VIDEO Obedience Training

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. Romans 6:17

The police department of Casper, Wyoming, has an Animal Protection Unit that offers dog obedience classes to the public. The head of the program said, “The animal’s quality of life… increases when the relationship between the animal and owner is strengthened through obedience training.”[1] If you have a dog, you know the truth of that. An undisciplined dog is a danger to himself and others.

If dogs can enjoy a better quality of life by learning to obey, how much more should we learn to obey our Lord in all things—large and small. Obedience may be more difficult for some people than others, but even the most stubborn learners become serious about obeying when they realize that following God is the best and only way to live—for now, and for eternity.

Is there an area of your life in need of discipline and obedience? When you bring that area under the control of the Holy Spirit, your quality of life will increase!

Christians often perceive obedience to God as some test designed just to see if we’re really committed to him. But what if it’s designed as God’s way of giving us what’s best for us? Craig Groeschel


Romans 6:15-23, Set Free From Sin

Genuine Hope

He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

In the early 1960s, the US was filled with anticipation of a bright future. Youthful President John F. Kennedy had introduced the New Frontier, the Peace Corps, and the task of reaching the moon. A thriving economy caused many people to expect the future to simply “let the good times roll.” Then the war in Vietnam escalated, national unrest unfolded, Kennedy was assassinated, and the accepted norms of that previously optimistic society were dismantled. Optimism simply wasn’t enough, and in its wake, disillusionment prevailed.  

Then, in 1967, theologian Jürgen Moltmann’s A Theology of Hope pointed to a clearer vision. This path wasn’t the way of optimism but the way of hope. The two aren’t the same thing. Moltmann affirmed that optimism is based on the circumstances of the moment, but hope is rooted in God’s faithfulness—regardless of our situation.

What’s the source of this hope? Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Our faithful God has conquered death through His Son, Jesus! The reality of this greatest of all victories lifts us beyond mere optimism to a strong, robust hope—every day and in every circumstance.

By:  Bill Crowder

Reflect & Pray

Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, what situations cause concern in you? Why is hope better than either optimism or pessimism?

God, this world is distressing and confusing, and many voices want to drive me to a perspective that feels void of hope. Help me to root my heart in the promise and power of the resurrection of Jesus, who holds the future.

Read Hope: Choosing Faith Instead of Fear.

The Landmine of Fear

Though some apprehension is healthy, fear shouldn’t be a way of life for the Christian

Isaiah 41:8-10

Since our world has many dangers, we have legitimate reasons to be afraid. But Christians shouldn’t live in trepidation as a way of life, because God’s awesome promises allow us to be at peace in every circumstance. 

For our protection, God has instilled some natural apprehensions in us, like a fear of snakes or deep water. He also gave us a warning system so that we could react quickly to danger. For instance, if a car speeds toward us, an instantaneous reaction of alarm could save our life. 

But a constant, all-consuming dread is unhealthy. Most of our fears relate to dangers that might occur, threatening the welfare of loved ones, financial stability, or future security. Our attention is then centered on these concerns rather than on the One who promises to hold us in His hand (Isa. 41:10). As anxiety grows, trust in the Lord weakens, and we become consumed with worry. 

Instead of going down this route, ground yourself in Scripture, and don’t allow apprehension to blind you to God’s promises. Believe what He has said in 2 Thessalonians 3:16, and ask “the Lord of peace” to “continually grant you peace in every circumstance.”

The Mount of Olives

“And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.” (2 Samuel 15:30)

The Mount of Olives overlooks Jerusalem from the east. This first reference to it notes the sad occasion when King David had to flee Jerusalem for his life, escaping the conspiracy of his estranged son Absalom.

Just as David wept over Jerusalem as he left it, so would his greater son, Jesus, a thousand years later, weep over the city as He entered it from Mount Olivet (Luke 19:37, 41). It was there that He gave the great prophecy of His second coming (Matthew 24:3). It was also there He went with His disciples after the last supper, and there He agonized in prayer, alone, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:26, 32). Finally, after His death and resurrection, it was from the Mount of Olives that He ascended back into heaven (Acts 1:10-12).

This is far from the end of the story, however. The Mount of Olives has an amazing role yet to play in the world’s future, according to a prophecy given long ago. “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh,…And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:1, 4). Instead of a mountain there will be a valley, and “living waters shall go out from Jerusalem” (v. 8). Instead of a mountain for weeping there will be a stream of rejoicing, and “the LORD shall be king over all the earth” (v. 9). HMM

Elegy in the Night

SECOND MOVEMENT

Answer me when I call, O God who vindicates me. You freed me from affliction; be gracious to me and hear my prayer. Many are saying, “Who can show us anything good?” Look on us with favor, Lord. You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety (Psalm 4 vv. 1, 6-8).

King David had a melancholic cast to his psyche. Artistic, sensitive, and creative by nature, he also tended to be a perfectionist. But unlike many creative people, who often feel inadequate because they can’t do everything perfectly , he didn’t allow his perfectionism to add to his guilt. Instead he allowed the nightmares of his life to motivate him to express himself intuitively as well as intellectually. Recently I wrote a theme that I called “Elegy in the Night.” I was hurting so much when I wrote it, I expressed my emotions musically but not lyrically. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to find the words for that melody.

When humiliated, exasperated, surrounded by lies, and filled with doom and gloom, David took all of this to God in prayer. He also wrote songs about all of it—songs that reveal the innermost working of his soul and lead other believers into profound, personal worship.

In distress David learned to pray more meaningfully, to trust God more implicitly, and as a result, to compose more freely and imaginatively. As David learned to bring his experiences into harmony with his artistic temperament, God led him to a deep wellspring of peace and contentment. The New Testament insight on this is 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.”

Personal Prayer

Just as the dominant seventh pulls toward a deeply satisfying resolution in the tonic chord, may the tensions of my personal life be resolved in you, O Lord, my Deliverer.

I Am Your Shield”

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.—Genesis 15:6

It is no good saying you believe God is stronger than the Devil if you do not act on that belief. Faith not only believes this but acts on it by quickly standing up to the Devil and saying something similar to what David said when he stood before Goliath: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts” (1Sm 17:45). You must never forget that God is much more powerful than the Devil. Hold on to that, and quickly raise your shield whenever you experience an attack of Satan’s “fiery darts.”

The passage that introduces this devotion focuses on an incident in Abraham’s life that took place when he was exhausted after making a great stand. Doubtless, Satan would have attacked him with thoughts like: “What is the point of all this action of God on your behalf and all these promises when you do not have an heir to carry on your line? God doesn’t seem to have as much power as it would appear.”

Abraham was fearful at this point until the Lord came to him and gave him these glorious words: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great” (Gn 15:1).

“I am your shield.” Hold on to that great truth, my friend, and when under attack, quickly lift it up and remind the Devil that you belong to One whose power is endless and eternal. His promises are ever sure. That is what it means to hold up the shield of faith.

Prayer

O God, how grateful I am for the sureness and certainty of Your Word. Once again I feel it entering into the core of my being. Help me to put these truths into practice the very moment I come under satanic attack. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Further Study

Pr 30:1-5; Dt 33:29; Ps 33:20; 59:11; 84:9

Why was Israel blessed?

What was the psalmist’s continual testimony?

Reason to Celebrate

2 Corinthians 5:17

Tax gatherers in Judea in the time of Jesus were considered by their fellow

Jews to be the arch betrayers of their nation. They were regarded contemptuously as collaborators with the Roman authorities for whose hungry coffers they extorted enormous taxes from those to whom they were bound by blood, race and history. Levi was such an individual.

He had sufficient resources to provide a “great feast” for “many” publicans,

“many” sinners, and “many” disciples, and he was affluent enough to do it “in his own house” (Matt. 9:9-11). And what was it that Levi was celebrating? For one thing, a new name, in all probability bestowed by Jesus Himself. Hereafter he would be known as Matthew, “gift of God.” With a new name there would be a new life, a life beyond all imagining.

It would be something of a wonderment if the stylus which, in the hand of Levi, had completed Herod’s tax returns had in the hand of Matthew, recorded the first words a reader would find 20 centuries later when opening his New Testament—copies of which would have been reproduced in the mega-millions and found in every corner of the globe!

At the feast given by Levi, the fraternization was incredible. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners'” (Matt. 9:11) was not merely the voice of curiosity. It was the voice of censure. But it did not go unanswered.

His answer would not soon be forgotten. It was a classic riposte that would echo through the centuries. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matt. 9:12). His task was not to minister to the righteous, but to lead sinners to repentance.

Fare is provided for both soul and mind in pondering what we have come to call “the Feast of Levi,” an event which began by celebrating Levi’s entry into discipleship, and ended with a trenchant reaffirmation by Jesus of His evangelical mission. Levi had been given a new name. He had discovered a worthy vocation. He had found a new life. No wonder he rejoiced and wanted others to share his unbounded joy.

Like Levi/Matthew we, too, have been given a new name—one that is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. To have gained through Christ not only a new name but a new nature should provoke us more often than perhaps it does to invite our friends to join us in celebration and provide them with an opportunity to meet our Master.

Arnold Brown, With Christ at the Table