St. Nicholas Church in Galway, Ireland, has both a long history and an active present. It’s the oldest church in Ireland, and it provides guidance in a very practical way. The church towers over the town, and its steeple is used by ships’ captains as a guide for navigating their way safely into Galway Bay. For centuries, this church has reliably pointed the way home for sailors.
We can all certainly identify with the need for guidance. In fact, Jesus addressed this very need during His Upper Room Discourse. He said that after His departure the Holy Spirit would play a crucial role in the lives of believers. As part of that role, Jesus promised, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
What a marvelous provision! In a world of confusion and fear, guidance is often needed. We can easily be misdirected by the culture around us or by the brokenness within us (1 John 2:15-17). God’s Spirit, however, is here to help, to direct, and to guide. How thankful we can be that the Spirit of truth has come to give us the guidance that we often so desperately need. Set your course by His life, and you will reach safe harbor.
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand. —Williams
The Spirit is a reliable guide in all of life’s seas.
2 Corinthians 1:12-21
We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom (2 Corinthians 1:12).
Read Acts 23:1. What allowed Paul to speak with such confidence about his words and life?
How are your words and actions a representation of your faith in Jesus? What areas of your life do you need to open up to God’s influence? How will you do that?
In the early 1500s, Martin Luther said faith in Jesus justifies us. But he also stated that faith should permeate all areas of our lives, including business dealings. Two and a half centuries later, a young man named John Woolman took this to heart as he opened a tailor shop. Due to his commitment to Christian love, he chose not to purchase any cotton or dye supplies that had been produced by slaves. Then he would be able to say, with a clear conscience, that he had lived according to holiness and sincerity in all his dealings (2 Corinthians 1:12).
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul defended his integrity among the Corinthians who were trying to undermine his authority by charging him with being insincere, deceptive, and exploitive in his dealings with them. He was forced to protect his character by highlighting several things about his conduct: (1) He related to the Corinthians with holiness and singleness of heart; (2) His conduct among the Corinthians was sincere—his words and actions could stand the closest scrutiny; (3) His conduct was not according to worldly wisdom—it was not self-serving (2 Corinthians 1:12). He related to the Corinthians according to God’s grace, expressing that he was dependent on His power for effectiveness (2 Corinthians 1:21). He wasn’t motivated by popularity or profit but by his genuine love for them. His faith permeated all of his dealings.
We should be careful to let the good news permeate our entire lives and influence everything we do. This may mean standing alone and risking profits in order to live in continuity with our Christian faith. When we talk and behave in a way that’s beyond criticism, we will draw attention to the truthfulness and the power of God’s message.
Acts 13:36-52: Paul and Barnabas are invited to return to the synagogue, and many Gentiles received their message with joy. Others, however, sought to expel them from their region.
Today’s Scripture: Acts 13:47
“This is the commandment that the Lord has given us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, so that all the world may be saved.’”
36 For David served God’s purposes in his own time, and then he died, was buried with his ancestors, and his body rotted in the grave. 37 But this did not happen to the one whom God raised from death. 38-39 All of you, my fellow Israelites, are to know for sure that it is through Jesus that the message about forgiveness of sins is preached to you; you are to know that everyone who believes in him is set free from all the sins from which the Law of Moses could not set you free. 40 Take care, then, so that what the prophets said may not happen to you:41 ‘Look, you scoffers! Be astonished and die!For what I am doing todayis something that you will not believe, even when someone explains it to you!’” 42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to come back the next Sabbath and tell them more about these things. 43 After the people had left the meeting, Paul and Barnabas were followed by many Jews and by many Gentiles who had been converted to Judaism. The apostles spoke to them and encouraged them to keep on living in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath nearly everyone in the town came to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; they disputed what Paul was saying and insulted him. 46 But Paul and Barnabas spoke out even more boldly: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. But since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we will leave you and go to the Gentiles. 47 For this is the commandment that the Lord has given us:‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,so that all the world may be saved.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the Lord’s message; and those who had been chosen for eternal life became believers. 49 The word of the Lord spread everywhere in that region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the leading men of the city and the Gentile women of high social standing who worshiped God. They started a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them out of their region. 51 The apostles shook the dust off their feet in protest against them and went on to Iconium. 52 The believers in Antioch were full of joy and the Holy Spirit.
How did Paul and his companions encourage the believers? Who opposed their message? What did Paul and Barnabas do? Has anyone ever challenged you about your faith? If so, how did you respond?
Lord Jesus, I want to be a light that leads others to you. Help me to be a witness for you and to proclaim boldly your message of love and salvation. Amen.
Beware of refusing to hear the call of God. Everyone who is saved is called to testify to the fact of his salvation. That, however, is not the same as the call to preach, but is merely an illustration which can be used in preaching. In this verse, Paul was referring to the stinging pains produced in him by the compelling force of the call to preach the gospel. Never try to apply what Paul said regarding the call to preach to those souls who are being called to God for salvation. There is nothing easier than getting saved, because it is solely God’s sovereign work— “Look to Me, and be saved . . .” (Isaiah 45:22). Our Lord never requires the same conditions for discipleship that he requires for salvation. We are condemned to salvation through the Cross of Christ. But discipleship has an option with it-”If anyone . . .” (Luke 14:26).
Paul’s words have to do with our being made servants of Jesus Christ, and our permission is never asked as to what we will do or where we will go. God makes us as broken bread and poured-out wine to please Himself. To be “separated to the gospel” means being able to hear the call of God (Romans 1:1). Once someone begins to hear that call, a suffering worthy of the name of Christ is produced. Suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Only one thing remains— “. . .separated to the gospel. . . .” Woe be to the soul who tries to head in any other direction once that call has come to him. The Bible Training College exists so that each of you may know whether or not God has a man or woman here who truly cares about proclaiming His gospel and to see if God grips you for this purpose. Beware of competing calls once the call of God grips you.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” James 1:17
One of my favorite classical works of music is The Creation. But what I like even more than the stirring sounds and moving lyrics is the attitude of composer.
It was the year 1808, and the last note sounded as the symphony’s performance came to a close. Applause thundered through the auditorium in honor of one of the greatest composers of all time, Franz Joseph Haydn. The piece that had been performed was called The Creation. Haydn had written it to glorify God, by telling the Genesis story of creation through music. Audiences all over Europe adored it. And that night, he responded to the crowd’s ovation by pointing upward and exclaiming, “No, No! Not from me, but from thence! From heaven above comes all!”
At that same concert, Haydn’s contemporary Ludwig van Beethoven is said to have knelt and kissed Haydn’s hands in an act of honor. Praised by other great composers of his time and admired by the public as well, he was heaped with fame and adoration. Still, he refused to become prideful of the music God had created through Him. He knew from where it had come.
For sure, not many of us will be musical geniuses like Haydn. But God has given all of us talents and abilities. Some of us have exceptional people skills; some have what it takes to crunch numbers with precision. Others might be able to cook, write prose and poetry, or repair the transmission on a car. These gifts from God are the result of the way He created us—in His image. God is infinitely talented and able to do anything! Being made in “His image” means we have been given gifts from Him to accomplish good things and to contribute to our world.
But here’s the rub. If we’re not careful, the stealth enemy of pride will whisper to you that you are the one who deserves the credit. There is something really seductive about applause and affirmation. Giving the credit to others is not an easy thing to do. But in the end, who would you rather have people admire—you or your God? And even if you are tempted to honestly admit that you’d kinda like it to be you—upon further reflection, my guess is that you really don’t want to go there. And you shouldn’t. Competing with Him for the applause, especially when He deserves it all, is not a good idea. Particularly when we read that, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
How do you honor God with the firstfruits of your harvest today? What does it mean for you to bring your best to God?
John started his new job. When he got his first check at the end of the month, he wanted to celebrate by buying my lunch for me. During our meal, he told me that his first paycheck was his “firstfruits.” With a grateful heart, he wanted to give a significant portion of it back to God.
Moses repeatedly reminded the Jews that God was their Deliverer, the Giver of their land, and the Provider of their material blessings (Deuteronomy 26:1,3,7-10). As God blessed them materially, they were reminded to do four things:
First, they were to return to God “some of the first produce from each crop [they harvested]” (Deuteronomy 26:2). This gift was their personal act of thanksgiving, acknowledging that God was their Provider (Deuteronomy 26:3-4). It was also their public act of worship, as they placed the offering on the altar (Deuteronomy 26:4), “[bowing] to the ground in worship before Him” (Deuteronomy 26:10).
Second, they were to tell the story of their redemption. They were nobodies, nomads, and slaves. But God made them into a great nation and gave them a land to call their own, a land of plenty (Deuteronomy 26:5-9).
Third, they were to celebrate, rejoice, and enjoy the good things God had given to them (Deuteronomy 26:11). God wanted them to enjoy it all: “Rejoice . . . because the LORD your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 12:7).
Finally, they were to be generous and share their material blessings with the poor (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). Knowing their selfish hearts (Deuteronomy 15:11), Moses reminded them to “remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration” (Deuteronomy 26:11).
God has given us plenty of things to enjoy, and to share. We also have a story of redemption to tell—proclaiming who our God is, how great and good, gracious and generous He is.
Are You Listening to God?
From: My Utmost For HIs Highest
They said to Moses, ’You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’ `—Exodus 20:19
We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God— we simply don’t listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them— not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Once we realize we have constantly been showing disrespect to God, we will be filled with shame and humiliation for ignoring Him.
“You speak with us, . . . but let not God speak with us . . . .” We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”
Am I constantly humiliating God by ignoring Him, while He lovingly continues to treat me as His child? Once I finally do hear Him, the humiliation I have heaped on Him returns to me. My response then becomes, “Lord, why was I so insensitive and obstinate?” This is always the result once we hear God. But our real delight in finally hearing Him is tempered with the shame we feel for having taken so long to do so.