Do you struggle with wrong motives?

September 17, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
(James 4:3 (NIV))

What is the one thing that you want more than anything else in this life?

Why do you desire that particular thing?

Are you able to be honest with yourself with the answers to these two questions? If you are like most people, you will give vague answers to both even if you honestly do know the real answers. Human nature is a very strange thing in that respect. We can say that our desires are in one direction while our actions and our thoughts take us in a completely different direction. Have you ever found yourself thinking that you could help people if only you had more money? Have you ever found yourself thinking that you would stop complaining about work if you could just get that promotion? Have you ever found yourself thinking that you would go on a mission trip after you get all of your bills paid off? I could go on and on with different scenarios, but I think that you get the picture. Many times human nature has us saying one thing when we mean the exact opposite of what we say. Human nature always wants for itself and not for the benefit of others. We may claim it, but our true motives soon come to light.

Have you found this to be true when you ask God for something in prayer?

Think about that. If He knows our thoughts, if He knows us better than we know ourselves, then He knows our true motives for the things that we ask of Him. Perhaps what we should be praying for is an honest heart and pure motives that will line up with what God desires. Can we truthfully say that we will pray in such a manner? Can we truthfully profess that we long to be known as David was known? Can we pray to have a heart after God’s own heart?

Each of us must examine our motives for the things that we want, for the things that we ask of God. Hopefully, it won’t be a painful realization!

Do you struggle with wrong motives?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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What desires rule over you?

July 17, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
(Galatians 5:17 (NIV))

Whatever you want!

Do you desire to do whatever you want? Is that your definition of freedom? Based on this passage, does that desire come from the flesh or from the Spirit? Don’t rush to a quick answer, for your quick answer will probably be heavily influenced by your own desires. Think about that for a moment. Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, our flesh is sinful. Everything that we do according to our flesh is sinful and we are fully aware of the wages of sin.

For the wages of sin is death,
(Romans 6:23a (NIV))

We are given a gift that allows us to receive salvation, to receive grace.

but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23b (NIV))

When we accept that gift, we receive the Holy Spirit to guide us in what we should do. The Holy Spirit will guide us contrary to our sinful nature. It is up to us to accept that guidance. Have you ever done something and instantly knew that it shouldn’t have been done? Have you ever wanted to do something, but a still, small voice wouldn’t let you? We choose to listen to the Holy Spirit. We choose to accept His guidance. Sadly, sometimes the flesh wins out and we do things that we instantly regret. Other times we listen to the Holy Spirit and obey. Have you noticed in your life the types of circumstances that you follow the flesh and the types of circumstances that you follow the Holy Spirit? Give God praise for the faith to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and pray for the ability to stand firm in the face of those circumstances that lead to actions that you regret. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to allow you to overcome the desires of the flesh!

What desires rule over you?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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What are the things that you willfully do?

June 24, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
(Psalms 19:13 (NIV))

Perhaps we should rephrase this first part to something a little more obvious and upfront.

Keep your servant from deliberate and intentional sins!

In other words, David was asking the Lord to keep him from doing the wrong thing when he knew the right thing to do. Perhaps we should pray what David asked so that we are kept from deliberately planning to sin!

I am going to ask a very blunt question, but I think that you can probably anticipate what it is going to be.

Do you deliberately and intentionally sin? Do you find yourself clinging to an old sinful nature that you simply don’t want to let go of? Do you love the sin more than you love Jesus? Are you willing to give up God’s grace for a momentary sinful pleasure? Please don’t misunderstand me. We are all human and we are all sinners. None of us are perfect. What we desire is often opposite of what we actually do. This is not something new to humanity, but it is something that we must overcome. Even Paul faced this in his life.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
(Romans 7:15-20 (NIV))

I realize that this passage does not directly say that Paul deliberately and intentionally sinned, but we have to consider that Paul wrote that he had the desire to do what is good but could not carry it out. We probably also have the desire to do what is good, but what do we do with that desire? Paul knew what to do.

Human nature is sinful no matter how much we want to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. Thankfully, we have been given grace and mercy through Jesus. When we find ourselves guilty of sin, willfully or otherwise, there are two things that we can willfully do. We can accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, and we can repent of our sin!

What are the things that you willfully do?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Don’t be caught off guard!

April 20, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.
(Revelation 16:15 (NIV))

Those who profess a faith in Jesus longingly await His return, but will we be ready when He does return?

It is human nature to let our guard down. We work for something or we desire something, and the longer we wait, the less devoted we seem to be. I fully understand how the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” came into existence. Human beings are so easily sidetracked. We soon loose sight of what we strive for once the reminders are removed from our immediate perception. How many families have been broken apart because of long distances? How many dreams have been set aside because of a perceived, more immediate need?

How long has it been since you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?

Is your faith as strong now as it was when you first believed? Have you found yourself slowly losing sight of Jesus in your daily life? Have you found yourself questioning whether you believe at all because you don’t see any movement on His promise to return? One thing is certain!

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
(2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV))

Just because we don’t see God moving according to our desires and our timing doesn’t mean that He is not moving. Don’t give up! Stand firm in your faith while He completes His task of bringing others into His grace.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
(2 Peter 3:9 (NIV))

Don’t let the world make you lose sight of Jesus. Don’t lose hope in His promises. He will come when you least expect it.

Don’t be caught off guard!

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Are you trying to do things your way?

March 12, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
    “No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
(John 21:4-6 (NIV))

Do you consider yourself an expert in what you do?

Think about that question for a moment.

How willing are you to take the advice of someone who doesn’t know anything about what you do? How willing are you to even consider doing something differently than what you are accustomed to?

Now, is there something in your life that you are struggling with because you know that God is leading you in a certain direction, but you feel that you are constantly encountering roadblocks and obstacles? Have you stopped to consider that you are trying to fulfill your calling using your own strengths and plans? Perhaps you simply need to step back and accept the advice from someone else.

That is exactly what the disciples did, not only in this story, but in other stories as well.

Every time that they attempted to do something without Jesus, it did not go as planned. When they allowed Jesus to guide, things vastly improved. Fortunately for those who can claim spiritual descendancy to the disciples, they allowed someone else to lead them. They soon realized that they could not do it on their own. They needed Jesus.

What in your life is in need of the guidance that Jesus can give? Is it your job? Is it your family? Is it your calling? Is it a ministry that He is longing to use to spread the Gospel? Listen to that still, small voice. I think that you know the one. It is the one that says “Throw your net on the right side of the boat. . . ” It is the one that sounds foolish, but you just can’t seem to get it out of your mind. It is the one that is calling you to trust in something besides your own so-called expertise.

I once heard a story about how a revival got started. To summarize, many people got together to pray that a revival would start in their town. They met regularly, but with no results. Finally, someone asked after a rather lengthy prayer meeting if anyone felt anything. No one answered. This went on for several more prayer meetings, and still no one answered. Finally, at still another prayer meeting, someone reluctantly said that they felt that they were supposed to hit the table. They said that they had felt this way almost since the beginning of their prayer group, but they felt that it was foolish and didn’t mention it. Finally, they broke down and did what they felt they were being told to do. They hit the table.

Can you guess what happened?

Are you ignoring something because you feel that it is foolish? God is not calling the equipped. He is equipping the called. It is up to each of us to answer that call. He will call you in ways that you may think are foolish.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
       declares the LORD.
(Isaiah 55:8 (NIV))

Are you trying to do things your way?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Why are we drawn to return to our sin and slavery?

March 2, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 (NIV))

What is it about human nature that makes us return to something that we know we should leave behind? We have all been guilty of doing this very thing, and probably much more often than we care to admit. Apparently, human nature since the fall from grace has always had us doing what can only be called self destructive behavior. We know that we shouldn’t, but yet we do. This type of behavior has been pointed out many times, but probably the most accurate and disgusting is the following.

As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
(Proverbs 26:11 (NIV))

As I stated previously, we all do it. Even the man who is credited with bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles fought this aspect in his own walk of faith. Paul was a very intelligent person, but yet he didn’t understand the self destructive nature that he fought against.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
(Romans 7:15-20 (NIV))

This struggle that all of us face makes it clear why each of us are called to take up our cross daily. We are to deny that part of our human nature. We are to struggle with this sinful nature each and every time that it raises its ugly head in our lives. We are called to repent. Far too many people believe that this is a one-time occurrence, but it should be a daily attitude and activity. Do I even venture to say that, on some days, we may have to humble ourselves continually before the Lord and repent of our actions and our thoughts?

I know that we are a fallen creation, but I wish I had the magic answer as to why we return to our sin when we don’t want to. I wish I knew how to turn off that part of my life so that I never take my eyes off of Jesus. Just like Paul, I find myself doing the very things that I hate! I don’t know why! I long to do only what is good and righteous, yet on my own, this is not possible. I just know that we must be ready to fall on our knees whenever and wherever we may find yourself returning to our sin.

I want to leave you with one question that I hope you will take to heart.

Why are we drawn to return to our sin and slavery?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Will you let down the nets?

February 25, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
(Luke 5:5 (NIV))

How many times have you worked and waited for God to do something in your life or through your life? It probably seemed like He would never do what you have had faith that He would do. Think how Simon (Peter) felt. Here was this rabbi who knew nothing about fishing. He had grown up as a carpenter, yet He was telling the fisherman what to do. Knowing how Peter often overreacted, I find it very interesting that he did what he did.

Peter did just as he had been told, even though he was tired. He was probably very irritable from working all night with no results, and he was probably harboring arrogant and sinful thoughts about the man who told him to let down his nets.

Think about this situation. We, too, are often like this. We are at our breaking point and do not see any purpose in continuing with what we are doing. We simply wish to give up. When we are faced with this type of situation and mentality, we must remember Simon Peter. Mentally, he was saying that this will never work. Intellectually, he was thinking that a carpenter doesn’t know anything about fishing. Spiritually, he was willing to give it one more try.

The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
(Matthew 26:41b (NIV))

Simon Peter overcame his physical weakness and trusted in what his spirit was telling him. He was able to make that leap of faith that allowed Jesus to call him as one of His disciples. He was able to make that leap of faith when every other sign pointed in the other direction. Because of his willingness to say “But because you say so, I will let down the nets,” Jesus used him to reach through history and to touch millions of lives with the Gospel.

Is your spirit willing to obey that one more time when reason says you shouldn’t? Will you let down the nets?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Is it your desire to have Jesus increase in you?

January 29, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

He must increase, but I must decrease.
(John 3:30 (NKJV))

This goes against everything that is considered human nature. If left to our own devices, we seek to elevate ourselves while not caring about those whom we step on when we do. Everyone has dreams of power and wealth, and Satan knows this. It is that very thing that Satan used to temp Jesus in the wilderness. Satan made a big mistake in thinking that Jesus would be, could be tempted as we are tempted. He tried to get Jesus to “show off” by turning the stones into bread. He tried to get Jesus to prove His authority by showing that the angels would lift Him up. He tried to offer Jesus all of the worldly kingdoms if Jesus would worship him. Basically, Satan tempted Jesus with physical comfort, power and authority. I am so thankful that Jesus rejected all temptations. Our sinful human nature would have seen any one of us giving in to most, if not all of these. Because Jesus was able to resist temptation, He is elevated to the power and authority that is required for Him to complete the mission that brought salvation.

When we rely on ourselves, we fail miserably. When we rely on Jesus, we are given grace and mercy. The more that we rely on Jesus, the less that our sinful nature comes out. The more that we rely on Jesus, He increases in our lives. We are still the unique individuals that God created us to be. But instead of the sinful creation, we replace our sinful desires with the heart of Jesus. By allowing Jesus to increase in us, we become the best “us” that we can be. I don’t know about you, but I like this concept. I like being able to rely on the strength of Jesus when my weaknesses would see me fail. I like being able to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying me through once again!”

Is it your desire to have Jesus increase in you?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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What are you capable of doing?

January 10, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
(John 15:5 (NIV))

It is human nature to think that we are invincible, that we are capable of doing anything and everything that we put our minds to. Is that really true?

I have read this passage many times, but today something caught my attention that has not come to my attention before. We read this passage and think that it means that without the Lord we cannot achieve anything. I realize that what I am about to say may have you questioning my thought process, but bear with me for a moment. If you read this passage again, pay very close attention to the part about bearing much fruit. Dare I say that this fruit is actually the fruit of the Spirit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV))

Without the Lord and the fruit that we bear because of Him, we are left with our sin. We are left as the filthy rags that we are without Jesus!

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV))

I realize that we are to commit everything that we do unto the Lord, but I also think we need to understand what Jesus is speaking of in this passage. The things that we do in this world, unless they bring someone to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, are of no eternal value. Our circle of influence is perhaps two generations if we are so blessed. Even so, that circle is very limited if you look at the world. What is important are things that leave an impact on someone else’s life for all eternity. We can be a bad influence and not share Jesus, or we can live our lives sharing Jesus with all whom we encounter. Leading someone to Jesus requires something of us. We simply cannot lead someone to Jesus if we do not remain in Him and He in us. Our fruit is a direct reflection of our relationship with Jesus. Sharing the Gospel is our single most important responsibility.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
(Mark 16:15 (NIV))

Can you see anyone doing this if they do not remain in Jesus and He in them? No one is capable of fulfilling this without Jesus!

What are you capable of doing?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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