To become God’s mighty servants, we must decide whether we will base our life on His priorities or the world’s. The two are incompatible.
Before salvation, people typically live according to whatever the flesh desires, indulging themselves with food, entertainment, and material goods. Promoting self-gratification, our culture maintains that everyone is the center of his own universe and can decide what is right for himself.
Scripture teaches the opposite: to put God above all else and “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Matt. 6:33; Phil. 2:3). So how do we give God top priority? Jesus says it means loving Him wholeheartedly, denying ourselves, and following Him (Matt. 16:24; Matt. 22:37-39). That includes generosity. Instead of encouraging us to acquire money and possessions, He teaches that giving brings far more blessings than receiving (Acts 20:35).
How can we know we are becoming spiritually stronger? First, we’ll be less attracted to the ungodly practices of our world and will yearn to be more like Jesus. Next, we will start replacing ungodly habits with activities that please the Lord. Then, we’ll begin to comprehend some of the deeper biblical truths and apply them in our life. Finally, our spiritual discernment will improve. With the Spirit’s help, we will more easily recognize unrighteous ideas and behavior.
Do you want to become mighty in spirit? If so, spend time in the Scriptures learning what is important to God. Then ask Him to transform you into the person He has designed you to be.
Bible In One Year: Psalm 112-118
Read: Luke 9:57–62
Bible in a Year: Job 22–24; Acts 11
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.—Luke 9:23
Sipping her tea, Nancy gazed out her friend’s window and sighed. Spring rains and sunshine had coaxed a riotous expanse of color from a well-groomed flowerbed of lilies, phlox, irises, and evening primrose.
“I want that look,” she said wistfully, “without all the work.”
Some shortcuts are fine—even practical. Others short-circuit our spirit and deaden our lives. We want romance without the difficulties and messiness of committing to someone so different from ourselves. We want “greatness” without the risks and failures necessary in the adventure of real life. We desire to please God, but not when it inconveniences us.
Jesus made clear to His followers that there is no shortcut that avoids the hard choice of surrendering our lives to Him. He warned a prospective disciple, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). To follow Christ requires a radical altering of our loyalties.
When we turn in faith to Jesus, the work just begins. But it is oh-so-worth-it, for He also told us that no one who sacrifices “for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age . . . and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). The work of following Christ is difficult, but He’s given us His Spirit and the reward is a full, joyful life now and forever. —Tim Gustafson
Father, I will find the strength to do the work You have for me to do, only as I rely on Your Holy Spirit. Help me, please, to be sensitive to that today.
Most things worth doing are difficult.
INSIGHT: Although the Holy Spirit is spoken of throughout the Bible, two particular portions of Scripture offer us a wealth of insight about this wonderful Person—John 14-16 and Romans 8. In His Upper Room Discourse with His disciples (John 14-16), Jesus says the Spirit is a gift from the Father who has come to be our Comforter/Advocate (14:16-17). This Helper is also described as the “Spirit of truth” who takes up residence within each of God’s children so that we are never abandoned (vv. 17-18). In John 16, our Lord adds that the Spirit will convict the world and point us to the Savior, while guiding us into truth (vv. 7-14). In Romans 8, Paul reinforces these ideas by saying that the Spirit is the source of our life (vv. 2, 11), the evidence of our new relationship with our Father (vv. 9, 14-16), and One who intercedes for us when we pray so that our prayers line up with the Father’s purposes (vv. 26-27).In what area of your life do you need the Spirit’s presence and guidance? Bill Crowder
“My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)
As part of their aquarium tour, Maria and her dad had watched a video presentation about deep sea life. Maria loved seeing all the pictures of the colorful fish that swim around coral reefs. She loved seeing the dolphins leap above the waves in pairs and hearing the strange songs that the whales sing deep in the sea.
But she began to notice that the narrator of the presentation never said anything about God. He talked about how amazing the sea creatures were. He talked about how mysterious their habits and lifestyles were. But he never once talked about the God who created them. Instead, he said they had formed all by themselves over billions of years and that “Mother Nature” had given them certain abilities.
When the video was over, Dad looked at Maria. “What did you think of that?” he asked.
“I liked seeing all the animals, but I don’t think that man on the video knew God,” she said.
“You’re right. He didn’t give God any praise for all of the wonderful undersea life He created,” said Dad. “The sad thing is, there are thousands of people in the world today who would agree with him – people who don’t believe that there could be a real God.”
They walked out to the large “touch tank” where people could pick up sea urchins and crabs and hold them in their hands. The lady at the tank asked Maria if she wanted to hold a sea urchin. Maria held out her hand, and the lady placed a round, spiny creature in her palm. The sea urchin moved his spines gently back and forth, and they tickled her fingers. “What do you think of him?” the lady asked.
“He’s wonderful,” said Maria. “God did a great job of creating him!”
God deserves praise from us for all of His works, and for Who He is. Psalm 145 tells us it is right for us to speak to others about our wonderful God and the things He does. When we are careful to praise Him and give Him credit for what He does, we honor His name.
God deserves to be praised by all creatures, especially those who know Him.
» Am I careful to give God praise and credit for His works?
» Am I ever ashamed to speak about Him when I’m around unbelievers?
Then little children were brought to Jesus, that He might put His hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But He said, Leave the children alone! Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or restrain or hinder them, for of such [as these] is the kingdom of heaven composed.—Matthew 19:13-14
Children seem to be able to make a game out of anything. They quickly adjust, don’t have a problem letting other children be different than they are, and are always exploring something new. They are amazed by everything!
Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest: “The freedom after sanctification is the freedom of a child, the things that used to keep the life pinned down are gone.” We definitely need to watch and study children and obey the command of Jesus to be more like them (Matthew 18:3). It is something we have to do on purpose as we get older. We all have to grow up and be responsible, but we don’t have to stop enjoying ourselves and life.
Don’t let the world steal your confidence. Remember that you have been created on purpose by the hand of God. He has a special, unique, wonderful plan for you. Go for it! Don’t shrink back, conform, or live in fear.
Lord, I can’t be a child again, but I can have the freedom and the wonder of a child. I come to You as a child now, and I ask You to renew a childlike faith in me. Amen.
From the book The Confident Woman Devotional: 365 Daily Devotions by Joyce Meyer.
“He personally carried the load of our sins in His own body when He died on the cross, so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on. For his wounds have healed ours!” (1 Peter 2:24).
Following one of my messages a young woman in her early 20’s asked for counsel. She was weighted down with her guilt and sin. In fact, she was so distraught that she would not look me in the eye. All the while I was counseling her she was under such deep conviction that all I could see was the top of her head.
I asked, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” She nodded in the affirmative. “Do you believe that He died on the cross for your sins?” Again she responded affirmatively. “Would you like to invite Him into your life and ask Him to cleanse you with His precious blood, which He shed on the cross for your sins, and make you a new creature in Christ?” Again, she nodded. Together we knelt in prayer and through her sobs she surrendered to Christ, acknowledging the wickedness and filth of a life of gross immorality. She confessed to God her disobedience of her father and mother whose hearts had been broken by her prodigal ways.
After some time on our knees it was obvious that God had touched her, had forgiven and cleansed her. The sobbing had passed and now she was at peace. The Spirit within me bore witness that she had become a new creature in Christ. As we stood to our feet, she looked at me with her eyes still glistening with tears and her face radiant with joy. She now knew the reality of our promise for today. Jesus had taken the load of her sins on His own body and she was cleansed. With His wounds He had healed her and now she could live a life for the glory of God.
Who, but Jesus, could work such a miracle? Is it any wonder that those who know Him in this way want, like apostle Paul, to tell everyone who will listen about Him? He alone can forgive our sin and liberate us from the darkness and gloom of Satan’s kingdom.
Bible Reading: I Peter 2:21-25
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With great joy and deep gratitude I will praise the Lord that He has taken upon Himself the load of my sin and through His death on the cross has paid the penalty which I could never have paid through my own effort. As an expression of my gratitude and through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I commit myself to live a good life, a supernatural life that will glorify my God and Savior.
Read 1 CHRONICLES 2:3-55
One of the main characters in the popular Chronicles of Narnia series is the lion, Aslan. In this series of fantasy stories, Aslan represents Jesus Christ. Perhaps author C. S. Lewis got the idea for Aslan from the title ascribed to Jesus in Revelation 5:5.
The genealogy in today’s passage narrows the focus to the line of Judah. This reflects the author’s interest in David and his kingdom. David’s ancestor Jacob had predicted: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his” (Gen. 49:10). Jacob’s prophecy describes the future preeminence of the tribe of Judah as well as the advent of the Messiah.
One interesting feature of this list is the theme of redemption, which is evident in the backstory of some of those mentioned. The line of Judah is traced through Perez, a child who was conceived through trickery (Genesis 38). Hezron and Ram were ancestors of Boaz, who married Ruth the Moabite (Ruth 4:18–22). Bezalel was the craftsman who was empowered by the Holy Spirit to build the tabernacle (Ex. 31:2–5). God had “filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” in artistic craftsmanship (Ex. 35:31).
This history of redemption would have been especially significant for the original audience of this book. Chronicles was probably written during the second or third generation after the return from exile in Babylon. Still coping with the consequences of divine discipline and struggling with disappointment over the new normal, no doubt some still wished they could return to an earlier golden age (see Hag. 2:3).
APPLY THE WORD
God can redeem our failures and mistakes. Be encouraged today by the reminder of God’s promise. Review this verse to focus your heart on God’s faithfulness: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11).
Give us counsel, render a decision. Isaiah 16:3a
Decisions can be as illusive as your shadow. They can haunt you from behind, or they can lead you from out front. Decisions are not designed to be delayed forever unless, of course, they are related to an evil or wicked act. Decisions are meant to drive you toward God’s purpose and plan for your life. He allows you to make decisions that determine His future for you. He gives you the counsel and the wisdom, but you make the decision. No one else can make the decision for you; God wants you to make it. This is your responsibility and opportunity.
Fear may be delaying your decision. Pride may be prolonging your decision. Lack of trust may be paralyzing your mind with indecision. You may be cautious because a similar experience in the past did not work out so well. But if you delay much longer, you may very well miss this window of opportunity. You have prayed about this, and there is peace. You have sought wise counsel, and there is affirmation. You have exceeded the normal amount of due diligence to make an informed decision. Now is the time to decide.
Say yes or no, but do not procrastinate any longer. It is not fair to those who depend on you, nor is it fair to those who believe in you. The bottom line probably relates to trust. Can God be trusted to lead you through the implications of this decision? Can He handle the “what ifs?” The answer, of course, is yes. God will not lead you into a decision that is detrimental to His plan for your life. There will surely be bumps along the way. The bottom may fall out, but He is still faithful. It is better to be in a storm with Jesus, than on the calm shore without Him.
“What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways” (Job 22:28).
“No decision” is still a decision. If you continue to be indecisive, you have decided not to move forward. But you do not have to stand still. You can take this first step and then trust God with steps two and three. Do not become overwhelmed with what might happen tomorrow. Just remain faithful today. Do your best now and trust the Lord with later.