God has provided us with many things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). But our lives are frequently filled with turmoil instead of contentment. Here are four practices that create dissatisfaction.
- Busyness. We live in a hurry-up society, dashing from one activity to another. Jesus did not rush, yet He accomplished everything God gave Him to do. Rarely did He tell His followers to move faster. He even praised Mary for choosing to stop and spend time with Him (Luke 10:39, Luke 10:42).
- Earthly perspective. Too often we live focused on our circumstances. Our minds are filled with what occurred earlier in the week, what’s on today’s agenda, and the activities happening next week, month, or year. No wonder enjoyment of life remains elusive. The solution is to have an eternal perspective, which acknowledges God is in charge and our goal is to please Him.
- Self-imposed pressure. We have all experienced the unavoidable burdens of schoolwork, employment, and relationships. But we bring needless pressure on ourselves when we allow unnecessary “musts” and “shoulds” to rule us. The remedy is to turn to God, acknowledge His right to order our days, and ask for His plan.
- Unhealthy attitudes. Things like perfectionism, false guilt, and apathy all undermine our enjoyment of life.
Satisfaction is found in a life that reflects God’s priorities—and time with Him comes first. Reading His Word, we become mindful of the Father’s great love, learn what He views as important, and experience the joy of belonging to Him. When contentment is elusive, it’s time to reexamine our priorities.
Bible in One Year: 1 Corinthians 14-16
Read: Mark 9:33–37
Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 40–41; 2 Peter 3
Those who humble themselves will be exalted.—Matthew 23:12
Recently I was among the last in line to board a large passenger jet with unassigned seating. I located a middle seat beside the wing, but the only spot for my bag was the overhead compartment by the very last row. This meant I had to wait for everyone to leave before I could go back and retrieve it.
I laughed as I settled into my seat and a thought occurred to me that seemed to be from the Lord: “It really won’t hurt you to wait. It will actually do you good.” So I resolved to enjoy the extra time, helping other passengers lower their luggage after we landed and assisting a flight attendant with cleaning. By the time I was able to retrieve my bag, I laughed again when someone thought I worked for the airline.
That day’s experience made me ponder Jesus’s words to His disciples: “Anyone who wants to be first, must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
I waited because I had to, but in Jesus’s “upside down” kingdom, there’s a place of honor for those who voluntarily set themselves aside to attend to others’ needs.
Jesus came into our hurried, me-first world not “to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). We serve Him best by serving others. The lower we bend, the closer we are to Him. —James Banks
Loving Lord, help me to follow You into the needs of others and serve You there.
Jesus’s kingdom is upside-down.
INSIGHT: Mark 9 is an action-packed chapter in our second gospel account. The chapter opens with the transfiguration of Jesus (vv. 1-13), where Peter, James, and John witness the glory of Christ and the voice of the Father while seeing Moses and Elijah join Jesus on the mountain to discuss His coming death and resurrection. Then, after descending the mountain and entering the valley below, the Lord of light is confronted by the power of darkness—from which He rescues a demon-possessed boy (vv. 14-29). After Jesus reminds the disciples of His coming death and resurrection (vv. 3-32), the disciples argue about which of them will have the highest place in the kingdom. This discussion of greatness initiates Jesus’s call to servanthood. After hearing how their Master would sacrifice Himself for them, they must be reminded that they too were called to lay themselves down for the benefit of others.
Our natural inclination is to put self first. How might you intentionally look to serve someone today? Bill Crowder
A prayer used in many churches each Sunday begins: “Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself. . . .” The words of this prayer remind us that God’s intention for humanity from the very beginning was for His own delight in being with His creation. This month, our study will focus on the ways God’s desire to dwell with us persists from Eden to the End.
Beginning with Genesis 1, we see God’s initiative toward creation, for it was He alone who “created the heavens and the earth” (v. 1). His intimate presence was there from the very beginning as “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (v. 2). From the start, Scripture highlights not only God’s power to create but also His intention to be present with His created world.
Then God spoke and all that exists came into being. As Genesis 1 proceeds, we see the care, creativity, and order of God’s creation. Our world is no random, haphazard result of impersonal forces and chemical reactions. It is the product of a loving God of beauty and design. First, each realm is created—day and night, sky and earth, water and land. Then the inhabitants of each realm are brought forth—stellar bodies, sea creatures, birds, and animals. Like a great artist, God formed His world with purpose and order.
Finally, Genesis 1 demonstrates God’s goodness toward His creation. Throughout the chapter, God beheld His new creation and “saw that it was good” (vv. 10, 12 18). He “blessed” the creatures He had made (v. 22). The creation account in Scripture reveals God’s purpose and initiative toward the world, His care and design in bringing it into being, and His goodness and love for it. The stage was now set for the climax: the creation of humanity.
APPLY THE WORD
In these days before Christmas, reflect on how God’s intention to dwell with us is demonstrated in all of creation. If weather permits, spend time outside noting the ways God’s presence and care are manifested. Then pray that God would use this month’s study to deepen your understanding of His desire for relationship with you.
That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination].— 2 Timothy 1:6
God’s love is unconditional and everlasting. I remember how amazed and excited I was when He revealed His love to me. I felt like I was going to burst!
But after awhile, I got used to the fact that God loves me, and I didn’t feel the same passion.
Has that ever happened to you? Are you experiencing it now? If so, I believe there is something you can do about it.
Paul told Timothy to stir himself up, to fan the flame and rekindle the embers of the fire he once had. Paul’s message to Timothy is God’s message to you today: Stir yourself up! Stop living life being tired of the “same old, same old.”
We need to remember this: We make the decision to approach life with passion before it becomes a feeling.
So make a decision today to wake up every morning excited about the relationship you have with your Creator. Stir yourself up and live amazed by Him!
“He will give His people strength. He will bless them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).
Scott, a professing atheist with the morals of an alley cat, insisted that he had peace in his heart. Though rare, it is possible for people to harden their hearts so much that God ceases to draw them to Himself, and they experience a counterfeit peace.
The psalmist, of course, is talking about a different kind of peace. Ocean voyagers in the storm are at peace because they know the ship is sound and the pilot is skillful. In the same way, we as believers are at peace because we serve God who gives His people strength and blesses them with peace.
“His people,” of course, refers to those who have placed their trust and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. None other may claim such a wonderful promise.
Significantly, “strength” comes before “peace.” This is God’s strength: “Who would certainly fail without it. Then this very same strength results in peace, God’s peace “that passes all understanding.”
God’s strength enables us to contend with the powers of darkness, within the world and within our own natural depravity.
Peace, the great blessing of the gospel is two-fold:
- Peace with God through Christ, and
- Peace of mind.
Strength and peace to live the abundant, supernatural life is available to all His people. You may claim your share today by faith.
Bible Reading: Psalm 71:9-16
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Those two great blessings, strength and peace, will be mine today in direct proportion to my faith and trust in Him, who is my peace.
A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave, where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t enter standing up.
The same is true of the Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get on your knees! So, at the birth of Jesus, while the theologians were sleeping and the elite were dreaming and the successful were snoring… the meek were kneeling. They were kneeling before the One only the meek will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus!
Read more In the Manger
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
The Matt Lauer “earthquake” continues to unfold, with as many as eight accusers now being reported. Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Barton will not seek reelection after sexual images he shared in an extramarital relationship were made public. Nancy Pelosi is calling on Rep. John Conyers Jr. to resign amid multiple allegations that he sexually harassed female aides.
Our society is clearly at a tipping point. As a friend pointed out to me this week, a relativistic culture that accepts no absolute right or wrong has declared sexual abuse to be an absolute wrong. As we should.
Now that we have decided on at least one objective moral standard, how can we reinforce it? Let’s consider ancient wisdom that our culture has tragically rejected in recent generations.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28).
Imagine the difference in our culture if we obeyed his command today.