THE LORD, OUR SHEPHERD

John 10:7-15

In the ancient world, the man who was given charge of the flocks had a challenging job. He had the responsibility of leading the sheep to new pastures and fresh water, defending them from predators, and finding the lost ones when they strayed. But his was a humble job because it was lonely and dangerous. The shepherd lived among the flock and slept across the doorway of the fold to keep the sheep in and the wolves out. This was hard, constant, and thankless work.

Yet Christ sat among His followers and said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11; John 10:14). The modern church misses the impact of those words. We have a rustic but rosy view of Jesus as a shepherd. The sovereign God of the universe humbled Himself and got His hands dirty working directly with beings just as errant, willful, and sometimes dumb as sheep.

Remember you read a moment ago that tending the flock required lying across the doorway of the sheep pen? Well, Jesus did exactly that—He became the door for us (John 10:9). He sacrificed His life for the great flock of humanity so that anyone who chooses to believe in Him may enter God’s fold (John 3:16). And once inside, we are provided for, sought when we wander, and protected from enemies.

Jesus sees Himself as mankind’s Shepherd. Thankfully, we are more than just a herd to Him. He knows everything about each one of us—our name, character, and flaws—and loves us despite all of our imperfections. What better way to show love in return than to know His voice and follow wherever it leads us?

Bible in One Year: Acts 5-7

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

LOVE ANYWAY

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”

— Matthew 5:46

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we just don’t see eye to eye with some people in our lives. Showing them love can be quite a challenge, especially when these people are difficult, different, or don’t always show appreciation. But learning to love them anyway is a step closer to understanding the kind of love God has for us.

Have you ever thought about how out of balance our love relationship with God is? He first loved us, the Bible says (1 John 4:19). He made the first move and took the first step. By His grace, He sent Jesus for us to receive by faith. Our love in return, even on our best days, pales in comparison to that kind of love. Yet He loves us anyway. He doesn’t give up on us when we don’t give it back or show appreciation.

In Christ, God loves us anyway.

As we begin to grasp just how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ really is (Ephesians 3:18), we move closer to being able to love others in the same way God loves us. As we receive God’s love and grow in His truth, God is producing in us a love that has the power to love anyway. And that kind of love is the greatest mark we can leave on the world!

So who is God calling you to love anyway? A friend who is difficult or different? A grumpy family member? A coworker who never seems to appreciate your efforts? Maybe it’s your kids. As moms, we seem to always be giving and not necessarily getting much back in return.

Wherever we find hard-to-love people, may we open our hearts wide to receive God’s love, and then may we be quick to share His love. May He empower us to love anyway!

Lord, I praise You for loving me first. Thank You for not giving up on me, even when I didn’t love You back. Thank You for being patient, kind, and gentle. Pour Your love into my heart through Your Holy Spirit. Change me, and give me the power to love anyway. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Are there people around you right now whom you need to learn to love?

What is one way you can love anyway right now?

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from In Faith Gateway

GROWING FROM OUR HURTS

Genesis 50:15-21

Throughout history, people have suffered tremendous injustice and pain at the hands of others. None of us are exempt from conflict, criticism, and mistreatment. The question is, Are we growing more or less like Christ as a result?

Nothing that happens in our lives is an accident. As children of God, we know that everything coming our way is filtered through our Father’s loving, sovereign hands. And He can use whatever we experience to grow us in grace and holiness—yes, even injustice and abuse.

Joseph endured more unfair treatment than most of us can even imagine: He was sold into slavery by his brothers, slandered by Potiphar’s wife, and forgotten in prison. For years, it seemed that no good would ever result, but there was divine purpose in it all. Joseph learned more about God’s ways and was also being trained for the future.

The same is true for each of us. The Lord doesn’t want us to focus on the wrongs done to us and the pain we’ve suffered. Instead, He wants us to keep our eyes fixed on Him. As we read God’s Word, He reveals His ways and purposes, giving us guidance to walk with Him and patience to wait for His timing. And His indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to respond in a godly manner by forgiving those who wrong us.

Think about Joseph’s words to his brothers: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). Remember, that is true in your life also. The pain you carry can be used for good if you’ll forgive your offenders and trust the Lord’s ways.

Bible in One Year: John 8-9

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

TRANSFORMED INTO JESUS’ IMAGE

Ephesians 5:1-21

As Christians, we are called to a high moral standard, yet we may feel as if we’re failing more than succeeding. Perhaps our language isn’t as pure as we know it should be, or we haven’t overcome some of our bad habits. It’s easy to become discouraged if we don’t understand what is hindering our progress.

Transformation begins in the mind, because the way we reason affects how we act. We can’t expect to progress in holiness if we’re undiscerning about what to allow into our thoughts. Paul admonishes us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by renewing the mind (Rom. 12:2). We must make an intentional effort to fill our mind with the truths of God’s Word to ensure that we are counteracting the world’s messages.

The influence of others is another avenue by which we can be helped or hindered in our pursuit of holiness. If we associate with people who don’t share our standards, we could be tempted to compromise. Mature believers, on the other hand, can detect obstacles hindering our growth and point out adjustments we need to make. I was greatly impacted by the biographies of godly men like Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, and Dwight L. Moody. As I read, I would see qualities in their lives that I wanted in my own. These traits formed the basis for many of my prayers.

What kinds of thoughts fill your mind? Are you being influenced by friends, television, or social media more than you are by the Word of God? As the Holy Spirit helps you replace wrong thoughts with godly ones, your behavior will also be transformed.

Bible in One Year: Luke 23-24

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries

IF YOU DON’T USE THE TALENTS GOD GAVE YOU, OTHER PEOPLE GET CHEATED     

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10 NLT).

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:10, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (NLT). When you use your abilities to help each other, God is glorified.

God wired you to make a contribution. God did not give you talents and abilities for your benefit. They are for the benefit of other people, and their talents are for the benefit of you.

I am so grateful for people who are talented in areas that I’m not good at. For instance, I’m grateful for accountants. Because I stink at accounting! I’m grateful for people who know how to do taxes.

I’m grateful for people who have mechanical ability. I couldn’t fix a carburetor if I had to. I wouldn’t even know where to find it!

Everybody has different talents.

God has given me some talents. One of my talents is taking the Word of God and making it clear for other people to understand. When I use that ability, you get blessed. My talent is for you. It’s to help you.

But here’s the point: You’ve got talents, too. Are you using them to bless others? Are you using them to help others?

If you don’t use the talents God gave you, other people get cheated. The way you bring glory to God is by using your talents. “Use your gifts well to serve one another.” God is glorified when you use your abilities to serve others.

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SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

 

YOU CAN ACCEPT PEOPLE WITHOUT APPROVING OF EVERYTHING THEY DO      

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT).

Did you know that every time you show love, it gives glory to God? Because God is love, and glory is revealing what God is really like.

In a sense, God says, “I am loving. I am compassionate. I want you to be like me. I want you to develop my character.” You’re never going to be God. You’re never even going to be a teeny-tiny God. But God says he wants you to become godly. He wants you to develop his character. Like father, like son; like father, like daughter. He wants you to learn to love people the way he loves people. God is love.

Every time you do that, it shows God’s glory.

Of course, one of the ways you love others is just by accepting them. Just because you don’t like what people do doesn’t mean you can’t accept them.

It’s important to remember the difference between acceptance and approval. You can accept people without approving of everything they do. There is a big difference! We are to accept everybody; we are not to approve of everything everybody does. So no matter what people do or whom they do it with or how they do it or how long they do it, you are to love them. You are to accept them. It does not mean that you approve of what they do. God loves you, but it doesn’t mean he approves of everything you do.

Love is not saying I approve of everything you do. Love is saying I accept you in spite of what you do.

Romans 15:7 says, “Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (NLT)

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SOURCE: Culled from Daily Hope with Rick Warren

DON’T WASTE THE WAIT

We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. — Psalm 33:20–21

Have you ever noticed that there’s a lot of waiting in the Bible?

Abraham waited for an heir. Hannah waited for a child. King David waited for help. Israel waited for deliverance. But nobody likes to wait! As human beings, we like things to happen fast. Today is better than tomorrow. So it’s no surprise that some people in the Bible ran into trouble while they were waiting. Their waiting provided the perfect opportunity for their wandering.

Israel, fresh out of Egypt, is only one example. They had just seen the mighty hand of their Deliverer, experienced His gracious provision, and been blessed by His faithfulness. And yet, in a moment of waiting, they quickly wandered from God. In Exodus 32:8, we read,

They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf.

I can’t help but be struck by that phrase, quick to turn away. When God seemed slow to answer, they were quick to turn away.

How easily we can become discouraged, resentful, forgetful, impatient, and even disobedient when we’re waiting on God. Maybe you’re waiting for God’s provision. Perhaps you are waiting for Him to right a wrong. Or maybe you are waiting for God to fulfill a promise. Regardless of your waiting, don’t let it become an opportunity to wander. Be careful of being “quick to turn away.” Wait for Him in hope. Turn to Him in trust. God never wastes our waiting.

Father, help me wait in hope. Guard my heart against wandering, doubt, or resentment. Help me trust You and wait patiently for You. I know that You are faithful, good, and present, even in the waiting. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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SOURCE: Culled from In Faith Gateway

OBEDIENCE IN MARRIAGE

Ephesians 5:22-24 gives an important area of obedience.  While this is not popular in our society today, it is biblical, but is also often misunderstood.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

It is important to make clear that before God there is an absolute equality between men and women, between husbands and wives.  In fact, this passage does not say, “Women submit to men.”  It is purely a domestic situation.

Even with that understanding, the Bible says that husbands and wives are heirs together of the grace of life.  There is an equality before God between men and women and husband and wife.

What this passage teaches is that God has set up a system of authority in the home that needs to be followed, if it is going to be well with us.  In fact, this is even a military term.  To submit or to obey means to put yourself in rank under.

Friend, we are in a spiritual warfare, and there are spiritual forces that have been unleashed against homes and against marriages that would love to tear marriages apart.

God has designed a way for the home to function, and that is for the man to take the responsibility of leadership and for the wife to come under that authority.  When a husband truly loves his wife, and cares for her like Christ does the church, and the wife respects her husband, things will be well in the home.  That couple and that family will be magnets for the blessings of God.

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SOURCE: Culled from Answers for Each day

PAY YOUR TAXES!

Yesterday we learned from Romans 13:1-3 that we need to submit ourselves to the laws of the land if we want to live lives free from fear.  I want to focus your attention today on the remainder of that passage, Romans 13:4-7,

“For he is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.  Render therefore to all their due:  taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” -Romans 13:4-7

What I want to address today is the need to pay our taxes with honesty, not trying to dodge our responsibility.  It is a critical part of obeying the laws of the land as we discussed yesterday.

While I do not like working hard and in the end sending a large portion of every dollar to support the government, it is the right thing to do.  I am absolutely amazed when I learn of Christians who try to dodge their responsibility to pay taxes.

Friend, you must be honest and pay your taxes.  Certainly take advantage of all that the law allows, and do not pay more than you need to, but don’t hide anything.  You need to make sure you do this because when you do, you are being obedient to God.

STAY BLESSED

SOURCE: Culled from Answers for Each day

WHERE WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY?

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

In our homes, we use smoke detectors to warn us of fire. Our car’s dashboard has lights to indicate a malfunction. We’d be foolish to ignore these warnings. In the same way, Scripture   passages warn us about the terrible consequences for rejecting God’s provision of a Savior.

The Bible tells us how to be reconciled to God so we can spend eternity with Him. We need to understand and accept the following truths:

Sin separates us from God (Rom. 3:23; Col. 1:19-22). Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, we are all born with a nature bent away from the Lord. His justice requires that we pay for our transgressions.

God sent His Son Jesus to make that payment for us (1 Corinthians 15:3). Only the death of one who was perfect would satisfy the Father’s righteous judgment. Jesus lived a life without sin, which qualified Him to become our substitute. He willingly took our place and died on the cross in order to pay our penalty. God accepted His death in place of ours and declared us righteous in His sight (Rom. 3:22).

Salvation is a free gift, received through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9). Our good works will neither satisfy divine justice nor pay for our transgressions. They are not what God requires for forgiveness or adoption into His family. Faith in Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, heaven becomes our eternal destination.

God wants you to live forever with Him. If you haven’t yet made your eternal destination certain, do so now.

Bible in One Year: Luke 12-13

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SOURCE: Culled from In Touch Ministries