VIDEO R You Ready for a New Year? New Year’s Revolution

We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 1 Thessalonians 4:1, NIV

Make a small improvement to one habit today. Too many people make a list of resolutions that are too big to keep. But if you resolve to change one habit in an incremental way, the change can be dramatic. James Clear wrote in Atomic Habits: “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.”[1]

Paul commended the Thessalonians, but he told them to keep growing—to please God more and more. And he asked God to sanctify them “through and through” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, NIV). That doesn’t happen overnight. It happens as we continually resolve to make small improvements to our everyday habits, and to do so more and more.

It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent. James Clear


Biblical Tests of True Faith – Paul Washer

Drawn Near

Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place. Leviticus 16:2

In the wake of the coronavirus, retrieving something from my safety deposit box required even more layers of protocol than before. Now I had to make an appointment, call when I arrived to be granted entrance to the bank, show my identification and signature, and then wait to be escorted into the vault by a designated banker. Once inside, the heavy doors locked again until I’d found what I needed inside the metal box. Unless I followed the instructions, I wasn’t able to enter.

In the Old Testament, God had specific protocols for entering part of the tabernacle called the Most Holy Place (Exodus 26:33). Behind a special curtain, one that “separate[d] the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place,” only the high priest could enter once a year (Hebrews 9:7). Aaron, and the high priests who would come after him, were to bring offerings, bathe, and wear sacred garments before entering (Leviticus 16:3–4). God’s instructions weren’t for health or security reasons; they were meant to teach the Israelites about the holiness of God and our need for forgiveness.

At the moment of Jesus’ death, that special curtain was torn (Matthew 27:51), symbolically showing that all people who believe in His sacrifice for their forgiveness of sin can enter God’s presence. The tear in the tabernacle curtain is reason for our unending joy—Jesus has enabled us to draw near to God always!

By:  Kirsten Holmberg

Reflect & Pray

In what ways are you aware of being drawn near to God? How does that truth bring you joy?

Thank You, Jesus, for making it possible for me to be drawn near to God always.

To learn how to draw nearer to God this year.

Shattering Fear With Truth

To conquer our fears, we should identify them but then focus instead on God and Scripture

Joshua 1:6-9

Yesterday we discussed how fear and anxiety can enslave us and color our perspective to the point that we live in a constant state of unease. But as Christians, we have a heavenly Father who has promised to care for us and work all things for our good. Jesus said if we continue in His Word, we will know the truth, and it will set us free (John 8:31-32). But practically speaking, how do we live in such freedom?

Identify the basic root of your fears. It’s fairly easy to recognize surface causes, but ultimately, the root of our apprehension is a distrust of God. Yet the truth of His constant loving protection and His sovereignty over every situation in our life can dispel all our anxiety.

Focus on the Lord instead of your fear. Every time dread enters our heart, we must remember that we are in the hand of our almighty, all-knowing, loving Father.

Meditate on the Word of God. This is a powerful step in overcoming anxiety, since the Bible is an immovable anchor for our life. 

In times of trouble, we must hold fast to Scripture because fear is shattered on the foundational truth of God’s Word. When we learn to respond to our uneasiness in these three ways, we will live freely as our Father intended. 

The Fountain of Life

“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27)

This beautiful phrase, “fountain of life,” is used several times in the Old Testament, serving as a metaphor to illuminate a number of important aspects of spiritual faith and experience. Our text stresses “the fear of the LORD” as providing deliverance from death to life, picturing this new life as flowing from a heavenly spring.

A very similar verse is Proverbs 13:14: “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.” Thus, the fear of the Lord is somehow tantamount to “the law of the wise.” Those who are wise will fear the Lord and thus receive living water from “the fountain of life.”

King David penned the wonderful truth of Psalm 36:9: “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” “God is light” (1 John 1:5), so “the fountain of life” becomes the source also of all true light, whether physical or spiritual. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

The same word is rendered as “well” in Proverbs 10:11: “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” When a believer has received life from the divine fountain, his testimony becomes a fountain of life.

The Lord Himself is the fountain of life in Jeremiah’s prophecy, but the supposed people of God have refused to drink. “For my people…have forsaken me the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13).

Nevertheless, this fountain is still there for all who will come. The Bible’s last promise has to do with this great fountain, which yields “a pure river of water of life,…proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb…And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:1, 17). HMM

Morning Song

At daybreak, Lord, You bear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly. But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You (Psalm 5 vv. 3, 11).

Living in the complexity of the modern world puts me under a lot of stress. My mind continually mulls over unresolved personal conflicts, domestic hassles, competitiveness at work, and the pressure to perform. All of this rises to the surface early in the morning. At my first moments of consciousness, I often feel despair. For me many days are blue Mondays.

Often beneath creativity lies a fragile psyche. When I immaturely demand the respect and admiration of my colleagues, an honest, too objective criticism deeply hurts me. I have experienced undue depression because I have placed too much value in myself instead of in the Lord.

Sensitive, artistic, and high-strung, King David also experienced severe depression early in the morning. Yet he didn’t wallow in despair or nurture his black moods. Instead, he started his day with God by offering daily sacrifice to God’s threshold. He met God there, spoke with him, and committed all of his troubles to the Lord.

David approached God with great expectation. He didn’t deny him many problems, but he broke free of his loneliness. He realized he was not alone in the world but part of a company of believers who could join him in praise. God responded by covering him, encircling him, and caring for him. And the sun came up, and the black clouds were blown away.

Personal Prayer

Dear Lord, I praise you and thank you that I am not alone in the universe. Because of the presence of Christ in my life, I can live today with deep peace and joy.

Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer

Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.—Matthew 6:9

One of the most precious passages in the whole of the New Testament is the Lord’s Prayer. These words of Jesus, so seemingly simple, encompass every conceivable element in prayer and reduce it to a clearly understood pattern.

The Lord’s Prayer (or, more correctly, The Disciples’ Prayer) is, among other things, a miracle of condensation. In the short compass of sixty-six words, the Master presents a model of praying that touches on every major aspect of prayer. One writer says of it: “The Lord’s Prayer sets the standard for all praying. Everything every man ever needed to understand about prayer is latent in the choice disclosure of these words.” That might sound like an astonishing claim, but it is true. No set of theological volumes, no sermon, no series of writings could ever capture the fullness of everything prayer is, as does this simple yet profound model.

The more we understand this model, and the more we pray in line with it, the more powerful and productive our prayer life will become. Because this communication is so important, the enemy seeks to disrupt it. This is why we face the necessity to constantly refocus our thinking on the subject, and seek to deepen and enhance our prowess in the art of prayer. If the Lord’s Prayer sets the standard for all praying, then we must lay our praying alongside His pattern in order that our prayers might become more and more like His.

Prayer

O God, as I begin this quest for a deeper and more effective prayer life, my heart cries out: “Lord, teach me to pray.” For I know that when I learn to pray, I learn to live—vitally and victoriously. Amen.

Further Study

1Tm 2:1-8; 1Ch 16:11; Lk 18:1; 1Th 5:17

What was Christ’s injunction?

What is Paul’s desire?

A Holistic Gospel

Micah 6:8

In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action,” wrote Dag Hammarskjøld in his book Markings. Indeed, we have a whole gospel that is Christ-centered, holiness-summoned and justice-oriented.

The Christian’s cross consists of two beams: the vertical beam of our relationship to God in His infinite love and forgiveness, and the horizontal beam of our relationship to others in the world. The two cannot be separated. They always intersect on the Christian’s cross.

Holiness without social concern is a soul without a body; social concern without holiness is a body without a soul. One is a ghost, the other a corpse. Only when they are wedded together do we have a living organism.

Suffering and tragedy stalk our world every day. News media bring to our living rooms poignant scenes of the carnage of the innocent, the anguish of refugees, the sad spectacle of the millions who are hungry, homeless and hurting. The brokenness of our world constantly impinges upon us.

The evils of pornography and sexploitation relentlessly invade the mainstream of our culture. The traditional family may soon be added to the endangered species list from the infection of increased divorce rates, acceptance of same-sex marriages and the rise of dysfunctional families. Violence and murder now stalk our schools and churches as well as our streets. Terrorism fuels the fears of people worldwide. The silent holocaust of abortion claims 1.5 million lives each year in the United States and over 50 million worldwide. Our world is neck-deep in trouble.

Our nation was founded upon righteousness and reverence for God. The founders of this nation legislated for each session of Congress to open with prayer and inscribed upon our coins “In God We Trust.” But we have strayed from those principles. We have outlawed prayer in our schools, made legal the killing of innocent unborn children and spawned a generation victimized by drugs, AIDS and the specter of nuclear holocaust.

The Christian faith is not an escape from the realities and problems of the world. The cross was the most eloquent demonstration of caring the world has ever known. Christ calls His followers to the costly implications of the cross, to the biblical authority of a vulnerable discipleship. Where the world is at its worst, there the Christian church ought to be at its best.

Henry Gariepy, Reflecting God NIV Study Bible