Choosing Between Two Masters


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 10,11; 2 Chronicles 9, Romans 6

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 6:15-23

 

I read a story today from John Kenneth Galbraith’s autobiography, A Life in Our Times, about the devotion of his family’s housekeeper Emily Gloria Wilson.  On one particular afternoon, Mr. Galbraith told Ms. Wilson to hold all of his calls while he took a nap.  During his nap, President Lyndon Johnson called and asked to speak to Mr. Galbraith.  Ms. Wilson explained to the President that Mr. Galbraith was sleeping and asked not to be disturbed, but the President insisted that she wake him.  To this, she responded, “No, Mr. President.  I work for him, not you.”  Ms. Wilson had a choice in who her master was going to be.  She could choose to work for Mr. Galbraith or she could choose to work for the President, but she knew that she could not do both at the same time.  She had to make a choice, and once she did there was nothing that would get her to change her direction.

In today’s key passage, the Apostle Paul talks about choosing your master.  See, all of us have a master whether we know it or not.  Each of us has a choice to make in life – we can either be a slave to sin or we can be a slave to righteousness.  We can choose to make God our master or we can choose to make sin our master.  Moreover, while we are free to make our own choice between these two masters, we are not free to change the consequences of our choice.  If we choose sin as our master, the only possible outcome is death, and if we choose God as our master, the only possible outcome is eternal life in Christ Jesus.  (Vs. 23)  Before we were saved, sin was our master.  We were enslaved by the guilt and condemnation of our sinful thoughts, words, and actions.  When we chose to follow Christ and “wholeheartedly obey” Him (Vs. 17), we were freed from the chains of slavery to sin and became enslaved by righteousness.

Many people like to believe that there is a third option here.  They do not like the idea of being a slave to sin, but they also do not like the idea of being a slave to God.  These are the same people who claim there is no God, or believe they can get to Heaven with their works, or think that Jesus was a “good man” but not the Son of God.  They like to believe that there is a middle ground between these two options – a place where they can sometimes choose God and other times choose sin.  The simple fact, however, is that we only have two choices.  There is no middle ground and there is no way to be neutral about this topic.  We must choose to serve either God or sin.  Just like Ms. Wilson, we must realize that we cannot choose to serve both masters.  My question for each of you today is a simple one – who is your master going to be?  Will you choose God, or will you choose sin?

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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How Suffering Produces Hope


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8; Psalm 136; Romans 5

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 5:1-11

 

I wish I were better at golf.  I have played since I was a child, but despite my efforts, I have never been very good.  For the most part, I can play without embarrassing myself too badly or slowing down play for everyone behind me, but I am certainly never going to win any tournaments.  The problem with my golf game is really a matter of commitment.  I do not spend nearly enough time practicing to ever be very good.  I am sure that if I got some lessons and spent countless hours practicing the different elements of the game, I could probably improve dramatically.  Who knows, with enough time and practice, I might even become quite good.  The problem is that I simply do not want to expend that much time and energy on the sport, even though I know that the only way to ever get better is with extensive practice.  In this regard, most things in life work a lot like golf.  In most matters, if we want to improve we need to practice.  If I want to be a better golfer, I need to golf more.  If I want to be a better cook, I need to cook more.  This concept is also true with character.  If I want to become more patient, I need to endure times when my patience is tested.  If I want to worry less, I need to endure times when I am tempted to worry.  If I want to have more faith, I need to endure times when my faith is tested.

This concept is carried over in today’s key passage as Paul explains how suffering produces hope.  He says, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Vs. 3-4)  Most people do not like to suffer, but as Paul explains, we can actually rejoice in our suffering not because we like pain, but because we know that God is using our suffering to produce hope.  Imagine if you will a flow chart that begins with suffering.  The suffering that we face in terms of life’s difficulties or attacks from the enemy produces perseverance in much the same way that practicing golf makes you a better golfer.  The more we suffer, the more perseverance we build.  This perseverance strengthens our character by building our trust and our faith in God, because the more we suffer, the more we must lean on God’s strength to get through difficult times.  As our faith and trust in God builds, our hope will also build as we gain greater and greater confidence in our future.  In this way, though it might sound counterintuitive, suffering produces hope.

The next time you face suffering, think of it in these terms.  Instead of wondering why God is allowing you to suffer, thank Him for giving you the opportunity to build your perseverance, character, and hope.  Thank Him for helping you grow and mature.  Thank Him for loving you enough to give you hope.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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God’s Promises to Us


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Chronicles 6,7; Psalm 135; Romans 4

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Chronicles 7:11-22

 

When the temple was finally completed and the Ark of the Covenant was moved into place, Solomon dedicated the temple to God.  He went to the Lord in prayer and asked Him repeatedly to hear the prayers of the Israelites.  He asked God to hear their prayers now, as well as in the future.  Through good times and bad, through times of obedience and times of sin, Solomon’s request was that God would always hear their prayers.  In today’s key passage, God provides an answer to Solomon’s prayer of dedication.  The Bible says, “When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, the LORD appeared to him at night”. (Vs. 11-12)  While the Bible does not specify how much time had passed between Solomon’s prayer and God’s response, it reasonably could have been months or perhaps even years given that Solomon needed to finish the palace.  While we are not sure of the exact timeframe here, it is important to note that regardless of how much time had elapsed, Solomon had to wait for God’s answer.  Fortunately for Solomon, the wait was well worth it because God told him, “I have heard your prayer”. (Vs. 12)

There are two specific parts of Gods response to Solomon that I would like to focus on today.  First, God said, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (Vs. 14)  While originally God was speaking about the Israelites, it is clear that He is talking about His people, who are called by His name.  As Christians, we are His people, who are called by His Son’s name.  In Gods own words here, He is promising that if we humble ourselves and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will always hear our prayer.  We do not have to wonder if He hears us, because the answer is always yes!  Secondly, God said, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (Vs. 14-15)  Originally, God was talking about the physical temple that Solomon built.  Today, however, because of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, each one of us can approach God through His Son and the “temple” of God is each one of us.  In 1 Corinthians 3:16, we read, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 6:19 we read, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own”.  Because our bodies are God’s temples, we can rest knowing that His eyes and heart will always be with us.

In today’s key passage, God reveals to us two important truths that we must always hold in our hearts.  God will always hear our prayers, and God’s eyes and heart will always be with us.  With promises like that from the Creator of the universe Himself, what can possibly stand against us?  What can we possibly have to worry about in this life?  What can we possibly fear?  Think about these truths today.  Think about what they mean to your life.  Think about how these truths put everything else into the proper perspective.  Finally, praise God for these truths.  Praise Him for His promises, and praise Him for his saving grace.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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The Proper Order


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5; Psalm 99; Romans 3

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Chronicles 5:4-14

 

There are many times in life when things must be done in the proper order.  For example, you cannot eat a scrambled egg without first cracking the egg, you cannot read a book before it is written, and you cannot move into a house before it is built.  Trying to do any one of these things out of order will result in failure.  There is another time when maintaining the proper order is important, and that is in our interactions with God.  Whether in a corporate setting like a church service or an individual setting like prayer, it is important that before we go to God with all of our needs we spend some time praising Him and thanking Him first.  Solomon understood the importance of maintaining this proper order when worshiping God.

For almost 500 years, (since the exodus from Egypt) the Ark of the Covenant was largely kept in a movable tent.  The ark contained the two stone tablets given to Moses with the Ten Commandments, and it was the embodiment of God’s presence on earth.  In today’s key passage, we read that after all of this time the ark was finally moved into a more permanent structure – the temple built by Solomon.  After seven years of construction, the temple was finally ready, so the priests and the Levites brought the ark inside.  It was a time of great celebration for all of Israel, and it was a time for worshiping God.  Once the ark was in its new home, Solomon would offer a prayer of dedication to God, and would ask Him for a great many things for his people.  He would ask God to fulfill many of their needs for years to come.  Before he began asking God for anything, though, Solomon knew that they should spend some time thanking God, so, “accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD.” (Vs. 13)

It can be easy to fall into the habit of going to God in prayer only when we have a need.  We go to Him and ask for protection, safety, wisdom, or relief without first taking the time to really thank and praise Him.  Do not get me wrong, God wants us to go to Him with all of our needs and desires, but He wants us to come to Him with the right heart.  When we spend time with God thanking him for his perfect goodness and praising His name for all of the blessings He has given each of us, we can prepare our hearts and our minds before coming to Him with our needs.  Remember that God is not a genie in a bottle waiting only to grant us our wishes; He is the creator of the universe who loves us so completely that He gave His only Son to die for our sins.  Instead of just approaching Him with needs, spend some time thanking and praising Him.  You will be amazed at the results as you begin to grow even closer to Him.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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The Self-Righteous Christian


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4; Psalm 98; Romans 2

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 2:1-16

 

One of the easiest things for most people to do is to become self-righteous.  No matter where we are in our lives or in our walk with Christ, we can always find someone we consider to be not as “well behaved” as we are.  When we compare ourselves to the standard set by the other person, we feel like we are doing pretty well in the way we are living our lives.  Many people of varying faiths feel that they are going to Heaven because they are not “immoral” like others.  They reckon that since they are not adulterers, murderers, or bank robbers, God will probably judge them as worthy.  In fact, when they see other people who are adulterers, murderers, or bank robbers they find fault with them, and consider themselves to be in some way “above” those people.  There are also many born-again Christians who feel like they are “better” than other Christians or other denominations.  They decide that their church attendance is better than others, they pray more than others, or the places they choose to go or not to go are better than others.  All of these things are examples of self-righteousness, and all of them are very dangerous to a follower of Christ.

In today’s key passage, Paul confronts the self-righteous people in the Roman church.  Near the end of Romans 1, Paul spoke about the wickedness of men.  He talked about various sinners and sins that were taking place outside of the church.  Likely, the Roman audience of Paul’s letter would have considered themselves to be well above that kind of behavior and far better than these people described in Romans 1.  In our text, Paul confronts the person who felt that he would get to Heaven because he was not like those sinners mentioned in Romans 1.  He shows in our passage that the self-righteous person is just as guilty in the eyes of God as the blatant sinner is.  If Paul were writing to Christians today, he might point out that going to church or living an outwardly moral life is not going to get you into Heaven.  He might point out that just because we might “feel” self-righteous as compared to some other people, we are not actually viewed by God as righteous based on our own actions.  After all, “God does not show favoritism.” (Vs. 11)  The simple truth that Paul later points out to the Romans (and to us) is that because we are all sinners in one degree or another, we are all in need of a Savior.  We need someone to take away our sins, and that person is our Lord Jesus Christ.

I believe today’s key passage serves as a reminder and a warning for those of us who know we are saved that we have no right to stand as critics of others, regardless of what they do.  So often we can all have moments when we are critical of others.  We can all have moments when we feel “justified”.  We can all have moments when we feel “self-righteous”.   It is vitally important, however, that we are careful when it comes to being critical of other people or believing we are in some way “better” than they are.  Put simply, God is the only one that has the right to judge, and as followers of Christ, we can rest in the comfort of knowing that one day, He will.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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The Emotional Keys to Evangelism


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 3; Psalm 97; Romans 1

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 1:8-17

 

For many people, sharing the Gospel can be difficult. There are many things that make it hard for us. Sometimes we might feel like it will be uncomfortable. Sometimes we might feel like we do not know enough. Sometimes we might feel like we do not know where to begin. Sometimes we just feel tired. It is in these moments when the enemy tempts us the most, and it is in these times when it can be easy for us to abandon our mission. I am sure that there were times in the apostle Paul’s life when he felt these challenges. There were likely times when he felt uncomfortable or tired, or simply did not know where to begin. In today’s key passage, though, Paul outlines three emotions that he felt that made him such a great evangelist. As I read this passage today, I realized that one of the keys to effectively preaching the Gospel lies in these three emotions. When we feel these three things, we will be able to overcome all of our fears and doubts about sharing the Good News about Christ.

Obligated – Paul says in verse 14 that he was obligated to share the Gospel. As followers of Christ, we share in this obligation. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for our salvation. He took all of our sins upon Himself knowing that we could not carry that burden alone. Because of His sacrifice for us even though we did not deserve it, we should feel obligated due to our complete love for Him to follow His commands.  Moreover, Jesus clearly commanded that we should share the Good News with the world.

Eager – Though we are obligated by our love for Christ to serve him, it is not enough for us to simply share our faith based on that obligation. If the only emotion we feel is obligation, we will never be successful in preaching the Gospel. In verse 15, Paul mentions the second piece of the puzzle, which is eagerness. When we are eager to share the Gospel with others, we are more likely to do it with heart and with love. This eagerness will make our witness for Christ more powerful, and at the same time, it will keep us focused on our mission of reaching people.

Unashamed – The final emotion Paul mentions in verse 16 is feeling unashamed. Even if we feel obligated and eager to share the Gospel, if we feel ashamed on any level we will not be successful. Either we will fail to share our faith at all, or we will do it in such a timid way that we will not be able to help anyone find Jesus.  As followers of Christ, the world will not always agree with our views. We might face persecution. We might face mockery. At the end of the day, though, these temporary problems are nothing compared to our eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.

Sharing the Gospel of Jesus is an important part of Christianity, but it is one that many people are afraid to do. By trusting in God to help us feel obligated, eager, and unashamed we can overcome our fears and doubts. If you are struggling with the idea of boldly sharing your faith with others, I pray that you will seek these three emotions. I pray that you will seek God’s strength to help you fulfill your mission of reaching people for Christ.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

The Eyes are the Window to the Soul


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 4,5; 2 Chronicles 2; Psalm 101; 2 Thessalonians 3

Today’s Key Passage – Psalm 101

 

We have all heard the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I happen to believe that this statement is true.  I know that when I look into my wife’s eyes or my daughter’s eyes, I feel like I can see straight through to their hearts.  When I want to know how they are feeling, often all it takes is a simple look into their eyes.  When I worked as an investigator, many times during an interrogation I would look into someone’s eyes and I would just know whether they were innocent or guilty.  The eyes truly are a window.  The thing about windows, though, is that they work both ways.  You can look in through a window, but you can also look out.  If you can see someone’s heart through their eyes, then it stands to reason that whatever goes into someone’s eyes will go directly to their heart.  In today’s key passage, David addresses this when he says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” (Vs. 3)

David wanted to live a blameless life.  To do that, he knew that he needed to avoid temptations to sin, such as looking at wickedness.  (Ironically, one of his greatest sins occurred later in his reign as king when he “set before his eyes a vile thing” and watched Bathsheba bathing, setting off a chain of sin that almost destroyed him.)  In today’s culture, we are literally surrounded by “vile things”.  It seems everywhere we turn, there are potential temptations to sin bombarding our eyes.  These “vile things” can be found in certain movies and television shows, the internet, and even in television commercials.  As followers of Christ, it is important that we protect our eyes from what they can see, but it is even more important that we protect our children’s eyes from what they can see.  Whether we realize it or not, our hearts are affected by what we see.  In order to protect our hearts, let us all resign to set before our eyes no vile thing.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Solomon Asks for Wisdom


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 78; 2 Thessalonians 2

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Kings 3:4-15

 

Most of us, at one time or another, have played the little game of “3 wishes” with ourselves or with others.  The game goes something like this – you have been given three wishes, and you can ask for anything you want.  What would your wishes be?  The answers to this question are typically humorous and pretty informative.  In fact, if you ever want to really understand what drives another person, ask him or her this question.  In today’s key passage, we see a real-life example of this game in Scripture.  Solomon was the new king and one night in a dream, God appeared to him and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (Vs. 5)  Now we all have moments of greatness in our lives.  These are moments when we do the right thing, say the right thing, or think the right thing.  In my opinion, Solomon’s greatest moment comes in the next few lines of Scripture.  In response to God, we read in verses 7-9, “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”  When given the chance to ask God for anything, Solomon chose to ask for wisdom.  The next line of Scripture is beautiful in its simplicity as we read, “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.” (Vs. 10)

My question today for each of us might be a convicting one.  If you were in the same position as Solomon, what would you say?  If God appeared to you today and told you to ask for whatever you want, what would you ask for Him to give you?  I ask that you spend some time today prayerfully considering this question, because while it may seem like an easy one, the answer will directly reflect where your heart is in relation with God’s will.  When considering this question, remember that no matter what we say our answer would be, God knows our heart and He knows what we would truly ask from Him.  He knows what is in our deepest prayers and He knows what drives us and motivates us.  Would your answer be pleasing to Him?  If not, the good news is that God has the power to change our hearts.  He has the power to help our will line up with His perfect will.  In fact, that is what our walk with God is really all about – growing and maturing in our faith as we become more like Christ.  My prayer today is that you would prayerfully consider your request, that your request would be pleasing to God, and that He will give you the desire of your heart.  Just as God granted Solomon’s request for wisdom, He will grant your request as well when it lines up with His perfect will.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Paul’s Prayer for Us


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 2; 1 Chronicles 29; Psalm 95; 2 Thessalonians 1

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

 

I really like reading Paul’s writings in the New Testament.  One of the things I especially like is that more often than not Paul prayed for the various churches to which he was writing.  In verses 11 and 12 in today’s key passage, Paul wrote, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Paul was praying for three main things for his brothers and sisters in Christ in Thessalonica, and I believe that if he were talking to us today he would pray for the same three things for each of us.

First, Paul prayed that God’s power might strengthen us.  God’s power is evident in the wonders of His creation, and it is evident repeatedly in the Bible.  God displayed His power in the parting of the Red Sea, in the healing of the blind, and in paying the ultimate price for our sins through His Son Jesus Christ.  That power that is so miraculously on display throughout the Living Word is also available to each one of us today.  It is available to us when we are facing trials.  It is available to us in overcoming our fears and worries.  It is available to us in everything we do as long as we seek it.  Paul is praying that the awe-inspiring power of God would give each of us strength.

Secondly, Paul prayed that God’s purpose would be fulfilled in us.  While the strength of God is wonderful in helping us overcome trials or temptations, that same strength is also available to help us fulfill God’s purposes in the world.  Each and every one of us has a distinct purpose in this life.  Whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not, you were put on this earth for a reason.  God has a purpose for you.  Maybe you have not found it yet.  Maybe you are still searching for it.  It does not matter how old you are.  It does not matter what sinful things you have done in the past.  It does not matter what position you are in right now.  God has a purpose for you, and Paul’s prayer is that His purpose will be fulfilled in you.

Finally, Paul prayed that God would be glorified through us.  One of God’s purposes for each of our lives is that He will be glorified through us and in us.  He wants our lives to be a living reflection of His glory.  To truly glorify God in our lives, we must live our lives like Jesus Christ himself.  In everything we do, we are to live a Christ-like life, and we are to let His light shine through us for everyone else to see.

When you put it all together, you can see the full picture of what Paul is really praying for each of us.  Paul is praying that God’s power will strengthen each one of us, and by that power, we will be able to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives, with one of those purposes being the glorification of God through us.  It is a beautiful prayer for the Thessalonians, and it is a beautiful prayer for each one of us.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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Seeking God’s Protection


Daily Bible Reading – 1 Kings 1; 1 Chronicles 28; Psalm 91; 1 Thessalonians 5

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Kings 1:42-53

 

Near the end of King David’s life, it was clear that the time had come to anoint a new king.  One of David’s sons, Adonijah, stepped forward and decided that he would be king, so he gathered support and made preparations.  When the prophet Nathan heard about this, he immediately went to Bathsheba, David’s wife, and together they went to inform David.  David was not happy about Adonijah’s rebellion, because God already declared that David’s son Solomon would be the next king of Israel.  David quickly took steps to have Solomon anointed king before Adonijah could begin his reign.  Meanwhile, Adonijah and all of his guests were having a party in celebration of his kingdom.  When they heard the news that David had anointed Solomon king, the party quickly ended and the crowd dispersed.  In verse 50, we read, “But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.”  Adonijah knew that his evil scheme was over, and his first reaction was to run to the altar of God.  He was in effect seeking God’s protection.  Solomon initially allowed Adonijah to live despite his rebellion, but he was later executed when he attempted to claim the throne a second time.

Adonijah had the right idea in seeking God’s protection.  The problem was his timing.  When we do wrong and things go badly, most of us will turn to God for protection.  This is not a bad thing because God is always there to catch us when we fall and forgive us, but it is certainly not the best way to go about things.  If Adonijah had sought God’s guidance and protection before he started his rebellion, he could have saved himself a lot of heartache.  In fact, he could have saved his own life.  Repeatedly we read stories in the Bible about people doing wrong and then turning to God when things get bad.  The simple fact is that when we act without first seeking God’s guidance, things will almost invariably go badly.  We can wait for that to happen to turn to God for protection, but why would we want to put ourselves through that?  I believe there are two main reasons why we do this.  We act without seeking God either because our pride convinces us that we can accomplish what we want on our own without God’s help, or because, like Adonijah, deep down we know what we are trying to accomplish is wrong.  Either way, the result will be the same.  Without God’s guidance and protection, we will ultimately fail.  Do not let pride convince you to move without talking it over with God.  Do not let temptation convince you to go against what you know is right.  Seek God’s protection and guidance first in all things, and have faith that God will point you in the right direction.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

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