As a child, my favorite week of the summer was the one I spent at a Christian youth camp. At the end of the week, I’d sit elbow-to-elbow with friends in front of an enormous bonfire. There, we would share what we had learned about God and the Bible and sing. One song I still remember focused on deciding to follow Jesus. The chorus contained an important phrase: “no turning back.”
When Elisha decided to follow the prophet Elijah, Elisha did something incredible that made it difficult, impossible really, for him to return to his prior occupation of farming. After going home and having a farewell banquet, Elisha “took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them” (1 Kings 19:21). Leaving his way of life, he burned up his plowing equipment. He roasted the freshly butchered meat over the blaze and fed everyone present. Then “(Elisha) set out to follow Elijah and became his servant” (v.21).
Giving ourselves to God, who deserves our devotion, often comes with a price. At times, it means making difficult decisions about relationships, finances, and living arrangements. However, nothing compares with what we gain when we continue on with Christ. Jesus said, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matt 16:25).
Jesus is looking for full time followers.
Taken from Our Daily Bread Daily Devotional 2017
“[Love] does not act unbecomingly” (1 Cor. 13:5).
Considerate behavior demonstrates godly love and adds credibility to your witness.
When I was a young child, I loved to slurp my soup. I didn’t see any harm in it even though my parents constantly objected. Then one evening I ate with someone who slurped his soup. He was having a great time but I didn’t enjoy my meal very much. Then I realized that proper table manners are one way of showing consideration for others. It says, “I care about you and don’t want to do anything that might disrupt your enjoyment of this meal.”
On a more serious note, I know a couple who got an annulment on the grounds that the husband was rude to his wife. She claimed that his incessant burping proved that he didn’t really love her. The judge ruled in her favor, stating that if the husband truly loved her, he would have been more considerate. That’s a strange story but true, and it illustrates the point that love is not rude.
“Unbecomingly” in 1 Corinthians 13:5 includes any behavior that violates acceptable biblical or social standards. We could paraphrase it, “Love is considerate of others.” That would have been in stark contrast to the inconsiderate behavior of the Corinthians—many of whom were overindulging at their love feasts and getting drunk on the Communion wine (1 Cor. 11:20-22). Some women were overstepping bounds by removing their veils and usurping the role of men in the church (1 Cor. 11:3-16; 14:34-35). Both men and women were corrupting the worship services by trying to outdo one another’s spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:26).
Undoubtedly the Corinthians justified their rude behavior—just as we often justify ours. But rudeness betrays a lack of love and is always detrimental to effective ministry. For example, I’ve seen Christians behave so rudely toward non-Christians who smoke that they destroyed any opportunity to tell them about Christ.
Be aware of how you treat others—whether believers or unbelievers. Even the smallest of courtesies can make a profound impression.
Taken from Drawing Near by John MacArthur
The Bible says that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Today we don’t speak much of this. Our images of God have tended to grow smaller and more comfortable. What does it mean to fear the Lord? We have no need to be afraid that God will do mean or destructive things. We do not need to be afraid that God’s love is not fully trustworthy. One of C. S. Lewis’s characters expresses fear at the prospect of meeting his Christfigure, the great lion Aslan, and wonders if he is quite safe. “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he’s not safe. But he’s good.” This fear involves reverence and awe, a healthy recognition of who God is. It also involves recognition of our fallenness. But worship reminds me that the day will come when our fallenness will be utterly healed. In that day we will fully realize the truth of the saying that “perfect love casts out fear.”
When we worship, we look forward to the day when fear will be as defeated and destroyed as sin, guilt, and death. Worship, therefore, in reminding us of this powerful God who is for us, becomes one of the great weapons against fear. Dallas Willard writes: “Holy delight and joy is the great antidote to despair and is a wellspring of genuine gratitude—the kind that starts at our toes and blasts off from our loins and diaphragm through the top of our head, flinging our arms and our eyes and our voice upward toward our good God.”
In worship I declare that God is real. In worship my perception of reality is changed and sharpened. In worship I remember that reality is more than what I can see and touch. In worship I acknowledge that I look at a shrunken God on a regular basis, looking at him through the wrong end of the telescope. So in worship, at its heart, we magnifyGod. Worship enlarges my capacity to experience and understand God.
This is why the story of Peter walking on the water must end in worship. Worship, in a sense, closes the loop on the whole story. Worship consolidates and expresses the disciples’ new understanding of who Jesus is. Peter gets into the boat, and the other disciples ask him, “How big is Jesus, anyway?” Peter throws his hands up high over his head and says, “Jesus is sooo big!” Jesus gets into the boat, the wind dies down, the storm runs away to wherever it is storms go when God sends them off, and suddenly the disciples have a deeper understanding of who is in the boat with them. “Truly you are the Son of God.” And all the disciples raise their hands up over their heads. Soooo big!
So it always is when somebody gets out of the boat. When human beings get out of the boat, they are never quite the same. Their worship is never quite the same. Their world is never quite the same. Whatever the results, whether they sink or swim, something will have changed. This is true for you. From this point on, for the rest of your life, every time you walk on the water, each time you trust God and seek to discern and obey his calling on your life, your God will get bigger, and your worship will grow deeper, richer, and stronger. That is because Jesus is not finished yet. He is still looking for people who will dare to trust him. He is still looking for people who will refuse to allow fear to have the final word. He is still looking for people who refuse to be deterred by failure. And this is an opportunity to answer his call. This is your chance of a lifetime. Just remember one thing: If you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
© 2014 by Zondervan. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Visit JohnOrtberg.com for more about John Ortberg’s work and ministry.
Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children. Matthew 19:14 nlt
Thomas Barnado entered the London Hospital medical school in 1865, dreaming of life as a medical missionary in China. Barnado soon discovered a desperate need in his own front yard—the many homeless children living and dying on the streets of London. Barnado determined to do something about this horrendous situation. Developing homes for destitute children in London’s east end, Barnado rescued some 60,000 boys and girls from poverty and possible early death. Theologian and pastor John Stott said, “Today we might call him the patron saint of street kids.”
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children” (Matt. 19:14 nlt). Imagine the surprise the crowds—and Jesus’s own disciples—must have felt at this declaration. In the ancient world, children had little value and were largely relegated to the margins of life. Yet Jesus welcomed, blessed, and valued children.
James, a New Testament writer, challenged Christ-followers saying, “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans . . . in their troubles” (James 1:27 nlt). Today, like those first-century orphans, children of every social strata, ethnicity, and family environment are at risk due to neglect, human trafficking, abuse, drugs, and more. How can we honor the Father who loves us by showing His care for these little ones Jesus welcomes?
Be an expression of the love of Jesus.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1
While flying recently, I watched a mother and her children a few rows ahead of me. While the toddler played contentedly, the mother gazed into the eyes of her newborn, smiling at him and stroking his cheek. He stared back with a wide-eyed wonderment. I enjoyed the moment with a touch of wistfulness, thinking of my own children at that age and the season that has passed me by.
I reflected, however, about King Solomon’s words in the book of Ecclesiastes about “every activity under the heavens” (v. 1). He addresses through a series of opposites how there is a “time for everything” (v. 1): “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot” (v. 2). Perhaps King Solomon in these verses despairs at what he sees as a meaningless cycle of life. But he also acknowledges the role of God in each season, that our work is a “gift of God” (v. 13) and that “everything God does will endure forever” (v. 14).
We may remember times in our lives with longing, like me thinking of my children as babies. We know, however, that the Lord promises to be with us in every season of our life (Isa. 41:10). We can count on His presence and find that our purpose is in walking with Him.
Lord God, You lead me through the seasons, and whether I’m laughing or crying I know You are with me. May I reach out to someone with Your love today.
Taken from Our Daily Bread Devotional
Please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. Exodus 32:32
An Australian journalist who spent 400 days in an Egyptian jail expressed mixed emotions when he was released. While admitting his relief, he said he accepted his freedom with incredible concern for the friends he was leaving behind. He said he found it extremely hard to say goodbye to fellow reporters who had been arrested and jailed with him—not knowing how much longer they were going to be held.
Moses also expressed great anxiety at the thought of leaving friends behind. When faced with the thought of losing the brother, sister, and nation that had worshiped a golden calf while he was meeting with God on Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:11–14), he interceded for them. Showing how deeply he cared, he pled, “But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (v. 32).
The apostle Paul later expressed a similar concern for family, friends, and nation. Grieving their unbelief in Jesus, Paul said he would be willing to give up his own relationship with Christ if by such love he could save his brothers and sisters (Rom. 9:3).
Looking back, we see that Moses and Paul both expressed the heart of Christ. Yet, the love they could only feel, and the sacrifice they could only offer, Jesus fulfilled—to be with us forever.
Father in heaven, thank You for reminding us how much it is like You to be willing to live—and die—for those who have not yet seen how much You love them.
Caring for others honors Jesus’s love for us.
In the 2003 Us Women’s Open, the relatively unknown Hilary Luke secured the greatest prize in women’s golf – and a place in history. Not only did she win the US Open in an 18-hole playoff, but it was only her professional victory. Her surprising and inspiring win underscores the fact that one of the most exciting things about sports is its unpredictability.
The unpredictability of life is not always so thrilling, however. We devise and strategize. We make plan, projections, and proposal about what we would like to see happen in life. but often they are little more that our best guess. We have no idea what a year, a month, a week, or even a day might bring. So we pray and plan, and then we trust the God who knows fully and completely what we can never predict. That is why I love the promise of Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Life is unpredictable. There are countless things I can never know with certainty. What I can know, however, is that there is a God who knows all and loves me deeply. And by Knowing Him, I can “be still” – I can be at peace.
Taken from Our Daily Bread Devotional 2017
In a park near our home there’s a trail I enjoy walking on. Along one section there’s a panoramic view of red sandstone rocks in the Garden of the Gods with the majestic 14, 115-foot Pike Peak behind them. From time to time though, I find myself walking that section occupied with some problem and looking down at the wide, smooth trail. If no one is around, I may stop and say aloud, “David, look up!”
The Psalms Known as “Songs of Ascents” (Psalm 120-134) were sung by the people of Israel as they walked the road up to Jerusalem to attend the three annual pilgrim festivals. Psalm 121 begins, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?” (v.1). The answer follows, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (V.2). The Creator is not an aloof being, but a companion who is always with us, always awake to our circumstances (vv. 3-7), guiding and guarding our journey through life “both now and forevermore” (v.8).
Along life’s path, how we need to keep our eyes fixed on God our source of help. When we’re feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, its all right to say aloud, “Look Up!”
Keep your eyes on God – your source of help.
Taken from our Daily Bread Devotional 2017
Roger had been through a lot. He had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky valve. Then, within just a couple of weeks, doctors had to perform the surgery again because of complications. he had just begun to heal with physical therapy when he had a biking accident and broke his collarbone. Added to this, Roger also experienced the heart break of loosing his mother during that time. He became very discouraged. When a friend asked him if he had seen God at work in any small ways, he confessed that he really didn’t feel he had.
I appreciate Roger’s honesty. Feelings of discouragement or doubt are part of my life too. In Roman’s the apostle Paul says, “We can rejoice…when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (5:3-4 NLT). But that doesn’t mean we always feel the joy. We may just need someone to sit and listen to us pour our hearts to them, and to talk with God. Sometimes it takes looking back on the situation before we see our faith has grown during trials and doubt.
Knowing that God wants to use or difficulties to strengthen our faith can help us to trust His good heart for us.
God way lead us to troubled waters to deepen our trust in him.
Taken from Our Daily Bread Devotional 2017
The Kamppi Chapel of Silence in Helsinki, Finland stands out in its urban setting. The curved structure, covered with wood, buffers the noise from the busy city outside. Designers created the chapel as a quiet space and a “calm environment for visitors to compose themselves.” It’s a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Many people long for peace, and a few minutes of silence may soothe our minds. But the bible teaches that real peace – peace with God – comes from His son. The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Without Christ, we are enemies of God because of our sin. Thankfully, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice reconciles us to God and ends the hostility that existed between us (Colossians 1:19-21). He now sees us as Christ presents us – “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Vs.22)
Having peace with God does not ensure problem-free living. However, it does steady us during difficult times. Jesus told His followers, “In this world you will have trouble,” but He also said, “In me you may have peace” (John 16:33). Because of Christ, the true peace of God can fill your hearts.
Peace floods the soul when Christ rules the heart.
Taken from Our Daily Bread Devotional 2017
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