The Daily Encouraging Word Devotional
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“‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom’…Jesus said…‘Today you will be with Me in Paradise.’” Lk 23:42-43 NKJV
Author Charles Swindoll writes: “If ever there was a deathbed conversion, that was it. The thief lived his entire life a sinner, a hoodlum…in no way did he prove himself worthy…so what had he done to receive eternal life? What did Jesus accept? Faith—simple, unadulterated, unproved faith in Christ. That’s all God requires and all we can offer. The snapshot of Jesus’ life the thief saw, convinced him He was the Son of God. Their dialogue teaches us three important truths: (1) No one is ever too far gone. Think of someone you’ve written off…‘Oh, they’ll never come to know Christ. I’ve tried everything…he’s never going to respond.’ When you’re tempted to think anyone is beyond the reach of grace, remember the criminal on the cross. (2) Your real message is your life. Socrates once called words ‘stupid things.’ When your life draws the attention of lost people, you have sufficient proof to back up the words you use. When you let God do the work in their lives, and yours, you’ll be amazed how He brings the appropriate words. (3) All God requires and accepts is simple faith. If you’re working hard to earn your way into the kingdom…you’re on the wrong path. Think about it—how many works will be enough? When salvation is by faith, all the work and all the glory are God’s. Never doubt your acceptance into His family when you come His way. The thief didn’t doubt…He didn’t have to make any promises. He believed with all his heart, and was saved.” You can be too!
“Thorns…shall it bring forth to thee.” Ge 3:18
Heaven’s answer to a thorn-cursed creation was a thorn-crowned Savior. But notice something important. God didn’t remove the thorns; He decided to use them for His redemptive purposes. That’s why we each get: (3) A custom-designed thorn. Here’s how Paul describes his thorn: “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me…For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Co 12:7-10). The word “buffet” means “to render blow, after blow, after blow.” Does that describe your life at the moment? If Paul’s experience is anything to go by, the Christian life is a series of blessings and buffetings. And the God who promises the first, permits the second. Why? To make sure we live our lives dependent on Him. Look what God used to make sure Paul relied totally on Him: “Infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distresses.” Where do you find strength to handle such a catalog of complaints? From God—and God alone. You say, “I want to be more fruitful in the service of the Lord.” That happens when the thorny situations in life drive us closer to God!
In Scripture there are three thorns that paint a picture of redemption. Let’s look at them and see what we can learn. (1) A thorn-cursed creation. When Adam and Eve sinned, God said, “Cursed is the ground for your sake…thorns…it shall bring forth for you…In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground” (vv. 17-19 NKJV). Everything changed for us in that moment. Roses began to grow thorns, fellowship with God was broken, and man who was born to live forever began to die. It was tragic, but God had a solution. (2) A thorn-crowned Savior. “When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head” (Mt 27:29 NKJV). The curse that fell in a garden was lifted in a garden! When God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He placed an angel with a flaming sword at the gate to prevent them from ever reentering it. But at the cross Christ, the last Adam, was cut down by the sword of God’s judgment, becoming our Savior and substitute, and securing our salvation. Now we can reenter God’s presence. What did Adam lose? Fellowship with God, immortality, and sinless perfection. At the cross Christ reclaimed and restored all these to us. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2Co 5:17 NKJV). Notice the words, “in Christ.” Thirty-one times in the New Testament we read these same words. That’s one for every day of the month. Rejoice! God loves and accepts you “in Christ.”
“Being Christian doesn’t cover up bad work.” Col 3:25 TM
John Ortberg writes: “My friend Andy Chan headed up the placement office for Stanford School of Business, helping graduates find work. He says that some day he wants to write a book called The Myth of Passion. This is the myth that somewhere out there is the perfect job, the idealized calling that fits my soul the way a key fits into a lock. And if I could just find that job, torrents of passion would cascade out of my heart like water going over Niagara Falls.” We have this romanticized idea that we will find “job-love at first sight.” But what if you are in a job that doesn’t excite you? Ortberg writes: “Passion for our work is not usually a subterranean volcano waiting to erupt…It is a muscle that gets strengthened a little each day as we show up—as we do what is expected of us, and then some.” Paul wrote: “Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn’t cover up bad work” (vv. 22-25 TM). Maybe it would help to put a sign up on your desk: “For God’s sake—do your best!” Why? For two reasons: (1) Because you represent Christ in the workplace. (2) When you are faithful in small things, He will promote you to greater things (Mt 25:21).
“Be…slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Jas 1:19 NIV
Here’s how to control your anger: (1) Think before you react. Our reactions are often based more on feelings than facts. Someone says or does something, and we suddenly feel angry and assume they “made” us feel that way. No, you made yourself angry by telling yourself, “Who do they think they are?” “I don’t have to take that.” “I’ll show them who’s in charge!” Your self-talk triggered your anger. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” To break anger’s negative cycle, practice saying to yourself, “Stop!” Then don’t react until you ask the person to clarify their words or actions. Say, “I want to understand. Please explain what you meant by…” By listening to understand, you interrupt your anger build-up and gain self-control. (2) Don’t “speak your mind” when you’re angry. An old Irish poem says, “We’re constantly hearing O’Flannagan say, ‘I gave him a piece of my mind.’ And it isn’t surprising with so much gone, that so little remains behind!” The Bible says, “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do” (Jas 3:5 TLB). You won’t find a receptive audience when you’re enraged; people will just resist or discount your accusations and get angry in response. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Pr 15:1 NIV). Take a breather, and try a gentle response when you’re calm. (3) Avoid angry people. Like a bad virus, they infect you, especially if you have anger issues. “Don't hang out with angry people; don't keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious—don’t get infected” (Pr 22:24-25 TM).