Something that I have been thinking about a lot is usefulness. There are moments when we have items in our home that are not useful to us. Sometimes we have apps on our devices that are not useful. Maybe at a time they seemed useful, but things have changed. But usefulness isn’t only something we consider as objects or possessions. People can be useful or not useful too.
Paul was writing to Philemon about the runaway servant Onesimus. He tells Philemon about this change that has occurred. Yes, Onesimus was deserving of punishment, which could have meant a death sentence. It was within the legal limits. But Paul mentions this great conversion of Onesimus. Not only did he give his life to Jesus, but in doing so, he became useful. In saying, “Not my will, but Your will be done,” he became useful. God had big plans for Onesimus!
If someone would consider your usefulness, what would they say? Would they describe you as very useful? Do you think you are very useful? Or is something getting in the way? That something could even be you! Truth be told, you have a great purpose. God has known this since the very beginning. It is a purpose that I pray you embrace and pour yourself into as an offering. Aim today to come to terms with this usefulness, and if the Spirit convicts you, follow His leading. It is a very dangerous prayer to say, “Use me.” Yet is a prayer than can help position you for what God has already prepared. Be useful. Plant for a good harvest.
“Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.” – Philemon 1:11 [NLT]
As I have aged, I realized the great blessing of being disciplined. When younger, the word discipline was a cruel one we tried to avoid. No one likes discipline. We do not usually request or desire discipline. Discipline is punishing someone to correct poor behavior or disobedience. Discipline trains people to be obedient people.
The Bible tells us that anyone God disciplines is “blessed” or “joyful.” The world looks at the discipline of the Lord as wrath and usually describe it as harsh and unreasonable. As a child of God, hopefully you understand that God disciplines us as a father disciplines a child. It is for our own good. Discipline helps us to grow. Discipline protects and teaches us. Discipline is a blessing.
Today, thank the Lord for His instruction. Thank Him for His discipline. Thank Him for seeking the best for you. Thank Him for His love. Praise Him for He alone is good, and He alone deserves all honor, glory, and praise. I pray that you are joyfully disciplined.
“Joyful are those you discipline, LORD, those you teach with your instructions.” – Psalm 94:12 [NLT]
“Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good. So obey the commands of the LORD your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” – Deuteronomy 8:5-6 [NLT]
Recently, someone told me that they “cannot afford to tithe.” I remember those days—the days when I thought I could not part with the money or the bills wouldn’t get paid. But I also remember the moment I got my finances in order, when I started to take a serious look at where the money was going. The Bible speaks about where the treasure is located, that’s where your heart will also be found (see Matthew 6:21). Take a look at your checking account register. Review it and you will see what has value to you. Recognize that if God is first place in your life, He shouldn’t be getting the leftovers.
You might be included in the likely 90% + readers who know I am a pastor. Perhaps you are saying, “Oh here’s a pastor asking for money again.” Please understand, I am NOT asking you for money. God does NOT need your money. He is the God of the universe. He is our Creator. But He has blessed us with what we have in our possession. It’s HIS! ALL OF IT!! Maybe you worked for it, but He blessed you with that job. Behind it all, before it all, you will find God. He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning, the End. He is in all, above all, through all. Bottom line (see 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, Colossians 1:17, Revelation 22:13). And tithing is a BLESSING to you! Yes, you read that right. Giving some of the money that God blessed you with to your local church to continue God’s kingdom building is an amazing opportunity you are blessed to be able to take part in. It’s a blessing to be a steward, and we are to be generous givers (see 1 Timothy 6:18). Tithing is not an obligation; it’s a loving response, a willing response to the grace of God.
God doesn’t want you trapped. He wants you free. Sometimes we are trapped by lies. Sometimes we are trapped by sin. Sometimes we are trapped by possessions. When you are trapped by your possessions, you cling to them so tightly that your possessions actually possess you. Today, look at your budget. Jot down different categories. Look to see where your money goes. Then pray about your finances. Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT). You do this and you will learn to be a better steward. You will start to loosen your grip on what God has blessed you with, and be the generous, cheerful giver you were meant to be.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
ctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
The Israelites were quick to complain about God when they didn’t have their eyes on food. Just after God brought them out of Egypt, they forgot what He rescued them from, because they were hungry. Where was the food? We would be better off back in Egypt.
Even though the Israelites were complaining, God showed His glory to them. He didn’t withhold His glory. How awesome is that?!? He graciously allowed them to “see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud.”
Have you ever seen God’s glory? If you haven’t, you haven’t been looking. Despite each of us being sinners, He allows us to see His glory. Despite us often being ungrateful, He allows us to see His glory. Today, thank Him for His gracious ways. Thank Him for allowing us to experience Him—allowing us to see His glory!
“And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud.” – Exodus 16:10 [NLT]
Rules and regulations are important and certainly needed. If we would not have rules, there would be no boundaries in the world. People could drive on any side of the road. There would be no need to stand in a line. These are only a few examples but it is easy to see things would be very different. Structure would disappear.
Even so, there are two things that are important to remember. We must remember that none of us keep all of the “rules.” We do not follow God’s Law. Read the Law of Moses. Read the Ten Commandments. It won’t take long to see that we fall short. In Romans 3, Paul is quick to profess that we all fall short. Accept it. Second, grace is above the Law. The love of Christ, the grace of God—with this we have salvation because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross.
In Colossians 2, we read of people who were trying to keep the Law. Though Christ fulfilled the Law, though we no longer live by the Law, people were still trying to submit to the Law. Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch. Do not. Do not. Living with these regulations enslaved the followers. No longer were these people living by grace; instead, these people were slaves of the Law. They were asked if they still belonged to the world. Why? Because those in the world follow the laws of the world, while those who belonged to Jesus lived by grace. By following the Law, they were basically saying that the blood of Christ wasn’t enough. You decide. Where do you belong? For me, I belong to Jesus.
“Why do you live as if you still belong to the world? [Why do you submit to rules and regulations? – as] Do not handle [this], Do not taste [that], Do not even touch [them].” – Colossians 2:20b-21 [AMP]
If you are the older sibling, you might have heard the phrase “look after” your brother or sister. If you are in a management position, your job is to “look after” whatever you are managing, and this usually includes a group of people. When you have children, you “look after” them.
Looking after someone requires time and attention. Looking after someone at its best requires love and dedication. Looking after someone or something requires caring. Looking after someone requires being intentional and present.
The author of Hebrews wrote, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.” He went on to mention bitterness that leads to trouble and corruption. We spend a lot of time looking after ourselves, looking after our families, looking after our co-workers—let us not forget to look after our brothers and sisters.
“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” – Hebrews 12:15 [NLT]