Choose Wisely!

Deuteronomy 30

11“This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand or perform. 12It is not up in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go to heaven and bring it down so we can hear and obey it?’ 13It is not beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear and obey it?’ 14The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

15“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between prosperity and disaster, between life and death. 16I have commanded you today to love the LORD your God and to keep his commands, laws, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and become a great nation, and the LORD your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy. 17But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

19“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! 20Choose to love the LORD your God and to obey him and commit yourself to him, for he is your life. Then you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-20, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

There are dozens of burger chains among an endless sea of fast food choices in America. The job of marketing is to convince you why you should frequent one establishment over the others.

A successful marketing campaign will have you singing a jingle or repeating a slogan unconsciously.

Back in the 70’s it was McDonald’s “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” jingle vs. Burger King’s “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us, all we ask is that you let us serve it your way” chorus.

These two fast food giants were the undisputed big dogs of the fast food world.

Wendy’s burst on the scene in the 1980’s with its famous “Where’s the beef?” commercial and is currently the 3rd largest burger chain.

Today, the McDonald’s slogan is “I’m loving it.”

I can’t even tell you what Burger King’s slogan is as they seem to be going through somewhat of an identity crisis.

Wendy’s current marketing strategy is to position itself as the “better” choice, from hot and crispy fries that are better than McDonalds to burgers made from beef that is fresh, not frozen. The ad campaign encourages patrons to “Choose wisely, choose Wendy’s”.

It all comes down to how you choose.

This is the idea in this section of the book of Deuteronomy. Make your choice and choose wisely.

The book of Deuteronomy is really a message given by Moses to the Israelites just before entering the promised land. The word actually means “Second Law”. Moses had already given the law to the Israelites in Exodus but most of those people had died off because of their disobedience in Numbers 13-14. Hence, this is the “second” giving of the law.

After 40 years of wandering in the desert a new generation was finally about to experience God’s promise to enter the promised land on the other side of the Jordan river. Moses is reminding them of the covenant that God had established with His people, along with His promise that if they would follow Him whole-heartedly and obey His commands, they would not only live, but they would prosper.

Disobedience, on the other hand, would bring about disaster and curses, including certain destruction from their enemies.

The choice for the Israelites was simple: choose life and prosperity over death and destruction.

Choosing life means loving God with your whole heart, keeping His commands and walking in His ways.

Choosing death means turning away from God, refusing to listen to Him and being drawn away to serve and worship other gods (including oneself).

Clearly life is better than death and prosperity is better than destruction.

Though we are now living under the New Covenant, the basic choice is still the same. We can choose life or death. We can choose prosperity or we can choose destruction. We can choose to love God and follow Him or we can choose to follow our own selfish path.

Like the Wendy’s ad campaign says, there is a better option…..choose wisely!

Reflection

When have you been faced with a tough choice in your life? How did you choose? What factors went into your decision?

What makes choosing God so difficult for people in today’s culture? 

What do you think it means to choose life? What would that look like?

What do you think “destruction” looks like for those who choose not to love God? 

What steps can you take to continue to choose life over death?

 

Photo by Batu Gezer on Unsplash

It’s Not How You Start, but How You Finish!

Acts 15

36After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along.” 37Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work. – Acts 15:36-37, NLT

Colossians 4

14Dear Doctor Luke sends his greetings, and so does Demas.  – Colossians 4:14, NLT

2 Timothy 4

9Please come as soon as you can. 10Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me. 12I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.  – 2 Timothy 4:9-13, NLT


The Daily DAVEotional

In December an amazing thing happened in an NFL football game. At half-time, the Minnesota Vikings were getting taken to the woodshed, down 33-0 to the Indianapolis Colts. It was a surprising development, given the Vikings had one of the best records in football and the Colts were widely regarded as one of the worst teams in the league.

I remember seeing the half-time score and thinking that game was all but over.

Later I learned that the Vikings had made a complete turn around in the second half, tied the game up and won 39-36, on a last second field goal in overtime. It was the greatest comeback in NFL history.

 

Proof once again that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

The same is true in the Christian life. The Bible is replete with stories about people who did not finish well.

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul mentions two guys who are going in opposite directions. Paul mentions both by name.

The first is Demas. You might remember Demas from Colossians 4, where Paul mentions him as one of his co-workers who offers a greeting to the recipients of Paul’s epistle. Demas was on the right track, seemingly walking with Christ and serving with Paul for the furtherance of the gospel ministry in Asia Minor.

But something happened. We’re not given all the details but later, when Paul pens his final letter to Timothy, it’s clear that Demas has abandoned the faith in favor of a worldly lifestyle.

In contrast to Demas is Mark. Mark did not get off to a good start. He joined Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey as an assistant in Acts 13:5 but didn’t last very long, abandoning them before their journey was complete (Acts 13:13).

In Acts 15, when Paul and Barnabas decide to go out on another missionary journey, Barnabas wants to take Mark with them but Paul is not in favor of this plan because Mark had previously abandoned them. Their disagreement was so sharp that the Paul and Barnabas band broke up and each decided to go solo, taking on new partners, Paul taking Silas while Mark accompanied Barnabas. I wrote about this first “church split” in a previous blog post here.

Later, when Paul is older and about to leave this earth for his heavenly abode, Paul makes a final request of Timothy – “bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me.”

Paul had no use for Mark early on, for Mark had clearly tubed out on the mission. But though Mark started off shaky, he finished well, so much so that later, when Paul was nearing death, Paul came to see Mark as tremendously useful.

These two guys, both mentioned in the same ending lines of Paul’s letter to Timothy, illustrate that no matter where you’re at or what you’ve done, you can always re-direct your path and finish well. Like Mark, we can change the narrative of our lives and become “useful” to the Lord and His purposes.

Likewise, even if you may find yourself on the right path now, it’s no guarantee that you will finish well. Like Demas, we can be lured by worldly forces to abandon our first love for mere earthly pleasures.

My hope is to finish well like Mark did, while avoiding the pitfalls of Demas!

Reflection

In what ways do you relate to Mark? In what ways can you relate to Demas?

What are some examples in your own circle of friends and acquaintances of people who seemed to start strong but ultimately didn’t finish?

Demas left Paul because he “loved the things of this life”. What are some of the things in this life that tend to be alluring to you and could possibly sidetrack you from wholehearted devotion to Christ?

What safeguards can you place in your own life to ensure you finish like Mark and not like Demas?

 

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Helping New Believers Via Digital Discipleship

Last fall, I shared about how Cru is reaching people all over the world through our evangelistic websites EveryStudent.com and EveryPerson.com.

In August, over 5.3 million people visited one of our sites and well over 100,000 people made a decision to become followers of Jesus. If you do the math, that’s over 3300 people EACH DAY making a decision to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior!

Every month, we receive hundreds of messages from people all around the world whose lives have been impacted. 

Lalit, from India, emailed us to say, “I now know that Jesus has sacrificed for us and he covered us by his blood, so our sins could be washed away. And I am really so happy because my life will be changed now by God. I tell many about God who is like this.” 

After accepting Christ, Hadijah from Uganda shared, ”I’m so glad that I accepted Jesus in my life. I love this change. I’ve been through tough times, but I’m feeling some change ever since I accepted Christ.”

Hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world are coming to Christ each month by reading evangelistic articles on the Cru websites at EveryStudent.com and EveryPerson.com.

Many of those accepting Christ are coming from the most challenging countries in the world (Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Atheistic Nations). The websites allow them to come privately, safely, and at their moment of interest/questioning.

But what happens to people once they’ve made a commitment to accept Christ into their lives?

Did you know that Cru also has a website aimed at discipling new believers as they begin their journey with Christ?

StartingwithGod.com is a Cru website that helps new believers build a strong spiritual foundation by introducing them to foundational principles of walking with Christ.

Those who indicate a new decision for Christ are invited to go to the site and sign up for the Spiritual Starter Kit, which initiates a series of emails that link to articles that explain important concepts for spiritual growth.

One of the articles, The Nature of Faith, helps new believers understand what it means to trust God in every day life. I wrote this article years ago as an adaptation of a talk I gave to Cru students.

Signing up for the spiritual starter kit at StartingwithGod.com allows new believers an easy way to take a next step in their new relationship with God.

Earlier this year, I learned about the impact the article is having in the lives of people around the world. 

Last year alone (2021), the article was read by over 10,000 new believers in English, Spanish and Portuguese  in addition to countless more who read the article in languages such as Albanian, Armenian, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Russian and many others.

If you’re looking for a simple way to introduce others to Jesus with little effort and no pressure, consider inviting your friends to visit EveryPerson.com where they can explore their spirituality and address their questions with complete freedom and anonymity.

An easy way to help others build a foundation for their faith is to encourage them to go to StartingwithGod.com and sign up for the Spiritual Starter Kit or one of the other email discipleship opportunities.

Please join us in praying for the continued impact of these sites to those around the world who are spiritually thirsty and seeking answers to life’s challenges. 

Thank you for your partnership, which enables us to minister to Young Professionals personally as well as people around the world digitally!

Biblical Investing Advice

Ecclesiastes 11

2Divide your gifts among many, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead. (Ecclesiastes 11:2, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The Bible has a lot to say about money and wealth. Despite what many people in our culture think today, the Bible doesn’t condemn wealth or making money. Actually, Jesus himself encourages the wise steward  to multiply the resources entrusted to him/her by God and to seek to make a profit. I’ve written a number of blog posts on the subject of whether wealth is immoral. You can read my previous posts here, here and here.  Additionally, I wrote about God’s stance towards the rich here.

Though the Bible encourages people to make a profit and to multiply their financial resources, it doesn’t give a lot of guidance on how exactly we’re supposed to do that. When it comes to investing, the Bible has little to say that will yield any specific steps or strategies to guide us.

There is one verse however, that gives some financial wisdom on the topic of investing, and it’s found in Ecclesiastes 11:2.

In this verse, Solomon tells us to divide our “gifts” among many in order to hedge against risk.

What’s he talking about?

I like the way the NIV states this verse. It says it this way:

2Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. (Ecclesiastes 11:2, NIV)

In this verse, Solomon is encouraging the reader to divide his investments into 7 or 8 different portions. Essentially, he’s encouraging the reader to diversify their assets in order to hedge against a potential disaster.

I found a blog post by Alice A. Anacioco to be especially helpful. She explains this passage this way:

You may be surprised to read King Solomon offering financial counsel as he nears the end of Ecclesiastes. But accordingly, Solomon was deeply involved in international trades with merchants. And just like today, one of the main trade commodities was grain.

The merchants of Solomon’s day would load their grains on ships and send them off. But instead of loading all of their grains in just one ship, he tells his merchants to put them in several ships and send them out in a diversified way so that if one of the ships should sink, he would not lose everything.

The main advice the Bible gives when it comes to investing is to diversify your investments. The idea is to spread your money out among different types of assets so that if one type of asset is negatively impacted by an economic event, the other assets may be unaffected and as a result, the entire portfolio will not be completely devastated.

Be careful though. Many people assume they are following this advice because they have placed their investment money into mutual funds. Many financial advisors will advise their clients to diversify their stock portfolio among many different stocks so that if one company performs badly, the positive performances of the other stocks may shield the portfolio from being completely torpedoed.

Mutual funds provide some level of inherent diversity because a mutual fund is already a portfolio of many stocks. Hence, if one company within the fund goes down, other companies may go up and thus the value of the fund may go up as well despite the poor performance of one or a few companies.

But being invested in a number of stocks or even mutual funds does not mean you are diversified. To truly be diversified and hedged against disastrous economic events, one needs to have their funds invested in different asset classes altogether.

Think about it. Stocks and mutual funds are part of the same asset class. When the market crashed in 2000 due to the dotcom bubble bursting, many people who had all their money in the stock market had their entire portfolio decimated. Again, in 2008 when the market crashed as a result of the real estate bubble bursting, many who were “diversified” because they owned many different stocks or mutual funds took major hits to their bottom line.

I have heard and seen too many stories of people who had their entire nest egg cut in half or worse by one of these two market events. And for those who were in retirement when it happened, the results have been disastrous. There simply is no time to rebound from these market crashes when you’re already taking disbursements during retirement.

Solomon’s advice is basically “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. So if you really want to diversify, don’t have all your money in stocks and mutual funds. Invest in other assets as well (such as real estate, precious metals, commodities, etc.) That way, if the stock market crashes, as it inevitably will do, only a portion of your entire portfolio will be affected. And who knows, even while the market is crashing, perhaps the other assets will be unaffected or even increase. You may find that you are gaining overall instead of losing it all.

Reflection

What is or has been your investing strategy?

What steps have you taken or are you taking to diversify your financial portfolio?

Besides stocks and mutual funds, what are some other asset classes you could invest in to begin to create a truly diversified portfolio?

 

Photo by Precondo CA on Unsplash

 

All You Need is Love

Romans 12

9Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. 10Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.

12Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. 13When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.

14If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. 16Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. (Romans 12:9-18, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The second half of Romans 12 reads almost like a chapter in the book of Proverbs, with each verse seemingly reflecting its own solitary counsel of wisdom.

Yet there is a theme that ties this section together, and that is the idea of loving others. We all know that love is the supreme command. Jesus himself said that all the laws could be summed up in the ONE command to love God and love others.

But what does it really mean to love other people? Paul, in this section, gives a bit of a glimpse.

First off, it’s easy to talk about love but it’s harder to actually demonstrate it. Hence, the admonition to really love people and not just pretend to love others.

Love can be tangibly demonstrated by showing genuine affection for others as well as honoring others.

Love is patient with others and is demonstrated by helping meet tangible physical needs, such as providing food and/or lodging to people when they need it.

Love is empathetic. When people are happy, we rejoice with them, but when they’re sad, we share in their sorrow.

People who are loving don’t show partiality to select groups of people and they don’t try to prop themselves up by acting like they know everything. In other words, love isn’t ego-centric, but it’s other-centered. Love is selfless.

Love is not vengeful but seeks to bless others, even those whose aim is to persecute us.

Love seeks peace and harmony with others. It’s not always possible to achieve because we can’t control how others act or respond, but we can control how we respond in a given situation.

As I think about these words of Paul, I wonder how different our physical and online encounters with others would be if we sincerely took these words to heart and sought to integrate them into our lives and character.

The truth is, truly loving people is hard. It’s difficult to love those who have wronged you and even more difficult to love those who are actively persecuting you. When someone wrongs me, my sin nature wants to wrong them back.

Truly loving people in a way that reflects Jesus’s standards and expectations isn’t possible apart from the transforming power of God’s Spirit working in our lives.

We are all unfinished products and we need Jesus every day to live His life in and through us. When I commit to yielding to Him and I consciously invite Him to empower me, I find that I’m able to act in a way that is more reflective of God’s love for me. But when I’m being self-centered and rebellious, my life and actions don’t look very loving.

This is why Paul, at the outset of this chapter, encourages us to offer our bodies up to the Lord as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). He’s inviting us to surrender our will to that of the Lord’s. If we can purpose to do this more consistently, moment by moment, we just might find ourselves demonstrating love to others in the way that Paul describes.

Reflection

Paul gives a number of tangible expressions of love. Which ones are easier for you to demonstrate and which ones do you find more challenging?

Do you find it easy or hard to live in harmony and peace with others? Why or why not?

What are some examples you can think of in our culture that demonstrate a lack of love? 

What are some positive examples of love you have seen in your life and/or community?

In your opinion, what are some reasons why people are so unloving toward others?

What do you think are some solutions that would help to get people to love others?

 

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-sand-love-text-on-seashore-348520/

Evidence that Jesus is God

John 10

22It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah. 23He was at the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father. 26But you don’t believe me because you are not part of my flock. 27My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me, 29for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me. 30The Father and I are one.”

31Once again the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill him. 32Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many things to help the people. For which one of these good deeds are you killing me?”

33They replied, “Not for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, have made yourself God.” (John 10:22-33, NLT)

Acts 14

8While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. 9He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. 10So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

11When the listening crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human bodies!” 12They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul, because he was the chief speaker, was Hermes. 13The temple of Zeus was located on the outskirts of the city. The priest of the temple and the crowd brought oxen and wreaths of flowers, and they prepared to sacrifice to the apostles at the city gates.

14But when Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15“Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings like yourselves! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16In earlier days he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17but he never left himself without a witness. There were always his reminders, such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and joyful hearts.” 18But even so, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them. (Acts 14:8-18, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A number of years ago, I had some conversations with two Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door seeking to proselytize me. I wrote about that encounter in a previous post here.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a religious group that has its roots in Christianity but is not Christian in their theology. That’s because they deny both the traditional Christian doctrine of the trinity, which they believe is rooted in paganism, and the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, which they assert was not the belief of the early church but was introduced as a false doctrine by Constantine at the Council of Nicea.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is a created being and they argue that Jesus never claimed deity for himself and nowhere in Scripture does it even hint at this “false” teaching.

In my conversation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door, I referenced this passage in John 10 and asked, “what do you make of John 10:30, where Jesus says, ‘I and the Father are one?’ Isn’t this an evidence of Jesus’ divinity?”

Their response was interesting. They said, “Jesus was only claiming to be one in purpose with God the Father. He was not claiming divinity.”

My response was, “the context doesn’t support your view. Look at verse 31. It says that the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill him. Why would they want to kill him if he was simply stating that he was one in purpose with God the Father? Aren’t you one in purpose with God the Father?”

They responded by saying that the Jewish leaders had misunderstood what Jesus was saying. Yes, they picked up stones to kill him but it was because they THOUGHT that Jesus was asserting equality with God but he really wasn’t.

If this was really the case, that the leaders simply misunderstood what Jesus was saying, then why didn’t Jesus correct their false understanding?

Think about it.

Jesus makes a statement about being unified with God in purpose and suddenly a mob is trying to kill him. Jesus asks, “why are you trying to kill me?” and they tell him it’s for blasphemy…that he, being a mere man has made himself God!

If Jesus WASN’T God, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses assert, why did Jesus not correct their misunderstanding?

Interestingly, in Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas heal a crippled man and the crowd is so amazed at the miracle they had performed that they determined Paul and Barnabas must be gods in human form. They are prepared to make sacrifices to them at the city gates when Paul and Barnabas realize what’s happening. What do they do?

They don’t allow their misunderstanding about who they are to go uncorrected. They plainly and directly explain that they are NOT gods and that they should not be worshiped. Instead, they tell their audience that they are simply messengers sent to explain to them about the God they SHOULD worship – Jesus.

So the Jehovah’s Witness argument doesn’t make sense. They say that Jesus was only claiming to be one in purpose with God but the religious leaders misunderstood what Jesus meant and so they decided to stone him for blasphemy. If Jesus were not God he would have corrected their misunderstanding just as Paul and Barnabas did with those who mistook them for Greek gods. Yet Jesus didn’t correct their supposed misunderstanding. The simple explanation for why He didn’t is because they DIDN’T misunderstand what He was saying. He really was claiming equality with God the Father.

The context of this passage clearly communicates that Jesus believed He was equal with God and He communicated that belief to others. That is why the Jewish leaders picked up stones to kill him. They clearly didn’t believe Jesus was God but they clearly understood Jesus was making the claim. That is why they picked up stones to kill Him. They believed He was guilty of blasphemy.

To reach the Jehovah’s Witnesses understanding of this passage requires one to add details to the narrative that simply are not there. The text doesn’t say anywhere that the leaders had misunderstood Jesus. The Jehovah’s Witnesses though are forced to embrace this false narrative because it is the only way to hold to their preconceived view of Jesus – namely, their belief that Jesus is no God and never claimed to be.

The Jehovah’s Witness’s understanding and explanation of this passage fails. It fails because they deny what the passage clearly and plainly teaches and they add details that aren’t there in order to change the meaning of the passage  so that it fits their preconceived theological bias..

Reflection

What do you think Jesus meant when He said “I and the Father are one”?

How likely do you think it is that the religious leaders simply misunderstood what Jesus was saying?

If Jesus was simply misunderstood. what reasons can you think of to explain why He didn’t correct this misunderstanding?

What is your view of Jesus? Do you believe He is God, as traditional Christianity teaches or do you think He is simply a created being as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach?

Do you think it even matters what we believe about Jesus? Why do you think our understanding of the nature of Jesus is important? What difference do you think it makes?

 

Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash

An Issue of Control

Romans 8

1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. 3The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

5Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. 7For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

9But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.) 10Since Christ lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin, your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God. 11The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:1-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Today I got a Facebook message from a person in Africa who connected with me through our website: everyperson.com.

This person wanted to know how he could receive the Holy Spirit.

I asked him if he had accepted Jesus as his savior, to which he replied, “Yes.’

“Great”, I replied. Then you already have the Holy Spirit living inside you.

The Holy Spirit is absolutely critical to our growth as Christians, yet so many believers are completely unaware of who the Holy Spirit is or what role He plays in our daily lives.

In this passage, Paul communicates several important truths about the Holy Spirit, including the following:

    • The freedom we experience as Christ-followers is because of the work of the Holy Spirit, who freed us from the power of sin and death and gave us new spiritual life. The result is that we are no longer living under condemnation.
    • The mark of the Christian is that they have the Holy Spirit living in them. Paul states in Romans 8:9 that if you do not have the Spirit of Christ in you then you are not a believer at all. This means that to be a believer, you must have the Holy Spirit. Paul states in Ephesians 1:13 that the Holy Spirit is gifted by God to the believer at the moment of belief. Therefore, when one places their faith in Jesus and His death on the cross, the Holy Spirit comes into their life.
    • As Christians, we have two natures warring within our bodies. There is the old sinful nature and there is the new spiritual nature. We can be controlled by either of these natures. When we’re controlled by our sinful nature, we think about sinful things and we likely are going to engage in sinful activities. Paul says that this leads to death. When he talks about death he does not mean you will physically die. What he means is that spiritually you will experience death, which means separation. Hence, those Christians who are controlled by their sin nature will experience a disconnectedness from God. However, when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, we will think about spiritual things and we will experience life and peace.

Understanding the Holy Spirit and His role in our lives as Christians, often, for many believers is the difference between growing as a Christian and staying stagnant.

Peace, life, and ultimately our growth as Christians is dependent on whether we yield control of our lives to God’s Spirit living within us or whether we continue to be controlled by our own selfish desires.

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the Holy Spirit in the past? Who is He? What has been. your understanding concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians?

Based on this passage and your understanding of the Bible, what do you think is required to receive the Holy Spirit? 

What helps you to yield control of your life to the Holy Spirit? 

What are the things that make it easier for you to be controlled by your sinful nature?

 

Photo by Sunguk Kim on Unsplash

A Mark of Immaturity

1 Corinthians 3

1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord. 4When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I prefer Apollos,” aren’t you acting like those who are not Christians? 5Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6My job was to plant the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God, not we, who made it grow. 7The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose. Yet they will be rewarded individually, according to their own hard work. 9We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.  (1 Corinthians 3:1-9, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

According to Wikipedia, between 65 and 75 percent of Americans identify as Christians. Does that sound right?

Regardless of whether you consider wikipedia to be a reliable source of information on this subject, there is no disputing that a high percentage of Americans identify as Christians over other religious ideologies and non-religious philosophies.

However, the evidence of daily life, whether in the physical or online world, doesn’t seem to support the notion that so many people identify themselves as Christians. The majority of people simply don’t seem to act like Christians.

What is the problem?

Paul gives some insight in this passage. A major issue that the Corinthian church was dealing with was the problem of name-dropping and identifying and aligning themselves with certain religious leaders. It was the source of much disunity and division within this church. I wrote about this issue in a previous blog post here.

In this passage Paul plainly states that many within this Corinthian church are not mature. In verse 2, he states that he had to feed them milk and not solid food because they weren’t ready for solid food.

Now there’s nothing wrong if you are not able to eat solid food depending on the circumstances.

Think about a baby. A baby doesn’t have teeth and their digestive system is not ready for solid foods. As a result, they drink milk, either from their mother’s breasts or from some pre-made formula. As they grow and mature, however, the parents typically will begin to introduce various forms of solid food into their baby’s diet. At first, they might feed their child mashed or pureed vegetables or protein, gradually moving up to soft, chewable foods like Cheerios or small, soft vegetables or fruit pieces.

But imagine a toddler who hasn’t graduated to any form of solid food. Does that seem normal? If you saw what looked like a normal, active 5 year old crawl into his mother’s lap in order to take nourishment from his mother’s breasts as if he were a 5 month old, you would probably suspect something wasn’t normal.

This is the problem in the Corinthian church. There’s no problem with needing milk, spiritually speaking, if you are a baby Christian. But when Paul says, “And you still aren’t ready” [for solid food], the implication is that they SHOULD be ready for it.

Why weren’t they ready for it? Paul says that the reason they had not developed to a more mature point is because “you are still controlled by your own sinful desires.”

Hence, a primary marker of maturity among Christians is they are no longer controlled by their own selfish desires. Another way of putting it is immature Christians are still controlled by selfish desires.

This could be one explanation for how so many people in our country could claim to be Christian and yet their lives don’t reflect it.

Of course there are many indicators of selfishness, but one that Paul highlights here is a person’s penchant for aligning themselves with another leader or personality. Paul says that this is wrong and selfish because it robs God of his rightful worship as the ultimate person responsible for the spiritual growth and development that we may experience and attaches it to someone who is merely God’s servant doing God’s work.

If we want to move past the baby Christian phase, it will become necessary for us to learn to put aside our self-centeredness, including our tendency to elevate and idolize leadership personalities and begin to make God Himself the central focus of our lives and our spiritual development.

Reflection

What do you think Paul means when he talks about feeding them with milk? Additionally, what is meant by solid food?

As you evaluate your own spiritual development, would you consider yourself a Christian who feeds on milk or solid food? What reasons would you give to support your conclusion?

What are some practical ways a young Christian can move from milk to solid food?

Who are some Christian leadership personalities that you think some Christians may be prone to align themselves with? 

What steps can you take to ensure that you don’t improperly idolize those who may be significantly influential in your life?

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The Shortest (Non) Prayer in the Bible

Nehemiah 2

1Early the following spring, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never appeared sad in his presence before this time. 2So the king asked me, “Why are you so sad? You aren’t sick, are you? You look like a man with deep troubles.”

Then I was badly frightened, 3but I replied, “Long live the king! Why shouldn’t I be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been burned down.”

4The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5I replied, “If it please Your Majesty and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

6The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” So the king agreed, and I set a date for my departure. (Nehemiah 2:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

The book of Nehemiah is a classic study on effective leadership.

Nehemiah is a Jew in exile who happens to be the cupbearer to the King. When Nehemiah gets word that the wall in the city of Jerusalem is in ruins he’s understandably distraught. The king notices Nehemiah’s sullen demeanor, which could have been disastrous for Nehemiah given his position, but fortunately, the king is compassionate and inquires about the nature of Nehemiah’s anguish.

Nehemiah shares about the news he received concerning Jerusalem and to Nehemiah’s surprise, the king asks, “well, how can I help you?”

What comes next in the text is what I find most interesting. It says, “With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah prayed to God before making his request to the king, a request which was certainly bold in nature.

It might be easy to overlook the significance of this verse. After all, it seems quite reasonable that Nehemiah would pray before making such a bold request of the king.

But think about it for just a moment. Did Nehemiah really pray? It’s not likely he had the time to pause, kneel, close his eyes and pray to the Lord, at least not as we tend to think about prayer.

This “prayer” was made in the middle of a back-and-forth conversation with the king. Nehemiah did not have the time to beseech the Lord in the traditional way we think of prayer. It would not have even been appropriate for Nehemiah to make a traditional prayer in the king’s presence while he awaited a response from Nehemiah to his question.

So if Nehemiah didn’t actually pray, how is it that the text can say Nehemiah prayed?

I think the key is the phrase “with a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied…”

Nehemiah didn’t stop to pray as we think about it. Instead, he prayed AS he replied to the king. In other words, at the same time he was engaging the king, he was inviting the God of heaven to give him wisdom, to give him favor in the eyes of the king and to grant the request he was about to make.

This may be a paradigm shift in how you think about prayer. Prayer is not JUST a focused time where we lift our requests up to God. Prayer is not JUST a dedicated time of solitude where we pause, reflect and lift up our praises and requests to God. Instead, prayer is an attitude of dependence and reliance on God that we can practice at all times. Prayer, essentially, is directing our thoughts towards God, whether it is audible or not, visible or invisible.

In Nehemiah’s case, he obviously didn’t stop, pause and lift up an audible prayer to God. Nehemiah’s prayer was in reality more of a heart attitude toward God in which he, in that moment, was acknowledging his dependence on God and exercising faith that God would speak through him and grant him favor in the king’s eyes.

And God honored Nehemiah’s prayer and granted his request before the king.

You may not be able to set aside hours each day for dedicated prayer. You may not be able to set aside even 30 minutes, though this discipline can have many benefits. But no matter how much time you may have to set aside for uninterrupted prayer, Nehemiah’s example demonstrates that we can pray at any moment and dedicated, focused time in prayer is not requisite in order to connect with the God of heaven!

Reflection

What has been your practice and discipline with prayer in the past?

How have you thought of prayer in the past? How have you defined and understood the nature and practice of prayer?

In what ways does Nehemiah’s example challenge your view and understanding of prayer?

In what ways can you implement Nehemiah’s example and make prayer more of an ongoing connection with God in which you are constantly directing your thoughts towards Him?

Photo by Rock Staar on Unsplash

 

 

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide!

1The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh! Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

3But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the LORD. He went down to the seacoast, to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping that by going away to the west he could escape from the LORD.

4But as the ship was sailing along, suddenly the LORD flung a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to send them to the bottom. 5Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. And all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will have mercy on us and spare our lives.”

7Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, Jonah lost the toss. 8“What have you done to bring this awful storm down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

9And Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 10Then he told them that he was running away from the LORD.

The sailors were terrified when they heard this. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. 11And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”

12“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. For I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”

13Instead, the sailors tried even harder to row the boat ashore. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 14Then they cried out to the LORD, Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death, because it isn’t our fault. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”

15Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

17Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:1-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Earlier this evening, I saw the following tweet from renowned pastor and theologian, Tim Keller:

Interestingly, Jonah chapter one outlines this exact situation.

Jonah was a prophet of Israel at a time when the biggest, baddest guys in the neighborhood were the Assyrians. The Assyrians were the super power of the day, overtaking and subjecting every nation and every culture to its will and dominance.

Imagine Jonah’s surprise when God tells Jonah that He wants him to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, and announce God’s judgment on the people there. God wants to give the Ninevites a chance to respond to His impending judgment and He wants Jonah to be His prophetic instrument.

Jonah cannot wrap his brain around the idea that God would give the Assyrians an opportunity to repent and be saved. He is so repulsed by the thought that these evil, wicked Assyrians might hear a message of judgment and then repent and be saved that he runs in the opposite direction.

On the surface, it’s easy to throw shade at Jonah for rejecting God’s command and running away. It’s hard to understand why Job resists God instead of just doing what He asks. But actually, Jonah’s response is probably more typical than outlier.

How empathetic and compassionate are you towards the person or the people whom you hate the most? Do you find yourself moving toward them in love as we’re commanded in Scripture or do you find yourself hoping and praying for their destruction? This is the gist of Tim Keller’s tweet above.

This passage from Jonah demonstrates that God is not just a God of the Jews, as most Jews believed, but He has love and compassion for all people, even Gentiles. For the Jew during Jonah’s day, this would have been a complete paradigm shift. For us today, we might say that God is not just the God of my political party, but He is the God of those who have opposing views as well!

Chapter one of Jonah also demonstrates that we cannot hide from God or escape His will and plan for our lives. God’s purposes will be accomplished whether or not we comply with His will.

Lastly, we learn that God can use even our rebellion and resistance to follow Him for His ultimate glory. Even though Jonah resists God, the sailors on the ship are so awed by God’s great power that they sacrifice to Him and promise to serve Him.

Reflection

What are some things God has been telling you to do that you’ve been unwilling to do? Why?

What is the group that would be the most difficult for you to demonstrate love and compassion toward? What makes it difficult?

What are some instances where God used a negative or difficult situation for His ultimate glory?

 

Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker on Unsplash