“The Good Steward” Topic: Living for God

 

Romans 13:11-14

Brothers and sisters, “who is wise and understanding among you?” (James 3:13). Let him show the wisdom from above, by walking fitting to his character. If he calls himself a steward of the many gifts of God, let him see that all his thoughts, words, and works fulfill the duty God has assigned him. It is no small thing to lay out for God all which you have received from God. It requires all your wisdom, all your determination, all your patience and faithfulness; far more than ever you had by nature but not more than you may have by grace. His grace is sufficient for you. “All things,” you know, “are possible to him that believes” (Mark 9:23). By faith, then, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14), “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11), and you will be able to glorify Him in all your words and works. Yes, to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ!

– Edinburgh, May 14, 1768

Adapted from “The Good Steward” in The Collected Sermons of John Wesley

DAD’S DEVOTIONAL BIBLE – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2018

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God’s wake-up call

Passage for the Day: GENESIS 22:1–18

Verse for the Day: GENESIS 22:12

Before I owned a cell phone equipped with an alarm feature, when I was staying at a hotel I would call the front desk, asking for a “wake-up call.” You can still get these from a computer program that the hotels have, but at one point in my career they actually had people calling to wake up residents. I always wondered what it would be like to be the guy who made these early morning telephone calls. Ordinarily, we are embarrassed when we call someone and accidentally disrupt their peaceful sleep.

“Did I wake you up?” you ask your friend who’s desperately trying to mask the fact that only moments before, he was completely comatose.

“No, that’s okay,” your friend diplomatically answers. “I had to get up to answer the phone anyway.”

In yesterday’s reading, we celebrated the miracle of the birth of your child. But today, like the poor guy who had the “privilege” to stir everyone’s luxurious slumber, God sent Abraham a wake-up call . . . and the ringing got his attention.

Abraham had literally waited a lifetime for the birth of Isaac. He must have been thrilled beyond description. Can’t you imagine how he spontaneously told everyone—whether they wanted to hear it or not—how this boy was born to such an old man? How Abraham must have proudly pointed out young Isaac to anyone who would listen: “See that boy over there? That’s my boy.”

Then came the contemptuous “ringing phone” from the heavens. Go back and read verse two . . . “Take your son . . . whom you love . . . sacrifice him . . . as a burnt offering.” What kinds of thoughts must have crashed through Abraham’s conscious mind? Kill my son? Why? How? This must have dazed him—gripped his heart like nothing ever had before.

The text doesn’t give us any clues to what was actually going on in Abraham’s mind, but as dads, we can only imagine the trauma. I’ve spent my life waiting for this child, and now you want me to kill him? I’d give my life for him, and you want me to snuff his out? Seriously?

What was God up to? Why did He put Abraham through this horrific experience? Was this some sort of cruel celestial prank? No, actually it wasn’t.

There’s a principle that runs throughout this Bible that you and I must understand. Everything we have in our lives—our families and extended families, our possessions . . . even our own lives—is a miraculous gift to us from our Heavenly Father. “Children are . . . a reward from him,” (Psalm 127:3) and “You are not your own; you were bought at a price,” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20) make this truth abundantly clear. And just like Abraham understood, since God has given us all we have, we must also surrender all to Him in faith and obedience. Just like Abraham, the most valuable thing you and I have is our friendship with a holy God.

In this story we see a gripping sequence of four snapshots of Abraham as a dad: Proud—have you seen my greatest treasure?; Bewildered—what does this mean?; Obedient—I hold your reward with open hands; and Grateful—thank you, God, for your miraculous gift of this boy.

Today’s wake-up call contains the following messages: Our children are on loan to us from the Creator of the universe. Our charge is to trust Him to take excellent care of His treasured property.

Copyright © 1999, 2014 by Robert D. Wolgemuth.

Encouragement The Year I Didn’t Want to Buy an Easter Dress

TRACIE MILES

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

Last year as Easter quickly approached, my daughter Kaitlyn asked me to take her dress shopping, which we’ve done every year since my daughters were little.

We spent hours looking until she finally found the perfect dress. As we were paying, she asked, “Hey Mom, aren’t you going to buy an Easter dress this year?”

I responded, saying, “I have lots of dresses. I don’t really need to spend money on a new one,” but my next sentence made my heart skip a beat: “Besides, I’m not that excited about Easter this year anyway.”

She shrugged with a faint smile and muttered, Oh, okay,” with a little hug as we picked up our bags.

Driving home, tears trickled down my face. What kind of mother tells her child she isn’t excited about Easter? How could I say I wasn’t enthusiastic about the celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God? What kind of Christian says that?

I felt so ashamed for having those thoughts, much less speaking them aloud to my precious child. Mercy.

But I knew this Easter was going to be incredibly different and hard. It would be the first Easter Sunday in 26 years where my family wouldn’t attend church together. Instead of looking forward to the celebration for all the right reasons, I was secretly dreading it, knowing it would be difficult to get through the day.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, my husband and I had abruptly separated six months earlier. Holidays look different through the lens of a broken heart and a broken family, and I thought and felt differently about them too. Rather than focusing on the meaning of the resurrection, my thoughts centered around my earthly problems. Sometimes when life is heavy, our hearts and minds can get heavy, too.

That’s exactly why in today’s key verse (Colossians 3:2), Paul encourages us to set our minds on the things above — not the problems of this world. Because whatever we set our minds on determines our thoughts, drives our emotions, fuels our words and actions, and ultimately steers the direction of our faith. When our thoughts are sinking, our hearts will too.

However, if we intentionally fix our attention on “things that are above,” — what makes us joyful, hopeful and positive — like the resurrection of Jesus Christ, eternal life, hope found in our Savior and blessings of all kinds that make us smile, then our attitudes can stay uplifted, despite our circumstances.

God gave us free will to choose mind over matter or let the matters of life control our minds. The choice is ours, and that important choice will determine the direction of our faith and our ability to enjoy God’s joy and peace, even when our hearts are heavy. Unsinkable optimism, hope and faith hinge on where we choose to focus our thoughts, not on life’s circumstances.

This brief conversation with Kaitlyn was a wake-up call. I didn’t realize the toll my thoughts, heartache and emotions were having on my outlook, much less my faith walk, until the second I spoke those unfortunate words. Yes, life was hard in the moment. Things certainly hadn’t turned out the way I’d hoped. But hard things in life don’t have to harden my heart. I prayed all the way home from our shopping trip that day, asking God to restore my joy and peace, refocus my thoughts, and change my mind from the inside out.

We all experience hardships in life, but regardless of what we face, Jesus died on the cross for our sins, rose on the third day and ascended to sit at the right hand of our Father. He assures us a beautiful future in heaven with Him, even when life gets ugly. Those divine truths are reason enough to celebrate Easter with an overflowing heart of gratitude and praise. And certainly enough reason to buy a new dress.

Dear Lord, draw my thoughts upward toward You every minute of every day, but especially this Easter. Help me resist the temptation to focus on the painful things of this earthly life and learn to control my thoughts so they don’t sink my faith or joy in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:2a, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (NLT)

Romans 8:6, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (NIV)

Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.” (NASB)

RELATED RESOURCES:
If you’re facing difficult times, maybe a change of mind could also change your heart — even if your circumstances remain the same. Purchase Tracie Miles’ new book, Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies for Transforming the Way You Think, Feel, and Live to help you discover how to do exactly that.

CONNECT:
Visit Tracie’s blog for more encouragement about embracing joy in Jesus this Easter, and find out how to claim five free valuable gifts worth $60, with your purchase of Unsinkable Faith before April 29!

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Is it possible your thoughts and feelings about negative circumstances have stolen your joy, optimism or enthusiasm for celebrating Easter? Spend some time with God today, and invite Him to begin a positive transformation in your thoughts.

Spend time in prayer, thanking Jesus for giving His life on the cross for you. Make a commitment to focus on Him and His goodness instead of the things of this world.

© 2017 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

LIVING HIS WORD – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2018

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2 Chronicles 9:6-8 ERV: Remember this: The one who plants few seeds will have a small harvest. But the one who plants a lot will have a big harvest. Each one of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give. You should not give if it makes you unhappy or if you feel forced to give. God loves those who are happy to give. And God can give you more blessings than you need, and you will always have plenty of everything. You will have enough to give to every good work.

The Christian church cannot sustain, maintain, and expand the Kingdom of Jesus Christ without the donations of its members and supporters. Unlike families, whose parents earn its sustenance; unlike businesses, which sell for a profit; and unlike nations, which tax its citizens; the church is dependent upon the good will of its members and supporters. This simple fact needs to be emphasized because there can be a lot of resentment about giving.

Perhaps the resentment that surrounds giving is the reason why God promises in our verses for today that those who support the efforts of the church will receive “more blessings than you need” and thus will have “plenty left over to share with others.”It’s hard to be a blessing when you’re broke.

Furthermore, God promises here that there is proportionality at work in our giving. Like the farmer, if you plant a lot, you will have a big harvest. It could be said that God incentivizes support for the church. One does not have to fear for their financial wellbeing when giving.

As with most everything else in the Christian life, motivation and attitude are everything when it comes to giving. We shouldn’t give if it makes us unhappy or if we feel forced to give. God doesn’t just want our money; He wants our hearts as well.

The Prophet Malachi quotes God as saying that “Good things will come to you like rain falling from the sky” when we give (Malachi 3:10). Maybe today should be the day you find this out for yourself.

Copyright © 2015 by Bible League International. All rights reserved.

Devotional Living a Drama-Free Life

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

I remember the evening I started living a new opening act.

My mother, who suffers from chronic back pain, had just undergone major back surgery. I hadn’t heard from her since the surgery, although I texted and left messages — with her and my brother, who lived nearby and was checking on her at the hospital. I received a few jumbled text messages from her that made no sense at all, and got a call from her cell phone in which no one responded on the other end.

I reminded myself my brother would call me if there were need for alarm, and that God was in control of the situation.

Three days after Mom’s surgery, I finally heard her voice. But I could barely tell it was her. She called at 9 p.m. (midnight her time) and struggled to talk, telling me she was in excruciating pain. She said she’d been given pain medication, but the doctor wasn’t allowing any more of it for several hours.

She called to say she didn’t think she could make it through the night.

My first instinct was to react emotionally. I thought about demanding to talk to the nurse and insisting my mother get the meds she needed. I thought of calling my brother and chewing him out for not responding to the situation or taking care of it in person. I thought of venting to my husband and daughter about what was going on with my extended family.

But instead, I paused and realized that rather than escalating the drama in three different locations, I could ask for God’s wisdom to respond in a way that glorified Him.

So I prayed, Help me, Lord, to know what to say to Mom in this moment. Then I told my mom how badly I felt she was in such pain, prayed for her and asked God to “still the storm” and to be her Peace, Provider, Protector and Physician through the night.

My mom calmed down, told me she loved me and hung up the phone. And I did something new. I didn’t call each of my siblings and talk of the “drama” I’d just experienced with Mom. I didn’t recount the situation to my own family so they’d know all I had gone through. Instead, I thanked the Lord quietly that through His help, Mom was comforted, the two of us drew closer together, and the drama was diffused.

At that moment I realized a new day had dawned: With Christ living in me, I CAN be drama-free!

For years, I believed I was stuck in a cycle of dysfunction because of how I was raised to deal with my emotions. But because of the “new person” I am in Christ, and the wisdom He provides when I call upon Him, I can have a new opening act — one in which I respond maturely, rather than react emotionally, when circumstances start to overwhelm me.

When I die to my identity (Galatians 2:20) and start identifying with Christ, my emotions are no longer central. My opinions don’t rule. My perceived rights are not absolute.

My emotions, opinions and rights are His, and He expresses Himself through me. Therefore, His response becomes my response and His actions become my actions. Instead of “I blew it again,” it becomes a matter of “I surrender again.” It’s a matter of thinking — or saying aloud — I’m Yours, God, for whatever You have in mind.

The easiest way to be drama-free is to be free of me. Free of myself and filled up with the Person of Christ. Only then can I realize the Greater Story is the One in which He becomes more and I become less.

Lord, thank You for the newness of life that is possible through Christ. Thank You, too, that wisdom is just a prayer away so I can respond to situations maturely, instead of reacting emotionally. Help me live a drama-free life that’s focused on You and Your truth, not me, my opinions or emotions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (NIV)

James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Diffuse the drama in your life by reading Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, now on sale at Cindi McMenamin’s website.

Follow Cindi’s blog at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com for encouragement and reminders to live a worry-free, baggage-free and drama-free life.

CONNECT:
Enter to WIN a copy of Drama Free by Cindi McMenamin. In celebration of this book, Harvest House Publishers is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, April 10.}

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
In what area of your life do you most need God’s wisdom to respond maturely, rather than react emotionally? Surrender it to Him now and experience His peace.

© 2017 by Cindi McMenamin. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

 

Da By Day By Grace Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?(Galatians 4:21)

When people do not really hear what the law of God is saying, they may still desire to be under the law. Those who are lost and dying in the world often underestimate the message of the law. They may imagine that it is only calling them to attend religious services or to join a religious organization. In missing the message of the law, they choose to remain under it, trusting in their own best behavior to pass any final judgment concerning heaven or hell. This is a matter of “not hearing the law.”

Many who are redeemed to new life in Christ, also want to remain under the law for spiritual growth and service. This is another case of “not hearing the law.” Any believer who expects to please the Lord on the basis of “best efforts” does not really hear what the law speaks as God’s will.

The law of God is not suggesting that we “be better.” It is demanding that we be holy,” as holy as God. The law is not implying that we “be nicer.” It is requiring that we be loving,” as loving as Christ. The law is not proposing that we “try harder.” It is insisting that we be perfect,” as perfect as our Father in heaven.

The law of God is not asking us to improve ourselves or to be better than the next person. Many times this inaccurate statement is heard: “Just do the best that you can; what more could God require?” Well, God is demanding far beyond our human best. “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?”(Galatians 4:21). God’s law is demanding that lives be holy,” “be loving,” and “be perfect.” Moreover, He Himself is the standard of this holiness, love, and perfection.

Dear Lord God, You are holy and loving and perfect. In and of myself, I am none of these. I stand before You without any human resources that could measure up to these heavenly realities that You alone possess. I thank You for Your mercy. I praise You for Your grace. I humbly bow before You, asking that You work more and more of Your holiness in and through my life. With no other hope than You, I ask that more of Your love might fill my life. Admitting my complete inadequacy, I ask You to transform me more and more into Your perfect image. Through Christ I pray, Amen.