January 11, 2010

Confidence That Empowers PHILIPPIANS 4:10-13

Our world emphatically proclaims the importance of self-esteem, which is a favorable impression of oneself. Surely, we are told, an individual who values himself highly will accomplish much. Yet Scripture tells us that true confidence flows, not from self, but from our identity in Christ.

In God’s Word, we learn that Paul experienced this appropriate assurance. He expressed certainty regarding the message and ministry God gave him (Gal. 1:15-17; Rom. 1:16). The apostle was also sure of eternal security in Jesus (Rom. 8:37-39). What’s more, today’s passage shows that Paul stood firmly on his belief that He could do anything in God’s will because Jesus was living through him.

The Holy Spirit is the basis for our confidence—not positive thinking, right circumstances, or the ability to think highly of ourselves. Even in the midst of difficulty, we can live with boldness because the Spirit of the living God dwells within our being and enables us to follow Him.

Of course, we have a role too. The Spirit directs us and strengthens us, but we are responsible to listen, obey, and diligently follow His guidance each day. We can have assurance in an unstable world because almighty God provides everything we need to live triumphantly.

Are you facing situations that make you feel inadequate or insecure? Search the Bible for descriptions of His character. Realize that this sovereign, almighty God—the Beginning and the End—lives inside of you. Find your confidence in the one who is your Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

January 9, 2010

The Struggle With Doubt JAMES 1:2-8

The Bible teaches us to walk by faith, having full confidence in God. Yet many people are burdened by doubt. Even believers, who have been saved by faith, can waver in their trust.

For example, there are Christians who back out of their commitment to a ministry. Though originally led to serve in this capacity, they may question whether they have the necessary ability. Lack of assurance is also displayed when financial concerns lead a believer to stop tithing.

Doubt started in the garden of Eden when Satan introduced a question in Eve’s mind: Wouldn’t eating the forbidden fruit bring special benefits? And to this day, the Deceiver still whispers lies that can cause Christians’ trust to falter. He will utilize any of the following to erode our confidence in God: ignorance of Scripture, temptation to sin, feelings of guilt, a stronger focus on circumstances than on Christ, and the negative viewpoint of others. All of these inhibit the ability to see truth clearly and to stand firmly upon it.

While a doubter is characterized by negativity, uncertainty, and instability, a believer with full trust in God walks in absolute confidence—decisive, dependent upon the Word, and capable of enduring, even when circumstances seem gloomy.

The Christian walk should be characterized by faith, not doubt. Have you prayed for something but questioned whether the Lord would answer—or disbelieved He would actually do something He promised in Scripture? Resist doubt, and take hold of the unshakeable confidence God offers.

January 8, 2010

Walking Away From God LUKE 15:20-32

Like the father of the Prodigal Son, our heavenly Father will not force us to remain with Him. If we ignore His guiding Holy Spirit and insist on following an ungodly path, He’ll let us go our own way. Examining the parable, we learn what happens if we move outside of God’s plan.

1. Our fellowship with the Father is significantly affected. The wayward son was no longer in close contact with his dad; their relationship was not as important to him as it had been. If we wander and make ourselves top priority over the Lord, we will also experience a disconnect with our heavenly Father. As Christians, we cannot move off God’s chosen path without first closing our mind and heart to His truth and His call on our lives.

2. Our resources—time, talent, and treasure—are wasted. The son squandered his money on frivolous things and ended up worse off than the laborers at his father’s house. God has bestowed spiritual gifts and material resources to build His kingdom, and He’s also provided His Spirit to offer guidance. Pursuing our own plan wastes what He has given us.

3. Our deepest needs go unmet. Chasing after dreams that are outside of God’s purposes will lead to discontent. Only in Christ can we find true fulfillment.

A great weariness will overtake us if we live apart from God. Poor choices can result in lifelong regrets, but they don’t have to dictate our future. The heavenly Father will welcome us with great joy and love when we repent and turn back to Him. Have you wandered away? He’s waiting for you.

January 7, 2010

Becoming a Prodigal LUKE 15:11-19

The Prodigal Son’s journey away from home began with a desire. Perhaps he wanted to leave behind some of the restrictions that come with living under a parent’s roof. Or maybe he wanted more money to pursue life’s pleasures with friends. Whatever the case, his desire gave birth to self-deceptive reasoning which assumes, There’s no harm in what I am doing. I deserve this. That thinking led to a decision—to prematurely ask for his inheritance—and to his departure, both from home and from everything he had been taught.

A Christian who has turned away from God follows a path similar to the prodigal’s. It begins in our minds with a craving for something other than what we have. The longer we allow the idea to linger, the stronger our desire to have it. When we cling to a yearning that is outside of God’s protective will, then we likewise deceive ourselves and find ways to justify what we want. We will base decisions on our faulty reasoning and move away from the Lord to fulfill our self-centered dreams.

Like the wayward son, we may enjoy the pleasures of the world for a time, but ultimately, we will find ourselves without the essentials we need—unconditional love, security, and a meaningful purpose for living.

We have an Enemy who seeks to divert us from the Lord’s will, a world that places desires above God, and “flesh” tendencies which prefer pleasure over obedience. To avoid self-deception, make Scripture your basis for living—and adjust your thought life and choices accordingly (Rom. 12:2).

January 6, 2010

Training in Godliness DEUTERONOMY 4:9-10

Our desire as Christian parents is to help our children mature into godly men and women. We want them to believe that God has a plan for them and that they are accountable to Him.

I remember teaching my children from a young age about these important truths, because I wanted biblical principles to shape their thinking and their choices. After explaining about God’s will, I told them they were accountable to the Lord for their behavior—as well as to their mother and me. If kids believe their only accountability is to parents, then when they are apart from Mom and Dad, they are likely to think that they don’t have to answer to anyone.

When my children objected to my decisions, I taught them to speak to their heavenly Father about it. Over time, they developed the habit of talking things over with Him. This training became very important in their teenage years. Instead of giving a quick no to some of their requests, I said, “Find out what God wants you to do. Whatever you two agree on, I will accept.” I knew this was risky, but I had to trust the Lord and give my children the opportunity to practice what I had been teaching them—that they are accountable to God.

Training in godliness begins before children establish a personal relationship with Christ. We should continue the process by modeling righteousness all through life. Kids need to know about the Lord’s plan for them and their accountability to Him. They also need parents who speak their name to God.

January 5, 2010

Training Our Children PROVERBS 22:6

From a young age, children observe the behavior of the significant adults in their lives. What a wonderful opportunity to influence the next generation for Jesus!

How do we train children in godliness? We start by investing our time in their lives. Boys and girls need their parents and others to spend quality time with them. Whether it’s through outdoor activities, reading together, or quiet conversation, we can be modeling Christian living.

Listening closely is another part of raising our sons and daughters. To influence them toward righteousness, we must know what they are thinking—in other words, what’s important to them and what bothers them.

Protecting children through discipline is another aspect of godly parenting. When done with love, this will help them understand the wisdom of God’s boundaries and the importance of self-control.

Admitting our mistakes is also necessary, as transparency helps children draw closer to parents. If we seem perfect, kids will find it harder to confess their mistakes to us.

Perhaps the most important aspect of training is unconditional love. My mother consistently loved me both when I had success in school and when I didn’t. Because of her steadfast care for me, I tried to do what she would find pleasing.

Raising a godly child takes the cooperation of believing parents and family, Christian teachers, and born-again friends. Look for opportunities to spend time with children, listen to their hearts, and demonstrate Christ’s love for them. By modeling godliness, you may influence a life for the Lord.

January 4, 2010

Our Constant Friend 2 TIMOTHY 4:16-18

Many of us have experienced times of abandonment just when we needed that other person the most. It could have been a spouse withdrawing emotionally, a co-worker who ignored us, or a close friend who seemed too busy to help. The life of the apostle Paul teaches us how not to become discouraged in these situations.

Remember that the Lord is always with us. When we trust in Jesus as our personal Savior, we enter into a permanent relationship with Him, and His Spirit comes to live in us. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains with us at all times, regardless of the circumstance. He is our friend—one who will never leave us. And His is the most important friendship we have. Reading our Bible will help us to remember this.

Draw on God’s strength. Through the Holy Spirit, we have access to divine power every minute of the day. When we let go of control and depend on the Lord, we will be able to draw on His strength. Then, if family or friends cause hurt, His presence will provide comfort and help us to forgive them.

Look expectantly for God’s deliverance. Paul testified that the Lord had rescued him and would continue to deliver him from every evil situation. He knew he could always trust God.

Paul faced many painful situations without the support of friends. Toward the end of his life, those who cared about him were widely scattered. Yet his attitude remained hopeful because Christ was his constant Friend. Do you know the Savior? Are you aware of His presence throughout your day?

January 2

A Lifetime of Second Chances ROMANS 5:1-6

Paul used a beautiful phrase to describe the believer’s position in Christ: “We have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand . . . ” (Rom. 5:2, emphasis added). This is no puddle of mercy that barely wets the toes, but rather a mighty ocean. The Lord’s kindness wraps around us without regard for our worth or merit.

God’s grace is an essential concept for believers to understand. He freely offers His favor to mankind because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross purchased forgiveness and salvation for anyone who believes. However, many people think they are enjoying God’s kindness when what they are really trying to do is earn it. If we have to purchase, merit, or work for grace, then it is not a gift. The Lord is very clear that works cannot save us—in fact, He compares our good deeds to filthy rags (Eph. 2:8-9; Isa. 64:6).

On the other hand, grace is not a license to sin or to be lazy; Christians are called upon to serve the Lord every day. From the outside, it is usually impossible to distinguish between works and service in someone else’s life. But God knows the heart’s motivation. He accepts for His glory those things we do to show Him our love and to express appreciation for His countless blessings.

Dear Friend, serving God in order to earn His favor or to ensure that He continues to bless you amounts to thwarting grace. You can do nothing to deserve the Lord’s kindness! He pours it upon believers freely so that each one is standing in a full measure of grace.

January 1 – Happy New Year

Romans 3:10-18

Our loving Father is the God of second chances. His grace is so extensive that He offers countless opportunities to hear the gospel and receive Jesus Christ as Savior. Moreover, He reaches into the muck of sinful nature, rebellious spirits, perverse minds, and unclean tongues to save His beloved creation.

If you think that the Lord takes second chances lightly, read today’s passage carefully—it is a look at humanity through divine eyes. On our own, no matter how much we try to be good, we are foolish, useless, and evil. Thankfully, God’s grace is immeasurably greater than our sin.

Of course, the heavenly Father is a righteous judge who cannot ignore a person’s transgressions. If He did, He would not be the holy and just Deity described in the Scriptures. While humanity might count that kind of passivity as kindness, the Lord considers grace an action word. As a result, He implemented a simple rescue plan for each person on earth: Whoever believes in Jesus Christ as Savior is forgiven. We are justified by faith and at peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The rebellious war we carried out against Him is over. Sins are washed off our heart. In fact, from God’s perspective, His children look as if they have never done wrong.

Jesus is our second chance. Apart from Him, there is no salvation, no justification, and no grace. Look again at the passage from Romans 3. People cannot clean up their own hearts—each man or woman must take advantage of the purity Christ purchased with His sacrifice on the cross.

December 31 – Daily Devotion

Acts 8:26-40 – Christians have adopted a narrow definition of the word testimony. But sharing Jesus is much more than telling our conversion story or talking about God’s work in our life, although those things are important. We need to be prepared to meet unbelievers at the point of their spiritual need, even if our own story is very different. We can learn a lot from Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. While young Israelites had friends and family to disciple them in their faith, a foreign convert often had to work alone to discern the meaning of complex Scriptures. So by asking, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip showed that he understood the Ethiopian’s disadvantage. That one question enabled him to discover that the man had a genuine thirst for God’s truth but did not know of the Messiah. Philip used that information to tailor a gospel testimony for his particular listener. Consider how easily the Ethiopian could have become confused or frustrated if Philip—whose Jewish background was so different from the foreigner’s—had told only his own conversion story. The evangelist wisely avoided any extraneous information and instead used the power of God’s Word to introduce the man to Jesus Christ. Philip’s testimony began with the passage the Ethiopian was reading. He effectively spoke to the man’s spiritual interest in general while specifically answering his questions about Isaiah 53. We, too, must be sensitive to unbelievers’ concerns so we can explain how God will meet their needs.

December 30th Daily Devotion

Our Testimony – Acts 6:1-6

A testimony is one person’s profession of faith in Jesus Christ. 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 “be Jesus Christ” to our friends, family, and co-workers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christ-like behavior and a good life story.

In general, what we do and say represents the kind of person that we are on the inside. We can tell a lot about Philip’s character by noticing his actions and words. From among many believers, Philip was chosen as one who was wise and full of the Spirit. But he wasn’t selected for a great ministry position—he was sent to serve food.

Philip went willingly to do this menial work and every other job the Lord gave him, which shows his obedient spirit (Acts 6:5; 8:5, 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 forth in every way.

You can’t 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.

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