Spiritual food for your faith journey and encouragement for hard times.
Spiritual food for your faith journey and encouragement for hard times.
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.
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 …
Does God want his people to flourish? What does flourishing even look like? John Ortberg gives us a picture in this excerpt from The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You.
Not long ago I boarded an airport shuttle bus to get to the rental car lot. Driving a shuttle bus is usually a thankless job, for the driver is often regarded as the low man on the totem pole. People on the bus are often grumpy from travel and in a hurry to get to their car. No one says much except the name of their rental car company. But not on this bus.
The man who drove the bus was an absolute delight. He was scanning the curbside, looking for anybody who needed a ride. “You know,” he told us, “I’m always looking because sometimes people are running late. You can tell it in their eyes. I’m always looking because I never want to miss one. Hey, here’s another one! …”
The driver pulled over to pick up a latecomer, and he was so excited about what he was doing that we got excited. We were actually cheering him on when he was picking people up. It was like watching Jesus drive a shuttle bus. The man would grab people’s luggage before they could lift it, then he would jump back on the bus and say, “Well we’re off. I know you’re all eager to get there as quickly as possible, so I’m going to get you there as soon as I can.”
We begin our scene at Jacob’s well, as two people discuss what God desires. One of those people is the Son of God. This story is told by Mark Buchanan in his book Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down. -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asks.
The voice, the question, the man: they startle her. They startle her out of her silence and avoidance.
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” [See John 4:1-42]
And then unfolds a remarkable encounter, a life-turning exchange. But not at first. At first, her speech is as cagey as her silence, a series of diversions and evasions. Jesus offers her living water, “the gift of God.” She’s puzzled and intrigued, but when Jesus exposes her condition, she scurries down a rabbit trail. She wants to talk about worship. That might be a good thing, but as so often happens with talk of worship, it bogs down quickly into hairsplitting and argument baiting. Is this style better than that style? Is old better than new? Is tradition better than innovation?
When Jesus exposes her condition, she scurries down a rabbit trail.
Jesus cuts through all that with a clear word about the heart of worship: it’s about the heart in worship. It’s about a heart that longs for God and seeks him wherever he might be found. It’s about a heart that wants truth in the inmost parts, and opens itself wide as a bird’s mouth to receive it, and steeps in it until it works its way to the outermost parts. Worship is not about a style or a form or a place. That’s not what God’s seeking. He’s seeking not a kind of music or liturgy or architecture but a kind of person: humble, hungry, wide awake, who comes in spirit and truth, bold and beseeching both, ready to live toward God out of their depths.
Scot McKnight reflects on “the greatest commandment” in this excerpt from One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow (eBook).
[A religious expert] came to Jesus, because he wanted to trap Jesus in a theological debate. (Or, in our terms, because he wanted Jesus to tell the crowd which denomination he was in or whose side he was on in a political or religious debate.)
[The religious expert asks,] “Of all the commandments [the 613], which is the most important?”
If Jesus picks one, he could be guilty of picking and choosing the wrong one. If he doesn’t pick one, he looks lame. Jesus was ready … and he offers to his listeners [what] I call the Jesus Creed:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29–31 …