December 1 – God’s Patience Because of His Love

Ezekiel 40-41 2 Peter 3

“The Lord is not slow in doing what he promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.” (2 Peter 3:9 NCV)

Back in Peter’s day, people were making fun of Christians because of their belief that Jesus would be coming again soon. (Sound familiar?) They laughed at Christians because Jesus was slow in returning. Perhaps the scoffers asked the Christians what their definition of soon was. Peter wanted those who read his letter to understand that God wasn’t returning on their timetable because He was being patient with all those who hadn’t turned to Him yet. In what might be a shock to many people who claim to follow Christ today, He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He delayed the return of Jesus so that more people could repent and change their hearts and lives.

Many people, believers and nonbelievers alike, have a picture of God sitting up in heaven with a handful of thunderbolts, waiting for someone to do wrong so that He can zap them. Some believers take joy in that idea and make it a point to let sinners know how hopeless they are. Peter, who might have a better understanding of God, didn’t see God that way. He saw God as a father, waiting patiently for His children. In verse 15 he reminded us that we’re saved because He is patient. He calls on us to do our best to live without sin or fault because of God’s patience, but not to gain salvation from living right: we already have salvation. At the same time, if God is patient with us, we should be patient toward others. Perhaps if we show people love and patience, they’ll recognize the power of God in our lives and turn to seek Him.

Lord, how impatient I am. I’m impatient with You while waiting for the return of Jesus, forgetting that people are not in Your family will die without You. I’m impatient with Your followers who don’t show Your love. I’m impatient with non-believers who know better, but still reject You. Let me follow Your example of patience as I deal with life.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 30 – In It For The Money

Ezekiel 37-39 2 Peter 2

Those false teachers only want your money, so they will use you by telling you lies. Their judgment spoken against them long ago is still coming, and their ruin is certain.” (2 Peter 2:3 NCV)

In this section, Peter reminds us that there have always been false teachers and that there will always be false teachers. In ancient days, people didn’t have access to the written word of God to study for themselves so those people who claimed to be teachers could twist the truth for their own benefit. One of the hallmarks of false teachers is that they’ll speak what they think people want to hear hoping that they’ll gain lots of money from their listeners. Peter noted that the very books that false teachers would misquote or take out of context spoke judgement against their behavior then, that the judgment still applies today, and they’ll be ruined by their false teaching.

How people get, and how they use money are great indications of their character. For instance, a person whose income comes from illegal sources isn’t the best person to use as an example of Christian giving, no matter how much that person gives to God’s work. Jesus reminded us that heart is more important than amount when it comes to giving. There are some people, though, who are more concerned about getting than giving and they’ll tell you anything to get your money. Peter dealt with the false teachers. They would lie, flatter, cajole, and adapt their teaching to make it sound good for the sole purpose of getting their hearers to give. One way to determine a false teacher is how they get their money, and what they do with it. An advantage we have over our brethren in the early church is that we have the written word of God that we can compare anyone’s teaching to. We should always check out anyone’s teaching by looking at the word of God. One of the reasons I include the Bible verses I read every day is so that you can check what I say in the full context of the Scriptures. When I, or anyone else makes a mistake, call it to that person’s attention. If they humbly explain why they think they’re right, or humbly accept what you say, they’re probably not a false teacher. If they’re arrogant and appeal to their own authority, be very wary.

Lord, there are many false teachers in our world. Help Your children discern true teaching from false teaching. As I write, may the words and concepts I share be true to Your word.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 29 – What Christian Growth Looks Like

Ezekiel 35-36 2 Peter 1

Because you have these blessings, do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience, add service for God; and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7 NCV)

Peter had reminded his readers that they had faith from God and that He gave them all that they needed to live. Because of that, he urged them to grow in their Christian walk by adding a number of different qualities to their lives: goodness, knowledge, self-control, patience, service to God, kindness for fellow Christians, and then love. Peter had a good understanding of what Christians need to do to become the people God’s called them to be. Maybe if we spent more time concentrating on adding these qualities in our lives, we’d avoid the negative qualities that people often attribute to Christians: judgmentalism, greed, apathy, etc.

An important truth to remember about adding these qualities to our lives is that while Peter listed them one after the other, we don’t finish goodness, before we start adding knowledge. We don’t finish knowledge before adding self-control, and so forth. These qualities grow and increase our ability to exhibit other qualities. As I show more goodness, it increases my faith. As I grow in the knowledge of God, I realize how to show more goodness, which then increases my faith and so on. Ultimately, the more we love, the more of all of these other qualities we can show in our lives. Ironically, the more of each of these qualities we develop, the more we recognize how much we’re lacking in those qualities and how much more we could grow in them. As we seek to grow in these qualities, we become more like Christ, people want to be around us more, and have more opportunities to share His love with others.

Lord, these words of Peter convict me because I need more of each of these qualities in my life. I need to be more like You and show people the difference You make in my life. Empower me to grow in all these areas of my life.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 28 – Seeking God to Gain Humility

Ezekiel 33-34 1 Peter 5

“Be humble under God’s powerful hand so he will lift you up when the right time comes. Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NCV)

Humility has been a problem for humanity since the beginning of time. Eve fell for the “you will be like God” line first, and mankind has fallen for variations of it down through the ages. You’d think that Christians would understand this more than most people because when people encounter God they should realize their shortcomings. Still, Peter had to remind his readers to be humble. Part of the expression of that humility is recognizing that we can’t solve all of our problems and that’s why we give our worries to Him. He cares about us and will take care of our problems.

We joke about humility. We let people know that if they were as humble as we were, they’d be OK. Or, we talk about the guy who was recognized for his humility with a button that proclaimed how humble he was, only to get it taken away because he wore it. The jokes reveal how we feel about humility. We know that the biggest problem with humility is that when we seek to gain it, we never will. As soon as we realize that we’re humble, we no longer are. The key to gaining humility is that instead of seeking that quality, we should seek God. If we seek His help and guidance in all situations, if we give our worries to Him instead of trying to do things ourselves, we’ll be exhibiting our humility without realizing that we have it. True humility comes when we recognize who we are in relationship to God and live for Him every day in that knowledge.

Lord, teach me to depend on You in all areas of my life. Let me live in such a state of humility that I don’t realize that quality in my life and that others will want to imitate me as I imitate You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Is Jesus the good shepherd?

Great thoughts on understanding Jesus as THE Good Shepherd

Jesus Quotes and God Thoughts

It should be understood that Jesus is “the” good shepherd, not simply “a” good shepherd, as others may be, but He is unique in character. Jesus lays down His life for me.

Now that is stunning.

  • Who would do that?
  • Why would He do that?

The Greek word kalos, translated “good,” describes that which is noble, wholesome, good, and beautiful, in contrast to that which is wicked, mean, foul, and unlovely. It signifies not only that which is good inwardly — character — but also that which is attractive outwardly.

It is an innate goodness. Therefore, in using the phrase “the good shepherd,” Jesus is referencing His inherent goodness, His righteousness, and His beauty. As shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides, and nurtures His flock.

  • John 10:11I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life…

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November 27 – The Key to Forgiveness

Ezekiel 30-32 1 Peter 4

“Most importantly, love each other deeply, because love will cause people to forgive each other for many sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NCV)

Whenever people are together, someone’s gonna mess up. You know it, I know it. Peter knew it. Peter used this time to remind us to love each other. Love will cause us to forgive each other. I’m sure that Peter was thinking about how much God loves us and how much He forgave us. Perhaps he was reminded of a more personal example of when Jesus, who loved much, forgave him after His resurrection. The key to understanding this verse is that we love others so that it’s easier to forgive them, not so that they will forgive us. We can’t control what other people will do, but we can control our own actions. Peter tells us to love and forgive others.

Why does God forgive us? Is it because we love Him, or is it because of His love for us? The answer is obvious, if we understand Scripture. Again and again God tells us that He loved us first – in the Old Testament and the New Testament. This verse doesn’t teach us how to GET forgiveness, it teaches us how to gain the power to forgive others. If you listen to me, it may seem that I believe that my wife is perfect. I know that she isn’t. But, I love her so much that I don’t even think about her faults. She’s perfect in my eyes. Where she isn’t perfect, I forgive her without even thinking about it because of my love. My problem is that I have a difficult time loving other Christians enough to forgive them the same way. As a follower of Jesus, I should love others so deeply that whenever I’m wronged, I should forgive people who wrong me without thinking about it. The key to forgiveness isn’t getting it, it’s learning how to love people enough to forgive them immediately, no matter how they sinned against me.

Lord, help me to love others like You do so that I can forgive them like You do. Let me seek to forgive others before I seek to be forgiven.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 26 – Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make

Ezekiel 27-29 1 Peter 3

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9 NCV)

When your relationship with Christ is the most important thing in your life, it allows you to focus on how you deal with people. Peter makes it clear that as Christians, we’re to be of the same mind in our work, loving each other, sympathetic to each other, compassionate and humble. There should be such a strong fellowship among followers of Christ that when the world looks at us, they see the joy and love of Christ in our interactions. When we deal with those outside the church, we should treat them with love also. Revenge shouldn’t be in our tool chest – unless ultimate revenge on our enemies is loving them as Christ loved them no matter what. While there’s satisfaction in getting people back when they do us wrong, there’s no blessing. We’re blessed by God when we show love and bless those who treat us spitefully.

Let’s be honest. People are watching us. There are some people who want to see if they can make us mad. There are others who seem to get our goat naturally. But, however they induce our anger, they’re watching for our reaction. Do we reflect the loving and forgiving qualities of Jesus, or, do we act like they expect us to and lash out in anger? The world is watching. If Christ makes any difference at all in our lives, He’ll make a difference in how we deal with others. People will see, hear, and remember what we say, and what we do about our brothers and sisters in Christ when they wrong us. And wrong us they will. Just as we will do wrong to them. People will also experience how we deal with them when they do wrong to us. And they will because: human. When we return good for evil; when we bless and don’t curse others who probably deserve it, we gain a great blessing. We gain peace of mind. We grow in our relationship with Christ, and we may see others seek God when we forgive them as God would.

Lord, You know my anger problem. Teach me to return blessing for curse. Teach me to return compliments for insults. Teach me to forgive and show grace to others just as You’ve shown to me. Help me to remember that even more important than the world watching me, You’re walking with me every step of the way.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 25 – Foreigners and Exiles

Ezekiel 24-26 1 Peter 2

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-12 NCV)

One of the things Peter would say to Christians today is that “your lives matter.” Or at least they should. He reminded early Christians that they were foreigners and exiles in this world. Sometimes we get so accustomed to living on this earth that we forget that our citizenship is in heaven and we’re living on this earth for a short time. This isn’t our permanent residence. As such, we’re called to live exemplary lives here on this earth so that the pagans who would accuse us of doing wrong will only be able to glorify God because of our good deeds when Christ comes again.

Sadly, we as Christians seem to be very comfortable in this world. Our lives show no distinction from the lives of non-believers in many important statistics. We don’t abstain from sinful desires, we embrace them. We have no problem with the behaviors of non-believers because we’re acting just like them. When we do have a problem, we tend to judge others, loudly, and not only engage in the same sin, offer no solution to those caught in their sin. How can we while we live the same way. Peter’s call remains true today. Christians, don’t get comfortable here because this world is not your home. Don’t live according to the standards and desires of this world but live by God’s standards and show and tell others about God’s love and mercy.

Lord, it’s so tempting just to settle down and live like this world is our home. Help me to live as an example of Your love and grace. Keep me from the sinful desires which draw me in and let me live a life that glorifies You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 24 – Experiencing God’s Joy in a Sinful World

Ezekiel 22-23 1 Peter 1

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9 NCV)

This chapter of First Peter is an amazing picture of the grace we have in Jesus Christ. The result of experiencing God’s grace is an undying love for God as we recognize the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. This love endures in spite of all the trials we may face. It’s a love that’s based on faith in what God has done since we can’t see Him. Even though we can’t see Him, we love Him and experience a joy that can’t be described. That joy is based on the faith that the end result of all we do is the salvation of our souls; eternal life with God on earth and in heaven.

We live in a world steeped with sin. Many seek political solutions to gain a better life. The problem with all the political solutions is the nature of the people involved. Their sinfulness makes even the best systems flawed and, eventually, oppressive to others. Some seek financial solutions and hope that if they get enough money, things will be better. But they’re not. The problems change, but a sinful man with lots of money has just as many problems as a sinful man without any money. The only way to gain a better life is to walk with Jesus. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have problems. We will. Remember, we live in a world that’s steeped with sin. What that means is that in the midst of our difficulties, we’ll recognize God’s presence and we’ll seek to be part of God’s solution. Because of our relationship with God, not matter what the circumstances may be, we’ll experience a glorious joy knowing that we’re in God’s presence while we live on this earth and that we’ll continue to experience His presence for all eternity in Heaven. The joy we experience in our everyday life is nothing compared to the joy we’ll experience throughout our eternity with God and His people.

Lord, this life can be hard sometimes. Help me to experience Your presence and Your love no matter what’s happening around me. Let me share Your love with others so that they can experience this same joy on this earth and for all eternity.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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November 23 – Using Our Wealth for God’s Glory

Ezekiel 20-21 James 5

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” (James 5:1-3 NCV)

James has an issue with wealthy people, or so it seems. In the second chapter he warned about favoritism towards the wealthy with a reminder that the wealthy folks were the ones oppressing Christians. In this section he warns the wealthy of great misery to come upon them because the wealth in which they’ve trusted, specifically silver and gold, are corroded. Moths will eat their fine clothes and all the wealth that they’ve stored up will work against them. As he continued, he pointed out that in many cases, they earned their wealth by cheating and oppressing poor people. As we understand what James was saying, we begin to understand God’s understanding of wealth. Wealth earned by cheating and oppressing others will burn a hole not only in your pocket, but also your soul.

This concept of money is probably unAmerican where wealth is seen as the ultimate measuring stick of the quality of a person. If you have faith and live well, God will bless you real good. If you’re in poverty, then there’s obviously something wrong with your faith or your life. Accumulation of stuff is a truly American goal – or don’t I need to mention that on Black Friday? The problem we have with wealth is that too often we act as if we forget that everything belongs to God and that if He blesses, if He entrusts us with a small part of His wealth, He expects us to use it to bless others. We have all kinds of people today who will tell you how to get wealthy – some from a religious perspective and others from a worldly perspective. There are a lot fewer people who will tell you how to give it all away. That book wouldn’t sell in America. So, we have all kinds of people chasing wealth and a much smaller number giving it away. What’s really interesting is that we can give it away a lot easier than we can accumulate it. So go ahead and try to accumulate wealth honestly and ethically. In the meanwhile, search for ways to give away what you have to glorify God and build His kingdom.

Lord, there’s so much stuff that tempts me out there. I want to get it all. I want to get more once I get it all. Remind me that it’s better to stand before you with nothing because I’ve shared Your blessings with others, than to have a suitcase full of paving material.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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