask Him for the strength to express genuine Christlike love in the face of opposition. That’s the kind of prayer God is delighted to answer. And when we are privileged to meet the need of one who despises us, we might just see an amazing change in his life.

Hope Amidst Suffering

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

We all go through distressing times in life. These seasons of suffering may be brought about by relational difficulties, financial hardships, or other trials. But as God’s children, we can take heart in knowing that our pain is not wasted.

Sometimes our pain is for the eternal benefit of others—God uses it to reveal the genuineness of our faith so that others might see it and be drawn to His Son (1 Peter 1:7). By the way we respond to adversity, our belief in Jesus becomes visible to those around us. Believers will be encouraged, and seekers will ask us questions about our faith.

At other times, God uses trials to teach us to obey—Hebrews 5:8 tells us that even our Savior learned obedience from the things He suffered. Another purpose of hardship is to broaden our ministry. The apostle Paul’s imprisonment let him minister among the guards, resulting in the salvation of many.

Difficulties can also be the Lord’s tool in preventing a problem from happening—such as the unidentified ailment that kept Paul from becoming prideful. When disobedience threatens our walk with God, He will take whatever steps are needed to draw us back to Him. He may allow a need to remain unmet or something cherished to be removed. His purpose is that we confess our sin and return to Him.

We may not know the reasons for our heartaches, but the wisest choice we can make is to trust the heavenly Father. After all, He who saved us through the sacrifice of His Son has promised to use our suffering to bring about good (Rom. 8:28).

What Disciples Need

Colossians 1:25-29

We’re all familiar with Jesus’ last instructions to His followers: Matthew 28:19 says to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But the next verse contains a second aspect of the directive: “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The Great Commission is usually associated with world evangelism, but baptism and obedience to Christ are also important because they are outward signs of a disciple’s inward faith.

In today’s passage, Paul explains the reason for proclaiming Christ and admonishing and teaching believers: “That we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28). To simply lead someone to salvation without teaching him God’s Word is equivalent to leaving a newborn baby to fend for himself. Salvation begins the lifelong process of learning obedience and growing into spiritual maturity.

Furthermore, we can’t limit the task of teaching to pastors and missionaries any more than we can say that they alone are called to evangelize the lost. The entire church is given the assignment of making disciples and teaching them to obey the Lord. Instead of simply sitting in church services, Sunday schools, and Bible studies to soak up more truth for our own benefit, let’s pass on to others what we have learned.

Teaching isn’t the exclusive role of those who stand at podiums in front of large groups. It’s something that can be done one-on-one over coffee. Think about all that you have learned since you were saved. What can you share with someone else that will help him or her grow in Christ?

God’s View of Mankind

Hebrews 2:16-18

To understand the ways of the Lord, we need to comprehend His perspective of mankind. Oftentimes, we rely on our human viewpoint instead of trying to see ourselves through His eyes. All that He does on earth is guided by His care and love for the human race. Consider three elements of God’s perspective of humanity:

Created in God’s image. Of all the creatures that the Lord fashioned, only the man and woman were made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). They had a mind, will, and emotions as well as a spirit, which enabled them to worship and relate to God. Being sinless and perfect, they were designed to live forever in intimate relationship with their Creator.

Corrupted by sin. However, an act of disobedience broke their relationship with the Lord (Isa. 59:2). The divine image was marred by sin, which infiltrated human nature and corrupted every person born thereafter. Mankind stood spiritually dead, without hope, and condemned before a holy God.

Worthy of redemption. Yet the Lord considered them worthy of restoration. Through the redemptive work of His Son, all who believe in Jesus are made spiritually alive again, and the broken relationship between God and man is repaired (Col. 1:13-14). One day—in heaven—sin will be no more, and a perfect environment will be reinstated.

Between life’s pace and trials, losing sight of divine viewpoint is all too easy. When we’re overwhelmed by criticism, trouble, or suffering, it’s vital to recognize our worth in the Lord’s eyes. That realization can energize our service and renew our love for the One who gave Himself to bring us back to God.

Our Father’s Unconditional Love

Romans 5:8

Many of us have heard since childhood that the Lord loves us. Yet it isn’t until we begin to understand the true nature of His never-ending love that our lives start to change dramatically—anxiety is exchanged for peace, depression for joy, and fear for confidence.

Today’s Bible verse tells us that while we were still living in rebellion against God, His love sent Jesus to the cross to pay the ultimate price for our redemption. In other words, He didn’t wait for our apologies or even our recognition of Him. No, the Almighty loved us so completely that He sent His Son to die for us while we were steeped in sin.

This doesn’t mesh with our human understanding of love. Much of our concern for others is conditional, hopefully with the exception of care for our children and families. We oftentimes project this imperfect image onto the Lord. It is hard for us to imagine that there actually exists a greater love than what we ourselves can give.

Thankfully, God is not restricted by our view of Him. So great is His care, in fact, that when we trust in Him, He calls us His children and adopts us! And our Father promises that nothing can separate us from Him (Rom. 8:38-39).

As you read Scripture, focus on verses about the heavenly Father’s love. Ask Him to help you start to grasp how great His love is. Document what you learn so that it is available to review when guilt or doubt creeps into your mind. What peace there is for Christians in the Almighty’s unfailing, unconditional care!

Wisdom for Good Health

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Early in my college days, I studied and worked excessively, as I wanted to offer the Lord my all. Eventually, I realized that neglecting my health could hinder my serving Him, so I therefore had a responsibility to take care of my physical body. Since then, I have tried to use wisdom with regard to health. I believe that includes having the proper motivation and a commitment to practice discipline.

When we understand our worth in the Father’s sight, we will be motivated to pursue good health. Our bodies are the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Holy Spirit lives in us and carries out the Lord’s work through us. When we are taking care of our health, we position ourselves to be able to serve when God calls. Our heavenly Father knows many of us have infirmities, but He wants us to take care of ourselves so we do not make our condition worse.

Discipline is the other component of a health-conscious attitude. Many of us approach exercise and weight loss in a “fits and starts” manner. While that may offer some value at the time, a more lasting method is of greater benefit. We need to develop new routines, within the structure of our family and work, for our bodies to thrive. Consistency over the long term is necessary if we are to stay in good condition.

A desire to eat right and exercise regularly does not guarantee we’ll avoid disease or live a long life. But it does mean we will have done our part to keep God’s temple in good shape for Him. Our calling as God’s children is best fulfilled when we seek physical as well as spiritual vitality.

A Barometer for Spiritual Growth

1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Since our Father wants us to mature in the faith, we should stop periodically and examine our life to see if we’re making progress in this area. Physical growth is fairly easy to evaluate—all you need is a tape measure. But how can you tell if you’re growing spiritually? Let’s begin by considering how children develop.

Desires. Have you noticed that your childhood toys no longer interest you? The maturing process changes our desires in the spiritual realm, too. When we’re growing, the world’s pleasures lose their appeal, while our hunger for God and His Word increases. We are eager to be with Him and share with others how He’s working in our life.

Understanding. When you were young, your perception of the world was very limited. In the same way, we lack spiritual understanding when we’re new believers. But in time, we begin to see life from God’s perspective. Trials and temptations become opportunities for growth, and service for the Lord becomes an honor instead of a burden.

Selflessness. The most obvious sign of a toddler’s immaturity is his selfishness. He wants his way, and he wants it now! Hopefully that is no longer characteristic of you. A mature believer is submissive to the Lord, willing to wait, and more concerned about others than himself.

How are you doing in these three areas of growth? Maybe it’s time to let go of a few childish ways in order to grow into a mature believer. The greatest evidence of maturity is love. When the Lord and other people have first place in our heart, it’s then that we’re most like Jesus.

The Practices of Maturity

Hebrews 5:12-14

Believers are on a continual growth track that ascends higher and higher. This side of heaven, none of us ever “arrive,” but we each have a responsibility to press on to maturity. Though many people think those who know a lot about the Bible are the spiritually mature ones, Hebrews 5:14 adds the element of practice to the growth equation. This word means a custom or habit. Christian growth requires the discipline of godly habits carried out daily.

The most important practice to cultivate is a personal devotional time. Since God is the source of all spiritual development, you can’t neglect Him and expect to become mature. Transformation begins with time in His Word and prayer.

Obedience is another essential element for advancement. When our desire to obey the Lord is stronger than our attraction to sin, we’ll know we are making progress in our spiritual life.

In terms of physical development, the goal is to become more independent and self-sufficient as we age. But in the spiritual realm, the opposite is true. Those who are mature in Christ recognize their own inadequacy and rely on the Holy Spirit within them. It’s His job to transform our character and empower us to accomplish everything the Lord calls us to do.

In God’s eyes, maturity isn’t the same as getting older. By digging into Scripture and developing God-pleasing habits, we can use our years to grow stronger in the Lord instead of wasting time with passivity. No one becomes mature accidentally. Spiritual growth requires a diligent pursuit of God.

Our Incomparable Companion

John 14:15-17

Having a faithful friend is one of God’s greatest blessings. No matter what’s going on in your life, you can count on that person to stick with you. However, there is no guarantee that you won’t lose that friend. Unavoidable circumstances like relocation, illness, or death may take your companion away, but if you are a Christian, you have a friend who will never leave you.

He’s the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called the Helper. He’s no fair-weather friend, slipping in and out of our lives when it’s to His advantage. When He takes up residence within us, He comes to stay forever (John 14:16).

In most human relationships, we try to avoid the use of sweeping negative or positive statements such as, “You are always late,” or “You are always there for me.” However, such superlative declarations are completely fitting when applied to the Holy Spirit. Listen to how the Lord Jesus described Him:

• “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).
• “He will testify about Me” (John 15:26).
• “He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).
• “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:15).

Throughout the New Testament epistles, we find even more descriptions of this marvelous companion. His ministry in our lives is varied, and His accomplishments in and through us are many. How wealthy we are to have the Holy Spirit. He is a friend who truly sticks closer than a brother!

Every Christian Rewarded

1 Corinthians 3:5-15

Scripture is very clear about the fact that wonderful benefits await believers who obey and bring glory to God. In Psalm 19, David wrote that there is great reward in keeping the Lord’s precepts (Psalm 19:11). What’s more, the promise of heavenly gifts comes straight from Jesus Christ’s mouth in the Sermon on the Mount. (See Matt. 5:12.)

Reread today’s passage, and notice Paul’s assertion that he and Apollos would each receive rewards for their service to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:8). God neither offers group prizes nor reserves treasure only for those who work in ministry. We are all ministers of the gospel, whose good works store up heavenly treasure. God sees our Spirit-led decisions and actions as worthy of reward. You may not feel particularly important or essential in this big world, but your every action and word matter to God. What He values is the believer yielding to the Holy Spirit’s direction.

The motivation behind our actions is important too—sometimes good works are done for the wrong reasons. For example, Jesus revealed that some religious leaders were fasting to gain attention, not to please God (Matt. 6:16). When a person seeks the applause of men, their adulation is the sole reward. While this may feel good for a while, flattery is not eternal.

I suspect that one day we’ll all shed tears of regret over the righteous acts we neglected or the work we did for personal glory. We will realize how much more we could have done for the Lord. But then He will dry our tears and make us new, as He promised (Revelation 21:4-5).

A Foundation of Value

Matthew 7:24-27

The head of my seminary once commented that constructing anything worthwhile requires a firm foundation. So a chicken coop may not need much of a base, but a high-rise office building must be erected upon tons of buried steel and concrete.

The most valuable thing you can build is your life, which could be likened to a skyscraper. No foundation is stronger or steadier than Jesus Christ, so to build wisely, you must ...

Apply the Word of God. Believers build a lasting scriptural structure through study and application of God’s Word. The Lord’s principles and commandments are the blueprint for an abundant life.

Give sacrificially, forgive willingly, and love extravagantly (Acts 2:45; Eph. 4:32; 1 Peter 1:22). Pride and selfishness have no place in this edifice. Using these as construction materials results in a teetering shack that is susceptible to fire.

Use your gifts to glorify God. The Holy Spirit has equipped every believer to serve the Lord. We want to use our time on this earth courageously, glorifying our Father with our talents and resources.

Share the gospel. Telling others about Jesus Christ is the greatest service we can offer to God and to our fellow man. The Lord Himself has called us to this task (Matt. 28:19).

Kingdom builders aren’t creating monuments for the world’s pleasure. Rather, they are raising spiritual skyscrapers that reflect God’s glory. The truth is, many acts of obedience are seen only by the Lord, but He remembers every grace-filled word and deed, and He intends to reward each one.

Our Eternal Rewards

Revelation 4:9-11

Throughout Scripture, we find references to crowns. Let’s take a look at how they reveal the eternal rewards of loving Jesus Christ and following Him obediently.

The Crown of Victory. To finish life well, believers need Olympic endurance. Athletes in those ancient games were crowned with a perishable circlet of laurel leaves. But when we pursue our God-given ministry and triumph over sin, we’ll be given an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).

The Crown of Exultation. Any believers to whom we ministered through the power of Jesus will be “our glory and joy” before the Lord (1 Thess. 2:18-20). Just imagine how you will rejoice in heaven upon seeing and talking with the people you care about, who appreciate your spiritual investment in them.

The Crown of Righteousness. Following Jesus is not easy, but there is great reward for living righteously when facing temptation or hardship. Believers who pursue godliness can look forward to the life to come—and to meeting God with a pure conscience (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

The Crown of Life. Anguish and pain are unavoidable in this life, but we can take heart because much spiritual growth happens in adversity. Hang in there to receive the crown of life that the Lord promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

In heaven, what will we do with the crowns God has given us? We will cast them before Jesus’ feet (Revelation 4:10), laying them down as a tribute to the One who saved us, gifted us, equipped us, and lived in us. Everything good and right comes to us through the Lord, so He deserves our crowns.

The Consequences of Poor Advice

Genesis 16:1-16

When facing challenging situations, it’s natural to turn to family and friends for help. Sometimes their kind and encouraging words may be the catalyst that turns us back to God. However, we must always be careful to examine advice offered to us. Even though the counsel is motivated by love and seems sound, if it is inconsistent with God’s Word in any way, we should politely disregard it. 

In Genesis 16, Sarai faced a challenging situation. Although the Lord had promised Abram a son, both of them were getting older, and Sarai had not been able to conceive. Since she was obviously barren, she became impatient and suggested that Abram have a child through her maid Hagar.

Instead of waiting and trusting God, Sarai was trying to fulfill His promise her way. Abram chose to follow his wife’s advice without seeking the Lord’s guidance. After all, it seemed reasonable because God has explicitly promised him a son (Gen. 15:4) but had not specifically mentioned Sarai at this point (see Gen. 18:14). However, Abram’s unwise decision not to wait and trust God led to tension in his family and difficult circumstances for Hagar.

Like Abram, we tend to heed advice we want to hear. However, as we consult our loved ones for help with momentous decisions, it’s important to distinguish between our fleshly desires and biblical truth. Wise counsel is always consistent with Scripture and points us to God’s desires and ways.

The next time you seek an opinion from friends or family, remember that no human being knows all the unseen factors. Therefore, it’s always better to trust in the Bible and God’s wisdom for guidance.

Unshakeable Foundations

Romans 8:35-39

Our world is a changing, uncertain place. Many people seek security in wealth, relationships, and power. These things, however, are not guaranteed from one day to the next. Watching the news provides enough proof that any of them can be taken away in a moment. No wonder there is such despair and fear.

For believers, thankfully, reality is not based on what we see. Nor is our foundation found in this world. We build our hope and trust on the Lord, and we believe the truth in His Word.

Even in chaotic times, our certainty is found in God’s loving relationship with us as His children. Today’s passage tells us that nothing can tear us away from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, in the midst of turmoil and trials, we have assurance that our lives are in the grip of the almighty God. We can rely not only on His love and presence but also on His uninterrupted attention, faithfulness, and perfect care.

When difficulty arises and circumstances seem overwhelming, we can respond with confidence and strength because of Jesus. Along with the psalmist, who also lived during times of war and stressful events, we can call the Lord “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2).

Consider where you find security. Is the foundation of your life built upon the solid rock of Jesus? Or is it planted in something as unstable as sand—like money or prestige? Placing hope and confidence in anything apart from the Lord will ultimately leave you feeling broken and defeated.

When Foundations Are Shaken

Hebrews 12:25-29

Seventeen years ago, the United States of America experienced a massive surprise attack by terrorists. Our people were shaken by the realization that the country is not as safe as we once thought.

Of course, it grieved us to learn of the events that occurred and the lives that were tragically lost. But at the same time, the horrible situation led to some positive outcomes. For example, our nation unified and people served with courage and selflessness.

One of the biggest benefits, I believe, was that many of us realized our great dependence upon God. Safety in this world is an illusion. Sadly, the peace and blessings we’ve experienced in America have led to much complacency and self-dependence. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our forgetfulness and into reliance upon Jesus Christ.

Just listening to the news these days can rattle our sense of well-being. There is always something unsettling taking place. But as believers, we should look at life from a resurrection perspective. We are children of the living God, not people who seek security only in the natural, secular world. Our hope and refuge is firm: Through Jesus Christ, our relationship with the Lord is eternal. Everything else we possess could be destroyed in a moment.

Worldly circumstances—natural disasters, wars, and assorted turmoil—may have an effect on everyone, but they can’t control the believer’s heart. Let your hope rest in Christ alone. Only by finding security in the arms of almighty God can you endure times of uncertainty.

Jesus Christ Is Lord

Romans 14:7-9

“Jesus is Lord” is the confession of every Christian because it is fundamental to our faith. In order to be saved, the apostle Paul says we must confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9). Such doctrine is central to Christianity, and those who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ believe that He is Lord of all creation and all time.

However, when we say “all,” it means us as well. If Jesus truly is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, then He is also the Master of our individual lives. Christ’s sovereign rule is not limited to governing the vast universe; it’s also a personal issue. He is Lord of our normal, daily lives—our choices, priorities, activities, attitudes, words, everything.  

Paul captured this truth in Romans 14:8 when he wrote, “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord.” The apostle considered it impossible to compartmentalize Christ’s lordship. He knew his life belonged wholly to Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t want to be part of our life; He made that clear with His disciples. When we give the Lord just a portion, then we are telling Him there are other things we consider at least as important as He is. Do you know what the Bible calls this? Idolatry.

Jesus never called people to give Him a try. He demanded full surrender: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). We can’t squeeze Jesus into one segment of our life and continue living as we please. If we’re truly His, then Jesus is our life.

You Must Be Born Again

John 3:1-16

Life is like a ladder we climb until we die. It would be a shame if we simply stopped and never progressed. But it could be utterly disastrous if we placed our ladder against the wrong wall and after a lifetime of climbing discovered that we had wasted all the years given to us.  

This may have been how Nicodemus felt after talking to Jesus. He’d climbed to the top rung of religious success in Judaism and was known as “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10). Yet Jesus told him the only way he would see the kingdom of God was to be born again. All his good works, extensive knowledge, and great accomplishments were worthless. Nicodemus realized immediately that just as he had done nothing to bring about his first birth, he could do nothing to be born again. His hopes for eternal life were dashed.

Before Nicodemus was ready to hear the good news, he had to be emptied of all his self-confidence and accomplishments in order to see his need for a Savior. His ladder came crashing down, and he had to start afresh with a new birth of the Spirit if he hoped to gain the kingdom of heaven.

Where have you placed your ladder? Has God ever emptied you so He can fill you up again? Although there’s nothing you can do to be born again—no good works or religious service—there is something you can believe. God wants you to glimpse His holiness and realize how far you are from His perfect standard. Then, if you come broken and contrite to Jesus, believing His death paid your sin debt, you’ll be born again and will someday see the kingdom of heaven.

God Helps Us Pray

Romans 8:26-27

Why do we sometimes feel as if our prayers go no farther than the ceiling? We’re speaking, but is God listening? The truth is that the Lord is always attentive to the prayers of His people. He’s the one who has invited us to come boldly into His presence. What’s more, He has also promised to assist us as we pray.

First, our Father has given us His Word to teach us truth so we’ll know how to pray wisely and effectively. We find guidance for prayer in God’s direct commands, the descriptions of His ways and thoughts, the examples of biblical characters, and scriptural principles that teach us how to apply divine truth to every area of our life.

Second, He’s given us many promises in His Word. These assure us that He will direct our paths (Prov. 3:5-6), meet our needs (Phil. 4:19), give us wisdom (James 1:5), answer our prayers (John 14:13), and cause all things to work together for good as He conforms us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

Third, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us because in our human weakness, we don’t always know how to pray as we should (Rom. 8:26-27). He takes our misguided or uncertain requests and reframes them according to God’s will.

Fourth, Jesus Christ sits at the Father’s right hand as our High Priest, interceding on our behalf (Heb. 7:25-26).

We are never alone when we pray, because the Trinity acts on our behalf. Not only is prayer an amazing privilege; it’s also an awesome and powerful endeavor. The next time you come to the Lord in prayer, remember that it’s a divine appointment with almighty God.

The Path of Brokenness

John 12:23-28

A seed that is not planted will never produce a crop. So Jesus used a seed to illustrate why He had to die in order to bring many people to glory. He was teaching a principle that’s also true in our lives: If our ambition is to remain isolated, protected, and comfortable, we’ll never bear the fruit God desires. It’s in dying to self and being broken of pride and self-sufficiency that we become fruitful and useful to the Lord. 

Brokenness is one of the means God uses to mature His children. In that process, we may find ourselves challenged in:

Circumstances that cripple our self-sufficiency.
Areas in which we are not submissive to Him.
The timing of His plans.

If we refuse to be re-formed and instead cling to whatever God wants us to release, then how can He use us for His kingdom? Just like the single, unbroken grain of wheat, we will remain unproductive.

With so much at stake, why do we still resist His process of breaking us down? The problem is usually our shortsighted desires. It’s difficult to let go of things or relationships or hobbies we enjoy even when we know they are stunting our spiritual growth. We prefer to take the path of least resistance and hope God will bless us anyway.

Don’t be distracted by short-term happiness—that isn’t the road to maturity that God has prepared for you. An abundance of fruitfulness awaits you if you’ll release your grip and let Him do whatever it takes to get you there.

The Blessings of Brokenness

Deuteronomy 8:1-14

God’s discipline isn’t easy, but we cannot ignore its wonderful benefits to spiritual growth. It gives us an entirely new perspective on the Lord’s plan for our life. If we enjoyed a steady, uninterrupted stream of blessings, we might think our Father exists solely for our happiness, and we wouldn’t know the truth about who He is.

Think about what we generally request of the Lord. We ask Him for healing, success, or financial security and seek His blessing on our family and relationships. Philippians 4:6 tells us to pray about everything, so there is nothing wrong with coming to God with all our concerns. But we must be careful that we don’t inadvertently begin to think of Him as our personal assistant or some sort of catalog, where we place our order and He delivers. 

If that is the case, who is actually at the center of our prayers? It certainly isn’t almighty God, who as our Creator and Savior is worthy of our adoration and worship. When we find ourselves at the center of our prayers, the end result is the subtle deception that the Lord exists for our benefit. This distortion breaks the Lord’s heart and leads us far away from truly knowing His character and majesty.

The antidote for this self-centered idolatry is brokenness. When God says “no”—taking away instead of adding more and then divinely managing what we have, how much we have, and how long we have it—He is helping us keep our eyes on Him. Do not despise such moments. Instead, recognize them as the voice of your Father calling you back into His loving arms.

The Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

John 15:12-17

Good friends are hard to find, and our busy schedules don’t help. Many people don’t make time to cultivate meaningful friendships—are you possibly among their number? If so, notice how Jesus prioritized time with His friends. He lived closely with His disciples for three years and proved to be not only their Lord and Savior but also the best friend they’d ever had.

Unlike the disciples, we’ve never physically walked with Jesus, but this doesn’t exclude us from His friendship. First 1 Peter 1:8 says, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Every person who trusts in Christ becomes His friend, and the ultimate proof of His unwavering love is that He laid down His life for whoever would believe. Without the Savior’s amazing act of self-sacrifice, His disciples—along with every one of His followers since then—would have been eternally lost and separated from the Lord forever.

Although Jesus is a unique friend unlike any other, we can learn much about friendship from His example. He tells us to love one another as He has loved us, and His is a self-sacrificing love that does what’s best for the other person. Jesus was open and honest with His friends, making known to them all that the Father had told Him.

What a comfort to know that though others may disappoint and abandon us, Christ always remains a faithful, patient, and loving friend. And as we seek to emulate and obey Him, we will become that same kind of friend to others.

The Witness of God

Romans 1:16-23

No one is born an atheist or agnostic, “because that which is known about God is evident within them” (Rom. 1:19). The Father has given every person an inborn witness of His existence, but this isn’t the only evidence given to mankind. Creation itself testifies of God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). However, it’s possible to ignore or reject both the internal and external witnesses of God. When that happens, the mind becomes progressively darker until it can no longer see the light of truth.

On hearing this, many believers react with concern for the multitudes who have never heard the gospel. They wonder, How can people be saved if the only evidence they experience of the one true God is the natural world and an inborn sense of His reality, which their culture may try to deny or manipulate? Yet our text today says there is no excuse for anyone who rejects both these witnesses (Rom. 1:20).

One thing we must remember is that God will be just, and we cannot claim to be more righteous, compassionate, and merciful than He. We can trust that He will judge every person rightly (Deut. 32:3-4). All people will be evaluated according to the truth they received, the opportunities they had, and what they did with both: Did they believe or reject what God revealed?

One thing we can know for certain is our part in the divine plan for unbelievers—Scripture is clear that we’re to be witnesses to as many as possible. You have the opportunity to share the gospel with people in your sphere of influence. That is God’s plan for the unreached.

The Tragedy of a Wasted Life

Luke 12:15-21

Death is inevitable, but at times it surprises us. Perhaps you can relate because you know someone who died unexpectedly.

Today’s parable describes one such situation. It tells of a man who acquired comfort and wealth but thought only of his time on earth. Death came without warning, and he could take nothing with him. God called him a fool for living focused only on himself.

Though rich in the world’s eyes, the man had no relationship with God and hadn’t invested anything in Christ’s kingdom. All the treasures he stored here were worthless once he died. What’s even worse is that without Jesus, he’d be separated from God forever. Think about the tragic waste of such a life.

As I consider the choices this man made, two questions come to mind that are important for us all to contemplate. First, if you were to die today, would you go to heaven? Salvation is a free gift for those who trust in Jesus as the acceptable sacrifice for sin. He is the only way—no excuses or even sincere beliefs in other ways will work. And Scripture teaches that when believers die, they immediately find themselves in the Lord’s presence (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Second, what is your life accomplishing? Are you driven by selfish purposes, storing security and wealth for yourself? Or is your motivation to further God’s kingdom?

Like the man in this parable, we don’t know when we will die. We do know, however, that death is inescapable. Dying is an unpleasant topic, but eternity is a long time and worthy of our attention. It’s definitely a wise investment to make sure of your salvation and to invest in God’s kingdom.

God’s Economy for Generosity

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

When I was a boy, my mother and I had barely enough money for food, shelter, and clothing, but that never stopped her from being generous. If one of my friends asked for some food, she always gave him something to eat, even if it was only a piece of bread. As a child, I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough for ourselves, but my mother knew that the Lord’s economy works differently from that of the world. 

Worldly wisdom says, “Get all you can, and do all you can to keep it,” but God’s ways are the opposite. In today’s passage, Paul uses the natural laws of agriculture to teach us His principles for generosity. Farmers know that sowing seed sparingly will not result in a big crop, but that’s what some of us do when it comes to giving. We’d rather keep most of our seed in the barn just to make sure it’s safe.

However, when we do this, we become like the man we read about in yesterday’s parable—he tried so hard to keep all he had and yet ended up with nothing of eternal value (Luke 12:15-21). Living in God’s divine economy requires confident faith in His promises. As Christians, we readily believe Him for our eternal salvation, so why are we sometimes reluctant to trust Him with earthly things like money?  

We are called to be vessels through whom the Father blesses His church and others. He has promised to provide us with enough bread to eat and more seed to sow. When we learn His ways and trust what He has written, He is glorified, and we reap a bountiful harvest of righteousness.

Maintaining Our Witness in Trials

1 Peter 2:11-12

You are being watched. That’s always a good thing to remember as we interact with people at work or in the community. How we respond to frustrations, annoyances, difficulties, and temptations is a witness for Christianity, and the last thing we want to do is misrepresent Christ.

Many times challenging situations arise unexpectedly. Therefore, it’s important that we prepare ourselves beforehand—then we’ll be equipped to display Christlikeness, and our witness will not be derailed. To be ready ...

Stay in God’s Word. Knowing Scripture helps you view situations from God’s perspective and know how He would have you respond.

Pray. Challenge yourself to make prayer an immediate response to your problems. When you bring your concerns to God, His peace will guard your heart and mind, which is a powerful witness to a watching world (Phil. 4:6-7).

Trust and obey. When you rely on God’s promises, your peace and confidence in God will stand out to those who are consumed with fear and anxiety.

Remember whose you are. You belong to God and have been purchased by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:17-19). Your life is a display of God’s grace, and your character, conduct, and conversation should always reflect Christ.

Be gracious and kind to others. Don’t let your own troubles erupt into anger and blame. Small acts of kindness and a forgiving spirit are a tremendous witness in a world where such things are rare. 

Aggravations and problems seem like hindrances to us, but our response can change someone’s life if it reflects the love of Jesus Christ.

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!

Trust God for Your Needs

Philippians 4:19

Jim saved for a long time to take an Alaskan cruise. At last he was on board with two carefully packed suitcases. The first evening, when he heard “Dinner is served” announced over the loudspeaker, he took peanut butter crackers from his suitcase and sat at the table in his small cabin. Every day at mealtime, he repeated the ritual. It wasn’t that Jim didn’t like the ship’s tasty banquets. He simply didn’t know that his meals were included in the price of the ticket. For two weeks he enjoyed beautiful scenery and wildlife off the decks but ate dry, stale food in his cabin.

This sad story is a metaphor for the way some believers follow Jesus. God has promised to meet His children’s every need—His boundless riches are included in the price Christ paid for their salvation (Eph. 1:18). Yet many folks are instead trying to live out of their own resources. They don’t realize that the wealth of their Father’s love, power, and provision is on their “menu.”

A believer’s relationship with the Lord is one of complete unity. Jesus is our life. His Spirit lives through us. Therefore, we have remarkable resources available to us, as do our brothers and sisters in Christ—we have access to His power, strength, and endurance.

Jim didn’t know he had the right to satisfy his hunger in an extravagant way. Learn from this exaggerated example. Discover in God’s Word the riches you are entitled to through faith. God offers believers everything required for living well and wisely, so trust Him for all your needs.

The Foundation of Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35

For followers of Christ, the goal is to become increasingly like Him, and one of the best ways to reflect His character is through forgiveness. Yet sometimes this is a quality we are reluctant to demonstrate because it seems so unfair, especially if the wrong done to us is ongoing or particularly painful. To forgive appears to diminish the offense and counteract justice.

Let's correct several misperceptions about this aspect of our faith:

The foundation for our forgiveness of others is God's forgiveness of us. Today's passage contains a parable in which a man is forgiven a sum too exorbitant to repay. Yet he turns around and demands immediate payment from someone who owes him a small amount. That's what we are like when we think others' wrongs against us must be avenged even though God has forgiven us.

Unforgiveness torments us, not the wrongdoer. It's a caustic poison within us that corrupts our emotions, stunts us spiritually, and stresses our bodies. When we don't release the offender, we end up imprisoned in bitterness, resentment, and hostility-and that is sin.

Forgiveness doesn't negate the wrong done to us. It doesn't deny the offense or the resulting pain but lets go of the right to get even. Vengeance is God's responsibility, not ours (Romans 12:19). We don't have all the facts, nor can we know the offender's true motive. Only God can judge accurately and fairly.

When Jesus suffered the ultimate injustice of the cross, He entrusted Himself to the Father (1 Peter 2:21-24). Can you follow His example and trust God with wrongs done to you?

Forgiveness and Relationship With God

Matthew 6:9-15

When someone wrongs you, what is your biggest concern? Most of us would have to admit we are concerned mainly for ourselves or loved ones. We’re filled with anger or hurt, and forgiveness is the last thing on our minds. But how often do we consider that the way we respond will affect our relationship with God?

Sometimes as we say the Lord’s Prayer, we may quickly recite, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12) without giving the words much thought. But the two verses that follow this prayer remind us how serious forgiveness is. If we don’t move past our hurt and anger toward forgiveness, then God will not forgive us. For those of us who have repented of sin and by faith received Jesus Christ as our Savior, all our sins have been forgiven, based on Christ’s substitutionary payment on the cross (Col. 2:13-14). Therefore, these verses in Matthew cannot mean a loss of salvation. They instead refer to the barrier unforgiveness causes in our fellowship with God.

Holding on to grievances is a sin. If we allow that to continue, our communion with the Lord will be disrupted until we confess our attitude and forsake it. We understand what this is like when a child refuses to obey his parents. Although their love for him hasn’t diminished, there’s an unresolved conflict in their relationship.

As God’s children, we are called into intimate fellowship with Him. Let’s not be like disobedient children who remain under the Father’s discipline and therefore miss out on blessings He wants us to have.

Letting Go of Unforgiveness

It’s a common dilemma: Someone has hurt us, and we know we should forgive but just can’t. Despite all our promises to God about letting go of the offense, we find ourselves mentally rehearsing the event until we’re once again consumed with anger and hurt.

God has not simply called us to relinquish our bitterness; He’s given us the means to do it. The Spirit empowers us to forgive others just as God has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32). However, it’s not always a quick process—especially if the offense is great and the hurt is deep. Sometimes we must work through steps until we can finally release the burden.

  • First, we must confess to God that we have sinned against Him with our unforgiving attitude and ask Him to help us repent of it.
  • Next, we should acknowledge that the basis for forgiving others is God’s forgiveness of us. We didn’t deserve to be pardoned, yet Christ’s sacrifice has released us from our guilt. And it’s good to remember that while offenses against us may seem to be the most grievous, we usually underestimate the magnitude of our own sins against God.
  • Finally, we must let the Bible renew our minds. Instead of allowing ourselves to dwell on the wrong done to us, we can surrender those thoughts to God and replace them with biblical truths about Him, His promises, and His ways.

So how will you know when you have truly forgiven your wrongdoer? The negative emotions that once arose at the thought of the offender will subside, and you’ll be at peace. 

The Most Important Preparation

When you hear the word preparation, what comes to your mind? Do you think about having enough life insurance, studying for a test, or maybe packing all the necessary equipment before a camping trip? If it makes sense to prepare for all these events, then think how much more important it must be to prepare your heart for the Lord (Psalm 78:8).

Today’s psalm is a recitation of Israel’s history and a warning to subsequent generations not to follow that nation’s unfaithful ways. Despite all that the Lord had done for them, the people had taken God’s provisions for granted and forgotten the mighty works He’d accomplished on their behalf. They lived for themselves and did not prepare their hearts to be faithful to the Lord.

We readily recognize that many of the things we do in life require preparation. But do we approach our spiritual life with the same forethought, or do we tend to take more of a haphazard approach? For instance, do you plan to spend time each day with the Lord in prayer and His Word, or do you tend to seek Him only when you’re facing a problem?

It’s doubtful that we’ll know God very well or become the person He wants us to be unless we put effort into developing our relationship with Him. In these precious moments of prayer and reflection, we have the opportunity to calmly dwell on the Word as we focus on an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. These are the occasions for strengthening our faith, growing in love for Christ, and laying a solid foundation in the Word—all of which are good preparation for whatever troubles come our way.

Turning Doubts Into Assurance

One Sunday morning several years ago, a lady made her way down the church aisle when I invited people to come and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As we talked, she explained that she became a Christian as a young girl but never felt certain she was saved because she was still struggling with sin. Her story of doubt is common, but according to God’s Word, believers can be sure of their salvation.

God desires all people to be rescued from a future in hell so they can spend eternity with Him (1 Tim. 2:4). That’s why He designed a plan for our salvation. Since the penalty we owe for our sins is death and eternal separation from God the Father, He sent His Son to bear our sins and die in our place. Jesus took our punishment so we could be rescued (1 Peter 2:24). And this amazing, undeserved gift is offered to us by faith.

If we believe in Jesus Christ and trust in His death on our behalf, God forgives all our sins—past, present, and future. This is the only way we can be saved, because none of our good works can offset our sin debt. In fact, the opposite is true. Paul said salvation is “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9).

All of the glory for this wonderful plan of redemption belongs to the heavenly Father. He’s a loving God who not only wants us to be saved but has also made a way for it to happen—by sending His Son to die for our sin. He promised that if we believe, then salvation is ours. The child of God does not have to be burdened by doubt.

The Death of Self

Jesus Christ was obedient to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). While some Christians may be called upon to give up their life for the glory of God, most believers won’t face martyrdom. The death required of us, however, is no less real. We die to self.

Human beings are an independent lot. We want things our way, in our time, and on our terms. But Jesus said that anyone who wants to be His follower must deny him- or herself (Matt. 16:24).  Of course, that covers obvious issues like sinful habits and evil thoughts. But it also means that in some instances we must decline good things because they come at the wrong time or don’t fit God’s plan.

To an outside observer, the Christian’s commitment to obey must seem strange, especially when hands emptied by self-denial take up a cross instead (v. 24). Sometimes following the Lord involves suffering. What bystanders can’t see or experience is the deep satisfaction believers gain from doing what is right. Jesus once said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). As food is to the body, so obedience is to the soul and spirit. Working for God nourishes, energizes, strengthens, and enlightens—bringing us even more satisfaction than do those things we typically think of as pleasures.

Even when self-denial hurts, obeying God brings joy. Believers who prioritize submission to Him will know what I mean. Contentment is found in drawing close to the Lord, sensing His approval, and looking forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21 NIV).

The Path of Compromise

Bible stories aren’t just interesting accounts of ancient people and events; they contain critical principles that apply to us all. For example, King Solomon’s life helps us see the progression of compromise and its disastrous results. Solomon began his kingship with devotion to God and righteous priorities (1 Kings 3:5-9). So what happened to change his desires and direction?

“King Solomon loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1). Although this was an accepted practice for kings of that era, God had instructed His people not to intermarry with other nations (1 Kings 11:2) and had specifically prohibited Israel’s kings from taking multiple wives (Deut. 17:17).

“His wives turned his heart away after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). Instead of holding fast to the Lord in love and devotion, Solomon let his wives lead him toward foreign deities.

“Solomon went after [their gods]” (1 Kings 11:5). At first he merely allowed his wives to worship their gods, but soon he was joining them in idolatry.

“The Lord said to Solomon, … ‘I will surely tear the kingdom from you’” (1 Kings 11:11). Because the king ignored reproof and continued to disobey, Israel experienced a civil war that divided the nation.

Compromise begins when we ignore God’s instructions and follow the world’s practices. Then we start loving people, activities, or things more than we love God and soon find ourselves pursuing what He has forbidden. If we don’t heed His discipline, we’re in danger of losing what He intended for our lives. But if we refuse to compromise, we’ll remain devoted to Him.

The Danger of Suppressing Truth

Have you ever wondered why some very intelligent people live successfully by the world’s standards yet are unable to comprehend the most important truths about God? Although mankind was created to acknowledge the Lord and share a relationship with Him, many people deny His existence.

God has made knowledge about Himself evident to every person and has revealed His attributes and divine nature through His creation. However, many people choose to suppress this reality because it interferes with their preferred lifestyle. Instead, they chase false philosophies that are usually mixed with just enough truth to seem believable. Yet any “truth” crafted by man is foolishness, and those who have willfully rejected divine revelation won’t be able to see their error no matter how much evidence has been provided.

All the denial and atheistic arguments in the world will not change what is reality—namely, that God is the Creator, and He made mankind to love, obey, and honor Him. To resist is to choose a life of darkness and deception, which begins a downward slide ending in a hardened heart and eternal separation from a loving Father.

But God continues to invite people to believe the truth and come to Him. This is the only way to receive the gospel, which is able to save souls. In Psalm 34:8, David calls out, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” And for those who have accepted His revelations, the Lord is indeed better than all this world has to offer.

Can You Trust Your Conscience?

“Let your conscience be your guide” is a well-known expression, but one that isn’t necessarily good advice. That’s because your moral compass is only as reliable as the principles you’ve learned. It will be a dependable safeguard through your life if you store up biblical instruction. But using false ideologies from popular culture to program your conscience will set you up for moral failure.

Our heavenly Father has given each person a conscience as a gift intended to be a tool of the Holy Spirit—our one true Guide. As such, it is designed to protect you from going astray. Your conscience is most trustworthy when the following seven statements are true of you:

  • Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord.
  • The Bible is the basis for your conduct.
  • You have a strong desire to obey God.
  • You make decisions prayerfully.
  • Your conscience sounds the alarm when you consider a wrong direction.
  • You feel guilty when you disobey.
  • You feel compelled to repent of your transgression.

A trustworthy conscience reacts immediately to disobedience. There is no making excuses over whether or not something may have been wrong.

To develop a reliable inner compass, read and apply Scripture so God’s principles will override any false or corrupted programming. Then, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, your conscience will alert and protect you. Ask God to make it an effective tool for leading you.

Returning to God

Many Christians are familiar with God’s words in verse 7 of today’s reading: “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” When Malachi delivered this message to Israel, they seemed ignorant of the fact that they had left the Lord. Throughout the book, God made statements about their poor spiritual condition, and they always responded by asking how they had offended Him.

In this passage, God accuses them of robbing Him by withholding the tithes and offerings required by the Law to support the Levites and priests. God viewed their persistent disobedience to His commands as theft because they were keeping for themselves what belonged to Him. If we consider all that the Lord has given us, we must ask ourselves whether we’re robbing Him in any way. Consider these examples:

  • God has given us life and determined the number of our days (Psalm 139:16). Yet some of us claim that we don’t have time to read the Bible or pray. We may be busy, but it’s our responsibility to prioritize time with the Lord in the 24 hours He has allotted to us each day.
  • Our Father has also given us abilities, talents, and spiritual gifts, yet we oftentimes reserve their use for our career or hobby rather than for serving Him.
  • God is the one who has given us the ability to work and earn an income, and all He asks of us is the first portion.

Is there anything of the Lord’s that you’ve been keeping for yourself? With an obedient and grateful heart, you can joyfully give back to Him a fraction of whatever He has given you.

How to Strengthen Faith

How do you know whether your faith is strong or weak? We realize that as believers, we’re supposed to trust God with every aspect of life, but circumstances may cause us to waver. This is not a new problem—five times in the book of Matthew, Jesus pointed out examples and symptoms of what He called “little faith.”

Anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed people who were worried about their basic needs being met (Matt. 6:25-34). He assured them of divine provision if God’s kingdom was their top priority.

Fear. When a storm arose, the disciples were afraid even though the Creator of the wind and the sea was with them, asleep in the boat (Matt. 8:23-27).

Focus. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he had faith to walk on water. But when he focused on his circumstances, he began to sink. (Matt. 14:24-33).

Forgetfulness. Despite the feeding of thousands, the disciples failed to remember Christ’s past provision in their current situation (Matt. 16:5-12).

Inadequacy.  Although Jesus had given His disciples authority to cast out demons, they felt inadequate and lacked divine power when faced with a particularly difficult situation (Matt. 17:14-20).

In each case, the wrong mindset resulted in a lack of confidence in Christ. Diminished faith begins not with circumstances but with our thinking and focus. Therefore, if we want to increase our trust in God, we must fill our minds with the truth of Scripture, remember our Father’s faithfulness to us in the past, and look for His hand working in our present situation. When our minds are renewed, our faith will be also.

The Consequences of Anger

God feels anger, and He has given us this same ability. Anger is a common emotion that arises when we encounter threats, insults, injustices, or frustrations. However, because of our fallen nature, we often respond in a sinful manner when this intense feeling overwhelms us.

One sinful response is to hold on to anger until it becomes part of our character, taking up residence in our innermost being. There, it starts to twist thinking and agitate emotions. Peace and joy are noticeably absent because they can’t coexist with the anxiety and frustration that accompany bitterness.

After poisoning the character, anger spills over and affects others. We might throw hurtful words like flaming arrows, even at those who weren’t the cause of the rage. And then we raise shields of self-protection in an effort to avoid future hurts. But sadly, these behaviors lead to stressed relationships and isolation.

While anger can damage our character and connections with others, its most tragic consequence is broken fellowship with God. Wrath not only hinders His work in and through believers; it also grieves the Father’s heart. He desires to shower His children with blessings, but angry fists cannot receive His riches of character and calling.

Are you harboring anger? It could be so deeply buried within your soul that you are unaware of its presence. Since sustained, unresolved bitterness will affect every area of your life, ask God to reveal any hidden resentment. Then release it, and take hold of the riches of Christ.

Contagious Anger

Anger can wreak havoc on both the body and soul, but its scope extends beyond the individual and impacts everyone nearby. In this way, bitter outbursts and silent resentment are not just our own personal issues.

An angry spirit is contagious. It can pass from one person to another—and even from one generation to the next. Workplaces can become tense environments full of caustic words and attitudes. Ire turns homes into battlegrounds of verbal explosions or silent hostility. Even churches suffer from malicious gossip and fights over personal preferences.

God created us to live in fellowship with others, but anger can poison our relationships. Tragically, those closest to us are the ones who suffer the most. Children learn to respond to life’s situations by observing their parents’ example. They then develop similar attitudes and patterns of behavior. We need to give serious thought to what kind of heart we are passing down to our sons and daughters.

Thankfully, God is in the heart-changing business. Just as we learn an angry person’s ways by association, so we can learn righteous ways by walking closely with the Lord. Christ calls us to come, learn from Him, and find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28-29).

Which would you prefer: churning anger or Christ’s peace? Both require sacrifice. To maintain anger, you forfeit healthy relationships and possibly a godly heritage for your descendants. But to acquire peace, you simply ask God to help you leave grudges, personal rights, and insults at the altar.

God’s Blessing of Brokenness

The Lord had a great calling in mind for Moses—to free more than 2,000,000 Israelites from Egyptian bondage. And the future liberator seemed qualified for the task. As Pharaoh’s adopted grandson, he would have had access to royal privilege, power, and education.

But Moses also had a strong independent spirit that could get in the way of his obedience to the Lord. God’s plan required a broken spirit that would follow Him and rest on His divine power.

A big mistake—killing an Egyptian for beating a slave (Ex. 2:11-12)—was Moses’ opportunity to learn this important lesson. Realizing the murder had been witnessed, he fled to the desert to escape Pharaoh’s wrath. It was there that he came to the end of himself.

Like Moses, we’re all born with a tendency toward selfishness and stubbornness and want things done our way. But God gives us opportunities to bring every area of our life to Him in submission.

Though few will be given a task on the scale of Moses’, the Father has a calling in mind for each believer. Whether His plan is that we raise a godly family, reach out to a neighbor, or run a business with integrity and consideration, He wants us to do so in His power. To prepare us for this work, He sometimes uses brokenness. That wouldn’t be our chosen method, but God knows hardship is sometimes necessary to strip us of our selfish ways.

Do you want to achieve what God has planned for you to do? In humility, ask Him to bring any brokenness that He deems necessary.

Advancing Through Adversity

Adversity has a way of wearing us down, especially when the difficulty keeps going. Sometimes it feels as if we’re simply moving from one problem to another without a pause in between. Although we cry out to God, the trials continue. What are we to do when we’re overwhelmed and God isn’t intervening? 

One noteworthy trait of the apostle Paul was his determination to remain faithful to Christ through hardship. Many Christians get stuck in life’s tough spots because they don’t understand what God is doing. They want the Lord to rescue them from it, but oftentimes His desire is to give them “the surpassing greatness” of His power to go through the trouble (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

How we respond to hardship reveals both our true character and our knowledge of God. It’s easy to say, “I trust the Lord” when life is good, but unless we recognize that He is also sovereign even in adversity, our praises will soon turn to complaints and self-pity. Surrendering doesn’t seem like a way to advance through hardships, yet it’s essential. Otherwise, we may find ourselves resisting the Lord’s good purposes.

We serve a God who is worthy of our faith and confidence. Every trial is an opportunity for the light of Christ to shine through us. It’s also one of the means He uses to mature our faith, conform us to the likeness of His Son, and fulfill His unique plan for our life.

When we trust in the Lord’s faithfulness and sufficiency, we’ll choose to focus on Him, knowing that temporary afflictions produce for us “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Does God Love Me?

Life can hit us with the most unexpected and undesirable circumstances. When that happens, shock and pain might make us wonder, Does God really care about me?

First of all, we know from 1 John 4:8 that “God is love,” which means His very nature is characterized by compassion and concern. Love originated with the Lord, and He is our greatest example of how to express it. This truth, combined with the reality that God is holy, means He is perfect in His love—He’ll never make a mistake in the way He loves us.

Second, we know that our heavenly Father loves us, because He calls us His children. “To those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God,” writes John in his gospel (1 John 1:12 NIV). Sadly, some people don’t have a parent who shows them love. But God is the perfect parent. It would be completely against His character to mistreat any of His children.

Finally, God gave the supreme demonstration of His love at the cross. We were all dead in our sins, but Christ went to the greatest length possible to give us life. The Son of God came to earth as an expression of His Father’s awesome, fathomless, infinite love and did for us what no one else could do.

After considering these three facts about God’s love, how could we not expect Him to take care of even the smallest details of our life? Look for ways He is expressing His love to you, and remember Jesus own words on the subject: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Your Eternal Destination

All of us are eternal beings because we were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). After physical death, our spirits will live forever. Where we reside—heaven or hell—will depend on whether we have accepted or rejected Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.

Scripture teaches that all have sinned and deserve a penalty (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23). There isn’t anything we can do to earn God’s forgiveness. Knowing this, our heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus to take our sins upon Himself and experience punishment in our place. In that way, we become part of God’s family and look forward to spending eternity with Him in heaven. His only requirement for this amazing blessing is that we acknowledge we’re sinners who need a Savior and believe that Jesus died to save us (Rom. 10:9-10). Those who reject Christ will spend life after death separated from Him, but those who believe will live forever with Him.

Every person will ultimately dwell in heaven or hell, both of which are real places described in the Bible. In heaven, we’ll never again know pain, sorrow, or tears (Revelation 21:4). But hell is the opposite. A place of punishment, it will be the scene of unending agony and torment. Today’s passage illustrates this hard fact.

Eternal punishment and the reality of hell are never easy topics to consider, but they are vitally important because they will really happen. Don’t let your emotions turn you away from the truths recorded in Scripture. Instead, take heed of the warnings, and be certain you are heaven-bound.

Becoming Like Jesus

God has a plan for every believer, and salvation is just the first step. He wants His adopted children to develop a close family resemblance, and the Holy Spirit is in charge of transforming each one into the likeness of Jesus.

The moment we trust Christ as our personal Savior, we are born again and become newborn babies in a spiritual sense. One characteristic of a newborn is a craving for milk, and the same is true spiritually. New believers need continuous nourishment from God’s Word for growth in godliness, grace, and the knowledge of Christ.

As we read and meditate on Scripture, the Holy Spirit replaces our former thoughts and desires with a God-centered mindset and new longings for holiness. Instead of living to please ourselves, our desire will be to glorify God through obedience. 

Like any growing child, we will stumble now and then by giving into temptation. However, our heavenly Father has given us the privilege of cleansing through confession of sins (1 John 1:9). He also exercises loving discipline by revealing attitudes, behaviors, and practices that are displeasing to Him. His chastisement is always meant to train us and produce in us the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). 

At no point are we abandoned or rejected by our heavenly Father. He watches over every step we take, hears our prayers, comforts us, and encourages us to love and obey His Word. He promises that we’ll become complete in our likeness to Christ on the day we see Him in heaven (1 John 3:1-3).

Transformed Into Jesus’ Image

As Christians, we are called to a high moral standard, yet we may feel as if we’re failing more than succeeding. Perhaps our language isn’t as pure as we know it should be, or we haven’t overcome some of our bad habits. It’s easy to become discouraged if we don’t understand what is hindering our progress.

Transformation begins in the mind, because the way we reason affects how we act. We can’t expect to progress in holiness if we’re undiscerning about what to allow into our thoughts. Paul admonishes us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by renewing the mind (Rom. 12:2). We must make an intentional effort to fill our mind with the truths of God’s Word to ensure that we are counteracting the world’s messages.

The influence of others is another avenue by which we can be helped or hindered in our pursuit of holiness. If we associate with people who don’t share our standards, we could be tempted to compromise. Mature believers, on the other hand, can detect obstacles hindering our growth and point out adjustments we need to make. I was greatly impacted by the biographies of godly men like Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, and Dwight L. Moody. As I read, I would see qualities in their lives that I wanted in my own. These traits formed the basis for many of my prayers.

What kinds of thoughts fill your mind? Are you being influenced by friends, television, or social media more than you are by the Word of God? As the Holy Spirit helps you replace wrong thoughts with godly ones, your behavior will also be transformed.

Purity and Persecution

What is the connection between suffering and purity for the Christian? These are not terms we usually consider together, but Peter says those who suffer physically cease from sin and no longer live for human lusts. Instead, they live for the will of God. That is not to say we’ll reach a level of sinless perfection but, rather, the power of sin in our lives will be broken.

According to today’s passage, we are engaged in a battle, and Peter says to arm ourselves with the same attitude Christ had in His suffering. Just as He willingly submitted to the Father’s will and went to the cross, so we must accept that suffering is likewise part of God’s will for our life. It’s one of the ways He purifies us and breaks any attachment to our previous sinful desires.

As believers, we are called to live differently from the world around us. This doesn’t mean we’re to be deliberately antagonistic, but our lifestyle should be an example of purity. Others may find this offensive because it exposes their sin, and then they may respond by maligning us in an attempt to make themselves feel better.

Although we want the world to be attracted to Christ by our transformed lives, in reality we may make others uncomfortable or perhaps even antagonistic. This is why so many Christians around the world are being persecuted and even killed for their faith. But every time the church has faced persecution, it has also been purified and made stronger. God never intends for suffering to defeat us. Rather, His purpose is for it to make us holy and effective witnesses for Christ.

How to Handle Hurts

Are you carrying wounds around with you wherever you go? Maybe someone said or did something hurtful to you yesterday, and you can’t seem to get it out of your mind. Or perhaps the offense occurred many years ago, and it’s still affecting you today. Despite your attempts to bury the pain, it keeps rising to the surface.

God doesn’t want us to live under a cloud of emotional pain. In today’s passage, He provides the way out if we’re willing to take it.

Recognize our own sin (v. 30). Although the other person’s guilt seems much greater, we can’t hide behind the label of “victim.” Wrongdoers will be held answerable to God for their actions, but we are accountable for our response. That’s why we’re warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

Let go of sinful responses (v. 31). The only way to move forward is to drop all bitterness, anger, and malice toward our offender. Each time we rehearse the wrong, relive the pain, and feel resentment rise up within us, we’re responding in a sinful manner instead of walking in obedience to the Spirit. To be healed of our hurts, we must put away such things.

Forgive (v. 32). As people forgiven of every sin we’ve ever committed, we have no right to hang on to others’ offenses.

Each time we submit to the Spirit, He moves us forward in forgiveness. If the pain is deep, the progress may be slow. Nevertheless, continue obeying God in an attitude of forgiveness. You’ll discover that as you let go of the offense, the hurt you’ve been carrying will be lifted as well.

A Root of Bitterness

If you’ve ever tried to get rid of weeds in your lawn or garden, you know what a big problem they can be. You pull them out, and everything looks really good for a while, but before long, the unwanted growth returns because the roots are still there.
An unforgiving spirit is like a root branching out in all directions, affecting every area of our life. Lopping off the leaves by repressing the pain and resentment isn’t a long-term solution, because like a weed, bitterness can continue to grow and reproduce as long as roots are in place.

When we’ve been deeply hurt, we sometimes resist offering forgiveness, thinking that a pardon excuses the wrongdoer and downplays the severity of the wrong done to us. But that’s not what forgiveness is—it’s letting go of both the offense and our right to demand payment, with the acknowledgment that vengeance is God’s responsibility, not ours (Rom. 12:17-21).

Stubbornly refusing to forgive may seem like a way to get even, but it’s actually a poison that harms us. It hampers our ability to enjoy life and, like any sin, erodes our fellowship with the Lord. Unforgiveness could even affect our health, resulting in physical illness, anxiety, or depression.

But roots of bitterness don’t stop with us; they reach into our relationships, causing trouble and defiling others (Heb. 12:15). An unforgiving spirit hinders our ability to love, poisoning the atmosphere in homes and workplaces.

Isn’t it time to deal with that root of bitterness? Lay down your grievances and refuse to rehearse your hurts. Then fill your mind with positive things instead—namely, truths about the Lord.

Maintaining Church Unity

Churches all around the world experience brokenness. Christians are divided over a whole range of things, such as whether the service should be contemporary or traditional. Paul points out that unity is crucial to achieving our purpose. So how is that possible when a disagreement arises?

It all depends on what the difference of opinion is about. The fundamental tenets of the faith (for example, that Jesus is the Son of God, who died for our sins and rose again) are not negotiable. However, if the dispute has to do with a nonessential issue—such as a hair-splitting interpretation of doctrine—some prayerful discussion in love is acceptable, but believers should not let it cause division. In cases like this, a consensus is likely to leave some people disappointed with the results. Yet both sides should be willing to accept differences without strife.

Years ago, I was at a rural Southern church whose congregation was divided into obvious sides. The factions were essentially separate churches. Instead of addressing lots of fringe issues, I simply began to preach the Word. Over time, people who hadn’t talked to one another in years began to unite. Why? The church is the body of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:24), so He can bring us together.

People selfishly believe their preferences are better than others’ opinions, and in human strength, there’s nothing we can do to mend our differences. But it pleases God when we sacrifice our desires for the greater good of a unified church. And obedience ultimately gives greater joy than getting our way.

Saved by Grace

In Christian circles, we often hear people talk about grace, but do we understand what it means? Scripture uses this word in reference to God’s goodness and kindness, which is freely extended to those who are utterly undeserving—and that includes all of us.

God’s grace is the means of our salvation through Christ and the basis by which He sees us. By grace, we are ...

Declared righteous. All of our guilt and shame have been removed, and Christ’s righteousness is credited to us as our own (2 Corinthians 5:21). Now we can live boldly for Jesus no matter who we once were.

Part of God’s family. A spiritual adoption has taken place so that we might become children of God and call Him Father (Eph. 1:5). Although the world may see us as insignificant, we should remember we’re children of the King.

Made co-heirs with Christ. Our inheritance is guaranteed and kept for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). We’ve been set free from the lure of materialism because we’re rich in the only way that matters (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Given new life. When we trust in the Savior, we are born again and receive a fresh start (2 Corinthians 5:17). The seal of this new life is the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit, who transforms us into the image of Christ and guarantees our future resurrection (Eph. 1:13-14).

Freed from the power of sin, Satan, and self. Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and live righteously in obedience to God (Titus 2:11-12).

From the beginning of salvation to our eternal future in heaven, we are covered by God’s unending grace.

Made for Praise

As human beings, we tend to be self-focused. For instance, seeking God’s purpose for our life is a good thing. But in acting to fulfill His plan, we could easily dwell on how good it makes us feel rather than on the glory it brings the Lord. This is a temptation in almost everything we do for God—and that includes praise.

Worshipping the Lord should be all about Him, not us. In fact, God’s people are made for praise. The apostle Peter says it like this: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Our main responsibility, then, is to live a life of praise to our heavenly Father. Today’s psalm gives us some guidelines to follow.

When. At all times, whether in good or bad situations, our hearts and mouths should be full of praise for God (v. 1). Worship isn’t just a Sunday thing.

How. The goal of worship is to boast in and magnify the Lord (vv. 2-3). As we focus on His excellencies, He grows bigger in our hearts, minds, and spirits.

Where. Although praise should be a continual personal practice, the psalmist also proclaims, “Let us exalt His name together” (v. 3). Praise is magnified when our voices blend together in exaltation of our Lord.

Is praise a regular part of your life? When you give the Lord a larger place in your thoughts and heart, He is magnified, and praise becomes your sincere and natural response.

The Consequences of Impatience

How serious is a lack of patience? We generally write it off as inconsequential. It’s often seen as a weakness rather than a sin—after all, it’s not as bad as adultery, theft, or murder. But have you ever considered what your impatience reveals about your attitude toward God?

When we demonstrate an inability to tolerate delay, we are telling the Lord, “I don’t trust Your timing; mine is better.” Can you see the seriousness of this attitude? Impatience is a display of pride because we are elevating our understanding above that of our all-knowing God.

The prodigal son’s journey toward disaster began with impatience. He wanted his inheritance immediately and was unwilling to wait. After taking matters into his own hands, he faced the following consequences:

He brought sorrow on his family. Likewise, our impatience hurts those we love.

He left the security of home. When we run ahead of God, we often leave behind the voices of reason and wisdom in our life.

He found himself in ruin. God’s blessing accompanies our obedience, so we stand to lose a great deal when we ignore His timing.

He felt unworthy. We don’t experience fellowship with the Lord when impatience keeps us outside of His will.

Although the prodigal son was welcomed home, he could never regain the inheritance he’d lost. We, too, must often live with painful consequences as a result of jumping ahead of God. Let’s remember it’s better to wait patiently until the Lord moves us forward.

Keith posted:

The Consequences of Impatience

How serious is a lack of patience? We generally write it off as inconsequential. It’s often seen as a weakness rather than a sin—after all, it’s not as bad as adultery, theft, or murder. But have you ever considered what your impatience reveals about your attitude toward God?

When we demonstrate an inability to tolerate delay, we are telling the Lord, “I don’t trust Your timing; mine is better.” Can you see the seriousness of this attitude? Impatience is a display of pride because we are elevating our understanding above that of our all-knowing God.

The prodigal son’s journey toward disaster began with impatience. He wanted his inheritance immediately and was unwilling to wait. After taking matters into his own hands, he faced the following consequences:

He brought sorrow on his family. Likewise, our impatience hurts those we love.

He left the security of home. When we run ahead of God, we often leave behind the voices of reason and wisdom in our life.

He found himself in ruin. God’s blessing accompanies our obedience, so we stand to lose a great deal when we ignore His timing.

He felt unworthy. We don’t experience fellowship with the Lord when impatience keeps us outside of His will.

Although the prodigal son was welcomed home, he could never regain the inheritance he’d lost. We, too, must often live with painful consequences as a result of jumping ahead of God. Let’s remember it’s better to wait patiently until the Lord moves us forward.

How can this be? You said God controls everything. How can we run ahead of God? Are we faster than God? Do we supersede God n our thinking?

What It Means to Follow Jesus

We often refer to ourselves as followers of Christ, but what does that really mean? When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him, they physically left what they were doing to be with Him. The disciples had tangible evidence: They could see His direction with their eyes and hear His words with their ears. But how do we follow Jesus today? As we examine today’s passage, we’ll see four essential elements that show us how to be followers of Christ.

1. The disciples heard Jesus’ voice. Today Christ speaks to us through His Word, giving instruction and guidance through direct commands and prohibitions, spiritual principles, and biblical examples. And within us, we have the Holy Spirit, who directs our path and corrects us when we go astray.

2. They obeyed without delay. Once the disciples heard the Lord’s command, they immediately complied. Following Jesus requires that we not only do what He says, but also when and how He says to do it.

3. They left something behind. To follow Jesus, the disciples abandoned the comforts of home and the security of a regular salary. Other believers might be called to give up something completely different.

4. They pursued the higher purpose Christ offered them. Instead of simply making a living, Christ promised them a life with eternal purpose—becoming fishers of men for the kingdom of God.

Being a Christ follower is not merely an identification with Him; it’s a commitment of obedience that demands leaving behind anything that gets in the way of living fully for Him.

Getting Ready

We all face difficulties in life. Biblical thinking and balanced judgment can help us prepare to deal with challenges, and 1 Peter 1 contains valuable instructions. We are to ...

Fix our hope on Jesus (v. 13). No matter how hard the circumstances, life has purpose and meaning in Christ. The heavenly Father has promised always to be with us and to keep watch, like a shepherd caring for his sheep. (See Matt. 28:20; John 10:14.) Through the Holy Spirit’s transforming power, troubled times can become opportunities for us to learn more about God’s faithfulness, draw on His strength, and experience personal growth.

Resist our former lifestyle (v. 14). When troubles come, it is tempting to revert to ungodly habits or take up new ones. In these seasons of life, Satan will encourage us to pursue any path that leads away from the Lord. We need to remember that we are new creations whose lifestyles are to match our position as God’s children. That old behavior does not fit us anymore.

Make holiness our goal (v. 15). Being “holy,” or “set apart,” begins with giving up control over our life and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s rightful authority. As we submit to Him, He will begin to express the life of Christ through us. By learning what pleases God and acting accordingly, we cooperate with His efforts to conform us to the Son’s image.

While struggles are part of everyday life, we do not have to be overcome by them. Think about a specific step you can take to start carrying out these instructions today.

This Godless Age

Scripture tells us that the years leading up to Christ’s return will be difficult. Because of man’s ongoing rebellion against the Lord, ungodliness will continue to increase. Even in our own culture, we can see opposition to Jesus is growing, and various sins that were once condemned are gaining acceptance. Many people have bought into Satan’s lie that we can live without the Lord and still find happiness, prosperity, and peace—the devil tempted Eve to believe she could find satisfaction outside of God’s will, and he does the same with us today.

Today’s passage lists traits that will be common prior to Christ’s return:

Lovers of self. Self-centeredness (placing a priority on what will profit us most) and selfishness (wanting to keep what we have) will be rampant.

Lovers of money. The acquisition of wealth to fuel pleasures, provide security, or gain possessions will be a strong motivator.

Boastful. Pride caused Satan to be cast from heaven, and it prevents people from submitting to Jesus’ authority. Arrogance, which harms relationships and consequently damages many areas of life, will permeate society.

The Bible also describes other characteristics of the age. These will include abusive behaviors, unforgiving attitudes, and a lack of self-control.

It’s easy to see similarities between modern society and Scripture’s description of the years before Christ’s second coming. While discouraging, these prophetic signs are precursors of the day Jesus returns to set things right. Our hope is to rest in His promises, not in the circumstances around us.

Contentment in All Circumstances

Think about the times when you have felt truly satisfied. What caused you to feel that way? For most people, a sense of well-being comes when their environment is just the way they want it, but that wasn’t the case with Paul. He learned to be content in every circumstance, good or bad.

We’d do well to learn a few lessons from him. After all, we can’t avoid all difficult situations, so we might as well discover how to face them with a tranquil, settled spirit rather than with frustration and anxiety.

Contentment isn’t governed by external circumstances. Changing the situation may bring temporary relief, but satisfaction based on circumstances will always be sporadic and fleeting. It’s a matter of how you think, not what you have.

Contentment flows from an inward attitude. The apostle’s inner calm came from a mind set on Christ. Choosing to trust the Savior no matter what, Paul allowed the Holy Spirit within him to rule his emotions and shape his responses.

Contentment is learned experientially. This isn’t something you can acquire from a book or sermon, because it’s a process that must be lived out. Paul learned contentment—in persecution, suffering, and prison. The Lord used every difficulty to transform him.

Situations that cause frustration, anxiety, and displeasure are also the ones God uses to produce contentment in us. When you are fed up with your own grumbling, disappointment, and dissatisfaction, then you are ready to let the Lord teach you His new way of living—in joyous trust.

The Ultimate Father Son Relationship

God is called by a variety of names in the Bible, and each one sheds light on an aspect of His nature. Jesus’ favorite title for Him was Father. Surprisingly, this name for God is rarely used in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, it’s used often—by both Jesus and early Christians.

Many of God’s names speak of His majestic and lofty attributes that distinguish Him from mankind, but Father conveys intimacy. Jesus used this name not only because He was God’s Son but also to help people realize that Jehovah isn’t some unapproachable deity gazing down on them from a distance. Rather, He is their loving heavenly Father, who cares about them and wants to be involved in their everyday lives.

Throughout His time on earth, Christ revealed by example what this kind of loving relationship is like. He fully depended on His Father for daily direction, power, and provision and obediently carried out His every instruction. Jesus often took a break from the demands of ministry to find a secluded place to be alone with Jehovah. We know the Lord successfully conveyed to His disciples the riches of this relationship, because Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father” (John 14:8)—he wanted to know Him the way Christ did.

Do you long for that kind of intimacy with God? He wants to relate to you as a father does to His child—and He’s given you the privilege of drawing near to Him. In fact, He chose you before the foundation of the world and waits with open arms for you to enter His loving embrace.

Our Heavenly Father

When Christ taught His disciples to pray, He told them to call God “Our Father” when communicating with Him. Jesus often addressed God as “My Father,” but now they, too, shared in that privileged family relationship. All of us who’ve been born again are part of the household of God and have this same right.

Consider some of the ways our heavenly Father cares for His children. He ...

Loves. God’s love is unconditional, since it’s based on His nature rather than our performance (1 John 4:16).

Listens. When we pray, He gives us His full attention (Psalm 55:16-17).

Provides. The Father assumes responsibility for meeting all our needs (Phil. 4:19).

Guides. He is the one who directs our path when we trust in Him (Prov. 3:5-6).

Protects. The Lord shields us spiritually, emotionally, and physically, sifting every experience through His sovereign fingers (Psalm 121).

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Disciplines. The Lord disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness (Heb. 12:5-11).

Though experiences with our earthly dads may have distorted our perspective of the heavenly Father, we can learn to see Him as He truly is. By viewing Him through the truth of Scripture instead of our preconceptions, we will see evidence of His loving care and discover a security we’ve never known before.

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Did Jesus not rebuked his father for forsaking him? And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If God is our father then who is out mother? 

And where is heaven?

Mitwah posted:

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Did Jesus not rebuked his father for forsaking him? And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If God is our father then who is out mother? 

And where is heaven?

Biblical students do not think outside the box. The Bible for them is all they need. They see no hidden interpretation of what's written. They copy and paste well with some highlighting skills. It is said that Jesus lost faith in God.

skeldon_man posted:
Mitwah posted:

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Did Jesus not rebuked his father for forsaking him? And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If God is our father then who is out mother? 

And where is heaven?

Biblical students do not think outside the box. The Bible for them is all they need. They see no hidden interpretation of what's written. They copy and paste well with some highlighting skills. It is said that Jesus lost faith in God.

He was a bad example as a father to his daughter. He was even rude to his mother.

Handling Difficult Circumstances

Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi while he was a prisoner in Rome. Though confined and under watch while awaiting trial, he wrote to encourage the Philippians, assuring them that his situation was being used by God. He told them, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).

Notice that this verse does not say that Paul was always happy. Happiness depends upon circumstances, but for believers, contentment is possible in any situation because it’s anchored in God. Although Paul’s imprisonment was difficult and uncomfortable, He scarcely mentioned the conditions. This letter is not filled with complaints but with rejoicing because his focus never wavered from Christ (Phil. 1:20-21; Phil. 3:10).

Paul did not see himself as a victim. He believed that he was under the sovereign hand of the living God. This was the place ordained for him at that time, in accordance with the Lord’s divine purpose.

What’s more, the apostle saw good results of his time in prison. The entire imperial guard heard about Jesus through the apostle’s consistent witness. His confinement was also having the opposite effect of what his enemies had planned. Instead of driving Christians into hiding, Paul’s example of contentment in the face of hardship made them bolder (Phil. 1:14).

Like Paul, we can choose how we’ll respond to pain and hardship. If we opt to be resentful and bitter, our suffering will be wasted. But if we see each situation as a wonderful opportunity for spiritual growth, we’ll be able to learn contentment and rejoice in the Lord through it all.

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!

The Influence of Our Convictions

We usually think of influential people as those who have authority, position, or power in the world, but in reality, we all have influence to one degree or another. The term describes the capacity to have an effect on someone else’s character, development, or behavior.

This is exactly what Christ has called believers to do by proclaiming the gospel and encouraging one another in the faith. However, in order to have a godly impact on others, we must first be convinced that the Bible is true. Then as we grow in knowledge of the truth, we can help others know Jesus, understand scriptural principles, and live obediently by them.

Paul advised Timothy to “retain the standard of sound words” in the faith (2 Timothy 1:13), and these same truths have been delivered to us.

1. The Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God. There are no mistakes in it, and it is wholly true (2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17).

2. There is one God, and He exists in three persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all members of the triune Godhead (Matt. 28:19).

3. Eternal life is received only through faith in Jesus. Salvation cannot be earned by good works (John 14:6; Eph. 2:8-9).

4. Jesus will one day return for those who believe in Him, and He’ll take them to heaven (John 14:2-3). But unbelievers will remain under divine wrath.

As the culture around us becomes more resistant to Christian influence, holding to these convictions will require solid commitment and steady courage. So determine not to let compromise steal your godly influence.

Mitwah posted:
skeldon_man posted:
Mitwah posted:

Stays. He’s not an absentee parent, since He will never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).

Did Jesus not rebuked his father for forsaking him? And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If God is our father then who is out mother? 

And where is heaven?

Biblical students do not think outside the box. The Bible for them is all they need. They see no hidden interpretation of what's written. They copy and paste well with some highlighting skills. It is said that Jesus lost faith in God.

He was a bad example as a father to his daughter. He was even rude to his mother.

In Matthew 27:45-46, it says, "Now from the sixth-hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. verse 46: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" If Jesus is God, why would He say this?

First of all, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 which begins with, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" Jesus quoted this Psalm in order to draw attention to it and the fact that He was fulfilling it there on the cross. Consider verses 11-18 in Psalm 22:

"11: Be not far from me, for trouble is near; For there is none to help.
12:  Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. 
13:  They open wide their mouth at me,  As a ravening and a roaring lion.  14: I am poured out like water,  And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax;  It is melted within me. 
15: My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;  And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death.
16: For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet.
17: I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me;
18: They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.
"

The term 'dogs' as I explained in previous comments was used by the Jews to refer to Gentiles (non-Jews), read Matthew. 15:21-28. His heart has melted within Him (verse 14). During the crucifixion process, the blood loss causes the heart to beat harder and harder and become extremely fatigued. Dehydration occurs (verse 15). Verses 16-18 speak of piercing His hands and feet and dividing His clothing by casting lots. This is exactly what happened as described in Matthew. 27:35.

Psalm 22 was written about 1,000 years before Christ was born. At that time, crucifixion had not yet been invented. Actually, the Phoenicians developed it, and Rome borrowed the agonizing means of execution from them. So, when Rome ruled over Israel, it became the Roman means of capital punishment imposed upon the Jews whose biblical means of execution was stoning. Nevertheless, Jesus is pointing to the scriptures to substantiate His messianic mission.

In 2nd Corinthians. 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." It is possible that at some moment on the cross when Jesus became sin on our behalf, that God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son. It says in Habakkuk. 1:13 that God is too pure to look upon evil. Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter. 2:24), that the Father, spiritually, turned away. At that time, the Son may have cried out.

One thing is for sure. We have no capacity to appreciate the utterly horrific experience of having the sins of the world put upon the Lord Jesus as He hung in excruciating pain from that cross. The physical pain was immense. The spiritual one must have been even greater.

That shows us clearly how much God loves us.


Questions: "If God is our father then who is our mother?"
Answer: Regardless of the gender assigned to any deity, God has made it clear that He is the only True God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. “There is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:6). There is no mother god.

Questions: "And where is heaven?"
Answer: Heaven is most certainly a real place. The Bible very definitely speaks of heaven’s existence and access to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ but there are no verses that give us a geographical location. The short answer to this question is, "heaven is where God is." The place referred to in this question is called the "third heaven" and "paradise" in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, where the apostle Paul tells of a living man who was "caught up" to heaven and was unable to describe it. The Greek word translated "caught up" is also used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 in describing the rapture, wherein believers will be caught up to be with the Lord.

Other verses indicating heaven to be "above the earth" are numerous. At the Tower of Babel, God says, "Come, let us go down" (Genesis 11:7) Heaven is described as "high above the earth" in Psalm 103:11, and the place from which the Lord "looks down" in Psalm 14:2. Jesus is described as having "ascended into heaven" and "descended from heaven" in John 3:13 (ESV). In Acts 1:9–11 Jesus is described as being taken "up" into heaven, and when God takes John to heaven in Revelation 4:1, He says, "Come up here." These passages have led to the conclusion that heaven is beyond the earth’s airspace and beyond the stars.

A Person of Godly Influence

When Daniel was taken to Babylon, he had no idea God would give him an ever-widening sphere of influence. So what made him different from the other captives from Israel? His godly influence flowed from his strong beliefs based in Scripture.

Commitment. Daniel did not simply know God’s law; he was convinced there was no other way to live. When tested, he remained unswervingly faithful to God and His Word, because he considered obedience non-negotiable.

Following God doesn’t mean living out biblical principles only when it’s convenient or easy. Obedience is to be our consistent lifestyle no matter what the circumstances are. Without a firm commitment to our beliefs, we’ll waver back and forth, be a poor witness, and eventually give in to temptation.

Courage. As a captive, Daniel had no authority. Therefore, approaching the king’s chief official for special dietary consideration required courage. Although he had no way to know the outcome, Daniel didn’t let fear dominate his emotions. He simply trusted the Lord and spoke out.

God rewarded Daniel’s faithfulness with superior knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of all kinds, which resulted in his gaining greater influence in the Babylonian and Persian empires. Because of Daniel’s commitment to God and his courage in standing firm, his godly impact extended for many years.

The Lord doesn’t raise all believers to high positions of influence. But He wants to use each of us to impact others for Christ in whatever sphere of influence He’s given us. Therefore, we too need commitment to God’s Word, the courage to obey, and the confidence to trust the Lord with the

When God Looks on Us With Favor

Believers are always under the canopy of God’s grace and love. Nothing we do can change that. At the same time, our behavior and the condition of our heart do determine whether we receive the fullness of His blessings. So let’s see what Scripture teaches about how to experience the Father’s favor.

First, God desires that we have a contrite heart and humble spirit (Psalm 51:17). For that to be the case, all aspects of our life must be surrendered to Jesus. Yet some dreams, desires, and people are difficult to release into His hands. Anything we do not give over to His authority is evidence of pride, which is the exact opposite of what our Father wants in His children. Remember that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Lack of submission proves that we think our way is better than His plan.

Second, God tells us to tremble at His Word (Isa. 66:2). Scripture—the unfolding revelation of Jesus Christ—is living and powerful to teach and transform us. Consider how we treat this treasure. Do we devote time each day to know what the Bible says and how to apply its principles? Do we hunger for more of the Word in our life so we can know its Creator better? One measure of our reverence is obedience: To honor the Lord, we must obey Him.

We all desire God’s favor. Are you living in a manner that positions you to receive the fullness of His blessing? Prayerfully consider whether you have submitted all areas of your life to Jesus Christ—from finances and health to relationships and work habits. Recognize His authority in all things, and revere His Word.

Listening to God

Does the heavenly Father still speak to His children? It’s a question that may be on your mind right now. We all have this need to know the Lord is still communicating with us. We crave the certainty that He hears us—and answers.

In today’s reading, we get a clear picture of God’s heart: He yearns for Israel to listen to Him. Think about that. Here’s the almighty Creator of the universe, pleading with His chosen people to hear His voice. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Why on earth would the Israelites turn a deaf ear to their sustaining, omnipotent heavenly Father?

However, God’s message is sent to inattentive ears. He says, “O Israel, if you would listen to Me! ... But My people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me” (Psalm 81:8, Psalm 81:11).

Thousands of years later, I’m certain that same question still rings through heaven. We can practically hear the Lord saying, “Oh, church, if only you would listen to Me. But My church did not listen to My voice. Oh, that My church would listen to Me!”

Have you ever sensed God saying the same thing to you personally? We all can fall out of touch with Him at times. That happens when we put ourselves in one corner and restrict the Lord to someplace “over there” and out of the way. Then we seem to lose track of His voice in our life. And yet, though we may not hear Him, He is still talking.

Quiet your spirit today. Open God’s Word and invite Him to speak to you anew. And then listen.

Become Slaves of Righteousness

What comes to mind when you hear the word freedom? It’s usually associated with the right to live as we please and to pursue ambitions and dreams. But in reality, living for self is never freedom. When Paul said, “You are slaves of the one whom you obey” (Rom. 6:16), he was pointing out we have a choice of either sin or righteousness. So if we aren’t living for Christ, we’ll find ourselves enslaved to sinful desires, habits, attitudes, and thoughts.

God wants to free us from every form of bondage that prevents us from becoming the person He created us to be. This kind of freedom is not achieved by war but by the knowledge of truth and submission to Christ.

If you’re having trouble overcoming a particular sin despite repeated confession and repentance, there may be an underlying root fueling that sin. It doesn’t matter how many times you cut off the sinful fruit; if the root remains, it’ll produce a new poisonous outgrowth. And at times those roots spring from harmful emotions like anger, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, or worry.

Instead of allowing such emotions to control us, we must let God’s truths fill our mind and influence our behavior. When we were saved, Christ freed us from the dominion of sin and gave us His Spirit to empower us to live righteously. On top of that, God has given us a new nature created in Christ’s likeness (Eph. 4:24). Therefore, we’re to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to Christ (Rom. 6:11) and should present ourselves to God for obedience (Rom. 6:13). Remember, God has given us everything we need to live righteously for Him, so believers are never helpless victims of sin.

The Gift of Exhortation

The church is filled with people who have different passions and interests. Christ designed His body to function this way by supplying various spiritual gifts by which His work is accomplished. Yet sometimes these differences can lead to misunderstandings because we each see through the lens of our own gift.

Exhortation is one of those spiritual gifts that can be misconstrued. People with this gifting may use strong words to urge fellow believers toward spiritual maturity. Sometimes this involves identifying foundational problems like pride, selfishness, or a desire for control and prescribing corrective steps based on biblical principles. Other times, exhortation may include an explanation of the blessings of obeying the Lord as well as warnings about the consequences of disobedience.

You may have noticed this gift is often given to pastors who regularly exhort God’s people from the pulpit, but there are also individuals in the congregation who may have this spiritual gift. As Christians, we need to hear the truth about ourselves and how we are living, yet sometimes we may be resistant. Perhaps we think the exhorter has oversimplified our situation or is trying to “help” God out. Or maybe the way in which the advice is given strikes us as overconfident. At other times, we may question how Scripture is applied or doubt the genuineness of the one who exhorts us.

Although we should always compare what we hear with God’s Word, we must not reject correction simply because we don’t want to hear it. Wisdom comes with careful consideration of counsel as we hold firmly to the Word.

A Revolutionary Announcement

Familiarity sometimes robs us of awe and wonder, and this is true of both simple and profound events in life. As Christians, we are familiar with the idea of Jesus’ resurrection, but can you imagine the impact it had on those who first heard about it?

When Peter gave his first sermon, he boldly declared, “You ... put Him to death. But God raised Him up again” (Acts 2:23-24). Imagine what a revolutionary statement that was. The assembled crowd knew of Jesus and the miracles He’d performed, and some may even have joined in shouting, “Crucify Him!” (Matt. 27:22). Yet here was one of Jesus’ own followers claiming that the Christ couldn’t be held by death’s power.

Some may have considered the disciples’ early accounts of the resurrection to be idle tales, but Pentecost changed all that when God visited mankind in a way He never had before. The crowd witnessed something historic as each person heard the gospel in his or her own language (Acts 2:8-11).

Faith took root in 3,000 repentant hearts when the message of the Lord’s death and resurrection was preached. Those new believers were baptized as a public statement of their trust in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior, who died to pay the penalty for their sins.

The revolution sparked by the Holy Spirit that day spread across the world and into the modern era, transforming individuals and the cultures in which they lived. Today the task of proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus falls to us. As with the first church, we can trust the Lord to add to our number those who are being saved.

Trusting God’s Faithfulness

Is there something God has told you to do that seems too difficult? If He has called you to carry out His will, you can trust that He’s faithful to accomplish it through His Spirit living and working in you. So if you tell Him, “I can’t do that, Lord—what if I fail?” you’re actually doubting that God keeps His word. And yet, our total expectation should be in Him—not in our own energy, ability, or experience.

When you doubt God’s trustworthiness, unbelief becomes a gap in your spiritual armor, and it is where Satan wants to attack you. You’ll begin to doubt other elements of God’s character, such as His goodness—and distrust will become baggage that’ll weigh you down in every area of life.

You might feel that you do not have enough faith to obey, but the Lord isn’t asking you to trust in favorable circumstances. He’s asking you to believe that He is who He says He is.

It’s easy to doubt God when you’re focused on the obstacles in front of you, but when you fix your eyes on Him and believe what Scripture says about His faithfulness, then you can do anything He requires. No matter what lies ahead, remember that God is not a liar, and He is faithful. You’ll be strengthened by your dependence on Him—whether a deluge of trials or a flood of blessings comes.

It’s actually when life gets rough that you’ll recognize the reality and sweetness of God’s faithfulness. As you walk through those storms in complete reliance on His strength, your trust in His character will become part of who you are and provide strength from within.

How to Listen to God’s Word

In our culture, Bibles are so plentiful that we often take them for granted. This was not the case in Ezra’s day. After being exiled from Israel for many years, the Jews had finally returned to their land, and today’s passage describes their reaction to hearing the Scriptures. We may have easy access to Bibles today, but we’d do well to learn to approach God’s Word in the same manner as these Israelites did.

With eager attentiveness. The people listened attentively as Ezra read Scripture “from daybreak till noon” (Neh. 8:3 NIV). How eager are you each day to open God’s Word and devote time to reading and study?

With reverence and worship. When Ezra opened the scroll, all the people stood up in reverence and then bowed down to worship the Lord (Neh. 8:5-6). Scripture reveals who God is and increases our awe of Him and respect for His Word.

With understanding. There were people who helped others understand what they heard, similar to the way pastors and teachers do today (Neh. 8:7-8). Do you skim over passages you don’t understand, or do you rely on the many sound teaching resources available?

With repentance. After hearing God’s Law, they were convicted of sin and repented with mourning and weeping (Neh. 8:9). God’s Word is sanctifying, revealing sin and guiding us into righteousness.

It’s easy to take for granted what is commonly available, but we should never lose sight of the most valuable possession God has given us—His inspired, inerrant Word.

The Abiding Life

Who doesn’t love a beautiful bouquet of flowers? They are a delight to the eyes and fill the room with fragrance. But truthfully, they’re dead because they’ve been disconnected from the plant. Although they may look alive for a while, in time they wither away.

This was the point Jesus was making when He used a grapevine and its branches as an illustration of a believer’s life in Christ. Once we’re saved, we become branches of Christ—then fruit is produced as His life flows through us, in fulfillment of what Jesus prayed for us in John 17:21.

This abiding relationship is what the Bible elsewhere describes as the Spirit-filled life (Eph. 5:18). The word “abiding” emphasizes our position as branches remaining in the vine of Christ. And the apostle Paul underscores the Holy Spirit’s role and authority in our life: As we live in submission and obedience to God’s Spirit, He produces His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22-23).

The problem arises when we try to live apart from the vine and direct our own life. The end result is often frustrating or disappointing since we have relied on human ideas and energy instead of being Spirit-led. There is no way to live a spiritually fruitful life without obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Our heavenly Father has graciously given us this abiding relationship, but sometimes we act as if we’re the vine and Christ exists to do our bidding. In which areas of your life are you reluctant to relinquish control? We were designed to be the branches, and the only way we’ll be fruitful is by submissively abiding in the source of our life.

Remaining in the Vine

When Jesus gave the disciples His final instructions before going to the cross, He repeated a particular word. Abide—which occurs 10 times in John 15—isn’t one we use often, but it accurately conveys the relationship between Christ and His followers.

Abide means “to remain, dwell, continue, endure, or tarry.” Can you hear the call to faithfulness in these words? Our relationship with Jesus isn’t a onetime event of salvation but a long and steady walk with Him.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). This is a fact for everyone who has been born again. But He also tells us to abide in Him (John 15:4), signifying that we have some responsibility as branches in Christ. Therefore, it’s essential that we know how to remain in Him.

Jesus says to let His words abide in us (John 15:7). Incorporating God’s Word into our minds and hearts is how we dwell with Him and learn to know Him intimately.

Obedience is another essential aspect of abiding (John 15:10). It’s like being an employee who obeys his manager’s instructions and does not take matters into his own hands. We are to rely on the Spirit’s direction instead of strategizing and making plans on our own.

Abiding in Christ also includes our relationships with fellow believers. Jesus commands us to love one another just as He has loved us (John 15:12).

God’s desire is that we bear much lasting fruit by abiding in Christ. This isn’t a sporadic endeavor done only when convenient; it’s an enduring commitment to remain in God’s Word and continue in obedience and love.

The Words of Our Mouth

Have you ever considered what a wonderful gift speech is? When God created us, He gave us a voice and a language so we could communicate. With our tongues we can praise and glorify God, teach His Word, pray, and express encouragement and loving devotion to one another.

However, our voices also have the power to hurt. It often starts with something small, like a thoughtless comment that can snowball, causing unforeseen damage. At times we may express our opinion in a critical way, which tears the other person down. Or out of curiosity, we might ask a question or make a suggestion that sows seeds of doubt and distrust, thereby damaging another person’s reputation.

Scripture calls this gossip, and God has strong words to say about those who engage in it. They separate close friends, betray confidences, and stir dissension. Most alarming of all is the fact that the Greek word for a malicious gossip is diabolos, which is also translated “devil.” When we use our words to tear others down, we are acting like the devil rather than like Jesus Christ.

God takes our words very seriously, and so should we. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). Therefore, what we need is a heart transformation, and the only one who can do that is God.

Since gossip is the opposite of love, ask the Lord to give you His love for others so you can be someone who protects reputations, covers sins, and blesses others with your words.

God’s Way to Give

Our heavenly Father knows what our income is and how He would like us to spend it. He also desires that we demonstrate certain heart attitudes in our giving. These include faith, compassion, and generosity.

It takes faith to give before our own needs are met. In yesterday’s reading, the Macedonians were experiencing deep poverty, but they still longed to give. Their behavior revealed a deep trust in the Lord’s provision.

Compassion, or caring about others, is also vital. The Philippian church saw Paul’s situation and longed to help (Phil. 4:16). The Lord is pleased when we love one another and share what we have.

The Macedonian believers were generous as well. Though in great need themselves, they begged for the privilege of contributing to the collection for the Jerusalem church.

Consider how greatly we have benefited from the generosity of our heavenly Father. He provided His Son Jesus to take our sins upon Himself and die in our place. He has adopted us into His family, made us co-heirs with Christ, and prepared for us a permanent home in heaven with Him. And in this life, His Holy Spirit provides everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). As we make plans for Christmas, let’s be generous towards others, just as God has been to us.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you learn biblical principles about handling money and put them into practice. Obedience to God’s Word will bring spiritual blessing (Luke 6:38).

Those Who Hurt

In the midst of suffering, we may question whether God cares or even knows what we’re going through. However, the problem isn’t with the Lord—it’s with our perception. We tend to judge God by our circumstances, but we should judge circumstances by the Lord’s character and the power He demonstrated in Scripture.

The Bible teaches that our triune God is omniscient and knows all things perfectly and fully. No actions or persons are hidden from His sight, and the past, present, and future are all laid out before Him (Psalm 33:13-15; Heb. 4:13).

The Lord “searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Therefore, He knows us intimately and understands what we really need. God’s love and concern for us do not change, even if our pain is the result of our own sinful actions.

Jesus repeatedly demonstrated God’s love and care for people. In fact, much of His ministry consisted of alleviating suffering along with teaching how to enter the kingdom of heaven. While traveling to Jerusalem in anticipation of the cross, Jesus encountered a blind beggar who kept crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48). Although the crowd told him to be quiet, Jesus stopped to restore his sight and affirm his faith.

And He will hear your cries for help as well because His love extends like a canopy over you. When your circumstances tempt you to doubt this, consider your limited perspective and trust in the character of your God. Accept Jesus’ invitation to bring your burdens to Him and find rest for your soul (Matt. 11:28-30).

God Offers Love to the Hurting

When do you most need the assurance of God’s love? Isn’t it usually when you are experiencing the deepest pain? If you are suffering rejection, failure, or any circumstance that is testing your faith, you need to know the Lord still cares and will never stop loving you. This is exactly what we see in Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman:

He initiated contact. Much to His disciples’ dismay, Jesus traveled through Samaria to meet this woman. In that day, Jews did not associate with Samaritans and even avoided their region. But God does not adhere to man’s rules or prejudices. He reaches out with a message of hope and new life to anyone who will listen and believe.

He knew her pain and heartache. She must have felt worthless and unloved after being abandoned or divorced by five husbands. We all have emotional baggage that weighs us down and causes pain, and this is often what God uses to draw us to Himself.

He offered forgiveness and love. Jesus drew out the details of her situation so she could recognize her need for a Savior and be receptive to His offer of forgiveness. He understood she lacked love, acceptance, and a sense of value—and a relationship with Him was the only way to fulfill that need.

God sees us as clearly as He saw the Samaritan woman. He knows our sins and hurts and wants to bring us forgiveness and restoration. As we accept His salvation and submit to the Holy Spirit’s transforming work, we’ll have the assurance of His love and care for us.

Our Testimony

A testimony is one person’s profession of faith in Jesus. However, our declaration of belief is much more than the story we tell. A good witness for the Lord consists of three parts: character, conduct, and conversation.

As Christians, we rightly place great emphasis on crafting a solid personal account of the Lord’s work in our life. We also talk about the ways that we can show Jesus Christ to our friends, family, and coworkers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christlike behavior and an honest life story.

In general, what we do and say represents the kind of person we are on the inside. Similarly, we can tell a lot about Philip’s character by noticing his actions and words recorded in Scripture. From among many believers, Philip was chosen as one who was wise and full of the Spirit. But he wasn’t selected for a prestigious ministry position—he was sent to serve food. Yet he went willingly to do this work and every other job the Lord gave Him, which shows his obedient spirit (Acts 6:5; Acts 8:5; Acts 8:26). We can be certain that he was a sincere and trustworthy man, because when he spoke, people listened (Acts 8:6). Philip’s testimony shines in every way.

You cannot trick God into thinking your character is righteous if it isn’t. Nor can you fake moral conduct or conversation with people for very long. Sooner or later, a proud, bitter, or unkind spirit yields behavior and speech contrary to the Christian message. But godly character produces real spiritual fruit.

No One Is Righteous

Many people think that by trying to live a good life, they are guaranteed a ticket to heaven. They may say things like, “I’m a good person; I don’t steal, lie, cheat, or commit adultery, as other people do. I’ve never been to prison, and I always work hard and contribute to society. So why shouldn’t I deserve to go to heaven?” Notice that the focus is on “what I do.”

This is actually a false idea used by the enemy as a way to deceive people. The truth is that God does not accept anyone based upon works, and the reason is simple: Salvation doesn’t depend on anything we can achieve. Nothing you or I do can earn it. We are saved solely on the basis of what Jesus accomplished when He died in our place to set us free from the power of sin and death. That’s what salvation is about.

To truly know the heavenly Father, you need to be right with Him. Yet not a single one of us is righteous on our own. Each of us has sinned over and over, not only in words and deeds but also in the contemplations of our heart. We can’t boast of righteousness, even if we can boast of “good works.” But at the cross, Christ was dealing with our sin problem, not our works.

We came into this world as sinners, separated from the Creator by our self-centered nature. Jesus, through His grace, took the punishment we deserved when He went to the cross as our substitute. In that way, He makes it possible for everyone who trusts in Him to be made righteous. By receiving Him as the Savior, anyone can begin a new life as God’s child (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4-9).

Our Heavenly Appointment

Each tick of the clock brings us a second closer to our heavenly appointment with the Lord Jesus. As believers in Christ, we will one day stand before Him, answerable for how we lived our life. At that time we will be held accountable for our actions and recompensed for the choices we made while on earth, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).

This is not a judgment of condemnation. At salvation, when we acknowledged Christ as our Savior, all blame was removed from us (Rom. 8:1). In taking our place on the cross, Jesus experienced the wrath of God against our iniquity (1 Peter 2:24). As a result, the penalty for our sin has been fully paid.

When we stand before our Lord, He’ll look to see which of our choices were in keeping with His will. Every act of obedient service, whether large or small, will be remembered and rewarded. At the same time, I believe there will be tears when our selfishness and unrighteousness are considered.

Colossians 3 gives us a picture of who we should be and how God wants us to live: Our minds are to be focused on things above, not earthly matters (Col. 3:2). And we’re to get rid of anger, malice, and slander, clothing ourselves instead with compassion, kindness, and patience (Col. 3:8; Col. 3:12).

Since the Lord holds us accountable for our actions, it is urgent that we replace ungodly patterns with righteous ways. Both inward attitudes and outward behavior matter to Him. When facing decisions each day, seek scriptural guidance and godly counsel. Then reflect on which choices would please God.

The Real Heaven

Trying to picture life in eternity, many people imagine lying around on clouds, strumming harps. I’m not sure how this misconception about heaven got started, but I can assure you that is unlikely. We have been gifted, equipped, and enabled to fulfill God’s purpose in this life. And He will still have a purpose for us in the life to come.

In today’s passage, Jesus described the kingdom of heaven in the context of a man giving his servants money to invest. The men who served their master faithfully were heartily congratulated and given greater responsibility. When we reach Christ’s judgment seat, our foremost reward will be to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23 NIV). I can’t imagine words that could please me more than a commendation from the Savior I love above all.

We will also receive our new assignment in God’s heavenly kingdom. This is the part of the reward that corresponds to the words, “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (v. 23). There will be no lazing about for us! We will have a renewed heaven and earth to live in and enjoy (2 Peter 3:13). In our perfected bodies, with hearts and souls attuned to the Lord, we will serve Him and each other.

God has a plan for every believer to pursue, and He has gifted each of His children specifically for that purpose. That plan requires our passion and motivation—on earth or in heaven. This world is our training ground for the greater life to come, so let’s prepare like good and faithful servants.

Why Do People Follow Jesus?

When Jesus walked this earth, a vast multitude followed Him. They came for many reasons—some noble, some self-serving. The same is true today. It’s important to understand what motivates people to come to Christ, since not all who seek Him are really His followers. In fact, we should each analyze our own Christian walk by asking ourselves, What do I want from Him? How committed am I to being His disciple?

Many of the people who followed Jesus did so because they had urgent needs that He alone could meet. Everywhere He went, the sick and demon-possessed were brought to Him—this is one of the ways God draws us to Himself. Those who can solve their own problems don’t know they need a Savior.

Others came for sensationalism—to see signs and miracles and feel a thrill of excitement. Today some people come to church or conferences to get pumped up. But mountaintop experiences are always followed by valleys. When challenges come, such people are quick to abandon the Lord.

But Jesus’ disciples followed Him because they genuinely believed that He was the Messiah, the very Son of God (Matt. 16:16). Their commitment went beyond emotions. They wanted to know Christ and walk closely with Him.

Are you more interested in what Jesus can do for you than in just being with Him? Do you find it hard to stay committed without some impressive experience to sustain you? Our physical and emotional needs can draw us to the Lord but cannot sustain our walk with Him. Consider starting the new year by reevaluating your commitment to the Lord.

Spectator or Participant?

 
 
 

Romans 12:9-13

There’s something in human nature that resists having to lean on others for support. In fact, since its very beginnings, our country has been known for an independent spirit and self-sufficiency. But what may be considered beneficial in a national culture is not what Christ advocates for His church. Although we are each saved individually, the Lord doesn’t intend for us to live as if we’re on an island—set apart to ourselves. We are called the body of Christ, and as such, our lives are meant to touch, intersect, and connect with other believers in a local church.

The various ways we support one another are summarized in today’s passage, and they cover a large range of experiences, from rejoicing to suffering. No matter where we find ourselves on this spectrum, God calls us to be devoted to one another through service, prayer, and hospitality. Paul also specifies the attitudes we should have as we care for each other: sincere love, unselfishness, honor, diligence, and eagerness.

As you can see, the church is a place for participants, not spectators. Yet many Christians today think this kind of involvement in others’ lives is too costly. So they come on Sunday, stand to sing, sit to listen, and walk out to get back to their own lives. The term “spectator Christian” doesn’t apply only to those who deliberately avoid going to church. In fact, many churches are filled with observant attendees who sit in the pews each week but never touch a fellow believer’s life. What about you? Are you a spectator seeking what you can get or a participant looking for ways to give to someone else?

Called to Edify One Another

Your spiritual growth isn’t just about you—it affects your entire church. Consider this: What would your church be like if everyone in it was as hungry for God’s Word as you are? I’m not saying we must all be spiritual giants, but we should all be growing and increasing in our knowledge and love for Christ, as well as in our love for each other.

One of our responsibilities as members of Christ’s body is to edify each other in the faith. Sometimes we think this is just the role of those in ministry and assume the rest of us can sit back and take it easy. But today’s passage clearly says to “let the word of Christ richly dwell” in us so we can teach and admonish one another with wisdom (Col. 3:16).

Opinions and advice are often casually dished out without much thought, but as believers, we’re called to give wise counsel based on God’s Word. There is no other source that’s as sound, because Scripture alone is absolute truth. Building others up could simply be a matter of pointing out a passage that speaks to an issue they are facing, or it could involve admonishing or warning against an action or attitude the Bible condemns.

To some people, this kind of care for one another may seem unwanted or intrusive, but it’s actually an act of obedience to the Lord. It demonstrates our love for others and our desire to see them become the people that the Lord designed them to be—believers who accomplish what He’s called them to do. And if we are on the receiving end of such care, it helps us develop a humble, teachable attitude.

Jesus: Our Intimate Friend

I’ve counseled plenty of people who argue that they are not worthy of God’s love. Of all the passages I could point to that describe the Lord’s devotion, today’s is the one I think best showcases the unqualified friendship He offers His followers—even when they become wayward.

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus was praying at Gethsemane when Judas Iscariot approached with a band of men. The betrayer stepped forward and kissed the Lord. And what was Jesus’ response? According to Matthew, one of the other disciples, the Lord called the man “friend.” (See Matt. 26:50.)

Judas expected Jesus to establish His kingdom on earth and drive the Romans out of Israel—surely anyone who could calm a storm at sea could easily remove an oppressive government! But Judas’s interest in Jesus was more personal and political than spiritual. In fact, John reported that his fellow disciple stole from the money box (John 12:6). Today the man’s name is synonymous with those who betray others for personal gain.

In spite of Judas’s greed, blind ambition, and betrayal, Jesus never stopped loving him—and still used the word “friend” to address the disciple. The Lord does not place conditions on His love or reject people who fail to meet certain standards. He simply cares for us as we are.

We cannot earn Jesus Christ’s love and friendship. He takes the initiative, reaches out, and draws into fellowship those who are willing. None of us are worthy, but we are privileged to live in His love anyway. In the Lord, we find a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).

An Exercise in Casting Cares

Psalm 55:16-22

God’s shoulders are wide enough to carry your burdens. He’s sovereign over the universe, so He is certainly capable of working out problems and meeting needs. Today I want to give you an exercise that will help make casting your cares on Him a practical act.

First, take a piece of paper and write the things that cause your anxiety. Once you start, you may discover there’s a list of items that cheat you out of peace.

Next, pray each issue into God’s care. Recall Psalm 18:35, which promises that He lovingly upholds believers.

Finally, as you pray, visualize placing the situation into God’s omnipotent hands. For example, imagine handing over to the Lord the debts you owe, while saying, “Father, I give You my financial anxiety. I know You’ll show me how to get out of debt. You are more than sufficient to handle it, and I trust You to guide me.”

Some people may resist this suggestion because certain pseudo-spiritual movements have a method they call visualizing. But here the term refers to the beautiful word pictures throughout the Bible, which God intended to help us understand our relationship with Him. This type of visualizing creates a mental snapshot of God doing what He says He’ll do (Psalm 55:22; Matt. 6:25-26).

When you have transferred all of your worries to God’s hands, wad up the paper and then destroy it. In doing so, you symbolize the transaction that just took place: Your cares are no longer yours—every one of them belongs to the Lord. Then walk away in perfect peace.

Hindrances in Prayer

If we have an inaccurate perspective of God, it could cause us to think that He isn’t interested in our needs and concerns. On the contrary, the Lord invites us to pray, because He delights in providing for us—and He stands ready to do so. However, different types of hindrances can block the effectiveness of our prayers.

Ignorance of God’s will for our life and the specific circumstances we are facing is one such obstacle. His affirmative answers come when our petitions are in agreement with His purposes for us (1 John 5:14-15). Even if Scripture does not specifically address our situation, we can always ask the Lord to fill us with “the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). 

Selfish motives are another hindrance to answered prayer (James 4:3). Sometimes we’re more concerned about getting the Lord to do what we want than we are about submitting to His will in the situation.

Doubts about God and His faithfulness also keep us from experiencing answered prayer. Low expectations and uncertainty are like intruders in our conversations with Him because they short-circuit faith. Doubts may originate from listening to the wrong voices, embracing false beliefs, or focusing on the difficulty instead of the power, wisdom, and faithfulness of the Lord.

Effective prayer begins with trust in God and an awareness of His ways. Otherwise, skepticism may sneak into our thinking if He delays His answer or responds in an unexpected way. But when our prayers are aligned with His will and motivated by a desire to glorify Him, doubts will vanish.

God’s Plan for Our Guilt

Romans 8:1-8

Scripture teaches that one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work is to convict us of sin (John 16:8). His purpose is to turn us from our iniquity and direct us to God.

One example is Peter, who felt great remorse after denying he knew Jesus (Matt. 26:75). Another is Paul, who fell to the ground when Christ came to confront him about his behavior (Acts 9:4). Both men responded to these convicting experiences by repenting and following the Lord.

At one time we all were spiritually dead. Sin’s presence was corrupting our human nature from the inside out, blinding us to spiritual truth. With our will directed towards self and against God, “we were by nature deserving of wrath” (Eph. 2:3 NIV). In other words, we were under condemnation and facing eternal death—God’s required payment for our transgressions. (See Rom. 6:23.) So in our natural state, we were unconnected to the Lord and headed toward eternal separation from Him.

Although we were helpless to change our situation, God had a plan that would satisfy His justice and include us in His family. He sent His Son to be our substitute—to bear our sin and guilt and to die in our place. Not only did Jesus pay our sin debt in full, but His righteousness also becomes ours the moment we place trust in Him.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our guilt before God, and, thankfully, we don’t have to be separated from Him now or throughout eternity. Have you received Jesus as your personal Savior? If so, then recognize that your position before the Lord has been changed from guilty to righteous.

Dealing With Guilty Feelings

Guilt comes from a feeling of responsibility for some wrongdoing. Conviction can result from the Holy Spirit’s efforts to turn us away from sin and guide us to our heavenly Father. But not all guilt stems from ungodly actions.

False guilt, which is not prompted by sin, can surface for a variety of reasons, such as disappointment in one’s own performance, a sense of shame over past events, or criticism from others for unmet expectations. Rejection or a pattern of abuse from childhood can also trigger this emotion. False guilt is a powerful weapon the enemy uses to direct our thoughts away from the Lord.

Whether false or real, the emotion of guilt divides our mind, drains our energy, and creates a sense of insecurity. If we allow it to linger, we can start to have doubts about God’s goodness and love for us. Depression and hopelessness may follow. To cope, some people develop compulsive behaviors in an attempt to replace self-reproach with something pleasurable. Excessive amounts of food, television, internet, shopping, and exercise are common ways people try to push away self-condemning thoughts.

Addressing guilt quickly is important. Acknowledge the emotion to the Lord, and identify the reason behind it. If you’ve violated God’s law, ask His forgiveness, and take steps to change the behavior. If you discover false guilt, confess it and ask God to adjust your thinking to match His. In either case, praise Him because He doesn’t want His children carrying unnecessary burdens and has promised to forgive our sins.

Longing for the Word

If you’ve ever had a newborn baby in your home, you understand the concept Peter is conveying in today’s passage. A baby doesn’t care how pretty mom is or how delightfully the nursery is decorated. There is one thing a newborn wants above all else—milk.

Is that how you feel about God’s Word? Do you long for it so that you may grow spiritually mature? Is hearing Scripture explained and taught at church something you look forward to with eagerness? Or have you lost your appetite and gotten used to digesting only on Sundays?

Often, right after someone has come to faith, there’s an initial hunger to read the Bible because everything about salvation is new and exciting. But as time passes, the novelty wears off, the problems and daily pressures of life continue just as they did previously, and passion for the Word may be replaced with the cares of this life.

If someone has truly been saved, a hunger for the Word should be evident. That’s because as believers, we have tasted the kindness of the Lord and, therefore, long to know Him more fully. Habitually nibbling on Scripture doesn’t do much to stimulate our appetite. God’s Word is an acquired taste, and the more we consume it, the greater our hunger for it will become.

If you’ve lost your desire for the Word, ask the Lord to restore your appetite, and begin reading every day. As you become more familiar with Scripture, you’ll notice your understanding and desire for it increase. Best of all, your love and devotion for your Savior and will grow as well.

Assurance for Trials

Trials will surface in our life. Thankfully, though, we can rely on our Father to help in times of need, as today’s passage from Psalm 121 assures us.

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (vv. 1-2). When frightened about dangers and difficulties that might befall him, the psalmist knew where to turn for help. Similarly, when we encounter uncertainty, fears, or trials, our sovereign Lord will sustain us (Psalm 103:19)—even when others let us down or our own strength fails.

“He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3). With billions of people in the world, it is difficult to comprehend how the Lord could possibly know every detail of our lives—or why He would care enough to number all the hairs on our heads. But this passage confirms that God is alert to every aspect of each life and attentive to our every need.

“The Lord is your keeper” (v. 5). In Hebrew, the word for “keep” comes from the same root as “guard” and “protect.” We use this term when parents ask a trusted person to keep their child while they are away temporarily. The childcare provider is expected to protect and provide for needs. God promises to keep His children, which means that He will defend us, give us what we need, grow us into His likeness, and guard us from evil.

Without these promises, the world could seem dangerous and lonely. But we can face unknowns and difficult times with confidence, knowing that the Lord will keep us and help us.

God Is My Keeper

God is sovereign, and He is also good. Knowing this, many believers struggle to understand why painful things happen in life. They wonder, Why wouldn’t the Lord stop me from experiencing such heartache?

The question deepens when we read a Bible passage like Psalm 121:7-8: “The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” Many people interpret this to mean that God will keep them from difficulty. But what the words say is that He promises to keep their soul.

The Lord allows pain in our life. Sometimes He even orchestrates it. God understands the hurt, but He also looks into the deeper meaning of the situation. Trials often strengthen our faith, make us more like Jesus, and give us compassion for others. At times, God may even use difficulties to keep us from becoming complacent in our spiritual walk. With His help, we profit immensely more from walking through the pain than from avoiding it. When our heavenly Father knows it is best, He doesn’t keep us from the pain; instead, He enables us to endure the hardship by giving us wisdom and strength. And when we get to the other side, we can often see—with profound thankfulness—how His loving and gracious hand guided us through the whole situation.

We have tremendous hope, knowing that God will keep us through the most difficult times. Reread Psalm 121, and ask the Lord to remind you of its truths when painful situations arise in your life.

Developing a Vibrant Faith

The apostle Paul had a strong commitment to know and serve Jesus Christ. His passion and love for the Lord was obvious—Jesus was always central in his thinking, whether he was working as a tentmaker, preaching to the crowd, or even sitting in prison. What fueled his love for the Savior?

Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus was a motivating force in his life. Grateful for the gift of grace he had received at salvation, the apostle told many people about his encounter with the resurrected Christ and its impact on him. We, too, have a story to tell of God’s mercy, both in saving us and in giving us new life in Him.

Paul’s zeal also came from his firm conviction that the gospel message was true and available to everyone (John 3:16). On the cross, Jesus took all our sins—past, present, and future—upon Himself (1 Pet. 2:24). He suffered our punishment so that we might receive forgiveness and be brought into a right relationship with God. Through faith in Christ, we’ve been born again, and the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us every day (John 14:26). The more we understand what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf, the greater will be our passion to share the gospel.

Developing a vibrant faith requires time and energy plus a commitment to obey the Lord. Regularly studying the Bible will strengthen your beliefs and give you courage to speak. Caring about the spiritual welfare of others will move you into action. Do you have a passion to serve Jesus wherever He leads?

Knowing God’s Ways

Having facts about someone is not the same as truly knowing the person. For instance, if a friend you know relatively well were to come and live with you for several months, you would discover his or her ways—that is, habits, preferences, attitudes, and priorities.

When Scripture speaks of God’s ways, it’s referring to much more than His actions or facts about His nature. His ways include His manner, motivations, desires, thoughts, and purposes. One of the reasons believers often become discouraged is that they don’t understand what God is doing in their life. That’s why it’s essential to learn how the Lord operates. As long as we remain ignorant of His ways as revealed in His Word, we won’t trust or know Him intimately. 

The Bible is such a big book that some believers may be tempted to give up, thinking it will take too long to learn how God works. But it’s important to remember that we all have the same starting point. When we’re born again, God doesn’t automatically download everything we need to know about Him into our brains. Learning to understand the Lord and how He does things is a process; He teaches us as we continue to read, obey what we know of Scripture, and spend time with Him.

Do you find yourself longing to grow in intimacy with the Lord? If so, you must live closely with Him by listening as He speaks through His Word—and by humbling yourself to learn, accept, and delight in His ways above your own.

Robbing the Body of Christ

Every day, you get out of bed, put on clothes, and walk to the kitchen to eat breakfast. You maybe watch the news or check your email, and a few minutes later, you drive to work at 60 miles per hour on a road where other vehicles can pass by within feet. In the first hour or so that you’re awake, your body completes thousands of complex tasks that are so routine they go unnoticed. We hardly even think about them.

Our physical frame is a creation of remarkable beauty and intricacy. And while certain parts seem more attractive than others, all are useful. The body’s interdependent nature—that is, the way the different parts rely on one another to perform properly—is an apt metaphor for a Christ-centered church. When believers use their gifts and talents to operate and depend on each other, the whole body functions properly to the glory of God.

However, many people in church today feel insignificant. Upon seeing the successful work of others, they decide they’re not really needed or assume they haven’t got the “right” talents to make a worthwhile contribution. Those are lies from the devil. When his misguidance succeeds—which is all too often—one more Christian backs away in hopes that someone else will do the Lord’s work.

Hanging back instead of seeking a place to serve is unfair to the congregation, because your unique contribution is integral to the unity of God’s church. Your role might not be center stage, but it is vital to Jesus Christ and to His body on earth.

A Life of Godliness

There is a common misconception that believers should be perfect. Pretending to have our life in order, many of us wear a happy face and speak words that sound acceptable. At times we’re ashamed to admit our shortcomings, as if they should not exist. Salvation through Jesus, however, doesn’t change the fact that sin is present in our life. When we’re born again, God forgives us and sees us as righteous. Yet our battle with sin continues till we arrive in heaven.

In fact, striving for perfection actually can be a trap that pulls us away from living a godly life. Functioning in this way is a form of relying on our own abilities. Jesus said that He came to heal the spiritually sick because they recognized their weakness. With an awareness of our inadequacy comes the realization of our need for Him.

The world sees successful individuals as powerful and self-sufficient, but Jesus doesn’t care about these qualities. Instead, He wants people to be aware of their own brokenness. This is the foundation for godliness.

We should accept our neediness and seek God passionately. Doing so allows the following attributes to develop: a hunger for God’s Word, faithful service, deepening trust, and decision-making based upon principle rather than preference. Patiently and mercifully, God matures us.

Be careful not to cover up your sins in order to look like a “good Christian.” Without recognition and confession of our sin, we are unable to rely fully on God. It is only with this awareness that we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and repent when we miss the mark.

Godly Living in an Ungodly Age

Our Founding Fathers created a governing framework heavily influenced by biblical principles. Slowly, we have changed from “one nation under God” to a group of people who no longer want Him to be involved.

Our nation has become ungodly in several ways: Many are driven by materialism and power; immorality and rebellion are prevalent; empty philosophy and false doctrine are widely accepted. Underlying it all is the push to keep God out of the nation’s affairs.

Yet even in an unbelieving society, people can, follow Jesus as individuals. But the world will continually disseminate faulty teachings, so believers must be discerning. Otherwise, erroneous messages can lead Christians to compromise their convictions. Then affections and priorities may change. Don’t let the world’s clamor make the Spirit’s voice less audible. Without His guidance, our minds become vulnerable to lies.

The Word of God is a compass that keeps us headed in the right direction, even in the midst of confusing messages. We need to be consistently filled with truth by reading, believing, meditating upon, and applying Scripture. God’s Word also says to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If our minds are focused upon Him, unholy beliefs will not be able to take root.

The Word is our guidebook. We will still face difficulty as we live in this imperfect world—it is a confusing, dark place that entices us but can never fulfills our true longings. Yet God’s truth will bring confidence and boldness, and His Spirit will direct and strengthen, enabling us to live victoriously.

God’s Loving Desire

Whether we realize it or not, our thoughts are usually centered on what we want—but have you ever considered what God desires? Why did He create us, and what is His goal for us? The answer is found in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord ... is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” But why does God want mankind saved?

Because He loves us (Eph. 2:4). His love isn’t based on any worthiness in us but on His nature. As 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love,” and His attributes never change.

Because of His grace (Eph. 2:5). We can’t do anything to earn salvation, because it’s obtained only through God’s grace. And throughout our time on earth and into eternity, the lives of God’s children should exhibit evidence of His grace (Eph. 2:7). 

For His glory (Eph. 1:5-6). God’s glory is displayed as He saves sinners and changes them into saints. Then as we each live obediently before Him, others will see our good works and glorify the God who transformed us. 

Sometimes we’re shortsighted and think we’re the center of salvation, but it’s really all about our amazing God, who sent His Son to rescue us from sin, death, and eternal punishment. Jesus died and suffered the chastisement we deserved, and He offers us forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father. And all we have to do is believe and receive Christ’s payment for our sins. What a gracious God we have, who wants us to be with Him forever so He may continue to shower His kindness upon us.

Wounded Parents, Wounded Children

So often when we deal with difficult people, it’s easy to form judgments about them based on their behavior or attitudes. But have you ever stopped to wonder what has made that person so disagreeable or foolish? When the Bible says God “repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children” (Jer. 32:18), it is speaking about generational cycles of sin. Unless someone in the family line makes a deliberate choice to change, sinful and dysfunctional behavior can be passed from parent to child for many generations.

This is really just a confirmation of the principle of sowing and reaping. We pass down standards for conduct and character traits that we received from our parents. If we are unwilling to change our sinful habits and attitudes, they will very likely find their way into our children’s lives.

What is true for sin is also true for wounds. When a child is emotionally bruised in the home, his behavior and character may be negatively affected. With this in mind, think about a difficult person you know. What hurts do you think shaped his or her life? A heart of compassion originates from a willingness to empathize with those who have been wounded. This doesn’t excuse someone’s sin, but it does aid in opening our heart toward the individual.

What about you? Have childhood wounds contributed to who you are today? How have they affected your life? If you haven’t dealt with them, you’ll probably pass similar hurts down to your children. But with God’s help, you can break this cycle and begin one that will benefit future generations.

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 Father’s Influence

Have you ever wondered why a priority of Elijah’s ministry in the last days involves restoring the relationship between fathers and children (Mal. 4:6)? Perhaps it’s because the father has a powerful role, both in the development of emotional health in his offspring and in the shaping of their perceptions about God. By his example, a dad can either draw his children to God or push them away. Sometimes the easiest way to understand this is to look at negative paternal examples:

The angry, unpredictable father instills fear in his children and conveys to them that God is a tyrant who lashes out unexpectedly.
A critical, demanding dad makes his kids feel inadequate. They see God as a taskmaster who’s never pleased.
The uninvolved or absent father sends the message that his children are unimportant, and both he and God are too busy for them.
An arrogant dad’s tough, uncaring nature leads his children to feel unloved and conclude that the Lord doesn’t love them either.
A fault-finding or abusive father communicates that his child is worthless and God is full of condemnation.

But a man with Christlike character provides children with a healthy connection, not only to their earthly dad but also to their heavenly Father.

Think about how your earthly father helped to shape your perception of God. The Bible will reveal whether your understanding of the Lord is rooted in truth or error. If your own father distorted your view of God, know that God is the perfect Father—and ask Him to help you see that truth.

Biblical Meditation

If you’re facing a challenging situation, it may be tempting to immediately consult friends, professionals, or the latest book or article relating to the subject. Although none of these choices are bad in themselves, there is a greater source for guidance and assurance than any of these, and that’s God’s Word.

When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel after Moses’ death, he didn’t form a committee or read up on current leadership strategies. Instead, he relied on the instructions and assurances God gave him: “Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left” (Josh. 1:7).

Implicit in this command is the obvious truth that we must read the Bible if we want to know what God would have us do. Then we must be careful to obey whatever it says without trying to alter it, soften it, or make excuses for partial obedience.

The Lord also told Joshua not to let God’s Word depart from his mouth but to “meditate on it day and night” (Josh. 1:8). Since our minds are easily distracted and often forgetful, we need more than a quick and perfunctory reading of Scripture. The best approach is to ask God to help us understand what He’s saying in His Word and then take time to think about it.

Biblical meditation isn’t an emptying of our mind but rather a filling of it with God’s Word. As we reflect upon scriptural truths, we gain a greater understanding of our Father’s ways and desires so we’ll know how to proceed according to His will.

The Fruitfulness of Meditation

Do you delight in the Bible? That’s a challenging question because the answer is revealed by our actions. To delight is to take great pleasure in something or someone and to spend time in that activity or relationship. Christians want to delight in God and His Word, but our schedules often indicate a different reality.

Time spent alone with the Lord in His Word and prayer is crucial to the Christian life. If we neglect it, the delights of the world will quickly fill our mind and capture our heart, drowning out the desire for God. Then instead of time with Him being a priority, it will become an afterthought. At first this may not seem like a big deal, but eventually we’ll wither spiritually and bear no fruit.

Meditation is a means by which we make ourselves available to be instructed by the Lord through the Scriptures. It requires time, submission, and commitment, all of which are difficult for people who are busy running from one activity to the next. Yet if we want to grow in Christ, we must become like a tree firmly rooted by the river of God’s Word. That’s where we are nurtured and refreshed, and it is what’s required in order to have a spiritually fruitful life.

Over time we’ll learn to find peace in God’s presence even in stormy situations. And as we get to know the Lord, our love for Him will increase. Many people wish they loved God more, and time alone with Him in His Word is the key. Furthermore, as our love for God increases, both He and His Word will become our delight.

The Protection of Meditation

If there was a seminar on overcoming sin, many Christians would sign up, hoping to discover the secret to victory over their temptations. But the answer isn’t elusive; it’s right under our nose. All we need to do is open our Bible. Every answer the psalmist gives to his initial question of how to keep our ways pure involves Scripture.

Live according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9-10). This means we must spend time reading and meditating on Scripture in order to know what it says and means. But that alone isn’t enough to guard us from sin; we must obey it.

Treasure God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Since temptation usually comes unexpectedly, we must be prepared for it even when we can’t grab a Bible. That’s why having Scripture stored in our mind and heart is so important.

Rejoice in God’s Word (Psalm 119:14). There is great joy and peace that comes with knowing Scripture. In fact, it should be worth more to us than all the wealth and possessions this world offers.

Meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 119:15). We must take time to attune our heart and mind to the Lord, ponder His words, and receive the Spirit’s help translating His instructions for our particular situation. This isn’t a rushed process; it’s a slow yielding of ourselves to the truths we read as we discover how to apply them. And consistency may require a deliberate commitment.

When we faithfully practice biblical meditation, we will discover that the Holy Spirit has been busy transforming our thoughts, emotions, and actions so we’ll be more pleasing to God and less attracted to sinful pleasures. That is good news!

When God Says No

We’ve all made foolish requests of God, which we’re now glad He didn’t answer. But this is easily forgotten when He’s presently withholding something we think is good. With so many scriptural promises to answer prayer, why is God saying no? According to His Word, there are several possible reasons.

God has forbidden it. God won’t contradict His Word or will, so praying for something prohibited in Scripture is futile. Because of Moses’ disobedience, God had decreed the leader wouldn’t enter the Promised Land. Moses asked Him to reconsider but was told not to speak of it again (Deut. 1:37; Deut. 3:23-28).

It’s for our protection. Because of the divine revelations Paul received, God allowed a “thorn in the flesh” to remain in order to keep him from exalting himself. The Lord prioritizes our spiritual protection over physical comfort.

God has a higher goal for us. Christ’s power was displayed in the weakness caused by Paul’s thorn. Knowing the higher goal for his suffering allowed Paul to be content and even appreciative of his weakness for Christ’s sake.

The Lord has something better for us. Jesus didn’t immediately heal Lazarus. Mary and Martha couldn’t yet understand that He was going to do something even greater—raising Lazarus, which would glorify God (John 11:1-44).

Our motives are wrong. James says one of the reasons we don’t receive our request is because we’re asking for selfish reasons and not according to God’s will (John 4:3).

Many times we won’t understand the good that God is doing by withholding what we desire. But these examples let us know we can trust Him.

The Holy Spirit: Giver of Gifts

Do you feel ill-equipped to serve the Lord? A sense of inadequacy is one of many excuses people use to avoid ministry and service, but it’s not a valid one. Evading the Father’s call can affect His work on earth, prevent the blessings that come from obedience, and keep us from eternal rewards in heaven.

Jesus Christ knew all about the human tendency to feel inadequate. That is why He assured His followers they would receive a Helper—the Holy Spirit—who would come to abide in them forever (John 14:16). The Spirit enables, energizes, and equips believers to serve the Lord. One of the ways He aids us is by providing spiritual gifts, which are capabilities given to believers.

Our heavenly Father has a ministry in mind for each of His followers. Therefore, necessary spiritual “equipment” has been selected to help us carry out His work, and these gifts were planned by our Creator before we were born. It is His purpose that we embrace our gift and combine it with other believers’ gifts in order to serve Him wholeheartedly as the body of Christ. Even the smallest job contributes to the Great Commission and the strengthening of Jesus Christ’s body, the church.

The Lord has a plan for every believer. To ensure that we can meet His expectations, He first builds natural talents into us. At salvation, He adds a spiritual gift. Then the heavenly Father opens doors of opportunity and the Holy Spirit manifests His power so that we can carry out the work set before us.

A Gift for Every Believer

1 Peter 4:10-11

Even though the Bible clearly states that every believer receives a spiritual gift, some people nevertheless think they were overlooked. So these men and women meander through life refusing opportunities to serve. Other folks are so busy wishing they had a different ability that they do not use the one bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Both of these attitudes hinder the body of Christ.

God has a specific purpose and ministry for every Christian. Our spiritual gifts help us to fulfill His plan. We learn which one (or ones) we possess by getting involved in the life of the church. In other words, a believer will know his divinely appointed abilities when he begins to exercise them.

Moreover, the Lord has a purpose in mind when He bestows spiritual gifts on His children. Christians are to exercise their special skills for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7), and everyone profits when believers do God’s work though the power of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are used in a variety of ways, including to equip, edify, and encourage one another (Eph. 4:11-13).

To appreciate how various gifts work to build up the body of Christ, we may have to broaden our understanding of words like evangelist, prophet, and teacher. Biblically, these terms describe co-laborers who share Christ, spiritual mentors who explain biblical truths to new believers, friends who uplift the discouraged, and others doing similar work.

Every member of the Christian fellowship is important, and each one has a task to do. Where God has gifted us and opened doors of opportunity for ministry, He also provides the strength and courage to exercise our abilities.

Created to Love God

Jealousy is an undesirable, negative emotion, which is fueled by anger or selfishness. According to James 3:16, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” From today’s passage, however, we see that there is a different perspective on the word when it’s applied to God: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Deut. 5:9).

This seems like a contradiction, but jealousy has a second, more positive meaning, which has almost been lost in our modern culture. It describes God’s vigilance in guarding our love for Him. Since we were created to love and worship Him, anything that competes for our devotion is a just cause for His jealousy.

The most important commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). Without this complete devotion to Him, we will pursue our own interests and neglect godly principles and goals. No idol—whether a person, dream, pursuit, or possession—is worthy of worship. But a holy and just God, whose deep love for mankind moved Him to send His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place, deserves and demands our total love and loyalty.

God hates idols of every kind because He knows anything that draws our attention away from Him is dangerous. In fact, focusing only partially on the Lord is a sure way to stumble, get wrapped up in sin, and miss His blessings. For both our protection and His glory, the heavenly Father calls us to be true to Him by living in an obedient, loving, and worshipful manner.

When Fear Comes Calling

Fear is an emotion that can be helpful or harmful. For instance, it’s helpful to have the fear—or reverence—of the Lord, which keeps us from sin. And it’s also beneficial to have a healthy fear that warns of dangers. But oftentimes we are plagued by a different kind of fear, which keeps us from obeying God; this kind is usually rooted in self-focus rather than faith. As Paul wrote to Timothy, we may have “a spirit of timidity,” which originates in faulty thinking (2 Timothy 1:7).

Adequate vs. Inadequate. When adverse circumstances arise, we may become anxious because we are convinced we’re inadequate for the situation. However, it’s not the situation but an error in our thinking that is causing the fear. Our adequacy is never in ourselves but in God, who makes us adequate for whatever He brings into our life (2 Corinthians 3:4-5).

God’s Standards vs. Our Standards. Many of us set goals for ourselves that are unrealistic. Such standards impose undue pressure and generate anxiety when we fail. Although we may believe these goals are what God expects, they could be our own expectations. We must let the Lord direct our steps so His plans are accomplished, not ours (Prov. 16:9).

Grace vs. Guilt. Some of us are afraid of making a mistake, because we live with guilt over something we’ve done in the past and assume God is still displeased about it. However, Scripture assures us that in Christ, all our sins are forgiven and our guilt has been removed (Rom. 8:1).

The next time fear comes calling, take your eyes off yourself, answer it with the truth of God’s Word, and let faith take its place.

Prayer-Based Planning

In Luke 14, Jesus’ example of building a tower shows the importance of planning and using resources wisely. Otherwise, money may run out before the work is done. As with any plans we make, those involving finances should be covered with prayer. First, ask God for the wisdom to understand His teachings about money and how they apply to your situation. Next, pray for clarity about how much is spent versus how much is earned, as well as all the other details.

One final step is to seek the Lord’s guidance in assessing whether your spending habits are in line with His priorities. In evaluating this, it is helpful to divide expenses into categories, including:

• Giving to the local church, missionaries, and other organizations.
Basic needs—food, clothing, and housing.
Insurance, retirement plan, savings.
• Debt, such as mortgages, loans, and credit cards.
Spending on extras—phones, internet, TV, eating out, vacations, etc.

Some of us will discover that our finances are not in line with scriptural principles, which may be discouraging. If this is true of you, turn to the Lord, confess what has happened, and pray for the strength to handle your God-given resources His way.

Financial discipline is a learned skill. It requires a commitment to live according to Scripture, persistent effort to change bad habits, concentration to develop new ones, and faith that we can learn to live according to God’s priorities. We’re blessed when we practice prayer-based planning.

Who Owns It All?

A serious error has made its way into the church. Some Christians think that their beliefs and their wallet belong in separate spheres. The truth is, obedience to God includes how we handle our finances. He owns everything (Hag. 2:8; Psalm 24:1). Cash, possessions, and ways to earn more are gifts from the Lord; we are simply stewards.

A steward oversees the use and care of someone else’s riches. A wise steward bases financial decisions upon the owner’s rules for using and multiplying material goods. In our case, God has woven financial principles into the fabric of Scripture. Since money touches nearly every aspect of life, it is mentioned hundreds of times in different contexts. For example, God urged the Israelites to stay faithful to His teachings and to avoid the trap of self-reliance. He reminded them that the power to make wealth resides with Him rather than in their own hands (Deut. 8:17-18).

The minute a steward presumes that he owns the money he manages, trouble is at hand. He stops consulting the Owner and spends as he sees fit. Even in trying to do good, the wayward steward is ruled by his shortsighted perspective rather than by God’s omniscient view and gentle guidance. He will suffer the consequences of choosing his own way over the Lord’s.

Faith and finances are intertwined. The bottom line is that we cannot keep our money out of God’s hand, because He holds it all—we simply manage it. And we are to do so in the way He directs us. A maturing believer trusts the Lord’s principles for using and growing wealth.

Our Testimony

Think about the last argument you had with someone. Generally, disagreements arise when two people see things differently. Part of the problem is that most issues can be seen from diverse perspectives. Therefore, it’s easy for people to take opposing sides on a subject since they make different assumptions based on the same facts.

This can present a problem when we witness to people. Our goal isn’t to start a debate but to share the gospel. If someone objects to what we say, we could become sidetracked with arguments. However, we each have one thing that no one else can refute: our personal testimony. This isn’t an issue for debate but an opportunity to explain our own experience and the results of our decision to follow Christ.

Realize that every believer has a powerful weapon in his spiritual arsenal. When you share what Christ has done in your life, no one else can say, “That’s not right,” or “That didn’t really happen.” Our testimony of faith is our own credible, first-hand, eyewitness narrative of the power of God.

That’s why it’s important that we be prepared to share our story. Opportunities often come unexpectedly, and we don’t want to let the moment pass simply because we’re not sure what to say.

This week set aside a few moments to think about your history with Christ and sketch an outline of your faith story. Then ask Him to open a door for you to share the message of Jesus Christ. Then when an opportunity comes, you’ll be ready to share what Christ has done in your own life.

Our Circle of Influence

We hear much today about being a person of influence. Although some of us may be connected to many people, there are others whose lives may seem small in comparison. However, the important issue is not numbers but faithfulness. The Lord has determined the personality and abilities of every believer, as well as our individual spheres of influence.

No matter how vast or limited our connections are, we can each be used effectively by God to influence others as we follow His instructions.

Stand firm in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:15). We must make sure that our life is grounded in biblical truth. Otherwise, we could lead others astray.

Continue in every good work and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). People watch us, and what we say and do affects them more than we may imagine. That’s why it is so important to make sure our attitude, speech, and conduct reflect Jesus Christ.

Develop a lifestyle of prayer (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Praying for others and for opportunities to share the gospel is essential for effective ministry. It prepares their hearts to hear and our minds to know what to say. The simplest words can have amazing results when the Lord is directing our efforts.

Keep obeying the Lord (2 Thessalonians 3:4). Godly influence will only be achieved if we ourselves are godly. When we are living obediently before the Lord, He will be faithful to open doors of influence according to His will (Revelation 3:8).

If you will make it your ambition to become faithful in all these ways, you can be confident that the Lord will use your life to influence others for good and for His glory.

The Sufficiency of God’s Grace

The Lord pledges to give us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It’s a promise He always keeps. Yet when life hits us hard, we may be tempted to doubt and give up. If our faith starts to waver, we need to think about what we have already received from Him and then look for evidence that He’s at work.

We should remember that we’ve been freed from sin’s penalty. Because Jesus paid the full price by dying on the cross in our place, we owe nothing for our wrongdoing. God now regards us as blameless—at salvation, we each became a new creation and were given Christ’s righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). Originally, we were headed toward permanent separation from the Lord, but our eternal destiny has been changed to a heavenly home in His presence. And God’s Holy Spirit lives within us as our constant companion and source of strength.

We also should keep in mind that even in the worst of situations, our Father works to accomplish His will. Joseph experienced betrayal when his brothers sold him into slavery, and later he suffered injustice when imprisoned for doing the right thing. In the end, he realized that the Lord had graciously used those circumstances to rescue his family from a life-threatening famine (Gen. 45:5). In a similar way, God uses adversity to develop our character and dependence on Him. He works through trials to bless us and others.

Because of the Lord’s sustaining grace, we have access to His power, wisdom, and guidance. When we ask, God’s Spirit will provide the strength to persevere and help us fight doubt.

What Takes Place After Salvation

To truly grasp what Jesus did for us on the cross—and to be able to share the gospel effectively—it’s essential to have an accurate understanding of the terms we use to describe salvation.

Saved (Eph. 2:8). This is a synonym for rescued. Mankind needs rescuing because without Jesus, we are all destined for divine wrath, hell, and eternal separation from God.

Redeemed (Eph. 1:7). Redemption implies a transaction. Our salvation was purchased through the shedding of Jesus Christ’s blood.

Justified (Rom. 5:1). When someone trusts in Christ, God pardons that person and removes his or her guilt. A saved individual is in right standing with the Lord.

Reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Salvation results in a relationship with God. We were once separated from Him, but now we are His sons and daughters, and He calls us His friends (John 15:15).

Using words like redemption, justification, and reconciliation might not be effective when presenting the gospel to someone unfamiliar with the language often used in church. However, it’s important for us to understand what the Bible teaches about salvation, and these terms give us a framework for explaining the good news to others.

We must recognize that we are not saved by our personal works or performance. Salvation is ours by God’s grace—His unmerited, undeserved, loving favor toward us—and at the cost of Jesus’ own blood. Let us not take for granted how God has rescued us: by sending His Son to die in our place.

Living in Freedom

When Eve accepted Satan’s offer of greater independence from God, do you think she experienced more freedom? The answer is obvious. She, Adam, and the entire human race became enslaved to sin from that point onward. What looked like a great deal ended in deadly bondage.

Although Christ has set believers free from slavery to sin, we, like Eve, oftentimes long for the “freedom” to do what we want. But whenever we give in to sinful desires, we’re behaving like slaves instead of living as free children of God. He’s given us the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to say no to sin if we’ll just yield to His leadership.

The consequences of reverting to our old ways are devastating. We’ll sink deeper into bondage to sin, lose the peace and joy of fellowship with Christ, grieve the Holy Spirit, and find ourselves under the disciplining hand of the Father. We can also miss out on the blessing of helping to advance His kingdom—by falling into the hypocrisy of living like the world, we ruin our testimony because there’s no discernible benefit to having a relationship with God. Our unsaved friends, relatives, and coworkers are watching. Unless they see a difference between us and themselves, why would they want our Savior?

If Satan whispers in your ear that the Lord’s limitations are depriving you of something good, remember what happened to Eve in the book of Genesis. Liberty to do whatever we want is slavery to self and sin. Only when we live within the Father’s protective boundaries can we experience the freedom Christ purchased for us.