Friday, April 29, 2011

Star Power

By Dave Branon

Read: Job 38:1-11,31-33
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth? —Job 38:33
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 6-7; Luke 20:27-47

For all of us who, like Job, have suffered through tragedy and then dared to aim our questions at God, chapter 38 of Job’s book should give us plenty to think about. Imagine what it must have felt like for the great man of the East when “out of the whirlwind” he heard God say, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (vv.1-3). Gulp!

Job must have felt as puny as an ant. As God unveiled His questions in the verses that follow, what He said was as unexpected as it was powerful. He didn’t really answer Job’s “why” questions. Instead, God seemed to be telling him to notice the power and might with which He created this world and to observe His ability to control every element of it. Isn’t that reason enough to trust God? Job should have been asking himself.

As one example of His awesome power, God pointed to the sky and told Job to observe two of His awe-inspiring creations: Pleiades and Orion (v.31). Highlighting His grandeur and man’s relative insignificance, God mentioned two constellations that demonstrate power beyond our understanding.

This is Someone we can trust. If He has the stars in His hands, surely He can take care of us as well.

Creator of the universe
Who reigns in awesome majesty:
How can it be You love and care
For such a one as me? —Sper

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Haters Of God

By Dennis Fisher

Read: 2 Timothy 2:23-26
God gave them over to a debased mind. —Romans 1:28
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 3-5; Luke 20:1-26

Recently, I listened to an audiobook by a militant advocate for atheism. As the author himself read his own work with spiteful sarcasm and contempt, it made me wonder why he was so angry.

The Bible tells us that a rejection of God can actually lead to a more hateful attitude toward Him: “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind . . . [to become] haters of God” (Rom. 1:28-30).

Turning one’s back on God does not lead to secular neutrality. Indeed, recent militant atheists have shown their desire to remove any reference to a Creator from culture.

When we hear about atheists trying to remove crosses or the Ten Commandments from society, it’s easy to respond to their hatred of God with our own hatred. But we’re exhorted to defend the truth with an attitude of love, “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).

The next time you see the works or hear the words of a hater of God, do an attitude check. Then ask God for a spirit of humility and pray that the offender might come to the knowledge of the truth.

Lord, help us not respond in kind
To those who hate and turn from You;
Instead, help us to love and pray
That someday they’ll accept what’s true. —Sper

Defend the truth with love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whispering Gallery

By Bill Crowder

Read: Proverbs 10:11-23
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. —Proverbs 10:19
Bible in a year:
1 Kings 1-2; Luke 19:28-48

London’s domed St. Paul’s Cathedral has an interesting architectural phenomenon called the “whispering gallery.” One Web site explains it this way: “The name comes from the fact that a person who whispers facing the wall on one side can be clearly heard on the other, since the sound is carried perfectly around the vast curve of the Dome.”

In other words, you and a friend could sit on opposite sides of architect Sir Christopher Wren’s great cathedral and carry on a conversation without having to speak above a whisper.

While that may be a fascinating feature of St. Paul’s Cathedral, it can also be a warning to us. What we say about others in secret can travel just as easily as whispers travel around that gallery. And not only can our gossip travel far and wide, but it often does great harm along the way.

Perhaps this is why the Bible frequently challenges us about the ways we use words. The wise King Solomon wrote, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19).

Instead of using whispers and gossip that can cause hurt and pain while serving no good purpose, we would do better to restrain ourselves and practice silence.

Lord, help us bridle what we say
And tend our conversations,
Avoiding careless gossiping
That murders reputations. —Sper

Gossip ends at a wise person’s ears.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hard To Imagine

By Joe Stowell

Read: Philippians 1:19-26
I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. —Philippians 1:23
Bible in a year:
2 Samuel 23-24; Luke 19:1-27

Whenever my wife, Martie, and I get ready to go on vacation, we like to read about our destination, study the maps, and anticipate the joy of finally arriving at the place we’ve dreamed about for so long.

For those of us who know Jesus Christ, we have an incredible destination ahead of us—heaven. But I find it interesting that a lot of us don’t seem to be very excited about getting there. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we don’t understand heaven. We talk about streets of gold and gates of pearl, but what is it really like? What is there to look forward to?

I think the most profound description of heaven is found in Paul’s words to the Philippians. He said that to “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” (Phil. 1:23). It’s what I told my 8-year-old grandson when he asked what heaven is like. I started by asking him, “What is the most exciting thing in your life?” He told me about his computer game and other fun things he likes to do, and then I told him that heaven is far better. He thought for a minute, and then said, “Papa, that’s hard to imagine.”

What is it that you look forward to in life? What really excites you? Whatever it is, although it’s hard to imagine, heaven will be far better!

To be in His presence! A glorious thought
So awesome I cannot conceive;
I’ll bow down and worship the Lord on His throne
And add to the praise He’ll receive. —Sper

The more you look forward to heaven,
the less you’ll desire on earth.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Resurrection And Life

By David H. Roper

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
I am the resurrection and the life. —John 11:25
Bible in a year:
2 Samuel 21-22; Luke 18:24-43

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”! It’s one thing to make such a bold assertion; it’s another to back it up—and back it up Jesus did by rising from the dead.

“If you believe that the Son of God died and rose again,” writes George MacDonald, “your whole future is full of the dawn of eternal morning, coming up beyond the hills of life, and full of such hope as the highest imagination for the poet has not a glimmer yet.”

The Son of God died and rose again, and His resurrection is the guarantee that God will bring us up and out of the ground: A thinking, feeling, remembering, recognizable person will live forever.

Living forever means living out the thought of eternity that God has placed in our hearts; meeting again one’s believing loved ones lost through separating death; living in a world without sorrow; seeing our Lord who loves us and gave everything to unite us to Him forever.

But I see another meaning. Since we have this life and the next, we don’t have to “have it all” now. We can live in broken and ruined bodies for a time; we can endure poverty and hardship for a while; we can face loneliness, heartache, and pain for a season. Why? There is a second birth—life in heaven forever.

Yes, Christ the Lord is risen,
Has come forth from the grave;
He breaks the chains of death for you
And now has power to save. —Woodruff

The resurrection is the foundation of our faith.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Too Good To Be True?

By David C. McCasland

Read: Luke 24:1-12
Their words seemed to [the disciples] like idle tales, and they did not believe them. —Luke 24:11
Bible in a year:
2 Samuel 19-20; Luke 18:1-23

In the 1980s, John Knoll and his brother Thomas began experimenting with a computer program to manipulate images. Software companies thought they were crazy, because photographers didn’t use computers at that time. Initially the brothers called their program Display, then Imaginator, and finally they settled on Photoshop®. Today Photoshop® is used by amateurs at home and professionals in business around the world. A San Jose Mercury News article noted its place in popular language. When something looks too good to be true, people say, “It must have been Photoshopped.”

On the first Easter morning, the women who took spices to anoint the body of Jesus found the tomb empty and heard angels say, “He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6). When the women told this to the disciples, “Their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (v.11). Nonsense! Mind-boggling! Too good to be true!

If someone manipulated the evidence, then millions of people around the world gather today to celebrate a myth. But if Jesus conquered death, then all He said about forgiveness, power to change, and eternal life is real.

Because Christ has risen and lives today, this news is too good not to be true!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign. —Lowry

The resurrection is a fact of history
that demands a response of faith.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sin Hurts

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Hebrews 2:10-18
He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many. —Isaiah 53:12
Bible in a year:
2 Samuel 14-15; Luke 17:1-19

Sooner or later we all feel the painful effects of sin. Sometimes it’s the weight of our own sin and the shame and embarrassment of having failed miserably. At other times, it’s the load of someone else’s sin that weighs us down—someone who betrayed, deceived, abandoned, ridiculed, cheated, or made a fool of us.

Think about a time when the weight of that guilt or pain was so heavy that you couldn’t pull yourself out of bed. Now try to imagine the heaviness of the combined grief that everyone’s sin has caused your family, your church, your neighborhood. Add to that all the suffering sin has caused everyone in your city, state, nation, and the world. Now try to imagine the accumulated grief that sin has caused throughout the centuries since creation.

Is it any wonder that the weight of all this sin began squeezing the life out of Jesus on the night He was called to bear it? (Matt. 26:36-44). The next day, even His beloved Father would forsake Him. No other suffering can compare.

Sin put Jesus to the ultimate test. But His love endured it, His strength bore it, and His power overcame it. Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know beyond a doubt that sin will not and cannot win.

Is God aloof from human pain
That ravages our mortal frame?
Oh, no, Christ felt our agony
When sin and death He overcame! —D. De Haan

Christ’s empty tomb guarantees our victory over sin and death.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moving Past Sinful Failure

By Randy Kilgore

Read: 2 Samuel 12:1-23
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. —Isaiah 43:25
Bible in a year:
2 Samuel 12-13; Luke 16

How should we handle moments of faith-failure, when we’ve damaged the kingdom of God in the eyes of our friends and family or dishonored God in our actions?

We can learn from King David after his humiliation in the Bathsheba scandal. Though the terrible consequences of that sin could not be avoided, he found his way back to a relationship with God that made it possible for him to continue to serve Him. We too can find our way back.

David’s pattern in 2 Samuel 12 serves us well: We need to declare our error candidly (v.13) and seek God’s forgiveness. Then we can ask God that others be spared the consequences of our actions (v.16). Finally, we need to recognize that sometimes the consequences simply cannot be avoided and must be endured. While we always mourn those consequences, we can’t allow them to so consume us that we cease to be servants of God (vv.20-23).

Satan not only delights in the moment of our failure but also in the spiritual inactivity that sometimes snares us in our remorse. When we’ve blown our witness, we are and should be humbled. But we should not multiply the damage by retreating into silence and obscurity as ambassadors of Christ. We can move past failure.

Action Suggestion
If after you’ve confessed your sin to God, you still suffer
with guilty feelings, memorize Proverbs 24:16 and
1 John 1:9 and ask God to help you believe His Word.

God forgives our sins completely
to restore us to His presence and service.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Purpose Of God’s Goodness

By Joe Stowell

Read: Psalm 67
God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us. —Psalm 67:1
Bible in a year:
2 Samuel 3-5; Luke 14:25-35

When I was growing up, we often sang a song in Sunday school that went like this: “God is good to me! God is good to me! He holds my hand and helps me stand! God is good to me!”

I need to say right away that I believe God is good and He takes delight in doing good things for people. He does indeed hold our hand in times of trouble and helps us stand against the onslaught of life’s difficulties. But I wonder if you’ve ever asked yourself, Why is He good? It certainly is not because we deserve it or because He feels the need to buy our love and allegiance with His benefits.

The psalmist prays for God to bless him so that “[the Lord’s] way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations” (Ps. 67:2). God’s daily blessings are proof positive that He is indeed a good God who cares for His own. But how will our world know this about God if we never praise Him for His goodness to us? (v.3).

So, the next time God blesses you, be sure to look for ways to appropriately give Him the credit. Consuming His blessings without communicating His goodness shortchanges the very purpose of His gifts of grace in our lives.

As endless as God’s blessings are,
So should my praises be
For all His daily goodnesses
That flow unceasingly! —Adams

God is good—make sure the people in your world know what He has done in your life.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Who Is This?

By Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Read: Luke 19:28-40
Blessed is [He] who comes in the name of the Lord! —Luke 19:38
Bible in a year:
2 Samuel 1-2; Luke 14:1-24

Imagine standing shoulder to shoulder with onlookers by a dirt road. The woman behind you is on her tiptoes, trying to see who is coming. In the distance, you glimpse a man riding a donkey. As He approaches, people toss their coats onto the road. Suddenly, you hear a tree crack behind you. A man is cutting down palm branches, and people are spreading them out ahead of the donkey.

Jesus’ followers zealously honored Him as He entered Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. The multitude rejoiced and praised God for “all the mighty works they had seen” (Luke 19:37). Jesus’ devotees surrounded Him, calling out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v.38). Their enthusiastic honor affected the people of Jerusalem. When Jesus finally arrived, “all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’” (Matt. 21:10).

Today, people are still curious about Jesus. Although we can’t pave His way with palm branches or shout praises to Him in person, we can still honor Him. We can discuss His remarkable works, assist people in need (Gal. 6:2), patiently bear insults (1 Peter 4:14-16), and love each other deeply (v.8). Then we must be ready to answer the onlookers who ask, “Who is Jesus?”

So let our lips and lives express
The holy gospel we profess;
So let our works and virtues shine,
To prove the doctrine all divine. —Watts

We honor God’s name when we call Him our Father
and live like His Son.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dealing With Delay

By David C. McCasland

Read: Isaiah 26:1-9
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. —Isaiah 26:3
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 13:1-22

In April 2010, clouds of ash spewed by a volcano in Iceland closed airports across the UK and Europe for 5 days. Nearly 100,000 flights were canceled and millions of passengers around the world found themselves in an enormous holding pattern on the ground. People missed important events, businesses lost money, and no one knew when it would end.

When our plans fall apart and there is no remedy, how do we deal with frustration and delay? Isaiah 26:3-4 is an anchor for our souls in every storm of life: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in [Jehovah], the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Whether we’re facing annoying inconvenience or heartbreaking loss, this rock-solid promise is worth memorizing and repeating every night when we close our eyes to sleep.

Today, when plans are shattered, do our minds dwell on the circumstances or on the Lord? During frustrating delay, can we still trust the loving heart of God? In the hymn “Like a River Glorious,” Frances Havergal so beautifully expressed what we long for.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest. —Havergal

When we put our problems in God’s hands,
He puts His peace in our hearts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Breath Of Life

By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: Psalm 139:13-18
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. —Job 33:4
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 25-26; Luke 12:32-59

In his book Life After Heart Surgery, David Burke recalls his close brush with death. Lying in his hospital bed after a second open-heart surgery, he found himself in incredible pain, unable to draw a full breath. Feeling that he was slipping toward eternity, he prayed one last time, trusting God and thanking Him for forgiveness of his sin.

David was thinking about seeing his dad, who had died several years earlier, when his nurse asked how he was feeling. He replied, “I’m okay now,” explaining he was ready to go to heaven and meet God. “Not on my shift, buddy!” she said. Soon the doctors were opening his chest again and removing two liters of fluid. That done, David began to recover.

It’s not unusual for any of us to ponder what it will be like when we face our final moments on earth. But those who “die in the Lord” have the certainty that they are “blessed” (Rev. 14:13) and that their death is “precious in the sight of the Lord” (Ps. 116:15).

God fashioned our days even before we existed (Ps. 139:16), and we exist now only because “the breath of the Almighty gives [us] life” (Job 33:4). Though we don’t know how many breaths we have left—we can rest in the knowledge that He does.

God holds our future in His hands
And gives us every breath;
Just knowing that He’s by our side
Allays our fear of death. —Sper

From our first breath to our last, we are in God’s care.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sourdough Bread

By Dennis Fisher

Read: Luke 12:1-7
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. —Luke 12:1
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 22-24; Luke 12:1-31

Sourdough bread became popular during the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. In the 1890s, it was a favorite during the great Gold Rush in Alaska. Prospectors would carry with them a small portion of sourdough mix that contained a natural yeast. It could then be used as a starter to make more of their favorite sourdough bread.

In the Bible, though, yeast or leaven can have a negative connotation. For example, in the New Testament, “leaven” is often referred to as a corrupting influence. This is why Jesus said: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).

Hypocrites put on a show of righteousness while hiding sinful thoughts and behavior. Christ warned His disciples and us that secret sins will someday be exposed to full disclosure. He said, “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (v.2). Because of this, we are to reverentially fear God, to ask for His grace to forsake any sin, and to grow as authentic believers.

Yeast may be a blessing in the bakery, but it can also remind us to guard against the permeating influence of sin in our hearts.

The holiness of God demands
A heart that’s pure within,
Yet grace unites with holiness
To purge the heart from sin. —D. De Haan

Be sure your sin will find you out. —Numbers 32:23

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pay Attention To Signs

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Luke 11:29-45
As Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. —Luke 11:30
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 19-21; Luke 11:29-54

The road was smooth and we were making good progress as we headed for Jay’s dad’s house in South Carolina. As we drove through the mountains in Tennessee, I began seeing detour signs. But Jay kept going, so I assumed that they didn’t apply to us. Shortly before we reached the North Carolina border, we came to a sign that said the highway ahead was closed due to a rock slide. We would have to turn around. Jay was surprised. “Why wasn’t there any warning?” he wanted to know. “There were lots of warnings,” I said. “Didn’t you see the signs?” “No,” he said, “why didn’t you mention them?” “I assumed that you saw them,” I answered. We now tell this story to entertain our friends.

Throughout history, God provided plenty of “signs” to show people the way to live, but they kept going their own way. When God finally sent His Son as a sign (Luke 11:30), the religious leaders paid little attention to His warnings. Life for them was good. They were recognized and respected (v.43). They resented being told that they were wrong (v.45).

We can be the same way. When life is going well, we tend to ignore warnings that we need to turn around and change our sinful ways. It’s important to remember that we may be wrong even though life is good.

God gives us warnings to prevent
What comes from falling into sin;
But if we do ignore—and fall—
Confession cleanses us within. —Sper

God sends warnings to protect us, not to punish us.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Penny Syndrome

By David C. McCasland

Read: 1 Samuel 17:32-37
The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion . . . , He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. —1 Samuel 17:37
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 17-18; Luke 11:1-28

The penny has been called the most despised unit of US currency. Many people will not bother to pick up a one-cent coin if they see it lying on the ground. But some charities are finding that pennies add up to significant sums, and that children are generous givers. As one participant said, “Small contributions can make a huge difference.”

The Bible account of David and Goliath describes a seemingly insignificant person whose confidence in God was greater than any of the powerful people around him. When David volunteered to face the giant Goliath, King Saul said, “You are not able to go against this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:33). But David had faith in the Lord who had delivered him in the past (v.37).

David did not suffer from “the penny syndrome”—a sense of inferiority and helplessness in the face of an overwhelming problem. If he had listened to the pessimism of Saul or the threats of Goliath, he would have done nothing. Instead, he acted with courage because he trusted God.

It’s easy to feel like a penny in a trillion-dollar deficit. But when we obey the Lord in every circumstance, it all adds up. Collectively, our acts of faith, large or small, make a big difference. And every penny counts.

It matters not how large or small
Your faith may seem to be;
What really counts is whom you trust
In life’s uncertainty. —Fitzhugh

Courage will follow when faith takes the lead.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Forever Service

By Anne Cetas

Read: Revelation 22:1-7
Behold, I make all things new. —Revelation 21:5
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 10:25-42

Two young brothers sat on the front row in church every Sunday, observing their dad as he led the worship service. One night after sending the boys to bed, the dad overheard one of his boys crying. He asked him what was wrong, but the boy was hesitant to answer. Finally, he confessed, “Daddy, the Bible says we’re going to worship God in heaven forever. That’s an awfully long time!” Because he pictured heaven as one long worship time with his dad up front leading, heaven sounded pretty boring to him!

While I sometimes wish we had more information about what heaven will be like, we know this for sure: boring can’t possibly be the right word to describe it. We will see beauty like we’ve never seen before, including “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” (Rev. 22:1). We will experience “the glory of God,” which will illuminate heaven (21:23; 22:5). And we will enjoy a life without pain or sorrow (21:4).

Yes, we will definitely worship in heaven. People “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9) will rejoice in praising Jesus, the worthy Lamb who died for us and rose again (5:12).

We will bask in the glory of the Lord’s presence—forever. But not for one second will we be bored!

In heaven we’ll see our Savior
And like Him we will be;
We’ll praise Him and we’ll serve Him
For all eternity! —Fitzhugh

A Forever Service

By Anne Cetas

Read: Revelation 22:1-7
Behold, I make all things new. —Revelation 21:5
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 10:25-42

Two young brothers sat on the front row in church every Sunday, observing their dad as he led the worship service. One night after sending the boys to bed, the dad overheard one of his boys crying. He asked him what was wrong, but the boy was hesitant to answer. Finally, he confessed, “Daddy, the Bible says we’re going to worship God in heaven forever. That’s an awfully long time!” Because he pictured heaven as one long worship time with his dad up front leading, heaven sounded pretty boring to him!

While I sometimes wish we had more information about what heaven will be like, we know this for sure: boring can’t possibly be the right word to describe it. We will see beauty like we’ve never seen before, including “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” (Rev. 22:1). We will experience “the glory of God,” which will illuminate heaven (21:23; 22:5). And we will enjoy a life without pain or sorrow (21:4).

Yes, we will definitely worship in heaven. People “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9) will rejoice in praising Jesus, the worthy Lamb who died for us and rose again (5:12).

We will bask in the glory of the Lord’s presence—forever. But not for one second will we be bored!

In heaven we’ll see our Savior
And like Him we will be;
We’ll praise Him and we’ll serve Him
For all eternity! —Fitzhugh

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spiritual Superstars

By Dennis Fisher

Read: 1 Corinthians 3:1-15
When one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? —1 Corinthians 3:4
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 4-6; Luke 9:1-17

Superstars abound in today’s culture. Great soccer players can create such excitement that fans have been known to riot in the bleachers. Popular musicians have fans who stand with adoration throughout entire concerts. And Hollywood celebrities hire bodyguards to protect themselves from adoring stalkers.

The first-century Corinthian believers had become divided over their own “spiritual superstars.” Paul viewed such favoritism as a reflection of the sinful nature in a believer’s unyielded heart. “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” he asked (1 Cor. 3:4).

The apostle’s teaching on how we view Christian leaders puts the topic in a biblical perspective that provides mutual appreciation for those who minister: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (v.6). Each person did his part: Paul had planted spiritual seed through evangelism, and Apollos had watered it with his eloquent Bible teaching. But it was God alone who made the seed of spiritual life grow. He alone is the “superstar.”

We should be careful not to put any Christian leader on a pedestal. Instead, let’s appreciate how God is using a variety of spiritual leaders for His honor and His glory.

Lord, give us wisdom. We know it’s good to follow the
example of our godly leaders, but help us not
to think so highly of them that we worship them
instead of You. Amen.

Each person has his place in God’s service,
and only God deserves the glory.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Last Jellybean

By Cindy Hess Kasper

Read: Psalm 34:1-10
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good . . . . Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. —Psalm 34:8,10
Bible in a year:
1 Samuel 1-3; Luke 8:26-56

One afternoon Angela gave her young daughter four jellybeans and let her know that was all the candy she was going to receive.

After practically inhaling the first three candies, Eliana lingered over the final one. She sucked on it, took it out of her mouth, bit into it, sucked on it some more, then gnawed at the outer shell. Knowing that this was her last jellybean, she took a full 45 minutes to ingest the treat completely.

Angela observed her little girl with amusement. It occurred to her that she was watching Eliana learn the value of savoring—enjoying taste and texture and learning to draw out every possible bit of flavor from the pleasurable experience.

When we read, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), we can be sure that God wants us to “savor” His presence. He allows us to gain intimate and satisfying knowledge of Him. And when we meditate on His Word, we will draw out a deeper understanding of who He is (Ezek. 3:1-3). As we taste His goodness and love, He will reveal the distinctive flavor of His creativity, sovereignty, holiness, and faithfulness.

Our Father must look on with enjoyment as we learn how to enjoy and savor Him.

Oh, taste the goodness of the Lord
And savor all that He has done;
Draw close and give your praise to Him—
The holy, sovereign, faithful One. —Sper

Our greatest privilege is to enjoy God’s presence.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Attached Fuel Hose

By C. P. Hia

Read: 2 Timothy 2:1-7
No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life. —2 Timothy 2:4
Bible in a year:
Ruth 1-4; Luke 8:1-25

Felipe Massa of Brazil should have won the Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore in September 2008. But as he drove off from a refueling stop while in the lead, the fuel hose was still attached. By the time his team removed the hose, he had lost so much time that he finished 13th.

The apostle Paul warned Timothy of another kind of attachment that would cause him defeat—“the affairs of this life” (2 Tim. 2:4). He urged Timothy not to let anything slow him down or distract him from the cause of his Lord and Master.

There are many attractive things in our world that are so easy to get entangled with—hobbies, sports, TV, computer games. These may start off as “refueling” activities, but later they can take up so much of our time and thought that they interfere with the purpose for which God created us: to share the good news of Christ, serve Him with our gifts, and bring glory to Him.

Paul told Timothy why he ought not be entangled with this world’s affairs: So that he could “please Him” (v.4). If your desire is to please the Lord Jesus, you will want to stay untangled from the world. As John reminds us, “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

For Further Study
If you have questions about your life’s purpose in this
world, read online Why In The World Am I Here?

Although we live in this world,
we must declare our allegiance to heaven.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Time For A Checkup

By Bill Crowder

Read: 1 Corinthians 11:27-29
Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. —1 Corinthians 11:28
Bible in a year:
Judges 19-21; Luke 7:31-50

Every year I have a physical—that periodic visit to the doctor’s office where I’m poked and prodded, screened and studied. It is something that can be easy to dread, and even to fear. We aren’t sure what the tests will show or what the doctors will say. Still, we know that we need this evaluation to understand our physical well-being and what is needed as we move forward.

The same is true spiritually in the life of the Christ-follower. We need to pause from time to time and reflect on the condition of our hearts and lives.

One place for an important self-study is at the Lord’s Table. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, some of whom were eating in an unworthy manner: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). In the remembrance of Christ’s death for us, there can be a sobering clarity of thought and understanding, for as we consider the price Jesus paid for us, it is the best time to consider the condition of our heart and our relationships. Then, with honest understanding of our spiritual well-being, we can turn to Him for the grace we need to move forward in His name.

Is it time for your checkup?

Search me, O God, my heart discern;
Try me, my inmost thoughts to learn.
Help me to keep from sin, I pray,
Guarding my mind throughout this day. —Anon.

Self-examination is one test from which no Christian is excused.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Feeding Ourselves

By Julie Ackerman Link

Read: Hebrews 5:12–6:2
By this time you ought to be teachers. —Hebrews 5:12
Bible in a year:
Judges 13-15; Luke 6:27-49

The eaglets were hungry, and Mom and Dad seemed to be ignoring them. The oldest of the three decided to solve his hunger problem by gnawing on a twig. Apparently it wasn’t too tasty, because he soon abandoned it.

What intrigued me about this little drama, which was being broadcast by webcam from Norfolk Botanical Garden, was that a big fish lay just behind the eaglets. But they had not yet learned to feed themselves. They still relied on their parents to tear their food in tiny pieces and feed it to them. Within a few weeks, however, the parents will teach the eaglets how to feed themselves—one of their first survival lessons. If the eaglets don’t learn this skill, they will never be able to survive on their own.

The author of Hebrews spoke of a similar problem in the spiritual realm. Certain people in the church were not growing in spiritual maturity. They had not learned to distinguish between good and bad (Heb. 5:14). Like the eaglet, they hadn’t learned the difference between a twig and a fish. They still needed to be fed by someone else when they should have been feeding not only themselves but others as well (v.12).

While receiving spiritual food from preachers and teachers is good, spiritual growth and survival also depend on knowing how to feed ourselves.

You’ve given us Your Spirit, Lord,
To help us grow, mature, and learn,
To teach us from Your written Word,
So truth from error we’ll discern. —Sper

Spiritual growth requires the solid food of God’s Word.

Daily bread Archive