Learning to listen to God is an essential part of following His will. The Lord regularly speaks to His children through…
Scripture. The Bible is our guidebook to God’s thoughts and actions. It is the primary source for Christians to discover His character and learn to trust Him. This means we ought to read more than just a little bit every day. Our goal should be to absorb the message and then listen for God to offer instructions on how and where to apply His Word.
Prayer. Like all real friends, the Lord desires give-and-take in His relationships. Therefore, prayer is not complete when we’re done talking. We must quiet our mouth and thoughts so that our spiritual ears can open.
Circumstances. In the Bible, the Lord often revealed His ways to men and women through their circumstances. He still works that way today. Situations differ, but our God does not change. He uses everyday life to reveal errors in thinking, to open or close doors of opportunity, and to prove His promises true.
Others. Pastors, friends, and mentors can all speak truth into a person’s life. The Lord places believers in community so they can be supported and helped by those nearby. He doesn’t hesitate to send a message from the mouth of someone we know and trust.
God does not use just one or two of these methods to reach a believer; He speaks through all four. We need to attune our spiritual ears, always remembering that a message from the Lord must agree with His holy Word. The Father is talking to you. Are you listening?
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 17-19
Read: 1 Thessalonians 3:6–13
Bible in a Year: Psalms 135–136; 1 Corinthians 12
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.—1 Thessalonians 3:12
“Is God doing something new in your life?” was the question the leader asked in a group I was in recently. My friend Mindy, who is dealing with some difficult situations, responded. She told of needing patience with aging parents, stamina for her husband’s health issues, and understanding of her children and grandchildren who have not yet chosen to follow Jesus. Then she made an insightful comment that runs contrary to what we might normally think: “I believe the new thing God is doing is He’s expanding my capacity and opportunities to love.”
That fits nicely with the apostle Paul’s prayer for new believers in Thessalonica: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thess. 3:12). He had taught them about Jesus but had to leave abruptly because of rioting (Acts 17:1–9). Now in his letter he encouraged them to continue to stand firm in their faith (1 Thess. 3:7–8). And he prayed that the Lord would increase their love for all.
During difficulties we often choose to complain and ask, Why? Or wonder, Why me? Another way to handle those times could be to ask the Lord to expand His love in our hearts and to help us take the new opportunities that come to love others. —Anne Cetas
I’ve got my own list of things I could worry about, Lord. Change my thinking. Open my eyes to love.
Our troubles can fill our prayers with love and empathy for others.
INSIGHT: Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is filled with warmth and tenderness for dear friends. He ministered in the midst of suffering, imprisonment, and persecution, but his passion for seeing people (like the Thessalonians) enter into relationship with Christ was undeterred. As a result, Paul endured these almost continuous hardships without losing his focus on the needs of people. This is clearly seen in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, where Paul catalogues the price he paid for the gospel and for them. While we may never suffer as the apostle did, how might we wisely respond to the trials we do encounter so that others can be touched by God’s love?
For more on navigating through trials check out the Discovery Series booklet Change: Following God Through Life’s Crossroads at discoveryseries.org/q0734. Bill Crowder
The telling and beholding of stories bears a certain responsibility. There is a temptation in narrating history, biographies, even autobiographies, to reduce the story to one theory or setting, to one secret or encounter that unlocks the mystery of a scene or life. We want to solve the puzzle that is Emily Dickinson, resolve the curiosities of Napoleon, and know the essential meaning behind our own winding roads. But while the mode of storytelling may require certain parameters, life is not usually so neatly containable.
The late Roger Lundin, himself a biographer, suggests the necessity of awe in any telling of human story—a task in which we are all, on some level, engaged. “To be able to recognize the competing claims and the intricate complexity of human motivation is a gift and a necessity for writing a good biography, just as it is a necessity for understanding fairly and creatively and justly another human life.”(1) The task of putting a life or lives into words is surely larger than we often admit. How will you come to describe a deceased loved one to children who have never met him? How will you come to articulate the lives of family members, historical figures, biblical characters, and neighbors? The charge is all around us, vying for a sense of awe, humility, grace.
I have always appreciated the terminology employed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he described life to his friend. He spoke in musical terms, and in so doing ushered in the idea that life cannot be reduced to a note or a monotone. One of the terms he employed, the cantus firmus, which means “fixed song,” is a pre-existing melody that forms the basis of a polyphonic composition. Though the song introduces twists in pitch and style, counterpoint and refrain, the cantus firmus is the enduring melody not always in the forefront, but always playing somewhere within the composition. For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, life was a great work of sounds and symphonic directions, and the cantus firmus was the essence, the soul of the concerto.
Every day we encounter two different kinds of shame, and it’s critical that we know the difference.
There is a type of shame that is normal and healthy. For example, if I lose or break something that belongs to someone else, I feel disappointed about my mistake. I wish I had not been so careless or negligent. I am sorry, but I can ask for forgiveness, receive it and go on with my life.
Healthy shame reminds us that we are imperfect human beings with weaknesses and limitations. It reminds us that we need God.
Unfortunately, when the healthy shame doesn’t stop there, it becomes unhealthy and poisonous. When a person doesn’t ask for or receive forgiveness, they can punish themselves and start to hate who they are.
Don’t spend your life in this position. Remember your rightful position as an heir and child of God (see Romans 8:17). Unhealthy shame will make you forget who you are in Christ, but healthy shame will remind you that you’re nothing without Him. Today, ask God to help you discern the difference.
“He has given me a new song to sing, of praise to our God. Now many will hear of the glorious things He did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in Him” (Psalm 40:3).
Jim was big man on campus, president of his fraternity and an atheist. He ridiculed all those who professed faith in God, especially the Christians in his fraternity house.
I was invited, over his objections, to speak at one of their weekly meetings. A number of fraternity brothers were active in Campus Crusade and insisted that I come even though Jim resented the idea. Yet, upon completion of my message, he was one of the very first to respond and, after further counsel, received Christ. He became one of the most joyful, radiant, contagious, fruitful witnesses for Christ on the entire campus.
He had a new song to sing, a song of praise to God who had liberated him from a life of decadence and deceit. Now his heart fairly burst with joy as he developed a strategy to help reach every key student for Christ on a great university campus.
There is no greater joy in life than that of sharing Christ with others, and there is no greater joy that comes to another than that which comes with the assurance of salvation when one receives Christ into his life.
Would you like to be an instrument of God to cause others to sing praises to Him? Then tell them the glorious things He has done for you and for them, and encourage them to place their trust in Christ.
Bible Reading: Psalm 40:4-8
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will seek every opportunity to encourage others to receive Christ so that they can join with me in singing a new song of praise to our God, and together we will share the glorious things He does for us when we place our trust in Him.
Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs. The sky is falling, and it’s falling disproportionately on you. Anxiety ain’t fun! One would think Christians would be exempt from worry but we are not. It’s enough to make us wonder if the apostle Paul was out of touch with reality when he wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing.”
Is that what he meant? Not exactly. He wrote the phrase in the present active tense—implying an ongoing state. “Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually breathless and in angst.” The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional. Could you use some calm? Of course you could. We all could! We all could use a word of comfort and God is ready to give it.
Read more Anxious for Nothing
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
- J. Watt is one of the best players in the NFL. He is also one of the best people in the NFL.
Long known for his character and humility, Watt’s compassion has been on display this week. He plays for the Houston Texans and has watched firsthand the devastation Hurricane Harvey wreaked on his city. So, he set up a simple funding account and recorded a video asking people to help him raise $200,000 to help the victims. As of this morning, his fund has grown to more than $12,000,000 and counting.
- J. Watt is just one of many Hurricane Harvey heroes. A truck driver named Nick Sheridan drove nearly two hundred miles with his rig to help those stranded in floodwaters. With the help of two other drivers, the three rescued more than a thousand people.
Dr. Stephen Kimmel canoed through floodwater to perform emergency surgery on a teenager. A realtor named Stephanie Fry has opened her apartment to flood victims. Team Rubicon, a nonprofit composed of military veterans, helped get people to safety. A group of neighbors formed a human chain to rescue a man trapped in his flooded car.
Jim McIngvale, the iconic owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston, opened several stores to serve as shelters. Flood victims are sleeping on his showroom mattresses. National Guard members are staying in his stores as well. “This is the right thing to do,” he explained. “That’s the way I was brought up.”