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Daily Devotion

  • Jesus Came to Heal Hurting Hearts

    Posted on February 21, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie

    "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me. He has put His hand on Me to preach the Good News to poor people. He has sent Me to heal those with a sad heart. He has sent Me to tell those who are being held that they can go free. He has sent Me to make the blind to see and to free those who are held because of trouble." Luke 4:18 (NLV)

    "Why can't you get it together?"

    "If you would just try harder."

    Have you heard any of these statements? Maybe you've even said them to yourself.

    Perhaps those who stood on a hot hillside in Nazareth were asking themselves the same questions. Many tried hard to follow all the religious laws, but knew they fell short. Would Jesus give them more rules to follow? Imagine their surprise as Jesus spelled out His personal mission statement:

    I've come to open the eyes of the blind.

    I've come to set the prisoner free.

    I've come with good news for the poor in spirit.

    I've come to heal the brokenhearted.

    The crowd must have been shocked by His words, for they expected a warrior, not a heart surgeon. Jesus Himself was setting the record straight. He came so that we might be made whole ... through Him.

    For those who had been trying harder, striving more, it was a transforming message. They were accustomed to following rules or meeting expectations of man, rather than resting in the power of their almighty God.

    When I became a believer, I didn't understand Jesus' mission statement. I was dealing with untended brokenness and trying everything to fix myself. When I grasped the power of Luke 4:18, this truth changed me: The power of the cross is not found in what I do, but in what has already been done for me.

    Jesus didn't mean for us to do this alone. It's not our strength or power that will transform us. Yes, we make changes. Yes, we open our broken heart to His tender touch. Yes, we allow Him to move us in uncomfortable directions to discover new paths — and leave old ones behind. But we are in a partnership with God ... and He's bigger.

    I also discovered I didn't have to earn God's love. Maybe, like me, you thought God would love you one day, when you had it all together.

    Jesus' mission statement proclaims that He loves us today. With our baggage and hurting hearts. When we grasp that kind of love, it changes us. It compels us to return that love, and to trust Jesus from our hearts.

    This trust helps us listen for His voice. We sense when He is teaching or redirecting us. We weigh temptation in light of our love for our heavenly Father. This relationship helps us discover our "true selves, [our] child-of-God selves" (John 1:12, The Message).

    Last, Luke 4:18 reminded me that I didn't have to run away just because I felt broken.

    A hurting heart can send us running down paths we may regret, searching for something or someone to ease our pain. Jesus' mission statement invites us to stop running and rest in Him, expectant that our true selves will emerge with His healing touch.

    The truth of Luke 4:18 is ours today to hold close, for Jesus came to heal our hurting hearts.

    Dear Jesus, for the longest time I've been concentrating on my efforts, but today I expectantly rest in You. Thank You that the power of the cross is not in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Today, you read about what you don't have to do. You don't need to fix yourself, or earn God's love or run any more. In fact, the more you don't do these things, the more you live in Him. The more you don't do these things, the more you build a foundation of rest and trust. The more you don't do these things, the more joy you rediscover in your faith.

    What will you not do today?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (NIV)

    Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • God’s Will: Purity

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

    When we signed up to be a Christian, we signed away our old way of life. We became counter cultural in our character. We no longer tolerate sin in our actions, because we have a new life in Christ. Once saved, we were set apart for the will of Almighty God. We are separated from society's acceptance of deviant behavior. We are in the process of being purified by the Holy Spirit for our Savior’s purposes. Like a compliant child, we want to obey our heavenly Father.

    Yes, we have God given urges: to sleep, eat, drink, and have sex. However, these desires can be a blessing or a curse. It depends on our willingness to follow the Lord’s plan for these perfectly legitimate instinctive actions. Lazy behavior can be the fruit of too much sleep, gluttony feeds unbridled eating, shameful drunkenness comes from excessive drinking and immorality is the outcome of sexual behavior between a man and woman outside of marriage. God’s will is for our urges to be under the control of His Spirit. Sexual purity frees us from an obsessive appetite.

    "The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord,and the Lord for the body"(1 Corinthians 6:13).

    A flippant treatment of the body is unfaithfulness to the Lord. Sexual purity honors the Lord, sexual impurity dishonors the Lord. Sexual purity provides security, sexual impurity creates insecurity. Sexual purity protects from disease, sexual impurity invites illness. Sexual purity is free from regrets, sexual impurity wrestles with guilt. Sexual purity builds marriages, sexual impurity tears down marriages. God’s will is to live pure and free under the Spirit’s control.

    Therefore, present your body on the altar of God’s holiness. Be purified by His Spirit and set apart for obedience to His commands. Your relationship with your body reflects your relationship with God. Thus, love and nourish yourself physically, as you love and nourish yourself spiritually. Your Creator created your beautiful body for Himself. Your sanctified self makes God smile. Save yourself for physical intimacy in marriage and you will grow in intimacy with Jesus.

    "Therefore, I urge you,brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conformto the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:1-2).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I present my body to be purified on the altar of Your holiness.

    Related Readings: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Romans 6:19; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:17

    Post/Tweet today: Our relationship with our body reflects our relationship with God. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • A Grace Place

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

    "Does God ever get tired of my issues?"

    I've asked myself this question many times throughout my lifelong struggle with emotional eating.

    Over the course of my journey, I've whined to God, gotten mad at God and often ignored God. And I've worried I was going to use up all my grace with God.

    I felt He would be justified to say, "Enough! Go away. I'm tired of your issues. Figure it out for yourself!" That is, until I read again the "first story" of God's grace with fresh eyes.

    We often think of God's grace beginning at the cross. But as I read through the Scripture from the point of view of someone struggling with food issues, I saw a revelation of God's grace right from the start in Genesis.

    Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the forbidden tree and ushered sin in to the world. God handed down the consequences of their actions, which included banishment from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). They must have believed they had pushed past the boundaries of God's grace. After all, He was sending them out of the garden.

    Whenever I've read that story, I thought they had to leave paradise because God was punishing them. God was disappointed in them. God was giving them what they deserved. But I was wrong. Their relocation was not a place of abandonment — it was a place of grace.

    You see, there were two special trees in the Garden of Eden. One was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; this was the one with the forbidden fruit. The other was the tree of life. This was the one that gave Adam and Eve perpetual life — no diseases, no death, no sagging body parts. (Okay I'm not sure about that last benefit, but I'm banking on this reality in heaven.)

    Anyhow. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin entered in. Sin corrupted everything. And at that point, it was God's absolute love and most tender mercy that ushered Adam and Eve out of the garden. Not His anger or retaliation. They had to leave.

    If they'd been allowed to stay, they would have kept eating from the tree of life and lived forever, wallowing in sin. Wallowing in all the brokenness sin brings with it: disease, fear, heartbreak, separation from God.

    An unending life of shame and sin would have been their fate.

    God couldn't stand that for the people He loved. So, His love made them leave and allowed them to die. So that they could experience the resurrected life His Son would one day provide.

    Brokenness to redemption.

    God did not run out of grace at the dawn of humankind. And He will not run out of grace for you or for me. He does not want us to ever stay in a perpetual state of sin and despair. We were not created with a food struggle or physical cravings because God is angry at us. It is because He loves us so much that He allows our struggle with food to be a physical indication of a spiritual situation.

    God is asking for us to go to a new place as well — and it is a place of grace!

    Receive grace and let it wash away all shame and guilt from every unhealthy choice you've ever regretted and fretted over. Yes, there is work to do and progress to be made, but we will walk from here with a clean slate.

    This grace and the unfathomable depth of God's love settle me. Breathes hope into my dread. And trust into my doubts.

    So when I stumble along on this journey, I know this grace is there for me, and I will come running back. And once again, it will give me a soft place to land.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your grace. Help me to rely on You in the midst of my struggle today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What issues are you tired of battling?

    Bring them all to God in gut-honest prayers. Soak in the truths of His grace found in our key verse and power verse today.

    Power Verse:
    2 Timothy 2:1, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus," (ESV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • God’s Will: Thankfulness

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

    Thankfulness is abnormal for the unbeliever, but normal for the believer. A heart void of God’s grace is incapable of consistently initiating gratitude, but a heart governed by grace can’t hold back a thankful expression. It erupts in public worship and praise to God. It naturally flows from joyful lips in private prayers. Like a small child ecstatic over the gift of a new doll or toy truck, so those who have received the gift of salvation are exuberant over their abundant life in Christ.

    Indeed, grace is the gift of God that keeps on giving. Not only are we its recipient at conversion, but His grace continues to infuse our faith day by day, until that day we appear with Him. Yes, gratitude keeps our attitude focused on the Lord’s goodness. He is still good, when others are bad. He is still good, when we are sad. He is still good, when we are mad. He is still good, when we doubt. He is still good, when we struggle. So, we remain thankful regardless of our situation.

    "And we know that in all things God works for the goodof those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

    There are obstacles to exercising God’s will of thanksgiving in all circumstances. A wounded heart can’t see beyond its own hurt and anger. There is no gratitude, only disappointment with God and people. Why would my Savior allow me to be hurt? The heart of Jesus hurts when we hurt. His Spirit enters into our pain with comfort and compassion. Our pain is not an excuse to pout, but to pour out our emotions to the Healer of our heart. Gratefulness is God’s antibiotic.

    What can you release to Jesus for Him to handle? A relationship? A health issue? A past pain? Let go and let God do His work of grace. Perhaps you daily journal the blessings of God. Thank Him for your joy in Jesus Christ. Thank Him for the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the food you eat. Thank Him for physical shelter from the elements and spiritual shelter from the enemy. God’s will for you is to be grateful. Your thanksgiving inspires others to be thankful!

    "Let the peace of Christrule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am thankful for Your grace and peace You provide in all situations.

    Related Readings: Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 5:20; Hebrews 12:28

    Post/Tweet today: Our pain is not an excuse to pout, but to pour out our emotions to the Healer of our heart. #God’swillthankfulness

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Live so That ...

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    Wendy

    "He died for us so that we will all live, not for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose from the dead." 2 Corinthians 5:15 (The Voice)

    As I stood in the kitchen of our new house, gut-wrenching loneliness swept over me. My heart ached for all that was familiar. Doubts plagued my mind. Had we made a mistake? Did we really hear God? Was this really His plan?

    We had just moved from Dallas, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina, but moving had not been on our original agenda. It meant leaving an amazing circle of friends, a wonderful church family and great jobs. But we both felt God calling us away from Dallas, away from all that was comfortable and familiar. In fact, He orchestrated circumstances in such a way that we could not not move to Charlotte. But it was still unclear why He brought us here.

    Although Jesus was clear about His mission, I wonder if He experienced similar sensations of loneliness and heartache as He left all that was familiar to follow God's plan.

    Jesus willingly consented to His Father's plan and did the incomprehensible. The One who was rich in everything became poor, making Himself nothing. He assumed our debt of sin and paid it with His very life so that you and I could become beloved children of God.

    And His sacrifice, when accepted by us, gives us not only new life but also a new role in life!

    Our key verse from 2 Corinthians teaches that Jesus died so that we will live ... not for ourselves but for the One who died for us. And when we read a bit further in 2 Corinthians, verse 20 clarifies our role: "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors ..." (NIV).

    Ambassadors are connectors. They connect the lives of those they represent with the lives of those in their sphere of influence. And to be effective, the chosen appointees must live so that people are drawn to and find favor with them and those they represent.

    Friend, we too are ambassadors. We are ambassadors appointed by Christ, not by a nation or an organization. God intentionally placed us on this earth to live for Him.

    What a privilege and honor to be hand-picked by God to live fully engaged lives in this generation, in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our families so that He can use us to shine His love and light!

    It took time, but I came to understand that God had not abandoned me years ago when we moved. He intentionally placed me in that home and neighborhood to be His ambassador. He brought friends into my life who invited me to my first Bible study. He gave me an insatiable hunger for His Word that led to teaching and writing Bible studies. He continues to open doors for me to speak and write for Him.

    God had a plan that day in the kitchen that I could not see. And He faithfully equipped me through the years so that I could live out that plan ... so that I could impact my sphere of influence and represent Him well.

    Will you join me in being an ambassador? Together let's invite God to help us live a so that life ... a life that truly makes a difference for the Kingdom of God.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your amazing grace ... a gift that gives me new life. Help me to live a "so that" life, one that pours out Your love and grace. Equip me with all I need to be Your ambassador. Father, I want to represent You well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    How well do you represent Christ?

    Read Romans 6:12-13 (see below). Prayerfully consider how you use your new life in Christ. Commit to take one action step this week to live so that ... to live as God's ambassador in your sphere of influence.

    Power Verses:
    Romans 6:12-13, "Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • God’s Permissive Will

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:17

    The will of God is what He wills for His children, but it is not forced. What our heavenly Father wants for us is Himself, His plan and His provision, but only at our instigation. God’s will is a choice. It is an option between a conflicting system of understanding and the Spirit’s process of revealing His clear path. What the Lord wills is what’s best. When we are willing, He is more than willing to show us the next step of faith. A little walk with Jesus unveils His vast love for us.

    When we choose the will of God, we choose to follow God no matter what. It is a capitulation to Christ and Christ alone. Belief is what brings discernment into focus. Belief creates clarity, but unbelief clouds our choices. Like the scary sensation of a pitch black bedroom, we stumble toward the bathroom in the middle of the night. So, we cannot see unless we flip on the switch of faith. It's from the bright light of trust that we find the Lord’s best. His will starts with our Savior.

    "The Lord confidesin those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them" (Psalm 25:14).

    Are two conflicting choices staring you in the face of your faith? Both are good, but you want to know the Lord’s best. Where to work? Who to date or marry? Where to live? Where to attend church or school? Rise above your affections for your options and set your affections on Jesus. Release your earthly attachments and set your heart on heavenly outcomes. What you let go of, God gives back in what’s best for you. Prayer and patience produce your best choices for Christ.

    Faith is confidence in Christ; a total trust in His character and His claim to be God.  Once you settle this, submit your will to the Lord’s will. Surrender your right to know what’s right and take the next right step. Your choice to do God’s will does not guarantee instant revelation, but it does mean you move forward under the Spirit’s guidance. Follow by faith, even if you don’t feel a spiritual sensation. Obedience to what you know, may eventually answer what you don’t know. Choose God’s will and He will affirm His truth in your heart. You are a confidant of His will.

    "For the Lord detests the perversebut takes the upright into his confidence" (Proverbs 3:32).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father I submit my will to Your will, so I can joyfully follow Your ways.

    Related Readings: Job 29:4; Psalm 111:10; Mark 3:35; Acts 18:21; Romans 12:1-2

    Post/Tweet today: Obedience to what you know, may eventually answer what you don’t know. #chooseGod’swill

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • How to Ruin Your Appetite for God

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

    With the summer season just a few calendar pages away, the media is preparing to bombard us with information about new diets, exercise programs and creative ideas for healthy eating. So in light of all the buzz, I considered my own health goals for this season and wondered what changes I need to make.

    My thoughts soon wandered away from my physical health, to my spiritual health. As I pondered the junk food I need to remove from my diet and toss from my cupboards, I considered what spiritual junk food needed to go as well.

    Junk food is usually delicious in flavor, low in nutritional value, but high in fat and calories. While okay once in awhile, if I fill myself with junk food on a daily basis, I won't be hungry for nutritious food.

    In the same way junk food derails our health goals, succumbing to the temptations of spiritual junk food throws us off track and curbs our appetite for God.

    Today's key verse addresses this subject of filling ourselves with God's Word, instead of the temptations of the world. In this first chapter of Joshua, God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites after the death of Moses. To prepare Joshua for the task, God gave him instructions and encouragement. God explained the importance of meditating on His Word to avoid temptation and sin, and the importance of keeping His commands on Joshua's lips.

    God knew the distractions and discouragements of the world could easily derail Joshua from God's chosen path. So He commanded Joshua to have a daily menu of God's truth — to meditate on the Law every day and talk about it often — so that His ways would always be fresh in Joshua's mind. In other words, God wanted Joshua to be filled with His Word, so that he would have no hunger for the temptations of the world.

    An infinite amount of spiritual junk food tickles our fingertips every day through television, movies, computers, smart phones, books, radio and more. Even though these mediums can offer good "food" as well, if we don't use spiritual discernment to selectively choose what we are consuming, we may find ourselves filled with the wrong things, and a curbed appetite for what is spiritually nutritious.

    If we aren't careful, the spiritual junk food the world offers might inadvertently become our primary source of nourishment, diminishing our appetite for God's Word and lessening our desire for healthy portions of His instruction.

    Too much junk food of any kind will weaken our bodies and our spirits. But spending time with God and keeping His Word on our lips will bring strength and health, inside and out. Might we put His words on our lips today and pray for an insatiable hunger from this day forward?

    Dear Lord, open my eyes to the spiritual junk food I have fed my heart and mind. Help me see where I need to make some changes in order to be spiritually healthier. Give me the courage and perseverance to break unhealthy habits and focus on what You know is best for me instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What "junk food" have I been consuming that is possibly curbing my appetite for God and His Word, and negatively impacting my relationship with Him?

    Ask yourself these three questions, and then pray over your honest answers:

    1. In what ways do I feed my heart and mind on a daily basis? (TV, radio, books, God's Word, devotions, etc.)
    2. Does my hunger for God outweigh my hunger for other "foods"?
    3. What two changes can I make in my daily life to increase my appetite for God?

    Power Verses:
    1 Peter 2:2-3, "Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness." (NLT)

    Matthew 4:4, "Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (NIV)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • God’s Sovereign Will

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    He [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cupbe taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:39

    The cross of Jesus Christ was a decree of God. It was the Lord’s sovereign will for Jesus to die for our sins and forgive all who believe. Yes, even Christ in His last hours struggled with the intensity of His suffering. Yet in humble prayer He cried out, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” There are times, events and people that were prepared beforehand by the triune God. Nothing stops their influence for they are from the Lord, for the Lord. God’s will, will reign.

    Furthermore, the Lord uses sinful men and women to carry out His righteous outcomes. What some meant for evil, our Savior Jesus uses for good. Abandoned children are found and adopted by a loving Christian family. Released prisoners are trained and given a second chance to work. Heroism rises from the ashes of a terrorist attack, as individuals unselfishly serve the injured, the unconscious, and the dead. God is not finished with pain until something comes out of the hurt.

    "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14).

    Yes, we are wise to bend our wills to God’s will. We can make a request, but we trust He will do what’s best. For example, we can ask for physical healing on earth, but God’s best may be ultimate healing for eternity in heaven. We can ask for our heart’s desire, but God’s best may be to change the desires of our heart. We can ask for favor with the student body, but God’s best may be only a few who follow. Thus, we can ask anything, according to His will in Christ Jesus.

    Therefore, surrender to the sovereign will of the Lord for your life. If it is to suffer, then do good while you suffer. If it is to financially prosper, then be aggressively generous with your wealth. If it is to live with less, then learn contentment with what you have and not obsess over what you don’t have. If it is to struggle in a family relationship, then model the gospel with your love. If it is joy and peace or sadness and fear, thank God in (not for) all kinds of circumstances. God’s sovereign will is a decree that will happen, regardless. His will is what’s best for all parties.

    "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will"(Proverbs 21:1, ESV).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father I surrender to Your sovereign will, so I will follow wherever you lead.

    Related Readings: Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 John 2:17

    Post/Tweet today: We are wise to bend our wills to God’s will. We can make a request, but we trust He will do what’s best. #God’swill

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Marks of a Spiritual Father

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John

    A few years ago, I was teaching a Sunday School class through the book of 1 Corinthians.  In it we learn of both Paul's love for this motley crew and his passion for their pursuit of Christ.

     

     

    In chapter four he encourages them to think about the various marks of a spiritual father.  At this point in time I think it would be good for us to consider these.  Keep in mind that the list that Paul uses is defiantly not exhaustive, nor is it just for "spiritual" fathers.  Us "regular" dads would be good to take to Paul's words of encouragement here.

    Admonishes
    Paul writes in verse 14, "I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as a my beloved children."  He is urging them to move beyond the sin that they have become so comfortable with.  How often do you seek a father who would be willing to speak truth into your life?  Telling you to leave the sin behind?  How often as a father do you do the same to the ones that you love?

    Loves
    As stated above, Paul calls this group of people his "beloved children."  There is a genuine care here.  There are times in my past where I would find it much easier to shun someone that has disappointed me.  Paul's approach to discipline is to love them greatly.  I am reminded that because we have been loved greatly, so we are called to love greatly.

    Teaches
    Paul continues in verse 15, "though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers."  Paul knows that there are a lot of people that are more than willing to give advise.  Good advise doesn't do much for us, does it.  We need a good teacher.  A father can certainly be that for us.

    Lives by Example
    "I urge you, then, be imitators of me."  What a verse.  How bold of Paul to state something like this verse.  At first glance it may look intimidating for us.  We think that we would never be able to say something like that to someone else.  Listen here to what Paul is saying; he is not saying that he is perfect and that we need to be perfect like him.  That is the furthest thing from the truth.  What Paul is saying is that he is a sinner, but regardless of his sin, he continues to find his life hidden with Christ.  That statement is true for you and I, dear friend.  When we know that, we can boldly say, "be imitators of me."  Because we know that our lives are hidden in Christ - and that is where we have all the confidence we need.

    Disciplines
    In verse 21, Paul writes, "What do you wish?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in spirit of gentleness?"  Proverbs 13:24 says, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him."  Paul was not afraid of using a "rod" to bring discipline to his children in the church of Corinth.  They needed it.  To some extent, if Paul did not use it, he would showing them that he hates them.  Often times in our lives, as fathers, it may be easier to not bring the "rod" to our children, but in doing so we are communicating hate.  God disciplines those He loves and as fathers (spiritual or regular) we need to bring discipline.  In some cases, it's a matter of love or hate.

  • Being Right Doesn't Mean I'm Righteous

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy

    "You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:4b-5 (NIV)

    I still have pounds to lose and overflowing closets, but this year my resolution isn't based on external goals. Instead, there's a heart issue clambering for attention, and God is filling me with a simple prayer: Lord, please make me completely righteous and not a bit self-righteous.

    The word righteous means, "acting in accord with divine and moral law, free from guilt or sin" according to Webster. But being righteous and looking righteous are two different things.

    Looking righteous is something I've mastered.

    I know how to follow the rules, play the game and fit into the church crowd. Maybe you're like me and are wired to work hard to get things done "right." I like to please my peers and check items off my to-do list.

    Often it wins me the approval I crave. I get pats on the back, and it all looks good on the outside.

    But on the inside — in the quiet moments — I can find myself exhausted. Defeated. Numb. Those feelings let me know I've crossed from being righteous through Christ into trying to earn righteousness myself.

    Sometimes my self-righteousness leaks out and reveals its ugliness through judgmental thoughts and attitudes towards others. That's when I find myself looking down my nose at those struggling while thinking I have it together or snapping with impatience when someone delays my next task.

    Then I read Revelation 2 in a new light. In this passage, Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for their good deeds. He praises them for hard work, perseverance, intolerance of wickedness, sound doctrine and endurance. It's a list of wonderful works indicating righteousness.

    But Jesus follows with a stunning and scathing indictment, "You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:4b-5).

    Those verses highlight the root of the issue and reveal the Ephesians were in the same predicament as me. They were working hard, but without love they had become self-righteous, and God won't tolerate that.

    Could I have lost my first love? Was that the cause of my self-righteous thoughts? I began to think back to the days when I first fell in love with my husband. I was crazy about him, and couldn't get enough time with him. Love for him filled me with an explosive joy bubbling over on everyone around me. Not only did I want to hug him, everyone else was in danger of being hugged too!

    The same is true when my heart is overflowing with love for God. That joy bubbles over to those around me. It makes my heart sincere and gracious, rather than hard and judgmental.

    To maintain the right heart, God asks us to keep returning to our first love with Him. To rediscover the newness, lightness and joy we felt at first. He urges us to constantly rekindle passion for Him, which will deepen our love for Him and others.

    The beautiful part is God doesn't call us to love without Him setting the ultimate example. His love is "wide and long and high and deep" (Ephesians 3:18, NIV), and it surpasses our thoughts and the works done in our own strength.

    Pursuing righteousness solely through good works is an empty endeavor, always leaving us impossibly short of the goal. Returning to our first love ensures full righteousness as we follow Jesus, for He is our righteousness. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30, NIV).

    Renewing our first true love produces righteousness. True righteousness creates more love for God and others. It's a beautiful cycle, and it's a goal that transforms us.

    Lord, please make me completely righteous and not a bit self-righteous. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What can you remember about your first days of falling in love with Jesus? Write down your memories of how you felt and what you did during that time.

    Has that first love faded? Spend some time in the quiet today offering a worship/love song to Him. Ask Him to rekindle your passion.

    Power Verses:
    Proverbs 21:21, "He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." (NIV)

    Luke 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

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