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Devotions to Take You Deeper
By Edward Strauss
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 Edward Strauss
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDevotion #1 SEEING THAT GOD IS REAL
God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. -Romans 1:20
God is a spiritual being. He lives in another dimension, and human eyeballs just aren't made for seeing spiritual things. That whole realm is invisible to us. Even if you had night-vision goggles, you still couldn't see God. But there is a way to clearly understand what he's like. How's that? By looking at the world that God made.
When you play a super cool computer game with cutting-edge graphics, you just know that some awesome programmer designed the thing, right?
Even if the programmer's not around for you to actually see, you know he or she exists. If you walk into your friend's house and see a million-piece Lego castle, you might ask, "Whoa! Did you build this?" If your friend says, "Nah. The dog sneezed, and this all fell into place," you'd say, "Yeah, riiight."
It's the same with God. Study the awesome way that nature works and how complex living things are, and it hits you that you're looking at the work of an invisible, intelligent Creator. And this Creator's not just super smart, he has awesome power. When people examine things like DNA or the human brain, even if they don't know God, they figure there had to be an intelligent designer behind it. It's far too amazing to be an accident.
Do you want to see evidence of God? Look at the things he created. They tell you a lot about what he's like and give you a glimpse of how powerful he is.
Chapter TwoDevotion #2 ONE GOD-ONE WAY TO HEAVEN
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." -Acts 4:12
If you want to please God and live forever in heaven, first you have to figure out who God is. So, who is the true god? Were the ancient Greeks right when they said that when you leave this life you will live in Elysium with Zeus? Nope. Well then, how about the ancient Scandinavians who said that you will live in Valhalla with Thor? No. This verse tells us that there's only one God who brings salvation-the God of the Bible. All other so-called gods are imposters.
Now, how do you find salvation with the one true God? What do you have to do to make sure that you end up in heaven? If you brush your teeth faithfully four hundred times a day, rake leaves off every driveway in your city, and rescue at least forty cats from trees, will that do it? No. Those things will wear you out, but they won't get you into heaven. So what's the way?
Jesus said, "I am the way." He added, "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Okay, now we're zeroing in on how to find salvation. You have to go through Jesus! In fact, the Bible makes it very clear: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
Praying to Zeus won't save you. Being the best Boy Scout on the block won't save you. Only believing in Jesus gives you eternal life.
Chapter ThreeDevotion #3 HOW WE GOT THE BIBLE
"How did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?" "Yes," Baruch replied, "he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll." -Jeremiah 36:17-18
How did we get the Bible? The words in the Bible were inspired by God. In some cases, God spoke directly to prophets like Moses who wrote down his words. And Jeremiah spent forty years repeating God's exact words to his scribe Baruch and the people of Judah. Jeremiah was even put into jail for the difficult news he spoke, but he continued to repeat God's message. And later in ancient Israel, flocks of scribes had the job of making exact copies of the prophets' books. So, we have a reliable record of God's Word.
Has a teacher ever given you a complicated explanation that you didn't write down? Then when you tried to remember it later, you forgot it completely, remembered only a word or two, or got it totally mixed up. And memory loss even hits with short, simple messages! Think how many times you say to your mom, "Yeah, I'll do it," but a minute later whatever she said is totally wiped out of your mind.
That's why God had his prophets write down what he said right away. God inspired many prophets and writers because he wanted to be sure that people knew what he was telling them. So, people like you, living today, know exactly what he wants you to do.
Thank God for ink and scrolls and paper! Thank God for prophets and scribes who knew how to write! Thank God that these words have been preserved and delivered to us. That's how we got the Bible.
Chapter FourDevotion #4 THE HOLY SPIRIT'S POWER
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." -Acts 1:8
What's this? Receiving power? That sounds good-like a superpower! But who is this Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of God, and Jesus promised his disciples that after he went to heaven he'd send the Spirit of God himself into their hearts-to live inside them! Wow! No wonder you get power! When God's Spirit enters you, you admit the most powerful being in the universe into your life.
There are lots of movies and cartoons about kids receiving superpowers. Someone gets bombarded with radiation, or a genetically altered spider bites him, and the next thing you know he can walk up walls, bend steel bars, or surround himself with a force field. Of course, on top of going to school and doing homework, these superheroes have to wear colorful costumes and go out and save the world!
Although superheroes aren't real, what the Bible says about God filling you with the power of his Holy Spirit is real. Of course, God probably won't give you the ability to climb up skyscrapers. God gives his Spirit so that you'll have power to live like a Christian. His Spirit also comforts you when you're afraid or sad. The Holy Spirit teaches you how to pray and guides you in your choices. The Spirit also helps you tell others about Jesus.
God's Spirit can give you power, and you need that power. So, pray and ask God to help you access the power of the Holy Spirit, so you can begin to live a stronger Christian life.
Chapter FiveDevotion #5 TALKING TO GOD ALL DAY LONG
Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you. -1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Pray continually? Does that mean I'm supposed to stumble around on my knees with my eyes shut? Nice try, buddy. You won't even make it across the street if you try that stunt. Praying continually means that you can talk to God no matter what you're doing. And prayer isn't just asking God for stuff. Often it's a quick thank you to God. Sometimes it simply means being aware of God and wanting to obey him.
When you hear the words "prayer time," what comes to your mind? Saying twenty seconds worth of grace over left-over pasta? Yawning bedside prayers for forty seconds? Those things are prayer, true, but with 1,440 minutes in a day, don't you have more time for God than one minute? God is your best friend, and he's with you all day long. If you spent all day with one of your friends, you'd talk to him a lot, right?
So communicate with God. He wants to hear from you. Prayer is talking honestly and respectfully to God, and you should do that whatever else you're doing-whether you're lying down to sleep, making a tough decision, or white-water rafting with your eyes wide open. Yes, it's okay to pray with your eyes open.
God is always here listening, and he has the power to answer your prayers. So stay in close communication with him.
Chapter SixDevotion #6 KEEPING A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
"I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." -Acts 24:16
God has given everybody on earth a conscience. It's part of the package. A conscience is your mind knowing the difference between right and wrong. When you do wrong, your conscience makes you feel bad. When you do what's right, you have peace. The apostle Paul said he tried to keep a clear conscience by doing what was right before God and before people.
If you think that a conscience is a tiny angel fluttering at your right ear telling you to do good, and a tiny devil at your left ear tempting you to lie or take a cookie, you've been watching way too much TV. A conscience is the knowledge that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. For example, your conscience tells you that caring for the weak is right, honoring your parents is right, but stealing is wrong.
When you're tempted to do wrong, your conscience reminds you that it's wrong. If you go ahead and do it anyway, your conscience kicks in again, making you feel guilty. If you apologize to the person you wronged, then you have a clear conscience again. And guess what? If you have a clear conscience and obey God's commands, you can be confident that God will answer your prayers. (See 1 John 3:21-22.) That's one of the benefits of having a clear conscience!
Your conscience is a gift from God. Don't ignore it. When it tells you to do something good, obey it. When your conscience tells you not to do something bad, well, duh, don't.
CH7[ Devotion #7 JESUS' POWERFUL RESURRECTION
"He was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." -Acts 2:31-32
Jesus was nailed to a cross on a Friday morning, and he died that afternoon. His friends buried him just before sunset, and Jesus' lifeless body lay in a cold, dark tomb all that night, all the next day, and all the next night. Then at dawn Sunday morning, there was a violent earthquake, the stone door of his tomb rolled aside, and Jesus walked out. He appeared to his disciples, proving that he was alive again.
You may say, "Okay, I saw a program about a guy on TV whose heart stopped. He was dead for two minutes, and then the doctors gave him an electric shock, and he came back to life." Yeah, but that guy wasn't nearly beaten to death by Roman soldiers and then nailed to a cross. And he didn't lay dead in a tomb for about forty hours. When people are dead like Jesus was dead, they're good and dead and they stay dead.
Another thing: when Jesus' body came back to life, his flesh-and-blood corpse was transformed into a powerful, eternal body that could walk through walls or appear and disappear. His body had been utterly changed. This was a supernatural miracle.
Jesus is the only person who ever actually died, rose from the dead, and now lives forever! His resurrection was a huge, convincing proof that he was who he claimed to be-God's Son. ]CH7
CH8[ Devotion #8 WHY WE WORSHIP GOD
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood ... to him be glory and power for ever and ever! -Revelation 1:5-6
Why does the Bible tell us to worship God? Does God have an ego problem? Does he need people to constantly repeat how great he is? No. Worship simply means recognizing how awesome God is-and saying it. We worship Jesus because he's God's Son, and he loved us enough to die for us and was powerful enough to return to life. Does Jesus get proud when we praise him? No. He said, "I am gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29).
Imagine your dad works in the Air Force, and one day he gives you high-level clearance and takes you into the super secret hangar of the newest experimental jet. (You wish!) You walk in and there's this shimmering, monstrous, powerful thing! Your eyes bug out, and you shout, "Whoa! Awesome!" Some things are jaw-dropping awesome.
God is far, far more powerful and awesome than that, and his Holy Spirit packs way more power! And what Jesus did by dying to save us and then coming back to life deserves our praise! Is Jesus glorious? Yes. Is Jesus powerful? You bet he is. So when we worship God, we're simply recognizing how fantastic he is.
When you realize how awesome God is and what fantastic things he has done for you, and you're in awe and feeling grateful-that's worship.
Excerpted from Devotions to Take You Deeper by Edward Strauss Copyright © 2007 by Edward Strauss. Excerpted by permission.
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