Called and Used by the Generous God

Jeremiah 1-3

Jeremiah 1 5 NIV sgl

These first 3 chapters of Jeremiah have several applications for the reader. In the beginning of this book, we learn about the calling of Jeremiah. Before Jeremiah was even born, the Lord set him aside to be a prophet. God wanted to use Jeremiah to fulfill this calling. Jeremiah at first believed himself incapable of such a thing. But the LORD said he would be with Jeremiah. He would not only guide him; he would also protect him. Jeremiah then trusted God and began this work.

We can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes it is easy to doubt ourselves and believe that we are incapable of something. We may think that God couldn’t use us because of x, y, and z. In reality, though, it is not by our strength or ability that we serve the LORD. It is rather him working through us. So, by doubting ourselves, we are doubting the ability of the LORD to work through us. Jeremiah also did not believe himself capable of being called, but nonetheless he was. The LORD called many sinners such as David, Jonah, Paul, and countless others. So, do not doubt yourself. The LORD is capable of calling you and through him, you are capable of answering that call.

Another interesting thing found in these three chapters is the fact that God warned the people of their ways. He did not make them guess. Sometimes when we are upset with someone, we think that the offending party should be able to figure out why we are upset with them. God did not do this. He used Jeremiah to tell them what they were doing and what they needed to do. If I really think about this, I think of how generous and caring this act is. Even though the Israelites were completely in the wrong and should know what it was they were doing, God still communicated with them. He did not keep them in the dark even though they were ignoring him.

It is interesting also that it seems like the main thing that God is asking of the Israelites in these chapters is for their repentance. Through Jeremiah, he tells them that they should not continue on in their ways as though they are doing no wrong. They should acknowledge what they are doing and repent. They needed to accept that they were wrong.

It can be hard though to admit when we are wrong. By doing this our pride is injured and we have to humble ourselves. It is far easier to keep doing what we were doing and act like we are in the clear. This, however, is not right. We need to admit when we are wrong. Through doing so, we can grow and mature.

 

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 4-6 as we continue on our journey through God’s Word with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A King and A Tyrant

2 Kings 20-21

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These two short chapters make me very glad for the American political system. Before I talk about what makes our system so good, I need to talk about the system in place in the passage that we read. Chapter 20 marks the end of the reign of a good king, Hezekiah, who accomplished many good deeds in the name of God. He was an iconoclast, one who destroys religious images (as an aside, archaeological evidence confirms the iconoclasm of Hezekiah’s age, very cool). He also increased the size of the Judahite kingdom and made it into a power on par with that of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Of course, all of this was made possible by the God who went before them in battle. Of all the kings of Judah, Hezekiah can be counted among the best, and under the guidance of a king such as he, a monarchy isn’t such a bad deal.

But when your good king is replaced by a 12-year-old tyrant, things aren’t so good. Manasseh reversed all the progress that Hezekiah made toward ridding Israel of idols and images of foreign gods. Manasseh turned away from God and brought Judah down with him. This is the power of a king. If he is good, then he can accomplish great things! But if he is evil, then he can accomplish even worse things. Somehow, Manasseh survived for fifty-five years as the king of Judah. Being a murderous beast of a man can certainly turn people away from the idea of overthrowing you. Luckily for the people of Judah, his son Amon was a bit more of a weakling, giving his advisors the opportunity to assassinate him.

This is the problem with monarchies. Everyone loves a prosperous generation under a king who does good, but if you are unfortunate enough to have a bad king (and there were a lot of them in Judah and Israel’s history), then the only way to get back on the right track is to murder the guy. Luckily for the Judahites, the next in line to the throne was an 8-year-old boy who ended up becoming arguably the greatest king of Judah. I wish I could talk more about how impressive Josiah is, but our passage cuts off just before his reign begins.

To summarize: a good king is great, but a bad king can only end in bloodshed, in the form of his people’s lives or his own. God knew this when he told Samuel that establishing a kingship was a bad idea. But God let the people have what they wanted. John Locke, a 17th century political philosopher whose thoughts helped lay the groundwork for the American system, knew this and argued against it in his treatises. The American system is designed to move slow, to never be controlled by one person long enough to do lasting damage. In America, you don’t have to wait a generation just to see political reform. Maybe if you are terribly concerned with nominal tax rates and zoning laws, then you can be frustrated with the snail’s pace at which the American political system moves, but the great advantage that we have in America is the lack of despotism and regicide. This alone gives you great reason to be happy to be alive in 2020 and not in the 8th century B.C. Let us thank God that the founders of this country were men of God who believed that each person is endowed with the spark of the Divine which is the source of our authority over our own lives, thus freeing us from the whims of tyrants like Manasseh.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+20-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 32-33 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Better Things are Coming

Isaiah 59-63

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Isaiah 59 describes what it is like to be separated from God as we are now. Our sins are responsible for the barrier between us and God. Because of this barrier, there is sadness, there is depravity and there is a hope for something that cannot be attained. Everything in this world is touched by this separation. Our attempts at justice are a pale reflection of the true justice that God promises. In the American courts for example, there are instances where innocent men are punished, and guilty men go free. This is not justice, but it is the closest that we are able to get to it because of our human nature. We try to imitate true justice as well as we can, but we will always fall short. We even fall short in our pursuit of truth. Even when truth is proclaimed, there will be some who accept it and some who won’t. Truth is meant to have the power to convince anyone.

The following chapter speaks of what it will be like when that barrier is broken down, when God establishes His perfect kingdom. Everything that we love now, that brings us joy, will be replaced with something better. It says, “I will bring gold instead of bronze and silver instead of iron, bronze instead of wood and iron instead of stones.” If you had no possessions and someone asked you if you’d like $20, you would be excited and would gladly accept it. But if you knew that later someone was going to give you $1000, you would be grateful, but not nearly as excited. This is the way it is in God’s perfect kingdom. When thinking about the coming kingdom, we often lament the things that we will miss doing in our current lives if Jesus were to return today. “I can’t wait for the kingdom, but I’d like to finish college first.” Or, “I’d like to have children first.” There are so many things that we look forward to in this life, but here it says that the good things will be replaced with something better, and more than that, we will still have some of the good things that we already enjoy! It says that iron is replaced with silver, but also that stone is replaced with iron. When we think about our future in God’s kingdom, it can be hard to imagine, but we have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and that he will give us something so much better than all of the good things we have now.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+59-63&version=NIV

Tomorrow we finish the book of Isaiah with chapters 64-66 as we continue working through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Portion Sizes

2 Kings 1-4

Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit

On our occasional visits to Disney World, I often think about the cruel irony of Walt never laying eyes on his biggest dream.  He died just five years before the Magic Kingdom opened, just as they were breaking ground. While Disney was charismatic, passionate, creative, and a visionary, he surrounded himself with an entourage of like-minded people, so consequently, his dream did not die with him. By mentoring and empowering those who worked for him, he allowed their passion, creativity, and vision to fuse with his own, to accomplish even greater things than even he could imagine.  In some manner of speaking, each one of the people around him each received the spirit of Disney, yet retained their own spirit, allowing them to benefit from both. This legacy has been passed down over and over again, and Disney has become one of the most innovative companies in film, television, and travel.  Using a conversion that translates 1966 dollars to 2020, The Walt Disney Company is worth a hundredfold more today than it was 54 years ago, maybe even more than Walt, the greatest of the imagineers, could have ever dreamed.

 

While the opening today sounds like one of the final chapters of a leadership book, it is akin, albeit less significantly and definitely imperfectly, to the promises of Elijah and Jesus.  Both not only spent a great deal of their time speaking with God, prophesying, and doing miracles, but both these men made specific investments in the people around them for God’s message to increase.  Jesus surrounded himself with the disciples, and Elijah’s legacy is specific to Elisha.  There is no doubt that these men’s examples made a profound impact on those who spent the most time with them (and yes, the example of Jesus is reverberating, impacting us today, but that’s the direction we’re heading).  The momentum of Elijah or Jesus did not stop when they were taken to heaven.  In fact, Elisha, and Peter, often thought of as the disciple Jesus was closest to, were recipients of faith-induced natural phenomena (2 Kings 3:17 ; Acts16:26).  Additionally, both Peter and Elisha raised people from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35; Acts 9::32-43). Years of watching, listening, and serving led to specific callings for each of these men to do bigger, bolder things than demonstrated by their predecessors (with exception to the propitiation of Christ).  In fact, both Elijah and Jesus prophesied this to be so (2 Kings 2:10; John 14:12-14)

 

This begs the question: who are we bringing along on our faith journey?  If we are effectively sharing the Gospel message, is there not someone who is receiving an exponential portion of whatever our faith has to offer?  How can we extend our finite time on earth to impact the infinite time we will inherit in the kingdom of God? It may be as simple as sharing our faith with our family.  As my children grow, I am alarmingly realizing the majority of their modeling and information is from my wife and me.  Our ultimate goal is that their faith far exceeds our own, yet if we do not show the devotion, love, and belief we have, they will never receive even a single portion of it, much less build upon the faith we have.  It could be we have served in ministry or occupation where we are now becoming the experienced one (this is also known as “old”).  It is time to take someone under our wing, share our testimony and calling.  By allowing someone to watch, listen, and serve, they can learn from our successes and failures without having to bear the consequences or responsibilities, ultimately placing them in a more successful position when they are on their own, long after our influence has left for one reason or another. Their trajectory is steeper, and at some point will outpace us.

 

Ultimately, we should be intentional about sharing our faith, vision (God-given), and resources (also, God-given) with our families or small circle of influence. Our greatest calling may be to prepare the way (Eli, Mordecai, and John the Baptist) for someone who will do more than we could possibly imagine because God will use them to exponentially grow his kingdom.  Let’s make some significant investments. Let’s sow and tend the seeds. Let’s watch as God makes the return thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold because the world is starving for His message. Let us pray and work to serve up bigger portions than ever.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 5-8 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Surrender – to a Great God

Psalm 131, 138- 139 & 143-145

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Throughout these chapters we see surrender, submission, exultation, and countless reasons to put our trust in God. Recognizing God’s glory, David humbly came before God and put his hope and trust in God while praising Him all the way.

 

By learning about who God is, we can then begin to see why He deserves all our attention. God’s attributes are a great place to start. God is omniscient, he knows everything. There is nothing you can hide from Him, ask Adam and Eve. “You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:3) God is omnipresent, he is always present. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7) God is omnipotent, all powerful. And therefore worthy of all our praise and worship. In reading Psalms we can see nothing but how Great our God is. God knows me better than my family does, or even my best friend, He knows all the hairs on our head, and even the number of tears we have cried. He knows where we are and is present at all times. These attributes of God should be such a comfort to us because He is such a loving God whose kindness reaches all. “The LORD will vindicate me; your love, endures forever.” (Psalm 138:8) His love endures forever. The same loving God we see throughout the Bible loves us. God loves us so much that we can be certain He has our best interest in mind. 

 

“When I called, you answered me, you greatly embolden me.’ Psalm 138:3

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

 

Many times in the Psalms we can see this similar wording over and over again but I think it is important to point out that it starts with you seeking God first, and once you do and call on Him, He will answer. The fact that God cares about me enough to listen to and even answer me shows how Great a God He is. 

 

We are God’s workmanship, servant, and masterpiece. We are His people, and He is our God. Our creator, He knit us together in our mother’s womb, and because of that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. So find your worth in God and trust in Him, who, unlike the world, will give you the truth. 

 

It is so fitting that David ends Psalm 139 with a beautiful surrender to God. David sets the example of opening your life up to God and letting Him lead you in this walk called life. God deserves all our trust, hope, and praise. “May they sing in the ways of the LORD for the glory of the LORD is great.” (Psalm 138:5) Sometimes it can be easy to forget just how much God is deserving of all our praise because in reality he deserves so much more than we could ever give Him. Follow David’s example. Ask God to teach you His will and His ways. Ask Him to search your heart and thoughts. Then surrender to Him and give him all your praise and worship. 

Makayla Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+131%2C+138-+139%2C+143-+145&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Chronicles 26-29 and Psalm 127 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Speaks

1 Chronicles 23-25

1 Chronicles 25 1 NIV

I remember the song that came on the radio immediately after receiving the text that a dear woman of God was being placed in hospice care following her 4 year battle with cancer – I Can Only Imagine.  And God spoke to me.  My friend and mentor was getting closer and closer to the dark sleep of death and we would be separated from her for a time.  But at Jesus’ resurrection she will rise and be closer to Jesus than ever before!  I wonder – will she sing and dance or fall silent at his feet?  I Can Only Imagine.

I remember the song that echoed in the rafters as the Family Camp worship band led worship at the close of a Family Camp which had come at a time of great searching and pain for our family when we were unsure of what was next but felt God leading us away from the church that was home – These are the Days of Elijah.  And God spoke to me.  “There is no god like Jehovah”.  Yes, Elijah, Moses, David had trials, too.  They were unsure, they questioned, they experienced pain, and God showed up for them in mighty ways, just as He was revealing himself for us, one day at a time.  “There is no god like Jehovah”!

I remember the song that just last night my daughter started to sing as I read aloud the Bible reading for the day from Psalm 108 – “My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.”  The tune probably wouldn’t sound familiar to you because my 3 kids wrote it out and practiced it over and over with piano, guitar and voice to remember it now, 4 years later, during our devotions.  And God spoke to me – through the words of David and the tune of my children.  God is worthy of praise – through all the years and generations and ages.  Sing to Him and tell the nations!

Music is powerful.  People choose and leave churches based on the worship style.   Many report that during the time of online church they miss most not meeting to sing together with the body of Christ.  It is interesting that the most popular post on this site was one titled after a rousing and uplifting worship song which vividly brings to mind God’s might and protection – The God of Angel Armies.

But what gives music its real power is that GOD speaks through it.

In our reading today we have 3 chapters written for the Jews returning to Jerusalem after many year of living in captivity.  They are reminded of how to be God’s chosen, holy people – and that includes the temple worship spoken of in these chapters – 1 Chronicles 23-25.  We read in 1 Chronicles 23:5 that King David himself provided the instruments for the 4,000 Levites selected to lead the people in musical worship to their God.  Chapter 25 lists the heads of the families selected, “for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals.” (25:1).  Often we think today of prophesying as foretelling the future.  But more generically, and often used in the Scriptures, prophesying is simply speaking for the Lord.  To be God’s mouthpiece.  To say what God wants to be said.

God speaks.   And sometimes that is done with a tune, set to music, with instruments and voices lifted high.   Sing to the Lord – and listen for what He is speaking to you today.

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+chronicles+23-25&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be back in the songbook of the Bible: Psalm 131, 138-139 & 143- 145 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

Which verses would you make into a song to sing today?  

Do you have an interest in writing one devotion for this week?   If so, drop me a line at grow16br@gmail.com and we can discuss.

 

 

Trusting in God

Psalm 5, 38, 41-42

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I have always connected with David’s ability to cry out to the LORD. He isn’t afraid to depend upon him. He is willing to ask God directly to be delivered from his enemies. Even though David clearly expresses his weaknesses, he holds so much confidence in God that he is still willing to come before him and pray. 

 

When we think about the faith that David had, I think it’s easy for us to say, “Well, of course, we should ask God to conquer our battles.” And that is true, we serve a God who wants us to come to him. Through the sacrifice of his Son, we have the ability to come to God and ask him to intercede for us.

 

But when reality sets in, we have a tendency to become overwhelmed and ultimately rely on ourselves. We forget to turn to the one who created us for help. I think this is because it’s easier for us to fathom solutions to our problems that we can come up with on our own. 

 

It’s difficult to trust in someone to fight for us that we can’t even fathom. 

 

And yet, David still decides to trust God. So much so that he is praying that others follow suit. 

 

I find all of this relevant with the struggles that are currently overtaking the world. With hunger, disease, unemployment, and fear continuing to rise, it is natural to become overwhelmed. We want to fight for some sort of solution. We have to find some way to cope. But in all of this fighting, we likely end up crippled by fear. 

 

If our first action is to trust in God, our result is very different. We serve a God who will place a hedge of protection over us. He will provide healing for us. Because he loves us that much. A God who can move mountains is the same God who will make you stronger if you choose to come to him. 

 

David saw the glory and mercy that could come from following a path that would lead him to the LORD- a path of righteousness. Imagine what the world would look like if all of us stopped allowing the noise of society to consume us and rested in God. 

 

So, in the fear, in the hunger, in the waiting, let’s choose to take all of that emotion and let it drive us closer to our creator. Let us become a people who are willing to unapologetically depend upon God to fight our battles. 

 

Ironically, if we take refuge in our Almighty, we will see Victory. 

 

-Leslie Jones

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+5%2C+38%2C+41-42&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 22-23 & Psalm 57 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Your God or My God

1st Samuel 15-17

1 Samuel 15 22 23 NIV

Being raised as a pastor’s kid, I probably took for granted the accessibility of all things church related. Being a Christian was something that was easily practiced because of the environment I was constantly in. I asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was 5 years old. I was baptized the summer before my eighth grade. But it wasn’t until I went off to college that I really realized that my faith was my own responsibility. If I was going to have Christian friends, I needed to find them on my own. If I was going to attend a mid-week Bible study, I needed to find it on my own. If I was going to attend a Sunday morning service, I needed to find it on my own. Mom and Dad weren’t there to guide and direct me. If I wanted to continue to build up my faith, it was now up to me.

As we read through King Saul’s life, we see that he was hand selected and groomed to take on the role of leading Israel – everything was handed to him. And as a result, he never really owned the responsibility of the position he was put in. He never connected the dots of being the leader of God’s people and having a relationship with God himself.

This is particularly evident in 1 Samuel 15. Saul has carried out God’s instructions of taking up arms against the Amalekites. Once Israel wins the battle, they were supposed to destroy everything: man, woman, child, cattle, sheep, camels and donkeys. Nothing was to be spared. But…that’s not what Saul did. He kept the best of the spoils. He claims that he was going to use the prime plunder as a sacrifice.

Here’s how I know that Saul didn’t own his relationship with God: in verses 21 and 30 of chapter 15, Saul refers to the LORD as Samuel’s God.

…the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.” (v 21)

…come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.” (v 30)

Saul didn’t understand his disobedience because he hadn’t bothered to grow a relationship with the One who made him king of Israel.

More than anything God desires to have a relationship with us. He wants us to seek Him more than any other person or pursue any other passion. When we grow our relationship with Him, we come to know the things that please Him as well as the things that displease Him. As we grow our relationship with God, our hearts swell with love for Him, His word, and His people. And when our hearts are full of love, obedience comes naturally.

Bethany Ligon

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+15-17&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1st Samuel 18-20 as well as Psalm 11 & 59.  In our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan, as we read events of David’s life we will also read the Psalms which he wrote at that time.  This will give us a deeper understanding of this “man after God’s own heart” as we see not only the events of his life but his thoughts and feelings and the growth of his relationship with His God – who wants to be Your God too.. 
And, during this Resurrection Weekend it is a great time to also read from the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as we remember the death of OUR Lord Jesus and eagerly await Resurrection morning.

Pouring Out My Soul

1 Samuel 1-3

1 Samuel 1 15c NIV

Raise your hand if you are in the habit of writing out your prayers.

I am not consistent with the practice, but whenever I do, I’m glad that I did. I’ve gone back and read some of my past prayers and I wonder who in the world wrote them. It’s like I’m a different person when I write out my prayers. As I write out my thoughts while praying, I spend much more time acknowledging God and less time on my own wants. When I write out my prayers my words are more intentional than when I speak. When I write out my prayers my ideas seem to be more in alignment with who God wants me to be compared to when I ramble on in my own mind without recording my thoughts.
As I read 1 Samuel 2, I take in the words of a woman who fully expresses who she has experienced God to be. He is her Rock, her God. God is one who knows her heart and strengthens her when she stumbles. God blesses her and sends thunder against her enemies.
I am thankful that this particular prayer was recorded for us to read. It’s an encouragement for us to persist in prayer. It reminds us of who God is and of his power and might, his peace and his love, his provision and his holiness.
If you are already in the practice of writing out your prayers, spend some extra time this week, going back and reading previous prayers. What have you learned since? How have you changed?
If you do not already write out your prayers, I encourage you to spend some time this week, recording your prayers. How do your written prayers compare to your verbal prayers? What might you gain or learn from the process?
Keeping a prayer journal is a discipline that has many benefits. Learn from Hannah and spend time praising God.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading, 1 Samuel 1-3, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+1-3&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Samuel 4-8 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Serving with Your Gifts

Luke 19

Luke 19_3a
Hey my name is Jesse Allen I am the Youth Pastor at Blood River Church of God in Springfield Louisiana. I am so impressed with our next 7 devotions for the FUEL Bible reading! These next devotions come from Students of the Blood River Church of God Youth Group. The devotions are on Luke 14-20. We are so glad you are able to read them and I pray you may be blessed by them!
 
Hey I am Brian and I love playing football, going fishing and riding atvs.  I’m glad to have an opportunity to talk to you about Luke 19:1-10 As football season started this year, I earned the spot of quarterback. I was excited and knew that it would be a good year. Through a series of unfortunate events, I had to move away for four weeks rights in the middle of the season. When I returned, I was a little like Zacchaeus (and not because I am short – I’m not) because I had to find a way to stand out and earn back the position that had been given to someone else. Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to stand out above the crowd. I had to work harder than everyone else to prove that I deserved the position for the rest of the season. Bryan
 
Hey I am Olivia, I have a younger sister and brother and an older brother. I was born in Indiana but moved to Louisiana in the 3rd grade. I love animals and want to be a vet. I enjoy sports and being active, I am a proud member of the Blood River Church of God family. 
Last summer I got the chance to go on a mission trip to Panama. While I was there we had a VBS program going for the kids. Before the trip I didn’t see how being good with kids could help me serve God and glorify him. As we went through the week more and more kids started coming and that led to more chances to spread and share the Gospel with them. Luke 19:16-19 Is the parable of the Minas and servants. In this parable the Servants use their gifts to increase their minas and they prosper but the one who did nothing got his mina taken away and it was given to the one who had the most. This story focuses on why we should use our gifts to increase God’s kingdom and to serve others so God may be glorified. What are you doing with your gifts to glorify God?