August 12, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 12

What does it say?
God allowed Paul’s thorn in the flesh to keep him humble.

What does it mean?
No one really knows what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was; we just know that he pleaded with God three times to take it away. No doubt, Paul felt he could serve the Lord more fully without this hindrance. It’s important to note that God did answer Paul’s prayer – the answer was, “No.” Two life-transforming truths appear in verses 7-10. First, God’s grace and comfort are sufficient in suffering. Next, God’s strength is complete in human weakness. Paul would experience God’s supernatural strength and comfort, keeping him completely dependent on Christ.

How should I respond?
We can each identify with Paul because his “thorn” isn’t named. What has God allowed in your life that keeps you humble? God doesn’t expect you to be great, He expects you to depend on him greatly. In what area are you relying on your own strength? When you admit weakness, you can be strong and rest completely in Christ’s strength. Aspects of God’s character revealed during difficulty and suffering can be learned no other way. You might not be up to the task before you, but Jesus is!

August 10, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 20

What does it say?
Jonathan confirmed that his father, Saul, intended to kill David. David and Jonathan took an oath to show kindness to each other’s families. David fled Israel.

What does it mean?
Jonathan was in line for the throne, yet he blessed David and humbly asked him to be kind to his family when David became king. He had every reason to be jealous. Instead, Jonathan submitted to God’s will for David to be king. Initially, all of this may seem unfair. It wasn’t Jonathan’s fault that his father turned from God and that his line would be removed from the throne. Still, Jonathan trusted God and gave up his own expectations. He embraced the plans God had for him, standing strong in what he believed to be God’s will for David and for Israel.

How should I respond?
We all get jealous sometimes and feel that life is unfair. We often get upset with God when things don’t go the way we expect, or we don’t get what we think we deserve. It’s important to remember that everything we have is a gift from God – not something we’ve earned. What expectation are you holding on to? What is God asking you to give up? It may seem unfair on the surface, but God’s plan will always be infinitely better than anything you could dream up. Will you trust God and embrace the changes He may be bringing about in your life? Let your expectations go, and you’ll see that God has something even better in store.

August 11, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 11

What does it say?
Paul warned the Corinthian church about false apostles and teachers who were pulling them away from the truth of Christ.

What does it mean?
Paul painted a picture of himself as a father and the Corinthian church as a daughter he’s nurtured for her groom, Christ. The false teachers were deceptively wooing the church with a false gospel while pretending to represent Christ. They started by maligning Paul, attempting to drive a wedge between him and the church. These men were following the tactics of Satan, who masquerades as an angel of light, to make what’s wrong seem right. The Corinthians were gullible enough to believe anything if someone claimed to preach in the name of Jesus.

How should I respond?
Satan is the master deceiver. He can’t claim followers of Christ for himself, but he can affect your thinking and keep you busy through distraction. He mixes lies with truth in order to lure you away. That’s why it’s important to study Scripture and know truth so you can recognize error when you hear it. What false teachers do you recognize today? What half-truth, compromise, or rationalization are you being tempted to believe? Determine to be a student of God’s Word, because a gullible Christian will be an ineffective Christian.

August 9, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 19

What does it say?
Saul continued his pursuit to kill David. But with the help of Jonathan and Michal, David escaped and ran to Samuel in the city of Naioth.

What does it mean?
David had been driven from his home and the people he loved. Still, he remained faithful to God’s plan. By running to Samuel, the one who had anointed him king, David was seeking protection and guidance from the man of God. As king, Saul should have sought Samuel’s guidance as well. Instead, he was humbly brought to his knees and made to glorify God after pursuing David yet again. Saul should have heeded this as a warning that he did not have the ability to resist God’s will. It was becoming evident to all that God would protect His anointed king.

How should I respond?
Extended periods of suffering can cause us to doubt that God cares. Where do you run when things get difficult? Who helps you focus on God’s perspective? You can either seek godly wisdom or insist on handling the situation on your own. Will you heed the warning given to Saul? The result of putting yourself in opposition to God’s expressed will is usually humbling. It’s never too late to turn around and run to God. Remain faithful and read God’s Word for guidance. He sees your situation and cares immensely.

August 10, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 10

What does it say?
Paul defended his apostleship against the lies of Judaizers by depending on spiritual weapons, not worldly tactics.

What does it mean?
False apostles had cleverly poisoned the thinking of some Corinthians. Paul recognized that the effort to discredit him as an apostle was actually a spiritual battle opposing the message of Christ. He defended his apostleship against the lies of Judaizers, but he did not use worldly tactics. Paul urged the Corinthians to depend on spiritual weapons, such as prayer and God’s Word, and to remove anything that elevated itself against God. Every thought must be brought into submission to Christ.

How should I respond?
Spiritual strongholds in your life start as a thought, then build. The only way to make every thought obedient to Christ is by saturating your mind with Scripture and staying close to God through prayer. In what area do you have faulty thinking? What mental temptation are you currently facing? Ask God to protect your mind and guide your thoughts to truth. Place 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Romans 12:2 on index cards where you’ll see them every day. You can’t reach your spiritual potential until the battle for your mind is won.

August 8, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 18

What does it say?
As David grew in popularity among the people, Saul became jealous. He attempted to take David’s life several times, but God was with David and protected him.

What does it mean?
This chapter depicts a stark contrast between the character and faith of two men. Saul was controlled by his emotions: jealousy and fear. David, on the other hand, displayed humble obedience to the Lord. What made the difference? God was with David but had left Saul. In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit did not indwell the hearts of believers as He does today. The Spirit of God would come upon men for periods of time and then leave. God’s Spirit stayed with David, protecting and guiding him, as he remained faithful to the Lord’s plan

How should I respond?
Becoming a follower of Christ does not mean you will not go through difficult times, but it does mean you will never go through them alone. As a follower of Christ, take hope in the fact that God is with you right now. He wants to enable and empower you if you will yield control to the Holy Spirit. What struggle are you in right now? Are you facing it in the power of the Holy Spirit or at the whim of your emotions? Will you, like David, humble yourself before the Lord? That decision will determine the quality of your character that emerges from the trial.

August 9, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 9

What does it say?
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

What does it mean?
The Corinthians could easily relate to Paul’s farming illustration because it was common sense – you reap whatever you sow. Instead of talking about how much they should give, Paul discusses their attitude and motivation. Cheerful, gracious giving is a response to experiencing God’s grace. True generosity stems from grace, not obligation or a desire for praise. Recognizing that God is the supplier of all that’s needed to sow and reap generously results in His receiving thanks and praise from both the giver and the receiver.

How should I respond?
Generosity doesn’t look the same from person to person because your situation is different from the person next to you. It’s the motivation for your gift, not the amount, which determines whether or not it’s gracious. Do you think about how you will look or benefit from giving? How have you been generous with your time, resources, and knowledge of God this week? Ask God for the grace to trust Him to meet all of your needs and the grace to exercise your faith by scattering what He’s given you. Who will praise God this week because of your gracious giving?

August 7, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 17

What does it say?
After hearing Goliath’s blasphemous statements against the God of Israel, David volunteered to fight him one-on-one. Wearing no armor, David killed him on the battlefield.

What does it mean?
Saul’s army trembled in fear before the Philistine army and its champion, Goliath. From a human standpoint, this giant of a man seemed too big and powerful to defeat. David, however, saw Goliath from God’s point of view. He was angry that Goliath was getting away with blasphemy against the God of Israel – someone had to do something about it. So David responded in faith, believing His God was greater than any false god. He knew that the Lord would bring him victory.

How should I respond?
We all have things in our lives that seem like giants. The enormity of the problem can even cause us to doubt that there is a solution. When we look at our challenges from our point of view, it’s easy to give in to fear. The key is to remember the size of our God in comparison to the size of the struggle. Looking at the situation from God’s viewpoint will give you the courage to act in God’s power and strength. What is currently causing you fear? By giving those fears to the Lord, you can march forward in confidence – not in your own abilities, but in His.

August 8, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 8

What does it say?
The Macedonian believers and the Lord Jesus Himself modeled sacrificial giving. Paul said that financial giving is related to the grace of God.

What does it mean?
Several principles about giving can be taken from this passage. First, generosity isn’t connected to outer circumstances; the Macedonians gave out of their poverty because they first gave themselves to God. Secondly, giving is an act of grace. The grace shown to the believer by the death of Christ is the motivation for gracious giving. In love, He gave all He had. Next, the amount given is not as important as the desire to give and the willingness to follow through. As always, God is concerned with the heart. Finally, the manner in which money is handled should honor God and be above reproach.

How should I respond?
It’s difficult to feel generous while juggling to take care of your own finances. But giving financially to the local church and believers in need is the responsibility of every Christian. How has God been gracious to you this year? This week? Today? Have you, in turn, given yourself completely to Him? You can’t rightly surrender what’s in your hands until you’ve surrendered your heart. How can you be generous to someone in need today? Developing the grace of giving will benefit you as much as it does the receiver of the gift.

August 6, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 16:14-23

What does it say?
After God’s Spirit left Saul, an evil spirit tormented him. When David played the harp, the music soothed Saul and the evil spirit left. David also served as Saul’s armor bearer.

What does it mean?
God often sets a plan in motion that does not come to fruition right away. David had been anointed king in Saul’s place, yet God sent him to serve Saul. Not only did David protect Saul in a physical sense as his armor bearer, he also protected him in a spiritual sense by playing his harp to ward off evil spirits. It would be years before David sat on the throne, and he would go through many hardships before he did so. But David remained humble and obedient to all God instructed him to do. He waited patiently on the Lord. Each step was part of his preparation to be Israel’s greatest king.

How should I respond?
We live in a fast-paced, “I want it now” culture. We expect everything to be done quickly and exactly how we want it. Sometimes, we even expect the same from God – wanting immediate answers to our prayers. What plan has God put in motion? Are you still waiting for Him to make it a reality? God has not forgotten. He will do all that He has promised. Like David, you may not understand how today fits into the big picture; but if you humbly obey what He’s given you to do – He will take care of the details. Take a moment to praise Him for what He is going to do as if He has already done it.

August 7, 2022

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Read – Psalms 84, 85

What does it say?
The psalmist yearned to be in the house of the living God, who blesses those who trust in Him. He asked God to revive His people, show unfailing love, and grant salvation.

What does it mean?
Today’s psalms offer insight into how God’s people should respond to His character. Reading these chapters in reverse order offers an interesting perspective. The writer of Psalm 85 was profoundly grateful for God’s forgiveness, love, and faithfulness; but he also understood that God’s righteousness demanded judgment on sin. Restoration requires repentance. Now look back at Psalm 84. When God’s people lived to please Him instead of themselves, they had an intense desire to worship in His house. Praising God with other worshippers revived the psalmist’s spirit and gave him strength to trust the Lord. Responding in obedience to God’s righteous, holy character meant living under His blessing rather than under His wrath.

How should I respond?
Our society has reduced God to a handful of character traits like love, compassion, and kindness. It’s become culturally acceptable to create the kind of God you want to believe in as long as you’re tolerant of someone else’s view. However, that tolerance does not extend to those who have Judeo-Christian views. The problem with this philosophy is the unchanging character of God. He is just as holy and righteous today as He has ever been. Does your view of God include His whole character or just the traits that you find pleasant? Living in submission to who God truly is will give you a desire to please Him and praise Him with other believers. As you read the Bible, ask God to correct any misconceptions you may have about Him.

August 5, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 16:1-13

What does it say?
The Lord directed Samuel to anoint Jesse’s son David as the new king of Israel.

What does it mean?
Israel had demanded a king, and God gave them what they wanted. Saul was tall and “kingly” in appearance. However, he no longer desired to please God in his heart. Israel needed a new king now that Saul had become unfit to lead – though Samuel was still using Saul as a standard. He took one look at Eliab and thought he’d found the new king. But God looks beyond appearance and sees the motives of the heart. David was an unlikely choice for king; Jesse had not even called him in from the field to be considered. Nevertheless, God saw a humble heart with a sincere desire to follow Him.

How should I respond?
Remember the old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover”? That holds true, even when looking at yourself. By comparing ourselves with others, we sometimes think that God can’t use us. You’ll always find someone who appears to be more talented and gifted to serve the Lord than you. God, however, looks straight through what everyone else sees and takes inventory of your heart. What’s holding you back from serving the Lord? Is your heart filled with self-serving pride or with a humble desire to serve Christ? Ask God to show you what He sees and where He wants you to serve Him. You may think that you’re an unlikely choice to do great things for God, but so was King David.

August 6, 2022

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Read – Psalms 82, 83

What does it say?
God will preside as Judge over the earth. Asaph called on the Lord to not be silent or still, but to show Himself as the Lord Most High.

What does it mean?
These psalms indicate two threats to God’s people – one from within and one from without. The judges presiding over Israel oppressed the poor instead of administering justice, which shook the foundations of Jewish society from within. Psalm 83 shifts to a vast external threat – a coalition of nations seeking to wipe the name of Israel from the face of the earth. Both threats were of great concern to the psalmist, who prayed in great detail against each threat and pointed out God’s unique ability to save them. He alone can administer perfect justice and righteously rule over the world. Both psalms ultimately look to the day when Christ will return as Judge and King.

How should I respond?
The world we live in presents constant threats. Criminals steal our identity, corrupt leaders deprive us of justice, and terrorists rob our peace of mind. It can be hard to look forward with a sense of hope if your security is based on anything or anyone other than Christ. Only Jesus – the righteous Judge and King – can give you peace of mind as you face each day. How often do you take your personal concerns to the Lord in prayer? Praying specifically takes time, but God cares about each detail that burdens you. What threat to your peace of mind do you need to take to Him right now?

August 4, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 15

What does it say?
God instructed Saul to destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions, but Saul saved some of the animals. Because of Saul’s disobedience, God rejected him as king.

What does it mean?
When God told Joshua to wipe out all the people in the land of Canaan, it was because of the Canaanites’ great sin. Similarly, the Amalekites, who lived to the south of Israel, had sinned greatly in the eyes of the Lord. They treated the Israelites harshly when they were on their way out of Egypt and heading to the Promised Land in the days of Moses. In God’s time, He sent Saul to destroy everything and everyone in Amalek to purge the land of their sin. However, Saul obeyed most of what God commanded but not all. He kept some of their animals for a sacrifice. Saul learned a valuable lesson: to obey God is better than to sacrifice.

How should I respond?
God wants nothing less than our full loyalty and obedience. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). We obey God because we love Him. He requires full obedience from His children because it’s what’s best for us, and it fulfills His purposes. As you read through the Bible, keep a list of the things that God instructs you to do. Remember, not every command in the Bible is for you directly— like destroying the Amalekites! In what area are you giving only partial obedience? What attitude or behavior needs to change? Determine to strive for full obedience— not just 90%.

August 5, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 7

What does it say?
Paul, contrasting godly repentance with worldly sorrow, urged the Corinthians to seek God’s holiness.

What does it mean?
Paul’s previous letter to the Corinthian church had been sternly worded regarding sin in their congregation. He was relieved to hear that they had taken the letter to heart and truly repented. Worldly sorrow is simply feeling regret; but godly repentance is true sorrow over sin and results in a change of mind, heart, and action. Sorrow over sin is essential to salvation, but repentance is also necessary for disobedient believers to restore intimacy with God.

How should I respond?
God uses various means to point out sin in our lives. You may feel conviction while reading Scripture, listening to preaching or teaching at church, or seeing the same sin repeated in your children. How do you react when God reveals sin in your life? Do you become defensive, regretful, or truly sorry for disobedience to God? Stop right now and ask God to reveal any attitude or behavior from which you need to repent. Agree with God that a change is needed and follow through.

August 3, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 14:24-52

What does it say?
Although Jonathan didn’t hear Saul’s command for his men not to eat until evening, he didn’t defend his actions when he was confronted. However, the people spared his life

What does it mean?
Saul was hasty in his decree that the troops should abstain from eating until evening. Jonathan was unaware of Saul’s decision and ate wild honey in the forest. Later, Saul built his first altar to the Lord, but God was silent. After further investigation, Jonathan’s violation of Saul’s command was revealed. The penalty was death. Jonathan accepted it without argument; he did not defend himself nor did he criticize Saul’s decision. However, Israel did defend Jonathan. His reputation spoke for itself, and the people overwhelmingly supported him. Jonathan trusted his life to God and it was spared.

How should I respond?
Have you ever found yourself at odds with someone in a position of authority over you? It might have been the result of a misunderstanding, a false accusation, or a disagreement over a performance standard. Whatever the cause, you may feel a need to defend yourself by criticizing your authority or the standard you failed to meet. However, God desires for us to respect our authorities, even when we disagree (Romans 13:1-4). How might you be dishonoring an authority in order to redeem your reputation? If something has caused a rift, talk it out calmly and privately. If you end each day with a clear conscience, you can entrust your reputation to the Lord.

August 4, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 6

What does it say?
Paul endured many hardships as a servant of God. He warned the Corinthians not to partner with unbelievers.

What does it mean?
Paul gave the Corinthians a familiar picture of two animals yoked together to work a field. A farmer would never yoke an ox and a donkey together; they have different instincts and natures and wouldn’t work together to plow his field. Likewise, Christians are to be separated to God, but not completely isolated. Christians are Christ’s ambassadors to an unbelieving world. The Corinthians had gone to the opposite extreme, allowing intimate relationships with non-believers to influence them. Divided loyalty made it difficult for the Corinthian church to fulfill God’s mission.

How should I respond?
Who is your best friend? What influence has that person had over decisions you’ve made this week? There’s a difference between casual friends and your inner circle. Every Christian should have non-Christian acquaintances. You can’t influence people you refuse to associate with. But those you confide in have influence over you. What friendship is hindering your spiritual life? Has a business partnership or dating relationship caused you to compromise your beliefs or behavior? Ask God for discernment in your relationships and commit to separating yourself for His purpose.

August 2, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 14:1-23

What does it say?
Jonathan and his armor bearer went secretly to the Philistine camp and struck down 20 men. The ensuing chaos strengthened the faith of Israel’s army as God did the impossible.

What does it mean?
Instead of retreating, Jonathan believed that if God wanted to defeat a large army with only a few, He could do it. Jonathan’s faith inspired his armor bearer who went with him. God did the impossible by enabling Jonathan to defeat 20 Philistines immediately. When news reached home, God’s people came out of hiding and headed into battle. The victory began with the faith of one man. Jonathan not only believed what God could do, he also demonstrated faith by taking action. That action was contagious, leading fewer than 3,000 men to defeat an army too large to number.

How should I respond?
God still does the impossible. Whatever your battle or whoever your enemy, God can enable you. But it takes faith, not in your own ability or strength, but faith in the One with infinite strength and resources. The truth is worth repeating: God can do the impossible. Maybe you feel alone in your family, at work, or at school. Would you be so bold as to face difficult or impossible circumstances, believing God for the victory? Perhaps you are the one that God wants to use to inspire faith in His people again. In what situation do you need to come out of hiding? Dream big. Trust big.

August 3, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 5

What does it say?
Paul knew that leaving his earthly body would mean standing in the presence of the Lord. Whether in the body or away from it, his goal was to please the Lord.

What does it mean?
Paul was a tentmaker by trade. He saw similarities between tents and his own body: imperfect, deteriorating, and temporary. But the new body in Heaven will never decay or show signs of weakness. As he traveled, Paul faced more than his share of life and death situations, yet he didn’t fear death itself. He had full confidence that, for him, dying was a doorway to his heavenly home and glorified body. He not only lived for the eternal, he also looked forward to it.

How should I respond?
You don’t have to be very old to feel the effects of aging and the terminal nature of the human body. You, or someone you love, may face physical pain or challenges on a daily basis. Take comfort in knowing that this body is only a temporary dwelling. Does the thought of what happens after death distress or assure you? For the Christian, there’s no need to fear dying. Do you, like Paul, have confidence that you’ll be in God’s presence a moment after death? If so, you too can look forward to trading in every ache and pain you experience to have a body like Jesus – for eternity!

August 1, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 13

What does it say?
Saul tried to seek God’s favor with an unauthorized burnt offering when Israel’s army was outnumbered, weaponless, and afraid. Samuel said Saul would lose the throne.

What does it mean?
The scene was one of panic. The Philistines had gathered more men to battle than the Israelites could count. Weaponless and greatly outnumbered, God’s people literally ran for the hills and hid in caves. Saul didn’t know what to do, and Samuel was nowhere to be found. Instead of trusting God’s faithfulness, Saul took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God by offering sacrifices without Samuel. It may seem like an insignificant mistake, but Saul’s decision revealed the truth about his heart. God’s people would soon be led by another – “a man after God’s own heart.”

How should I respond?
There are tragic moments in our lives when shock grips our hearts and minds. When panic starts to set in, we have to choose whether to react in fear or to respond with trust in what we know to be true: God is faithful. Think about such a moment in your own life. What did it reveal about you? We can learn a valuable lesson from Samuel’s words, “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.” Evaluate your heart for a moment. Ask the Lord to strengthen your trust in Him regarding areas of fear. God already has the circumstances under control.

August 2, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 4

What does it say?
Human bodies are clay jars into which God has placed the knowledge of His glory.

What does it mean?
Clay jars were ordinary, everyday containers – easily cracked and broken. The value was in the content of the vessel, not the container itself. Paul describes himself as a weak vessel with no power of his own to accomplish God’s will. Even though Paul felt the wear and tear of his temporary, earthly body, he was confident of an inward and permanent renewal of his spirit. God proved His power was at work in the midst of Paul’s suffering. His eternal viewpoint on difficulty resulted in true humility, allowing God to receive the glory for Paul’s accomplishments in this life.

How should I respond?
What current pressure is causing your “jar” to crack? Without cracks, there’s not a chance for God to display His supernatural power in the face of suffering or everyday troubles. As you see God working in your circumstances, let His light shine through your pain or suffering by telling someone what He has done. It’s not easy to view the hard things of life as temporary, but that’s exactly what they are when compared to eternity. God’s power is displayed in the ordinary lives of flawed people. Be one of His cracked pots today.

July 31, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 12

What does it say?
Samuel reminded God’s people of His faithfulness. When Samuel warned the people of the consequences of disobedience, they repented and asked him to intercede.

What does it mean?
God is faithful. His commitment to Israel was unwavering, even in their rebellion. Samuel took a moment to have a candid conversation with Israel, reminding them of a few things God had done for them in the past. God’s people reacted with fear and humility. In that moment, Samuel knew the people could either turn away or turn to God in repentance. He gently reminded them that God had chosen them as His people and would be faithful to that commitment. Samuel also reminded them that God’s faithfulness should compel them to fear and serve the Lord with their whole heart.

How should I respond?
God knew your doubts, your fears, and your rebellion before you were born. Yet He remains faithful to His commitment and promises to you. Even when we look to relationships, money, success, or a myriad of other distractions for our security, God is faithful. Look back – what has God done for you in the past? What is He doing right now? Like Israel, God’s record of faithfulness should compel you to serve Him with your whole heart. Ask Him to help you reflect His faithfulness. The choice to live solely for Him won’t necessarily make your life easier, but it will definitely be worth it.

August 1, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 3

What does it say?
Under the old covenant the letter of the law brings death, but with the new covenant the Spirit brings life.

What does it mean?
Outside influences were pressuring the Corinthians to live by Jewish religious practices and ceremonies in addition to faith in Christ. But salvation couldn’t be attained through the law because it requires perfect obedience in every point, a human impossibility. They didn’t understand that the practices of the old covenant were symbolic, preparing them for the coming of Christ and salvation by grace. God’s law, written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit, brought eternal life and made them a reflection of God’s glory. If the law was glorious, how much more is God’s work of grace through the Holy Spirit?

How should I respond?
Bank tellers are trained to look for and recognize counterfeit bills. Likewise, Christians have to be aware of counterfeit teachings and beliefs. What have you tried to add to faith in Christ to gain God’s acceptance? Relying on religious traditions and practices for God’s approval is counterfeit Christianity. Your church attendance, charitable giving, and service to the Lord are not a condition of your salvation but rather a result. Legalism promotes doing, whereas grace focuses on being. Legalism pressures you to act like other Christians; grace gives you the freedom to be conformed to the image of Christ. How will you reflect Jesus this week?

July 30, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 11

What does it say?
The Spirit of God came upon Saul, and he rallied the people to defeat the Ammonites. Saul and the people celebrated the Lord at Gilgal.

What does it mean?
Despite the fact that God had always looked after His people, Israel wanted a king to look after them. Saul was timid, unskilled in battle, and lacked confidence. Regardless of his new title as King, Saul was still the same man that was found hiding in the baggage, timid and insecure. However, the difference in his life was the Spirit of God at work through him. Although it may have appeared that Saul led the people to defeat the Ammonites that day, it was the Lord who gave him the wisdom needed to assemble an army and win the battle. Saul knew it and gave God the credit.

How should I respond?
God is powerful and quick to empower His servants to do His work. When you enter into a relationship with Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit is available to help you. You are inwardly “being renewed day by day” because you now have the power of God working in and through you (2 Cor. 4:16). What battle is before you right now? God can use you, regardless of what you feel you are lacking. Confess your insecurities and doubts to the Lord. Ask Him to enable you; then give Him the credit for the victory.

July 31, 2022

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Read – Psalms 81

What does it say?
Asaph sang of how God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. God commanded that they have no other god, but they would not submit to Him.

What does it mean?
Asaph invited Israel to gather in Jerusalem for a feast and to celebrate the Lord’s goodness to them in the past. The joy of remembering how He rescued their forefathers from Egypt was quickly overshadowed by the consequences of their disobedience. When they did not listen, God allowed them to go their own way. As a result, they failed to live under His blessing and protection. The feast was a time of reflection. Sadly, Israel had to look back with regret, but God’s faithfulness has no end. He still desired to bless Israel and give them victory – if only they would listen and obey.

How should I respond?
We’ve trivialized sin to the point that it’s hard to recognize the devastation it has caused nationally and personally. Movies and television shows glorify what God condemns and even make it seem amusing. However, sin is not trivial. The sins of the world cost Jesus His life. Stop right now and consider how the warning in today’s passage needs to impact your life. Has your conscience been desensitized to sins that are considered socially acceptable? Remember, if Satan can get you to laugh at it, then he can get you to live with it. Will you pray for personal and national revival today?

July 29, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 10:9-27

What does it say?
All that Samuel prophesied about Saul came true. God selected Saul as king of Israel. At his public appointment, Saul was found hiding in the baggage.

What does it mean?
Saul was changed, and others could see the difference. All the signs Samuel gave Saul came true, yet he was still unsure. God, on the other hand, was at work saving Israel. God did not need Saul, but God chose to invite Saul to join Him in His work. Saul was reluctant. In fact, while his name was being called as the man who would be king, Saul was hiding in the baggage. God knew exactly where he was and why he was there, but He still chose to declare him king. God had a purpose for Saul, and no matter how hesitant he was, it was time for Saul to join God in His work.

How should I respond?
God is always at work. He does not need us but chooses to involve us in what He is doing. He wants us to join Him even though it can be challenging and unfamiliar, demanding our reliance on His strength. We have a choice – to trust Him and join in or to hide in the “baggage.” Are you trying to hide from God’s plan? What do you believe about yourself that causes you to decline God’s invitation to join Him in His work? Ask God to help you get out of the baggage and get on board.

July 30, 2022

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Read – Psalms 79

What does it say?
Asaph begged God to be merciful and forgive Israel for the glory of His name. He asked the Lord to return to His people so they might be revived and restored.

What does it mean?
Psalm 79 was sung each spring at Passover, and Psalm 80 was sung in the fall during the Feast of Tabernacles. Both psalms recount the devastation of Jerusalem and the defilement of the Lord’s temple – probably regarding the Babylonian invasion and captivity of God’s people. These psalms served as annual reminders that God doesn’t allow sin to go unnoticed; it had devastating consequences on their land, their people, and their worship. Ultimately, Israel’s restoration will come through the man God raised up – the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Only He can save those who call on His name.

How should I respond?
We’ve trivialized sin to the point that it’s hard to recognize the devastation it has caused nationally and personally. Movies and television shows glorify what God condemns and even make it seem amusing. However, sin is not trivial. The sins of the world cost Jesus His life. Stop right now and consider how the warning in today’s passage needs to impact your life. Has your conscience been desensitized to sins that are considered socially acceptable? Remember, if Satan can get you to laugh at it, then he can get you to live with it. Will you pray for personal and national revival today?

July 28, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 10:1-8

What does it say?
Samuel anointed Saul as king. Samuel gave him signs to look for and the promise of God’s presence with him. Saul was then sent to Gilgal to wait for Samuel.

What does it mean?
Because God knew Saul’s reluctant, unassuming disposition, He offered him two gifts: confirmation and confidence. The signs Samuel told Saul to look for would offer validity to Samuel’s statements, confirm the promise of kingship, and answer any doubts Saul might have about his calling. Saul lacked confidence, feeling unworthy to be king. God then gave Saul the promise of His presence to instill confidence. God’s promise to be with him should have been a comfort to him as it had been with Moses and Joshua, leaders before him. Saul would not have to doubt that he was the one God had chosen.

How should I respond?
God loves to call the ill-equipped, the lowly, and the weak to do the impossible because that is when He gets the most credit. Rest assured that if God calls you to do something, He did not make a mistake in choosing you or the task He has for you. The extraordinary thing is that He cares enough about us to provide the assurance we need when doubt comes. What is God calling you to do in ministry, life, or family? What are your doubts? Has He already addressed them? Take a moment to talk with God about your doubts and the calling. Choose to move forward, trusting God’s wisdom.

July 29, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 2

What does it say?
To believers, the gospel is the fragrance of life. To those outside of Christ, it has the smell of death.

What does it mean?
Verse fourteen is an analogy of Christ as a Roman general leading his followers through the city, burning incense to signify victory. The smell was either sweet or a stench, depending on one’s loyalty to the general and his cause. Likewise, one’s response to Jesus results in either life or death. For followers of Christ, life on Earth leads to eternal life in Heaven. But the gospel of Jesus also means future judgment for unbelievers, leaving the aroma of death. Paul doesn’t view his responsibility to preach the gospel as a profession, but as a God-given task and privilege.

How should I respond?
What kind of inner reaction do you have while hearing or reading about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? If you are a follower of Christ, you feel acceptance and gratitude rather than condemnation. Your response to the message of Jesus is the single most important decision you’ll ever make. How have you responded? When you stand before Jesus, He will be either your victorious general or your judge. Like Paul, it is every believer’s privilege to tell the story of Jesus. To whom is God prompting you to share the gospel?

July 27, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 9

What does it say?
God heard Israel’s cries for help from the Philistines and revealed to Samuel that Saul would be their first king.

What does it mean?
Israel was in distress, and God had a plan to rescue the nation from the Philistines. Saul had no idea he was part of this plan or that he would be the first king. Saul was not looking for a crown – he was only looking for lost donkeys. The journey to reclaim these donkeys turned into a meeting with God’s prophet, an appointment to kingship, and the responsibility to rescue Israel from her enemies. Israel had rebelled against God by desiring a king. Even so, He was faithful. God was going to use Saul to save Israel and bring her back to Himself.

How should I respond?
Regardless of how inconsistent we may be in our commitment to God, He is steady, persistent, and compassionate. He cares about you all of the time – when you are seeking Him and when you are not. In your darkest moments and in your greatest achievements, He is committed to you. Because of His great love, you can have confidence in the fact that God hears you. He is both willing and able to help you. Take a moment to reflect on these attributes of God. How has God revealed His commitment to you recently?

July 28, 2022

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Read – 2 Corinthians 1

What does it say?
Paul praised God as the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. He trusted God for future deliverance because He had delivered him before.

What does it mean?
Rather than being exempt from suffering, followers of Christ have a source of great comfort in the midst of it. Experiencing trouble in life gives opportunity to trust in God. God’s consolation increases as the difficulty increases. Believers who accept God’s comfort have a greater capacity to extend that same comfort to others. Paul had personally experienced God’s assuring presence in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. But rather than question why God had allowed such hardship, Paul placed his hope entirely in God for deliverance.

How should I respond?
Trouble is just part of life (Job 5:7), but you can experience indescribable peace in the midst of sorrow by being open to God’s comfort. What circumstance is currently bringing you pain? How has it driven you to trust God more? How could you use difficulty from your life to help someone else through a tragedy or hardship? If you’ve experienced cancer, unemployment, or the loss of a spouse, then you can empathize with someone facing the same thing today. The more you allow God to comfort you, the more He’ll use you as a source of His comfort.

July 26, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 8

What does it say?
The nation of Israel rejected God’s leadership and asked for a king like other nations. Samuel warned the people of what a king would likely do.

What does it mean?
Samuel’s sons were given authority, and they took advantage of their position. This prompted the elders of Israel to ask for a king like other nations instead of trusting God to handle the situation. By doing so, they were rejecting their identity, their history, and God’s leadership. They didn’t trust God and wanted the control to do what they believed was best. God warned the people that the cost of having a king would be great. Still, they chose to trust their own knowledge and understanding over God’s perfect wisdom.

How should I respond?
We all experience difficult circumstances – sometimes as a result of the poor actions of others. In those moments, we must remember who we are – children of God. Our identity begins with our Creator. Take a moment to reflect on the character of our God: His faithfulness, consistency, wisdom, and trustworthiness. What situation are you trying to take control of? Will you trust God’s wisdom and knowledge to work things out on your behalf? Determine right now that you will trust God’s wisdom over your own. The cost of going your own way is too great.

July 27, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 16

What does it say?
Paul closed his first letter to the church in Corinth by discussing a believer’s responsibilities regarding money, time, and people.

What does it mean?
Paul opened this chapter with the expectation that followers of Christ contribute financially to the expenses of the church and help those in need. The fact that the collection was taken on the first day of the week, Sunday, indicates that giving is an act of worship. Paul approached the use of his time as seriously as he did money. He prayed for God’s direction as he made plans and waited to see “if the Lord permits.” He then mentioned seven friends and co-workers by name. Paul valued his friends and encouraged their service for the Lord, which connected them to him and each other.

How should I respond?
Today’s church still has the same three resources as Paul: money, time, and people. It’s important to pray about the handling of these assets. How has reading the Bible influenced the way you spend time and money? Impulsive decisions can needlessly complicate your schedule and reduce what you can contribute to God’s work. What opportunities has God given you to mentor someone as Paul did Timothy? Every possession, relationship, and moment of life is given by God to use for His purpose. Today, how can you be a careful steward of all God has given you?

July 25, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 7

What does it say?
After Israel fully committed their hearts to the Lord, He gave them victory over the Philistines. Samuel set up a stone near Mizpah as a remembrance of the Lord’s help.

What does it mean?
Everything was going well. The ark had returned to Israel, and Samuel led the people to clean out their idols and commit to worship only the Lord. But fear gripped their hearts when the Philistines gathered to attack. The children of Israel responded by looking to the Lord for help, fully convinced that He was able to rescue them. Asking Samuel to “cry out” to the Lord was more than a prayer request; it was a desperate plea in recognition that God was their only hope. The Ebenezer stone was a monument of the victory and a reminder of God’s intervention in their lives.

How should I respond?
Staying spiritually on track isn’t insurance against life’s troubles. However, having a heart that is fully committed to the Lord is the key to responding to sudden difficulty. Where do you turn when desperation pours over you like a tidal wave? The same God who rescued Israel from the Philistines still intervenes in the lives of His children. No situation is too overwhelming for Him. What is causing you fear today? The Lord is waiting for you to “cry out” to Him, believing that He is able to handle it. His answer may not be immediate, but it will come. He is always at work behind the scenes of your life.

July 26, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 15

What does it say?
Believers will be resurrected one day just as Jesus was raised from the dead.

What does it mean?
Enemies of Christianity were claiming that Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead even though witnesses of His resurrection were still alive. Without the bodily resurrection of Christ, there can be no eternal salvation. Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden plunged all mankind into sin, which brought death. But Christians have no need to fear dying. Placing one’s faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus gives victory over sin and death. The resurrection of Christ is neither a lie nor a legend; it is the greatest fact of all history and secures the future resurrection of all believers.

How should I respond?
Americans spend millions of dollars on products to fight aging and improve their bodies. But everyone succumbs to time and faces the eventuality of death. How does reading this passage about a heavenly future change your view on your own mortality? If the thought of death frightens you, examine whether or not you have acknowledged the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for your salvation. How does His resurrection give you hope and strength to face today’s challenges? The reality of the resurrection of Jesus allows you to live with purpose and look forward to a victorious future.

July 24, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 6

What does it say?
The Philistines returned the ark of the covenant to Israel with a guilt offering to pacify the wrath of God. The Israelites rejoiced and offered sacrifices to God.

What does it mean?
It is common in many cultures to give a gift when someone has been offended. God’s people had instructions about different types of guilt offerings in the writings of Moses, but in this situation the Philistines were offering a gift to pacify the wrath of God against them. It was as if God had moved the Philistines to do what was right after they had done what was wrong with His ark. God’s wrath against the Philistines was pacified when the Israelites in Beth-Shemesh offered up sacrifices to rejoice in the return of the ark of the covenant to Israel.

How should I respond?
When we’ve done something wrong, pride often stands in the way of admitting our guilt and asking God for forgiveness. One of the hardest things to do is simply saying the words, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, will you forgive me?” However, admitting when we’re wrong and asking for forgiveness not only heals those we’ve harmed, but it frees us. Is there a sin that you need to admit and ask forgiveness from God or another person? Keeping that sin to yourself because of pride will bind you, but asking for forgiveness will free you to have an unhindered relationship with the Lord.

July 25, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 14

What does it say?
Everything said and done within the church should edify and strengthen the body.

What does it mean?
It’s important to understand the gifts of prophecy and tongues in order to get a better idea of what Paul is saying in this chapter. There are two different examples of tongues in the New Testament. In Acts 2, God gave the Apostles the gift of languages in order for unbelievers from many nations to hear the gospel in their own “tongue.” It was a sign that God had empowered the message. In Corinth, many believers were speaking in a prayer language that had to be interpreted in order to be understood. Chaos developed because so many people were speaking in tongues at one time. Paul prefers the gift of prophecy, the ability to clearly communicate the message of Christ. God is the God of peace, not confusion. The message of Jesus must be presented clearly in order to strengthen the church and draw others to follow Christ.

How should I respond?
As an orchestra warms up, each musician plays a different portion of the piece of music, making it impossible for a listener to detect the melody. The conductor’s direction brings harmony and understanding to the same piece. Likewise, God never desires chaos and conflict within His church. How are you contributing to order and peace in your church? How can you clearly communicate God’s character and purpose to those in your home, school, or community? Are you contributing to the melody or just making noise?

July 23, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 5

What does it say?
When the Philistines took the ark of the covenant back to their land, God smashed their idol of Dagon and gave people tumors wherever the ark was taken.

What does it mean?
The ark of the covenant was a special place for God’s presence to live among His people. It belonged in the Holy of Holies—a room in the inner part of the tabernacle. When the Philistines took the ark among the spoils of battle, they thought of it as just another religious artifact. God became angry that His ark was dishonored among the Philistines when they put it beside an idol in the temple of Dagon, their god. God doesn’t want to be treated like just another god because He is the one true, living God who was not made by human hands but is the Creator of all things everywhere.

How should I respond?
There are certain words we use to refer to God, like “Lord”, “God”, “Christ”, and “Jesus.” Have you heard someone use those words as profanity rather than respectfully talking about the Creator and Savior of the world? Words like these are special because they refer to the one true, living God, and God doesn’t want His name to be used flippantly but in an honorable way. Try this. The next time you hear someone use one of those words as profanity, say under your breath, “May God’s name be praised.” They may dishonor the Lord, but your love for His name will give recognition of the glory He is due.

July 24, 2022

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Read – Psalms 78

What does it say?
Asaph stressed the importance of teaching the next generation about the Lord.

What does it mean?
This is a maskil, or instructional psalm. The psalmist’s instruction was to learn from the past and instruct others. Each generation had a responsibility to teach their children what they had learned about the Lord. Kids who were taught to recognize God’s hand at work in the world learned to trust His power. Children who were instructed in His Law were more likely to follow His commands. If these truths were not impressed upon children from a young age, they would follow their sinful nature, forget what God had done, and refuse to obey Him. To prove his point, Asaph recounted Israel’s long history of rebellion against the Lord.

How should I respond?
As parents, we show our kids from a young age how to brush their teeth, tell them to eat their vegetables, enroll them in a variety of classes, and drive them to endless athletic events. Yet of all the things parents can do for their children, nothing is more important than teaching them the truth about God. Taking them to a Bible-believing church is important, but those truths have to be backed up with practical instruction in daily life and by modeling trust in the Lord and obedience to His Word. What have your kids and grandkids learned about the Lord by watching and listening to you? Be aware of teachable moments today. Tell them how God has taken care of your family in the past. Show them what the Bible says about the issues they’re facing at school and with friends, and then pray with them about those things. If you don’t impress your beliefs upon their hearts, the world will.

July 22, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 4

What does it say?
The Philistines defeated the Israelites at the Battle of Ebenezer and captured the ark of the covenant. Eli and his sons died as God had foretold.

What does it mean?
There was no king in these days, but God led His people through prophets, priests, and elders. The center of Israel during that time was in a town called Shiloh. This was the place where the tabernacle stood and where the ark of the covenant was kept. Although God is everywhere, His presence was seen in a special way just above the ark. When the Philistines seemed to be winning the Battle of Ebenezer, the elders of Israel hatched a plan to bring the ark to the battlefield; but this was not the Lord’s plan, so He didn’t bless it. God allowed Israel to lose the battle and the ark.

How should I respond?
Everyone makes plans. This passage teaches us to call upon the Lord in prayer before and during the making of our own plans. What is the next big thing you’re planning? Have you prayed about it? There are three ways you can hear God’s answer. First, make sure your plans are in line with what the Bible teaches. Second, ask Him to give you a sense of peace about the plans. Third, share your plans with godly Christian friends and ask them for guidance. Get into the habit of asking God what His plan is rather than simply asking Him to bless yours.

July 23, 2022

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Read – Psalms 76, 77

What does it say?
Asaph declared the greatness of God, who saved Israel from her enemies. Remembering the Lord’s deeds, he asked God to once again be merciful to Israel.

What does it mean?
Whether in good times or bad, Asaph turned to God in prayer, praising His works and His character. In Psalm 76 Asaph celebrated God’s greatness after the devastation of the enemy’s army, which was likely the defeat of the Assyrians in which no Israelite had to lift a sword (2 Chron. 32:16-23). In Psalm 77 Asaph felt as if the Lord had forgotten them altogether. During a sleepless night, he turned his thoughts to God’s previous deliverance. Clearing his mind of the current dilemma and focusing on the greatness of God brought comfort. His circumstances had changed, but his God had not.

How should I respond?
Today’s psalms reflect the reality of life – everyone experiences peaks and valleys. Life will feel like a roller coaster if your outlook is tied to your emotions. When everything around you is in flux, Jesus remains the never changing, never moving anchor for your soul. Are you currently experiencing good times and calm days? Then pray and praise the Lord. Are you going through dark, sleepless nights? Then pray and allow God’s presence and previous provision to comfort your heart and mind. He has come through before, and He is able to do it again. Praise the Lord!

July 21, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 3

What does it say?
Eli helped Samuel recognize that it was God calling his name. The Lord told Samuel His plans for Israel and Eli. God remained with Samuel as he became a prophet of Israel.

What does it mean?
God was about to do something new in Israel, and He chose to reveal it to the boy who would proclaim God’s message to His people for years to come. But before Samuel could hear God’s message, he had to get still before the Lord and listen intentionally. The message of judgment against his mentor, Eli, must have been difficult to hear and even harder to repeat. Through this event, Samuel learned to recognize God’s voice, listen to His plan, and speak His message. As Samuel grew up, God’s presence with him was so evident that it caught people’s attention. God continued to speak, and Samuel faithfully communicated His Word to the people.

How should I respond?
We live in a busy world. Being still before the Lord doesn’t just happen; you have to be intentional about spending time with Him. While God may not audibly speak today, He has revealed His plans and instructions through His Word, the Bible. God also speaks through the guidance and conviction of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every follower of Christ. How much of your prayer time is spent listening to God versus telling Him what you want? How will you be faithful to carry out what He reveals to you? As you act to carry out God’s plans, His grace on your life will be obvious to the people around you.

July 22, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 13

What does it say?
Spiritual gifts are useless if not used in love.

What does it mean?
No other passage of Scripture gives a more complete picture of the perfect, unending nature of Christ-like love (agape). Such love is demonstrated through action rather than simply felt as an emotion. Paul contends that love demonstrated this way prevents the misuse of spiritual gifts. How each gift is used is more important than what the gift is. If believers grab hold of this truth, they are able to love perfectly, as Jesus did. After Christ’s return when all other gifts are no longer needed, love will be the permanent disposition of God’s people.

How should I respond?
Which descriptions of love in this passage are true of you? Where are you falling short? It’s easy to read this famous chapter and feel inadequate if you’re trying to muster up the emotions or attitudes yourself. As you allow the Holy Spirit to control the use of your spiritual gift(s), God’s perfect love will be demonstrated through your thoughts and actions. How you demonstrate love in your life depends completely on where you find it. Have you found true love in Jesus Christ? If so, the people who come across your path today should receive a living demonstration of God’s love through you.

July 20, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 2:12-36

What does it say?
Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, treated the people of Israel wickedly and despised God through their sin. Therefore, God cut off Eli’s family from serving as priests.

What does it mean?
God gave Moses many specific instructions about how the priests were to handle the sacrifices brought to the tabernacle. There were two main purposes behind these instructions. The first was to maximize the worship experience of the person offering the sacrifice. This wasn’t just a ritual, but worship that brought the one offering the sacrifice into a right relationship with God. The second purpose was to provide an equitable division of the edible part of the sacrifice between the worshiper and the priest. Eli’s sons treated the instructions and purposes with contempt.

How should I respond?
How do you approach worship when you come to church on Sundays? Are you excited to sing, pray, and read God’s Word with other believers? Or do you come out of a sense of duty, just to check church attendance off your “to do” list? Church is all about loving God and loving people. Believers come together because we thirst for God Himself and want to worship and love Him with everything we have. We can also develop relationships with people who become like a family. This week, try singing the worship songs to God directly, thinking about the words. Then, get involved in a Life Group and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. How will you approach God this week?

July 21, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 12

What does it say?
Paul compared the body of Christ, the church, to the human body. Both are made up of many members with vital roles.

What does it mean?
The Holy Spirit gives every believer at least one spiritual gift at the point of salvation. There are many gifts serving different purposes. Each follower of Christ needs to contribute his or her gift(s) in order for the church to function properly. Parts of the human body must work in harmony for a person to be healthy and function properly. The same is true for the body of Christ. There is disunity when one member develops pride over his or her gift or is envious of what another can do. Since God distributes the gifts, they are for His use and His glory.

How should I respond?
Your church needs the specific gifts and abilities God gave you at salvation. You can trust the Holy Spirit to empower you as you use your gifts to minister to others. What are your spiritual gifts, and how are you contributing them to your local church? If you’re not sure, contact your ministry director and ask for a spiritual gift test. They will be thrilled to help you discover your gifts and share ways you can use them to produce spiritual fruit, to share the gospel, and to glorify Christ. The church body can’t function properly without you!

July 19, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 2:1-11

What does it say?
Hannah praised God and returned home. Samuel stayed with Eli to minister to the Lord.

What does it mean?
Hannah did not forget the commitment she made to God. She not only gave Samuel to the service of the Lord, but she also praised God and celebrated His character before returning home. Hannah worshiped God from a heart over owing with gratitude for His goodness. In a moment that must have been incredibly difficult for a mother, Hannah chose to remember God’s faithfulness. She chose to celebrate her amazing God. Leaving Samuel at the temple was, at its very core, an act of worship. Hannah gave up that which was most precious to her in service to the Lord.

How should I respond?
It’s easy to become stingy with God’s blessings. Sometimes, the path He puts in front of us means letting go of good things. It can be very difficult to give them up – even to the Lord. We may refuse to hand them over, or grudgingly do so, becoming resentful and complaining about our circumstances. In those moments you can choose to trust God and remember His faithfulness. Giving your greatest treasures to God in an act of worship provides an opportunity to know Him better. Are your most prized possessions available to God? How could you, like Hannah, shift your mindset from the blessings to the One who provided them? How will you choose to worship the Lord today?

July 20, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 11

What does it say?
The Corinthian believers were not observing the Lord’s Supper as they should.

What does it mean?
It seems the Corinthian believers were mixing old habits from feasts that celebrated idols with the observance of the Lord’s Supper, leading to drunkenness, gluttony, and division. They weren’t looking to Jesus’ example or remembering the purpose He stated for the memorial. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is a time of reflection. One should look back to the death of Christ on the cross; look forward, expecting His return; and look inward, making sure things are right with God and other believers. Those who partake when they know they have sin in their lives risk God’s judgment.

How should I respond?
What is your attitude as you approach the Lord’s Supper with your church family? The symbolism of the body and blood of our Savior requires solemn self-examination. Do you reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and your part in putting Him there? It’s hard to hold a grudge against someone while simultaneously thanking God for such mercy and grace! What needs to be cleared up between you and another believer? Between you and God? Be ready to truly celebrate the Lord’s Supper, not just go through the motions of a religious tradition.

July 18, 2020

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Read – 1 Samuel 1

What does it say?
Hannah pleaded with God to end her infertility and give her a son, promising to give him into God’s service. God granted her request, and Hannah gave birth to Samuel.

What does it mean?
This chapter sets the stage for Samuel’s life and God’s purpose for him from the beginning. Samuel was to lead Israel back to God and into victory over their national enemy, the Philistines. But first, Hannah had to be willing to cooperate with God’s plan. It may appear that she was waiting on God to give her a son, and in simple terms, she was. But God was also waiting on Hannah. He had a purpose for Samuel, and Hannah had to be willing to let go of the very thing she was asking for. When, in desperation, Hannah made her vow, it was clear she was ready. Eli was there to reassure her that God would answer her prayer.

How should I respond?
Life is full of surprises, those moments that are unexpected, not part of our plan, just as Hannah did not plan for infertility. God often uses those times to prepare us for something greater. Take a moment to consider what blessings you are asking from the Lord. What struggles have you brought to Him on your knees, in tears, in desperation? Is it possible that God is waiting for you to have a different perspective? Ask God to turn your desperation into an open heart, ready for His purposes.

July 19, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 10

What does it say?
Israel’s past failures served as examples to keep them from desiring evil things.

What does it mean?
Israel’s history of highs and lows in their faithfulness toward God was preserved as a warning to future generations. They claimed to be God’s people but easily gave in to evil desires, immorality, and idolatry. They even presumed upon God’s goodness. Paul warned the Corinthian believers not to think they had arrived in their spiritual life. The same temptations their fathers faced are universal and timeless. Then, four words provided the answer they needed, “but God is faithful.” Paul gives two encouragements: look for God’s way of escape, and let every action glorify Him.

How should I respond?
We’ve all heard that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Parents never want their child to make the same mistakes they’ve made. Yet every generation has those who fall prey to the same things that snared the last generation. What temptation is currently looming in front of you? God promises that there is a way out. What is your family history in the same area of temptation? How can you learn from their failure or victory? Memorize verse 13 to help when you are tempted. Then, look for God’s way out. God has not promised to shield you from temptation, but He will be faithful to see you through it. Will you determine to turn to Him when tempted?

July 17, 2020

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Read – Ruth 4

What does it say?
Boaz met with the other kinsman-redeemer who declined to redeem the land.

What does it mean?
The events in the lives of Boaz and Ruth reassure believers that God is at work to fulfill His purposes – even in the spiritual darkness of the times. God works in the lives of those who are willing to trust Him. Boaz didn’t depend on man’s opinions or on his own ideas of how to handle the situation – he looked to what God had revealed in His Word. Without hesitation, Boaz acted in accordance with God’s instructions and settled the legal matter quickly. From Boaz, the Jewish kinsman-redeemer, and his Gentile bride would come the Lord Jesus Christ – the Kinsman-Redeemer of every believer.

How should I respond?
The book of Ruth is often referred to as the fascinating love story of Ruth and Boaz. Even Hollywood has made movies based loosely on the biblical account. However, the movies completely miss the true love story that goes much deeper than the couple could ever imagine. Behind the scenes is the providential movement forward of God’s plan – His love story – to provide a Savior for mankind. Are you included in that love story? Have you received the only One who can redeem you from your sin and provide you with an eternal home in Heaven with Him? If so, how can your life become a part of His love story to those in your life who need to be redeemed?

July 18, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 9

What does it say?
Paul gave up his personal rights and freedoms for the sake of the gospel.

What does it mean?
Paul’s life could be summed up in one phrase: preach the gospel of Jesus. Nothing else held any fascination for him. Like a world-class athlete, Paul disciplined his mind and body for the race before him. He understood that discipline often means giving up something good to attain what’s best. Paul’s desire for others to know Christ was greater than his personal desires. His life is an example of dying to self and living for the approval of Christ alone. The result is an everlasting crown to place at Jesus’ feet.

How should I respond?
Being an Olympic athlete takes discipline and focus. Athletes deny themselves anything that would take their focus from their goal to win the race. The Christian life can be compared to an athlete in training. God has laid out a “race” for you. If anything else commands your focus, you’ll get off course. What area of your life needs to be more disciplined? Where do you need to give up a good thing in order to gain the very best things? Willingness to give up your own rights opens the door to see people as Paul did. Run your race for an audience of one: Jesus Christ!

July 16, 2020

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Read – Ruth 3

What does it say?
Naomi gave Ruth instructions on requesting Boaz to be her kinsman-redeemer.

What does it mean?
God gave a specific provision for childless widows in Hebrew society (Deut. 25:5-10). That provision brought together two individuals from vastly different cultural and economic backgrounds who shared a common faith in the God of Israel. Boaz responded graciously to Ruth’s request to be her kinsman-redeemer. Though nothing is said about Ruth’s physical appearance, Boaz praises her inner qualities. Once again, his godly character is seen in his submission to God’s law relating to the role of a kinsman-redeemer. He vowed to pursue the matter immediately. Boaz wished to marry Ruth, “a woman of noble character,” but more than that, he desired to obey God’s Word.

How should I respond?
Whether you are choosing a life partner or building close friendships, it’s important to identify people of faith with a passion to please the Lord. What would others say about your character qualities? How is your desire to please and obey God shaping who you are? God promises that if you delight in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). What are you doing to delight in Him and fulfill His plans for you? When you do what pleases Him, you can count on Him to do what He has promised.

The Letters of John: How Do I KNOW?

2022-07-17
Matt Willmington

1 John 4:7-21 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.

SUMMARY: Love each other because God is love. He proved it by sending his son to save the world. He loved us first so we love him and each other. We haven’t seen God but we can see his family. When we love, God lives in us and we live in him. His love is completed in us, and it gives us confidence against fear, judgment, and punishment. If we say we love God and hate each other, we are liars and we have not seen God.

1. If you love the Father you love the family. [7, 8, 16, 19]

Love each other because God is love
a. “dear friends” “brothers sisters” not neighbors [Lev.18, Luke 10]
b. 4 times here, 11 times in John’s letters [agape]
c. No love? Don’t know God [7, 8, 16]

2. Love sends, serves, sacrifices. [9-11, 14]

He loved us first and proved it by sending His son to save the world
a. Trinity – Father [9 14], Son [9 14], Spirit [13]
b. Love’s Revelation = God sent the Son
i. ‘One and only’ = priority, not origination
ii. “world” – yes elect, but not exclusive
iii. “SAVIOR”= ‘atoning sacrifice’ not example, teaching
c. He loved first
d. Since God loved by serving WE must also

3. We love what we see to love what we can’t see. [12, 14, 20]

We can’t see God but we can see family
a. John testimony – “we saw him!”
b. We ‘see’ Jesus, we see His family
c. His love grows to completion

4. Live in God because he lives in you. [12, 13, 15, 16]

When we love, we have the Spirit, God lives in us and we live in him
a. Proof of his remaining in us = Spirit
b. Confess Jesus = God is in you, you are in God
c. We know + believe. You can know w/o believing
d. If you live in love God lives in you and you in him [John 17]

5. Completed love gives confidence. [12, 17, 18]

Love is completed in us, gives confidence for fear, judgment, punishment
a. Love doesn’t fear [1 Cor.13] it drives out fear.
b. Fear judgment? You aren’t living in love

6. Haters don’t love, lovers don’t lie. [20-21]

If we say we love God but hate each other we lie and have not seen God
a. Can’t love God if you hate family
b. Jesus’ command from – John 13, 17

ONE ANOTHERS

HONOR Romans 12:10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another.

HARMONIZE Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

JUDGE Romans 14:13 Therefore, let us no longer judge one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in the way of your brother or sister.

BUILD UP Romans 14:19 So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.

WELCOME / ACCEPT Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another, just as Christ also welcomed you, to the glory of God.

INSTRUCT Romans 15:14 My brothers and sisters, I myself am convinced about you that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another

SERVE Galatians 5:13 For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.

DEVOUR Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.

PROVOKE / ENVY Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

CARRY Galatians 6:2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

BEAR Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

LIE Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.

KIND / COMPASSION / FORGIVE Ephesians 4:32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

SUBMIT Ephesians 5:21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

ENCOURAGE 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.

DO GOOD 1 Thessalonians 5:15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.

HATE Titus 3:3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.

CRITICIZE James 4:11 Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

COMPLAIN James 5:9 Brothers and sisters, do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. Look, the judge stands at the door!

CONFESS / PRAY James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.

HOSPITABLE 1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining.

HUMBLE 1 Peter 5:5 In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

FELLOWSHIP 1 John 1:7 If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

July 17, 2022

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Read – Psalms 74, 75

What does it say?
Asaph lamented the sad state of Jerusalem. He recounted God’s past deeds and called on Him to rescue His people.

What does it mean?
Asaph was bewildered. Jerusalem had been attacked and the temple destroyed. It seemed as if God had rejected His own people. He no longer spoke to them in kindness as their Shepherd, but had allowed harsh treatment from the enemy as His judgment on their sin. Nonetheless, Asaph still trusted God, confident that the Lord could, and would, overthrow their enemies. God has all authority. He rules over nature itself, so He was certainly able to rescue His people. Asaph asked God to remember His promises to Israel. Since God judged the sins of His own people, surely He would punish the wickedness of their enemies.

How should I respond?
We typically think of God as a kind father or a gentle shepherd, but we don’t like to dwell on the fact that He is also a judge. God is the ultimate authority. He will hold all people accountable for their actions – both toward Him and toward others. Today’s passage gives insight to the words of Hebrews 10:31: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” While those words can be frightening, we have to remember that God’s judgment is tempered with mercy. When we consider God’s mercy, we find a God who dealt with our sin and our failings by providing His own Son as a sacrifice in our place. One day, God will judge the wickedness of the world, but if you have received His gift of salvation, you do not have to fear Him as your Judge. You can look to God as your loving heavenly Father and to His Son as your gentle Shepherd.

July 15, 2020

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Read – Ruth 2

What does it say?
Ruth offered to glean the leftover grain from the fields. She happened to select a field belonging to Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

What does it mean?
In His providence, God arranged a divine appointment between two people who lived by faith in the God of Israel—a Jewish man of wealth and integrity and a poor Moabite widow. Boaz commended Ruth for her commitment to care for Naomi. In turn, God used Boaz to provide protection and food for Ruth, the Moabitess. Later, she learned that Boaz happened to be a close relative, a kinsman-redeemer. God was at work behind the scenes, blessing their lives and preparing the way for our future Kinsman-Redeemer to enter Bethlehem!

How should I respond?
Have you ever thought, “It was just a coincidence—I just happened to be at the right place at the right time”? How have you seen God’s hand at work in events in your life that seemed to just happen? God’s guidance and provision can come in ways you do not expect. Often those happenings occur during a challenging time, a time when you wonder what is going on. At those times when nothing seems to be going as planned, continue to trust and obey. God uses the tough times to strengthen your faith so that you learn to trust Him to provide exactly what you need at exactly the right time.

July 16, 2022

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Read – Psalms 73

What does it say?
Asaph was tempted to envy the prosperity of the wicked.

What does it mean?
Asaph was deeply troubled by the contrast he saw between the prosperity of the wicked and the problems of the righteous. In spite of their arrogance toward God and cruelty to others, godless people appeared to have few worries while enjoying health and wealth. His own life was plagued with problems and danger. He almost gave in to the temptation to envy their prosperity; then he remembered that God will judge the ungodly, but the righteous will be under His protection. Asaph’s godly life paid eternal benefits to his descendants, the musicians during Israel’s greatest revivals who led God’s people to worship when the temple foundation was laid (Ezra 3:10).

How should I respond?
God is just, and He pays attention to the lives we live. He is also the only true authority. Even when evil seems to go unpunished and ungodliness seems to rule supreme, we can rest assured that God is keeping accounts. The Ruler of all will be your refuge if you choose to rest in Him. If, however, you choose to resist Him, the Lord will become your opposition. Rest or resistance – which will you choose today? Will you find comfort in God’s authority instead of worrying about the prosperity of ungodly people? God is watching. He will not fail to bring justice or give eternal blessings for your obedience.

July 14, 2020

,

Read – Ruth 1

What does it say?
To escape a famine, Naomi’s family left Bethlehem and moved to Moab. After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth returned to Bethlehem.

What does it mean?
The events in Chapter 1 occurred during the period of the judges, a time of depravity in Israel. When Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, she urged her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab. However, Ruth’s words reveal her desire to be identified with God’s people and God’s land. Her decision to leave her home, her family, and the false gods of Moab shows the profound difference that the knowledge of the one true God can make in a person’s life. Although many in Israel were doing what they thought was right, Ruth, a Gentile, chose to walk by faith and do what was right in God’s eyes.

How should I respond?
Do you sometimes find yourself falling into society’s way of thinking and lifestyle? There are strong influences in our culture that can draw us away from God’s best. Living in accordance with God’s will is a lifetime commitment that involves leaving our old way of life. As you trust and obey His Word, He will gradually unveil the unique plan that He has for you. Which of your old ways do you need to leave behind in order to embrace His purposes for you? The Lord comes “to the aid of His people” when they determine to follow Him. When you do, you will see God’s grace even in the midst of grief.

July 15, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 8

What does it say?
Paul addressed the issue of whether it was okay for believers to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols.

What does it mean?
Paul deals with the subject of Christian liberty in the next three chapters. He understood that there is only one true God. Therefore, idols amount to nothing as do the sacrifices made to idols. However, people were being converted from pagan idol worship every day. To them, eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol went against their conscience; they weren’t yet strong in this area of their faith. Paul would rather never eat meat again than to offend a weaker Christian. Mature believers are willing to give up personal rights in order to keep others from stumbling in their faith. Paul warned that personal freedom doesn’t override Christian responsibility.

How should I respond?
No man is an island. Your life influences others, whether you mean for it to or not. The people in your house, church, and community are at various points of spiritual maturity. What may seem harmless to you could cause sinful thoughts, actions, or addiction in a weaker believer. Paul’s example in this area is a difficult one to follow because everything in our society tells us to put self first. What practices should you give up because they could hinder another follower of Christ? Instead of asking, “What am I allowed to do?”— ask, “How can I help others grow stronger in their faith?”

July 13, 2020

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Read – Judges 21

What does it say?
Four hundred virgins from Jabesh Gilead were given to the surviving Benjamites as wives. Those without wives carried off girls from Shiloh to the land of their inheritance.

What does it mean?
In order to understand the events of this chapter, one must read the end first (v25). The men of Israel used their own logic and reasoning to solve the challenge with the Benjamites. Even their sacrifices and offerings were more ritualistic than truly seeking guidance from the Lord. A Canaanite version of Israel had been developing. By the end of Judges, the men of Israel repeatedly exerted power rather than responsibility. Their treatment of women in this passage was no better than the actions against the concubine that started the war in the first place. The inhabitants of Canaan were no longer the biggest threat to God’s people – Israel was rotting from within.

How should I respond?
As Christians, we are often our own worst enemy. We can become so comfortable going through the motions of religion while dabbling in worldly temptations that we don’t realize how far we’ve moved from God Himself. Think back through the challenges you faced this week. How have your thoughts about those issues been affected by unbiblical views in the world? How might you have used your own reasoning to find a solution? Following Christ in a spiritually dark world requires constant communication with God – through both prayer and Scripture. Which version of yourself is being developed?

July 14, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 7

What does it say?
Paul addressed principles related to marriage and singleness.

What does it mean?
The Corinthians had sent Paul a question: “Is it better to be married or not to be married?” Paul answered that some have the gift to stay single while others have the gift of marriage; either way, it’s a blessing from God. Since Paul was not married, he was able to give every aspect of his being to serve the Lord without distraction. However, those with the gift of marriage should honor that relationship in order to avoid sexual temptation. Each Christian should seek God’s purpose for his life, as guided by the Holy Spirit.

How should I respond?
God’s principles for both marriage and singleness have been rejected by our society. People have rearranged God’s ideal in an effort to find happiness through relationships. To which group of people in this passage do you belong? What specific instructions do you need to follow in order to live by God’s standards for marriage, divorce, remarriage, or remaining single? If today is particularly difficult, ask God for strength and guidance. He has a life of purpose designed just for you!

July 12, 2020

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Read – Judges 20

What does it say?
The death of the Levite’s concubine led to a three-day war between Israel and the Benjamites. God eventually gave victory to Israel, completely destroying Gibeah.

What does it mean?
The enraged men of Israel marched off to take out their vengeance on the Benjamites but didn’t ask for the Lord’s guidance until armies were mobilized for civil war. By this point in Israel’s history, people did whatever seemed right without consulting God. They had neglected to offer sacrifices that prompted daily repentance and worship of the Lord. At the root of the problem were willful, rebellious hearts that refused to bow to His authority. They didn’t think to pray, fast, or sacrifice to the Lord until they were in dire need.

How should I respond?
Living by our own wits will always result in a loss of some kind – either physical or spiritual. Still, how often do we fail to seek God’s direction until we’re backed into a corner? In a time of desperation, you may quickly attempt to catch up on asking the Lord’s forgiveness or upping your church attendance. While those things are good, examine the condition of your heart that put you in such a precarious position to start with. How would God describe your attitude toward Him today? Rebellious or obedient? Willful or submissive? The Lord is ready to offer daily comfort and guidance, but we must first recognize His sovereign right to be worshiped and obeyed.

July 13, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 6

What does it say?
Paul dealt with Christians who were taking fellow believers to court before pagan judges to settle petty matters. Paul also warned them to control their bodies in all areas.

What does it mean?
The Corinthians didn’t connect the salvation of their souls with their daily conduct. Followers of Christ should be capable of settling disputes in a godly way, without involving the judgment of people who don’t view life from a biblical perspective. Likewise, Christians shouldn’t be slaves to any power, not even their own bodies. They are to “flee sexual immorality.” Believers should live morally disciplined lives because their bodies have been purchased with the blood of Christ and are the temple of the Holy Spirit who gives power to overcome temptation.

How should I respond?
In what area do you lack self-control? You have freedom in Christ, but not all things are good for you. As a believer, your body is not your own – you are a member of Christ. From what do you need to flee? Have your entertainment choices this week honored or dishonored Jesus Christ? There should be a marked difference between your moral standards and those of people outside of Christ. How does knowing your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit affect the choices you’ll make today? Commit right now to honor God with everything you do.

July 11, 2020

,

Read – Judges 19

What does it say?
After the wicked men of Gibeah abused and killed a runaway concubine, her husband sent pieces of her body to every area of Israel.

What does it mean?
The shocking events throughout this account show the degradation that takes place when there is no moral standard or central authority to hold people accountable. God seems completely absent from the entire scenario. No one called on Him; neither did He speak or act. Without actively seeking God, His chosen people were subject to the whim of their lusts, demonstrating human depravity at its worst. Normal behavior for the children of God had become as vile and corrupt as Sodom within a generation or two of Joshua. The Levite’s actions upon returning home started a chain of events that continue to unfold in the remaining chapters of Judges.

How should I respond?
Reading this passage would make most feel sick to their stomachs. Yet, our society embraces the same rejection of God that led to such depravity and devaluing of human life. Without recognition of God’s laws to guide thoughts and mold the conscience, priorities become twisted. What have you allowed to mold your conscience? Do you recognize God’s Word as the final authority for your life? The moral and ethical values in Scripture are the keys to maintaining standards of decency, both in society and in the human heart. Will you determine to actively seek God each and every day?

July 12, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 5

What does it say?
Paul condemned the fact that immorality was being tolerated in the Corinthian church.

What does it mean?
Apathy toward sin is dangerous, both personally and as a church body. Church discipline is God’s judgment on a believer’s immoral behavior through a reprimand by his or her church. God will judge those outside of the church, but His followers are to hold one another accountable. The goal of church discipline should be used solely to restore the sinning believer to oneness with God and with other Christians, never to condemn or to use as a source of gossip. God hates the sin yet loves the sinner.

How should I respond?
Moral failure inside the church has become commonplace. Yet Scripture demands that we not become indifferent. God does not tolerate blatant sin and neither should His church. Do you have family members or friends close to you who are living a sinful lifestyle? If they aren’t a follower of Christ, use your influence to draw them to God. If they are a fellow-believer, will you lovingly confront them regarding their actions? Will you pray for God to put them in circumstances that will wake them up to the reality of their sin? Where do you need to put up guardrails against potential immorality? If you’re apathetic about sin, personally or corporately, you will find it spreading like cancer.

July 10, 2020

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Read – Judges 18

What does it say?
The Danites pushed their way north, taking Micah’s priest, ephod, and household idols.

What does it mean?
Throughout the book of Judges, we see God’s people acting on the basis of their own logic and reasoning; this passage is no exception. The Danites grew impatient to inherit the land allotted to their tribe and decided to look elsewhere. The spies sent from the tribe sought God’s blessing on their mission after it was well underway rather than at the outset. The young priest who confirmed their plan was isolated from God’s people and serving in a house of idolatry. Though it seemed successful, their mission contradicted the Lord’s plan and resulted in establishing a center of idolatry for generations to come.

How should I respond?
God always has a plan. But disaster results any time we act on our own rather than wait for Him to clear the path. Isolation from God’s Word and God’s people can cause you to think that your plan is reasonable. Friends and family may even confirm the direction you are heading. So, how do you know whether you are moving in the direction the Lord desires for you? First, stay connected with Him through daily prayer and Bible reading. Follow God’s clear instructions in Scripture. Then, seek advice from others who are doing the same. Finally, be patient. God will open the right doors at the right time. With what situation do you need to trust the Lord today? His plan will result in His blessing.

July 11, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 4

What does it say?
Those who have been given a trust should prove to be faithful. Paul urged the Corinthians to follow his example.

What does it mean?
A steward is a trusted servant appointed to handle the master’s business matters in his absence. His job is to be faithful to the master. Each believer is a steward of whatever spiritual knowledge he or she may have. Since all such wisdom comes from God, what is there to brag about? The Corinthians mistakenly thought comfort and popularity were the result of being spiritual. Paul reminded them that such pride causes division, but true wisdom looks only to Christ. He talked to them like a parent who encourages a child to act like him in order to avoid danger.

How should I respond?
What truth from Scripture has God revealed to you? As a custodian of that truth, you’re responsible to make it a reality in your own life and share it with others. But be careful that your knowledge of spiritual things doesn’t become a source of pride. When you recognize God as the giver of all wisdom, power, and wealth, you’ll give glory back to Him rather than accept praise for yourself. How has God warned you regarding pride and stewardship, as Paul warned the Corinthians? God disciplines His children as an act of love. He doesn’t allow any sin to go unchecked.

July 9, 2020

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Read – Judges 17

What does it say?
Micah admitted he stole his mother’s silver. She blessed him and gave some of it to him to make an idol. Micah then hired a nomadic Levite to be his personal priest.

What does it mean?
This is a strange story in the middle of several stories of great heroism. Micah was not much of a hero, but he did have his moments of making the right choices. “Polytheism” is the belief that there are many gods – often including the God of the Bible as just one. Despite the fact that Micah chose to make an idol and to worship false gods, he also wished to have the blessings of the God of the Bible, so he hired a personal priest from the tribe of Levi. In the end, this was unacceptable to the one true God of the Bible, so Micah’s idols and his personal priest were stolen by raiders from the tribe next door.

How should I respond?
Some people see their pursuit of God much like a buffet restaurant. They pick and choose beliefs and practices from multiple religions, filling up on whatever looks good at the moment. However, the God of the Bible is the only true God, and He designed us to worship Him alone. As you read through the Bible and these My Time devotionals, set your primary focus on getting to know the one true God better. Jesus taught us to seek God and His righteousness first and to worship Him alone (Matt. 6:33). Where do you look for spiritual fulfillment? True satisfaction is found only by filling your heart and mind with God’s Word.

The Letters of John: Stand on the Truth

2022-07-10

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

1 John 4:1-6 (CSB) Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore, what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

1. Knowing truth makes all the difference

Verse 1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

  • John encouraged the church to “test” the messages being delivered to ensure they were of God
  • John’s use of “spirits” is not simply speaking of the Holy Spirit but also of demonic spirits that are at work as well
  • In Deuteronomy, Moses indicated that prophets were to be tested based on whether the statements come true or if they are pointing to another God. John is using this same language here.
  • The responsibility of finding truth cannot be delegated to someone else

 

2. Jesus is the source of truth

Vss 2-3 This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.

  • Finding truth requires finding Christ
  • Anything that leads you away from Him and His Word is not truth

 

3. The truth gives us power

Verse 4 You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

  • Demonic power is real in this present age
  • But we need not fear their attacks if we are leaning on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within

Eph. 6:10-12 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.

 

4. The truth reveals truth

Vss 5-6 They are from the world. Therefore, what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

  • The more time we spend soaking in truth, we will find more truth
  • This is not a test where are only looking for a “passing grade”

July 10, 2022

,

Read – Psalms 72

What does it say?
The King will judge the people, defend the afflicted, rule the nations, deliver the needy, and rescue the oppressed. His name will endure, and He will bless all nations.

What does it mean?
It’s thought that David wrote this psalm as a prayer for Solomon, Israel’s future king. He asked God to bless his son and the kingdom itself with divine righteousness and justice. The characteristics in David’s prayer describe a compassionate ruler who brings security and prosperity to the kingdom, even to the whole earth. Such a rule and such a kingdom would honor the Lord and result in praise to God. As wise and wealthy as Solomon became, he could never live up to the ideal leader described in his father’s prayer. Only David’s greater Son, Jesus, will fulfill this prophecy of God’s appointed just and righteous King. During Jesus’ first coming, He cared for the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. He will return to powerfully deliver His followers and to rule the earth, causing all people in every nation to praise His glorious name.

How should I respond?
How have you experienced the compassion of Christ? Has He shown you mercy when you were in need or defended you when you were weak? Jesus comes to us with kindness and compassion, able to rescue and to give support. If we’ve received His mercy, then we should also show it. Few people will turn away an act of kindness. How can you help someone this week? What we can do, we ought to do. Today, rest in the justice of our King, and share His mercy and compassion with someone else.

July 8, 2020

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Read – Judges 16

What does it say?
Samson told Delilah that his long hair was the secret of his strength. She betrayed him to the Philistines, but God answered Samson’s prayer for one final act of strength.

What does it mean?
Samson made a series of poor decisions because he was focused on pleasing himself rather than God. He was unfaithful to his Nazirite vow and disregarded the unique plan the Lord had for his life. After hitting bottom, Samson finally came to his senses and realized that God really did know best. The sincerity of Samson’s prayer caused the Spirit of the Lord to return to him. When the building caved in, thousands of Philistines were killed, as was Samson. Sadly, Samson missed out on many opportunities to serve the Lord, but God used his final act of faith for a great victory (Hebrews 11:32).

How should I respond?
You’ve probably witnessed a toddler throw a tantrum when he didn’t get what he wanted. Most of us still struggle with a yearning to please ourselves. Problems arise, however, if we don’t learn how to reign in desires that go against God’s will. Any longing that is stronger than your desire to follow God has the power to devastate your life. What are you pursuing more than God right now? Some desires may reveal a moral weakness or a willingness to toy with sin. What would your life look like a year from now if you chose to pursue God over everything else? What do you have to lose?

July 9, 2022

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Read – Psalms 70, 71

What does it say?
David cried out to God to vindicate and protect him in his old age.

What does it mean?
Throughout David’s prayer in this passage is the underlying expectation that God would answer and deliver him from his troubles. David’s confidence that God would act justly to protect and rescue him came from a lifetime of walking with God. He learned to trust the Lord in his youth, experienced God’s faithfulness through the years, and proclaimed God as his defender in old age. God’s character had proven trustworthy time and time again. David relied on God for deliverance, certain that He would not fail.

How should I respond?
You’ve probably lived long enough to know that life is made up of triumphs and troubles. If you’ve followed Jesus from a young age, think of times when He’s come to your aid. If you’ve come to Him later in life, you may just now be learning that God is dependable in any and all circumstances. No matter what stage of life you’re currently in, developing a pattern of dependence on God now will give you confidence in His character when things don’t go as you planned. What are you facing today – trouble or triumph? God is faithful and you can depend on Him. Will you trust your faithful heavenly Father with today’s trouble?

July 7, 2020

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Read – Judges 15

What does it say?
The Philistines sought revenge after Samson burned their crops. In return, Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.

What does it mean?
Samson’s actions can seem retaliatory and reckless, but he was God’s agent to confront the Philistines. Samson didn’t fear them the way his countrymen did. He allowed himself to be handed over to the Philistines and single-handedly killed one thousand of them in battle. A thousand men may sound like poetic exaggeration, but don’t forget who accomplished the feat. Verse 14 says that the Spirit of the Lord “rushed upon him” enabling him to put a significant dent in the Philistine army. Again and again in Judges, the Spirit of the Lord caused people to do things beyond normal human capacity.

How should I respond?
Believers often feel pressure to be a super-Christian – handling home, work, and church life with spiritual perfection. But remember, God’s grace is our resource – He is patient with us and will work in us as we follow Him. As a believer, it is the Holy Spirit who works in you, enabling you to accomplish marvelous things as you submit to Him. If you find yourself feeling pressure to take on too much, ask God to guide, equip, and give you the courage to obey.

July 8, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 3

What does it say?
Paul addressed the worldly nature of the Corinthian church. Every believer’s service for Christ will be tested one day.

What does it mean?
The Corinthian church lacked godly wisdom, which kept them spiritually immature and worldly. They were still baby Christians and could handle only the basic teachings of faith. Paul warned them by painting a word picture of Christ as a foundation, laid at salvation. From that point the believer’s life is like a building continually under construction. The quality of the materials used to build will be tested when Jesus judges the lifework of each Christian. If “work” is to stand the test and receive reward, it must be done in the wisdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How should I respond?
What have you done this week that will last for eternity? Every work done in your home, school, church, and community is either temporal or eternal. Things done with the wrong motivation or in your own strength won’t last. The key is to invest in people, not things. Put your structure to the test now by asking: Is Christ my foundation? Do I allow the Holy Spirit to initiate and enable my thoughts and actions? What work am I doing in my own strength and wisdom? God is not as concerned with how much you build as with what sort you build.

July 6, 2020

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Read – Judges 14

What does it say?
Samson found a wife from among the Philistines. Although he trusted her, she betrayed him; in his anger, he slaughtered thirty Philistines and lost his wife.

What does it mean?
Samson’s parents were told by God to raise Samson in the strictest type of Judaism—according to the rules of the Nazirite vow. Samson was to remain pure and be used by God to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. Instead, in this chapter we see Samson marrying a Philistine, eating honey out of a dead lion’s carcass, and gambling with thirty Philistines over a riddle. Samson’s parents must have felt like failures, and Samson must have seemed like the most unlikely of men to lead Israel out of their captivity to the Philistines. However, God used Samson. Nothing stopped God’s plan.

How should I respond?
Have you ever looked at your life, the life of a child, or the life of a friend and thought, “I (or that person) blew it”? Samson’s story reminds us that no matter how much we stray from God’s plan for our lives, no matter how dark things might seem to be, He can always use us. The Lord loves us and wants to fit us into His plan for our lives and the lives of those around us. There is no such thing as a lost cause. Talk to God honestly about your shortcomings. Ask Him to forgive you and show you how you can be used in His plan. Then, move forward and leave the mistakes of the past there, in the past.

July 7, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 2

What does it say?
Paul’s preaching was a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, not persuasive words. This same Spirit is the source of godly wisdom.

What does it mean?
Paul understood that the Corinthians’ faith was a result of God’s power, not his ability to sway them by his preaching. He did not rely on his own wisdom but depended completely on the Holy Spirit to draw them to the message of Christ. Unbelievers can’t understand spiritual truth because they are spiritually blind. The message of Christ seems like foolishness to them. Spiritual wisdom has to come from the Holy Spirit. Believers have God’s Spirit within them, giving understanding and teaching spiritual truths.

How should I respond?
You are the only person who understands exactly what you are thinking and the motives for what you do. It’s the same with God. “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Do you find the Bible difficult to understand? Are you unsure that the God of Scripture is real? Pray for understanding as you open God’s Word. He always reveals Himself to those who seek Him. Are you trying to win someone to Christ through your own persuasive words? Will you, like Paul, rely on the Holy Spirit as you give the gospel? Others will be drawn to Christ as they see His power at work within you.

July 5, 2020

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Read – Judges 13

What does it say?
An angel of the Lord told Manoah’s wife she would have a son who would be a Nazarite. Samson’s parents were given special instructions about his upbringing.

What does it mean?
Samson was separated to the Lord as a Nazarite from the time of his conception. Manoah believed his wife’s report about the angel’s message but wanted to know more. He wasn’t asking God for an easier task or trying to make excuses. Manoah was already determined to obey even though the task ahead was daunting. He asked to hear from the angel of the Lord personally because he was excited to obey and wanted to do it right.

How should I respond?
There is one basic decision in life that makes every other decision easier – “I will gladly obey whatever God asks me to do.” It’s just a matter of working out the details once you’ve made that determination. What is your first response when the Lord prompts you to do something you’ve never done before? Do you ask for an easier task? Some responsibilities can be intimidating if approached from a human standpoint. But God will never leave you without everything you need to complete the job. Begin by expressing your desire to obey; then ask Him to tell you more!

July 6, 2022

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Read – 1 Corinthians 1

What does it say?
Paul thanked God for the Corinthians’ spiritual gifts. He then addressed disunity in the church and stressed the power of the message of the cross.

What does it mean?
Despite being blessed with spiritual knowledge and spiritual gifts, Corinthian church members were quarreling. The issue at hand wasn’t one of doctrine but of preference. Factions were elevating one leader over another. The disunity was only a symptom of a much deeper problem: pride in human wisdom and ability to draw people to Christ. Paul urged them to be of one mind, reminding them that the message of salvation through Christ alone was far more important than the messenger. The power and wisdom of God are revealed in Jesus. Outside of Him there is no reason for anyone to boast.

How should I respond?
If you grew up with at least one sibling, you’ve probably been in a family squabble. As believers, we’re not just in the family of God, we are the body of Christ. When Christians quarrel, it’s like a body attacking itself; it’s unnatural. Human wisdom and pride are at the forefront of disunity in the church. God’s wisdom always points to one person, Jesus. Are you currently in a dispute with another Christian? How is it distracting from the mission and message of Christ? Sincerely ask God in what way you may have elevated your wisdom over His. Lay down your pride and glory in the Lord alone.

July 4, 2020

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Read – Judges 11:29-12:15

What does it say?
Jephthah made a vow to God: if God gave him victory over the Ammonites, he would sacrifice whatever greeted him first when he returned home from the battle.

What does it mean?
Faced with the possibility of war with Ammon, Israel begged God for a leader. Jephthah agreed after making certain that God was in the plan. Jephthah, listed in the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith,” evidenced true faith in the living God as one of Israel’s judges. But his human nature caused him to make a rash vow. Theologians differ in their interpretations of how he fulfilled his vow: Did he sacrifice his daughter to God’s service, or did he sacrifice her as a burnt offering on the altar? One thing is certain – Jephthah carried out his vow in some way. Whatever the outcome, this account addresses the serious nature of making a vow.

How should I respond?
In moments of extreme stress, we have a tendency to bargain with God. When was the last time you told God that if He would answer a prayer in a certain way, you would offer something in return? This type of foxhole negotiation usually happens when we’re threatened with a dire situation. Perhaps you’re facing a life-threatening illness, a financial crisis, or a great personal loss. You may be willing to promise God anything to solve the issue. Ask yourself, “If God chooses not do this, will I still love and follow Him?” Rather than rashly bargaining with God, determine to submit your will to His.

July 5, 2022

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Read – Romans 16

What does it say?
Paul greeted specific friends, gave a warning about divisive people, and concluded with a doxology praising God.

What does it mean?
Thirty-three people are mentioned by name in the last chapter of Romans. Paul, like Jesus, wasn’t too busy or important to notice individuals. It’s easy to quickly pass over a list of names in Scripture, but who they are teaches an important lesson. The early church was filled with all kinds of people: Jews, Greeks, city officials, slaves, the rich, and the poor. It wasn’t social status or race that caused division. Paul warned the church to avoid those who didn’t believe correct doctrine (Romans 1-11) because their words were deceptive, and they served their own desires rather than God’s.

How should I respond?
There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people. Yet God brings people together in local churches for His purpose. Do you have a genuine love for believers who are socially or racially different from you? Each person in your Christian community is important and should be valued. However, there will always be people who cause division in the church. Will you commit to avoid debates with them and focus on the vision cast by your pastor and church leaders? When Jesus is the common denominator, differences between people fade, and God’s purpose is accomplished.

July 3, 2020

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Read – Judges 10-11:28

What does it say?
After 45 years of godly judges and peace, Israel once again turned to the worship of idols. They were taken into slavery as the result of turning away from God.

What does it mean?
Israel’s obedience to God’s laws was inconsistent. Gradually, the pagan idol worship of neighboring nations crept into their lifestyle. God judged their sin by allowing oppression and bondage at the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites. Unlike other times, their cries for deliverance reflected genuine repentance, which touched God’s heart. He used an outcast, Jephthah, and his notorious band of men to free them. Amazingly, the elders of Israel sought out this man of low social status to lead them.

How should I respond?
Do you go through cycles of faithfully serving God followed by periods of inconsistency? The Lord will always discipline His children for disobedience. Take a quick inventory of your attitudes and actions. How are you allowing yourself to be influenced by the world? In what area are you inconsistent in your obedience to God? Choose to confess those things to Him right now with genuine repentance. What lifestyle changes would help you stay on course spiritually? God says He has no use for a “lukewarm” Christian (Revelation 3:16). Does that describe you? He loves you passionately. Will your life reflect the same commitment to Him at the end of each day?

July 4, 2022

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Read – Romans 15

What does it say?
Scripture was written to teach endurance and encourage hope. The promises given to the patriarchs confirmed that Gentiles would also believe in the Lord through faith.

What does it mean?
Throughout this passage Paul discussed the purpose and blessings of studying the Scriptures. He found comfort by reading how God had helped people of faith in the past. The reader is like a cup filled with joy, peace, hope, goodness, and knowledge. The purpose of these blessings is to teach and encourage one another in the power of the Holy Spirit. Since God had originally given the Scriptures to the Jews, the Gentiles had a duty to minister to the Jewish people in material ways in response to the spiritual blessings they had received from Israel.

How should I respond?
Believers have a responsibility to help those who provide spiritual teaching. What comfort or blessing have you received from studying the Bible? Who is benefiting from what you’ve learned in Scripture this week? God wants to fill you to overflowing so you can splash out onto others. Your church is filled with opportunities to teach children, mentor new Christians, or take part in a group. Whom has God used to teach and grow you spiritually? Look for a way to intentionally bless them this week. As a believer, you have a responsibility to be part of God’s work. Who is in your splash zone?

July 2, 2020

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Read – Judges 9:22-57

What does it say?
After three years, the men of Shechem had grown to hate Abimelech, and a battle resulted in his death.

What does it mean?
The men of Shechem eventually saw Abimelech for the abominable man he was, but his power made getting rid of him difficult. However, God had not forgotten the atrocities he had brought on his brothers. The Lord had warned the city of Shechem through Jotham and had given them three years of grace. Now it was time for God to intervene, bringing judgment upon the sinful leader and the sinful city. Abimelech and the people of Shechem were held accountable for their actions. Abimelech was killed in battle but not before causing the death of many of his own subjects.

How should I respond?
Many countries today are ruled by harsh men who neglect the well-being of their citizens and, in some cases, even harm them. What accounts from the news immediately come to your thoughts? How should followers of Christ respond to that kind of evil in the world? First, pray for people whose leaders are cruel and uncaring. Put visual reminders on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Then, look for opportunities to support mission trips and relief efforts to those countries. Your actions might be the answer to their prayers.

The Letters of John: Love Matters

2022-07-03

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

Last week, we talked about making a change in our lives by seeking purity and avoiding sin. Today, John takes to another level of change as he tells us to love.

1 John 3:11-24 (CSB) For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love remains in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.

19 This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight. 23 Now this is his command: that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps his commands remains in him, and he in him. And the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he has given us.

 

1. Love is not a choice

Vs 11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another

  • A reminder from 1 John 2:7 – “this is not a new command but an old one…”
  • John reminds the reader that love is not an option or a choice, but a command from God
  • Matthew 22 clearly instructs us on God’s command to love

 

Vs 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love remains in death

  • Our love for others is a clear marker of our faith

 

2. Jealousy is the enemy to love

Vss 12-13 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

  • Cain’s actions were a result of his hatred of his brother doing the “right thing”
  • The world will hate us too if we are seeking to following God’s plan for our lives
  • Why? Because the world doesn’t know HIM

Vs 15 Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him

 

3. Love needs to be connected to action

Vss  17-18 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.

  • This is a reminder not to be like those who talk about love but don’t actually love
  • The church was full of individuals claimed piety and love for others but were only focused on self
  • We must act on our love
  • Warren Wiersbe says, “To love “in word” means simply to talk about a need, but to love “in deed” means to do something about meeting it. You may think, because you have discussed a need, or even prayed about it, that you have done your duty, but love involves more than words—it calls for sacrificial deeds.”[1]

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 512.

4. Love can only come through Christ

Vss 23- 24 Now this is his command: that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps his commands remains in him, and he in him. And the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he has given us.

  • This is a reminder of Jesus’ command from Matthew 22
  • Verse 24 calls us to action and obedience
  • Verse 24 also gives us a “check” in our spirit which flows from the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives
  • This is a precursor to chapter 4
  • David Walls states, “True Christian experience is revealed not just in our beliefs but in our behavior.”[1]

[1] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 199.

July 3, 2022

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Read – Psalms 69

What does it say?
David asked God to rescue him from his enemies’ constant attacks and insults.

What does it mean?
It’s not certain when David wrote this psalm, but his distress was so great at the time that he felt as if he were drowning. Faced with enemies who hated him for no apparent reason, David turned to God for help. His prayer describes the pain he felt in great detail, but as he called on God to vindicate and defend him, an interesting thing happened – he found assurance that God was in control. That realization flooded him with humility in the presence of God’s authority. At that point David’s painful prayer turned to a song of praise. His help would come from the Lord, who keeps His promises.

How should I respond?
Many of us turn our attention to God in life’s darkest moments. We pray in great detail about our problems, telling God exactly what we want Him to do. Too often, though, we rise from our prayer before we reach the place of humility that David did in today’s passage. Praying with humility requires acknowledging that God knows how to handle our circumstances better than we do. We have to relinquish control. God is already completely aware of your situation before you pray; yet when you assume a humble position before the Lord, something powerful happens – personal pain can become a reason to praise God, who alone can vindicate and comfort you. Will you humbly acknowledge God’s authority over your life and trust Him, even in the most difficult circumstances?

July 1, 2020

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Read – Judges 9:1-21

What does it say?
After the death of Jerubbaal (Gideon), Abimelech persuaded the people of Shechem to anoint him as king. He then killed his 70 brothers; only Jotham survived.

What does it mean?
Greed, pride and a craving for control led Abimelech to manipulate the idol-worshiping men of Shechem to anoint him king. Abimelech’s lust for power jaded his thinking to the point that the lives of his own family meant nothing to him. Jotham, the only brother to escape, spoke to Shechem through a parable that rebuked the decision the leaders had made. If they had acted with integrity in appointing Abimelech and with fairness toward his brothers, then they would rejoice. However, if their actions were not based on God’s will, Abimelech’s reign would be a curse that would bring destruction on them all.

How should I respond?
It’s easy to be persuaded to turn from God’s will when we’re not connecting with Him daily. Without God’s wisdom, discernment and judgment can become clouded with the world’s thinking. In what area of your life are you initiating action without first going to the Lord? No detail is too small to bring to God for His guidance. Scripture and prayer are the keys that open the door to wisdom in all our actions. Determine to worship God alone. Then, ask Him to help you recognize influences that pull you off course. Examine today’s decisions in light of this passage. Will your choices bring rejoicing or regret?

July 2, 2022

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Read – Psalms 68

What does it say?
The psalmist exalted God as a mighty conqueror who protected and delivered His people in battle, leading them to victory over their enemies. He is worthy of praise.

What does it mean?
This psalm celebrates God’s faithfulness to His people and examines His past victories over Israel’s enemies. The prophetic nature of this chapter also looks forward to the Millennium when Christ will exhibit His authority over the entire world. Jesus, who alone is worthy of worship, will be acknowledged as King for providing deliverance and salvation to His people. A victorious procession of believers will worship the Lord in awe and with continual praise and obedience.

How should I respond?
Life sometimes feels like a war in which our circumstances and people seem to battle against us. Remember, even though this present world does not acknowledge Christ as King, God is in control. As His people, we should worship Him for who He is and for His continuing authority in all situations. When life takes a downward spiral, turn to the King who rules over all circumstances. He is not caught off balance. The battles you’ll face today are opportunities for God to show His authority. Choose to focus on God and His provision. Let His abilities and His power give you confidence and lead you to victorious worship.

June 30, 2020

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Read – Judges 8:22-35

What does it say?
After refusing to be king, Gideon made a golden ephod from the Midianite plunder and set it up in his hometown. The Israelites there worshiped it as an idol.

What does it mean?
Even though Gideon refused the request to rule over Israel, he proceeded to live as if he were a king. We can’t be sure why Gideon decided to make the ephod from the Midianite gold and display it in his hometown. Whether it was to remember God’s deliverance or to exalt his own victory, the end result was the same. The ephod became a spiritual pitfall for Gideon, his family, and the children of Israel. God had allowed the Midianite oppression because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him. But after He delivered them, the Israelites quickly fell into the same sin and started worshiping idols again.

How should I respond?
Any success we have ultimately comes from the Lord. But when we don’t give God all of the credit for what He allows us to accomplish, we create an obstacle, not only for ourselves but for others as well. Ask yourself, “How might I be taking the glory for things God has done in my life?” How can you encourage others to praise and acknowledge God for what He has helped you to accomplish? Determine today to humble yourself before the Lord and look for an opportunity to give Him the glory He so rightly deserves.

July 1, 2022

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Read – Romans 14

What does it say?
Christians are to live for the Lord, rather than seeking to please themselves.

What does it mean?
Is food spiritual? Was it wrong to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols? This was just one issue causing a dispute among Christians in the early church. Paul didn’t try to solve the problems but addressed the attitudes resulting from the disagreements. Believers will answer to God for their behavior and must act according to their personal convictions when there isn’t a clear mandate from God. Out of love for one another, they should not take part in anything that could cause another Christian to stumble in their faith. Each should serve God with a clear conscience.

How should I respond?
Twenty-first century Christians still disagree over gray areas like social drinking, forms of entertainment, and expressions of worship. God cares about how we respond to believers who hold different convictions than we do. Have you judged another Christian regarding a disputable issue? Are you taking part in something that could cause someone new or weak in his or her faith to “stumble”? Everything you do has a ripple effect. Christian liberty should never harm another follower of Christ. What behavior or attitude do you need to change as a result of reading this passage?

June 29, 2020

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Read – Judges 8:1-21

What does it say?
Gideon pursued the last of the Midianite kings, inflicting vengeance on the leaders of Succoth and Peniel.

What does it mean?
Gideon was transformed from a fearful wheat farmer to a fearless, diplomatic judge. Yet the events of this passage reveal a proud and vengeful side to Gideon’s character. God had mightily used Gideon and his band of 300 men, but pride and personal vengeance crept into his life. The leaders of Succoth and Peniel were, in a sense, allying themselves with the enemy when they refused to give aid. However, God didn’t instruct Gideon as He had previously. Gideon chose to be ruthless against his own countrymen rather than respond with diplomacy. Under God’s direction, Gideon was a mighty warrior. Without it, he resorted to pride and brutality.

How should I respond?
Even God-given success can become a root of pride. It’s very easy for pride to sneak into our lives; if left unchecked, it can have disastrous effects. Have you ever let success go to your head? If God is using you, be quick to give Him all the credit and glory. Take a moment and give yourself a spiritual checkup. What changes in your attitudes or recent actions might indicate a character flaw? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any pride that might be hiding in your heart. Commit now to seek God’s leading rather than resorting to your own judgment.

June 30, 2022

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Read – Romans 13

What does it say?
Believers should submit to authority, love one another, and put aside indecent behavior.

What does it mean?
Yesterday, we said that right actions come from right beliefs. In today’s passage Paul points out how Christians should apply right beliefs in a few practical areas of life. Believers have a responsibility to be good citizens and neighbors who live to please Christ, not their old sinful nature. Even civil leaders who don’t agree with biblical standards should be shown respect because it is God who gives them authority to maintain order and punish evil. Paul urged believers to wake up and be intentional in their relationships, witness, and behavior since Christ’s return is closer than ever before.

How should I respond?
As a Christian, you have dual citizenship. Your beliefs as a citizen of Heaven should directly affect your interactions as a citizen on Earth. What should a Christian do when obeying an authority means disobeying God’s laws? For instance, under Hitler’s regime German believers were asked to turn in Jewish friends and neighbors. In our lifetime, strict family planning mandates mean that Chinese believers have faced similar issues as the midwives in Moses’ day (Ex. 1:22). Peter reminds us that man’s laws never take precedence over God’s laws (Acts 5:28-29). Pray for Christians throughout the world facing dire consequences for their beliefs; then ask God for the strength to do the same.

June 28, 2020

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Read – Judges 7

What does it say?
God instructed Gideon to select an army of only 300 Israelites to fight against the Midianites. Gideon and his army ambushed the Midianites in a nighttime battle.

What does it mean?
When Gideon’s troops were first gathered together, there were about 32,000 men. However, God whittled down the number to 300 because He did not want Israel to brag that they won this battle by their sheer size. God could have simply spoken a word, and the Midianites would have been defeated on the spot. But God chose to accomplish His plan through a small group of soldiers and sent over 99% of the army home before the battle began. It took tremendous faith to go into battle with only trumpets and pitchers. The result was one of the most amazing victories in all military history.

How should I respond?
How have you prepared yourself to do the work God has currently put in front of you? Our idea of preparation and God’s can be drastically different. At times it seems God has allowed the very things we need to accomplish the task to be dismantled. But God’s plans are accomplished in God’s way. What is your level of faith in God right now? Are you willing to trust Him with your current situation? Take a few minutes to talk to God about how He wants you to proceed. If your faith needs strengthening, ask Him to help you believe as the 300 did.

June 29, 2022

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Read – Romans 12

What does it say?
Paul urged his readers to be living sacrifices for the glory of God, transformed by a renewed mind and using their spiritual gift(s) to benefit the body of Christ.

What does it mean?
Chapter 12 marks a turning point in the book of Romans. “Therefore” takes into account everything Paul discussed in the first eleven chapters about how to believe. Now he will apply those truths and discuss how to live differently from the world. This requires a new way of thinking – transformed rather than conformed. A renewed mind sees self and others from God’s perspective, using his or her own gifts with humility and appreciating the gifts of others. The sincere believer is an authentic display of Christ to the world. Every situation is met with sincerity rather than hypocrisy.

How should I respond?
The book of Romans forces us to wade through very deep spiritual water. Understanding doctrine is important because you’ll never act right until you believe right. What is your reaction to the mercy and grace you’ve encountered in Romans 1-11? Paul thinks it’s logical to be utterly devoted to God and voluntarily surrender all that you are. Are you humbly offering God your body, your mind, and your gifts? Where are you letting the world mold your thinking and affect your behavior? Transformation starts from the inside and results in God’s “good and acceptable and perfect will.”

June 27, 2020

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Read – Judges 6

What does it say?
God spoke to Gideon through an angel. Gideon had been chosen to lead an army against the Midianites, who had been oppressing Israel for seven years.

What does it mean?
Gideon was the youngest child in his family, and his family was the least important in their tribe. It made no sense to Gideon that he, of all people, would be chosen by God to deliver Israel from the Midianites. However, God sometimes chooses the underdog to prove a point: it is God’s power, not the person’s, that defeats enemies. Gideon wanted to make absolutely sure that this message was actually coming from God, so he asked for a few signs, which God provided. So Gideon prepared for battle by first destroying an idol’s altar among his people.

How should I respond?
It’s intimidating to approach a task for which you feel under qualified. Whether it’s at work, home or in ministry, it’s important to know that our direction is coming from the Lord. So, how can you be certain God is calling you to accomplish something big for Him? Here are three answers. First, pray. Go straight to the Source, and ask God to help you learn to hear His calling. Second, keep reading the Bible. You will see patterns develop through which God often calls people to action. Third, ask people who know you and know God what they think about God’s calling in your life. They may see strengths where you have insecurities. Take the first step – God will take it with you!

June 28, 2022

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Read – Romans 11

What does it say?
God graciously preserved a remnant in Israel for future restoration while grafting Gentiles into His vine.

What does it mean?
Chapters 9-11 detail Israel’s rebellion against God and rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Chapter 10 ended by reiterating that God continues to reach out to Israel, even though they had been “a disobedient and contrary people.” God, in His mercy, will fulfill His promise to Israel as a nation and “all Israel will be saved.” This doesn’t mean that all Jews throughout history will have a second chance but that the Jewish nation will largely turn to Christ upon His return. Salvation, whether to the Jew or Gentile, is always a result of God’s goodness, mercy, and grace.

How should I respond?
Strong character can seldom be detected when everything is going according to plan. When people act contrary to your agenda, your character is put to the test. Who has disappointed you recently? Have you been betrayed or rejected as God was in today’s passage? Our sinful human nature often causes us to lash out and withdraw from the relationship. God has not only given you a different example, He’s given you the Holy Spirit who can divinely respond through you in those moments. What character traits of God do you see in Romans 11? Which one(s) will you seek to display in your life today?

June 26, 2020

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Read – Judges 5

What does it say?
Following their defeat of the armies of Sisera, Deborah and Barak sang a song to commemorate their victory, give glory to God, and call out those who did not fight.

What does it mean?
Amidst the several cycles of disobedience, slavery, cries of repentance, deliverance, and peace, Deborah and Barak suddenly break into song. This military anthem contains further details of Israel’s bravery and apathy, God’s provision, and Israel’s ultimate victory through the bravery of Jael, a lady living in a tent. This part of the book of Judges might remind us of a musical—the kind in which an event is punctuated with a song. The song does tell a story, but it also tells us how the story made Deborah and Barak feel. Israel commonly put their history, their worries, and their praise to music.

How should I respond?
It’s been said that music is the universal language. It has the power to move us emotionally, especially when we identify with the message of the lyrics. God gave us a mind to comprehend the big events in life and a heart and voice to express our feelings about them in song. What songs about the Lord speak to your heart? Which worship song is particularly encouraging to you in your current circumstances? Follow Deborah’s example and sing your praise to God both in private and corporate worship. Whether recent events in your life have been happy or sad, expressing your dependence on the Lord through song can be both uplifting and healing.

June 27, 2022

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Read – Romans 10

What does it say?
Paul’s heartfelt desire was for the people of Israel to be saved. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

What does it mean?
Paul grieved over Israel’s unbelief and their attempts to earn salvation through good deeds. They were religious but not righteous. Pride caused a failure to believe, making them willfully ignorant. His concern led to prayer, and prayer led to action. Paul’s plan is simple and logical – they can’t believe what they haven’t heard, so people must be sent to give God’s message. The message: believe and confess Jesus as Lord, who alone can save people from sin and deserves their obedience. Paul could not imagine a sight more beautiful than the person who takes such good news to his people.

How should I respond?
Our society is obsessed with beautiful people. Rarely do we think of someone’s feet as beautiful, but that’s exactly what God says about those who have the right message rather than the right image. To whom is God sending you with the message of Jesus? It may be someone across the street or in another part of the world. You can’t control their response; your job is simply to deliver the message. God’s Word will accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 55:11). While it’s important to pray for unbelievers, there’s a time to get off your knees and onto your feet. Will you be one of God’s “beautiful” people today?

June 25, 2020

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Read – Judges 4

What does it say?
Deborah, a prophetess and the judge of Israel, called Barak to lead an army of 10,000 foot soldiers against Sisera, the Canaanite, with his massive army and 900 chariots.

What does it mean?
After Moses and Joshua – but before there were kings in Israel – judges heard and made decisions on disputes between Israelites. They also called up troops to overthrow the Canaanite rulers who were oppressing Israel. Deborah was specially equipped as a judge because she was also a prophetess, receiving messages straight from the Lord about His people. Her influence was so great that when she called Barak to raise an army and fight against the superior Canaanite army, he refused to go unless she went with him. Was Barak frightened? Sure he was! However, he did something wise in that moment. He asked for Deborah’s help.

How should I respond?
God sometimes calls us to serve Him in difficult circumstances. Will we experience fear? We sure will, but take comfort that the same God who granted Barak victory will also be your strength. Has God asked you to do something that seems overwhelming? In what area of your life do you need help? Start praying about who God may want to come alongside you. Then, trust God and approach that person. Asking for help from others isn’t a sign of weakness. Knowing when and whom to ask is evidence of wisdom.

The Letters of John: Make a Change!

2022-06-26

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

1 John 3:1-10 (CSB) See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed so that he might take away sins, and there is no sin in him. Everyone who remains in him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister.

1. Don’t be surprised by the lack of love

Vs 1 See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.

  • The world doesn’t love what we believe because the world doesn’t love Him
  • No recognition of the reality of Christ – (John 1:10-11)
  • Don’t be shocked the world is not “for us”

2. The best is yet to come

Vs 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is.

  • The reality of Heaven is a new body and a new mind in the likeness of Christ
  • We will know what we cannot know
  • This is the power and promise to overcome

3. So prepare for the best

Vss 3-6 And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed so that he might take away sins,, and there is no sin in him. Everyone who remains in him does not sin;, everyone who sins has not seen him or known him.

 

Vs 6 (NLT) Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

  • Verse 3 begins a difficult passage for many to understand and is often misinterpreted
  • Our status as a “saint” is not negated by the presence of sin, but our efforts should be to live without sin
  • David Walls says, “Until then, we battle—the regenerate inner self with the flesh. The “flesh” does not refer to the physical body. The body is neutral. Rather, the flesh is a spiritual gravitational pull to sin that we cannot escape until we receive a new body.”[1]

 

4. Even though Satan wants the worst

Vss 7-10 Little children, let no one deceive you. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister.

 

Vs 9 (NLT) Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.

 

  • This is the idea of habitual, unrepentant sin; living as if it doesn’t matter
  • Many Christians argue we have freedom/liberty to live how we want because we live under grace and mercy. This is a false idea borne out of the tradition of the Gnostics John writes to refute.
  • John MacArthur states, “The Christian is a single new person, a totally new creation, not a spiritual schizophrenic. It is the filthy coat of remaining humanness in which the new creation dwells that continues to hinder and contaminate his living. He is no longer the old man corrupted but is now the new man created in righteousness and holiness, awaiting full salvation (Rom. 13:11) when he dies and is given a new body.[1]

 

[1] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 193.

[1] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 193.

June 26, 2022

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Read – Psalms 66, 67

What does it say?
The psalmist called on Israel to praise God for their deliverance and salvation and thank Him for His mercy and provision.

What does it mean?
God is awe-inspiring in His power and protection. His power is revealed in creation and in His ability to deliver His people. His faithfulness was shown to Israel in their deliverance from Egypt and through His ongoing protection. God is not only a protector, but also a teacher. He allowed His people to be put in situations that tested their obedience and taught them to trust, purging Israel so that His glory would be shown through them. He deserves all the glory and praise. Let the whole earth praise the Lord!

How should I respond?
Sometimes we miss the lessons the Lord wants to teach us because we’re focused on the negative circumstances that we perceive as problems. Those same obstacles may be the instrument God uses to teach us about His authority and provision. How should we respond when tested? Obey Him and praise Him. Are you a good student? What lesson is God currently trying to teach you? Obey – then you’ll stand in awe of how He will work through you as He gives you opportunities to spread His fame by telling others about His faithfulness. Before you get negative today, remember that obstacles, while challenging, don’t have to be problems.

June 24, 2020

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Read – Judges 2:16-3:31

What does it say?
Israel went through cycles of disobedience, slavery, cries of repentance, deliverance, and peace. God’s deliverance came in the form of a judge who delivered Israel.

What does it mean?
Israel seemed to live out the now-commonly-quoted warning that “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” The same cycle of sin showed up time after time. When things were calm and peaceful in the land, Israel would drift away from their commitment to God and worship other gods instead. Rather than thanking and worshiping the God Who blessed them, they grew ungrateful and bored, seeking fulfillment in the false gods of their neighbors. God demonstrated His frustration with the Israelites, but also His mercy and patience.

How should I respond?
God is genuinely saddened and angry when His people sin. However, today’s passage teaches us that no matter how badly we mess up or how far we stray, our Father is waiting for us to return (Luke 15:11-24). What sin do you seem to repeat in a cycle? Are you trying to find fulfillment in something or someone other than the Lord? The first step to breaking the cycle is to get things right with God in prayer, accept His forgiveness, and forgive yourself. What guardrails do you need to establish to avoid falling back into the cycle? Learning from your own history will keep you from repeating it.