A Worthy Life

A Worthy Life


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Titus 1:15-2:1

Nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are defiled. Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. Titus 1:15-16

THE SCENE: Glamorous Los Angeles, California.

The place: The Academy Awards ceremony at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where an Oscar is being handed out for best actor in a motion picture.

Thunderous applause breaks out as Howard Handsome wins the award for Best Actor. He climbs the steps to the platform, takes the Oscar, kisses it, and raises it over his head in victory.

“Thank you, Hollywood, for this fabulous tribute,” Howard intones as the commotion dies. “I’d like to thank my fellow actors whom I treated like dirt as we worked together on this film; my director; my live-in girlfriend, Susie Stunning; and, most of all (Howard pauses for dramatic effect), I’d like to thank God for making all this happen.”

Stop action! Wait a minute! What’s wrong with this picture? A man who has just admitted to mean-spiritedness, lying, and immorality is thanking God for making all this happen? I don’t think so. God does want to be part of our life, but he doesn’t want to be part of our sin.

Statements like those made by the fictitious Howard Handsome are sometimes made by people who want to justify their actions by trying to put God’s seal of approval on them. Sometimes they’re made by people who have totally lost touch with their conscience because of the overwhelming number of bad decisions they’ve made. “They are despicable and disobedient,” the Bible says, “worthless for doing anything good” (Titus 1:16).

Of course, movie stars and sports figures are not the only ones whose consciences can become dull and useless. That can happen with anyone’s conscience. If you deny your conscience often enough and suppress its warnings, you could someday come to the point where you can no longer tell the difference between right and wrong.

That doesn’t have to happen, though. The way to prevent it is to listen to God when he pricks your conscience. Obey him when he convicts you. Repent when you know you’ve done something wrong, and you’ll keep your conscience clean-and sharp! Then you can say with Paul, “I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and everyone else” (Acts 24:16).

REFLECT: What kinds of things do people do to dull their consciences? When was the last time you felt a pang of conscience? Did you heed its warning or ignore it? How can you be more sensitive to your conscience in the future?

PRAY: “Lord, keep my eyes open and my conscience sharp. I don’t want to fall in the way of sin and live a life unworthy of you.”

Full-Moon Faithfulness

Full-Moon Faithfulness


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Psalm 57:1-11

[God’s] faithfulness reaches to the skies. Psalm 57:10, NIV

Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. Lamentations 3:23

DID THE SUN come up this morning?

“Don’t be ridiculous,” you answer. “Of course it did!”

Well, are the rivers still running to the sea today?

“What kind of question is that?” you might say.

Have you floated off into the atmosphere yet?

“Of course not!” is your likely response. “What is your problem?”

Those are pretty silly questions, aren’t they? Crazy, right? Absurd! The sun rises every morning. The rivers run constantly to the sea. Gravity holds you firmly on the ground all the time. Nobody even has to think about such things.

Right. You can count on Halley’s comet to streak across the heavens every seventy-seven years. You can count on the seasons coming and going every year. You can count on a full moon appearing in the sky every 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes. Because faithfulness is built into God’s creation. And faithfulness is built into God’s creation because God is faithful. His creation reflects his nature.

We should reflect God’s nature, too. God wants us to be faithful. He wants friends to be faithful to each other. He wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other. He wants his children to be faithful to him because he knows that faithfulness is an important part of any good relationship.

Being faithful means keeping one’s promises, being someone others can count on. That description fits God. Does it fit you, too?

REFLECT: Faithfulness is built into God’s creation because God is faithful. Where can you see God’s faithfulness reflected in his creation?

Who are your most faithful friends? Are you faithful in your relationship with God? with friends? with others? In what ways can you be more faithful?

ACT: After dark tonight go outside and notice what phase the moon is in. Is it full? half? just a sliver? Take a few minutes under the night sky (unless it’s raining) to talk to God and thank him for his faithfulness to you. (You may even want to pray the words of Psalm 57.)

PRAY: “God, I know you’ll always be faithful to me. Thank you for your faithfulness when_________. Help me to be faithful to you today when __________.”

Washing Feet

Washing Feet


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: John 13:1-5

[Jesus] poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him. John 13:5

YOU’VE HEARD THE story before. They arrived in groups of two or three, talking loudly, laughing uproariously. They were Jesus’ disciples: men of the sea, men of the soil, and a couple of men of the sword. They entered the second-floor room with the low ceiling, where they had occasionally met before.

By the time Jesus entered the room, they were already uncomfortable. Though no one spoke of it, everyone in the room faced the same problem: Who would wash their feet?

You see, the roads and alleys these men traveled on their way to this “upper room” were not paved. Their feet were caked with the mud, dirt, and sweat of their travels. Usually the host of a banquet would provide a slave-equipped with a pitcher of water, a pan, and a towel-at the door of his home to wash the feet of the guests as they arrived. Though no one said anything, all had noticed that there was no servant to wash their feet.

The table in the center of the room was surrounded by cushioned couches, and the head of each couch was pushed against the table, like spokes in a wheel. The table was spread with plates and cups, and the fragrance of roasted lamb and herbs and fresh bread mingled with the odor of their unwashed feet.

So Jesus started to wash the feet of his disciples. Tenderly, he washed the feet of James and John and the others. He even washed the feet of Judas.

Jesus knew that Judas had made arrangements to betray him. But he washed Judas’s feet anyway. He treated Judas kindly and lovingly, even though he knew the terrible thing Judas planned to do to him.

It’s easy to be kind to those who are kind to us. Everybody agrees that treating nice people kindly is a good thing. But kindness is right even when it isn’t easy.

“If you are kind only to your friends,” Jesus said, “how are you different from anyone else? Even the pagans do that” (Matthew 5:47). But Jesus said we are to be kind even when it’s hard because kindness is right-whether it’s easy or not.

REFLECT: Have you missed any opportunities to be kind to someone recently? If so, is it too late to be kind to that person? Can you think of five different ways to show kindness to someone today? Remember that kindness has very little to do with the person you’re being kind to and everything to do with what you are like.

ACT: Keep a towel (like the towel Jesus used to wash the disciples’ feet)… this week to remind you to be kind to everyone. Or go out of your way to be “a servant” to your family this week.

PRAY: “God, thank you that you’ll help me follow through on being kind to _________ today.”

Playing the Waiting Game

Playing the Waiting Game


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:1-2

Accept life with humility and patience, generously making allowances for each other because you love each other. Ephesians 4:2, Phillips

THE LITTLE TYKE shuffled to his bed, his pajama-clad feet making only the slightest noise on the hardwood floor. He knelt beside the bed and closed his eyes tight, his fingers squeezed together in a tight clasp.

“Dear God,” the youngster said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get in trouble.” He paused. “Mommy says I need patience. She says I need to ask you to help me. So God, please give me patience so I won’t pester Mommy so much.”

The boy paused again. Then he opened his eyes and looked upward, as if he were looking at the ceiling. “Well, God,” he said, “I’m waiting!”

It can be hard to be patient. It doesn’t come naturally, does it? After all, that’s why we have fast food; instant coffee; express lanes; rapid tax returns; quick-drying paint, nail polish, and correction fluid; “speedy” printing; overnight delivery services; “Zip” Drives; and Jiffy Lubes. We hate to wait. And sometimes our impatience annoys other people and gets us in trouble. Like when you try to move a big school project before the glue dries. Or when you cut in front of someone in line. Or when you yell at your best friend and hurt his or her feelings because you wanted to be first in line when tickets to the Counting Cannibals concert went on sale, and because your friend just had to have an emergency appendectomy, you ended up fourth in line!

But no matter how hard it is, no matter how few people seem to have it, patience is a virtue. It’s a good thing to have. In fact, it’s necessary if you want to do right and please God, because a person who is patient reflects the image of God, who is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15) and “patient with you” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).

God also tells us to “Be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). So what are you waiting for? Start being patient. And do it right now!

REFLECT: When are you most patient? When are you most impatient? Do you need more patience? How can you develop more patience? Remember that patience is a virtue and a fruit of the Holy Spirit. If you have experienced salvation through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you, and patience will show in your life as you let the Spirit control you day by day.

PRAY: “God, help me to accept life with humility and patience. Help me to patiently make allowances for others because of your love for them and my love for them, especially for_________.”

“Insulating” Yourself

“Insulating” Yourself


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Psalm 119:9-11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11, NIV

IF YOU READ yesterday’s devotional reading, you learned about a thirteen-year-old diabetic named Bailey. When Bailey first discovered that she had diabetes, she learned that because her body was no longer producing insulin, she would have to give herself shots of insulin. Without the insulin, her body could not convert her food into the energy she needs to do the things thirteen-year-olds like to do.

Every morning before she eats breakfast, she gets a needle and puts first one kind of insulin into the needle (the kind of insulin that acts quickly) and then another kind (which acts slowly). Then she pokes the needle into either her arm or leg. Then, in the evening, before supper, she has to do the same thing again.

If she forgets or injects too little insulin into her system, it will not be long before she will begin to feel the effects. She will begin to lose energy, and eventually her health will be affected. If she gives herself too much insulin, she’ll become weak and shaky, and eventually dizzy and confused. If something isn’t done, she could go into a coma and even die.

Every day for the rest of her life (unless a cure is discovered), she will have to spend some time in the morning and evening to make sure she has in her system the insulin necessary to be healthy and active. It’s not fun, but as long as she watches her diet and gives herself shots every morning and evening, she’ll live a pretty normal life.

Once more Bailey’s routine isn’t much different from what it means to live the Christian life. There are certain things we must do if we want to obey God’s commands and live a pure life. Just as Bailey must give herself a shot of insulin every morning and evening, we’ll be better able to live a pure life if we give ourself daily shots of God’s Word, reading it every day, studying it, and hiding it in our heart as a sort of “spiritual insulin” to keep us from sinning against God.

“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules” (Psalm 119:9). Obeying God’s Word is the only way a young person-any person, for that matter-can stay pure.

REFLECT: God has a prescription for living a healthy Christian life. Read the first sixteen verses of Psalm 119, and underline the prescriptions (directions) God gives for being a healthy Christian. Then begin today to read God’s Word every day. (Reading a Psalm a day might be a good way to start.) Remember that a daily dose of God’s Word is a good way to vaccinate yourself against impurities.

PRAY: “Thank you, God, for providing the ‘spiritual insulin’ I need to keep from sinning against you. Help me to develop the habit of reading your Word each day.”

Mountain Do’s and Don’ts

Mountain Do’s and Don’ts


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Exodus 34:27-34
The Lord said to Moses, “Write down all these instructions.” Exodus 34:27

MOSES SET HIS chisel down on the table and wiped the sweat from his forehead. A large slab of stone sat on the wobbly wooden table, and another stone, already chiseled in great detail, sat beside it.

“Is there a problem, Moses?” The voice of God could be heard in the thin mountain air inside the tent, though Moses sat alone.

“Well, it’s . . . just. . . it’s all these instructions for building the tabernacle.”

“Yes,” God answered, his tone urging Moses to go on.

“Well,” Moses ventured, “you say the ark of the covenant has to be overlaid with pure gold, and the utensils on the table have to be pure gold, and the lampstand has to be pure gold. The bells on the priests’ robes have to be pure gold, and the incense has to be pure …”

“Go on,” God said.

“And the olive oil has to be pure, and the gemstones for the high priest’s breastplate have to be flawless . . .”

“Yes,” God said. “You’ve listened very well, Moses.”

“But-,” Moses began.

“You think I’m being too picky,” God said.

“No!” Moses blurted out. “I would never say that!” Then he remembered that God knew everything. “Well,” he said slowly, holding up his thumb and forefinger just a hair’s width apart, “maybe just a little.”

“Moses,” God said, “I am glad you noticed. I am not being picky, but I do want to communicate something to my people through all these rules and requirements. One of the things I want them to understand is that I require purity. I want my tabernacle to show that I require purity. I want my priests to show that I require purity. In fact, much of the law I am giving through you is intended to make it clear that I require purity, from the robes of the priests to the lives of my people.” The voice fell silent, but only for a moment. “Do you understand now, Moses?”

Moses answered quickly. “Oh, yes, Holy One. I understand, really I do.”

“You wish to ask something else?” God asked.

“Yes, Holy One,” Moses answered. He raised his hand timidly in the air, like a schoolboy. “I feel like I should wash my hands before I continue,” he said.

REFLECT: While the conversation above is fictional, it’s a fact that God commands purity. What do God’s commands reveal to you about what matters to God? Are the same things important to you? Why or why not?

PRAY: “Lord, keep me pure as you are pure.”

Where’s Waldo?

Where’s Waldo?


by Rob Shiflet

: Hebrews 12:1-2
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Hebrews 12:2, The Message

DO YOU KNOW where Waldo is? How about Beverly, Martin, Murray, or Stanley? You can even find Elvas if you know where to look.

We’re not talking about the Waldo you look for in picture books. This Waldo is a “where,” not a “who.” So are Beverly, Martin, Murray, and Stanley. Those aren’t the names of people but of places. Waldo is located in the state of Kansas. Beverly is in Massachusetts, Martin is in Czechoslovakia, and Murray is in Utah. You’ll find Stanley in the Falkland Islands and Elvas (not Elvis Presley but the town of Elvas) in Portugal.

If you tried to find those places by trial and error, by roaming around, or even by searching for them on a road map, you’d be looking a long time-and probably wouldn’t ever find some of them! But with a little help from something called a GPS, it would be a snap.

A GPS (Global Positioning System) is an electronic device used by pilots, navigators, and others. A GPS sends a signal to a satellite, which stays in position in space above the earth. The satellite determines where the signal is coming from and reports that information back to the GPS. This whole process is called “getting a fix” on your position. It’s a really handy tool if you’re ever lost in the sky or on the ocean.

Of course, most of us don’t have much need for a GPS. After all, we don’t usually go wandering around in strange places in the Pacific Ocean. But we do need a kind of GPS for our soul. We get kind of lost in all the choices we face and all the decisions we have to make. Sometimes we may lose sight of what’s right and what’s wrong. We end up coming up with bad ideas and making bad decisions.

The answer is to keep our eyes on Jesus, our GPS. He’s been through all this before, and he not only knows what’s right and wrong, he is right because he’s God! If we just keep our eyes on him-by spending time talking to him in prayer, worshiping him alone and with others, and reading his Word every day-a lot of those tough decisions and confusing choices tend to get straightened out. This is not because we’re so smart but because he is.

REFLECT: Spending time with Jesus can sort out a lot of the confusion kids and teens (and adults) go through. When is the best time for you to spend time alone in prayer and Bible reading? Morning? Evening? Some other time?
PRAY: “Jesus, I need your direction every day. Remind me to keep my eyes fixed on you so that I will be less likely to get lost or confused.”


Tom and Becky’s Excellent Adventure

Tom and Becky’s Excellent Adventure


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Psalm 119:97-101

I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:99, NIV

TOM SAWYER AND Becky Thatcher were trapped. They had wandered around in the cave for three days. They had eaten the last little bit of food Tom had saved from the picnic, and they had only a stub of wax left to use for a candle. They had nearly given up hope of ever being found or escaping from the dark, winding passages of the cave when Tom had an idea.

He pulled a wad of kite string out of his pocket and tied one end to a projection in the walls of the cave. Then, unwinding the kite string in his hand, he inched down one dark passageway, continuing only until the end of the string. He tried this again down another passage but reached the end of the string in darkness.

Tom tried a third time, following the string down a cave corridor until he reached the farthest he could go without letting go of the string. He was about to turn back when he glimpsed a far-off speck that looked like daylight. Dropping the line, he groped down the dark passage until he reached the hole, poked his head through it, and saw the familiar shores of the Mississippi River below.

Returning to Becky as fast as he could, he took her with him and retraced his way along the kite line until they both emerged from the cave into the warmth and freedom of daylight!

That story is from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—a classic of American literature by Mark Twain. It also illustrates what the Bible does for us.

You see, a lot of people get lost in life, just like Tom and Becky got lost in the cave. People lose the ability to know which way to go, which way is right. They spend their time wandering and guessing, hoping that they’re right, but not really knowing.

But God’s Word can act for us like the kite string did for Tom and Becky. The psalmist said in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” The Bible shows the right direction because it points us to God. We may still feel lost sometimes and uncertain about what is right or wrong. But if we rely on the Bible, it will be much easier to find-and keep to-the right way.

REFLECT: Would Tom and Becky have escaped the cave if Tom had left the kite string in his pocket? What if he had only used the kite string to find his way down one passage? How might those questions apply to your use of the Bible to find the right way?
ACT: Carry a length of string in your pocket today to remind you how the Bible shows us the right direction.

PRAY: “God, the area of my life that seems most uncertain right now is ____________.

Don’t let me forget to keep talking to you about it and reading your Word to get the insight I need.”

Your True Colors

Your True Colors


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:5-9

Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. Ephesians 5:15, Phillips

SOME SPORTS TEAMS’ emblems or logos make sense. For example, the symbol for the New York Yankees is Uncle Sam’s top hat on the end of a baseball bat. The Chicago Bulls’ mascot is a red bull. The Dallas Cowboys have a lone star (Texas is the Lone Star State) on their helmets.

Other team traditions seem strange, to say the least. Penn State University’s colors are blue and white, but Nitanny Lions-their teams’ names-are neither blue nor white. The Detroit Red Wings? Their emblem is a red automobile tire with wings. And what does a Los Angeles Dodger dodge?

And, of course, some teams have strange mascots. You’ll find everything from a gorilla in Utah (the only one not in a zoo) to a fish in Florida to a creature known as a “Phanatic” in Philadelphia.

But the most interesting thing about many sports teams is not their names, emblems, or mascots, but their fans. They wear hats, wigs, and jerseys. They carry towels and Styrofoam hands with upraised index fingers indicating, “We’re number one.” (How many “Number Ones” can there be?) They paint their faces and their bodies. They wave team pennants. They wear team pins. They sing team songs. They are clearly identified with the team they cheer for, the team they follow closely.

How closely are you identified with God? How do people know you love and serve him? After all, he doesn’t have “team colors” or a team mascot. Oh, you might wear a T-shirt. You may listen to Christian music. You might even carry this book around. (Buy a hundred copies for your friends!)

Those things are OK, but they’re not the main way God wants us to identify with him. He wants us to show we worship him, not by waving pennants or painting our faces, but by the way we live. He wants our behavior to show that we worship him.

That’s why self-control is important to God. When we exercise self-control instead of getting angry, we admit that some things are more important than our petty resentments. When we exercise self-control instead of using profanity, we show that we submit to an authority that’s higher than ourselves. When we exercise self-control instead of using drugs or drinking alcohol or pursuing sexual immorality, we show that we worship God, not our own desires.

That doesn’t mean a Christian T-shirt isn’t OK; it just means that the person inside the T-shirt is what really matters to God.

REFLECT: How closely are you identified with God? How do people know you love and serve him? Do you show, by your self-control, that you’re on his team?

PRAY: “God, let me show I worship you by demonstrating self-control, especially in

In Control

In Control


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:24-27

You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness-righteous, holy, and true. Ephesians 4:24

DOESN’T IT JUST make you mad when


·       you take the dog for a walk and he “walks” on your pant leg or shoe?

·       you call a friend to talk about how much you like this “total fox” in your class and you realize-too late-that you dialed the wrong number and spilled your guts to the “fox”?

·       you forget your lunch and have to eat the food your friends don’t want, like carrot sticks, Spam, and something mushy and gray?

·       you turn on the television to watch your favorite show and it’s being preempted so the president can talk about meeting with people you’ve never heard of in some place you’ve never heard of to discuss something you don’t care about?

·       you realize at noon that you forgot to take off your pajama top before getting dressed for school?


Lots of things can make you mad. Sometimes it can seem like the whole world is just waiting for a chance to get on your nerves. But it’s not.

What is happening, though, is that every day you face a lot of choices that challenge your self-control. Self-control is your ability to control your temper and your actions. It’s not like being double-jointed, though, in that “some people are and some people ain’t.” It’s like any choice between right and wrong: Sometimes you make the right choice (and exercise self-control), and sometimes you don’t.

No matter how many times something or someone gets on your “last nerve,” no matter how often you’re tempted to lose your cool, no matter how much you’d like to blow off some steam, you need to recognize that being self-controlled is a choice you make. And, with God’s help, you’ll be able to choose self-control more and more often.

Self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-23.) If you’re controlled by God’s Spirit, you’ll have self-control. Does that make you a robot? Hardly! You still have the freedom to choose self-control or to blow your cool. Someone won’t “leggo your Eggo”? You can choose what to do: get mad or use self-control. You can heed or ignore the psalmist’s warning, “Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Think about it overnight and remain silent” (Psalm 4:4).

REFLECT: Reread Ephesians 4:24. What do you think it means to be a “new person”? How can that affect your actions? What was the last thing that got you really upset? How did you respond? How could you have responded differently?

PRAY: “Lord, stop me when I start to get angry. Help me to see my choices. And give me the strength to make the right choice.”

Villains ‘R’ Us

Villains ‘R’ Us


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:28-32

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Ephesians 4:31

Captain Hook
Anastasia and Drusilla
Shere Khan

Recognize any of those names? Cruella De Vil, of course, was the totally mean and nasty villainess in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. Scar was little Simba’s evil uncle in The Lion King. Jafar? He plotted against Aladdin, the Genie, and Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin. Captain Hook was out to get Peter Pan. Anastasia and Drusilla, Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters, treated her like dirt. And Shere Khan, the tiger in The Jungle Book, wanted to eat poor Mowgli! Anybody who has seen those animated classics would agree that characters such as Scar and Jafar are evil. But why?

A lot of people today claim that right and wrong don’t exist, that everybody has to decide for himself or herself what’s good or bad. “You’re old enough to know what’s right for you,” they might say. “Don’t let anybody tell you what’s right or wrong. That’s up to you.”

But everybody would agree that wanting to steal and to slaughter innocent little puppies to make fur coats (like Cruella De Vil) is downright nasty, and that engineering your brother’s death and blaming it on your nephew (like Scar in The Lion King) isn’t very nice, either. Those villains are despicable characters because anyone can recognize that their actions and attitudes are evil. Why? Because right and wrong is not up to you or me; it’s already been decided-and decreed-by God himself. He alone has the authority to decide right from wrong, and he has said that murder and hatred and bitterness and rage and anger — and all types of malicious behavior — are wrong.

“Instead,” God says, we are to be self-controlled, “kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). No matter what anyone else may tell you, that’s what’s right!

REFLECT: Do you ever find yourself justifying bitterness, rage, or anger toward someone else? Do you ever say, “I didn’t do anything wrong,” when you really did? Do you tend to be “self-controlled” or “uncontrolled”?

ACT: Suggest that your family rent one of the movies mentioned above. As you watch it, notice the traits of the villains and how much they reflect the things God has called evil.

PRAY: “God, I’m glad that you love me and want to help me even when I feel like a villain. Show me today how to get rid of anything bad I may want to say or do.”

Fruitless Activities

Fruitless Activities


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:10-14

Steer clear of the fruitless activities of darkness; let your lives expose their futility. Ephesians 5:11, Phillips

CHOOSE HOW YOU would respond in each situation.

You’re stranded on a desert island, and you’re desperate to escape. Suddenly a small plane appears, far away on the horizon. You

·       hide in the bushes;

·       cross your fingers and wish the plane to land on your island;

·       start tapping out SOS in Morse code on your teeth;

·       do none of the above.

You want to become a famous singer, touring around the world and performing music for throngs of adoring fans. You

·       quit taking voice lessons;

·       take a vow of silence and live in isolation in Pago Pago;

·       listen to nothing but Yoko Ono records;

·       do none of the above.

You want to develop self-control, knowing that will please God and protect you. You

·       experiment with drugs;

·       get drunk every once in a while;

·       take up cigarette smoking;

·       do none of the above.

Wait a minute! What’s the deal? Why wouldn’t you hide in the bushes or tap out SOS on your teeth if you wanted to be rescued from a desert island? Why wouldn’t you take a vow of silence if you wanted to become a singing sensation or mess around with drugs if you wanted to obey God and develop self-control?

Simple. All of the above would be fruitless. Doing any of those things would accomplish exactly the opposite of what you were shooting for.

That’s right. One of the big problems with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco is that they accomplish the exact opposite of self-control. Those substances tend to take control away from you so that after you’ve begun using drugs, for example, you’re no longer self-controlled, you’re drug-controlled. If you drink too much alcohol, you’re no longer self-controlled, you’re alcohol-controlled. And once you make tobacco use a habit, you’re no longer self-controlled, you’re nicotine-controlled.

That’s what makes those things so dangerous and so undesirable. They’re fruitless activities; they accomplish the opposite of what God commands: self-control.

REFLECT: Some things are wrong because they hinder self-control. What things besides drugs, alcohol, and tobacco hinder self-control? How can you resist or avoid surrendering control of yourself to anything or anyone other than God?

PRAY: “God, show me those things that threaten to take control away from me, and help me, by your Spirit, to avoid them.”

Mission: Control

Mission: Control


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:15-18

Let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Ephesians 5:18

SOME THINGS COME naturally, things like breathing, blinking, sleeping, navel lint, and-if you’re a teenager-zits.

Other things require a little effort-like learning to stand or walk. Like hitting a baseball. Or singing a solo in front of your entire school. Or growing potatoes in your sock drawer (actually, that probably comes naturally to most of us).

Still other things are completely beyond our abilities no matter who we are or how hard we try-like leaping tall buildings in a single bound (only Superman can do that). Like understanding the opposite sex. Like exhibiting self-control.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “What was that? You mean I can’t exhibit self-control no matter how hard I try?”


“Well then,” you say, “what’s the point? Why am I reading all these Bible verses that say, ‘Be self-controlled’ and that talk about controlling my anger or my language or my this or my that? If being self-controlled is beyond my ability, I might as well give up, right?”

Right. Oh, you can control yourself from time to time. Every once in a while, you can wrestle your temper under control and bite your tongue and not give in to your passions by using a little willpower. But you can’t be self-controlled all the time. Nobody can.

“Wha-?” you say. “Well then, I mean, what. . . how . . . uh . . . ?” Take it easy. Don’t blow a brain cell. It’s true, you’ll never succeed in being self-controlled all the time. It’s just not possible. Just like you can’t succeed in being totally pure or loving or righteous all the time. So you might as well give up.

That’s the bad news. But the good news is, you don’t have to. It’s not your job to obey God’s commandments totally under your own power. It’s your job to surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit and, day by day, let him fill you and control you. Then you will obey God’s commands-including his command to be self-controlled. But it won’t be you doing all the work-it’ll be him.

“Oh,” you say. “So I can only be self-controlled if I’m Spirit-controlled.”

To which I would say, “Hey! You’re pretty smart!”

REFLECT: When it comes to self-control, what’s your job and what’s the Holy Spirit’s job? How can you submit—every day, every moment—to God’s Spirit?

PRAY: Begin right now—this moment—to let the Holy Spirit control you by praying this simple prayer: “God, I know I cannot control myself or my passions. I need you to take control of my life through your Holy Spirit. I trust you for salvation and believe that your Spirit fills me. Please remind me to submit every day to his control and, moment by moment, to trust him to live a holy and self-controlled life in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Thinking in New Ways

Thinking in New Ways


by Rob Shiflet

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:17-23

Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. Ephesians 4:23

Look at the arrangement of dots below. Without lifting your pencil, can you draw four straight lines in such a way that at least one line goes through each dot?

How’d you do? It’s impossible, you say? Can’t be done? Think again. It can be done, but it requires breaking out of your usual way of thinking. Did you consider starting your straight lines only on one of the dots, or did you consider the possibility that the straight lines could extend beyond the figure of nine dots?

Try it this way: Beginning with the dot in the lower left corner, draw a straight line diagonally to the top right corner. Next, draw a straight line down from the top right corner, continuing past the dot in the bottom right corner. Then, beginning below the dot at the bottom right, draw a straight line diagonally through the dot in the middle of the bottom row and the far-left dot in the middle row (piercing only two dots) and again continuing past that dot into the space to the left of the top row. Then draw your fourth straight line across the top row of the figure. Phew! You did it!

What’s the point of this exercise? Well, the more you learn about God and his ways, the more you will begin to think in ways that other people just can’t understand. As you learn more and more about God and accept him as the authority over right and wrong, your thoughts and attitudes will begin to change. When others react one way to a certain situation or temptation, you will act and react in a totally different way. When others choose wrong, you will be able to choose right because you know some things that they don’t understand.

If something seems impossible, people think, “Hey, it can’t be done.” Let’s face it-as humans we can be pretty limited in our thinking. But just like the dot exercise, we can be trained to go beyond our limitations. How? By thinking like Christ. First Corinthians 2:16 tells us, “We can understand [spiritual and other truths], for we have the mind of Christ.” With his limitless thinking, the possibilities are endless!

REFLECT: Do your friends ever express surprise about the way you think or the things you do? Do they think differently from you about right and wrong? If so, why? If not, why not?

PRAY: “God, how great it is that you give us a new way of thinking. Help me to develop the same mind as Christ and to act—and react—like he would?”

Jesus in Jeopardy

Jesus in Jeopardy


by Abigail Biggs

Bible Reading: Luke 2:41-52

Jesus returned to Nazareth with [his parents] and was obedient to them.   Luke 2:51

DO YOU THINK Jesus ever got into trouble with his parents? Yup, he sure did. Today’s Bible reading (Luke 2:41-52) is a recorded example of how Jesus got into “hot water” with his parents when he was twelve years old.

Did Jesus ever disobey his parents? No, because the Bible says Jesus never did wrong (1 Peter 2:22), and it would have been wrong for him to disobey his parents.

Do you think it was easy for Jesus to obey his parents? After all, think about it. Jesus was God! The whole universe had been formed by him (Colossians 1:16). He commanded heaven’s angels (Matthew 13:41; 16:27). And he apparently knew, at a very early age, that he had been sent by his Father to do something special (see Luke 2:49). It might have been hard at times for the Lord of the universe to submit to everything his carpenter dad and peasant mom said. Yet, according to the Bible, that’s exactly what Jesus did. He always treated his parents with loving obedience and respect (Luke 2:51; John 19:26-27).

That’s one of the ways you can know that respect of your parents is right. Of course, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out, because the Bible says pretty clearly, “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) and “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do” (Ephesians 6:1). But respect for your parents is not only right because God commands it, it’s right because Jesus respected his parents. Being respectful is being like God himself.

It’s pretty safe to say that you’ll still get in trouble with your parents from time to time; even Jesus did! But make it your goal to obey and respect your parents like Jesus did. That will certainly please God—and might just amaze your parents!

REFLECT: Is it right to show respect for your parents? Why or why not? Do you think it was hard for Jesus to obey and respect his parents? Why or why not? Do you think it’s hard for you to obey and respect your parents? Why or why not? Do you show respect for your parents? If not, why not? If so, how?

PRAY: “Jesus, help me to please you by showing respect for my parents the way you respected and obeyed your parents.”

Building Bridges

Building Bridges


by Chrissy Gordon

Bible Reading: John 17:14-19

As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. John 17:18

YOU’RE PRAYING for a list of people who need to know Christ. You’re taking some leaps of bold faith toward sharing the gospel with them. And you’re chomping at the bit to get started-passing out tracts at the mall, dangling fish symbols from your book bag, and wearing your “Turn or Burn” witnessing T-shirt to school.

There might be nothing wrong with any of those strategies for telling people about Jesus. But if you want to get good at sharing the gospel with friends and fam­ily, you can practice some key relational and communication skills. Your hottest witnessing opportunities are with the people you know well-people with whom you already have a growing, positive relationship. There are inescapably good reasons for building bridges of communication with non-Christians:

1.     God fills you so you can serve people. When God tops you off with his Holy Spirit, he reproduces his supernatural qualities in you-like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23). But he doesn’t jam you full of good fruit just to satisfy you. He builds these qualities in you so you’re equipped to get along with and minister to people.

2.     God planted you among unbelievers. If God’s only purpose for your existence was to save you, he would have yanked you out of your world the moment you trusted Christ. And if he wanted you to spend your life only with other believers, you’d find Bible verses instructing Christians to huddle together in isolation. But after you trusted Christ, God left you plunk in the middle of a school and community full of non-Christians. He planted you there so you can influence them-and invite them to a personal relationship with Christ.

3.     Your unbelieving friends really want to know God. They might not act like it, but your non-Christian friends have a mighty inner desire to know their Maker. God wired that desire into their hearts when he created them. Study your friends long enough and you’ll realize that many of their activities are frantic attempts to fill their inner emptiness. And as you get to know your friends better, you’ll spot their inner needs.

You might be tempted at times to pull away from your non-Christian friends be­cause you don’t want to be associated with some of their choices. But how can you reach people if you’re never with them?

REFLECT: How does God help you with the task of telling people about him?

PRAY: Ask God today to help you begin to build bridges of relationship to those around you who need to know him.

Best by Joyce Meyer

Best by Joyce Meyer

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ~James 1:17

You were created to have a deep, intimate, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and the very best life He came to offer.

Acts 10:34 (AMPC) says, …God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons. This means His promises apply equally to everyone who follows Him.

Yes, you can have the very best God offers, but you can’t give up when times get tough. If you’ll trust God and follow Him wholeheartedly, you will discover your best life in Him.

God has a great purpose for you, and I urge you not to settle for anything less. He wants to bless you and give you a life that will not only thrill you, fulfill you, and bring you deep joy and sweet satisfaction but also challenge you, stretch you and help you discover that, in Christ, you’re stronger than you think.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I want every good thing You have for my life! Help me to persevere through life’s difficulties and seek You with my whole heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A New Thing by Joyce Meyer

A New Thing by Joyce Meyer

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. ~Isaiah 43:19

Do you ever get really tired of doing the same old thing all the time? You want to do something different but you either don’t know what to do, or you are afraid to do the new thing you are thinking about doing?

You often get into ruts. You do the same thing all the time even though you are bored with it because you are afraid to step out and do something different. You would rather be safe and bored than excited and living on the edge. There is a certain amount of comfort in sameness you may not like it, but you are familiar with it.

God has created you to need and crave diversity and variety. You require freshness and newness in your life. As this year and this day come to an end, make a quality decision to step out into the new thing God has for you. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for the new and exciting things You have for me this coming year! Help me to boldly step out and obey what You put in my heart. I know that Your plans always lead to joy, fulfillment, and good things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Exceedingly, Abundantly, Above & Beyond by Joyce Meyer

Exceedingly, Abundantly, Above & Beyond by Joyce Meyer

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us. ~Ephesians 3:20 (AMP)

When I pray about or simply meditate on all the people who are hurting, I have a strong desire to help them all. I sometimes feel that my desire is bigger than my ability, and it is—but it is not bigger than God's ability! 

When the thing we are facing in our lives or ministries looms so big in our eyes that our mind goes "tilt," we need to think in the spirit. In the natural, many things are impossible. But in the supernatural, spiritual realm, with God nothing is impossible. 

God wants us to believe for great things, make big plans, and expect Him to do things so great it leaves us with our mouths hanging open in awe. James 4:2 tells us we have not because we ask not! We can be bold in our asking. 

Sometimes in my meetings, people will approach the altar for prayer and sheepishly ask if they can request two things. I tell them they can ask God for all they want to, as long as they trust Him to do it His way, in His timing. It is untold what people can do—people who don't appear to be able to do anything. 

God does not usually call people who are capable. If He did, He would not get the glory. He frequently chooses those who, in the natural, feel as if they are in completely over their heads but who are ready to stand up on the inside and take bold steps of faith as they get direction from God. 

We usually want to wait until we "feel ready" before we step out, but if we feel ready, then we tend to lean on ourselves instead of on God. 

Know your weaknesses and know God—know His strength and faithfulness. Above all else, don't be a quitter. 

Prayer Starter: Oh, Lord, help me to make you bigger in my eyes and believe You can do the impossible in my life. Help me to live with “God confidence,” and trust You to do things that are above and beyond what I even think I deserve. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bridle Your Tongue by Joyce Meyer

Bridle Your Tongue by Joyce Meyer

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. ~James 3:2

According to this scripture, the one thing proving our level of spiritual maturity isn’t how religious we are—whether we can quote Scripture, or the good works we do—it is the words from our mouths. 

James 1:26 says, If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren) (AMP). 

No matter how religious you think you are, the true test proving your spirituality is whether you bridle your tongue or not. Bridle means “to restrain or control.” If we aren’t controlling our tongues, we are not operating in the level of maturity God wants us to have. 

Prayer Starter: Holy Spirit, please help me with my words today. I can’t do it on my own, but with Your help, I can speak words of life and encouragement to those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.