VIDEO Practice Makes Perfect

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7

“Cells that fire together wire together.” That is a summary of a theory put forth in 1949 by psychologist and neuroscience enthusiast, Donald Hebb. In short, Hebb’s idea was that when one brain cell (neuron) “fires,” it has such a positive effect on nearby neurons such that they become “wired” together in a neural network. The more the behavior that caused the original linking occurs, the stronger the network grows, making future behaviors of the same kind easier. It’s why “practice makes perfect” when it comes to sports, musical ability, and other areas of life. And, when it comes to resisting temptation.

The more we practice the apostle James’ exhortation to “resist the devil,” the more effective at it we will become. Likewise, the more we give in to temptation, the more we will succumb to it as well. If we resist him, the devil will flee; that is the promise of God. But the “if” reveals that the responsibility falls upon us.

If you are tempted today, resist the temptation. Every time you choose the right thing, the easier the choice will become. The devil never gives up tempting, and we must never give up resisting.

Each temptation leaves us better or worse; neutrality is impossible.  Erwin W. Lutzer


James 4:7-8 (Submit yourselves to God)

Does What We Do Matter?

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

I dropped my forehead to my hand with a sigh, “I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.” My friend’s voice crackled through the phone: “You have to give yourself some credit. You’re doing a lot.” He then listed the things I was trying to do—maintain a healthy lifestyle, work, do well in graduate school, write, and attend a Bible study. I wanted to do all these things for God, but instead I was more focused on what I was doing than how I was doing it—or that perhaps I was trying to do too much.

Paul reminded the church in Colossae that they were to live in a way that glorified God. Ultimately, what they specifically did on a day-to-day basis was not as important as how they did it. They were to do their work with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12), to be forgiving, and above all to love (vv. 13–14) and to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17). Their work wasn’t to be separated from Christlike living.

What we do matters, but how we do it, why, and who we do it for matters more. Each day we can choose to work in a stressed-out way or in a way that honors God and seeks out the meaning Jesus adds to our work. When we pursue the latter, we find satisfaction.

By:  Julie Schwab

Reflect & Pray

In what ways do you do things out of need or obligation rather than for God’s glory? How do you think meaning is found in Christ rather than accomplishments?

Jesus, forgive me for the times I stress over what I’m trying to accomplish. Help me to instead seek to accomplish things for Your glory.

Fueling a Passion for Jesus

2 Peter 1:1-4

Studying the Bible and praying are the first steps to developing a passion for Christ. We need to understand His ways and promises before we can fall deeply in love with Him.

Like any loving relationship, intimacy with Jesus requires that we spend time with Him—worshipping and listening to Him, not just working through a list of to-dos. In order to achieve a true friendship with Him, we must talk with Christ as with a friend and listen to Him speak to us.

We should also look for evidence of the Lord’s work in everyday circumstances. He promises to give us direction and provide for us (2 Peter 1:3). If we’re on the lookout, we will see His promises in action. Sometimes a situation might seem too tragic to yield good, but if we continue to pray, study Scripture, and be patient, God will reveal His plan to us.

Consider keeping a journal to record Jesus’ work in your life—then, when your faith falters or you’re in a difficult situation, you can look back at His past faithfulness to you. A passion for Jesus doesn’t happen instantly. It’s a daily, lifelong pursuit, and we must lay aside everything that competes with our devotion to Him.

Just Live Honestly

“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” (Hebrews 13:18)

It ought to go without saying that a Christian should live honestly in all things. Apparently it does need saying, however, because the Scriptures contain many such references. For example: “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17). For the sake of one’s Christian testimony before other men, it is vital that utter honesty must characterize his life. Even if men cannot see our little acts of dishonesty, God can, and so even our secret actions must be “providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21). “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest . . . think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

We live in a corrupt and cynical society where genuine honesty is rare. Petty pilfering at the office, cheating on taxes, plagiarizing, loafing at the job, padding expense accounts, cheating on tests, cutting corners on obligations, breaking promises, exaggerating—the list of petty dishonesties is endless, not even to mention the crime and major corruption so prevalent today almost everywhere. In such an environment dominated and conditioned by a humanistic educational system, unsaved persons easily adapt to such questionable practices, for “unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15).

But when Christians do such things (and, unfortunately, they do!), those same people find it scandalous and blaspheme the gospel because of it. How vital it is for Christians to become scrupulously sensitive about even the smallest matters. This should, in fact, be a major item of daily prayer, as in our text for the day. HMM

We Do Need to Repent

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own.

—1 Corinthians 6:19

 

It is time for us to repent, for our transgressions against the blessed Third Person have been many and much aggravated. We have bitterly mistreated Him in the house of His friends. We have crucified Him in His own temple as they crucified the Eternal Son on the hill above Jerusalem. And the nails we used were not of iron, but of the finer and more precious stuff of which human life is made. Out of our hearts we took the refined metals of will and feeling and thought, and from them we fashioned the nails of suspicion and rebellion and neglect. By unworthy thoughts about Him and unfriendly attitudes toward Him we grieved and quenched Him days without end.

The truest and most acceptable repentance is to reverse the acts and attitudes of which we repent….

We can best repent our neglect by neglecting Him no more. Let us begin to think of Him as One to be worshipped and obeyed. Let us throw open every door and invite Him in. Let us surrender to Him every room in the temple of our hearts and insist that He enter and occupy as Lord and Master within His own dwelling.   POM071-072

Forgive me. Change me. Indwell me. Control me. Amen.

 

A Mystical Birth

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

—John 3:5

 

The invisible birth of which John speaks is an act of God. John is talking about something beyond the physical birth that we know. The senses can touch the physical birth. When we were born into this world, those around us could see and feel and hold and weigh us. They could wash and clothe and feed us.

But this invisible, mysterious birth of which John speaks has nothing to do with the flesh. It is of heaven. This birth is of the Spirit—a birth of another kind, a mystical birth….

If Jesus our Lord had talked merely about people being born physically into the world, He would never have been heard, and His teachings would not have been preserved in print. Physical birth is too common—everyone is born. But these people experienced a birth not of the body but of the heart. They were born not into time but into eternity. They were born not of earth but of heaven. They had an inward birth, a spiritual birth, a mysterious birth, a mystical birth! FBR005-006

God is in all things as being, as activity, as power. God gives birth in the soul alone, for though every creature bears God’s mark, the soul is the natural image of God. BME013

 

The Psalmist’s Soliloquy

Psalms 43:5

The Quakers have a phrase for something spiritually apt and timely. They say, “It speaks to my condition.” Psalms 42 and 43 are like that; their message is relevant.

These Psalms present a man under pressure, airing his problems before God. The stress is Situational. He can no longer attend the place of praise and prayer. Now, far from his homeland and the temple of the Lord, this exile feels the loss keenly. Perhaps for us, as with the Psalmist, something precious has gone out of our life and we must live on memories.

The stress is also relational. People taunt him (42:3, 10); he goes about mourning (43:2). What hurts most is unrequited love. The child you’ve cared for turns from home and lives among the addicts whose lifestyle he adopts. The husband to whom you gave yourself proves unfaithful. Church leaders leave you disillusioned. A dear friend betrays you, an enemy speaks cutting words. A life partner dies, and the bereavement is grievous.

Added to all this for the Psalmist there is physical stress: “My bones suffer mortal agony” (42:10). Fear can debilitate even the most vigorous, anxiety can rob vitality, and discouragement can sap even the will to live.

What are the causes of stress in contemporary life? The list is long: unemployment, financial insecurity, an unpleasant work environment, feelings of isolation or inadequacy, an accident, loss of friends or loved ones and many more. Bereavements may follow one another until the earth seems a vast cemetery. One only has to hear the news to wonder why so many fellow humans are deprived of human rights, or why militarism and terrorism vie to make our world one madhouse.

These two Psalms speak to our human condition. But happily they do not stop with the problem, but move toward a solution. The power and beauty of this soliloquy is that the Psalmist exhorts his own soul: “Put your trust in God”

(43:5). It is a powerful word to a generation that has learned to put its trust in man, to foolishly assert our autonomy. Look again at the Psalmist’s affirmations: God is his rock (42:9), his stronghold (43:2), his joy and delight (43:4). God is our Savior (43:5). That makes all the difference.

Harry Read, The Salvationist Pulpit