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Friday, June 28, 2013

It Is Jesus Who Makes Me Acceptable to God

In summary of Romans 4:25 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 it says, “Because of our sins he was given over to die, and he was raised to life in order to put us right with God.” and "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Bottom line:
Jesus died for our sins. He was raised from the dead to make us right with God.  It was for our sake that God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might regain the righteousness God intended.

What this means to me:

God has done some tremendous things to bring me back into the full relationship he intended.  Both of these verses speak of how God had Christ come live among us and yet never sin.  God had Christ take on the penalty of my sin so that through my trust, belief and union with Christ I can be restored back to a righteous status that God intended for me  all along (before I went our own way.)   In my life there is a natural tendency for me to not really like myself inside.  I know I have spent time in the past trying to find acceptance among other people.  What I need to keep in mind is that it is more important to be accepted by God than people.  On my own I fall short;  God is perfect and I’m certainly not.  Given this situation God worked out a way to get imperfect people like me into a perfect place where he is perfect.  Scripture says, "God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God's goodness into us!" (2 Corinthians 5:21 LB)  This is God’s gift to me.  No matter what I do, I’m never going to be good enough to get into heaven because it's perfect and I stopped being perfect a long time ago. I’m so glad that I can take on Christ's goodness.  It is through Jesus' death and resurrection that I am made acceptable to God.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How To Get My Joy Back

In summary of Romans 14:17 it says, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Bottom Line:
It’s not a matter of what we eat/drink.  What matters is living right with God and having the peace and joy the Spirit brings.

What this means to me:
What I need to remember is that the kingdom is not about what we eat/drink or the material things I obtain in this life.  The important thing is for me to live right with God and have the peace and joy thats comes from a life following God.  As life progresses one of the things that I find I lose from time to time is “Joy”.   All it takes is a phone call, an email, news or even a conversation (even a commercial can zap joy from me enticing me that I need what they offer to be happy.)  If I go around in life zapped of my joy it can make the one I follow look bad.  I believe God would want me to be a witness even with my countenance.  This passage today reminds me that my walk with God can be summed up as “goodness, peace and joy.”  So, if my joy does get zapped the best thing for me to do is to admit I’ve lost it.  I can simply look at my past and ask myself: Has there ever been a time in my life when I was closer to God than I am right now? Has there ever been a time in my life when I was more joyful in the Lord than I am right now?  Remember those times, remember what He has promised and then feel the Joy that comes from that. It all starts by admitting what I’ve lost what I’ve had in the past. I then just ask God about it; he’s waiting to help me. David prayed this in Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (NIV).  I too can ask God to restore the joy to my life and bring a smile to my face.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Learning To Un-stuff My Schedule

In summary of Proverbs 16:9 it says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Bottom line:
You may make your plans, but God directs your actions.

What this means to me:
I think that I’m making my own plans however God is really directing what happens. Somehow God sees everything even the choices I make with my free will and he works it all into his plans. I have no idea how he does this. But is it good to know that God is in control. So what can I do to somewhat “un-stuff” my schedule. All too frequently I get to the end of the day and think “wow, did I accomplish anything worthwhile today?” Where did the time all go? Ultimately If I don’t end up mastering and controlling my schedule it will end up mastering me. God’s word suggests several things to help reduce the stress of my schedule and in turn increase my margin. First, I need to be sure to line up my priorities -- I don't have time to do everything, so I must make choices and decide what's really important and what isn't. Part of this is considering the overall direction of my life. The Bible says, "An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions" (Proverbs 17:24 GNT); "It is stupid to waste time on useless projects" (Proverbs 12:11 GNT); "We should make plans - counting on God to direct us" (Proverbs 16:9 LB). Next, lighten up my attitude -- I really do not have to do everything on the to-do list? I’m not being forced and often I look at my list and impose my own stress. The Bible says, "Worry weighs us down . . ." (Proverbs 12:25 MSG); "A relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life" (Proverbs 14:30 LB); "Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time" (Proverbs 17:22 GNT). Lastly, look up to God -- Stress should always a warning light or indicator that I've taken my focus off God and I’m now looking at my problems from your limited viewpoint. Overall, the single greatest cause of stress in my life is from taking myself too seriously and not taking God seriously enough!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Allowing Margin In My Life Lets Me Say "Yes' to God

In summary of Ecclesiastes 4:6 it says, “... it is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands, trying to catch the wind.”

Bottom line:
Better to have a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil, busyness and a striving after wind.

What this means to me:
It is better to for me to have a simple uncomplicated schedule (life) with peace than to have an overloaded and busy all the time schedule filled stress, unrest with no end in sight.  This scripture is a subtle reminder of the concept seen in other verses that teach me that my body need downtime in order to heal and re-energize.  
This is especially important to me right now as I have taken on an accelerated program to complete my bachelors degree online.  While the online course is flexible in scheduling, it is still requires a lot of extra time and effort in order to do my best.  Given this new commitment It is important for me to make sure I schedule downtime in my life.  Currently I have commitments when I’m in and out of town (Wednesday nights for worship team rehearsal when in town, Monday nights for travel when I’m out of town.  In order to get in the 10-15 hours it will take, I need to schedule several hours Monday - Thursday (missing some Mondays and some Wednesdays.)  I’ll strive to keep my Friday and Saturday evenings as free as possible.  I’ll also likely need to work 4 hours during the day on Saturdays and possibly some times on Sunday afternoons.  I should also plan to schedule a vacation day off here and there just for rest / catch-up on school activities.
With this new commitment, plus work, I’ll need to make sure I create some margin in my life.  If I get overloaded by activity, I’ll end up only thinking of myself (I’ll be in survival mode) just trying to make it through the day.  I’ll also become unavailable to God for his use in the world.   I need to make sure I can still be flexible enough for when God may tap me on my shoulder and ask me to do something.  Planning in some margin will still leave me available for God to use.   I need to learn and appreciate the benefits of margin.  God may very well have important things for me to do and I want to make sure that I don’t miss it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Becoming Like Jesus

In summary of Romans 8:29 it says, “God knew from the beginning who would put their trust in Him. So He chose them and made them to be like His Son. Christ was first and all those who belong to God are His brothers.”

Bottom Line:
God knew from the start who would trust in Him.  He chose and made them to be like His Son.  Christ was first, those who belong to God are His

What this means to me:
Before I was born, God knew my path and that I would respond to Christ as my Lord.  He chose me and wants me to take on the character of His Son.  Christ was first, I put my trust in him to show me the way / be my example to follow.  I have the privilege of being made in God’s image.  While I can’t fathom all that this means, I do know that part of it is that:
  • I’m a spiritual being - my spirit/soul will be immortal and will outlast my earthly body
  • I’m intellectual - I can think, reason and solve problems
  • I’m relational - I can give and receive real love; and I have moral consciousness - I can discern right from wrong, which in turn makes me accountable to God.  

My image however is incomplete, it has been damaged and distorted by sin (going my own way.)  God sent Jesus into our world to restore us to the full image I have lost.  Like father, like Son, God wants me, his child to bear his image and likeness as well.  Christ is my real life example to imitate.  I take great comfort in knowing that God has selected me and will do what he can to develop my character so that I can be more like his Son each day.  This development will not happen overnight.  It is something that will not be complete until I join him in Heaven.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

God Smiles When I Obey

In summary of James 2:24 it says, “You see, then, that it is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone.”

Bottom Line:
Our actions in obedience make us right with God, not just faith.

What this means to me:

The proof is in the doing.  If I speak one way but act a different way I would be considered a hypocrite.  It is by my actions taken in faith that pleases God, it even makes him smile.  Just having faith only does no good for me.  It requires obedience.  Obedience on my part means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation. I can't procrastinate and say, "I'll pray about it." I need to do what God asks without delay. As a parent I know that delayed obedience is really disobedience. Often I try to offer God partial obedience picking and choosing the commands I’ll obey. Its as if I make a list of the commands I like and obey, while ignoring the ones I think are difficult or against my selfish desires. Partial obedience is disobedience!  Wholehearted obedience on my part it to be done joyfully and with enthusiasm. The Bible says, "Obey him gladly." (Psalm 100:2 LB) This is the attitude of David: "Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I'll wholeheartedly obey." (Psalm 119:33 LB)  James, in speaking to Christians, said, "We please God by what we do and not only by what we believe." (James 2:24 CEV) God's Word is clear that I can't earn my salvation. It comes only by grace, not by my effort. As a child of God I can bring pleasure to my heavenly Father through my obedience, and make him smile!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

God Smiles When I Trust Him

In summary of Hebrews 11:6 it says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

Bottom Line:
You can’t please God unless he has faith in him.  Anyone who comes must believe that God is real and that God rewards those who truly seek him.

What this means to me:
God draws great pleasure from me when I put my complete trust in him.  As this verse reminds me, it is impossible for me to please God (make him smile) without a complete faith on my end.  I must always remember that he exists and is in control of everything around me.  God will reward me in his own way and time for my sincerity in seeking him out. As is illustrated in Noah’s life, Noah completely trusted God and that made God happy.  This is a great example and reminder for me especially when I look at the things that could have caused Noah to doubt.  First Noah had never seen rain - God had been irrigating the earth from the ground up, secondly Noah did not live anywhere close to a beach, thirdly it would have been a huge task to round up all the animals yet alone care for them. Trusting God in my life means having faith that God will always know what is best for me and my life.  I can have confidence that God will keep his promises, that he will help me through my problems and maybe even do the impossible if required. Trusting on my part is an act of worship. Just as parent, I was pleased when daughter trusted me, my faith makes God happy. The Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)  Today I will evaluate if there are areas in my life in which I need to learn to trust God more completely

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Daily Practice of Surrender

In summary of Matthew 16:25 it says, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.'"

Bottom line:
To really follow Jesus requires giving up what you want (your selfish ways) and take up your cross and follow.

What this means to me:

To really follow Christ, I must be willing to give up my own agenda and selfish desires.  I need to get away from thinking the way the world does.  To do so requires me to pick up my cross and to follow him wholeheartedly.  This is part of daily surrender, giving up my desires in favor of His.  It’s not just a one time decision but a practice that I adopt.  This practice requires perseverance. It is moment-by-moment and lifelong. I’ll likely need to re-surrender consistently throughout the day: as Jesus explained, "If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives [daily] to follow me." (Matthew 16:24 NCV)  I ask for God’s strength to stop my struggle over wanting my own way and do it his way.  I need to remind myself to surrender constantly and gain God's grace, love, and wisdom.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Surrender To Christ Actually Strengthens Me

In summary of Romans 14:7-8 and 2 Corinthians 5:15 they say, “7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” and “15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”

Bottom Line:
We don’t live or die for ourselves.  What honor the Lord in everything we do.  We no longer live for ourselves, instead we live for him.  So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  

What this means to me:
The goal of my life is to honor God with it.  So whether I live or die, I belong to him. Living to honor God requires surrender on my part.  Surrender in this fashion actually produces power and victory.  When I hand my life over to Christ I can defeat stubborn temptations and any overwhelming problems that come my way.  As shown in Joshua’s life, a he approached the biggest battle of his life, he encountered God, fell in worship before him, and surrendered his plans. That surrender led to a stunning victory at Jericho. Examples like this help me to see that my surrender doesn't weaken, it strengthens. So  I surrender because I belong to my creator God and he has the right to direct my life.  When I do surrender my life to Christ, I begin to fulfill the very purpose he has for me, not just to save me from eternal damnation (hell), but also to save me from my own self-centeredness!  Thank your Lord for saving me!  May I continue to look to you for all guidance, and my I honor you in all that I do.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Freedom That Comes From Surrender

In summary of Job 22:21 it says, “Submit to and obey God, you will have peace; then things will go well for you.

Bottom line:
Submit to God, peace will come; then he will bless you.

What this means to me:

Whenever I take my own lead and try to make things go my way I will run into obstacles, experience uneasiness and not really achieve what’s right for me.  When I learn to submit and obey God with everything I do, peace will come.  God will bless my obedience and things will go well for me.  Scripture has many references to the benefit of worshiping God through surrender.  When I surrender, I begin to really live a life God intended for me.  I’m set free and liberated from self-preoccupation.  God is then able to use me in great ways.  Tremendous things come when I surrender my life into his hands.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Learning To Let Go and Let God Work

In summary of Psalms 37:7 it says, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.”

Bottom Line:
Be patient, wait for the Lord to act; don't be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans.

What this means to me:
I am to learn to be still in the presence of the Lord (rest in Him.)  I must also learn to be willing to wait on Him to act.  My natural tendency is to upset when others with bad or evil intents get rich or when their plans succeed.  The key is letting go and letting God work.  Let him deal with others in his own time.  
Part of my learning is to surrender my life to:
1) Follow God's lead without knowing where he's sending me;
2) Waiting for God's perfect timing without knowing when it will come;
3) Expecting a miracle without knowing how God will provide;
4) Trusting God's purpose in a situation without understanding the circumstances.
My ultimate goal will be when I can rely on God to work things out instead of trying to manipulate others, force my agenda, and control the situation. I don't always have to be in charge. Instead of trying harder, I will trust more. I must let go and let God work.
A supreme example of self-surrender is Jesus. The night before his crucifixion Jesus surrendered himself to God's plan. He prayed, "Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine." (Mark 14:36 NLT)
Genuine surrender for me says, "Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my life or in another's life, please don't take it away!"

This level of maturity will take some work on my part. It will require an intense warfare against my own self-centered nature.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

God Frees Me Through His Word

In summary of John 8:31-32 it says, “So Jesus said to those who believed in him, ‘If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; 32 you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

Bottom Line:
To those who believed in him, if they obeyed what he taught then they would know the truth and the truth would set them free.

What this means to me:
In these verses Jesus reminds me that if I believe in him and if I continue to obey and remain faithful to follow His teachings then I would be considered his disciple.  In a close relationship such as this I would learn from him the actual truth and Jesus says it would be a truth that would set me free. 
For my life only God knows what I’m truly capable of.  The Lord frees me through his Word and will unlock all I’ve been made to do and be. Through it, I’ll be able to do things I never thought possible.  I do this by: Learning God’s Word. God won’t unlock my potential until I actually open the Word and learn it. I can’t unlock potential by osmosis. I’ll need to start by learning what the Bible says.  
Next I need to accept God’s Word. The Bible needs to be the authority in my life. I may not always like what I’m reading, but if I want God’s best for my life, I need to accept what it says as the final authority for how I will live.  Then I need to obey God’s Word. I can’t just learn and accept God’s Word. I need to do what it teaches. I won’t be blessed for the parts of the Bible you know. I’ll be blessed for the parts of the Bible that I do and make part of my life.  I was made for much more than I could ever imagined. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!” (CEV)  So I need to continue to get into God’s Word and be ready to do what only God imagines is possible for me.  There are some patterns in my life that I need to be more faithful in.  Today I will work on those.

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Life

In summary of 1 John 4:9 it says, “God has shown His love to us by sending His only Son into the world. God did this so we might have life through Christ.”

Bottom Line:
God showed His love by sending His Son.  God did this so we might have life through him.

What this means to me:

God shows incredible love for me.  Even though I was doing my own thing and still tend to want to drive my own life, he proved how he cares by sending His one and only Son into my world.  Jesus came to testify to the truth and he paid the penalty for my sin.  He did this so that I could have a different kind of life lived through him in me.  This new life is one filled with love for Him and for the people he has put around us.  If I allow it God can make himself known through me. He can love others through me.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

God is Interested in the Work You Do

In summary of Ephesians 1:11 it says, “In Christ we were chosen to be God’s people, because from the very beginning God had decided this in keeping with his plan. And he is the One who makes everything agree with what he decides and wants.”

Bottom line:
We were already chosen to be God’s own children by Christ. This was done according to his plans, desires and wants.

What this means to me:
By Christ I was chosen to be one of God’s children.  Being his child, I will receive an inheritance from my father in the future.  This destiny of mine was chosen by God in the beginning and it keeps with his plans.  All things are done according to God’s plan and decision and everything I do in life interests God.  God and Christ are the center of everything.  So my life cannot be compartmentalized into Spiritual, Church Family, Immediate family, Husband, Friend, Work, Finances, Etc...  All of my life is spiritual and my whole life matters to God.  He is just as interested in my work as He is in my prayers.  I should consider my relationship to Christ like marriage -- it's a full-time commitment (and in marriage I can’t only act married when I'm at home.)  The fact is, all of life is important to God, and I won’t be able to separate my Christianity from your work -- just as I can't separate my Christianity from my life.  So today I will keep in mind that God is interested in everything I do.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Battle That I’m Born to Win

In summary of 1 John 4:4 it says, “My children, you are a part of God’s family. You have stood against these false preachers and had power over them. You had power over them because the One Who lives in you is stronger than the one who is in the world.”

Bottom Line:
You belong to God. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

What this means to me:
I was born into a battle, a battle that I face against the enemy.  The good news is that the battle I was born to win it.  I have power over him/them because the One Who lives in me now, is stronger and greater than the spirit who lives in this world.   It’s important for me to always know that God and Satan are not equal enemies. God is far superior in all ways. One day God will completely wipe Satan out. But until then, he allows me to a have a choice of which side I’m on. People in the world are often pawns in this cosmic battle. Satan can’t hurt God, so what do you do when you can't hurt someone? You hurt his children. Thus Satan goes after me. So, I was born for a battle, but the good news is that I was born to win it.   The Bible says, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b NIV).  Satan isn’t afraid of me. He is afraid of who is in me — God.  With the Holy Spirit in me, I don’t have to be afraid of Satan. I’m on the winning side of this war. Now its time to live like it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Work is Part of God's Plan

In summary of Ephesians 2:10 it says, “God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.”

Bottom line:
God made us who we are.  In Christ, God gave us the new start we needed.  Now we fulfill and do the good works He had planned for us all along to do.

What This Means to me:

God has uniquely crafted me and for a purpose, I am His masterpiece.  As I follow Christ, God will do good works through me that he had planned a long time ago.  All the things I do now can be an act of worship including my job/work.  God designed me with specific talents, gifts and interests that He intends to use for His glory.  So, I’m custom-made, there is nobody like me in the whole world. The gifts, the abilities, the talents, even the interests I have were genetically encoded into me by God. God has made me with a specific mission in mind, and wants me to use all if the gifts he's given in my work.  Ultimately my work is part of God's plan for my life and that is why, as I work, I can do in in an act of worship for God.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Combating Discouragement

In summary of Nehemiah 4:10 it says, “Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.””

Bottom Line:
The people began to complain; the work is tiring and so much to do still.  Completion of the wall looks insurmountable.

What this means to me:
There are situations in my life that are similar to what the People of Judah experienced.  They were in the process of a great task of rebuilding the walls of the city to protect themselves.  
They had enemies threatening them from all sides and the rubble that needed to be cleared along will the building the wall left them discouraged.  So they began to complain.  This chapter illustrates four reasons for discouragement.  
  • Fatigue - we are only human and naturally we get tired.  It is difficult to ‘burn the candle on both ends.’  When discouragement comes, it may be time for a break or vacation.
  • Frustration - in this passage there is the mention of so much rubble all around and it was getting in the way of rebuilding the wall.  I can equate rubble with the trivial things that tend to waste my time and energy, they are the things the prevent me from accomplishing what God has called me to do.  When I’m discouraged I may need to clear away some of the rubble (trivial things) in my life.
  • Thoughts of failure - In this chapter Nehemiah's people were unable to finish their task as quickly as originally planned and so their confidence collapsed.  I need to be careful to not fall into the realm of self-pity or blaming others for not getting ahead in a task.  Instead of thinking or complaining about the task as being impossible, I should refocus on God’s intentions and start moving forward again.
  • Fear - giving into fear will destroy my life if I let it.  I can instead choose to resist the discouragement that comes from fear.

Overall the key is to take my eyes off of the problem or circumstances and turn to God, keeping my eyes on Him and His goals for me.