Trademark of a Disciple

Jesus says that there is one way people will know whether we belong to Him or not, and that is our love for one another. I like to say that love is the trademark, the distinguishing sign or characteristic, of a Christian. It’s what sets us apart from the rest of the world.

Before you buy something, do you read labels or look for certain trademarks (brand names) that have a reputation for being good? That is what people should be able to do with us because we are disciples of Jesus Christ.

They should be able to look at us and say, “This is good. This is a person of quality!” People should be able to identify us not only by our talk, but also by our walk.

The world is looking for something to believe in, something real, something tangible. They are looking for love, and God is love (see 1 John 4:8).

Those of us who are Christians need to show them Jesus, and we do that not by merely wearing Christian jewelry or putting bumper stickers with Christian messages on our cars, but by walking in His love and demonstrating that love to others.

Many people have gone to church looking for God and instead been met with the rules and regulations of religion, and not even so much as a friendly smile. They left without encountering God.

Countless people are hungry for God, and God needs us to be His ambassadors, representing Him in every way, starting with His trademark characteristic, which is love.

Prayer Starter: Lord, Your Word says we are Your representatives here on earth (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). I ask for Your help to display Your character—Your love—to everyone I meet. Let my life draw others to Your goodness every single day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Bread for our Hearts

‘Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ Psalm 37:4
 
The Bible verse of today does not stand alone, but is closely related to the previous one. In both verses together we are commissioned, ‘Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture; take delight in the Lord,’ – and then we are promised, ‘and He will give you the desires of your heart’ (Psalm 37:3,4).
How dearly we would love to receive the desires of our hearts! But how poorly we comply to the condition that God sets us.
When the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army approaching, they were terrified. They cried out to the Lord, we read. But did they trust Him? No, not at all. For one can only trust someone if that person has proven himself as someone who is to be trusted! And Israel knew its God still too little to really trust Him in hardship and danger.
And what about us? Have we come to know God in our lives so that even in difficult circumstances we dare to take a chance with Him? Only by obedience do we come to know God. As Jesus says, ‘Whoever has My commands and keeps them (…) I will show Myself to them’ (John 14:21).
God is eager to give us the desires of our hearts, but He can only do so if we trust Him and obey Him. For obedience without trust is either out of fear or out of calculation. For us it is important to know if our obedience stems from fear or from being truly safe in His shelter. Obedience and trust belong together; and only in this trustful obedience we feel safe and happy. Only then can we truly take delight in the Lord.
 


A Life of Godliness

Matthew 9:11-13

There is a common misconception that believers should be perfect. Pretending to have our life in order, many of us wear a happy face and speak words that sound acceptable. At times we’re ashamed to admit our shortcomings, as if they should not exist. Salvation through Jesus, however, doesn’t change the fact that sin is present in our life. When we’re born again, God forgives us and sees us as righteous. Yet our battle with sin continues till we arrive in heaven.

In fact, striving for perfection actually can be a trap that pulls us away from living a godly life. Functioning in this way is a form of relying on our own abilities. Jesus said that He came to heal the spiritually sick because they recognized their weakness. With an awareness of our inadequacy comes the realization of our need for Him.

The world sees successful individuals as powerful and self-sufficient, but Jesus doesn’t care about these qualities. Instead, He wants people to be aware of their own brokenness. This is the foundation for godliness.

We should accept our neediness and seek God passionately. Doing so allows the following attributes to develop: a hunger for God’s Word, faithful service, deepening trust, and decision-making based upon principle rather than preference. Patiently and mercifully, God matures us.

Be careful not to cover up your sins in order to look like a “good Christian.” Without recognition and confession of our sin, we are unable to rely fully on God. It is only with this awareness that we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and repent when we miss the mark.



Keep Your Appointment

We may have to deal sternly with our flesh to resist the spirit of passivity that tries to keep us from growing in the knowledge of God. A commitment to spend time with God is as serious a commitment as any we will ever make.

If I needed dialysis because of kidney disease and had to be at the hospital twice a week for treatment at 8 a.m., I certainly would not accept an invitation to do anything else during those times, no matter how appealing it seemed or how much I wanted to do it. I would know my life depended on keeping my dialysis appointment.

We should be that serious about our time with God. The quality of our lives is greatly affected by the time we spend with Him, so that time should have priority in our schedules.

Sometimes we become slack in keeping our appointments with God because we know He is always available. We know He will always be there for us, so we may skip or reschedule our time with Him so we can do something that seems more urgent.

If we spent more “priority time” with God, we might not have so many “urgent” situations that tend to rob us of our time.

When we spend time with God, even if we don’t feel His presence or think we are learning anything, we are still sowing good seeds that will produce good harvests in our lives. With persistence, you will reach the point where you understand more of God’s Word, where you are enjoying fellowship with Him, and where you are talking to God and hearing His voice.

Prayer Starter: Lord, today I renew my commitment to spending time with You. You’re the Source of everything good in my life, and I know that apart from You I can do nothing of real value (see John 15:5). Help me to always see how much I require Your strength and presence in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Spiritual Power of Attorney

Oh, how wonderful it would have been to have physically walked with Jesus. But He told His followers they would be better off when He went away, because then He would send His Spirit to dwell in every believer.

He told them that even though they were sorrowful at the news of His departure, they would rejoice again just as a woman has sorrow during her labor but rejoices when the child is born.

Jesus knew they would change their minds when they saw the glory of His Spirit in them and the power available to each of them through the privilege of using His name in prayer. He was literally giving to them—and has given to all those who believe in Him—His “power of attorney,” the legal right to use His name. His name takes His place; His name represents Him.

Jesus has already been perfect for us. He has already pleased the Father for us; therefore, there is no pressure on us to feel that we must have a perfect record of right behavior before we can pray.

When we come before the Father in Jesus’ name, we can confess our sin, receive His forgiveness, and boldly make our requests known to Him.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You that I can come to You in Jesus’ Name! Right now, because of the authority given to me through Jesus, I lift up my needs to You and boldly ask for Your strength, guidance, wisdom and healing today—for me and my entire family. I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Bread for our Hearts

‘And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater.’ Hebrews 7:7
 
Nobody can tell exactly when Jacob realized that God had met all his conditions (28:20,21).
The last condition was about to be fulfilled: returning safely to his father’s household. Now Jacob became afraid and he wrestled with God. Only when we have wrestled with God ourselves, we know that the unbelievable is true: God – the Almighty – is willing to lose if we insist on winning at all costs, and Jacob experienced this too in his wrestle with God.
God did not demand submission from Jacob, even though He – the Eternal One – had met all the conditions of mere little Jacob… And when God was about to leave, Jacob was not pleased at all that he had almost won. This victory would have meant his greatest defeat.
God might have struck him down, but God takes no pleasure in a sinner’s death (Ezekiel 18:32). He stroke Jacob in such a way that he was crippled for the rest of his life. But Jacob did not let go of God. For in his struggle with God, Jacob had come to know Him as the One he could not live without any more. And then we read that wonderful word from a man who did not dare to surrender, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me’ (:26)!
Is this not the outcry of any man, inwardly resisting what is actually his heart’s desire: to submit himself wholly to God?! God knows how all of us, from a deep-seated fear of life, try to vindicate ourselves, even before Him.
But God does not avoid wrestling with us, until we dare to submit ourselves to His great Love.
 


Time Is Fleeting

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:15-16

There is nothing as valuable in life as an opportunity. In today’s Scripture, Paul tells us, “Be very careful, then, how you live…making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We sometimes talk about making the most of our financial resources with good investments. But every day we are handed twenty-four precious hours, free of charge. If you had all the money in the world, you could not purchase a single hour. So, what will you do with this priceless possession? The Bible says to use it wisely. Make the most of every open door and every chance you get to speak for Jesus or help and love people in His name. Take full advantage of the hours God gives you, because once time is wasted, you can’t get it back.

Father, open my eyes to the open doors You open for me today. Forgive me for imagining I have endless time and unlimited opportunities to love my family and friends or to impact their lives for You. Deep down, I know better. I know that time is fleeting and that open doors may not stay open. Awaken my heart to Your will and desire for me today.



Biblical Fasting

Matthew 6:16-18

God’s Word contains commands about many things, from expressions of worship and relationships with other people to frequency of prayer (Deut. 6:5; John 13:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Surprisingly, though, there is no place in the Scriptures where the believer is specifically instructed to fast.

Yet the words “whenever you fast” (Matt. 6:16, emphasis added) show Jesus’ expectation that His followers would practice this discipline. And there are examples in the Bible of people who abstained from certain activities in order to draw close to God.

Before we go further, it is important to dispel a popular misunderstanding. Fasting doesn’t serve to change God’s mind, speed up His answer, or manipulate His will. Instead, fasting helps us focus our attention on God alone, so that we listen and worship wholeheartedly.

Denying ourselves in this way makes us better able to fix our eyes on Christ and hear Him clearly. His Spirit often starts by bringing to mind sin that needs to be confessed. In so doing, He sanctifies our thoughts—then He can use this precious time to intensify our desire for God, reveal His will, and grant understanding and peace. In essence, fasting binds us to Him in a oneness that is otherwise difficult to cultivate in our busy world.

Do you want to see God move in awesome ways? By removing anything that hinders your focus, you can fix attention solely on the Creator and cry out to Him regarding your needs. As you gain understanding about your Father and yourself, you will grow closer to Him.



Servant Hospitality

 
Scripture Reading — Philippians 2:1-11

In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. — Philippians 2:3-4

What does greatness look like? People are drawn to celebrities. I can remember times when I’ve been able to shake the hand of a celebrity—feeling my heart race and fumbling over my words. Fame tends to distort our perception of the qualities we should admire and ­aspire toward. It is always refreshing to see people who are able to remain humble even though they have reached great heights in their life. It is also rare.

If anyone deserved celebrity treatment, it was Jesus. Yet that is not what happened. Instead, Jesus came to show us what true greatness really looks like and what true greatness does. Jesus’ ministry on earth was a ministry of humble service. There was nothing pretentious about him. He didn’t expect special treatment. He did not chase after fame. In fact, on more than one occasion, he told others to remain quiet about what they had seen him do or hear him say.

What we learn from Jesus by his example is the importance of putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Our life is not about the pursuit of comfort or recognition. On the contrary, in pursuing God’s pur­poses, our life is second. This is one characteristic about Jesus that we can and should imitate. We are never more like Jesus than when we are serving ­others.

Prayer

Father, in our desire to be more hospitable, create in us a heart that aims to serve others in Jesus’ name. May we discover that true greatness is not in fame or position but in humble service. Amen.



Look At The Ant

Proverbs 6:6-8

God is a masterful Creator. He has integrated many of His principles into the fabric of nature so that we can see His handiwork and learn of Him (Ps. 19:1-6). If you desire to acquire wisdom, do not neglect to look outdoors for His lessons.

Now, of course, the outdoors sometimes comes inside. If you’ve ever battled ants in your kitchen or pantry, wisdom probably isn’t the first trait you would attribute to them—you probably would choose a description more like determination. But to the lazy person, God points out these tiny creatures as an example of wise living. Simply consider how many characteristics of the ant people would be smart to adopt: preparation, cooperation, perseverance, diligence, unity, and the list goes on. So interacting with righteous men isn’t the only way to acquire wisdom. God also wants us to observe the lowly ant that He created to work in community.

There’s much to learn from the created world. By directing attention to the birds, Jesus challenges His followers to consider the folly of anxiety (Matt. 6:26). Birds do not reap or gather grain but rather assume their food will be supplied as it always has been. The lesson in this observation of nature is that the Lord who provides for birds can be trusted to meet His people’s needs as well.