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Character Sketch

This month’s bible study  |  Read Zechariah 9-11, Matthew 21:1-5

Jesus illustrated His humility when He chose the lowly donkey as His servant

 

When we think about the biblical story of Christmas, what often comes to mind are mangers, wise men, angels, shepherds and stars. But we don’t often think about donkeys. 

Donkeys are small, unglamorous beasts of burden. While they’re useful for such things as bearing firewood, hauling produce to market or pulling up roots and stumps, they aren’t animals that we associate with pedigree or status. You’ve probably never heard someone say, “What a beautiful donkey you have!” read more

Turn On the Light

This Month’s Bible Study  |  Read John 8:31-47

Why we don’t need to hide in the dark from our mistakes



A little boy was playing in his father’s garage one sunny afternoon. It was a place of treasures and wonders for the youngster, who loved the tools, the workbench and watching his father work. He knew he wasn’t supposed to play in the garage unless his father was there too, but his dad wouldn’t be home for hours, and he wasn’t going to hurt anything anyway. 

His father’s latest project was a wooden model of a sailing ship. Dozens of small parts and hours of labor had gone into it so far. It was going to be a beautiful ship. 

As the boy explored the wondrous world, something on the shelf over the workbench caught his eye. He had to know what it was. He climbed onto the bench and stretched to reach the item. Holding on to the shelf to steady himself, he suddenly felt it give way. Everything on it crashed onto the yet-to-be-completed model, smashing many of its delicate parts. 

The boy jumped down, horrified at what he had done and thinking how mad his father was going to be. He decided the best thing to do was to cover the ship with a piece of canvas and push it to the back of the workbench. Maybe his dad wouldn’t notice—or maybe he’d forget about the project. 

The boy ran into the house, worried about being found out. His mom offered him an afternoon snack of milk and cookies, but he couldn’t think about anything else except what would happen if he were discovered.

John 8:31-47 gives the answer to the boy’s problem. Verse 31 tells us what to do when faced with our wrongdoing. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” The passage goes on to say, “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’”

It is our human nature to try to hide in darkness, to think that if we cover up our sins no one will know. But God always knows our deeds and our hearts. By hiding our sins, we actually make ourselves slaves to them. 

God tells us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV). 

If the boy had just called his father and confessed his disobedience he wouldn’t have spent the entire afternoon worried about the consequences. There probably were consequences—there are in real life as well—but they are never as bad as we imagine they’ll be. 

A note about this passage in the Fire Bible: Global Study Edition says: “Yet there is only one truth that will set people free from sin, destruction and Satan’s power. That truth is Jesus Himself.”

What are you hiding? What is inhibiting you and holding you back from real freedom? Are you a slave to things in your life that you wish you were free from? 

Then the answer is clear: Confess your sins to the Father, let the light of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross shine on your life, and let Him wash away the guilt. Let the peace of the Holy Spirit come and comfort you. Know true freedom from the bondage of slavery! read more

Get Ready to Grow in Faith

This month’s bible study  |  Titus 2:11-14

God’s grace gives us the power to change

 

Imagine the very best gift you’ve ever received. Maybe it was a special present for a birthday or a totally unexpected gift received just because the giver wanted you to have it. God’s grace is like that—a precious gift that is totally undeserved. 

The Fire Bible: Global Study Edition note about Titus 2:11-14 says this: “Verses 11-14 describe the character and purpose of God’s saving grace (i.e. the unearned and undeserved favor, love, help and spiritual enablement) and the effect it should have on believers.” 

It is through God’s grace that we recognize and realize God’s gift of salvation and love. He opens our eyes and softens our hearts. Verse 11 says it is the grace of God that brings salvation to all men. read more

What to Wear Today?

This month’s bible study  |  Read Ephesians 6:10-20

 

As Christians, we need to select our clothes from God’s wardrobe

 

In the conclusion of his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote: “A final word: Be strong in the Lord. ... Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11, NLT). How often do you feel “strong in the Lord”? Many Christians more frequently feel “small and puny” or “frail and afraid.” 

The good thing is, Paul wasn’t telling the Ephesian believers (or us) that through self-effort we could just be strong—he wasn’t saying, “Just do it!” as the Nike commercial says. He goes on in verses 13-18 to explain that being strong in the Lord requires getting suited up for battle. Spiritually speaking, he compares it to dressing like the professional soldiers in his day. read more

How to End the Drought

If it seems as if God isn’t listening, maybe you’re trying too hard.

Listen to a child pray and you’ll hear something like: “God, I really want that doll with the blue dress”; or “I will work really hard, but can You help me get picked for the baseball team?”; or “God, will You heal my mom [or dad]?”

Stated in plain, common language, that’s all prayer is: God’s people talking to their God. There is no need for special words or to say things in a certain order or way. When we talk with our friends or co-workers we don’t talk differently than we normally do. Why do we do that when we talk to God? read more

There’s More Down the Road

Read Mark 10:46-52

True fulfillment in a relationship with Jesus comes not from a miracle encounter but in walking with Him, no matter which road He takes.

 

This month’s reading brings us to the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. There truly is a great deal we can learn from this short passage from the Gospel of Mark.

First, Bartimaeus knew about Jesus. “When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth he began to shout” (Mark 10:47). Second, Bartimaeus knew that is was Jesus’ character to “have mercy” on the people with whom He interacted (vv. 47-48).

Third, Bartimaeus did not hesitate when Jesus called him. He threw off his cloak (quite possibly his only possession), jumped to his feet and went to Jesus. Last, Bartimaeus knew exactly what he wanted from Jesus. “I want to see,” he said.

Reflect now on your own life. Do you really know and understand God’s character? Are you assured that it is God’s character to give His creation (you) good things, to show you mercy? And then do you actively seek Him? (Shouting in a crowd as Bartimaeus did is very active.)

The first two steps are easy. But they are where we often stop. We may seek God, but do we listen for His answer (His call)? Do we throw off what holds us back (our safety nets) and go to Him?

Finally, consider your requests. What are you praying for? Do you ask God to give you a vision of His purpose and will for your life? After Jesus healed Bartimaeus we find that “he followed Jesus along the road” (v. 52).

Consider the testimony of “Sally,” who found Christ in a country closed to Christianity. She made two Christian friends who invited her to church.

“From the very beginning my heart was touched by worship and songs. Later on ... I asked the pastor to pray for my very important exam. He said: ‘I hope you will pray with your own faith.’ So I simply prayed and I asked Him to meet me or somehow prove to me that this is the right way!

“And He did. I found there were no more doubts about Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I gave my heart to Him and I started to serve Him right after that. Now Jesus is the first priority in my life, and knowing and doing His will is much more important than even my job and my dreams.”

To truly “see” is to understand that life is fulfilling only when we are following Jesus down the road. It is important to realize that physical healing or financial stability or whatever you are seeking is only the starting point on the road, the beginning of a lifelong journey.


Adapted from Principles 4Life (Life Publishers International), available free of charge at lifepublishers.org.

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Whose Report Do You Believe?

Read Deuteronomy 13

This month’s reading from Deuteronomy 13 challenges us to believe God’s promises when situations appear to contradict His Word.

 

God gave Moses a promise that the Jews would be released from Egyptian captivity and given a land that was “good and spacious” (see Ex. 3:8, NIV). In Deuteronomy 13, you will note that the people began to doubt what God had promised. So the Lord directed Moses to send 12 spies into the land that God planned to give Israel (see Num. 13:1-2).

What 10 spies saw frightened them. They reported: “‘The people who live there are powerful,’” and “‘They are stronger than we are’” (Num. 13:28, 31).

God has given you a promise as well. He said in Jeremiah 29:11 He has plans “‘to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Are you letting things you believe are more powerful than you hold you back from accepting God’s promise for you? 

Or are you like Caleb, one of the two spies who weren’t afraid? He too saw the strong men in the land and their fortified cities. But he trusted God. His report to Moses and all Israel was, “‘We can certainly do it’” (v. 30). The Fire Bible: Global Study Edition states it this way in the note for Numbers 14:6: “Faithful believers must be willing to stand on God’s Word.”

This steadfast belief that what God says He will do is illustrated in the story of the Rev. Joe Combs. Combs was born in 1921 and grew up during the Great Depression. In 1939 he was called to preach, but World War II was just beginning, and he could not attend Bible school until after his military service.

In his book, The Gentle Call, Combs writes: “The very next morning [after he got out of the service] I was standing at the registrar’s office. ... I was a sorry sight. I stood there with all the earthly goods I owned in my dirty sea bag. ... They laughed at me and told me school started two weeks ago and I was too late.”

He goes on to say, “I was reading at a fifth grade level trying to do college work.” But his lack of wealth, reading skills, social standing (all powerful enemies of what God had said) did not hold Combs back. He worked hard, pushed forward and went on to plant and pastor churches throughout the Midwest.

This month consider the strong opposition in your life not as a roadblock to God’s call but as the enemy God has already overcome by the promises in His Word. Make your report the same as Caleb’s: “We [God and you] can certainly do it.”


Adapted from Principles 4Life (Life Publishers International), available free of charge at lifepublishers.org. read more

Following the Voice of the Spirit

Read Acts 10

This month’s reading is the story of two very different men who had something in common: Cornelius the Roman centurion and Peter the apostle each were listening to hear the voice of God speaking through His Spirit.

As you read Acts 10, look for a few key aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work in the events of this ancient narrative that are present in our lives today as well. We can count on God’s being the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (see Heb. 13:8).

The first aspect is, the Holy Spirit spoke to both Cornelius (10:3) and Peter (10:13). All that was required for this to happen was for both men to put themselves in a place where they could hear God’s voice and to be willing to listen for Him. read more

July 2006

So God's rest is there for people to enter.
—Hebrews 4:6, NLT

Let's explore a biblical principle God set in motion at the close of creation week—the principle of Sabbath. It's so important that the violation of it in Old Testament times meant certain death. read more

The Secret Blessing of Generosity

Read Genesis 13

In Genesis 13, Lot chose selfishly and moved his family to the choicest land—near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose inhabitants sinned greatly. Abram, Lot’s uncle, generously let him go; and for his generosity, God blessed Abram and allowed him to settle his family in a safe area. 

Later, God used Abram to rescue Lot from the evil cities before He destroyed them. Abram learned the blessings of being generous and following God’s plan. read more

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