Living for Christ

April 2011 Daily Devotion Archive

April 1:
God's Perfect Design

...submitting to one another in the fear of God. - Ephesians 5:21

On Fridays over the last two months, we have taken a look at God's plan for three different types of relationships. First we looked at husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22-33), then parents and children (6:1-4), and finally employers and employees (6:5-9). There is a common theme and a perfect design that is evident within all of these different relationships, and it all goes back to God, to whom we should all submit. God the Father dearly loves Jesus the Son and always watches over Him, and Jesus willingly submits to His Father. These other types of relationships are all set up in the same way, which provides evidence of how God's perfect design runs through all of humanity. Husbands should love and care for their wives as their wives willingly submit; parents should love and care for their children as their children willingly submit; and employers should look after their employees as their employees willingly submit. It amazes me to see how God designed all of this to line up so perfectly!

Question to Ponder: Do you love and care for those whom you should love, and submit to those to whom you should submit?

April 2:
Be Careful Who Your Friends Are

He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
Evil pursues sinners,
But to the righteous, good shall be repaid.
- Proverbs 13:20-21

As Christians, we need to be careful who our friends are and who we hang around with on a regular basis. This is especially true for a new believer who is trying to get on the right path in life. People who are living sinful lifestyles will most likely try to tempt you into doing things you shouldn't be doing, and unless your walk with God is very strong and close, you very well may fall into those temptations. Instead of hanging around those people, find some good, Christian friends to spend time with. Now, this doesn't mean that we should never talk to people who aren't Christians. If we don't do that, how are we going to share God's Word with them? Instead, it means that it probably isn't good for us to regularly spend a significant amount of time with such people because of the temptations that will almost certainly follow. To be wise, we must walk with wise people.

Question to Ponder: If you're just going to "hang out" or relax for a day, who would you most likely spend that day with?

April 3:
Fear God, Part 1 of 3

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes,
When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates.
The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;
He has ceased to be wise and to do good.
He devises wickedness on his bed;
He sets himself in a way that is not good;
He does not abhor evil.
- Psalm 36:1-4

Take a few moments today to read over this passage and think about whether it applies to you or to some people you know. I will share more of my thoughts on this passage next week.

Question to Ponder: Do you fear God or do you flatter yourself?

April 4:
Jealousy Leads to Greed

And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. So Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh." And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. - Genesis 37:25-28

So many things in this world eventually lead to greed. Joseph's brothers were no longer just jealous of him; by this point, they had figured out a way to get rid of him AND make some money for themselves at the same time! It definitely must have sounded like a win-win situation for them...and all it cost them was their brother's freedom and their father's happiness, as we will see next week.

Question to Ponder: Has greed ever caused you to do something that you shouldn't have?

April 5:
Unwavering Faith: The Results

So Joab and the people who were with him drew near for the battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him. When the people of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fleeing, they also fled before Abishai, and entered the city. So Joab returned from the people of Ammon and went to Jerusalem. - 2 Samuel 10:13-14

Remember that this battle (although it wasn't much of a battle) only took place because David tried to make peace with the people of Ammon but they suspected some kind of conspiracy and tried to attack the people of Israel instead. David trusted God to do "what is good in His sight" and God did in fact deliver the Israelites from their enemies at this point in time. In fact, the Israelites didn't even have to fight (although they did still have one battle with these people, as we will see next Tuesday). God just caused the enemy camp to flee away from David's army. That is the power of God, and the result of David's unwavering faith and trust in God. David knew that God would deliver His people, and that is indeed what happened.

Question to Ponder: Do you have complete trust in the power of God, even in the most difficult circumstances?

April 6:
God's Will or Man's Will?

"Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. ... Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all." - Daniel 11:3, 36-37

The eleventh chapter of Daniel gives another prophecy, but rather than discuss the details of that prophecy, I am going to look at some other ideas that are presented within this text. In these verses, we hear about a king who will "do according to his will." Regardless of whether this prophecy is referring to a time in the past or a time in the future, this can be a warning to us to be alert to any ruler who acts like that. Anyone who does according to his or her own will is clearly not living in God's will, and that is not the type of person that we need in a leadership position. We should always be alert for that when choosing any leader.

Question to Ponder: When deciding who to vote for, do you take into account each candidate's regard for God's will?

April 7:
Unlawful Work

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" - Matthew 12:1-2

As you may or may not know, the Pharisees had created this incredibly lengthy list of laws that people were supposed to follow on the Sabbath. That originally came from the law which was given to Moses, but the Pharisees added many, many other laws to that list, some of which were just plain silly. In this instance, Jesus' disciples were simply trying to get some food to eat, but the Pharisees accused them of harvesting, which to them was work. Work was forbidden on the Sabbath--except, that is, for the Pharisees themselves, who continued doing their ministry work. They created so many complex laws that no one could follow just to make themselves look better, but Jesus had an entirely different attitude. He just wanted to do what was right. His disciples were hungry, so they found some food and ate. Yes, Jesus' way is often much simpler, too.

Question to Ponder: Can you make it into heaven by following a bunch of laws, or do you need Jesus?

April 8:
The Whole Armor of God, Part 1 of 2

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. - Ephesians 6:10-13

Satan will try to tempt us, trick us, and do whatever he can to try to pull us away from God because he hates God and has a never-ending desire for revenge. That is not some mythical conflict; it is a very real battle that takes place in this world every single day. But as Christians, we have the power to resist Satan's temptations. As he nears the end of his letter to the people of Ephesus, Paul advises them (along with all of us) to "put on the whole armor of God." That's the only way to take a strong stand against the devil. Next week we will take a closer look at the different aspects of this armor.

Question to Ponder: Do you allow God to cover you with His armor, or do you continually fall into Satan's temptations?

April 9:
Parental Discipline from God's Perspective, Part 1 of 3

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
- Proverbs 13:24

This is a controversial issue in our modern society, but regardless of how you feel about it or the opinions that other people have, it is a Biblical principle. It's easy to see why. Since students stopped getting punished this way in schools and since it became less socially acceptable for parents to punish their children in this manner, kids' behavior has steadily gotten worse. Today we find so many kids who don't respect their parents, teachers, or any kind of authority, and while there have always been some kids like that, a much larger number of children used to fear their parents and teachers. Children must be punished when they do something wrong. If they aren't, what reason do they have to not do the very same thing again?

Question to Ponder: If you have children, do you discipline them from a Biblical perspective?

April 10:
Fear God, Part 2 of 3

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
- Psalm 36:1

Fearing God is an important part of the Christian life, but how many of us really fear God like we're supposed to? Obviously non-believers don't, but many believers don't seem to anymore, either. The phrase "fear God" doesn't mean we're supposed to be scared to death that God is going to do something to us. Instead, it means that we need to live in fear and awe of His power, respecting Him for who He is. People have a tendency to turn God into all kinds of different things to suit their own needs, but the truth is, our God is all-knowing and all-powerful and we need to respect Him because He is God!

Question to Ponder: Do you fear and respect God as much as you should?

April 11:
The End Result of Jealousy

So they took Joseph's tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood. Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, "We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son's tunic or not?" And he recognized it and said, "It is my son's tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces." Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, "For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning." Thus his father wept for him. - Genesis 37:31-35

Joseph's brothers were so jealous of him and so eager to get him out of their lives that they didn't care what the impact was as long as they accomplished that. They didn't care that the lie they told their father (although they didn't directly lie to him, but the lie was implied and the impact was the same) caused him an incredible amount of sadness and grief. All they cared about was revenge, and that is ultimately what jealousy, anger, or a desire for vengeance can do to a person.

Question to Ponder: What can you do to make sure your jealousy or anger never ends up with consequences like these?

April 12:
Battling God's Chosen People

When it was told David, he gathered all Israel, crossed over the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Syrians set themselves in battle array against David and fought with him. Then the Syrians fled before Israel; and David killed seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen of the Syrians, and struck Shobach the commander of their army, who died there. - 2 Samuel 10:17-18

Last Tuesday, we saw how the Syrians and the people of Ammon fled at the sight of David's army. A little later on, they regrouped and did try to fight the Israelites, but clearly they weren't very successful. You can never prevail in a battle against God. (Yes, God did allow Israel to be captured on multiple occasions, but that was still His choice, because His people were being disobedient. God was still in control and He most certainly was not defeated in those cases.) Aside from being a powerful story from history, this can also teach us a valuable lesson today: If the United States ever decides to take a stand against Israel, we had better watch out for a strong dose of God's wrath like the Syrians felt on this day!

Question to Ponder: How often do you try to prevail in the small battles against God by trying to do things your own way?

April 13:
Captivating With Intrigue

"And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue." - Daniel 11:21

Whoever this prophecy is talking about seized this kingdom by intrigue. Similar to last Wednesday's devotional which took a look at a king who follows his own will, we should also be very wary of anyone who suddenly and rapidly rises to power, captivating people with intrigue. Such a person is probably going to be a smooth talker but is not equipped to do the job effectively, and at worst, such a person may have a hidden agenda that he or she is trying to accomplish. If you are instantly captivated by the words that come out of someone's mouth, you should always question that person and never blindly follow. Switching gears for a moment, a similar idea holds true in the area of romance and relationships, as far too many people get involved with someone who is a smooth talker but secretly has another agenda.

Question to Ponder: What can you do to prevent yourself or others around you from being captivated by someone like this?

April 14:
Unlawful Healing

Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. - Matthew 12:9-13

Once again, the Pharisees try to trick Jesus on the subject of working on the Sabbath. And once again, Jesus provides us with the correct, simple, common sense answer. Who knows how many of their laws Jesus broke by healing someone on the Sabbath, but what kind of people would have laws against healing in the first place? They had become so consumed by the law that they lost all sense of what was truly right and wrong. Jesus healed this man because it was the right thing to do, and that's the example we need to follow.

Question to Ponder: Do you try to make things too complicated, or do you just follow Jesus' example, trying to do what's right?

April 15:
The Whole Armor of God, Part 2 of 2

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. - Ephesians 6:14-17

God's armor includes truth, righteousness, peace, and faith. We should carry all of those things with us into this world, and if we have them and demonstrate those traits in our everyday lives, it immediately makes it much more difficult for Satan to try to tempt us (not to mention the positive impact it has on those around us). Most of all, as the last verse says, we must spread the Word of God and the news of salvation in Jesus. But not only must we spread God's Word, we must also be clothed in it, using it as an armor to protect ourselves and wearing it proudly as armor so that others may see. If we live by God's Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will be protected from so many evil things that take place in this sinful world.

Question to Ponder: Which one of the traits listed in these verses are you least likely to carry with you in your everyday life?

April 16:
Parental Discipline from God's Perspective, Part 2 of 3

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
- Proverbs 13:24

God often allows us to suffer the consequences of our mistakes because that's one of the best ways to learn. Does He do that out of anger, to get some sort of revenge? Of course not! He does that because He loves us, just like parents should discipline their children out of love. So many people get confused about that issue and can't bring themselves to punish their children--but that isn't true love. If God patched up all our mistakes and never let us suffer any of the consequences that we deserve, what would we learn? What incentive would we have to do any better? Just as God loves us, chastising us when He needs to, so should parents love their children.

Question to Ponder: How might your life be different if God never allowed you to learn from your mistakes?

April 17:
Fear God, Part 3 of 3

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
- Psalm 36:1

How do we show respect to God? We show respect by living the way we're supposed to, by living for Him and trying to follow His will instead of living for ourselves and following our own desires. There are many other ways in which we need to fear and respect God, too. He should be an active part of our daily lives, not just Someone we go to visit on Sunday mornings and then forget about for another week. We fear and respect Him (and show our love for Him) by spending time with Him and/or doing things for Him on a regular basis. Basically, to me, fearing God means taking our relationship with God (through Jesus) seriously each and every day.

Question to Ponder: In what ways could you take your personal relationship with Jesus more seriously?

April 18:
Keeping the Faith, Part 1 of 2

The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. ... So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. - Genesis 39:2-3, 5

Even after being sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to an entirely different country, Joseph's attitude didn't change and his faith never wavered. While serving this Egyptian, he continued to put forth his very best effort and held on to his faith in the Lord. His master saw how the Lord was with Joseph, which gives us an excellent example of how we can be a witness to others even when we aren't quite where we'd like to be in life. We don't know whether or not Joseph's master came to follow God, but the entire household received God's blessings because of Joseph's faithfulness.

Question to Ponder: If you're doing a job that you don't enjoy, do you still try to serve God and witness to others through it?

April 19:
David's Big Sin, Part 1

Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" - 2 Samuel 11:2-3

Most of us are very familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba, but look closely at how it all started. David wasn't doing anything wrong; he simply decided to go for a little walk one evening. That in itself is perfectly innocent. Then it happened--he saw this beautiful woman bathing next door. I feel certain that the initial look was an accident. David didn't go out that night with the intention of sinning. He could have quickly looked away and forgotten about the woman and it would have just been an innocent mistake with no further consequences. But that was when he made his big mistake: He kept looking; he didn't turn away. As he continued to gaze at this woman, his lust for her grew; then he went farther, trying to find out who the woman was.

Question to Ponder: If something like this happened to you, would you turn away or would you continue to look (and lust)?

April 20:
Redistributing the Wealth

"He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time." - Daniel 11:24

Redistributing the wealth is well-known as something many of our more liberal people are in favor of. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well in reality, and that is even indicated by this verse. While the Bible doesn't say that it's wrong, it does imply that it was tried in this kingdom and the kingdom didn't last very long as a result. I'll be honest: When I was younger, there was a period of time when I thought this was a good idea. I'm all about being fair, and everybody having the same amount of stuff certainly sounds fair! However, as I grew older, I eventually realized that, in reality, it doesn't work that way. The end result of this type of government can never be good. It encourages lazy people to remain lazy because they know the government will take care of them anyway, and it doesn't encourage hard work because those who do work hard just get more taken away.

Question to Ponder: How do the ideas presented in this verse fit with your own political views about this matter?

April 21:
Corrupting Power

Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. - Matthew 12:14-15

What was Jesus' big crime? Among other things, the two passages leading up to this moment are about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and about His disciples gathering food to eat on the Sabbath. What awful crimes! Of course, the Pharisees were just out to get Him because they felt threatened by His presence. They wanted to keep their positions of authority and they didn't like anyone else trying to tell them what to do. These were people who knew the Scriptures (the Old Testament) and should have recognized who Jesus was, but completely missed all the signs due to their own jealousy and desire for revenge. Power can corrupt people and cause them to do ridiculous things like this. If you're in any position of power, be very careful to keep your eyes focused on God and not get power-hungry. If you're not in such a position, keep a close eye on those who are to help keep them in check.

Question to Ponder: Think carefully about this. Has any position of power ever influenced you in a negative way?

April 22:
Speaking Boldly

...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints--and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. - Ephesians 6:18-20

Paul is writing about himself here, although his words deal with something that applies to all Christians. He is praying that God will help him to speak boldly for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which as he says is just as he ought to speak. The truth is, we should all proclaim the name of Jesus with boldness! Are you excited to be saved by Jesus? Do you have a desire to help lead others to Him? Then do so boldly! (As a side note, if you answered "no" to either of those questions, I would suggest a close examination of your spiritual life.) So many negative, evil, sinful things are constantly proclaimed boldly and without shame. Christians shouldn't be intimated by that because what we have to share is far better than that stuff. So go out and share Jesus boldly!

Question to Ponder: How can you more boldly spread the good news of Jesus to the world around you?

April 23:
Parental Discipline from God's Perspective, Part 3 of 3

He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
- Proverbs 13:24

This verse is often used in the debate over spanking children, but it really goes much deeper than that. It's about loving children enough to discipline them when necessary. It won't always be easy, but it is a necessary and vital part of your child's learning experience as he or she grows up. Your child may think you're mean, just like many people think God doesn't care when something bad happens. But that couldn't be farther from the truth, and as your child gets older, he or she will almost always realize the benefit to that discipline. It is true that some people take discipline too far, and that can do considerable harm as well. But don't go too far in the other direction just because of that. What children need most is right in the middle--a good, responsible parent who provides appropriate discipline when it is needed.

Question to Ponder: If you have children, do you love them deeply enough to discipline them when necessary?

April 24:
Trust in God's Lovingkindness

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.
Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
- Psalm 36:7-10

God's lovingkindness toward us is astounding, especially in light of all the things we do to deserve anything but His love. But He does love us no matter what we do, and we can always trust in Him to take care of us because of His great love for us.

Question to Ponder: Knowing how deep His love is for you, how deeply do you trust in God?

April 25:
Keeping the Faith, Part 2 of 2

So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. ... Thus he left all that he had in Joseph's hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. - Genesis 39:4, 6a

The master to whom Joseph was sold came to trust Joseph so much that he entrusted all that he had to Joseph's authority. That is pretty remarkable, considering Joseph started out as a servant in this man's house! How did that turn of events come about? I am convinced that it happened because Joseph remained faithful to God, as we saw in last Monday's devotional. God blessed the entire household because of Joseph's strong faith, and in turn, Joseph's master knew how strong Joseph's faith was and therefore knew that he could be trusted with things of great importance. Joseph could have gone into the corner and sulked at his situation, but he was determined to serve God and God clearly rewarded him for that.

Question to Ponder: How do you think you would react if you were in Joseph's place?

April 26:
David's Big Sin, Part 2

Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child." - 2 Samuel 11:4-5

So many sins start with something small and simple. David just went out for a walk one night and happened to notice a woman bathing. He could have ignored her and gone on with his walk, but his lust for this woman continued to grow. He let his fleshly desires consume him--the exact same thing that happens to so many people in our world today. David knew this woman was married, but it didn't matter; he had already allowed his lust for her to take control. He didn't turn to the Lord for help; he just acted on that lust. In the end, not only did they commit adultery, but Bathsheba became pregnant, meaning that David's actions would have even more significant and long-term consequences. Acting on lustful desires is becoming an enormous problem in our society, and those actions always have consequences. Never act out of lust; go to God for help and guidance instead.

Question to Ponder: Have you ever faced this kind of temptation? What is the best way to respond?

April 27:
Wickedness Against God; Strength in God

"[The king of the South shall] return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." - Daniel 11:30b-32

As Christians, we should never stand for anyone who treats anything holy in a manner like what is described in these verses. As I read this, I was appalled at the complete and total disrespect that this king was going to have for something that belongs to God! Many people in our world today don't respect churches, Christian traditions, or anything else related to Christianity. Just as Jesus turned over the tables in the temple (John 2:15-17), we should also take a stand for respecting God's house out of our love for Jesus. And as the last verse says, we who know our God will be strong, for our strength comes from Him!

Question to Ponder: Would you take a bold stand for God's House, or would you allow other people to disrespect it?

April 28:
When to Retreat

"Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His name Gentiles will trust." - Matthew 12:18-21

In these verses, Jesus quotes a prophecy from Isaiah (see Isaiah 42:1-3). This takes place right after Jesus withdrew from the place where the Pharisees were starting to plot against Him. Isaiah wrote these words in reference to Jesus more than 700 years earlier; now, Jesus Himself refers back to this prophecy, which describes how He will act in a gentle, loving manner and retreat rather than quarrel. The Bible records other times when Jesus retreated from a crowd as well, and that is an example that we can follow. Sometimes, a discussion or even an argument can be beneficial. But at other times, getting into an argument doesn't accomplish anything. We need to rely on wisdom from God to know the difference and to know when to retreat.

Question to Ponder: Do you find yourself frequently getting into arguments with other people? If so, could you retreat instead?

April 29:
Loving Jesus Sincerely

Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. - Ephesians 6:23-24

These are the closing words in Paul's letter to the people of Ephesus. When I read this, one word stood out to me: sincerity. Are you sincere in your love for Jesus Christ? Do you truly have a deep-rooted love for Him and a strong desire to serve Him and do His will in this life? Do you believe in Jesus and sort of have a relationship with Him, but it isn't very deep or impactful in your life? Or do you completely lack a sincere love toward Jesus? Many people, even some who attend church every Sunday, fall into that last category. Acting religious or trying to be good enough will never get you into heaven. That's not how God set it up because He knows we're stubborn, sinful people who can't be good enough! But thankfully He has enough mercy and love that He sent Jesus to die for our sins. God wants people who truly, deeply, sincerely love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Are you one of those people?

Question to Ponder: How deep and sincere is your love for Jesus? How could that love become deeper?

April 30:

A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.
- Proverbs 14:5

This verse pretty much states the obvious, but I think its intention is to make you stop and analyze your level of honesty. Lying does not improve a situation. There may be a very small number of exceptions, such as when someone's life is in danger or when you're dealing with someone who has mental problems, and I'm not even sure if those qualify as exceptions to God. But in normal, everyday life, there is never an excuse for lying. Not only is it morally wrong and sinful, but things always end up worse in the end. You never have to lie. If you feel like you do, then that probably means you have already done something you shouldn't have. (You can't change that, but you can think twice before doing the same thing again.) The best way to live is to follow Jesus' example, and then you won't do things like that in the first place! And when you do make a mistake (because we all do), just be honest about it. Chances are, other people will respect your honesty, but even if they don't, it's still the right thing to do.

Question to Ponder: How many times in an average day do you tell a lie (even a "little one")?