The Daily Encouraging Word Devotional
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“Lord, teach us to pray.” Lk 11:1
Overhearing Jesus pray moved one of His disciples to say, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It’s unlikely Jesus intended to teach them a rote prayer since He’d just said, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again” (Mt 6:7 NLT). His answer was more than a sample formula-prayer. He was teaching them powerful, effective principles for praying. Let’s see how we can benefit from them. William Barkley said, “The Lord’s Prayer has two major parts: the first for God’s benefit, the second for ours. Honor the first part, and the second is guaranteed.” Part one begins with “Our Father.” It’s intended for His family, collectively as well as individually. He used the plural words “our…us…we” to indicate prayer is a cooperative exercise where we pray with and for each other, not just for and by ourselves. It also teaches us the power of agreeing together in prayer (See Mt 18:19). Before asking for anything we’re to acknowledge God’s fatherhood, because prayer is: (1) A matter of relationship. It’s the Father and His children in session; those who are redeemed through faith in the blood of His only begotten Son. That’s the welcome mat under your feet when you pray. It’s also: (2) A matter of submission. Jesus’ disciples understood that fatherhood meant headship and authority. Prayer isn’t an attempt to get God to agree with your will, it’s aligning yourself with His Word and will. He’s a promise-keeper, not an indulgent parent.
“His…riches…in the saints.” Eph 1:18 NKJV
Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus that they might know what God called them to do, and understand the “riches” He had invested in them. Think about this: (1) God knows what He’s invested in you. He doesn’t redeem you one day and take you to heaven the next. He calls and equips you to fulfill a certain purpose in this world. Christ taught that some of us are five-talent people, some are two-talent people, and some are one-talent people (See Mt 25:15). That’s why it’s a mistake to draw comparisons. It’s not what you have that determines your reward, but what you do with what you have. It’s when you bury your talent because you’re afraid to risk and fail, that you get into trouble with God. (2) God protects what He’s invested in you. Do we sometimes disobey God? Yes. Does He discipline us? Yes. And your response to Him can either lengthen or shorten your season of discipline. But does God abandon us? Never! “God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Ro 11:29 NLT). (3) God expects a return on what He’s invested in you. When you get to the end of your life, what will you have to show for it? God gave you time, talent, and treasure. Are you using them selfishly, or are you using them to serve Him and bless others? “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive…according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2Co 5:10 NKJV). The songwriter put it this way: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
“Keep your tongue from evil. “ Ps 34:13 NIV
Did you hear about the three women who decided to confess their weaknesses to each other? The first confessed to drinking too much. The second confessed to being jealous of a friend’s good looks. The third said nothing, so the other two pressed her and asked, “Okay, what’s your weakness?” Finally she answered, “It’s gossip, and I can’t wait to get out of here and talk about you two!” Now let’s get serious. The Bible has strong words when it comes to the subject of gossip: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Pr 13:3 NIV). “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (Jas 1:26 NIV). “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil” (1Pe 3:10 NIV). Gossip is like mud thrown against a wall—it may not stick but it leaves a dirty mark. And that mark can last a lifetime! So before you take aim, check your target. Ask yourself how much damage you’ll inflict, and how you’ll feel about it afterwards. Solomon said, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Pr 18:21 NIV). Did you get that? You will “eat your words.” You’ll reap the harvest you sow, good or bad. Bottom line: if you’re looking for faults, look in the mirror. When you work on your own shortcomings you’ll have no time left to gossip about anybody else’s.
“We have a good conscience, in all things.” Heb 13:18 NKJV
Fire alarms have an internal switch triggered by a beam of light. As long as the light is received unbroken by the photosensitive receiver, the detector is quiet. But if smoke, moisture, or an insect obstructs the beam for even a split second, the alarm sounds. Paying attention to that alarm can make the difference between life or death. And your conscience works on the same principle. When sin obstructs the connection between you and God, your conscience signals that something’s wrong. At that moment you should thank God for helping you to feel good about feeling bad. Only a fool would turn off the alarm or develop the ability to sleep through it. While certain things aren’t “wrong” in themselves, they may be wrong for you because of the future God has in mind. That means there are things others can do that you can’t. So instead of being stubborn, rejoice in the knowledge that God has great things in store for you. A French proverb says, “There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.” Listening to your conscience will keep you from going the wrong way. And if you decide to plow on regardless, your conscience will keep you from being at ease with your decision. Always ask yourself this question and you’ll make the right decision: “How will doing this affect my confidence toward God?” The Bible says, “If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we…do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1Jn 3:21-22 NKJV).
“The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.” Jn 18:19 NKJV
If Jesus “can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” can He be embarrassed by our actions and attitudes? (See Heb 4:15.) How embarrassing when Mary and Joseph interrupted Him as a twelve-year-old boy sitting in the temple confounding its best scholars. They took Him away, saying, “We thought we’d lost you. You had us worried to death” (See Lk 2:48). How embarrassing to stand up in your home church and announce that you’re the Messiah, then have people you grew up with march you out of town and try to throw you off a cliff (See Lk 4:29). How embarrassing when He told Jairus that his dead daughter was merely sleeping, and those in the house “laughed him to scorn” (Mt 9:24). Now think about this. When the high priest asked Jesus about His doctrine, He replied, “Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me” (Jn 18:21 NKJV). Whereupon one of the officers standing next to Jesus slapped Him in the face. How embarrassing! But the supreme embarrassment in the life of Jesus may well have been when the high priest asked Him not about His doctrine, but about His disciples. Where were they? Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the rest ran for cover. What could He say? So here’s the question: Is your character, your conduct and your commitment to Christ a source of joy to Him, or an embarrassment? Gandhi said, “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, all of India would be Christian today.” When it comes to doctrine you may stand tall—but when it comes to discipleship, where do you stand?