Not a Sermon only a Thought

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.

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