Thursday, March 31, 2011

+DEV+ Dinner with a Friend

Date: March 31, 2011 1:02 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Dinner with a Friend

Dinner with a Friend

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).
Scripture Focus: Revelation 3:14-22

Jesus spoke those words to lukewarm believers in the church of Laodicea. Their passionless, prayer-less life could be traced to their false sense of self-sufficiency. In their hearts they said to themselves, "I am rich, I don't need a thing." But Jesus saw them differently. In reality they were "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked".

When our prayer life starts to cool down, it's almost always because things are going well in our lives -we don't need a thing. Before long we find ourselves lukewarm and distanced from the Lord. Last summer I started sleeping through my prayer time and hitting the day without getting in touch with Jesus. It didn't take long for me to see how ugly and anxiety-filled life is when I try to live it on my own.

"Where are you, Lord?" I prayed and found the answer in this verse: "Here I am." The Lord is near. When we open the door, He comes in. Prayer is like eating a meal with our best friend. We can talk to Him about anything and ask Him for help with everything.

Insight: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows" (Psalm 23:5).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

+DEV+ When They Don't Get It

Date: March 29, 2011 10:28 PM
Topic: +DEV+ When They Don't Get It

When They Don't Get It

"But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed" (James 1:25).
Scripture Focus: Mark 8:14-21

If I tell a lot of jokes, it brings humor, captures attention. But a problem arises when I say something absolutely true and they think I'm joking again. Getting them to believe me then is hard work!

Jesus' disciples must have been elated while they were with Him. Imagine seeing His miracles, listening to Him teach, watching Him outsmart the Pharisees. Yet when Jesus said that He would be crucified, Peter could hardly grasp that it was true. All of them "did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it" (Mark 9:31).

There are many parts of the Bible that we readily embrace. We easily see the do's and don'ts, happily soak in the words of comfort, cling to the principles for godly living. Yet it is often the simple truth of Jesus dying for us and freely giving us salvation that we can hardly grasp. Sometimes we just don't get it: our freedom has been purchased for us. Not anything that we have done or will do can save us; He has already done it all!

Insight: Every Christian has a lot to learn from Jesus, most importantly that it is by His grace, through faith, that we have been saved.

+DEV+ The Big Picture

Date: March 29, 2011 2:55 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Big Picture

The Big Picture

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
Scripture Focus: John 15:1-8

The main difference between education and discipleship is perspective. In education, we start with the pieces and assemble the big picture. In discipleship, we start with the big picture and then apply it to the parts.

For example, children start with arithmetic. We wouldn't expect them to study physics first. They must understand the pieces of the universe before they can see the big picture. But in discipleship we start with a big concept like this: Our Redeemer Jesus is the source of everything we need. Then we learn how that bathes each part of our lives.

Discipleship (being students of the Word) develops habits which we can use when problems arise. Instead of starting with the parts of the problem and trying to sort them out, our habit should be to start with the big picture. As Jesus put it, "I am the vine; you are the branches." No one tries to grow grapes by assembling the fruit first. We know that grapes come out of a healthy vine. Start with His perspective and then approach the details.

Insight: Jesus is the source of everything we need. Our nourishment and growth come out of His vibrant love for us.

Monday, March 28, 2011

+DEV+ Teachable Moments

Date: March 28, 2011 12:22 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Teachable Moments

Teachable Moments

"The Jews were amazed and asked, 'How did this man get such learning without having studied'" (John 7:15)?
Scripture Focus: John 7:14-17

We often think of school days as blocks of time, but they are also a collection of teachable moments. What is a teachable moment? It's a point in time when an instructor sees an opportunity to teach, and a student is ready to learn. An effective teacher finds these moments and uses them. It's easy for other things to crowd them out; things like taking roll and passing out papers. But a good teacher doesn't let that happen.

Jesus used His teachable moments, taking advantage of them everywhere He went. He taught in the temple and in the field. He taught in the morning and in the middle of the night. He taught when people were celebrating and when they were grieving.

This day is our collection of teachable times with Jesus. Even before you were born, He had planned each one of those moments. We need to be ready to learn. Let's be looking for what He has to teach us today, our constant prayer being, "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth" (Psalm 86:11).

Insight: Jesus never wasted a moment. He always had the courage to speak the truth for our benefit. Do we have the courage to listen?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

+DEV+ Scope and Sequence

Date: March 24, 2011 2:01 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Scope and Sequence

Scope and Sequence

"Every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures..." (Matthew 13:52).
Scripture Focus: John 6:48-51

Teachers don't teach randomly. If we did, our students would end up with random information instead of an education. We teach according to "scope and sequence." That means teaching certain things in a certain order.

Jesus taught in something of a scope and sequence, too. For example, in John 6, Jesus fed five thousand people, having twelve baskets of bread left over. The next day the people expected more free bread, but Jesus went on to the next lesson: "I am the bread of life...The bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the whole world" (John 6:48, 51). First He got their attention with a miracle; then He taught them about an even greater miracle that was coming. Teaching the people in this order was very deliberate and meaningful.

Jesus still teaches in "scope and sequence." He prepares each lesson of our lives to build on the last one. If you haven't understood His reasons for taking you where you have been, be patient. He's not done teaching. Another lesson may be ahead.

Insight: Jesus teaches the right things in the right order. Pay attention to what He is teaching today. You'll need it tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

+DEV+ Mastery Learning

Date: March 23, 2011 12:45 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Mastery Learning

Mastery Learning

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24).
Scripture Focus: Psalm 119:9-13

Students with limited capability sometimes need what teachers call "mastery learning." They teach one skill at a time and repeat it until the student masters it. Then they move to the next step. That next step must build on the previous one. It's a slow but effective process.

When it comes to learning the things of God, we all have limited capability. But Jesus is an expert in mastery learning. Sometimes real change takes time. If we try to rush through His lessons, we may not master the concepts that we need to know. For instance, Jesus says, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear" (Luke 12:22). Who could possibly learn that in a hurry? Throughout our lives we come to understand God's precepts more deeply.

Instead of hastily reading the Bible, pick one concept and pray about it, meditate on it, practice it. Perhaps set a goal or talk to other Christians about it.

Jesus is the master of time. Take time to learn from the Master.

Insight: Better to learn something slowly than to learn nothing quickly. Better to put one of Christ's teachings into practice than to memorize them all and not apply them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

+DEV+ Serving

Date: March 22, 2011 1:00 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Serving


"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who...made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant..." (Philippians 2:5-7).
Scripture Focus: Matthew 20:20-28

The teacher who tries to do everything will burn out. The students who have no chores will not learn responsibility. These two problems can be solved with one solution: delegate those tasks. She would make the maintenance of her classroom the responsibility of the students. They straighten the reading books, dust shelves and sort crayons. She would concentrate on her job: teaching.

Interestingly, Jesus did not approach things quite the same way. He said, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:26-28). He was and is the King of the universe, yet He humbled Himself and became a servant for us in every way.

Knowing how Jesus gave Himself up for us even to the point of death on a cross, we should desire to serve others in our churches, neighborhoods, jobs, classrooms, etc. What a privilege we have to gratefully work for Him!

Insight: If Jesus came to earth expecting to be a servant, shouldn't we expect to be servants when we go to serve Him?

Monday, March 21, 2011

+DEV+ Defining Objectives

Date: March 21, 2011 12:25 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Defining Objectives

Defining Objectives

"He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him..." (Acts 10:42-43).
Scripture Focus: Matthew 28:18-20

When teachers make lesson plans, they start at the end. It's called "defining objectives." It means that you decide first what you want your students to know by the end of the lesson. It's the most important step in planning.

Jesus told the disciples at the outset exactly what His objectives were for them. "'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men'" (Matthew 4:19). Were these words meant just for the disciples? Jesus prays this for them and all believers in John 17:23: "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me." Christ calls us all to tell others about Him.

How can we fulfill Christ's objectives for us? You might prepare by taking a class or reading a book on evangelism. Practice a method that fits your personality. Be sure to pray for the opportunity to share with those around you. And go when that opportunity arises. Prepare, practice, pray and go; a simple plan for the greatest commission we are privileged to have!

Insight: Jesus Sets Clear Objectives For Us And Then, Wondrously, Gives Us Everything We Need To Obey And Follow Him (Philippians 4:13).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

+DEV+ Curriculum

Date: March 17, 2011 8:11 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Curriculum


"The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
Scripture Focus: John 14:6-10

Schools struggle with the high cost of curriculum. Books cost more every year. In college the expenditure is shocking. With knowledge expanding so rapidly that publishers can hardly keep up, curriculum may soon reside solely on computers.

Jesus, the great Teacher, did not require a textbook for His "class." Yes, He taught from the Scriptures, but He actually was the Word become flesh! His teaching consisted of questions, stories, sermons and examples. His curriculum was simply Himself. He was, and is, the Word of God.

Today, we have the complete Bible, His inspired book, "God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). If we ignore it, it is to our own peril. And even if we do study it but don't see Jesus there, we have missed the point, for Jesus is our curriculum.

His promise stands: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29).

Insight: Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. Let Scripture reveal Him, the Word which became flesh, to you.

+DEV+ Close Proximity

Date: March 17, 2011 2:13 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Close Proximity

Close Proximity

"The LORD watches over you, the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night" (Psalm 121:5-6).
Scripture Focus: Psalm 121

Billy was big, loud and lively. He thought he could run the class. But teachers have a secret weapon. It's called "close proximity." The teacher walked over and stood next to him and continued giving the lesson. Billy was suddenly quiet. He listened. The whole class wondered what she would do next.

Close proximity is a great technique for two reasons: it grabs everyone's attention, shifting it to the teacher, and it also keeps the teacher focused on the lesson instead of on the troublemaker.

In our life with Christ the roles are changed somewhat, but the results are the same. Jesus is always in close proximity to us. Psalm 145:18 says, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." We must put our hearts in close proximity to Him.

When we focus on Jesus, we dwell less on worldly priorities, our circumstances, or ourselves. We don't "interrupt the lesson or distract others." Praise God we have a Savior who comes near to us, even when we are persisting in our sin.

Insight: How much more could we learn from Him if we simply remembered that He is near?

Friday, March 11, 2011

+DEV+ Changing Plans

Date: March 11, 2011 12:59 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Changing Plans

Changing Plans

"One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law...were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present..." (Luke 5:17).
Scripture Focus: Luke 5:17-26

Jesus had visitors in His classroom. Pharisees and teachers coming from all over to hear Him filled the house to overflowing. At times like these, most teachers stick to their plan and hope all goes smoothly, not wanting to be embarrassed. But when a paralyzed man was let down through the roof, Jesus was not even put out. He turned His attention to him and said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven" (vs. 20).

Wise teachers are always ready to adjust their plans, depending on the immediate needs of the students. While Jesus may have seemed to "change" His plans, the greater change was what He did for the paralyzed man in forgiving his sins. And that plan was a sure thing from the very beginning. Because of this, many were "amazed and gave praise to God" (vs. 26).

Though plans for the day shift, rest in the assurance of the unchanging, all-knowing God we serve whose intention always has been to redeem us through Jesus and bring ultimate glory to Him.

Insight: Most people don't know that Jesus cares about them. If they see that we care, they will begin to know that He cares.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

+DEV+ Promise of Victory

Date: March 10, 2011 2:26 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Promise of Victory

Promise of Victory

"This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:4-5).
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 15: 50-58

When I was a young Christian, I would sometimes feel discouraged reading about the "victorious Christian life." I knew I fell very short of a sinless, "victorious" life.

Then I heard the story of the lady who said to her pastor, "I have now attained a state of sinless perfection!" The pastor said, "I'm glad to hear it. You must be very proud of that." "Yes," she replied.

No, the secret of victory is in our verse. We trust "Christ in us, the hope of glory" who is our new self to produce His victory. If we look to our old self (which is still kicking) to produce victory, we will be disappointed every time.

Until we are with the Lord in eternity, we rely on His indwelling to keep us from sin. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:37). Jesus told us to take heart despite our failures because He has overcome the world. It is His victory, and He will produce it in us more and more as we trust in His promises.

Insight: Are you discouraged by the idea of victory? You may have lost battles, but remember the war has already been won on the cross.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

+DEV+ Promise to Heal Backsliding

Date: March 9, 2011 1:36 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Promise to Heal Backsliding

Promise to Heal Backsliding

"I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily" (Hosea 14:4).
Scripture Focus: Hosea 14:1-9

As in the case of Israel in Hosea's time, the cause of our backsliding is idolatry. We take some part of God's created order and use it as an object of regard in and for itself. It may be our work, our family, sex, food, or our own powers of discernment. If these things, good in themselves, have sway in our lives, they are idols. Idolatry always erodes our devotion to the Lord, and we become double-minded, split personalities unable ultimately to even receive God's good things (See James 1:6-8).

A sure sign of our backsliding is when we give to other people, other philosophical systems, or to political correctness, the honor which should belong exclusively to the Word of God.

The world, flesh and the devil corrode single-minded devotion to Jesus; we lose our first love. When we "come to our senses," the waiting Father rushes to meet us and throws His arms around us. He doesn't stint on His favor. He will fully accept and honor us as we blossom again.

Insight: Has some sin got hold of us which has become the enemy's stronghold in our life? The name of Jesus is powerful to destroy it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

+DEV+ Promise to the Despondent

Date: March 8, 2011 2:34 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Promise to the Despondent

Promise to the Despondent

"'But Lord,' Gideon asked, 'how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family'" (Judges 6:15).
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 40:28-31

There may be many reasons why we feel the "least" as Gideon did...unimportant or sidelined. You may have had some significance in your job but are now retired or unemployed. Your children may have grown up and moved away. You may feel now that you are getting older that life goes downhill from here.

The promise to those who feel advancing years is this: "Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you" (Isaiah 46:4). I have cashed this check at the bank of faith many times. The Lord doubles us on "I am he" and "I will sustain you" just to make His Word doubly dependable for us. We agree with a pastor at a Church in New York City who said we are "more sinful, evil and weak than we ever dared believe." Yet we rejoice in the knowledge that just as certainly true is God's promise that we are "more valued, accepted and loved than we ever dared hope."

Insight: When feeling down, trust the Lord's promise that "you will soar with eagle's wings." He will lift you up! Make use of His thermal up-drafts!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

+DEV+ Promise of Refreshing

Date: March 6, 2011 8:26 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Promise of Refreshing

Promise of Refreshing

"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring" (Isaiah 44:3, KJV).
Scripture Focus: Isaiah 35:1-10

Isaiah 35:7 has been translated "the mirage shall become a real pool of water and the thirsty ground an oasis." People dying of thirst in the desert often see mirages, imagined and quickly-vanishing refuges where their thirst would be quenched. Hear the Lord's promise of true refreshing: everything of this world that is sin-tainted, dry and temporary will be invigorated, renewed and eternal.

It brings to mind a picture from a television series called "Nature's Greatest Events." It showed the Okavango river delta in S. Africa which flows into the parched Kalahari Desert. Typically, the river bed dries out, and the burning sands of the desert teem with animals seeking pasture and water, though most of the year there is none to be found. Then after the heavy mountain rains comes a trickle of water spreading over the land. It becomes a flood, and the desert bursts into bloom. Pools abound with fish, bushes are alive with butterflies and trees with birds, and the countless game can slake their thirst.

Insight: We're the desert into which the Holy Spirit pours His living waters so that our parched souls and those of others through us are refreshed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

+DEV+ Promise of Provision in Sleep

Date: March 3, 2011 11:46 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Promise of Provision in Sleep

Promise of Provision in Sleep

"In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for he grants sleep to those he loves" (Psalm 127:2).
Scripture Focus: Acts 2:14-21

At times, when I cannot seem to get over a problem, worrying about it makes it worse, thinking about it intensifies it, speaking about it to others doesn't seem to help, and prayer appears to go unanswered. On some of these occasions, the Lord has spoken to me through the words of a hymn or Scripture, or through some vivid picture in a dream. Perhaps it is because I am older and it says in Joel that old men shall dream dreams!

No, I believe it is because the Lord promises that His Word will not return to Him empty "but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). And if we find it hard to receive that word when we are awake, He will do it in our sleep, as our verse suggests.

Jesus said in John 14 that the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything He has said to us. Of course, this presupposes we are spending time reading His Word. As the light of day fades, let your thoughts turn to Him.

Insight: If we are constantly taking in God's promises from His Word, look out for the occasions when they come to us unbidden, even in sleep.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

+DEV+ Promise of Experience of Jesus

Date: March 1, 2011 11:32 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Promise of Experience of Jesus

Promise of Experience of Jesus

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him" (John 14:21).
Scripture Focus: John 14:15-23

What Jesus promises is not experiences from Him but experience of Him. Throughout church history, where experiences have been sought for their own sake, the blessing has faded.

The 18th Century hymn writer, Anne Griffiths, suffered a great disappointment when her fiancees left her. As she cried out to the Lord whilst praying in a thicket of trees, she gave her life to Jesus, and He became instantly very real to her. Thus she wrote her great hymn: "See, he stands among the myrtles," quoting from Zechariah 1:11. The myrtle tree was a symbol of sorrow; indeed she had encountered Jesus at her place of sorrows.

Most often our experience of Jesus will be in scriptural terms. When I came to know the Lord, I had a vivid picture of Him dying on the cross for me, and in that instant I knew that He was alive and that He was God. I trusted my life to Him.

Your experience of Him may be different, but He always keeps His promise to show Himself to us if we ask Him to do so. Ask Him today!

Insight: We'll experience Him personally as we pray and meditate on the Word. Our hearts will warm towards Him as we see Him fulfill His promises.