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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Understanding God's Unfailing Love

In summary of Psalms 23:6 it says, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”

Bottom Line:
We can be certain that goodness and unfailing love will follow us all of the days of our lives and we will dwell with him forever.

What this means to me:
I can hold onto the promise that God’s goodness and unfailing love will be with me all the days of my life.  Furthermore, I will live in his house forever.  This is an important thing to grasp; God’s goodness and unfailing love follows me all throughout my life.  The NLT version adds that it will pursue me. This means that as I struggle with habits, hang-ups and hurts, God is coming right alongside, helping to pick up my mess and reminding me that his unfailing love is always there.  I don’t have to question or second guess this, it is a fact!  God will be with me no matter what happens. As this verse proclaims: "Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6 NLT), He will be there to help me out.  God's goodness will provide and protect. God's mercy (unfailing love) will pardon and forgive. God's goodness will supply. God's mercy will soothe. God's goodness will help. God's mercy and will heal. This “goodness” means that God gives me good things in life that I don't even deserve. This “mercy” means God holds back the condemnation I really deserve.  In summary, I have God on my side in the future and in eternity.  What a wonderful and comforting thought.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Understanding My Destiny

In summary of 1 Peter 4:10 and Romans 14:12 it says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another,” and “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”

Bottom Line:
We receive gifts from God.  As good stewards, we are to use it to serve others. Every one of us, then, will have to give an account to God.

What this means to me:
God has given me special gifts, and I am to be a good steward of what he has provided.  I am to use it to serve others.  In getting a better grasp of what God created me for (my destiny), I must recognize and understand the gifts God has given me.  These are my “SHAPE” or my spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences.  They even include things I couldn’t control, such as my; parents, nationality, race, and my language. These are the things that make me “uniquely” me.  I will not responsible for gifts God didn't give me, i.e since I’m not artistically gifted, I’m not expected to paint pictures like Rembrandt.  However, I will be responsible for the ones God did give me.  When I get to heaven, I will give an account to God.  God isn't going to compare me with anyone else, but instead will compare me with me only.  The question will be, what did I do with what what I was given?  What could I have done if I had trusted God a little bit more?  I think the biggest fear would be that God will show me what impact I could have had if I had fully trusted him with my life.  God has given me gifts for a purpose. So the question for today and for the rest of my life is, “have I been been a good steward of those gifts - using them not for selfish uses, but for the good of others. My gifts are not for my benefit, but rather gifts God gave me for the benefit of other people. In summary, what has God given me to use for good?  I must strive to be good manager (steward) of the gifts God has given me.  In all I do, I need to show and reveal God’s glory in all I do.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Knowing That God Will Walk With Me

In summary of Psalms 23:4 it says, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”

Bottom Line:
Even though we can walk and experience so very dark parts of life, I will not fear or be afraid, you are close by, your shepherd’s rod and staff will protect me.

What this means to me:
Even though I can face times when I walk through the deepest darkness valleys of life, I will not be afraid or fear any harm.  For I know God is always close beside me.  His rod and staff protect me and give me comfort and courage.  There are lots of things to be afraid of or fear in our world, but God's promise is that, even in my darkest times and situations, He will be walking beside me.  I recently learned that there are 365 verses in the Bible that say, "Fear not."  This means there is one "fear not' message for every day of the year!  Often hurts and hang-ups can make me think the world or God may be out to get me, but thats simply not true.  Jesus is the proof of that.  As I come to better understand God's grace and mercy, I am learning to not fear the future. Jesus has already taken the penalty for everything I've ever done wrong or will do wrong. He paid for it on the cross. So when a bad thing happens, I should hold on to the knowledge that God will be walking with me through it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Molded into Godly Character through the Word, People and Circumstances

In summary of Ephesians 4:24 it says, “and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy”

Bottom Line:
Put on the new you, your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

What this means to me:
I am to put on my new self, a new person with a whole new nature, one created to be like God, truly righteous and holy (set apart for his use.)  Overall, my character is essentially built out of the sum of my habits; it is how I habitually act. God uses his Word, people, and circumstances in my life to mold me.  All three of these are indispensable for my full character development. First, God's Word provides the truth I need to grow.  Secondly, God's people in my life provide the support I need to grow; and the circumstances I experience provide the environment I have to practice Christ likeness. The study and application of God's Word, the connection regularly with other believers (my current growth group), and my learning to trust God in difficult circumstances, all help me become more like Jesus.  Bible study and prayer alone are only two of the three key aspects to my continued growth. God uses people as the third aspect. God usually prefers to work through people rather than perform miracles, such that I will depend on others for fellowship. He wants myself and others to grow together.  Spiritual maturity is not a solitary, or individual pursuit!   I will not grow to Christ likeness in isolation. I must be around other people and interact with them. This is best accomplished as part of a church and community.  In summary, true spiritual maturity is learning to love like Jesus, and you can't practice being like Jesus without being in relationship with other people.

Friday, October 25, 2013

For God's Blessing, Put Him First

In summary of 1 Thessalonians 2:12 it says, “You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

Bottom Line:
We are greatly urged to live our lives in a way that proves we belong to God.

What this means to me:
Paul is greatly encouraging me to live my life in a way that pleases God and proves that I belong to his family, his kingdom and his glory.  The Kingdom of God is a present reality. It’s what I’m to be doing on the earth right now. The power of God is the present resource. It’s the energy I get, in order to do, what God wants me to do.  It comes from surrendering and submitting to his will.  God’s glory is the reason. It is the present reason for everything. It’s all for God’s glory.  Romans 11:36 says, “Everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory” (NLT).  I was made for so much more than to just survive in this life.  To live a fulfilled life, I need to follow 1 Thessalonians 2:12, “You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (GW).  To live in God’s Kingdom means I am to make God’s agenda my agenda. I make God’s will my will. I care about the things God cares about. Whatever I want God to bless, I should put him first in that area. To put God as first in my life, I can follow the acrostic Rick Warren had provided FIRST:
  • Finances - To Receive God’s to bless in this area, I must tithe. (Even when it’s tough)
  • Interests - Put him first in my hobbies, career, and recreation. Give God first consideration in every decision.
  • Relationships - Put him first in my family, marriage, and friendships.
  • Schedule - Give him the first part of every day. “God if I don’t get anything else done today, I just want to love you a little bit more and know you a little bit better.”
  • Troubles - Turn to God first when I have a problem. Prayer should never be my last resort. It should be my first choice.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

When You're Tempted, God Wants to Help

In summary of Psalm 50:15 it says, “Call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

Bottom Line:
When trouble comes, I will save you, you will glorify me

What this means to me:
I can call on God when I face trouble.  He will save me and I will give him all the glory.  The Bible tells me that God is always ready to help. He tells me to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  When I do, this becomes a prayer of deliverance and asking God for help.  The prayer of deliverance can often be just one word: “Help!” It doesn’t have to be long in fact, I can do a microwave prayer such as: “Help! Keep my eyes straight. I don’t like this person. I do not like the way my relative treats me, and I’m going to see him today. Oh, God! You’ve got to help me! I lose my Christianity when I’m around that person. I really need your help today, because everything in me just wants to slug him!”  The Bible is full of examples of people who’ve prayed for deliverance, (David, Daniel, Peter, and Paul.) God provides assistance to anyone who asks. The great thing is that I can expect God to help because he promised it in His word.  Psalm 50:15 says, “Call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (NIV). God says you don’t have to have a long conversation. You can just say, “Help! Mayday! SOS! God, I’m facing something now that willpower won’t help me get through.”  God will be sympathetic to my situation. He knows everything that’s going on in my life. He knows how irritating those people can be. He knows the things that tempt me. As an example, in verse Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT, “Jesus understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to our gracious God and then we will receive his mercy and grace to help us when we need it.”   He sympathetic because He faced the same temptations. The Bible says Jesus was tempted in all ways as I was, yet he did not sin. That’s the difference. He never gave in. He had the freedom to choose.  God can help me overcome. The Bible says, “Come boldly to God.” Come and say “Mayday! SOS! I need your help.” God won’t be ticked with me when I’m tempted. He’s not going to scold me, instead He says, “I’m here to help.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Change the Way You Think

In summary of 2 Corinthians 10:5b it says, “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”

Bottom Line:
take every thought captive and make it obey Christ

What this means to me:
I am to take every thought captive so that it can be made obedient to Christ.  One of the biggest secret’s to responding to temptation is to, not fight it, but just refocus. Whatever I resist will likely persist.  But if I can refocus, It will take my mind off of it.  The bible doesn’t tell me to resist temptation, but rather resist the enemy.  The key is not to push back and resist but to change my focus.  A battle for sin always starts in my mind.  Psalm 119:6 suggest, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (CEV). This will work because I’m thinking about God’s truth, and not about the dumb stuff I could be thinking or doing.  Focusing on godly things will pull me in that direction.  In contrast, If I focus on the stuff that’s on TV, at the movies and in magazines, it will pull me in that direction. Temptation will always follow a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your mind kicks in, and then you act on it.  I’m not always very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ. I can’t always control my circumstances, and I can’t even always control the way I feel. But I can control what I think about and that’s always my choice. And if I change the way I think, it changes the way I feel, and that will change the way I act. In summary, whatever I focus on will get my attention. Whatever gets my attention is going to get me.  The key is to just change my mind.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Freedom of the Cross

In summary of Romans 6:6 it says, “We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us.”

Bottom Line:
The person we used to be was crucified with Christ on his cross.  Because of this we are no longer slaves to sin.

What this means to me:
My old sinful life (the person I used to be) died with Christ on his cross so that my sinful self would have no power over me.  In referring to “our sinful selves would have no power over us” it means that our natural inclination is to do the wrong thing.  I often default to wanting to hurt someone back when I have been hurt by them.  I default to saying something bad against them or holding a grudge and never forgiving them when they say something bad against me.  But I can break that bondage to my that bondage to guilt, resent, or worry. I can keep from becoming a slave to the past and to past hurtful memories. I can choose to forgive.  The cross has the power to free me from all grudges, grief and resentment lingering in my life. There is no other way to let go of these emotions that are weighing me down than what Jesus did for me on the cross. Only God can completely understand how much I’ve been hurt in the past. But anything from my past can be overcome by turning toward Jesus’ grace and power of the cross to release these hurts and allow me to forgive those who’ve hurt me.  Next I need to experience God’s forgiveness. God you know all the ways I’ve hurt others, and I’m so sorry for my sins. Jesus, thank you for dying for me. I accept your grace and forgiveness, and I need it daily. Today I’m turning to you, and I’m choosing to forgive the way you have forgiven me. Every time an old memory comes back, I’ll forgive them again until the pain is gone. I ask you to heal my heart with your grace.  In summary, I can now be different as the person I used to be was crucified with Christ on his cross. Because of this, I’m no longer a slave to sin.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Learning to Humble Myself And Turn The Channel When I Face Temptation

In summary of James 4:7 it says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Bottom Line:
Place yourself under God’s authority.  Resist the enemy, he will run from you.

What this means to me:
I am to humble myself before God and put myself under his authority.  If I resist the enemy, he will flee from me.  This is a good passage for me to keep close at heart, especially when I have temptations that overpower me and are hard to bear.  Temptations of this nature are just lies from Satan. God has promised never to allow more on me than he puts within me to handle.  In other words, He will not permit any temptation that I could not overcome. I must do my part by practicing biblical methods for defeating temptation.  First and foremost, I should refocus my attention on something besides the temptation I’m facing. There is nowhere in the Bible in which we are told to "resist temptation." It says that we are to "resist the devil," however this can be very different. (James 4:7)  So, it is better for me to just refocus my attention.  Trying to resist a thought simply doesn't work. It only intensifies the focus on the wrong thing and strengthens its allure. In summary, whatever I resist, will persist.  Temptation always begins with a thought, so the quickest way for me to neutralize its allure, would be to turn my attention to something else. Don't fight the thought, just change the channel of my mind and get interested in another idea.  Ultimately the battle for sin is won or lost in my mind.  Whatever gets my attention, will ultimately get me. Job had said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman." (Job 31:1 NLT)  David prayed, "Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless." (Psalm 119:3a TEV)  In summary, when I’m facing a difficult temptation, it’s best for me to turn the channel in my mind and focus on something different.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Understanding Your Vulnerability

In summary of 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 it says, “12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Bottom Line:
Don’t overestimate yourself and your ability to be strong always.  Be careful not to fall.  Temptations you face are no different than what others experience.  God is faithful, and will not allow you to be tempted beyond your control.  When you are tempted God will provide a way out, look for it and take it.  Then you can endure.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me to not be overconfident in thinking that I'm standing strong or firm.  I need to be careful that I don’t fall.  The temptations that I experience are not exclusive to me.  They are the same ones that face everyone (I’m not unique or alone.)  God tells me He will not allow me to be tempted beyond my ability/power to resist.  God keeps his promises, I can trust in Him.  So when I’m tempted, He has also promised to provide a way of escape and the strength to endure it.  I need to keep in mind my vulnerabilities and work out ways ahead of time to protect myself.  God warns me to not get too cocky and overconfident about my ability to handle temptations.  The prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)  This means that I can be really good at fooling myself.  I must never let down my guard and think I’m beyond temptation and to not “carelessly place yourself in tempting situations. Avoid them." (Proverbs 14:16 TEV)  It's a lot easier to stay out of temptation than to get out of it. The Bible says, "Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence." (1 Corinthians 10:12 MSG)  I should always remember, "God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Don't Wait to Obey God

In summary of 1 John 5:3 it says, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.”

Bottom Line:
Loving God means obeying his commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us,

What this means to me:
My love for God is shown by my keeping his commands.  His commandments are not difficult if I keep my focus on Him and His desires.  To live a life of obedience, I should respond immediately when God says to do something. I should not hesitate or wait but instead step out and do it.  If it feels like a burden, it may be because I procrastinated in the execution. When I don't act right away, the action may become harder to do.  If I were to do what God says immediately, then freedom will come.  So today, I need to consider, what is God calling me to do?  Whatever it is, I need to write it down and tell God I’m willing to do it.  I can always ask him to give me the strength I need to make it happen.  In summary, act quickly when God asks.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Learning To Let Go, and To Know God Is in Control

In summary of Psalm 46:10 it says, “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth.”

Bottom Line:
Be still, let your concerns and worries leave your mind.  Know that God rules and is supreme among the nations and throughout the world.  God should be praised for who He is.

What this means to me:
When I approach God for prayer and quiet time, I often refer to this verse.  It reminds me to be still and to quiet my mind of all concerns, to know that He is God!.  God is to be exalted among all the nations and exalted throughout the world.  The Good Word translation suggests that you “Let go of your concerns” which can happen if I can be truly still, and can let go of what’s on my mind and my agenda.  Every day, I have to decide who’s going to be in control of my life — myself or God.  That choice is a real battle. There are things in my life that I want to control. I want to make my own rules. A great deal of stress relief will always start with letting God, be God!  It starts with saying, “God, I’m giving up control, because you can control the things that are out of control in my life.”  Psalm 46:10 says, “Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth” (GW).  
Its hard for me to tell what I’m going to face this week, however God knows.  God wants me to let go of control and know that God is in control of what happens.  So let go, and know; this is the first step to gaining peace and serenity in life.  When things seem out-of-control, my natural reaction is to try hard to control it.  However this reaction just leads to stress.  Instead, I just need to pray the prayer of surrender.  The number one reason for being under stress is because I’m in conflict with God. I’m trying to control things that only God can control.
In summary, I need to live one day at a time, enjoy each moment, accept hardship as a pathway to peace, trusting that God will make all things right if I surrender to his will.  This is truly where the power is.  There is power when I surrender to God the very things I’ve been trying to take control of from him.

Friday, October 4, 2013

When the Future Seems Uncertain

In summary of Jeremiah 29:11-13 it says, “11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Bottom Line:
God has plans for you. They are plans for good and not harm.  It is to give you a future and a hope.  When you pray, he will listen.  If you seek him with all your heart, you will find him.

What this means to me:
God alone knows what he has planned for me.  It’s important for me to remember that His plans are for my good and not to hurt me.  God intends prosperity for my future and not disaster.  In my life He encourage me to communicate with him frequently in prayer.  He has told me he will listen to me.  If I seek him wholeheartedly, he will make himself found.  In this life no matter what someone thinks, no one can accurately predict all that will happen in the next day, week or year.  Forecasts that are made, are all just educated guesses at best.  It seems it may be difficult to succeed when the future is unknown.  However, the The Bible suggests three timeless principles I can use for facing the future:
  1. Set goals according to God's direction. The Bible says, "We may make our plans, but God has the last word." (Proverbs 16:1 GNT) In other words, planning without praying is presumption. Start by praying, "God, what do you want me to do?"
  2. Live one day at a time. Decide to make the most of each moment of your life to accomplish God's will in your life. Jesus said, "Don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time." (Matthew 6:34 LB)
  3. Don't procrastinate. Do it now! "Don't boast about what you're going to do tomorrow, for you don't know what a day may bring forth." (Proverbs 27:1) Procrastinating is a subtle trap. It wastes today by postponing things until tomorrow. 
It’s time for me to re-consider plans I had at the beginning of the year.  Plans I had and intended to start, but haven’t.  It’s not too late, and I can take action still  In summary, I can set goals according to God’s direction, live my life one day at a time and then pray daily for guidance.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Generosity; Sharing With Others in Need

In summary of Proverbs 11:25 it says, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed”

Bottom Line:
Be generous and you’ll prosper, help others and you’ll be helped.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me that If I’m generous in my dealings then I will be prosperous in life.  Helping others as way of life will bring the help I need.  God tells me that when I share with others, He will share with me.  This whole notion is in strong opposition to what we see in our world.  Our world says, "Get everything you can and you will be financially secure." The Bible says share with others in need and you'll sow what you reap.  God says that when I give to somebody else, I’m not throwing it away, but rather it becomes an investment in the lives of others. And God says the one who gives will gain even more.  When I see somebody in need and give to them, God will consider this as if it were a loan to Him and He will reward back.  This means that I shouldn’t hesitate to give to others in need.  God will take care of me.  In summary, generosity is a matter of my faith.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Knowing God As Father

In summary of Matthew 6:9 it says, “This, then, is how you should pray:  ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored”

Bottom Line:
When you pray say, “Our Father in heaven, may your name always be kept holy.

What this means to me:
This first part of the Lord’s Prayer is recognizing God as my ultimate Father and striving to recognize him and to honor him who He is.  He is called father because Jesus told us to call him Father (Jesus uses this expression many times.)  Jesus indicates that God is not an angry tyrant, cosmic cop, or impersonal force.  God is a person, not a power.  God is a personal God.  He created me and wants to have a relationship with me.  When I can understand the truth of what God the Father is really like, I can be much more connected with him and really love him.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Belonging

In summary of Romans 15:6-7 it says, “Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”

Bottom Line:
Join together, give praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus.  Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you, so that God will ultimately be given the glory.

What this means to me:
As a follower of Christ, I join with other believers, God’s family, and give praise and glory to God in everything I do.  I should accept others, just as Christ has accepted me.  In everything I do, my goal should be to bring glory to God.  When it comes to family, there are two ways to get in: 1). be born into it, or 2). be adopted into it.  God does both. It’s part of being born again and adopted into the family of God.  Interestingly enough, in Roman law, which people followed during the writing of the New Testament, one could disown a child. But if you adopted a child, you were forbidden to ever disown them. God tells us I am not only born again into his family, but he has adopted me, and there is no way he would ever disown me. This is really good news!  Once born, I cannot be unborn. And, once I was born again, I cannot be unborn again. Now, I can grieve the Father, just like I had done to my earthly parents. Fellowship may be broken, but no matter what your parents say, everybody will know that I’m still their child.  The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:15, “I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church” (GW). We are the family of God. I have learned that Church is not something I go to, rather Church is something I belong to. I’m truly welded into the building of the temple of God. I’m grafted into the vine and the tree of life. I’ve born again and adopted into the family of God.  Often the world thinks of Christianity as a belief system and while there are beliefs involved, it is much more than that. It’s a belonging system. It means I belong to the family of God. It means I’m part of the body of Christ.

Learn to Forgive People Who Oppose Me

In review of 2 Timothy 2:23-26 it tells me, " Don't get involved in foolish ignorant arguments that only start fights . As a serva...