Between school, extracurriculars, homework, housework, church, youth group, maybe a job—is there time for anything else except eating and sleeping? Hopefully you find a little free time for fun and friends. But what about God? Sure, He's always there, and you have His constant attention. But does He have yours? Do you get alone daily with God and give Him your undivided attention? As with any friendship, getting to know God takes time.
A guy named Martin Luther instigated what's known in church history as the Reformation. He helped change the way people viewed their relationship with Jesus by emphasizing God's grace and our personal access to God's Word. When once asked what his plans for the following day were, Luther answered: "Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much business I cannot get on without spending the first three hours in prayer." Of all the important things going on in his life, Martin Luther knew there was nothing more important than getting to know God and taking time to hear from Him.
If you're too busy to spend time with God, then you're busier than God intends for you to be. It's not that He requires you to carve out three hours a day to pray. God is always there, so when it comes to His special time alone with you, He's more concerned with quality than quantity. He wants your best time, not your leftover time. Part of trusting God is giving Him time off the top, then watching Him make the most of the rest of your day.
For now, let's consider one small piece of your day—devoted solely to listening, learning, and gaining inspiration from God. This book will help you make the most of that time by providing a pattern for purposeful Bible study, prayer, and personal application of spiritual truth.
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action" (1 Peter 1:13).
Each day's FIRE Starter begins by having you READ a short passage from the Bible—the written record of God's personal revelation and plans for us. It could be argued that if you don't know God's Word—the Bible—you don't really know God. Used daily, this book will take you through the entire New Testament in one year.
Following the Bible reading, the THINK section describes a brief scenario or poses questions to get you thinking about how the passage relates to your life. As you approach the Bible with an open mind, you can learn how to be more like Jesus.
"Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2).
When learning God's Word, before you can make effective application, you must make proper interpretation. The RESPOND section contains a series of questions to help you delve deeper into the passage: Who's involved? What's going on? What's the author trying to communicate? And what does it have to do with you?
"I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word" (Psalm 119:15,16).
In a biblical sense, to meditate means to "chew" on God's Word mentally, pondering what it means and how it applies to your life. You'll notice that some questions contain brief responses in parentheses. These are meant to spark your thinking and not to convey all implications or answers. You can find more complete commentary in the FIRE Bible Student Edition.
Following the questions, each FIRE Starter gives you a specific way to PRAY, relating to issues from your study. Keep in mind that prayer is a two-way conversation with God. It's not just a matter of what you say to Him, but what He wants to say to you. Take time to listen for God's response.
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).
For God's Word to become part of your life, you must live what you learn. The final segment of each FIRE Starter challenges you to ACT on at least one specific point of application, putting into practice the spiritual principles of that day's Bible passage. Any time you read or hear something from the Bible ask yourself, "What difference should this make in my life, and what should I do now that God has shown me this?" Remember, if you don't use it, you'll lose it.
For in-depth, downloadable versions of these daily FIRE Starters in which the questions relate directly to specific study notes in the FIRE Bible Student Edition, go to fbse.ag.org.
THINK: Do you ever feel that because of your past failures or what you've been through that God could never use you for a great purpose? Jesus came to earth to relate to your pain so that you could relate to His purposes. Look back at Old Testament passages that highlight the lives of Jesus' ancestors. You'll find that many of these individuals have major character flaws and failures in their past (e.g., Jacob, who lied; Rahab, the prostitute).
RESPOND: What does the title "Christ" refer to when connected to Jesus? (Greek: christos means "anointed," which is like saying chosen, commissioned, empowered, set apart for special service.) What does it mean that Jesus was the "son of David"? (Matthew demonstrates that Jesus was a legal descendant of David by tracing the family history of his earthly father, Joseph, who was from King David's family line.) Why did Matthew list Jesus' ancestors in this way? (Jewish custom traces family history through one's paternal line—that is, His earthly father's side.) Considering the variety of people in Jesus' family line, what does this tell you about God and the people He can use to serve His highest purposes? How can this provide comfort and encouragement to you? What does the name Jesus mean and what is its significance in relation to Christ? (Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Yeshua [Joshua], translated "the Lord saves." Christ in Greek is the Hebrew equivalent of "Messiah," referring to the Savior the Jews were waiting for.) Why did Jesus have to live and suffer as a human, and how does that relate to you?
PRAY: Give God thanks for His forgiveness and for the assurance that the hurts and failures of your past do not have to stand in the way of God's ultimate plans for your life. If there is anything that is hindering your personal relationship with Jesus, confess it to Him and submit to His purposes.
ACT: Demonstrate God's love through an act of kindness or word of encouragement to someone who may seem spiritually distant or "unreachable." Pray for that individual and do something practical to help them. If you have the opportunity, let the person know that God loves them and you are praying that they discover God's plan for their life.
THINK: Have you ever gotten out of one tough situation only to encounter another one right away? Perhaps you feel that this is just life as usual for you? Jesus understands. He never promised that life would be easy. In fact, some of the people God uses the most are those who have been through the toughest trials. But God expects you to trust Him. He is completely able to bring you through any challenge and circumstance. But God's protection often requires obedience to God's direction (verses 13,14,19-22).
RESPOND: Who were the Magi? (They were most likely highly educated religious leaders from Persia or southern Arabia, now Iran.) Who were the chief priests and teachers of the law? (Chief priests were temple ministers in charge of worship. Teachers of the law were Jewish scholars trained professionally in the history and application of Old Testament law.) What lesson can you learn from Jesus' family's escape to Egypt? (They had to obey God's direction, though it meant leaving their home country.) Why might God allow you to face opposition or go through things you don't understand? How can the experience of Jesus' family right after His birth help you to understand and cope with some of the problems, difficulties and opposition you might face? What can you learn from Joseph and Mary's actions and responses?
PRAY: Ask God to help you be sensitive to His direction and to trust Him when facing challenges, particularly those that seem to require a change in plans or direction. Thank Him for providing protection, even though you don't always understand His methods or reasons.
ACT: Think of a problem or tough situation you are currently facing. Instead of removing the apparent obstacle or opposition, could God be trying to give you guidance and direction to work through it? Perhaps He will lead you into an unexpected course of action? Ask God for wisdom. Then listen for His guidance and be prepared to act. Thank God for what He will teach you through the situation.
THINK: If you've already accepted Jesus as the Forgiver of your sins, how much have you grown since that time in a spiritual sense? Are you continuing to grow deeper in your personal relationship with Jesus, and does your life reflect that on a daily basis?
RESPOND: What does it mean to repent, and how does that relate to a person's relationship with God? (To repent is to "turn around." But it's not just turning from sin; it's turning to God through Jesus.) What does it mean to "produce fruit" in a spiritual sense? (Your outside behavior, should match your inside—mind, character, heart.) Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees? (Pharisees were Jewish leaders who followed the entire Old Testament Law plus their own interpretations of it. Sadducees were political leaders. If they believed in God at all, they didn't believe He bothered supernaturally with peoples' lives.) What does it mean that Jesus "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire"? (Focused submission to the Holy Spirit gives us the power to live for God and be Christ's witnesses. "Fire" refers to both God's purifying presence and refining work in our lives.) Why was Jesus baptized? (To show everyone watching that He was set apart for God and to set the example of submitting to God's purposes.) What do the events surrounding Jesus' baptism reveal about the character and uniqueness of God? (All three persons in the Trinity are present, being Who they are individually, but One in purpose.)
PRAY: Ask God to help you understand His Word and to apply it to your life daily. If you are aware of any way in which your beliefs and behavior don't line up or that you are not obeying something God has told you, ask Jesus to forgive you and to help you make a definite change.
ACT: Make a conscious and determined effort to obey God in ways that you may have previously overlooked or neglected. Also, if you have not yet been baptized in water since surrendering your life to Christ, talk to your pastor about doing so as a means of following Jesus' example and identifying with Him.
THINK: Think of the times when you seem to be most vulnerable to spiritual attack and temptation. How do you typically hold up under the pressure? God has given you tools for success and an example to follow in overcoming even the toughest temptations. The devil tried to take advantage of Jesus and distract Him from His mission, just as he will try to do to you. But if you follow Jesus' example, He will give you victory over the enemy's fiercest attacks.
RESPOND: What was Satan's goal in tempting Jesus? (Satan did and said what he thought it would take to provoke Jesus to sin.) In what ways had Jesus prepared for Satan's attacks? (Jesus obviously knew God and knew His Word long before He faced these temptations.) How did Jesus' use of God's written Word differ from Satan's? (Whereas Satan quoted Scripture correctly but out of context, Jesus both quoted and used God's Word correctly.) What does this passage reveal about Satan, how he will attack you spiritually, and how you can resist his attacks? What can you learn from how Jesus' first disciples responded to Him (cf. verses 20,22)?
PRAY: Ask Jesus to help you recognize times when you are most susceptible to spiritual attack and temptation. Pray that God will help you fill your mind with His Word and bring it to mind when you face difficulty and temptation. Also, ask God to use you to bring help and healing to hurting people.
ACT: Bring your Bible with you today and take it out when you have spare time. Find a verse that is special to you and memorize or recite it throughout the day. Also, stay alert for anyone who may be hurting physically, emotionally or spiritually. Don't be afraid to tell them that you'll pray for them. If God gives you an opportunity to talk about a spiritual issue, trust Him to guide your conversation.