Protecting Our FutureGenesis 25:19-34Many people give little thought to the long-term consequences of their choices. As a result, they can sacrifice future blessings for the sake of present pleasures. But this is nothing new; we see it in the very first book of the Old Testament.Swayed by his immediate needs and desires, Esau failed to value the privilege of his birthright. In those days, the eldest son received a double portion of the inheritance from his father, along with leadership of the family. But in this particular situation, there was much more at stake—the birthright contained blessings of the covenant God had made with Abraham. Esau didn’t care enough about his spiritual heritage, so he thoughtlessly sold it for a meal.Being far removed from that particular transaction makes it easy to see the folly of Esau’s choice. But what about you? Are you sacrificing God’s spiritual blessings for short-term gain? Maybe you’re spending long hours working or playing but reserve little time to spend in God’s Word and prayer.You can protect your future by yielding to the Spirit’s control and pursuing what Scripture considers most valuable: knowing, loving, obeying, and serving God. This investment reaps long-term blessings that continue into eternity.
When you think of endurance, what comes to mind? We usually associate it with persistence through hardship, like the mindset of a marathon runner pushing through the pain to finish the race. Yesterday, we saw that Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to run with this kind of determination. The implication is that we are going to face hardships and suffering in the Christian life.
Our goal should be to remain faithful and obedient to Christ through every situation. That is possible because we know our suffering is temporary and we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. But in the meantime, we need the right attitude. Are we to grit our teeth, mutter, and complain all the way to heaven? Certainly not!
The writer of Hebrews commended the suffering Christians for their joyful attitude. They didn’t enjoy the pain and hardship, but knew that it was all part of God’s plan for their good and ultimately they’d have a great reward in heaven.
We, too, can endure hardship with joy in the Lord, who comforts and strengthens us through it and promises to bring us safely to glory.
Run With Endurance
Athletic contests were popular in New Testament times, so it makes sense that the writer of Hebrews likened the Christian life to a race. Following Christ isn’t a short sprint but a marathon with many obstacles, hardships, and unexpected turns.
To encourage us on the course we’re running, God has given us a “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). These are saints from the past who faithfully walked with Him through all the trials and challenges of life (Heb. 11:4-38). Their examples inspire us to trust the Lord and obey Him no matter how difficult and confusing the hurdles in our path may be.
We are also urged us to “rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). If we’re going to be sustained throughout the race, we must honestly examine our life for anything that might prevent us from knowing the Lord and following Him. It could be habitual sin, an idol, worldly distractions, or false teaching that we’ve accepted as true.
And, of course, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the ultimate example of faithful endurance: He suffered for us on the cross so that we could be with Him forever.
Evaluating Your FaithMark 11:20-24It’s a good idea to pause every now and then to evaluate our spiritual development. Although we will experience different phases of faith throughout life, our goal should be to continue growing. Which phase sounds like you?Hesitant faith is characterized by struggling to believe God: We hope He’ll answer our prayer, but we’re just not sure. Sometimes doubts creep in because we’re looking at the situation, not at the Lord and His Word. Or maybe our problem is that we just don’t know what God has said in the Bible, so we have no real anchor.Courageous faith involves stretching to believe the Lord more and more. Christians in this phase take steps to follow God and discover He is faithful to His Word.Perfect faith is characterized by resting in the Lord, with confidence in Him and a heart aligned with His will. We are thankful as we watch His promises become a reality. Though we hope to practice this kind of faith every day, we won’t truly perfect it in this lifetime.No matter which description best fits your faith today, the best way to grow is by regularly feeding on the Word of God. Cling tightly to His promises.
Growing Faith2 Thessalonians 1:1-4Faith isn’t a one-time event with the single purpose of ushering us into salvation. Sadly, some Christians never progress beyond this initial level of faith. But God wants our relationship with Him to continually grow.Willingness to trust the Lord affects every area of our life—how we feel, what we do, the way He blesses us. In some ways, it comes down to our focus: When you face difficulties or heartbreak, do you notice the impossibility of the circumstances, or do you see the greatness of our Father? Another way to ask the question is, Whose voice are you listening to?Our focus also affects our emotions. Those who choose to believe God experience peace and joy. But when we doubt, it’s easier for anxiety and fear to creep in. Then, instead of resting in Christ, we fuss and fume, trying to anticipate all possible outcomes and solve problems in our own strength.We need to realize that our faith is of utmost importance to God, and He takes joy in seeing it grow. He can move heaven and earth to act on our behalf and answer our prayers—and He delights in our choosing to believe that. By trusting Him, we will discover new excitement and adventure in life. We’ll also see that our Father is always faithful.
God’s Loving Outreach
The Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman is a wonderful example of His loving response to hurting individuals. Although this meeting may have appeared accidental, it was really a providential appointment with the Messiah.
As the woman approached the well, Jesus initiated conversation by asking for a drink of water. Since Jews and Samaritans didn’t fraternize with one another, His direct approach surprised her. But it opened the door for dialogue.
Throughout the exchange, Jesus wanted to help the woman recognize her greatest need so He could meet it: salvation. It seems she’d been looking in the wrong places for love and acceptance, but now Christ was offering her the living water of the Holy Spirit—the only thing that would quench her spiritual thirst.
Like the Samaritan woman, we can at times be so intent on getting our immediate needs met that we fail to see God’s hand reaching out in love, offering true satisfaction. The world makes all kinds of promises about love, acceptance, and self-worth, but they never last. Only Jesus can fill our empty souls for eternity. So when your well runs dry, look for Christ and let Him quench your thirst with His Spirit.
Becoming a Patient PersonActs 25Continuing our discussion on patience, we can learn a lot about the topic from the story of Paul’s trial. Instead of letting his accusers stir him up, the apostle patiently went through the legal process. He refrained from attacking the opposition or decrying the injustice of the charges. And eventually Paul’s peaceful manner won favor with the governor and earned him a hearing for the gospel (Acts 25:24-25).We need the Lord’s help to grow in patience like Paul. This will involve our …• Thoughts. We should try to shift our attention away from circumstances and onto our heavenly Father. His Spirit will help us gain the right perspective.• Emotions. When we notice negative feelings, it’s good to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to guide our reactions. Then we can request that He empower us to respond in a godly manner.• Speech. Pray for self-control over your tongue. A timely word can defuse a situation (Prov. 15:18).The Lord will answer our prayers and provide what we need, just as He did for Paul when the apostle faced Festus and King Agrippa. Despite the injustice of those situations, Paul remained unprovoked. Imagine what God will do through you as you grow in the virtue of patience.
Developing PatienceColossians 3:12-17On any given day, we may encounter frustrating people and situations, such as a mischievous child, uncooperative coworker, or slow commute. We might feel like lashing out, but God wants us to stay calm and be patient with everyone (1 Thess. 5:14). Scripture has a number of things to say about believers developing this important attribute.First, it is our calling. God urges us to be tolerant, kind, and bear each other’s burdens (Eph. 4:1-3). Second, the Lord has set an example for us: He demonstrated patience toward Peter’s actions, the crowd’s demands, and the leaders’ false accusations. We should aspire to such composure. And third, we should recognize how damaging impatience is. It can hurt others and close off dialogue. Responding calmly gives people room to confess wrongdoing, explain their attitude, and make changes.Patience is part of the spiritual fruit that increasingly develops as we’re conformed to Christ’s image (Gal. 5:22-23). When we rely on the Holy Spirit, He empowers us to wade through moments of waiting and provocation—without becoming agitated. A calm demeanor in times of delay or adversity can be a powerful witness to the transforming work of God.
Self-Inflicted Adversity Psalm 119:65-72The difficulties we face originate from one of three sources. Some are allowed by the Lord to develop our faith, others are the result of Satan’s attacks, and still others could be due to our own sinful choices.As you consider these three causes, which type is the hardest for you to bear? I think most of us would say the last one because we have nobody to blame but ourselves, and it seems as if no good could possibly result. Since Galatians 6:7 says we reap what we have sown, we see nothing ahead except a painful harvest.But this kind of thinking fails to take into account the Lord’s redemptive abilities. He can use our failures to teach us valuable lessons—to fear Him, hate evil, and walk in obedience. What we learn can also become our protection from sin in the future, so in the end even our own mistakes are not wasted.As painful as your situation may be, the heavenly Father deserves thanks for caring enough to discipline lovingly. Now it’s up to you. How will you respond to His warning? When we learn from experience, the scars of sin can lead us to restoration and a renewed intimacy with God.
The Value of Our AdversitiesJames 1:2-4Are you wasting your troubles? Anytime God allows trials in your life, He has a purpose for them. We often won’t know His specific aim at the time; nevertheless, we should squeeze out every possible ounce of spiritual growth instead of falling into despair and discouragement. With a shift in perspective, the trial that looks as if it might destroy you could become an instrument of blessing.The most natural response to adversity is to plead with the Lord to remove it. If that doesn’t work, we might be tempted to look for our own way out or blame whoever caused the problem. But no matter where affliction originates, by the time it reaches you, it’s been shaped according to the Father’s good purposes. The question is, Will you cooperate with Him or resist? When you let adversity do its work in you, it becomes an opportunity for growth.Although we can’t see all the specifics of God’s plan, we know His goal is to use our hardship for good. So we are wise to let it mature us in the meantime. Even though the experience is painful, rest in the Father’s comforting arms, and trust that it’s all for a greater purpose.
The Answer for DiscouragementPsalm 42:6-11Situations in life sometimes cause us to lose hope. Occasional discouragement is normal because it’s part of living in a fallen world. The more important issue is how we respond. As believers, it’s possible for us to experience joy and peace even when our expectations aren’t met.Following the example in today’s reading, begin by looking upward and telling the Lord that you are in despair. Ask Him to help you place your focus on Him instead of your circumstances. Recognize that it’s not just a situational problem but a spiritual issue as well. Get into God’s Word to discover what He wants to do in your life through the disappointment and pain. Notice how He used hardships in the lives of biblical characters like Joseph and David. Then remember His past faithfulness to you.You may hurt for a season, but you don’t have to be overwhelmed to the point of giving up. As a Christian, you can take refuge in your all-powerful, all-wise, loving heavenly Father. Recall how He has worked in previous times of discouragement, and rest assured that this situation will be another faithfulness story to add to your collection.
The Obstacle of DiscouragementPsalm 42:1-5We all have expectations, and if our hopes fail to materialize, we feel disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with this emotion as long as we don’t let it become all-consuming despair. In such a state of mind, we might find our circumstances dominate us, which can lead to sinful responses.For example, we may become angry at God because we think He has let us down. When that’s the case, we’re essentially saying we know better and the Lord should have worked the situation out according to our desires. Can you see the pride in such thinking? Certainly He doesn’t expect us to be happy about our adversity. But as difficult as it is, we need to humble ourselves under His sovereign hand and accept that He has jurisdiction over both our joys and our trials. This attitude becomes possible once we realize everything that happens is designed for our good so that we can become more like Christ.When life deals you a painful blow and your soul is in despair, turn your eyes away from your situation and place them on the Lord. Put your hope in Him, knowing that difficulties and suffering are temporary. Hopefully there will soon come a time when you again joyfully praise Him here on earth, as all His children will do eternally in heaven.
I Am the Good ShepherdWhen my boys were much younger, Carolyn and I took them to Israel. It was the trip of a lifetime for them and they still talk about it. Just this past week, our oldest was remembering when we got off the bus and some local shepherds put a lamb in his arms.The shepherds knew that everyone would want a picture of this little boy holding a lamb.At the time of Jesus, shepherds kept their flocks in two kinds of sheepfolds. In the villages, flocks were kept in stone-walled, gated sheep-pens. Out in the fields, shepherds often made makeshift enclosures of stones, tree trunks, and branches with the shepherd sleeping across a narrow opening in front. Twice Jesus says He’s the gate for the sheep (vs. 7,9). A gate or door symbolizes both protection and provision. The gate reminds us there’s an entrance and an exit. “Whoever enters through me will be saved” (vs. 9). The Good Shepherd leads His sheep out to “green pastures… beside quiet waters”. (Psalm 23:2)In the New Testament, Jesus compares himself to a shepherd, telling his people, the sheep, will follow Him because they know His voice. (John 10:4) Those same sheep will run from a stranger or thief. (v.5) We need to be like the sheep and the shepherd. We need to know the voice of the Shepherd through our relationship with Him. Verse 10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” There will always be those who will try to pull us away from Him. Unlike those false teachers, we can trust the voice of our shepherd to lead us to safety.Prayer – Heavenly Father, thank You for being my loving Shepherd. Help me to recognize and follow Your voice only. Amen.John 10:14 – I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.Author: Tommy Herndon
More Than a SaviorHebrews 1:1-4Who is this Jesus? It’s a question that has been asked by countless individuals for more than two millennia. And, to be sure, it is the most important question that can ever be asked and answered. After all, it’s how we begin our journey toward salvation.So it’s essential to answer that question by saying Jesus is indeed our Savior. But He is also more—Scripture refers to Him as “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). No one has ever looked upon the face of the Almighty. In the Old Testament, some people found themselves in His presence, but they were never able to look fully upon His glory. However, when the Son came down from heaven, veiled in human flesh, He bridged the gap between the Father’s perfect holiness and mankind’s sinful condition. That’s why Jesus could say, “The one who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).The way we come to know the Father is by knowing the Son, who is the only full expression and explanation of God. Everyone who through faith trusts Jesus as Savior receives forgiveness of sins and Christ’s imputed righteousness. What’s more, believers are given divine insight into God the Father as well.
An Example of ServicePhilippians 2:5-18When Jesus came to earth as the Jewish Messiah, He wasn’t what His nation expected. They were looking for a powerful king who’d liberate them from the Romans. While He could have banished the Roman presence from the region, that was not the mission His Father gave Him. Rather, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).Jesus left the glories of heaven and humbled Himself to take on the status of a bondservant—which was at the time a permanent, unpaid slave and the ultimate demonstration of servitude. The Son of God came into the world, willing to do whatever His Father commanded. And that included dying on a cross for undeserving sinners like you and me.A servant isn’t independent or self-centered but is instead focused on doing whatever his or her master says. That’s our calling as we follow in Christ’s footsteps of selfless service. Are you willing to accept this humble position? The culture may think you’re weak and foolish, but by serving others without grumbling, you prove yourself to be a child of God and a powerful light in a dark world.
Because He Came, We Must GoLuke 2:40-52It’s a growing trend among businesses and organizations to compose a mission statement in order to keep focused on what matters most. But the idea isn’t new—we can see that Jesus had a clear focus on the mission His Father gave Him. At the age of 12, He was able to identify His purpose by telling His parents that He had to be in His Father’s house (Luke 2:49).Do you have a clear understanding of what God’s mission is for you? The Great Commission’s global mandate is so vast that we sometimes lose sight of how to implement it locally. People are saved one at a time whether at home or abroad, and God uses ordinary Christians as His messengers of the gospel.We shouldn’t neglect the opportunities God provides in our own neighborhoods and workplaces. Ina D. Ogdon’s old hymn “Brighten the Corner Where You Are” reminds us of this truth:Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do;Do not wait to shed your light afar.To the many duties ever near you now be true.Brighten the corner where you are.Ella Fitzgerald singing this songhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNKJUlw89jk
A dear friend posted this yesterday, thank you Cathy Williamson!If you watch HGTV too long, you’ll become dissatisfied with your home.If you stay on social media too long, you’ll become dissatisfied with your life.If you watch the news too long, you’ll become dissatisfied with the world.Unplug.Pray.Read any book. Start with the Bible.Spend time with loved ones.Take a walk.Our minds are easily influenced, but we control what the influences are. Choose wisely.Put your priorities in the right place.J -JesusO -othersY -yourselfAnd you’ll find JOY!
Can People Get Away With Sin?Psalm 73Doesn’t it sometimes seem that certain people never face consequences for their sin? Perhaps you know folks whose ungodly choices have caused them great trouble and suffering, yet there are also those who are prosperous and apparently happy despite their sinful lifestyle. Like the writer of today’s psalm, have you wondered why it looks as if some people get away with wrongdoing? Why doesn’t God intervene?There are certain things we’ll never understand, because the Lord’s knowledge is higher than ours. But we do know God’s character—He is slow to anger, longsuffering, and patient. We also know He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Num. 14:18). The consequences for sin are rarely immediate or visible, but they will come—if not now, then in eternity. 1 Timothy 5:24 says, “The sins of some people are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.”The only way to be rescued from righteous divine judgment is to run to the Judge for refuge—something no criminal would ever do in a human court. God’s judgment for your sins has been poured out on the Savior, who took the punishment in your place. If you will by faith trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on your behalf, you can be declared “not guilty.”
Results of Yielding to Culture1 Corinthians 3:1-3There are many committed followers of Jesus Christ who are focused on pleasing God and growing in faith. But others who identify as Christians don’t concern themselves with spiritual matters at all and instead retain a carnal mindset. This can happen when people start compromising their convictions.When a believer loosens his grip on God’s Word, he may disobey a command or refuse to believe a certain truth. Or he may simply stop reading Scripture. Sooner or later, something in society will appeal to him, and as he fixates on it, his time and resources are consumed. Slowly this “new love” wins his affection away from the Lord.After a while, other aspects of the culture that once appeared detestable don’t seem so bad—the believer may dabble and eventually indulge in them with abandon. Inevitably, his witness will be undermined because neither his conduct nor his character is fitting for a man of faith.It’s important that believers resist giving themselves to things that can never bring lasting peace. If you have yielded to the world’s mindset in some area, repent and return to your first love—the God who saved you. Peace and fulfillment are the reward of those whose sole focus is to please the Lord.