Category Archives: Devotionals

Better Than Busy

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Written by Colin Noble, guest contributor to desiringGod.org

Recovering Rest in a Burnout Culture

The cry of our age is “busy.”

How are you? “Busy.”

How’s work? “Busy.”

How are the kids doing? “Their lives are so busy. I feel like I’m just a taxi driver.”

How was the shopping mall today? “Too busy.”

Can you help me? “I’m busy at the moment.”

The fast-paced busyness of life that pushes God to the margins can easily turn into burnout. Lots of us are crying out for ways of handling the busyness before it does.

Yet expectations of keeping up with everything continually escalate, courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, and the rest. We are all susceptible to the expectation that we always are available, aware of everything that is happening, and capable of achieving anything. Unsurprisingly, this demand to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent places pressure on all of us, whatever our level of social media dexterity.

“The fast-paced busyness of life that pushes God to the margins can easily turn into burnout.”

 Add some more ingredients — inadequate sleep, poor dietary habits, caffeine addiction, the urge to project our preferred identity, a sedentary lifestyle — and we have the perfect recipe for unremitting anxiety and restlessness.

But each of us is, if you like, the chief cook in our own kitchen. We can choose to rethink the ingredients we stir into the mix of life that leave us feeling bloated and stressed rather than nourished and sustained. The 24/7 hustle and bustle is of our own making, at least to some extent. Just as people go on detox diets, we would do well to heed calls for digital detox and reconsider how much we try to pack into life. A good starter is the practical suggestions for a twelve-step digital detox by Tony Reinke, followed with the richly nourishing poetry of Wendell Berry’s This Day.

The futile attempt to sustain ourselves by our own efforts is not new. Our digital age simply offers new manifestations of the age-old temptation to usurp God’s role for ourselves. But against this age-old temptation, God offers an age-old response: what would happen to our 24/7 switched-on world if the people who came to Jesus for rest (Matthew 11:28) regularly took a day of rest from distraction, work, and busyness? What would this weekly habit have to offer to the world in which we find ourselves — a world that restlessly continues to search for peace amid busyness?

1. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we desire God.

 Taking one day a week to cease our strivings and focus on God shouts out that we desire God above status, financial reward, promotion in the workplace, achievement, and all other things that would distract us from the one we love.

“Taking one day a week to cease our strivings and focus on God shouts out that we desire God above all else.”

 Not taking time with someone we love when given the chance is a sure sign of diminished desire to be with them, to reflect together on the good times spent together in the past, and to consider what the future holds. When we specifically and intentionally set a day a week aside to focus on the Lord, as the old covenant people of God were commanded to do as they journeyed (Exodus 16:23, 25), we signal to the world that our hearts belong to him.

Treasuring a day of rest and worship lets people know where our heart lies.

2. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we trust God.

 Taking one day a week to let go of our endeavors to survive the present and prepare for the future shows that we trust God that his provision for the present is adequate and his promise for the future is sure.

When we have a weekly rhythm of a day of rest, we stand alongside the old covenant saints who trusted God to provide for their needs (Exodus 16:22–30). We stand alongside Jesus, who rejected Satan’s attempt to convince him to look after his own needs, by recalling that we live not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Matthew 4:4).

We live with integrity as people who pray “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), and then trust God to do it. As finite creatures, we declare our trust in the resources of the infinite Creator, who provides us with every blessing (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Timothy 6:17). When we commit to enjoy a weekly day of rest in the busiest seasons of life (see Exodus 34:21), we declare our trust in God even more loudly.

3. Taking a weekly day of rest proclaims Christ’s supremacy.

 Taking one day a week to loosen our hearts’ grip on our own achievements clears space for remembering and reminding each other of Christ’s achievements. Everything we cannot do, even with endless striving, Christ has done already. In our rest, we proclaim that he has fulfilled the requirement of perfect obedience to his Father (Romans 8:3–4). We proclaim that he has provided the true rest our pursuit of leisure activities and restless sleep cannot provide (Matthew 11:28–30).

“Everything we cannot do, even with endless striving, Christ has done already.”

 Since those who die in the Lord will rest from their hard labor (Revelation 14:13), resting one day a week now helps us to remember and prepare for that future, when at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess he is Lord (Philippians 2:10–11). We declare that our ambition is much bigger than career progression, or status elevation, or completing earthly tasks — it is to make Christ known.

4. Taking a weekly day of rest declares our freedom.

 Freeing one day a week from the tyranny of the urgent and the never-finished to-do list reminds us and those around us that we are no longer slaves. The original recipients of the command to rest one day in seven were reminded that the Lord rescued them from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). But for Israel — and for us — redemption from physical bondage was merely a picture of the greater freedom from sin and death (Romans 6:15–23). We see more clearly than did Israel that we “were called to freedom” (Galatians 5:13), and therefore our cause for remembrance and celebration is greater.

We take a day of rest not by obligation, but out of a greater desire to pause, to remember, to look forward, and to worship. Declaring that we freely choose to celebrate freedom is a message sorely needed by those who are enslaved to the obligations of busyness and who feel like they cannot escape the tyranny of burnout.

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Judge Not

judge not
What the bible really says about love                            Written by: John Bloom

Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1–2).

This teaching of Jesus is widely misunderstood. A common reduction we often hear is, “Don’t judge me.” What’s interesting is that this reduction is the inverse application of Jesus’s lesson. Jesus is not telling others not to judge us; he’s telling us not to judge others. What others do is not our primary concern; what we do is our primary concern. Our biggest problem is not how others judge us, but how we judge others.

Caution: Judge at your own risk:-

Actually, when Jesus says, “Judge not,” he’s not really issuing a prohibition on judging others; he’s issuing a serious warning to take great care how we judge others. We know this because Jesus goes on to say,

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3–5)

It’s not wrong to lovingly help our brother remove a harmful speck from his eye. It’s wrong to self-righteously point out a speck in our brother’s eye when we ignore, as no big deal, the ridiculous log protruding from our own.

So, Jesus is placing, as it were, a neon-red-blinking sign over others that tells us, “Caution: judge at your own risk.” It is meant to give us serious pause and examine ourselves before saying anything. Our fallen nature is profoundly selfish and proud and often hypocritical, judging ourselves indulgently and others severely. We are quick to strain gnats and swallow camels (Matthew 23:24), quick to take tweezers to another’s eye when we need a forklift for our own. It is better to “judge not” than to judge like this, since we will be judged in the same way we judge others.

Jesus takes judgment very seriously. He is the righteous judge (2 Timothy 4:8), who is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). He does not judge by appearances, but judges with right judgment (John 7:24). Every judgment he pronounces issues from his core loving nature (1 John 4:8).

Therefore, when we judge, and Scripture instructs Christians to judge at times (1 Corinthians 5:12), we must take great care that our judgment, like Christ’s, is always charitable.

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Five warnings to those who merely pretend to be Godly

HYPOCRITES

Written by Author & Blogger Tim Challies

There is in each of us a dangerous temptation toward hypocrisy, to be one thing but to pretend to be another. There are many within the church who are hypocrites, people who claim to be Christians but who are, in fact, unbelievers attempting to convince others (and perhaps themselves) that they are followers of Jesus Christ. They are people who do not practice true virtue but who instead offer counterfeit versions of it. Jude compares them to clouds without water in that they seem to be full of the Spirit but are actually devoid of true goodness.

Here are five solemn warnings to those who only pretend to be godly:

Hypocrisy angers God.
God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement. The hypocrite wants religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages he gains from it. He fails to truly turn his heart to God and do good to God’s people. He carries Christ in his Bible, but not in his heart. He serves the devil while wearing the uniform of Christ. He will be condemned by God.

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Kill Pride before it Kills you

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Written by Marshall Segal from DesiringGod.org 

At some point today, someone will probably compliment or praise something you do or say. If not today, it will happen tomorrow, or sometime next week. How will you respond? How do you typically respond?

How we respond to praise from others, especially over time, reveals how highly we really think of ourselves. I’m not talking about every specific email or conversation or social-media update, but about the trends in our emails and conversations and social media. Is our default reaction — our gut heart-level response — to give God credit and glory for our gifts and achievements at work, at home, and in ministry? Or, are we more likely to privately savor that moment for ourselves, to turn the praise over and over slowly in our minds, like a piece of caramel in our mouths?

Every compliment or commendation we receive comes charged with potential for worship. When we quietly, even politely, enjoy affirmation or praise without even thinking to acknowledge God, we’re not only missing an opportunity to worship him (and to call others to worship him), but also robbing God of the glory he deserves for every gift we receive and everything we achieve.

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The amazing calling of being “Mom”

mom

Written by Trillia Newbell from DesiringGod.org

NIV Mom's Devotional Bible (HC)The other morning I woke up while my children were still sleeping and began to pray. I started thinking about my identity. What am I? Who am I? As I settled into my prayer time I began to rejoice at the thought that I am a mother. It is part of who I am. To my children it is my name: Mom.

The modern mom doesn’t always like to be identified as a mother. We are “liberated.” We have names and identities of much greater significance. Even the Christian mommy would prefer to keep her mom identity in check. “I am a Christian first and foremost,” we might say. This is so true and so good. We are first and foremost identified as united to Christ. He has redeemed us and therefore our identities are wrapped up in his righteousness. But this doesn’t mean we have to deny the walking-with-god-in-the-season-of-mothersignificance of being a mother as we embrace who we are in Jesus.

Maybe what we need is not to shed our mommy title, rather see the true significance of it. One great example can be found in the biblical account of Timothy. Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman who was also a believer, Eunice, and a Greek father (Acts 16:1, 2). Though we don’t seem to know much about his father, we get some crucial information about his mother.

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You do not need to understand everything now

aaaaAdmiring what Science cannot explain.  By John Bloom from DesiringGod.org

The Bible reveals some things to us that are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). We recognize some of these things in our experience, but when we try to define or explain their essential nature or how they actually work, we find ourselves utterly perplexed.

Take, for instance, the Trinity. Relating to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is, in many ways, much easier experienced than explained. A child can believe in, interact with, and trust the triune God, but the combined power of the greatest theological minds of the past two millennia have not been able to explain triune mechanics. We know it works, but we don’t know how.

Or consider the coexistence of God’s universal, absolute sovereignty (John 1:1–3; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 1:3) and human personal accountability for our moral choices (Matthew 12:36; Romans 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 9:14–23). We know this reality by experience. We can all point to God’s sovereign interventions in our lives that go way beyond appealing to our wills, and yet we know instinctively that we are not machines, and that we are responsible for our moral choices. We know it works, but we don’t know how.

Some find such mysteries troubling, wondering if the realities are so hard to understand because they’re not just conundrums, but contradictions. Some scholars consider such mysteries to simply be esoteric religious nonsense. They encourage folks to place their faith in more concrete and certain things, like discoveries in the physical sciences.

Interestingly enough, though, the deeper scientists have delved into the nature of nature — in an effort to comprehend how physical reality works at its fundamental levels — they too have found themselves utterly perplexed.

“The deeper scientists have delved into the nature of nature, the more mysteries they have discovered.”

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The Subtle Pride that Lies Inside

ride

Written by Marshall Segal from DesiringGod.org 

One of the most dangerous qualities of pride is that it sneaks into places in our hearts where other sins once lived. We begin to conquer some sinful attitude, or habit, or addiction with God’s help, and soon enough we marvel at our own strength, or resolve, or purity, as if we somehow accomplished it on our own. C.S. Lewis writes, “The devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one” (Mere Christianity, 127). The confidence we feel in ourselves after defeating sin can carry us as far away from God as, or even farther than, the sin we defeated.

If we battle some sins, but welcome pride, we will lose the war. But if we suffocate pride, we will starve every other sin of its oxygen.

Pride’s War Against You

Pride lingers in us more than most sins because we fail to see how poisonous and deadly it really is. Pride colors our perception of ourselves and the world around us, blowing a thick, treacherous fog over reality. It cripples our souls, keeping us so focused on ourselves that we’re almost physically incapable of love. And it will damn us if we let it, dragging us to death, but making us believe we’re in control.

1. Pride will lie to you.

Pride convinces us we are more important than God, and that our perspective is better than his. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Your heart. More specifically, the pride in your heart (Obadiah 1:3), which declares you know more or better than the all-knowing God. We can be blindly led along by our pride, which Solomon calls “the lamp of the wicked” (Proverbs 21:4).

Lewis, who calls pride “the great sin,” writes, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you” (124). Pride sets our eyes firmly on ourselves — our needs, our gifts, our effort, our problems — and away from the sovereignty, sufficiency, and beauty of God. It clouds our vision of him, and elevates our vision of self. It not only blinds us to him, but removes any motivation to seek him (Psalm 10:4).

Worst of all, pride often wears the appearance of godliness, but lacks its power completely (2 Timothy 3:2–5), breeding false confidence and sure destruction.

2. Pride will cripple you.

Pride blinds and deceives us, but it also cripples us, making us ineffective and fruitless. We become so focused on our own life that we waste it. Again, Lewis writes, “Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense” (125). If it goes untreated, pride multiplies and spreads, corrupting even our best attitudes and efforts. It must be killed, and killed consistently with routine heart-checks and the sword of the Spirit, God’s word (Ephesians 6:17).

If we sense a lack of compassion for needs around us, or a drying up of our generosity, or a coldness in our concern for the unconverted, or an indifference or even reluctance in serving or sacrificing for others, we very likely have the malignant cells of pride reproducing in our souls.

3. Pride will kill you.

If we allow pride to live freely in us, it can only kill us. Its prime objective is not to make us feel better about ourselves, but to send us to everlasting pain and punishment away from God. Solomon warns us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Isaiah brings that terrifying warning into higher definition: “The Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up — and it shall be brought low” (Isaiah 2:12).

All pride must perish. In fact, every prideful person must pay that awful penalty. But God, in Christ, made it possible for us to die to our pride without dying for it. Jason Meyer writes, “The glory of God and the pride of man will collide at one of two crash sites: hell or the cross. Either we will pay for our sins in hell or Christ will pay for our sins on the cross” (Killjoys, 13).

Either pride will kill you, or you will surrender through faith and allow God to kill the pride in you.

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The Excuses we make for Sin

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Written by John Rigney from DesiringGod.org

My dear Wormwood,

I’m encouraged to read in your last report that your patient has gotten in the habit of blaming others for his own vices. The way that he lost his temper, and then had the audacity to blame his wife for it, warmed this old devil’s heart. Perhaps something of me is finally penetrating that thick skull of yours.

Continue to work on that wound in their relationship. Whenever he thinks back to those quarrels, keep his attention on what she did to provoke him and not on his own impatience and anger. With any luck, you’ll prevent him from ever engaging in the kind of sincere repentance reflected in those awful words, “Change me first.” I just cringe to think of them.

The question now is what to do should he begin to soften toward his wife; his natural affection and attraction for her could enable this at any time. I see two options. Your man is one of those evangelicals who really believes in the invisible world, including spirits like us. Thus, if you find that his attention moves from his wife as the cause of his outbursts and begins to settle on his own selfishness, you may call to mind his belief in “principalities and powers.”

Devil Made Me Do It

Keep that belief vague. Never let him think that you are in the room suggesting it — more of a general sentiment of “The devil made me do it.” We’ve been running that play on humans ever since their first mother blamed Our Father Below for the glorious incident with the fruit. You might even inflame his curiosity about devils and angels and spiritual warfare and all that, anything to keep him from truly owning his culpability in the quarrel.

Of course, in such matters, there is always the risk of awakening him to the thought that he is not, as he perceives, considering a distant battle (as some old historian might in a dusty library somewhere). Rather, he might realize he is in the thick of the conflict right then, bombs bursting in air all round him, our schemes and plots hatching and entwining him as he sits musing like the silly fool that he is. Should he come to an awareness of this fact, it might awaken some latent courage and nobility in him; he might sit up straight and resolve to “fight the dragon in his own heart” or “take the log out of his own eye.” Worse, he might run to the Enemy for help.

Thankfully, there is another method available to us.

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Jesus did not die for “Comfortable”

comfortable
Written by Ryan Lister from DesiringGod.org

The Christian life is all about convenience…. The world and the ruler of this world want you to believe this lie. Convenience — the worldly pursuit of ease — has become the Enemy’s battle cry (or, better yet, whisper) in the war for our modern souls. Satan’s strategy has morphed from direct opposition to subtle enticement.

In most American churches, the battle is being fought with wireless routers, HDMI cables, standing desks, and lumbar supports rather than the lashes, stones, rods, and chains of old (2 Corinthians 11:23–25). Today, most of us in the West calculate our significance by our Facebook friend count, newest technology, iPhone notifications, and 401k. The Enemy has recruited our own hearts to fight against us.

A Dangerous Security Blanket

Perhaps our biggest problem stares back at us every time we look into the dark mirrors of our handheld devices. But our contemporary problem has never been convenience — just as the problem in Eden was never the fruit. From Sinai’s stone tablets to today’s tablet computers, convenience has been vital to human advancement and even the spread of God’s kingdom. Even now, I sit conveniently in front of a computer — the modern convenience of our time — while you are scrolling through these digital words conveniently on a digital screen.

The problem, then, lies not with convenience, but with what our hearts make of it. The dark appeal of temptation is to twist good things into idols. Convenience steps in front of God and steals his worship. The world’s empty promises silently hijack our affections. We let cheap knockoffs of fulfillment obscure the true beauty of our nail-torn Savior.

When our hearts fall for the idol of convenience, the call of Jesus to follow him in shouldering a cross feels foreign. The one who saves us quietly mutates into a threat to our counterfeit sanctuaries of advantage. When our security is the warm comfort of secular convenience, we will keep hitting the snooze button on Jesus’s alarming command to take up our cross.

Christ and the Convenient Kingdom

Jesus, however, shows us how to confront this danger. Worn down over forty days with hunger, thirst, and isolation, Jesus meets the Enemy in the barren wilderness. Twisting the good things of God into opportunities for disobedience, Satan entices the exhausted Messiah with the idol of convenience.

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The World needs you to be different

the-world-needs-you-to-be-different-dwmddmji

 

By Matt Damico from The Gospel Coalition

Variety may be the spice of life, but it’s not the substance.

And yet, given the way many of us evaluate the worship services at our churches, you’d think novelty was an essential mark of a healthy church.

The pull toward something “fresh” is understandable since your church’s worship service probably looks similar week-to-week. There’s singing, prayer, Scripture reading, a sermon. Throw in the Lord’s Supper, a benediction, a baptism, and maybe a couple other things, and you have the elements of most liturgies. The order may be flexible, but there’s consistency in what happens each week.

So, maybe it’s unavoidable to think on occasion, “Don’t we do this every week? Can we mix it up a little bit? Don’t we want it to stay fresh?”

We would do well in those moments to remember that the weekly routines we repeat in corporate worship by faith are doing far more than we can see or feel. When we know that, as we gather with the church, we may learn to see repetition as something to embrace rather than endure.

Repetition Is the Point

We all recognize the value of repetition in some areas. Consider a few examples.

If you’ve ever learned an instrument, you know that the way to learn it is to practice scales over and over until your fingers know the way. I haven’t played trumpet in almost twelve years, but the fingerings are still engrained in my mind and my hands.

Or, to borrow an illustration from James K.A. Smith, think about learning to drive. When you got your license, you had to think about every little maneuver: the blinker, the pedals, the mirrors, and all the rest. Now you could daydream through your entire commute without once consciously reflecting on your driving (please don’t, though).

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The Hidden Power in every Idol

idols

 

 

 
Written by Author & Blogger Tim Challies

We were made to mimic. God made us in such a way that we learn many of life’s skills by way of imitation. For good or for ill we also learn character, or lack of character, by imitation. Parents who routinely blow up in anger cannot be surprised when they raise a brood of children who respond to conflict with screaming, yelling, slapping. Teachers who constantly grumble and complain cannot be surprised when they find themselves in front of a classroom of grumblers and complainers. It’s just how it works, how we were made.

Who do you want to be? What do you want to become? Even as you grow older, you remain an imitator—you mimic what you revere so that in some important ways you actually become what you revere. As Greg Beale says, “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.” This is a call for care, a call to pay close attention to who or what you honor, who or what you worship.

Recently, my morning devotions took me to Psalm 115 which mocks man-made idols. Why? Because “they have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat” (4-7). These idols are pathetic, impotent, utterly unworthy of veneration. But the psalmist isn’t done yet. He has one more claim to make: All idols have a hidden power.

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You don’t have to be married to be happy

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Article by Marshall Segal from DesiringGod.org

You don’t have to get married to be happy. In fact, until we realize that we don’t have to get married to be happy, we’re really not ready to marry.

Freedom of self-forgetfulnessDisclaimer: I am now happily married. If you’re single, you may be ready to click away, and I can understand why. Too many married people have too much to say about singleness. To be sure, not every married person knows your particular pain and circumstances, but some do. And they may have a perspective on singleness, dating, and marriage that none of your single friends have.

I was drunk in love more than once, infatuated in dating, mesmerized by marriage. I started dating in middle school, followed by one long serious relationship after another through high school and college. I thought I would be married by 22, and instead I got married almost a decade later. I said things I wish I could unsay, and crossed boundaries I wish I could go back and rebuild. I’m not some married guy writing to single you. I’m writing to single me. I know him better than I know my wife — his weaknesses, his blind spots, his impatience — and I have so much good news for him. And for you.

When I say that you don’t have to be married to be happy, I say that as someone who devoured romance looking desperately for lasting joy — and who knows what it feels like to end up further from it after each breakup.

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