VIDEO The Price of Service – Greatness of Being a Slave

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

In the ancient world, a ransom was money paid to purchase, then set free, a slave.  “Ransom” appears twice in the New Testament when Jesus gave His reason for coming to earth: He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). That is, He purchased with His own life those who were slaves to sin and set them free to live a new life.

What’s interesting about the ransom Jesus paid is what that payment is connected to: service. Jesus said He came to serve by giving His life a ransom for many. Jesus’ own life and actions illustrate that there is a price to service. In Jesus’ case, the price was extremely high. We may never be called on to serve others by dying for them physically, but we are called on daily to serve others by dying to our selfish desires. When Paul wrote about Christ as a servant, he wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”—that is, the mind of a servant (Philippians 2:5).

Be prepared today to pay whatever price Christ-like service requires.

[Be] willing to do those things that seem unimportant in human estimation but count as everything to God. Oswald Chambers 

The Greatness of Being a Slave (Mark 10:35-45)

Giving Our Best

He will purify . . . and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness. Malachi 3:3

We stared at the piles of donated shoes as we entered a local homeless shelter. The director had invited our youth group to help sort through the heaps of used footwear. We spent the morning searching for matches and lining them up in rows across the concrete floor. At the end of the day, we threw away more than half of the shoes because they were too damaged for others to use. Though the shelter couldn’t stop people from giving poor quality items, they refused to distribute shoes that were in bad condition.

The Israelites struggled with giving God their damaged goods too. When He spoke through the prophet Malachi, He rebuked the Israelites for sacrificing blind, lame, or diseased animals when they had strong animals to offer (Malachi 1:6–8). He announced His displeasure (v. 10), affirmed His worthiness, and reprimanded the Israelites for keeping the best for themselves (v. 14). But God also promised to send the Messiah, whose love and grace would transform their hearts and ignite their desire to bring offerings that would be pleasing to Him (3:1–4).

At times, it can be tempting to give God our leftovers. We praise Him and expect Him to give us His all, yet we offer Him our crumbs. When we consider all God has done, we can rejoice in celebrating His worthiness and giving Him our very best.

By:  Xochitl Dixon

Reflect & Pray

Why are you sometimes tempted to give God your leftovers or damaged goods? In what ways will you give Him your best today?

Mighty God, please help me place You first and give You my best.

God Is in Control

Psalm 103:19-22

In today’s psalm, David discusses a fundamental attribute of God: His sovereignty. This means God has complete authority and control over all human beings and every aspect of the universe. It also means that “luck” and “good fortune” have no place in a discussion about Him. And because God is good, we can have full confidence in His absolute and loving control over every aspect of our existence.

When we trust in the Father’s sovereignty, we stand on two assurances. The first is that He is intimately involved in our daily life. No matter what, He never stops providing, protecting, and caring for every believer. He knows what we need for today and tomorrow.

The second is that the Lord will work every circumstance for our benefit—without exception! When situations are more demanding, our confidence may waiver, but Scripture promises “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

You and I do not live by chance. As children of a sovereign God, we live secure and under His control. Trust Him to carry you through whatever trial stands in your way.

Come Forth as Gold

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

These words of Peter are certainly applicable today, but they have always been true. That proper character and testimony are of supreme importance to God was certainly recognized by godly Job in the midst of his heavy trials, for he claimed: “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). The context for this stirring statement of faith proves instructive.

Just as most people do, whether Christian or not, Job appealed to heaven for relief from his troubles (v. 3). Job felt he was suffering unjustly and wanted to state his case before God (v. 4), but more importantly, Job desired to know God’s will in the matter. “I would [i.e., desire to] know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me” (v. 5). He knew God well enough to know that God had a purpose in his suffering, and Job asked for knowledge of that purpose. Job knew God’s goodness, that He would not punish him for his questions, and felt that greater understanding would give him strength to continue. But without God’s revelation, Job knew he was unable to understand or even find God (vv. 8-9). God mercifully and lovingly allows trials to discipline, guide, and develop us. Such trials will, in the end, work to our advantage as impurities are removed, leaving behind only that which is lasting and precious.

The goal of our lives should be to bring “praise and honour and glory” unto our Lord, and if tribulation can best accomplish these goals, so be it! As David said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word” (Psalm 119:67). God knows what is best for us. He knows what He is doing, and we can rest in that fact. JDM

The Cleansed Conscience

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. —Hebrews 10:22

What a relief to find the writer to the Hebrews encouraging us to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22).

A sprinkled conscience—surely this is a gracious thing for men and women in the world to know!

One of the most relieving, enriching, wholesome, wondrous things we can know is that sudden sense of the lifting of the burden as the conscience goes free—God giving freedom to that conscience which has been evil, diseased and protesting.

Peter wrote about this and called it “the answer of a good conscience toward God, [saves us] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

This is the kind of conversion I believe in—when your sins are cleansed and forgiven through the blood of the Lamb, you will know it!…

A transaction has taken place within the human spirit. The heart suddenly knows itself clean and the burden lifts from the mind and there is a true sense that heaven is pleased and God is smiling and the sins are gone.   EFE065-066

Lord, I fall on my face before You in heartfelt worship. Amen.

Toward the Greater

…Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh….If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. —Galatians 5:16, 25

The Holy Spirit is a living Person and should be treated as a person. We must never think of Him as a blind energy nor as an impersonal force. He hears and sees and feels as any person does. He speaks and hears us speak.

We can please Him or grieve Him or silence Him as we can any other person. He will respond to our timid effort to know Him and will ever meet us over half the way.

However wonderful the crisis experience of being filled with the Spirit, we should remember that it is only a means toward something greater: that greater thing is the lifelong walk in the Spirit, indwelt, directed, taught and empowered by His mighty Person. And to continue thus to walk in the Spirit requires that we meet certain conditions.

These are laid down for us in the sacred Scriptures and are there for all to see. POM135-136

The highest point of Christian experience is to press forward. It is a distinguishing trait in the character of every good man, that he grows in grace. DTC185

Holy to The Lord

Zechariah 14:20

God wills for His people an uttermost salvation. That has always been God’s will. The meaning of the word holy was deepened by the prophets and altogether transformed by Jesus. Yet the New Testament can freely quote the Old Testament command, “Be holy, because I am holy,” (1 Pet. 1:16) because that has always been the purpose of God.

The word itself comes from a root word meaning separated, and with Israel it was the divine will that God’s people should be separate from their neighbors in faith and in practice. With the new Israel it is still God’s will that we should separate from the world in habits because we are separate at heart.

Often “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). But with God it is axiomatic that what He wills He can perform. So my sanctification, like my salvation, lies in yielding myself to Him with whom all things are possible.

Here then is ground which believers may feel firm beneath their feet. Here personal desire and scriptural teaching meet to provide the open door by which grace may fully enter. The experience of holiness is not merely one for which I long nor to which I am counseled by my teachers. This is that which God wills and which, with man’s active consent, can be fulfilled in every life.

This is where we must give the life of holiness as exemplified by Jesus a fair chance. Some of us do not do that. We do not take the trouble to look long enough at Him. We pay more attention to a human interest picture in the daily paper. We gaze more intently at the television screen.

Ought we not to give this spiritual ideal at least equal time and attention? Sometimes we say of a person who may not have impressed us favorably at first blush: “He improves with knowing.” Reverently we may say the same of the life of holiness as exemplified in Jesus.

Seize the banner, “Holiness unto the Lord,” and make for the summit of the holy hill of God. Look to Jesus that He may quicken you with holy desire which, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, may find its fullest expression in holy—that is to say, Christlike—living.

Frederick Coutts, The War Cry

VIDEO First Sunday of Advent

Mark 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.

Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.

May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

 by Menagerie

The Final Generation, Part 1 (Mark 13:28-37)

Sweet Again

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples. Isaiah 25:6

Russian wedding customs are filled with beauty and significance. One such custom takes place during the reception as the toastmaster proposes a toast in honor of the couple. Everyone takes a sip from their raised glass and then shouts, “Gor’ko! Gor’ko!” meaning “Bitter! Bitter!” When the guests shout that word, the newlyweds must rise and kiss each other in order to make the drink sweet again.

Isaiah prophesies that the bitter drink of desolation, ruin, and the curse upon the earth (ch. 24) will give way to the sweet hope of a new heaven and new earth (ch. 25). God will prepare a feast of rich foods and the finest and sweetest of drinks. It will be a banquet of continual blessing, fruitfulness, and provision for all people (25:6). There’s more. Under the sovereign reign of the righteous King, death is swallowed up, bitter tears are wiped away, and the shroud of disgrace is removed (vv. 7–8). And His people will rejoice because the One they trusted in and waited for will bring salvation and turn the bitter cup of life sweet again (v. 9).

One day, we’ll be together with Jesus at the wedding supper of the Lamb. When He welcomes His bride (the church) home, the promise of Isaiah 25 will be fulfilled. The life once bitter will be made sweet again. By:  Marvin Williams

Reflect & Pray

What makes you long for God to make what is bitter sweet again? While you wait for Jesus’ return, what are some things you can do to make others’ bitter experience sweet again?

God, as I witness and experience so much pain, suffering, ruin, and death, sometimes it’s difficult to believe You’ll make what is bitter sweet again. Help me to put my hope in You, the One who’s promised to give me beauty for ashes and joy for mourning.

Full of Grace

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

When chefs season the food they’re preparing, their goal is to bring out the flavor already present in the dish without overpowering it. That requires great skill. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Colossians. In his letter, He reminded them that when we engage with one another, and especially with those who are “outsiders,” we must have grace—“as though seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:5-6).
In extending grace, we offer something that God generously gives to each of us. There are many opportunities to skillfully and gently “season” our relationships by offering a listening ear, meeting a physical or financial need, or studying together and challenging one another intellectually. Thankfully, the Lord will help us discern how to do this. We just have to ask for His help.

Think About It

  • Do you ever struggle to “know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6)? What makes doing this so difficult?
  • Have you ever found yourself hesitant to ask for God’s help? Why or why not? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any hindrances you may have.