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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Look for Ways to Bring People Together

In review of 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 I'm reminded that God has restored my relationship with him through Christ, and has given me a ministry of restoring relationships. In other words, God was using Christ to restore his relationship with humanity. He didn’t hold people’s faults against them, and he has given me this message of restored relationships to tell others” (GW).

God brought me back to him (reconciles me) by blotting out my sins and making me right with him. When I trusted in Christ, I was no longer God's enemy, or a stranger or foreigner to him. Now because I have been reconciled to God, I have the privilege of encouraging others to do the same, and thus "task of reconciling people to him."

If I want to repair a relationship where there is conflict, I need to focus on reconciliation, not resolution.

There’s a big difference! Reconciliation means reestablishing the relationship. It means you’re at peace with each other.

Resolution means you resolve every disagreement, and that just isn’t going to happen. Because the truth is, there are some things in relationships that I would never be able to agree on, because we’re all different. But I can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s called maturity and wisdom. That’s being like Christ.

We can have unity without uniformity. We can walk hand in hand together without seeing eye to eye

There’s a lot of conflict in the world. It’s filled with wars, division, arguments, prejudice, racism, terrorism, and partisanism. And as a result, we have broken relationships, economygovernment, and broken marriages. We have broken lives and broken hearts.

The challenge for me as a Christ follower is to commit to becoming an agent of reconciliation in a world filled with conflict. Become a bridge builder, not a wall builder. Look for ways to bring people together rather than tear them up.

God’s word in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “[God] has restored our relationship with him through Christ and has given us this ministry of restoring relationships. In other words, God was using Christ to restore his relationship with humanity. He didn’t hold people’s faults against them, and he has given us this message of restored relationships to tell others” (GW).

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have a ministry of reconciliation. It’s my job to go out in society and say, “God’s done everything to put you back in fellowship with him. He’s already paid for all your sins. You don’t have to be his enemy. He’s not mad at you. He’s mad about you. Be reconciled to God. Be at peace with God. Then spread that peace with everybody else.”

In summary, God has restored my relationship with him through Christ. In this he has also given me a ministry of restoring relationships. If I want to repair a relationship where there is conflict, I need to focus on reconciliation, not resolution. Reconciliation is reestablishing the relationship and being at peace with each other. Resolution means that every disagreement is resolved, which is not going to happen. We can disagree without being disagreeable. That's called maturity and wisdom. 

Lately my thoughts have been about being wronged left out, being the last one at the table where everyone else has left and I’m stuck paying the check. Today’s passage has helped me understand that I need to turn from this feeling and work toward what needs to be done and bring people together through reconciliation. Father I pray for the influence of the Holy Spirit today to help me with this. I also ask you for wisdom and guidance in handling my day, my leadership and my interaction with others. I ask these things in your Son Jesus name, amen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When Opposed, Learn to Choose Worship over Worry

In review of 1 Peter 3:14-15 it tells me that If I suffer for doing what is right, God will reward me for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, I must worship Christ as Lord of my life. And if someone asks about my hope as a believer, I should always be ready to explain it” (NLT).

I have been one who believes that faith is a personal matter that should somewhat be kept to oneself. While its true that I shouldn't be boisterous or obnoxious in sharing my faith, I should always be ready to give an answer, gently and respectfully, when asked about my faith, lifestyle, or my perspective. Can others see my hope in Christ? Am I prepared to tell them what Christ has done in my life?

It turns out that Christianity is not for weaklings, wimps, or the faint of heart. It takes courageous men and women to follow Jesus.

People all over the world are suffering like we in the United States will never suffer. But what is it costing me to follow Christ? It’s unlikely I’ll ever face violent oppression. But I deal with silent repression every single day as the culture becomes more and more secularized and anti-Christian.

No matter where I’m from, when I’m faced with opposition because of my faith, it’s natural to feel afraid. So how do I get rid of the fear of opposition? How do I get rid of the fear of disapproval? How do I get rid of the fear of being rejected?

I need to be filled with God’s love. The Bible says that there’s no fear in love and that perfect love casts out all fear. When I face opposition, I focus on God’s love for me. People who rest in the assurance of God’s love aren’t afraid of rejection. They aren’t afraid of disapproval.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:14-15, “If you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (NLT).

There are two choices when I feel pressured to be quiet about my faith in Christ: I can worry, or I can worship. That means either I panic or I pray. Either I focus on the problem and the pressure and persecution, or I focus on God.

I have to turn my attention away from the pressure I feel and turn my focus toward God. That’s what worship is, focusing on God. When I face opposition, worship instead of worry.

In summary, If I suffer for doing what's right, God will reward me for it. Don't worry about threats. Worship Christ as Lord. If someone asks about my hope, always be ready to explain it.  Can others see my hope? Am I prepared to tell them what Christ has done in my life? It's unlikely that I'll ever face violent oppression. However I do deal with silent repression every day as the culture becomes more and more secularized and anti-Christian. When I face opposition, it's natural to feel afraid. To combat this, I need to be filled with and focus on God's love for me. I have two choices when I face pressure, I can worry and focus on the problem or I can focus and worship God. When I face opposition, worship instead of worry. 

Today’s passage reminds me to do what’s right and not worry or be afraid of other’s treats for doing it. I should continue to worship Christ as Lord. If someone asks about my hope, be ready to explain it. I pray Father that this morning you send your Spirit to help me to do what is right, regardless of what others say or may think. I ask for your help to turn worry and fear into worship and trust. I also ask that you provide guidance and wisdom for my day. I ask these things in your Son Jesus name, amen.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Three Things to Remember When I’m Experiencing Oppression

In review of Matthew 5:10-12 it tells me that  God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven” (NLT).

Jesus tells me to be happy when I'm persecuted for my faith. Persecution can be good because (1) it takes my eyes off earthly rewards, (2) it strips away superficial belief, (3) it strengthens my faith when I endure, and (4) my attitude through it serves as an example to others who see my example. The fact that I'm being persecuted proves that I have been faithful; faithless people would be unnoticed. In the future God will reward the faithful by receiving them into his eternal Kingdom, where there is more persecution.

When I feel pressured by the world because I love Jesus and other people don’t, I need to remember three things:

1). Opposition can make me more like Jesus.
Jesus says in John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you” (NLT). 

If I’m going to grow up and be like Jesus Christ, I’m going to have to go through the things Jesus went through, including loneliness, discouragement, stress, and temptation. Why would God spare me when he didn’t spare his own Son from those things?

2). Opposition will deepen my faith.
My faith is like a muscle. A muscle doesn’t grow when I sit in a chair and eat chips. A muscle grows by being stretched, strained, and tested. I’m never going to grow a muscle if no weight is ever pulling in the opposite direction.

If I don’t have opposition in my life, my faith is not growing. The strongest believers in the world right now are those who are having their faith tested the most. The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:7, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (NLT).

3). Opposition will give me eternal rewards.
Matthew 5:10-12 says, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven” (NLT).

God’s going to bless anybody who’s persecuted because they live for him. Notice that I don’t get rewarded for being rude or obnoxious. If I live a self-righteous life when I get persecuted, I’m not a martyr. I’m just a jerk.

I won’t get rewarded for that. I’ll get rewarded for being like Jesus. When I share my faith, do it with gentleness and respect, just like Jesus, and I’ll will be rewarded for it one day in heaven.

Remember those three things whenever I’m harassed for my faith: It can make me more like Jesus. It can deepen my faith. And I’ll will be rewarded for it in eternity.

In summary, God will bless me when I'm persecuted for doing right. In fact, I should be happy about it. For great rewards await me in heaven. Persecution can be a good because it takes my eyes off earthly rewards, strips away superficial belief, strengthens my faith when I endure and my attitude in the midst of it serves as an example to others. The fact that persecution comes is proof that I have been faithful. Opposition can make me more like Jesus. I'll have to go through things that Jesus went through. Opposition will deepen my faith. Faith is like a muscle that must be exercised. If I don't face opposition, my faith is not growing. Opposition will lead to eternal rewards. I won't get rewarded for being rude or obnoxious. I'll be rewarded for being like Jesus. So when I share my faith do it with gentleness and respect.  

Although I’d like to have everything hassle free, I will face persecution, especially if I live and display my faith in Jesus. Jesus tells me to be happy when it occurs, for my reward will be great in heaven. So I need to strive to be like Jesus. I need to share my faith with gentleness and respect. This morning Father I pray that through the Holy Spirit that you help remind me of this. I also ask for your wisdom and guidance for my day, my leadership and my interaction with others. I pray these things in your Son Jesus name, amen.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Why Should I Be Merciful

In review of Matthew 5:7 it tells me that “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (NLT).

Today’s verse if part of the beatitudes taught by Jesus on the sermon on the mount.  Matthew 5:7 in particular tells me that blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

God's way of living contradicts the world's. To live for God means being ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. I must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse. By giving up my own rights in order to serve, I'll one day receive everything God has in store for me. Verses from the beatitudes tell me how to be blessed by God. Being blessed means more than happiness. It implies the fortunate or desirable state of those who are in God's Kingdom. Being blessed by God means the experience of hope and joy, independent of any outward circumstances. In the Kingdom of Heaven, wealth and power and authority are unimportant. So I need to consider if I’m a carbon copy of the world's selfishness, pride, and lust for power, or am I reflecting the humility and self-sacrifice of Jesus.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:7, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (NLT). In other words, what I give, I’m going to get. I’ve got to learn to be a minister of mercy if I want God’s blessing on my life.

But why does God expect me to show mercy to others? Why should I be merciful? 

First, because God has shown me mercy. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved” (GNT). God wants me to pass on the mercy that I’ve received from him.

Secondly, because God commands me to be merciful. A summary of what life is all about is found in Micah 6:8, “The Lord has told you what is good. This is what the Lord requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God” (GW).

Thirdly because I’m going to need more mercy in the future. Between now and when I get to heaven, I’m going to make a lot of mistakes—and I’ll need God’s mercy when I do! But I cannot receive what I’m unwilling to give. James 2:13 reminds me, “You must show mercy to others, or God will not show mercy to you when he judges you. But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment” (NCV).

Lastly, because showing mercy brings or leads to happiness. Matthew 5:7 says that God blesses those who are merciful. The word “blessed” also means “happy,” so the more I learn and demonstrate this quality, the more blessed and happier I’m going to be.

In summary, blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. I must be willing to give, love and help when others won't. By giving up my own rights in order to serve, I'll one day receive everything God has in store for me. Also, what I give, I'm going to get. God expects me to show mercy because: 1). He has shown mercy to me and he wants me to pass this on what I've received from him.  2). He commands me to. 3). I'm going to need more mercy in the future. I cannot receive what I am unwilling to give. 4). Showing mercy bring or leads me to happiness. 

Today’s verse reminds me that one of the core functions of my job and my team is to serve and help others. My job is a great way for me to show God’s love and mercy through what I do. I pray this morning that you help me see things through your eyes of mercy. Help me to respond and server in a merciful way instead of complaining and seeing it as a burden or task. I pray also for your wisdom and guidance in my work, my leadership and my response to others. I ask these things through your Son Jesus name, amen.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Exploring What Righteousness Means

In review of Romans 1:17, it tells how “The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself” (NCV).

Romans 1:17 
The Good News tells me how God makes me right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

The Good News shows me both; how righteous God is in his plan for me to be saved, and also how I may be make fit for eternal life. By trusting Christ, my relationship with God is made right. God declares me to be righteous by faith and this faith alone. As I trust God, I am saved; I have life both now and forever.

Righteousness is a big word in the Bible. It’s used lots of times. The Bible says that God loves righteousness and that God is righteous. It says that one day God is going to judge the world in righteousness. Psalm 23 says that God leads us in the paths of righteousness.

So what does this word mean? It comes down to two things: Righteousness is a relationship and it's a lifestyle.

Righteousness simply means being right with God. The Good News is that God made me right with himself through Jesus’ death as a payment for my sins. Because of Jesus’ death, I can have a personal relationship with God.

Righteousness is also a lifestyle. It means living right as God intends. The Bible says in 1 John 2:29, “All who practice righteousness are God’s true children” (The Message).

So why should I care about being right with God? Because it’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way to heaven.

When I’m disconnected from God, I’m not really living; I just exist. Most people in the world aren’t really fully alive. They just exist, trying to make it to the weekend. But to be disconnected from my Creator who made me for a purpose is nonsense.

Life is not about the acquisition of things or the achievement of goals. Life is about getting to know God, the one who loves me and made me for a purpose. I’m not really living until I’m right with God and have a relationship with him.

Righteousness is also the way I get to heaven. God created heaven as a place for his children whom he loves, and he wants me to be with him forever. He wants me to be in heaven, but he’s not going to force me to go there. I can choose to be disconnected from God here on earth, but when this life on earth is done, I wouldn’t have a second chance to choose where I’ll spend eternity.

I won’t be able to blame God, because he gives me the choice right now to have a relationship with him. He wants me to choose to love him! And when I do, I’ll be made right with him. It will change life, here on earth and for eternity!

Bottom Line:
The Good News shows us how God makes us right through our faith.

What this means to me:
The Good News shows me how God makes me right with himself. Its through my faith.

In summary, the Good News tells me how God makes me right in his sight. This is through my faith in him. As I trust God, I am saved. Righteousness comes down to two things. It's a relationship and a lifestyle. Righteousness simply means being right with God. God made me right with himself through Jesus' death as payment for my sins. Righteousness is also a lifestyle and means living as God intended. Life is not about the acquisition of things or the achievement of goals. It's about getting to know God and having a relationship with him. I have a choice here on earth. To have or not have a relationship with him. He wants me to choose to love him. When I do, I'll be made right with him and will change my life here and in eternity.

Today’s study is a reminder of how I need to choose to have a relationship with God. Get to know him and his character and then to trust him for what I need and for his guidance. This morning I pray for his wisdom and guidance for my day. Allow me to be calm, listen, ask appropriate questions and not be defensive. I ask for you and your Spirit to help me with clarity and planning for the next steps. Help me to lead my team and react appropriately to others. I pray this in your Son Jesus name, amen.

Look for Ways to Bring People Together

In review of 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 I'm reminded that “ God has restored my relationship with him through Christ , and has given me a mi...