An easy way to find books that will encourage, inform and delight you.
An easy way to find books that will encourage, inform and delight you.
We all choose a song to sing. What’s yours? We gain insight from Deborah’s song in this devotion excerpted from Once-a-Day Men and Women of the Bible Devotional.
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” -Judges 5:31
What song do you sing? This verse is the last stanza in the famous song of Deborah, the fourth (and only female) leader of Israel during the long and difficult period following Joshua’s death. She organized a military response to the aggression of Jabin, a Canaanite kingpin, whose army included a fearsome 900 iron chariots. Foot soldiers facing this armada would be like modern infantry advancing against tanks and artillery.
In Israel’s army, the determining factor was never the order of battle, but always the faith of its leaders. In an ugly, evil era, Deborah called the nation to its mission. For 40 years the people prospered under her leadership. In one decisive moment, she did not flinch at Sisera’s overwhelming military advantage, but pressed her countrymen to victory — by prayer, words of encouragement and her presence. In the end, her bully adversary lost his army, his life and his honor.
Q: Who has the most accurate opinion of your worth?
C. The people who know you best
D. God’s Word
You’ll find an answer in this devotional message from The Great Rescue Bible (NIV).
When we look in the mirror, what do we see? Just an average person trying to get by in life? Know this: Visible-world mirrors are known for telling lies.
There’s a huge difference between what we think of ourselves and what the Bible says about us. If we look with kingdom eyes, we’ll see our real reflection: A child of the King (see John 1:12; 1 John 3:1), God’s special possession (see 1 Peter 2:9), home to God’s Spirit (see John 14:17; Ephesians 1:13), and seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms (see Ephesians 2:6). When the kingdom comes in its fullness, we’ll even have a role in the judgment of the world and of angels (see 1 Corinthians 6:2–3). We might think we’re average, but that’s far from the truth.
Sometimes we think the Bible is just trying to encourage us with verses like those because we need something to lift us up when we’re down. But God is giving us a picture of who we really are.
We’re actually clothed in Christ, and his Spirit is actually living in us. Like two metals that have melted together, we blend. In The Real World, no one can tell exactly where Jesus ends and we begin. We can never be separated from who he is.
If we really believe that, we won’t be discouraged for very long, we’ll stand up to the giants in our lives, and we’ll see God working when others think he isn’t.
What motivates Jesus-followers to serve others? To find out, let’s look at a key conversation between Jesus and Peter. (This is a devotion excerpted from Once-a-Day Men and Women of the Bible Devotional.)
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time … Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” -John 21:17
Much has been made of the question Jesus asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” Pastors and teachers talk about how this question intentionally parallels Peter’s three denials of Christ. Others stress the different Greek words translated as “love” in this passage. But we must also recognize the emphasis Jesus placed on ministering to others.
“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said each time Peter affirmed his love for Christ. If Peter really loved Jesus, he would care for those who belong to Jesus. Notice that not once did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Jesus’ sheep. The bottom-line motivation for ministry was and is love for Jesus and a willingness to act.
There is another message here as well. “Even if you have failed,” Jesus seems to be saying, “I can still use you in the lives of others.”
Pop quiz: Will Jesus-followers become citizens in the kingdom of heaven someday? Or are they already citizens of the kingdom? Discover what Scripture says on the matter in this devotional from The Great Rescue Bible (NIV).
Heaven is both here and not yet.
While we’re on this fallen earth, Jesus is with us and within us (see Matthew 28:20; Colossians 1:27). But it also works the other way. We’re also “in him” and seated “with him” while he’s in heaven (see Romans 8:1; Ephesians 2:6).
Somehow we’re seated in heaven with Jesus. By knowing him, he serves as a portal to show us things of heaven. That means that as we walk with Jesus in this world, we’ll experience foretastes of what heaven will be like. When we come to him anxious and ask him to help, maybe that’s why we leave more peaceful.
Mysteriously, this next Scripture passage was written to believers still alive on fallen earth — and it’s not written in future tense, so it seems that it’s describing what is happening now: “You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22–23).
We’re already citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and we can learn to celebrate what heaven’s residents celebrate. In heaven, angels and people rejoice in God and in the things of his kingdom. They rejoice when people turn away from the ways of evil, when goodness is spread and when Jesus-followers make the world look more like his kingdom.
Is “the gospel” just shorthand for the daily life of a Christian? If not, how does the gospel shape our daily Christian life? Tim Keller offers biblical insights in this excerpt from his new book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. If you like what you read here, get the book 38% off: Buy Center Church (Special offer good through Sept. 18, 2012). -Adam Forrest
The gospel is not about something we do but about what has been done for us, and yet the gospel results in a whole new way of life…
One of Martin Luther’s dicta was that we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that remains alone. His point is that true gospel belief will always and necessarily lead to good works, but salvation in no way comes through or because of good works. Faith and works must never be confused for one another, nor may they be separated (Eph 2:8–10; Jas 2:14, 17–18, 20, 22, 24, 26).
I am convinced that belief in the gospel leads us to care for the poor and participate actively in our culture, as surely as Luther said true faith leads to good works…
I have often heard people preach this way: “The good news is that God is healing and will heal the world of all its hurts; therefore, the work of the gospel is to work for justice and peace in the world.”
The danger in this line of thought is not that the particulars are untrue (they are not) but that it mistakes effects for causes. It confuses what the gospel is with what the gospel does.
When Paul speaks of the renewed material creation, he states that the new heavens and new earth are guaranteed to us because on the cross Jesus restored our relationship with God as his true sons and daughters. Romans 8:1–25 teaches, remarkably, that the redemption of our bodies and of the entire physical world occurs when we receive “our adoption.” As his children, we are guaranteed our future inheritance (Eph 1:13–14, 18; Col 1:12; 3:24; Heb 9:15; 1 Pet 1:4), and because of that inheritance, the world is renewed. The future is ours because of Christ’s work finished in the past.
Pop quiz: Does God want us to “play it safe” in our lives? Does He want us to avoid all risk in our jobs, goals and desires?
Remember your answer as you read this devotional from The Great Rescue Bible (NIV). You may change your mind. -Adam Forrest
Your Dad is the King of all. There is no reason to fear.
Jesus told a story of two people who illustrated what it looks like to live as a child of the King: “It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (Matthew 25:14–18).
In this parable, two of the three servants went for it, trying to gain as much as they could with what they had been given. They could have lost everything by not playing it safe. But they knew the heart of their master and decided to take a risk. Jesus made it clear that they were the ones who were living the way he wanted.
God is not a “play it safe” God. Do you have the kind of approach to life that says, “I’m gonna go for it, even if I fail, because God’s gonna catch me if I fall”? Child of the King, if God puts something on your heart, go after it. Do what you can to make it happen, ask for his help and guidance, and trust that he’s going to walk with you every step of the way.
The ever-honest Jerry Sittser reflects on the pain of losing a loved one, and how we can free ourselves from destructive feelings such as regret, hatred, bitterness, and despair. If you feel crushed under the weight of regret, I hope Jerry’s gentle but honest wisdom is a blessing to you. [Excerpt from A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss (eBook).] -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
If I want transformation, I must let go of my regrets over what could have been and pursue what can be. But what I cannot have is the best of both worlds: the growth that has transformed my life as a result of the tragedy and the people whose death engendered that growth.
There is a bitter irony here that cannot be avoided, however much we grow through loss. The people whose death enabled me to change for the better are the very people with whom I would most like to share these changes. Their death has forced me to grow; I wish now that they could benefit from the growth that has resulted from their death.
Potent stuff today from author/pastor Mark Buchanan: Why “oneness” is superior to “equality;” the benefits of pursuing church unity; and what’s at stake if we don’t. Excerpt from Mark Buchanan’s book Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down.
A brief open letter to Mark: “Dear Pastor Buchanan, your writing on unity convicts my introverted soul. For your next book, please write “Your Life Is Too Safe: The Introvert’s Field Guide to Joining Community.” -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
The Bible is little interested in equality. It aims much higher than that. From Genesis to Revelation, it calls us to this deeper, greater, tougher, sweeter thing: oneness. Oneness in our relationship with God. Oneness in our relationship with our spouse. Oneness with our relationships with other Christ-followers. Oneness in the church.
Oneness beats equality every time, because equality demands sameness. To be equal to you, I have to be as smart and strong and kind and generous as you. But oneness presumes difference. To be one with you, I have to accept your gift of otherness. I can be weak where you’re strong, and vice versa. Oneness requires my life to complement yours. It calls us to complete one another.
Joni Eareckson Tada’s vision of heaven vibrates with joy, and C.S. Lewis asks what we really want, in this devotion from the NIV Voices of Faith Devotional Bible: Voices from the Past and Present.
My favorite part about Joni’s view is seeing the saints come together from across time: “There’s Moses toasting Martin Luther.” What Christians from history would you most like to meet, and what would you ask them?
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan
Joni Eareckson Tada
Before we realize it … we shall find ourselves in the embrace of our Savior at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Heaven will have arrived. The Lord’s overcoming of the world will be a lifting of the curtain of our five senses…
Now, enjoy an unseen divine reality. Rev up your heart and picture yourself taking a seat at the Wedding Supper. As you pull up a chair to the banquet table, take a look at what’s on the menu from Isaiah 25:6: “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines” …
I get a charge just thinking about it! I wonder who will sit next to me, or across from me. I glance down the table and there’s my friend, Verna Estes, mother of seven, swapping baby stories with Susanna Wesley, mother of seventeen. There’s Moses toasting Martin Luther. St. Augustine giving a bear hug to that jungle missionary …
Yesterday Mark Batterson shared his experience with trying to Force a Miracle. Here’s the story’s unexpected conclusion — a real-life example of “seek and ye shall find,” and how the finding will often surprise … ye!
I love how this story hints that God is directing the scene, but Mark and his unnamed friends have their roles to play. That is exciting, because it’s true in our stories too!
This story is from Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan