Wonderful Counselor

Day 1:  “Well, that guy is worse than me…”
 
Praise:  Take time before the devotion to praise God for the things He’s doing in your life and the opportunity you have to engage with the weak, sick, injured, strayed and lost.
 
Pray:  Remember to pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to His work.  Rejoice in his provision for you and the opportunities we have to build His Kingdom.  Ask God to guide you to and through those opportunities.
 
Read:  Luke 19:1-10
 
Sometimes, at least for me, it is useful to think of the Bible in context of contemporary life.  It’s easy to look at the Scripture as just a disconnected story that someone told versus the key to all life, both the “here and now” and eternally, and one that was written specifically for us.  The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector is one that I have tended to look at with a “judgmental eye.”  I think to myself, “Look how terrible that guy acted toward the people of Jericho!  He stole from them and amassed great wealth at their expense!”  And further I think to myself, “Nothing I’ve done is worse than that…” Side note:  At least nothing I’ve done lately is that bad… I’m painting a “rosy” picture of my circumstance while mercilessly criticizing another (I’m sure no one else does that, right?).  I’m certainly not saying this is right, but it is something I catch myself doing.  I look at Zacchaeus as being “worse than me” because he’s a sinner and Jesus knows he’s a sinner.
 
But let’s stop there for a minute.  During my own reflections, I realize that I’m the exact same as Zacchaeus.  As we have seen often, how many sins does it take in order for a person to be a sinner? The answer is 1.  So, the Bible is illustrating that, in spite of being vividly familiar with all that we’ve done, and that we’re all sinners, Jesus accepts us anyway.  He demonstrates over and over in the Bible that not only does He believe in us, but He loves us unconditionally. 
 
Consider spending some time in prayer praising God and His Son, Jesus, for loving us and accepting us even though we don’t deserve it.  Now, go and have a great day!!
               

 
 
             
Day 2:  We have HOPE!
 
Praise:  Take time before the devotion to praise God for the things He’s doing in your life and the opportunity you have to engage with the weak, sick, injured, strayed and lost.
 
Pray:  Remember to pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to His work.  Rejoice in his provision for you and the opportunities we have to build His Kingdom.  Ask God to guide you to and through those opportunities.
 
Read:  Mark 14:32-37; John 19:28-30
 
The Bible is so rich with wisdom and guidance!!  I find this to be true more and more, as I force myself to change my behavior and spend time reading it.  The critical thing, though, is to take the time.  The convenient excuse that we all use is that we don’t have time.  That’s not really true, though.  We DO have time for the things that we prioritize.  For example, I chose to take the time this morning to sleep in and not go to the gym.  I should have gotten up and gone to the gym.  It is a priority for my wife and me; yet, I still took the easy road.  Note that I didn’t say this was easy and I certainly don’t suggest that there won’t be struggles, but the bottom line is that we can all decide to take the time.
 
Speaking of that rich content in the Bible, today’s thoughts center around “hope”.  I derive this from the terrible struggles that Jesus willingly endured for us and how the Bible shows us that He paid the full price for our sins.  This has taken me a really long time to begin to understand.   Notice in the gospel of Mark (14:32-37) that Jesus was (quite literally) in agony over what He knew was approaching.  One of the study bibles I use (The MacArthur Study Bible) describes the situation in verse 34 as, “Jesus’ sorrow was so severe that it threatened to cause His death at that moment.   It is possible for a person to die from sheer anguish…”
 
Have you ever felt that kind of anguish?  Maybe there has been an instance in your life where you were overcome with pain, emotion, struggle of some sort.  If so, this may be a taste of what Jesus was experiencing as He earnestly prayed to God the Father to remove the “cup” (the struggle) from Jesus’ path.  But Jesus willingly submitted His will to the will of the Father so that He (Jesus) could pay for our sins.  Jesus was struggling so mightily because He was fully aware of what was in store for him on the way to and on the cross.  Yet he went willingly.
 
I mentioned I’d come back to the concept of Jesus paying fully for our sins.  I listened to a sermon from Pastor JD Greear on this topic recently and he illustrated it in terms that were very clear to me.  He used the analogy of his wife paying the electric bill for their home.  Once that bill is sent, it would not be fair for the electric company to come back and ask for Pastor JD to pay again.  Why?  Because the debt has been paid!  Jesus has paid our debt of sin.  He has paid all of it!  That means He has paid for ALL of our sin (our past, present, and future)!  It is ALL already paid. 
 
I hope this speaks “hope” into your life.  It certainly did for me.  Have a great day!
 
 
Day 3:  Jesus is qualified to be our Counselor.
 
Praise:  Take time before the devotion to praise God for the things He’s doing in your life and the opportunity you have to engage with the weak, sick, injured, strayed and lost.
 
Pray:  Remember to pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to His work.  Rejoice in his provision for you and the opportunities we have to build His Kingdom.  Ask God to guide you to and through those opportunities.
 
Read:  Matthew 4:1-11
 
Some of us are proud.  I know I am, sometimes to a fault.  That trait, at times, causes it to be difficult to take advice.  It’s easier to take advice, however, from someone who has walked the path that we’re on successfully.  Jesus did that very thing.  And He did so without succumbing to temptation and without any sin.  As I mentioned in these devotions and I still do often, it is easy to “gloss” over that fact and not regard it as highly as I think it should be.  Keep in mind that Jesus lived for 33+ years in a society like we’re living in now.  The Scripture reading today is perhaps some of the most intense and direct examples of temptation, but I think that many of the lesser (yet still potentially leading to sin, so not to be taken for granted by any stretch!) temptations plagued Him during His life.  I’m sure that people were rude to Him, maybe even tried to steal from Him.  I’m sure He was tempted to lash out at people out of frustration.  But through all of this in 33+ years of life, Jesus never sinned.
 
Let’s focus on those intense examples of temptation of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel for a bit.  Again, if you’re like me, you tend to “gloss over” these examples as not being directly representative of temptations that I would experience.  But again, I’ll suggest that you give that some thought.  First, Jesus, though fully God and fully man (I still find it impossible to ‘get my mind around that’, but I’ve become more and more comfortable that there are things about a supernatural God and the Creator of our Universe that I will not fully understand… and that is ok), had given up the use of His divine power in order to fully experience humanity (Life Application Study Bible (LASB) – notes on Matthew 4:3,4).  Thus, He was hungry after fasting for 40 days.  Note:  I’ve done some fasting periodically, but never for 40 days!  I find it very difficult and feel VERY hungry after just several hours and maybe a day or 2 of fasting, let alone considering how hungry, weak, and frail I’d feel after 40 days of fasting.  So, Jesus was very hungry, possibly to the point of being sick.  Satan merely suggested that He provide nourishment for Himself.  The other point through this that God’s Word is making (same note from LASB as above) is that we will experience perfectly normal desires in this life (hunger, desire for possessing things, etc.), but we are to satisfy those desires according to the principles in God’s Word and not through inappropriate ways made available in this fallen world.
 
Jesus responds to all three temptations (of the flesh – verses 3-4, pride – verses 5-6, and lust of the eyes – versus 8-9) and did not give in to sin.  Hebrews 4:15 says, “… [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin.” (New Living Translation)
 
With all of this as context, I’m comfortable that Jesus is more than qualified to give guidance to me.
  
 
Day 4:  There IS a solution to anxiety:  Pray (first), not last.
 
Praise:  Take time before the devotion to praise God for the things He’s doing in your life and the opportunity you have to engage with the weak, sick, injured, strayed and lost.
 
Pray:  Remember to pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to His work.  Rejoice in his provision for you and the opportunities we have to build His Kingdom.  Ask God to guide you to and through those opportunities.
 
Read:  Philippians 4:6-7
 
Think back to the “Application” from the sermon as it suggested that we need to understand the term “Counselor” in the context of the Bible.  There is significant power in the term as used here.  I like the analogy of the Counselor giving us the “battle plan” that can help us be overcomers in this life.
 
There is similar power in today’s Scripture and I believe this is a big part of that battle plan to overcome in our daily lives.  We’ve got to take some time to understand it, however.  It drives us to pray as a first action toward resolution of any issue that may be causing us to worry.  We all have these instances in life every day.  I have both family members and friends right now who are battling cancer.  If I’m not careful, these are constant causes of potential worry.  I have to continually remind myself of the practice of “praying first”.  In the past, I would think of any possible action I can take and, after I’d done that, I would pray.  However, this Scripture encourages us to pray first, and in doing so, “… let our requests be made known to God…” (vs 6).  Keep in mind, though, it does not promise that the circumstances causing our anxiety will instantly disappear.  It does, however, mention that, “… the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [emphasis is mine] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (vs 7)  In my life, this has meant that God will change how I think about or regard certain aspects of the situation.  Essentially, He’ll change how I feel or what I understand about certain circumstances.  This is the “playing out in my life” that the Scripture, “… the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds…” illustrates.
 
Now that you no longer have “worry” to worry about, decide to make it a great day!!
 
Day 5:  Jesus has overcome the world.
 
Praise:  Take time before the devotion to praise God for the things He’s doing in your life and the opportunity you have to engage with the weak, sick, injured, strayed and lost.
 
 
Pray:  Remember to pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to His work.  Rejoice in his provision for you and the opportunities we have to build His Kingdom.  Ask God to guide you to and through those opportunities.
 
Read:  John 16:32-33
 
This is a great concept in Scripture and especially pertinent at this time of year.  While we can be thankful for gathering with friends and family and holiday celebrations, statistics show that the holidays can also be a very depressing time of the year.  If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve experienced instances during the holidays where you felt insecure, fearful of things to come, or just kind of empty inside.  Keep your military and first responders in mind too during this Christmas Season, since some of them will not be able to be home with their families, a situation which can very easy make matters much worse (and maybe even hopeless).
 
Yet, we can have hope.  This Scripture is powerful.  Admittedly, there are clear acknowledgements here that we will experience tribulations in this life.  Let this situation connect directly with you. Tribulations occur in life as bouts with depression, sickness, family issues and challenges, etc.  But the Word clearly says that, “…in Me you may have peace.” (John 16:33)  In fact, the Scripture goes further to say, “… but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (vs 33)  POW!!  The notes from the MacArthur Study Bible capture the power of the passage well:
 
“Through His impending death, He [Jesus] rendered the world’s opposition null and void.  While the world continues to attack His people, such attacks fall harmlessly, for Christ’s victory has already accomplished a smashing defeat of the whole evil rebellious system.” (MacArthur Study Bible, pg 1618, notes on John 16:33)
 
Can you begin to grasp the power in that?!?  “…the world’s opposition [is] null and void”!!
 
There is evidence here that Jesus has, in fact, as the sermon mentioned, given us the battle plan (with Him) to be overcomers in this life.
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