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ROWTH IN HIS WORD MARCH â—? APRIL 2018

But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4:14

The Thirst for Christ


Dear Friends, Scripture teaches, "The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). Whatever God gives you to do, do it fervently with great passion—aiming only to please Him. We thank you for choosing to read our devotional. Diligently devoting time to spend alone with God in His Word and in prayer promotes spiritual development, growth, and maturity. While there is no substitute for Bible Connect with me on my blog: study, it is our sincere hope that this devotional will aid you in your tabithaperson.com. pursuit of Christ and in all of your Simply type in your email spiritual endeavors for His sake. address, click follow, and confirm follow via email. With the love of Christ, Thirst Ministries thirstministriesonline.org

If you have not trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, please know that it’s not too late. The Bible declares, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." Romans 10:9-10 NIV 2


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ROWTH IN HIS WORD MARCH ● APRIL 2018 Devotions for Personal Use

COVER PHOTO: © Thirst Ministries, Inc. The Thirst for Christ – Hampton, VA

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:

Scripture references are taken from the King James Version, the New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version. __________________________________________________________ © 2012-2018 Thirst Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in USA. Volume 7, Number 2 3


God’s Balance But when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them. Judges 3:15 (NKJV)

We may not always recognize it, but God always balances His discipline for faithless disobedience with His merciful love. Disobedience has consequences; this is certain. Even when the consequences are delayed, it does not mean that they are not forthcoming. Sadly, in many cases, the consequences of disobedience extend beyond us to impact the lives of those closest to us. The Israelites turned away from following the LORD and even though God disciplined them, He still showed them great mercy. Joshua 2 records that following the death of Joshua and the Israelites of his generation, a new generation arose who neither knew the LORD nor His great works among His people (vv. 9-10). Consumed with idolatry, they worshipped false gods and forsook the Lord who delivered them from Egyptian bondage (vv. 11-12). Therefore, the LORD delivered the them into the hands of their enemies. When the people cried out for God’s help, He raised up judges to deliver them. Perpetually, we read of this cycle of disobedience, repentance, deliverance, and more disobedience. God’s desire is to restore His children to faithful obedience to Him. In times of trouble that we have caused for ourselves, He is steadfast in faithfulness, and His love is coupled with unending mercy toward us. He instructs us to show our love for Him by fully obeying His commands (John 14:21, 23). We are not to be presumptuous with the Lord, assuming He will always send deliverance. However, we can rest in knowing that He is always working things according to His plan. During times of discipline, His arms are always open to receive us when we have a sincere and penitent heart. (2 Pet. 3:9). Read Psalm 103:15-18 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 4


His Presence Forever I will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)

Have doubt and fear caused you to hide? It’s not uncommon. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon when he was in an unusual place. Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress instead of in an open field, which was a more common occurrence. The Midianites and their neighboring eastern enemies oppressed the Israelites. When they would grow crops, their enemies would come to destroy whatever they had harvested. Gideon’s way of protecting his family’s wheat crop was to thresh the wheat in a secret place underground. Feelings of fear and isolation seemed to be commonplace for God’s people during this period. They cried out God, and He responded to their cry for help. The Angel of the LORD visited Gideon and told him that He would use him to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Midianites. Though Gideon did not think he was capable, the LORD reassured him that He would be with him. During times like this, God is faithful to show us that He is with us and that He has a plan for our deliverance. He reassured Gideon of His presence and His provision for His people. We have the same assurance today in Scripture, for God promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Even God’s people may sometimes doubt His love and concern for them in times of fear and loneliness. Instead, Scripture teaches us that we can rest in His love and kindness towards us when we are tempted to doubt His presence. When we feel like God has left us, we are mistaken. He is faithful to keep all His promises and to be with us in times of hardship. As we learned with Gideon, we must trust Him to do all He has promised in His perfect timing. Read Hebrews 13:5-6 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 5


Victory in Battle And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped. Judges 7:15 (NKJV)

Thirty-two thousand men of Israel gathered to battle against the Midianites. The LORD instructed Gideon to reduce the number of men so that Israel would be unable to say that their own power delivered them from the hands of the Midianites. When the number of men was reduced to three hundred, He gave Gideon directions to defeat his enemies. The LORD promised to give the Midianites into the hands of Gideon, but Gideon was still afraid. To give him confidence, He directed Gideon to the Midianite camp where he overheard details concerning the success of the LORD’s plan in defeating Israel’s enemies. He used Gideon’s enemies to give him confidence in His plan. Gideon experienced this influx of strength when his enemies recognized that the LORD would cause him to prevail against them. Many times, our enemies may recognize God’s mighty hand of protection and deliverance before His own children are convinced of the same. This strengthened Gideon and gave him courage to pursue his enemies just as God instructed him to do. There are times when believers will need to be strengthened and encouraged to follow the plan that God has set before them. In Joshua 1, God reminded Joshua repeatedly that he had to be strong and courageous to take possession of the Promised Land. Joshua would encounter enemies who were already dwelling in the land, but God assured him that He would be victorious in battle. He promised Joshua that no man would be able to stand against him in his quest for the land promised to the nation of Israel. All who hope God are to be of good courage and He will strengthen their hearts (Ps. 31:24). Read Judges 7:9-25 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 6


He Makes Us Useful And he [Samson] judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines. Judges 15:20 (NKJV)

The book of Judges describes Israel’s failures on the heels of the great victory experienced under the leadership of God’s servant Joshua. Though the people entered the Promised Land as God had promised their ancestors, they were rebellious and failed to listen to the voice of God. After Joshua’s death, there were intermittent periods of disobedience and idolatry. This was followed by God’s discipline for such behaviors, which led to surface-level repentance. The term judge used in the Old Testament was quite different than how the term is generally used today. Although most would agree that a judge in either context should have good leadership skills, the term was used in a larger framework in the Old Testament than it is used today. The judges were God’s appointed leaders in the land. They were to enforce God’s laws and precepts among His people. Usually they were skilled militarily, enabling them to free the Israelites from enemy oppression. They were able to rule during times of war and conflict, and they provided stability and order in the land in times of peace. Samson was Israel’s twelfth judge. After forty years under Philistine rule, Samson was able to free God’s people from captivity and oppression. Samson was bold and brazen; yet, God channeled his impulsive behavior so that he could become an effective leader for His people. Despite Samson’s faults, He did recognize that His strength and his ability to deliver the Israelites came from God (Judg. 15:18-19). This is good news for us! Even though our behavior may be brash and daring in ways that are contradictory to God’s law, He can change the trajectory of our life for His usefulness in accordance to His purpose. Read Judges 15: 9-20 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 7


Consequence and Mercy Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Judges 16:28 (NKJV)

Samson willingly and repeatedly flirted with temptation that led to sin. This was his consistent walk during his term as a judge in Israel. He did not realize that he was headed for the most dangerous consequence of sin known to man: the LORD had left him (Judg. 16:20). All people face temptation, and all sin has consequences. All temptations that we face today have been presented significant difficulty for generations past (1 Cor. 10:13). Yet, Paul reminds us that God is faithful; He will give His children a way to escape and endure temptation. Samson was given the ability to endure the temptation, but he failed to yield to God’s law. Although he was disciplined for his willful rebellion, God was faithful and steadfast in mercy towards him. The Philistines were ruthless enemies, and they praised their god for capturing Samson. The one who had made mockery of them for twenty years was now bound and made a public spectacle. Not only did they gouge out Samson’s eyes, but they made a spectacle of him before all the people. Taunted and made to entertain his enemies, Samson turned his attention to the LORD, and He heard Samson. There are times when we are disobedient to God. And although there are consequences for our sin, God continues to show His profound love for us through His mercy and forgiveness. The consequences of our sin may remain, but His love never fails. Samson cried out to God and he made one last request of Him. God granted His request. As God’s servants, we must dedicate ourselves wholly to the purposes and plan of God. In the times when we miss the mark, God is still faithful. Despite our failures, we serve a great God who in His lovingkindness hears the cries of His children. Read Judges 16:23-31 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 8


Prayers of the Faithful Then Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. 1 Samuel 7:9 (NKJV)

Good Christian leaders seek God on behalf of those whom they lead. They offer intercessory prayers often, and they always ask God to intervene according to His will and His purpose. God called Samuel early in his life to be a prophet who would reveal His Word to the people. A judge in the land, Samuel was to enforce God’s law. He was a good leader to the Israelite people, and God used him to lead them to victory against the Philistines. The Israelites’ longtime enemies were approaching for battle, and the Israelites were afraid. The Philistines were a constant thorn to the nation of Israel. Samuel could have let the people have the full brunt of God’s discipline for their idolatrous behavior; instead, he interceded on their behalf. He offered burnt offerings and the LORD accepted his offering on behalf of His people. Because of Samuel’s faithfulness to intercede, the LORD intervened; the Israelites were victorious against the Philistines. Samuel lived obediently to the LORD, and he taught the Israelites the value of obedience in their own lives. In I Samuel 15:22, he told them that obedience was better than sacrifice. Samuel argued that the LORD did not delight in the sacrifices of His people because they viewed burnt offerings and sacrifices as atonement for intentional wayward living. As disciples today, we are to live in sacrificial obedience to God (Rom. 12:1); and we are to do it willingly as slaves of Christ, serving Him with joy in our hearts (Ps. 100:2; Eph. 6:6). We need our leaders to pray for us, but more importantly we need to live in sacrificial obedience to the God so that our own prayers will not be hindered. Read 1 Samuel 7:2-17 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 9


Father Knows Best They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me. 1 Samuel 8:7 (NKJV)

Many times, we think we know what is best for us, so we present our requests to God with confident boldness. Though God may acknowledge and grant the request does not mean that He agrees with our petition. We can learn this from the Israelites’ demand for a king to rule over them. The Israelites wanted a king because all the surrounding nations had kings to rule over them. They rejected God’s mechanism for ruling over them through the judges. They were enamored with the governing authorities of the pagan nations. Samuel hesitated to honor the request for a king, but God told him to give the Israelites a grave warning and then submit to their request. God viewed the Israelites’ demand for a king as a rejection of Himself rather than of Samuel. Repeatedly, the people refused to honor God’s law and turned from His voice in willful rebellion. But God was merciful. When His discipline caused the Israelites to cry out in agony and distress, He responded with lovingkindness—appointing a judge to free them from oppression and to rule over them in times of peace. The prophet Samuel served as a mouthpiece for God and revealed His law to Israelites, yet the people were not satisfied. We have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to teach us and to guide us, but sometimes we also reject God’s law. As believers, we are to study the Word of God and pursue a life of obedience to God’s law. John 15:7 is a wonderful reminder to us that when God’s Word abides in us, we may ask for whatever we desire, and He will grant the request. His Word abiding in us prompts us to only ask for the things that are in His will for us. Guided by His Spirit, we can be confident of every petition (1 John 5:14). Read 1 Samuel 8: 1-20 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 10


You or Another? For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another. Esther 4:14 (NASB)

In chapter 4 of her self-named book, Esther nearly turned a deaf ear to her uncle’s desperate plea to help save the lives of her fellow Jews. She was apprehensive at first, indirectly communicating to Mordecai that she had no authority to enter the king’s presence without being summoned. She further explained that anyone who dared to do so was not simply reprimanded and sent away but was put to death (v. 11). Esther reacted initially based upon her human understanding of the situation. She recognized the severity of the Jews’ dilemma, but she had not carefully considered the significance of her influence and God’s timing in her ascent to the throne as Queen of Persia. Mordecai had to remind her that the chain of events did not just happen by coincidence, but her position may have been predestined for such a time (v. 14). In addition to pointing out her own potential for demise with the Jews, Mordecai also made her aware that while God may have wanted to use her to deliver His people, He was not limited to using her to do so. Specifically, he stated, “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish” (v. 14). What is the application for us today? God wants to use us to do great things in His kingdom, but He is not limited to us. We are not fit and capable because we have come to God that way; we become fit and capable because He will make that way as we yield ourselves to Him. Will you be the one, or will God use another? Read Esther 4:1-17 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 11


Intimacy Before Effectiveness Speak, for Your servant hears. 1 Samuel 3:9 (KJV)

Working diligently for Christ can leave us breathless, particularly if we substitute works for our time with Him. Our good deeds, though they may be noteworthy, will leave us winded if we spend time trying to do for Christ without spending quality time with Him. Doing is only part of the equation. Those who insist on “doing” in church or in ministry while failing to spend time with Him to hear His voice will not be able to follow through in His will with sufficient strength—at least not for long. Acts chapter 19 tells us that Paul was performing extraordinary miracles (v. 12). Paul was effective in ministry because he spent time with the Lord. Trying to do work in Jesus’ name without knowing Him as Savior is ineffective; trying to do ministry in His name without spending time with Him for strength and direction can backfire. The sons of Sceva did not know Jesus; they were only familiar with His power because Paul had demonstrated it. When they attempted to perform exorcists, the evil spirits spoke back to them with greater authority than they had. “‘And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’” (v. 15). The evil spirits leaped on them, and they fled out of the house naked and wounded—and apparently breathless. We who are in Christ need to spend time with Him before we can minister to others. Failing to do so is like trying to execute a job for our employer with no background knowledge of how he wants the job done. God is not pleased with a host of breathless activity that takes us away from Him. He wants us to hear Him first…and then proceed according to His will. Read 1 Samuel 3:1-10 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 12


Jesus: Power to Heal They brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. Mark 1:32 (NKJV)

Following His resurrection, Jesus said of Himself, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). However, before His death and resurrection, Jesus chose to restrict the full use of His divine attributes. The second Person of the Trinity never relinquished His deity when He donned human flesh, but rather He willingly gave up the independent use of His divine attributes—apart from the direction of the Father (John 4:34). His divine origin was undeniable, for His power to heal and deliver those who were sick and demon-possessed was evident early in His earthly ministry. According to Jewish law, no work was to be done of the Sabbath— including healing. It was unlawful to bring the sick, the demonized, and diseased to Jesus before sunset on the Sabbath. Therefore, the crowd waited for sundown—approximately 6 p.m.—to approach Jesus for healing and deliverance. Scripture teaches that when the whole city had arrived at His door, Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases and many who were demon-possessed (Mark 1:33-34). Because Christ has all power, we can trust Him to heal and deliver us, too. We can bring our burdens and our brokenness, our sickness and our stressors, our tendencies and our idiosyncrasies, our pain and our poverty, our impulses and our imprisonments, our faults, our frailties and even our foolishness to the Lord. His power is all encompassing! We can come to Him anytime to obtain help and healing, enjoy restoration and relief, experience His grace and His glory. We can go straight to the Source of all comfort—any day and anytime (Heb. 4:16). Read Mark 1:32-39 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 13


Jesus: Prayer Was a Priority He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. Mark 1:35 (NKJV)

How many times this week have you made prayer a priority? According to Dictionary.com, a priority is defined as "the state of quality of being earlier in time; the right to take precedence; or something given special attention." So then if prayer is a priority, it will happen earlier in relation to other things; it will take precedence over other things; and it will be given special attention. Have you made prayer a priority? In that solitary place that Jesus retreated to early in the morning before others had awakened, the Bible declares, there He prayed (Mark 1:35, emphasis added). Jesus didn't get up long before daylight to strategize, nor did He get up early because He was consumed with worry. He prayed. Jesus—God incarnate—He prayed. The image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation—He prayed. The One who created all things in heaven and on the earth and by whose hand all things are held together—He prayed. The One who stepped out of eternity into time for our sake....the One who said of Himself that He came to preach the gospel to the poor (poor in spirit)...to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed—He prayed. Jesus understood the respite, the replenishment, and the resolve that could be His when He was in regular communion with the Father. Serving should never take the place of communion with God. Prayer is not optional. If prayer wasn't an elective for Christ, then prayer must not be an elective for us either. We need God's direction and guidance; dedicated prayer displays our dependence upon Him. Imitate Christ and make prayer a priority. Read Mark 1:32-39 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 14


Jesus: Preference for the Father Having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place. Mark 1:35 (NKJV)

No matter how busy Jesus was during His earthly ministry, He always made the Father His preference. In the hustle and bustle of life, sometimes it’s easy to lose focus. But Jesus never did. He was sent to do the will of the Father, and He understood that to carry out His will, the Father had to be His first preference. When we prefer one thing or one person over another, it is pursuant to our choice. Choices can be a distraction; too many of them can leave us feeling paralyzed in our effort to decide. Jesus, however, made the right choice every time. Every time, He chose the Father. In Mark’s writing, he records Jesus’ faithfulness to the Father in this manner, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place” (1:35). This solitary place was not sought just to be alone, but rather to be alone with the Father. Jesus was intentional, and Jesus had a preference. Perhaps it had been a long night for Jesus. Imagine the chaotic scene of a whole city of people in dire need and in great desperation assembled at His door. It may have taken several hours for the people to disperse. Jesus may have been tired, but He was certainly intentional. He didn’t “sleep in” the next morning; instead, He got up early—a long while before daylight—and departed to be alone with the Father. Even above the work Jesus performed during His earthly ministry, He preferred time alone with the Father. We must prefer the Father. Our preference for Him must surpass our preference for relationship with our spouse, with our children and family, and with our friends. We must prefer the Lord over everything in life and in ministry—even when we just don’t feel like it. Read Mark 1:32-39 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 15


Jesus: Secure in His Purpose Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth. Mark 1:38 (NKJV)

Why are you here? For what purpose has God allowed you to see another day? Our God is intentional. Therefore, nothing is coincidental with Him; nothing occurs by happenstance. Every day that we awaken allows us another opportunity to advance the purpose of God. Everything created has purpose—whether we understand its purpose or not—and every believer has the same ultimate purpose. Paul, writing to the saints at Rome and subsequently to the saints today, reminds us that our ultimate purpose is to be conformed into the image of Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:29). All Christians are moving in a common direction, albeit at different speeds. So then how we are conformed into His image varies among Christians and will be specific to every individual. We must learn and understand our specific purpose in God and then tailor our actions and efforts according to that purpose. Jesus did. Mark records, “And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’ But He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.’ And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons” (1:36-39). Everyone was looking for Jesus—including His inner circle (Peter, James, and John). But Jesus’ mind was set on what God the Father sent Him to do. He was focused, disciplined, and decisive. We will always have things and people vying for our attention, but we cannot allow things and people to draw us away from our purpose. Jesus let God do the prioritizing, and we must let Him also. Read Mark 1:32-39 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 16


Those Legitimate Distractions For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 (KJV)

Distractions usually divide our attention and prevent us from concentrating on some area of importance. Satan loves to use distractions when we have made some declaration to spend more time with the Lord. Inevitably he will send something our way to get us off track. In such cases we will have to be profoundly resolute in our decision to pray and study more. We can’t dismiss all distractions, for some of them are divine in nature—the coworker who needs an ear at lunch, the neighbor who just lost a spouse, the unsaved boss who observes “something different” about you. All of these may be opportunities to share the gospel of Christ. Likewise, we have familial obligations, ministry responsibilities, and other facets of our lives that are important; however, none should overshadow our time alone with the Lord. The apostle Paul spent time with the Lord regularly, and it was evident in his ministry. He didn’t let the distractions from threats of violence against him and his cohorts divert him from the mission of preaching the gospel. He preached the same message of Jesus whether he was shackled before the affluent or standing before the impoverished. He resolved himself to be persistent and deliberate in the purpose of presenting the gospel to an unregenerate population. His whole ministry could be summed up as this: “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Effectiveness in the kingdom requires steadfastness. Distractions are not going anywhere. We must ask God to show us how to handle even those legitimate distractions. Read 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 17


Going Off the Grid And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJV)

Sometimes it’s necessary to go off the grid—to go undetected for a while. When it’s difficult to discern the voice of God, the culprit may be the distractions that we have allowed in our lives. In this case, we may need to take a break from the usual routine and seek out a quiet place of refuge where we can be intentional about hearing from the Lord. This is a real necessity when God is about to steer us in a new direction or when He is about to move us into a new season. When Moses sought refuge on the back side of the desert, he had gone undetected for forty years when God spoke to him. Getting away from the crowd is sometimes exactly what we need in order to hear God clearly and emphatically. Moses killed an Egyptian and after it had become known, he fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian (Ex. 2:14-15). Moses’ flight was compulsory, but for far more than just his own safety. He needed to realign his focus. He had tried to deliver his people in his own strength, but his efforts backfired. Instead of being the deliverer to his people, he himself needed to be delivered. Even when we orchestrate the chaos in our own lives, God can move us to the perimeter of our circumstances. He did it for Moses, and He is still doing it for us. We must learn the value of being alone with the Lord for extended periods. For some people, fifteen minutes a day is enough, thirty minutes is plenty, and an hour is overkill; however, we need this time with Him. Turn the cell phone to “do not disturb,” turn down the invitation, and send an auto reply for email. Elect to go undetected! Read Jeremiah 29:10-14 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 18


Our Eternal Scapegoat He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

When we label someone a scapegoat, we understand it to mean that he has taken the blame for what someone else has done. It could be that the scapegoat played a significant role in the mischief, but the certainty is that he or she will shoulder the consequences—and usually alone. As a foreshadowing of Christ, the concept of a scapegoat is clearly and symbolically depicted by the Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament. The Levitical priesthood began with Moses’ older brother Aaron. Aaron and his descendants served as priests in Israel, primarily as mediators between God and man. The book of Leviticus describes the duties set forth by God for the priesthood. For example, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would first offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of those in his household before offering sacrifices for the nation’s sins. As a part of the ceremonial cleansing process, the high priest would cast lots for two goats—one to be sacrificed and the other to be the scapegoat. While the first goat was sacrificed to appease God’s wrath because of the sins of the people, the remaining live goat was to be “presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it” (Lev. 16:10). The high priest was to “lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land” (vv. 21-22). Though Jesus was never an accomplice to any wrongdoing, He became the ultimate scapegoat for us. He sacrificed His life to make complete and everlasting atonement for our sins. Read Hebrews 10:1-10 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 19


Spiritual Insight Whereas I was blind, now I see. John 9:25 (KJV)

When we came to Christ, we got a new nature and new understanding, too. In our natural state, we were spiritually blind—dead to the things of God. We needed the Holy Spirit to open up our understanding to spiritual things; we needed Christ to help us see. That was the experience of the man born blind whom Jesus healed in John chapter 9. Jesus spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,’ . . . so he went away and washed, and came back seeing (vv. 6-7). Originally a beggar, but now a believer! An encounter with Christ can remove not only physical blindness, but spiritual blindness as well. You know how it feels when you finally figure out how to do something that you have been trying to do for years? How about when you hear something for the thousandth time, but this time when you hear it, the light bulb comes on, shines brightly, and you get it? In those cases, God illumines our understanding so that we can now comprehend what we had not previously been able to understand. The revelation may have been there all the time, but God now allows the illumination so that we finally understand it. We rely upon the Holy Spirit to break down the contents of Scripture and perfect our visual acuity, so that we can see ourselves and others with the mind of Christ. It’s easy to misconstrue and even miss things because we are looking in the wrong direction. We approach things and people with our own biases and past experiences, but God wants us to see things and people from His perspective. His Word gives sight to the blind and hope to the hopeless. Most of us are not physically blind, but we may have limited ability to see. We need spiritual insight, and we can ask God for it. Read John 9:1-7 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 20


Seeking Him Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” John 1:38 (NKJV)

Recorded in John chapter 1, Jesus asked the first disciples when they began to follow Him, “What do you seek?” (v. 38). They heard Jesus speak and they began to follow Him, but they did not answer His question. Have you answered it today? Is there something specific that you want from the Lord? Most times when we follow someone, we want something from the individual. This may not be anything tangible. It may not be money or material possessions, though for some people it is. But for most us, we follow because we want a relationship with the person we are following. The beautiful connection and gripping bond that we can formulate in an authentic relationship can neither be dismissed nor negated. When our motives are right, God-honoring desires can be expressed openly. Though the disciples did not answer Jesus at the time, it became clear that they were drawn to Him for relationship. It is not uncommon for people to come to faith in Christ following a crisis. It is not uncommon for people to come to faith in Christ because they are simply tired of feeling empty on the inside—perhaps tired of the turmoil inside. They want to feel His presence and the warmth of His love. Do you want the Lord to give you peace? Do you want to know His love? Why have you come to Him? All we will ever need is found in relationship with Christ. The peace and the love He gives surpasses our finite comprehension. What do you seek from the Lord? Have you even told Him? He wants to know! He is concerned about everything that concerns us. (Ps. 138:8). Tell Him! Read John 1:35-39 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 21


Open Rewards Your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. Matthew 6:4 (NKJV)

Why do people want to be known for their charitable deeds? Why do people pray solely to be noticed by others? Jesus said all charitable deeds and all manner of praying should be done to please God, and not to be seen by others. This is a sad occurrence, but it happens in the church. The Pharisees habitually prayed in the open using idioms to justify their own righteousness before God (Luke 18:10-12). There is no justification apart from Christ. Prideful people desire to be noticed and honored by other people. Both Peter and James taught that God resists those who are proud, but He favors those who are truly humble (Jas. 4:6; I Pet. 5:5). Jesus rebuked these vain motives, offering a model for believers to follow. He taught that we should pray in secret, and we should give without alerting others that we have done a good deed. The meek are blessed (Matt. 5:5). Because they realize their impoverished state before Holy God. They come to God acknowledging their sins and asking for forgiveness, instead of ignoring their sin and using selfrighteous recollections of fleshly efforts (Luke 18). Nonbelievers may sound a trumpet to alert others that a charitable deed has been done, but believers are not to draw such attention to themselves; we are to refrain from seeking recognition. God will reward us openly for our deeds done in secret to honor Him. He will answer our earnest, private supplications in a very public way, and it will not be the result of our schemes and manipulation. We are not to store up honor for ourselves, nor are we to seek the applause of men. When we aim for others to recognize us, then their quick glance and short applause will be our sole reward (Matt. 6:2). Our desire must always be to please God exclusively (Gal. 1:10) Read Matthew 6:1-8 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 22


Fulfill the Law Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (KJV)

The love of Christ will motivate us to help others. His love compels us to help in places where we would not have ordinarily considered helping. It cannot be explained apart from the love of Christ and our desire to fulfill His law. Galatians 6 instructs us to bear one another’s burdens, but many of us have our own burdens. Christ knew that we would have our own problems, and He also knew that through Him we would still have the capacity to help others, too. Are you helping? The lawyer asked Jesus, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40). We fulfill the law of Christ by the loving! We can love our neighbors and share in their burdens because we love Christ, and He has given us that commandment. There may be times when the burdens of others have the potential to weigh down our own spirits, but we can find our strength and encouragement in Christ. Scripture teaches that God has comforted us in burdensome and troubled situations, so that we will be able to comfort others in similar fashion (2 Cor. 1:4). In our effort to comfort, we must always point people to Christ, for He is the great Comforter in the midst of hard times. Don’t take superficial appearances for granted. Be sincere, and take the time to inquire. Read Luke 10:30-37 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 23


Freedom and Gratitude The people complained, ‘What shall we drink?’ and the waters were made sweet. Exodus 15:24-25 (NKJV)

How soon do you forget the wonderful things that God has done for you? We praise Him at the time of deliverance, but it’s not long after that we can’t remember what God has done for us lately. It’s true of the Israelites, and it’s true of us, too. God delivered His people from four hundred years of hard slavery and oppression in Egypt and promised to “bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8). In Exodus 13, God fulfilled His promise to the people; they were delivered from the hand of Pharaoh in Egypt. But God was fully aware of the fickleness of His own people. How long do you suppose, with Egypt behind them and the Promised Land before them, it took for the Israelites to start complaining? After four hundred years of slavery, and now free, it only took mere days for the murmuring to begin. Scripture recounts, “And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter….and the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” (Ex. 15:22-24). Is that you? We must remember all that God has done for us. If we cannot think of anything else, the fact that He sent Christ to die in our place should be enough to move us to gratitude every day. God’s amazing love for us has been revealed throughout the pages of Scripture. Some things we tend to remember are better off forgotten, for they are futile. We must always remember the grace of our great God! Read Exodus 15:22-27 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 24


Failed Obedience God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. 1 Samuel 10:9 (NKJV)

What things may disqualify someone from leadership in the Church? Some may start well, but the finish is what really counts. King Saul did not finish well. The nation of Israel demanded a king. They surmised that since the surrounding nations had a king to judge and rule over them, they should also have a king. Samuel was elderly, and his sons were not fit to rule as judges. Consequently, the people demanded that a visible, tangible king to rule over them. Although this request displeased Samuel, God told him to grant the people’s request. Saul was that king. When the people demanded a king, they did not reject Samuel, but instead they rejected God. When we reject God’s precepts and His plan for us, we are headed for serious trouble. God, pursuant to His merciful kindness, instructed Samuel to give stern warning to the Israelites concerning their request. Despite the warning that the king they had chosen for themselves would cause them to cry out to God in despair, the people insisted that a king be appointed to them. God changed Saul’s heart and anointed him to be king over His people. Initially, he led the Israelites according to God’s law, but eventually drifted into occasions of partial obedience and blatant disobedience. Have you chosen to stay on the path that God has directed, or have you drifted away according to your own tendencies in the flesh? In our service to God, believers must continually adhere to His commands. God can change our heart to make it obedient to His plan, as He directs our steps for His purposes (Prov. 16:9). Though this is true, we still have a choice regarding obedience. Hearts for God must be subject to His Word and His Spirit ongoingly. Read 1 Samuel 10:1-9 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 25


Obedience Under Pressure You have done foolishly.

1 Samuel 13:13 (NKJV)

King Saul began in good standing with God. However, after a series of bad decisions, Saul displeased God. Partial obedience is simply disobedience. Saul was fully aware that only the priests could offer sacrifices to God (1 Sam. 10:8). He allowed his fear and the fears of those with him to drive his efforts to gain favor from the Lord. We cannot expect God’s favor while we are doing the very things that He disallows. Saul’s behavior was defiant, and many times we engage in the same behavior as did Saul. But God honors obedience above sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). As believers, we must live sacrificially obedient to the will of God (Rom. 12:1). Scripture teaches that our love for Him is most evident when we obediently follow His commands (John 14:15). Saul offered a sacrifice because he feared the enemy’s attack before Samuel would arrive. When Samuel arrived, it was too late. He referred to Saul’s behavior as foolish, and whatever excuse Saul could have offered would not have sufficed. Even when we act impulsively or we act out of fear, we will have to succumb to the consequences that lie ahead. Some consequences are short-lived, while others having everlasting effect. In this case, Saul’s consequence for his disobedience was severe. God dismissed him from his throne and gave his kingdom to another man, one after His own heart. King Uzziah, in his pride, was another who sought to offer sacrifices to God. Because of his disobedience, God struck him with leprosy for the remainder of his days (II Chron. 26:21). Whether the occasion is fear or arrogance, God refuses to bless those who are disobedient to His commands. Holy God demands holiness from His people. Read 1 Samuel 13:1-14 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 26


An Unlikely Victory [God] will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:37 (NKJV)

Neither our age, our natural abilities, nor our lack of experience is a hindrance to what God can do through us when we trust Him. The Philistine giant, Goliath, intimated the men of Israel. Daily he challenged the Israelites to battle, but no one was willing to face the giant; they were afraid. King Saul was willing to give his daughter in marriage and offer a generous tax exemption to the father’s house of anyone who was able to kill the giant. It must have been surprising to many, especially to David’s older brothers, when young David took the challenge. David was a teenager and the youngest of eight brothers. He was skilled at caring for his father’s sheep, but not even his brothers knew just how skilled he would become at defending the name of the Lord of Hosts. Paul reminds us that God often uses the things of this world that some consider foolish or weak to accomplish His purpose so that no one can glory in His presence (I Cor. 1:27-29). When God uses His children, who are dubious or unqualified, they will have their boast in the Lord and not in themselves. Not only will they realize their own limitations, but those around them will also know that the Lord must have provided the strength, power, and direction for victory. Before David entered battle with Goliath, he had already begun to boast in the Lord (I Sam. 17:46-47). David relied heavily on the Lord, and he trusted the Lord to go with him in battle (I Sam. 13:14). We, too, can trample those who rise against us when we call on God’s name (Ps. 18:5). God saves His children from their enemies, and His children boast in Him all day long as a result (v. 8). David defeated Goliath because he trusted in God. We can defeat our enemies when we trust God to deliver us. Read 1 Samuel 17:33-51 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 27


Echo the Charge When once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:32 (NASB)

Sometimes God allows the enemy to work on us so that the outcome will help someone coming behind us. In many ways we can truly say, “We’ve been there.” Luke 22 gives an account of Jesus forewarning Peter of His imminent betrayal, arrest, and trial before His sentencing to crucifixion. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells Peter of Satan’s desire to sift Peter as wheat—as one thrown off easily with a little agitation or temptation (v. 31). Jesus alerted him that Satan would soon place temptations in his path to see if his faith would remain. Peter had maintained that he would go the distance with Jesus—even to death. Jesus told Peter that before the rooster would crow, Peter would deny Him three times (v. 34). That’s precisely what happened, too. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not completely fail, and He commanded him, “Once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (v. 32). Once Peter had been restored and had returned to the Lord, He instructed him to strengthen his brothers. Our experiences, even our mistakes, can help others. The outcome of a hard lesson is not only for us, but it should be released as an echo to others. Our testimony can help bring someone to faith in Christ and encourage them to remain steadfast in their faith. Tremendous are the lessons that we can learn from someone who has been restored. God may be calling you to be an echo in someone’s life; one who will repeat over and over the charge to stay in the fight. We need to let others know that we didn’t always get it right; yet, God can make our mishaps work for His purposes. Be an echo of encouragement to someone else. As we see the day of His return approaching, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that we should be encouraging one another (10:25). Read Luke 22:31-34 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 28


A Good Friday Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13 (NKJV)

Today we commemorate Christ’s sacrificial death over two thousand years ago. I remember this day in a personal way, because although Christ is the Savior of the world (John 4:42), He is my personal Savior. He is the One who understands me completely, and without limits, He loves me unconditionally. All of us who have placed our faith in Him can boast this claim. Good Friday is remembered as the day our Savior suffered on the cross at Calvary for our sins. It’s a Good Friday because His sacrificial death was not in vain, but because of it, salvation is freely available to all who are willing to trust Him. Christ came as the ultimate and allencompassing sacrifice for us. Hebrews chapter 9 asks, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (vv. 13-14). If the blood and ashes of animals were sufficient to appease God for a time, surely the blood of His Son would please Him for all eternity. It’s a good day for us when we understand its implications. Because of Christ’s redeeming work upon the cross, we have the promise of an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). It’s a good day because Christ reconciled us back to God and made us alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18). It’s a good day because now, as God’s children, we are joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). This is not a typical Friday; it’s Good Friday—absolute evidence that there is no greater love possible. Read John 19:16-30 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 29


Death: Swallowed in Victory He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Matthew 28:6 (KJV)

Because of Christ’s victory over death, we are victors too. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 in response to some who claimed that there is no resurrection of the dead. He wrote concerning the impracticality of their assertion. He argued that if no one is raised from the dead, then this would also include Christ Jesus. And if Christ is not raised, then all of the apostles’ efforts…their preaching…is in vain, the Christian faith is empty, and believers are unpardoned in their sin; they remain sinners (vv. 12-17). Christ’s resurrection is paramount to the Christian faith. It’s not only that Christ died for us, but also that He rose again. And therefore, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Its sting is no more for those who are in Christ. Our hope is beyond the grave. In fact, the Bible states that if we have hope in Christ for this life only, we are people most miserable (1 Cor. 15:19). If we can’t look beyond the grave to future glory, we are to be pitied above all other people. We would have lived our whole lives in vain and our faith would have been a farce. That’s not the case though. For though death came by Adam, eternal life has come by Christ (vv. 21-22). So then, we are to celebrate our Savior’s birth, but we are to celebrate His resurrection all the more. Consider what Christ has done for you and consider the suffering He endured against Himself just for you. Arise this Resurrection Sunday with the blessed assurance that because He lives, we will live also in this manner: putting on incorruption and immortality. Let us continue in the work—being steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord, for our labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 30


He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38 31


Protection Under Fire And Saul cast the spear. . . but David escaped him twice. 1 Samuel 18:11 (NKJV)

As children of God, we will encounter those who would like to harm us when we have done nothing to them. When we find favor in the sight of God and in the sight of man, some people will not be happy. Even though their intentions may be to harm us in some way, our response must not be to retaliate. Our response should be like David’s response to Saul. He kept on serving faithfully, and he trusted God to fight on his behalf. In a passionate display of gratitude to David upon his return home from battle, the women danced and sang of how David’s victory outweighed that of Saul’s (I Sam. 18:7). This greatly displeased Saul, and he became angry (v. 8). From that day Saul kept his eyes on David (v. 9). Saul wanted the women to ascribe greatness to him, but instead David was at the apex of their praise. Therefore, David became the center of Saul’s ill-intentions. He feared David would take the kingdom away from him (I Sam. 18:8). Even those closest to Saul, his son Jonathan and daughter Michal, did not agree with their father’s hatred for David. Jonathan reminded his father that when David killed Goliath, Saul was among those who were glad. David had done it on his behalf, too. Saul agreed not to kill David, but his vow was not sincere. Instead, he became relentless, but God protected David from Saul’s evil tactics. Scripture teaches us that the afflictions of the righteous are many, but God is faithful to deliver us from all of them (Ps. 34:19). God is our refuge and our defense in times of trouble (Ps. 59:16). We can sing praises to our God for His strength and His lovingkindness towards us (v. 17). God takes care of His children who are after His own heart. Read 1 Samuel 18:5-16 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 32


When Our Enemies Suffer And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son. 2 Samuel 1:11 (NKJV)

How easy it could have been for David to rejoice in Saul’s death, since Saul pursued David relentlessly trying to kill him. But David did not find joy in hearing the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death. On the contrary, he grieved for them. David mourned for both his friend and his enemy. He understood God’s lovingkindness, even to those who have turned their hearts away from Him. In times when David could have retaliated against Saul, he refrained. He loved the LORD, and he had profound respect for those whom the LORD had appointed for service to Himself (cf. 1 Sam. 24:1-7). Saul and Jonathan were mighty men in Israel, and David lamented over the loss of their lives. Not only did he mourn for them, but he ordered the people to mourn as well. It would seem appropriate for David to grieve the loss of his friend Jonathan, but he appeared grieve over both Saul and Jonathan equally (I Sam. 1:23). Both men were loved and admired; both men were swift and strong. Saul was his enemy, and Jonathan was his friend, but David responded to both with a heart that pleased the Lord. Proverbs 24:17-18 is a stern reminder to us that God takes notice of our heart towards our enemies when they stumble. Any manner of rejoicing may cause His wrath to turn from our enemy and become displeased with us. We must not boast in times of great sadness, even when others encourage us to rejoice. When we look to Christ as our example of One who never took pleasure in the misfortunes of His enemies, we gain confidence in Him to help us remain lovingly humble as well. God provides protection against our enemies. There is no need for us to rejoice when our enemies suffers. Read 2 Samuel 1:17-27 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 33


Favor in Obedience So David went on and became great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him. 2 Samuel 5:10(NKJV)

David became king over all Israel, and he became great and powerful because God was with him. David was God’s chosen king long before he ascended the throne as king of Judah. In his youth, he conquered the giant Goliath because he feared God. At age thirty, he gained notable greatness as king over all Israel because he continued to fear God. Following Saul’s death, we read in II Samuel chapter 2 that David inquired of the LORD regarding which directions to take and which town to enter. He had a heart to please God, and he was obedient to the LORD’s instructions. Our Father wants to give His children direction and guidance. In Scripture, we are encouraged to seek His face as a consistent course of action (1 Chron. 16:11; 7:14; Ps. 105:4; Jer. 29:13). And when we know that we have heard His voice, we are to be obedient. David was obedient to the voice of God. His prosperity was proportionate to God’s presence with him. Initially anointed as king of his own tribe Judah, God expanded his territory to make him king over all the tribes of Israel (II Sam. 2:4; 5:5). He was able to subdue the Jebusites and conquer Jerusalem, eventually naming it the City of David. The LORD keeps all His promises, including the expansion of territory, to those whose hearts are set to obey Him (cf. Deut. 19: 8-9). If we want to walk in the assurance of His presence as David did, our obedience to God’s commands is a non-negotiable. The eyes of the LORD run all over the earth looking to show Himself mighty and strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him (II Chron. 16:9). David is a wonderful example for us in Scripture. His heart was to please God from his youth, and it continued to be his aspiration throughout his reign as king of Israel. Read 2 Samuel 2:1-7; 5:1-10 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 34


Abandonment Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1 (NKJV)

In most cases the word abandon connotes some wrongful act or reckless behavior. For example, a parent who abandons a child will leave that child helpless and neglected—without care and concern. When a house or car is abandoned, it’s not usually left in mint condition, but more likely it’s ransacked and disheveled, displaying the urgency of departure. There are times, though, when the word abandon is the only way to describe a rightful and honorable intervention. To abandon a thing means to leave it completely and finally—leaving it with no intention of returning to it. Thus the term abandon is the most comprehensive word choice when we think about discarding our will and surrendering to the Lord’s will. Too many times I can admit that I’ve tried to hold on to my will and serve the Lord without true abandonment. It doesn’t work. Doing a little of His will and a lot of our own will cannot satisfy—it will never satisfy God and truthfully, it will never satisfy the inner longings of our heart. Likewise, doing a lot of His will, while reserving a portion of our own determination, will not suffice either. Only in abandoning our will—leaving it behind with no intention of picking it up again—can His purpose be fully lived out in us. New Testament writers understood this well. The Greek word doúlos, translated “bondservant,” in its simplest form means to be a slave. It’s one who has given up the claim to any ownership rights of his own. In today’s culture the term slave would imply inferiority, but ancient biblical writers used this term with the highest dignity, as those who were devoted to Christ and who willingly lived in subjection to His authority. Paul, Peter, and James all referred to themselves as bondservants. If we want to make the most impact for Christ, we must opt to be His slave. Read Philippians 2:5-8 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 35


The Lifter of My Head O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. Psalm 3:3 (KJV)

Sometimes we want what we want, and we need what we need, and we know to whom we can go, but we go to Him out of order. It can be easy to lose focus. If we’re not careful, we will meet God early in the morning as we should, but we will meet Him with a list of needs and desires, instead of meeting Him with a litany of praise. It’s not that we’re trying to be irreverent; nevertheless, we have diverted the attention that belongs to almighty God and have placed it upon ourselves. We’re in His face early without first acknowledging who He is. When we’re at work, we’re careful to acknowledge our boss and our boss’ superior before we go to them with petitions and requests. As a matter of fact, when we have requests, we will likely talk through how we are going to approach them, and it’s never on a “meet my need first,” and then I will greet you basis. So why do we sometimes approach God that way? Urgent needs drive us to pray. We understand that God is the source of our strength, but the more urgent the need (a sick child, a painful marriage, a potential job loss, etc.), the more hasty we become. David was one in Scripture who consistently acknowledged God for who He was before making any supplications to Him. In Psalm 3, David briefly communicated his troubles. But throughout the rest of the psalm, he praised God for being his shield, for being his glory, for being the lifter of his head, and for being his sustainer. We have so many needs. On some days we could list and categorize them, taking several hours to do so. God already knows every detail, even those we forgot to mention. He wants us to acknowledge who He is to us. He desires that we offer praise and adoration first, before the petitions. Read Psalm 3 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 36


Help When We Least Expect It God comforts the downcast. 2 Corinthians 7:6 (NKJV)

I do not claim to know how God meets our every need—just in time—but I’m grateful that He does. Have you ever awakened and simply felt discouraged? Nothing happened that you could pinpoint, but you just felt down? I have. My usual early morning energy had dissipated for no reason I could identify, and I was drained emotionally. I was supposed to meet a friend who had been going through a rough time, but that day I was the one who needed a counseling session. I thought about canceling, but the Spirit of God said, “No, My grace is sufficient.” Just as I was about to get dressed, she texted me and asked to reschedule. Still, I prayed for God to help me deal with the angst in my soul. He did. I got into the car to run some errands. On the radio was the perfect timing of biblical message on fighting the giant of discouragement. I smiled and listened attentively as I drove. Later that day I attended Bible study where the pastor discussed wise counsel as one of the helps of the Spirit. By this time I was beginning to feel much better. If that wasn’t enough to assert that God is with us and helping us during times when we’re weak and emotionally spent, this next situation affirms it. The next morning I had breakfast with a friend. Towards the end of our fellowship, a pastor approached our table and told me that God told him to lay hands on me and to pray for me. I cried the entire time he prayed. Not only was I no longer discouraged, but I was overjoyed that God would send all of these occasions to comfort me when I needed it. I believe He was gracious partly because I was willing to go and help someone else in their time of need—despite my own need. Trust God, and always be willing to help others. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 37


Causing Division The Lord hates…..one who sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:19 (NKJV)

Whisperers can cause division. Perhaps you know some personally, or perhaps you’re a recovering whisperer yourself. Those who come to one person and whisper about another person never do so with the best intentions. They cause dissension and division—even in cases where the two parties on either end of the whisperer’s rhetoric work together well and have never had any issue in their relationship with one another. For example, a co-worker comes to you and tells you some perceived character flaw in another co-worker. Now you have worked with this particular co-worker for a while now and you have never noticed. But now she has been promoted, and you have not. Now you begin to think there may be some validity to the whisperer’s claims. Is it really true, or have you allowed Satan to plant false ideas in your mind because of a disgruntled co-worker and because you didn’t get promoted? We mustn’t make some else’s issue with another person our own issue with them. In Mark 2, the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples (they didn’t ask Jesus about His own actions) why Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners. Why ask the disciples when Jesus was sitting among them— close enough to hear and answer? Could it be that they tried to speak softly to the disciples to instill some doubt about Jesus’ character? Scripture doesn’t say, but we can surmise that their intentions were not honorable, because they hated Jesus. They were self-righteous and proud. Jesus did not come to save the proud, but rather those who are poor in spirit. Whisperers destroy potentially good relationships—most of the time with nonsense. Are you a whisperer? We’ve all been guilty. We must ask God to search us daily. Read Proverbs 6:19-20 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 38


Just His Touch I am willing; be cleansed. Matthew 8:3 (NKJV)

Imagine for a moment that you were turned inside out. What would people see when they looked at your heart? All the stuff we try so hard to conceal from others on display for all to see. What if the contents of the heart lit up like a blinking neon sign? No one would care about our capillaries, our veins, or our muscles. They would more likely focus on the blinking sign. All those things we readily observe in the lives of others but do not believe they exist in our lives. In Scripture, leprosy is synonymous with sin. Those who had this terribly debilitating skin disease were shunned. There was no way to hide the condition because it was highly visible and thought to be very contagious. The victims were lonely individuals—abandoned by family and friends. Once pronounced a leper, it was unlikely that they would ever feel another’s touch ever again; and touch is so valuable. Who doesn’t like a sincere, warm embrace? Unlike the leper, our sin is hidden well—mostly on the inside. Though it will manifest itself in our speech, attitudes, responses, and behaviors, the precise sin may be deeper and quite different than what others can see. But like the leper though, our sin separates and it robs. It separates us from godly fellowship, and it robs us of the potential for great relationships. Who can we trust to heal us of our leprous state? We can trust Christ as the leper did in Matthew 8. The leper came to Jesus believing that Jesus could heal him. He didn’t ask Jesus if He was able, but rather he asked Him to do it if He was willing (v. 2). The next thing Jesus did was surely something for which the man had longed for many years. He touched him, and He healed him. No one can touch us like the Savior. He will come close when others will not. Read Matthew 8:1-3 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 39


The Sword of the Spirit And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17 (NKJV)

Rarely would you see a Roman soldier without his sword. A new soldier did not instinctively know how to handle his sword; he had to be trained. This training was the most important of all the training that the soldier underwent. Training usually began with the soldier handling a much heavier weapon and shield under the notion that if he could handle it, he would have no problem handling the real sword. If successful, the soldier then could defeat his foe with the swift use of his blade. All swords are not for physical use though. Scripture makes an analogy to relate the believer’s spiritual armor of God with the Roman soldier’s physical armor. Christians need to know how to handle their sword as well. Paul referred to the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit. Just as the soldier must know how to use his defensive weapon, Christians need to know how to use their defensive weapon. Daily, the enemy seeks to instill doubt, deception, and discouragement. He uses all kinds of tactics in his attempts to overtake us. With the Bible as our sword, we can refute and destroy strongholds. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). Our weapons are not physical in nature but spiritual. Many times we have the weapon readily accessible, but because we have neglected it, we are without strength, and the enemy knows it. He doesn’t care if we have a Bible, as long as we never read it and apply it. Sharpen the sword in your hand before its power in your life becomes as dull as a butter knife. Earnestly prepare for battle. Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 40


In Dry Seasons Hope in God . . . the help of my countenance and my God. Psalm 42:11 (NKJV)

Every now and then there will be dry seasons—even in the lives of Christians. Every so often even the godliest Christians will become discouraged—many times in the midst of doing the will of God. If we’re not careful, we can become disheartened and disillusioned, thinking that dry seasons and discouraging moments are reserved for those who are not in the center of God’s will. When I am discouraged, I find it extremely difficult to concentrate. I find it hard to focus on my assignment for the kingdom. During these times, I need to be restored; I need a spiritual revival in my own heart and mind. My first recourse is prayer. Even though my flesh wants to throw a huge pity and phone a friend who would be eager to help me plan it, I resist the temptation. I often turn to the book of Psalms. The psalmist, particularly David, on many occasions in Scripture depicts the heart gripping pain associated with discouragement. In many ways I can identify with him, but what I enjoy more often is his rededication and resolve as he seeks the Lord for restoration. Our God is a fountain of restoration! We empty our soul to Him in desperation, and He meets our deepest need by providing reassurance and the kind of resurgence that no one else is able to offer. His ability to quiet our soul and counteract the tendency to become discouraged underneath the weight of serving is unmatched. Make prayer your first recourse and read the Psalms. Just as a fountain bubbles up with a refreshing flow of natural water, our God provides unending flow of living water—a fountain of restoration—when we need it the most. Trust Him to do it. Read Psalm 42 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 41


The Greatest Among You But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:11 KJV

Every good leader must first be a better servant. Jesus told His disciples and those standing among the crowds that leaders must practice the same things they expect from their followers. He made known to them the ways of the scribes and the Pharisees. He told them that the scribes and the Pharisee were pretentious, showy, and did all things to be seen of men. Precisely He stated, “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues� (Matt. 23:5-6). What a description the Savior left on record for those in leadership who must be seen and must have the place of preeminence. Under such conditions, they are unlikely to serve anyone but themselves. Good leaders are those who are looking to be in service to others. They are constantly looking for ways to serve others. They are more likely frustrated because they cannot do more for others, while poor leaders are content with doing less. Good leaders and great servants spend zero time seeking honor for themselves. And it takes a tremendous spirit of humility to serve without regards to recognition. We should be encouraged to know that Jesus taught that humility leads to exaltation; and alternatively, He warns us that he who insists on exalting himself will be humbled (Matt. 23:12). Good leaders understand that the Lord sees and recognizes their sacrifice and labor of love as they minister in His name, and He will never forget their due reward (Heb. 6:10). The greatest among you shall be your servant (Matt. 23:11). The greatest leaders serve others. Jesus is the ideal example—being God incarnate. He chose to be a servant to all. Read Matthew 23:1-12 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 42


Peace and Love in Unity Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)

Can you think of any place more suitable for tolerance than the church? This is not always the case in most local assemblies. Many different personalities are expected to function as one body, but many times there is tremendous dysfunction. As deceitful tactics and hidden agendas become evident, the mission of the church is skewed. I remember watching a little league football game not long ago. Nearly half of the boys were really great athletes, while the others were not very athletic at all. The ball was thrown to one of the young boys who had not mastered the sport, and he missed the catch. The uproar was loud and demeaning. Those who excelled in the sport were full of ridicule, and the young boy was emotionally hurt in the midst. Similar incidences occur in the church today. There are those in the church who make haste to ridicule others— some are serving in the same ministry. We are to build up, and not tear down. It is sinful to provoke one another to evil when the Bible instructs us to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds� (Heb. 10:24). Within the body of Christ, believers should be able to find encouragement and support in times of hardships and distress. We should gain strength from within the body to be able to minister to those outside the body. When we demonstrate patience and forbearance with one another inside the church, we show the attributes of Christ: humility and gentleness (Eph. 4:2) and are recognized as disciples (John 13:35). Tolerate others in love, for Christ tolerates us in love every day. Read Ephesians 4:1-16 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 43


To Be Remembered What this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her. Matthew 6:13 (NKJV)

Jesus gave Mary one of the highest accolades given to a woman in Scripture. The same honor that He showed to Mary of Bethany, He is willing to give to all those who love and obey Him today. Mary decided that her preference would always be Christ. No matter what was going on around her and no matter what was said about her, she was determined to hear from our Lord. Her peaceful and humble demeanor is a reminder to us that we have to be steadfast, directed, and deliberate in our seeking the Lord. While her sister and the disciples were annoyed with her and her Jewish counterparts did not understand her, she never wavered in her aspiration to hear clearly from Christ. This too must be the goal of every disciple of Christ—that we ever seek to hear Him and block out the noise from voices that do not matter as much. Jesus Himself said, “‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple'” (Luke 14:26-27). Jesus used the term “hate” as a method of comparison, but not in a literal sense. In other words, no one should come before or between our loyalty to and love for Him—no one. Mary demonstrated her allegiance and love when she would not be moved from His feet—despite the protest of others. Three short and separate accounts in Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of what genuine love and adoration looks like. From Mary’s display and Christ words about her, we can evaluate and realign our own service to and love for our Lord. Read Matthew 26:6-13 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 44


Having Our Senses Trained But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:14 (NASB)

A vital component to living the victorious Christian life is taking the Word in and making application for our lives. It’s not only the studying, but it is the application that brings strength, vitality, courage and dominion. God is not honored when we just store up biblical facts and rest in our cognitive gains. Failing to allow the knowledge acquired from the Scriptures to correct our wrong thinking and to discern right practices will result in dullness of hearing. Consequently, our spiritual muscles atrophy and spiritual discernment suffers. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that our walk with the Lord should be moving along a continuum. We must not be stagnant but rather we should be growing to the point that we are able to teach others God’s precepts. The writer asserted that his audience was indeed stagnant, needing to be taught again the basic elements of Scripture. They lacked spiritual discernment, and their senses had not been trained to differentiate between good and evil (Heb. 5:12-14). It’s not that they did not have knowledge—like many believers today—but they did not exercise their biblical knowledge to make correct judgments. Hearing becomes dull and lifeless when application doesn’t follow the mandates. When we first come to faith in Christ, we are figuratively babies in Christ. At some point we must move to maturity in the faith, taking on the meat of Scripture. When we grow in our understanding and exercise all that we have learned, we can avoid spiritual atrophy and mature in faith. Ask God for the application every time you read and hear His Word. Read Hebrews 5:7-6:3 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 45


Provocation Has Benefits Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Hebrews 10: 24 (KJV)

We know it’s possible to provoke someone with an evil intent, but the Bible does speak of a provocation that is of a godly nature. We can push our brothers and sisters in the bent for which God has created them, and it will not only please God, but it will be a huge benefit for us as well. Our gifts are not for ourselves, but rather they are for sharing with others, so that the whole body of Christ is edified, and God is gloried. So the benefit to us is edification and hopefully inspiration. Now the Greek word for provoke is translated to stimulate, to irritate, or to incite. This provocation is so strong, like a jab thrown, that the person is compelled to respond. Surprisingly, it’s the same Greek word used in Acts 15 when Paul and Barnabas disagreed on whether to take John Mark along on their second missionary journey. With the same intensity and passion, we should be stirring up others to love and good works. Why do some Christians refuse to provoke other Christians to love and good works in righteousness? A myriad of reasons exist, but most have their root in selfishness. Some Christians are jealous. The last thing they want is for those close to them to be walking according to how the Word affirms that we should, especially if they are not doing it themselves. For some Christians, pushing their friend or family member to excel in God’s calling may bring fear of abandonment and desertion should he or she begin to prosper. Other reasons apply, but the root is the same. Let us stir up one another in righteousness—making an earnest effort to bring out the good in others. The good that we bring out in others is for the betterment of the entire body of Christ. Make an effort to push someone into their calling with sincere intent. Read Hebrews 10:19-25 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 46


To Hear Him Say Well Done We who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:12 (NKJV)

It would be a shame to go through our whole life and miss the point God intended to make when He created us individually. Many times Christians will get involved in nearly every ministry and auxiliary in the church, even if their natural abilities and spiritual gift(s) are not be evident in areas. Perhaps the ministry to which God has called them is not glamorous enough or highly visible and therefore, they shy away from serving in that capacity. We tend to want what God does not want for us because we haven’t spent enough time with Him learning what His plan and purpose is for our lives. Neglect this vital task for extended lengths of time and we could live a lifetime and totally miss the point. We may live thinking that our life is about us and our happiness when really it’s all about the God we serve and His glory. All is for His glory, which He refuses to share with another—not even His children (Isaiah 48:11). Jonah missed the point when he thought that going to the pagan city of Nineveh was a suggestion from God rather than a command. He knew that if He brought God’s warning of their impending destruction to the people of Nineveh that they would turn from their wicked ways. He had his own agenda, but God got his attention. What will it take for God to get your undivided attention? All of us want to stand before Almighty God and hear Him say, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’” (Matt. 25:23). No one wants to hear Him say, “I wanted you to do this, but you chose that.” Trust His plan! Read Ephesians 1:11-14 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 47


His Word: Our Stabilizer Hope we have as an anchor of the soul. Hebrews 6:19 (NASB)

In times of great difficulty, we need at least one verse that will anchor our soul in Christ. An anchor holds things in place; it keeps a ship, battered by turbulent winds, from drifting away. Paul and the other passengers aboard the ship heading for Rome understood the importance of having a good anchor in a storm. The storm was tumultuous and riotous, similar to the storms that we sometimes have in our lives. Without a strong hold in the Word of God, we may fall victim to the challenges of life as the men did in Acts 27. Luke recounts, “When the ship was caught in it [the storm] and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along (v. 15). We finally gave up all hope of being saved” (v. 20). Paul stood among the men and encouraged them saying, “An angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (vv. 23-25). “They dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight” (v. 29, emphasis added). They dropped anchors and prayed. What a wonderful example of what to do when the storms of life are tumultuous and raging, endeavoring to overtake us. We need something to hold us—to settle our souls. We need anchor verses that will connect our faith to hope; we need a consistent stabilizer, we have the same tendency to pursue other means to escape the storm. Determine your anchor Bible verses now when the waters are calm. They may be the very thing to keep you in a storm. Read Hebrews 6:13-20 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 48


Our Faith and Our God He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NKJV)

If someone told you that you possessed grasshopper faith, you’d likely be reminded of the story of the twelve spies in Numbers 13. Moses sent the twelve spies out to survey the land and the inhabitants of the land. The spies did as Moses instructed, but only two brought back a favorable report; the others were discouraged and frightened by what they saw before them. Though the consensus was that the men of the land were strong and the cities were fortified, Caleb insisted that the Israelites were able to overcome the obstacles and gain possession of the land. “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight’” (vv. 31-33). When God’s people are like grasshoppers in their own sight, what does this indicate about our God? Why should others believe God when our faith in His ability to do what He has promised is so small? When fear paralyzes us and keeps us from gaining possession of what God has shown us is ours, we forfeit the blessing and we reap the consequences. “Those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord” (Num. 14:37). Always trust God to do everything that He has promised. Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 49


The Benefits of Journaling Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High. Psalm 50:14 (KJV)

Journaling is an excellent way to recount just how good God has been to us. We hold some things for which we are thankful—things that God has done for us—in our memory bank and it is unlikely that it will be easily forgotten. However, there have been some other instances where God has been faithful and we were truly grateful at the time, but over time we’ve forgotten the specifics. Writing in a journal daily allows us to remember the faithfulness of God and is a wonderful mechanism for offering thanksgiving to Him. In it, we create a vivid timeline of all His grace and kindness as a demonstration of His unconditional love for us. It’s an opportunity to pour out our hearts to Him—writing of our concerns, our hopes, our desires, and interceding for others in prayer. Notations about how God heard us and answered our prayers serve as wonderful reminders of His faithfulness. Journaling is private and personal, yet it’s penetrating and powerful. What a great legacy that we can leave for generations; it will be more valuable than monetary gifts. God told Habakkuk in chapter 2 to “record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run” (v. 2). In this case, the one who reads the vision will make haste to tell others of it. We can write down all things pertaining to God’s faithfulness and our gratefulness, so that when others read it, they can make haste to share with others the mighty things that God has done. Journaling produces a concrete and tangible way of expressing gratitude. Whereas our gratefulness should be evident in our speech, it can also be penned—citing the specifics of our praise. In written format, they will not be easily forgotten. Read Psalm 105:1-5 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 50


It’s Painful on Purpose My soul also is greatly troubled; but You, O Lord—how long? Psalm 6:3 (NKJV)

Is there a purpose for pain? Although little is understood about its purpose when we have a hurting heart, we can know that God has a plan and a purpose for it. Some hurts you have endured have been mild to moderate and some were excruciating, but all dissipated over a period of time. Some are new, but there is an end to those, too. In my life I have had many pieces of pain, but I understand more and more that those things had to happen to bring me to a place of hunger and thirst for the Word of God. I find that we can either snowball the pain to make it insurmountable in size and weight, or we can snowball God’s purpose for the pain. Since we know there are no coincidences with God, every piece of pain has value; it has its own purpose. David cried out frequently in anguish and pain, and the Lord heard him. In Psalm 6, he gives a vivid picture of how his heart ached during a period of deep sorrow and distress. He wrote, “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows old because of all my enemies” (vv. 6-7). While David does well to describe his pain for us, he does an equally good job of redirecting or shifting from pain to purpose and provision. Crying out in distress as his enemies were pursuing him, David draws nearer to the LORD who heard his weeping voice and supplication and received his prayer. Sometimes, God’s purpose in our pain is to draw us closer in faith. Many times it’s in the water bath—in the groaning and earnest flow of tears—that we will look up. Tell God about the hurt, ask Him to show you the purpose, and ask Him to make provision. Read Psalm 6 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 51


When Anxiety Becomes Problematic Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NASB)

Is it anxiety or a healthy response? The “fight or flight” response can be a healthy, innate behavioral mechanism—prompting us to take added precautions against potential dangers. Anxiety becomes problematic when it persists even though the perceived threat disintegrates. Worry has extreme negative effects upon us physically and psychologically. It intensifies the effects of illnesses like heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders. According to an article printed in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch publication, research findings suggest a correlation between anxiety treatments and the improvement in chronic medical conditions. The alleviation of anxiety helps to improve the symptoms associated with chronic medical conditions. As believers, we are to trust God and live above worry. The Savior teaches us to not to worry about our essentials for existence, saying, “‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?'” (Matt. 6:31). God is fully aware of our need for such things. He instructs us to “‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added'” (6:33). By faith we are able to plow through tough times, realizing that every circumstance has been filtered through His hands and allowed for our good. Faith depletes the power of worry and anxiety. When we are tempted to worry, we must remember that worrying adds nothing to our life (Matt. 6:27). On the contrary, we may actually shorten the quantity of our years and most certainly the quality of our life. Trust God! Read Philippians 4:5-7 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 52


Rivers of Living Waters He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38 (NASB)

An artesian well is a well which requires no pumping because it brings forth water from its own pressure. For this well, if the pressure on the inside is tremendous enough, the water will rise to the top of the well and will flow freely. With such a description, there is no wonder that Jesus compelled men and women to come to Him as the only complete and allencompassing remedy for a thirsty soul. Jesus stood among the people on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, most likely observing the ceremony of drawing and pouring water—watching the people rejoice. Scripture teaches that He “stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive” (John 7:37-39). The living water Jesus spoke of was the Holy Spirit to be given to believers after He had been glorified. Jesus didn’t claim to be the water, but rather that He would give the water (the Holy Spirit). All true believers have the Spirit of God; although, in some cases, the manifestation of the Spirit doesn’t seem to rise to the surface, to be freeflowing, to spring up, and pour out onto others. Time spent with our Lord—in His Word and in His presence —produces the overflow! Begin to cultivate and develop your relationship with God through Christ, so that the rule of the Holy Spirit in your life spills over and invigorates others. Read John 7:32-39 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 53


Power is Available Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. Acts 1:8 (KJV)

Though we know that we had power afforded to us at salvation, some days we may wonder. We feel like someone has used a circuit breaker to turn off the power in our lives. When this happens, we must go to the One who gave us the power in the first place. We need our God to flip the switch….to unleash our stored power once again…to revive us to the work that He has called us to do. When we are dedicated to kingdom building, the work can be tiring. The more we try to do in our own strength, the less effective we will become. Depleted and drained are two adjectives that come to mind when I think about tackling my day without His enabling power. We must remain fully charged to do the work. Every believer has power, but not every believer taps into that power on a consistent basis. When my cell phone has accepted all of the power it can hold, the message, “fully charged,” appears on the face of my phone. When we accept all the power that the Holy Spirit seeks to give to us, our lifestyle will demonstrate that we are filled. My phone may have plenty of stored power, but unless I tap into its power, I cannot benefit from it. Jesus, before His ascension into heaven, said that the Holy Spirit would give His disciples power….power to witness….power to live victoriously….power to persevere through difficulties…power (Acts 1:8). We have that same power, but how we use it is highly individualized. Reading and studying His Word daily, praying incessantly, fasting regularly, and assembling ourselves with others believers frequently are all ways to ensure that we remain fully charged and operating in His power. If you’re struggling habitually in your walk, ask yourself, “Whose power is at work in me?” Read Acts 1:4-8 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 54


The Road to Clarity Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. Luke 24:15 (NKJV)

Most avid walkers can walk seven miles at a reasonable pace in less than two hours. Seven miles may seem like a long distance when you’re just starting out, but much of how we feel as we continue on the journey will depend upon what or who we have brought along with us for the journey. When we acknowledge Jesus’ presence on the journey, the trip seems shorter and less difficult. Jesus brings clarity and conviction as we travel. In conversations we have along the way, He affords understanding that is impossible without His expounding upon Scripture. The Bible tells us that on the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and the other disciple were talking about the things that had happened concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Apparently, their facial expression and their speech indicated that they were disturbed, upset, and possibly confused. Perhaps the seven mile walk seemed like an arduous task for the two in such despair, but Jesus came to walk beside them and as it turned out, seven miles was not long enough. For when they had reached the village in Emmaus, Scripture teaches that Jesus acted as though He was going to go farther, but the disciples urged Him to come and stay with them (Luke 24:28-29). Jesus accepted their invitation. Up to this point Jesus had concealed His identity. However, after He sat down for dinner with the disciples, He opened their eyes. Then, they knew He was the resurrected Christ. His presence brought clarity and understanding on a long road. Some tasks are hard at the beginning because we have not recognized that God is with us on the journey; we have not acknowledged His presence. Know that you are never alone. Read Luke 24:13-29 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 55


The Right Focus The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)

It’s not uncommon to get off task, even when you’re doing good things for the kingdom. The minute we look away from the assignment that God has given us, we become vulnerable. I can tell when my focus begins to waver and the potential to compromise my assignment is at hand; I start to procrastinate terribly. At that point I know that I need to streamline my focus. To streamline something means to make it simple and more efficient. Those tasks and people that cause us to veer from God’s intended path need careful consideration. Many times we miss the deadline, delay the completion of a project, and become habitual excuse-makers because we have allowed other unimportant things to cause our focus to become hazy. David Jeremiah said, “Focus is the result of priorities; priorities are the result of purpose; and purpose is the result of a personal relationship with God through Christ.” All focus for the kingdom must first begin with our relationship with the King! There are general purposes for all believers, but there are specific purposes for which we have been created as well. We will not discover that purpose apart from spending time in God’s Word and in prayer. Once our purpose has been established, we can begin to set priorities which move us towards our specific purpose in the kingdom. We hinder our own progress. We delay the start of a project—forever in the planning stage—we accept unnecessary engagements, we fail to pray for steadfastness….the list continues. Streamline: move some stuff around or remove it from the list, say “No” more often, delegate some duties, and spend more time with Him. He will show us how to make the assignment succinct and maintain our flexibility. Read Jeremiah 10:23 Notes/Application___________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ 56


Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Psalm 90:12 March 2018

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Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38 Š 2012-2018 Thirst Ministries, Inc. 59


May God bless you in 2018 and fill you daily with His power. Never faint! Always believe that you will see His goodness while you yet live. Tabitha A. Person

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Growthinhisword march april 2018  
Growthinhisword march april 2018  
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