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Friday, November 22, 2013

Acceptance Does Not Require Approval

In summary of Romans 15:7 it says, “Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”

Bottom Line:
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

What this means to me:
I am to welcome and accept others; just like Christ welcomed and accepted me.  Doing this will ultimately bring glory to God.  Each time I show love, it gives glory to God.  God is love and glory is revealing what God is really like. God is loving and compassionate and wants me to develop his character and to be like him. This doesn’t mean that I will become a tiny god, but rather that I develop His loving nature.  He wants me to learn to love people the way he loves people. God is love, and every time I do that, it shows God’s glory.  One of the ways I can love others is just by accepting them. Just because I may not like what people do doesn’t mean I can’t accept them.  I can accept someone without approving of everything they do. There is a big difference! I’m to accept everybody; not to approve everything they do. So no matter what people do, or who they do it with, or how they do it, or how long they do it — it doesn’t matter. I am to love them. I am to accept them which is different than approving and condoning what they do. In summary, Love is not saying I approve of everything you do. Love is saying I accept you in spite of what you do.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How To Handle When Temptation Calls

In summary of Proverbs 14:16 it says, "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.”

Bottom Line:
A wise person will turn away from evil and not get close to it.  A fool will be reckless, not give thought or be confident that he could handle it.

What this means to me:
If I’m wise and sensible, I will avoid danger and turn away from evil.  I’d be careful to stay out of trouble.  If I’m foolish, or even stupid, I would be arrogant or overconfident, plunging ahead with a reckless confidence.  So, if I don’t want to get stung, I would stay away from bees or hornets. If I don’t want to get burned, I would not get close to the fire.  If I don’t want to fall off of a cliff, I wouldn’t hang out on the ledge.  The same thing is true with temptation.  The goal would be to not see how close you can get to temptation, but rather figure out how far away from it you can stay.  This passage in Proverbs 14:16 says, "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless” (NASB). A fool will think he can handle temptation, but who is he kidding? I need to have a frank assessment. I need to analyze when and where I am most tempted and vulnerable. Then, I need to simply stay away from those situations as much as possible.  God’s word tells me to run from temptation, Psalm 119:59, “I pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws” (Psalm 119:59 NLT).  Its often best to physically remove myself from the situation as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tempted him. He quickly left his coat and split.  Just like Joseph, there will be times that I need to leave my coat and get out of the situation. I need to quickly run from it and not stick around. When tempted, get up and change the channel. Do something to break the spell or refocus my attention.  It is not wise to ever argue with the enemy.  He's had thousands of years to think up lines to counter anything I could come up with. Don't rationalize it. Don't justify it. Don't argue it. The key is to break the focus.  The more you fight a feeling, the more it will grow in intensity. So in summary, When temptation calls on the phone, I won’t try to argue. I’ll just drop the receiver, and go do something else.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

God Chose Me Before I Chose Him

In summary of 1 Peter 1:2a it says, “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”

Bottom Line:
We were chosen according to the purpose of God the Father and were made a holy people by his Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be purified by his blood.

What this means to me:
God chose me long before I chose Him. God himself took the initiative. The Good News translation states it this way: "You were chosen according to the purpose of God."  God choose me to be a part of his family because he is a God of love and he is a God of grace. The more I understand grace, the more I’m amazed by it.  God chose me!  Do I deserve it? Not a chance. Do I deserve to go to Heaven? No way!  Am I good enough to be in God's family?  No. He just chose me. And that's good news.  First Peter 1:3 says, "For it is His boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that now we are members of God's own family."  God chose me based on his mercy, not my performance. I'll never be able to earn it on my own. I couldn't work hard enough for it or be perfect enough. It's only because of God's grace and mercy that the Creator of the universe says, "I want you in my family." This is encouraging news that I can take with me today and the rest of my life.  In summary, God chose me and provides his Spirit in my life to help set me aside to be used for his purposes.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Holding Blessings with an Open Hand - Stewardship

In summary of 1 Timothy 6:6-7 it says, "There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.”

Bottom Line:
Serving God does make us very rich, if we are satisfied with what we have. We brought nothing into the world, so we can take nothing out.

What this means to me:
Contentment is being satisfied with what God has given and entrusted me with.  There are huge profits in just being content with what I have.  God is the one who provides what I have.  I came into this world with nothing and will leave with nothing.  Overall, God is more interested in my character than he is with my comfort. He’ll not entrust me with true riches if I haven’t first learned the principle of contentment.  Contentment is not a weak word to be confused with, lack of ambition, or a lack of goals. True contentment means that my happiness in life doesn't not depend on my circumstances.  In order to help eliminate discontent, I need to identify and eliminate any form of comparison in my life.  There is a strong pull in our culture to compare everything.  When I enter the realm of comparison, I’m going to be discontent.  There is always someone with something more.  Paul said in Philippians 4:12, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (NIV). Contentment does not come naturally; it is something I have to continually learn and practice. When I do so, God promises to meet all my needs (including financial ones.)  One of the greatest secrets in learning to be content is to realize that I don't really own anything. It's all on loan to me for about 80 years!  I didn't bring a single thing into this world, and I’m not going to carry anything out of it, either. I just get to use it while I’m here on Earth. This principle is called stewardship. I’m the manager or steward of what God allows me to have while I’m here, but it's not really mine.  Understanding that I’m just a manager of the blessings God allows, help me hold them with an open hand.  I don’t need to be uptight about losing them.  God can turn off one faucet and turn on another just as easily. In summary, I want to learn to be content. Things of this world won't last. God is far more interested in developing my character than he is with my comfort.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Praying for It Before Paying for It

In summary of John 16:24 it says, "You have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy."

Bottom Line:
Ask first, God wants to provide and bring us joy through his provision.

What this means to me:
This verse is a great reminder for me to remember to pray and ask for my needs in Jesus’ name.  God wants to provide and fill me with joy over his provision and this is especially true when it comes to finances.  God has promised to meet all of my needs (not necessarily my wants.)  I can’t keep quiet, God is just waiting for me to ask for his help!  Rick Warren explains in his Daily Hope devotional from 11/15/13 that, “One of the reasons why we see so few miracles in our lives is because we just don't ask for them.  Instead of living a life based on Christ, we live a life based on credit. When we have something we need in our life, instead of stopping and asking God for it, before we even think about asking God for it, we just use that credit card. We trust credit instead of Christ.”   God will work in my life, if I would just pray before I pay.  This means that any major purchase I am considering, that should trust God before just taking matters into my own hands and using a credit card.  Using a credit card will only short-circuit God chance to provide for me.  One thing for certain is that God will not give me everything I pray for.  But there are some things he will do just to provide a miracle in my life.  So there is nothing wrong with praying specifically for a financial need.  In summary, God wants me to learn to ask, so that he can give and so that I can be full of joy.  God is a loving father and he wants to bless my life.  I just need to ask.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cooperating with the Holy Spirit

In summary of Ephesians 4:22-24 it says, “22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

Bottom Line:
Get rid of your old sinful nature and way of life which had been corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead let the Spirit renew your thoughts/attitudes, allowing you to put on your new nature, like that of God.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me to get rid of my old self and the way I was living; a life corrupted by the deceitful desires.  Instead look to the holy spirit to renew my thoughts and attitudes so that I can put on my new self; one created in the likeness of God - truly righteous and holy.  As illustrated in numerous stories in the Bible, the Holy Spirit releases his power the moment I take a step of faith.  One example is when Joshua was faced with an impassible barrier, the flood waters of the Jordan River receded only after the leaders stepped into the rushing current in obedience and faith. Obedience unlocks God's power.  So this means I should not wait to feel powerful or confident, but rather move ahead in my weakness, doing the right thing, in spite of my fears and feelings. This is how I can cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and it he will help develop my character.  In this passage Paul explains three responsibilities in becoming like Christ:

  • First, we must choose to let go of old ways of acting. "Everything . . . connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it!" (Ephesians 4:22 MSG)
  • Second, we must change the way we think. "Let the Spirit change your way of thinking." (Ephesians 4:23 CEV) The Bible says we are "transformed" by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2)
  • Third, we must put on the character of Christ by developing new, godly habits. Your character is essentially the sum of your habits; it is how you habitually act. The Bible says, "Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24 NIV)
In summary the Holy Spirit will release his power when I take a step of faith.  My obedience will unlock God’s power.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Giving My Life for Something

In summary of Romans 12:5 it says, “In the same way, even though we are many individuals, Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.”

Bottom Line:
So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me that, as I follow Christ, he makes me part of his body.  Within this body I am connected to others of like mind for his purpose.  In life we all give our lives for something. For some it be a career, sports, hobby, fame, or wealth.  In God’s view, none of these pursuits will have a lasting significance.  What scripture teaches me, is that my serving is the pathway to real significance.  As I serve together in God’s family, my life will take on an eternal importance.  God wants to use me to make a difference in his world.  He wants to do his work through me.  So, what ultimately matters is not how long my life is, but rather how I give or donate it.  Scripture is filled with examples of ordinary people God used to make a difference. In summary, God will use me if I’m willing to give my life in his service.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God is Never Too Busy

In summary of Psalms 145:18 it says, "The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth."

Bottom Line:
God is near to those who call to him, who call to him with sincerity.

What this means to me:
When I earnestly seek him, he will draw near to me.  There are three encouraging facts about the closeness of God that I can count on:
  • God is never too busy - "The Lord is near to all who call on him." (Psalm 145:18 NIV) This means that He's never too busy to talk to me. He's always nearby, and will never say, "Some other time."
  • God loves to meet needs - He will not be annoyed by my request. "If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11 NIV)
  • God is sympathetic to my hurts -- "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18 NLT)  This means that when I hurt, God hurts. When I grieve, God grieves. God is there for me, He cares.

In summary when I seek him, he will be there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

God Says I'm Valuable

In summary of Luke 12:24 it says, "Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!"

Bottom Line:
Consider the birds: they neither plant, harvest or store food.  God feeds them.  And we are more valuable to to God than birds.

What this means to me:
It is comforting to know that God thinks I am worth much more than birds, who he lovingly looks after.  In life, its important not to confuse self-worth with net-worth.  My overall value has nothing to do with what I may own.  God paid a high price for me, so to him I am priceless. How priceless is explained by Jesus who told three stories explained by Luke in chapter 15; the lost son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep.  Each has the same conclusion, I am worth pursuing, I matter and he rejoices in my turning to him!  In summary, since I matter to God, I am valuable. I’m valuable because he loves me and has accepted me in Christ.

Friday, November 8, 2013

God Tells Me I’m Capable

In summary of Philippians 4:13 it says, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Bottom Line:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

What this means to me:
When I truly follow Christ in my life, he gives me the strength to face all conditions and to do all things.  At times I feel a gnawing, inner security and lack of confidence or a feeling of incompetence in my life.  This is related to the way I think about myself.  I begin to believe that I don’t matter, I’m a loser, and I’ll never do anything significant with my life.  What I need to realize is that these inner thoughts are all completely opposite to what God thinks.  I do matter to him and I am extremely important.  I need to keep my focus not on my self but on God and what he thinks.  When these thought come, I should repeat the things that God says about me; I am acceptable, I am lovable, I am valuable, I am forgivable, and I am capable.  So cast off my wrong thinking and believe what God says.  Because God thinks I’m capable, I will be able to face anything that comes my way.  I do not need to fear it.  He will be with me and will provide the strength I need to accomplish the task or face the situation.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stop Building Walls, Start Building Bridges

In summary of 2 Timothy 4:17 it says, “The Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear.”

Bottom Line:
Don’t be afraid, God will stand by you and give you strength to do what you need to do.

What this means to me:
The Lord will always stand by and be with me.  He’ll give me the strength I need so that I can do the work he has intended for me to do.  When I’m feeling lonely, I need to take the focus off myself and put it onto others.  Loneliness will only play into being self-centered and being wrapped up in myself.  I need to remember that God intentionally wired me to give my life away, to help others, to think of others and not just myself.  To break any cycle of loneliness I need to start being a friend.  Remove the focus from myself, emphasize other’s needs and give myself away.  Loneliness is often just a fear of being open and vulnerable.  It’s being afraid to share how I might really feel.  It’s being afraid to step out and risk a relationship, fearing rejection.  When Paul was in prison, about to be executed, he mentioned that all his friends had left him, but God didn’t.  That gave him the strength to reach out to others and complete the work God had given him.  In summary, when I feel loneliness coming on in life, I need to stop building a wall and instead start building a bridge.  Take a risk and begin to help others by finding a ministry, or a place I can use the talents and gifts I have been given.  When I do this, the feelings of loneliness will dissipate.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Made for Relationships

In Summary of Genesis 2:18 it says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Bottom Line:
God said, it is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper who is right for him.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me that I was not meant to go about life on my own.  God knew this and did something about it, making a helper/companion who is just right.  As Rick Warren explains (from his Daily Hope devotional 11/6/13), “what we often call loneliness is really homesickness for God. We just never recognized it as that.” I was made to have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, a relationship that God is dying to have with me. One in which his son died for me to have. Nothing will ever compensate for that — no person, no experience, no drug, no success, no thing, no possession. Nothing is going to fill that aching hole in my heart that God created for himself. He wants me to know him.  Getting to know him means, opening my life to Jesus Christ. Saying, "Jesus Christ, I want to get to know you. I want to learn to love you the way you loved me, even before I knew it. I want to have a relationship with you.” I was made for a relationship with God — not a religion of fear, rules, regulations, and rituals but a relationship where I talk to God all the time and he speaks to me. This is the antidote to any deep loneliness.  I’m also fortunate to have a church family, a place where I can get involved and be part of a small group where others get to know me, and where I find the support network needed when I’m going through tough times. So to battle loneliness, instead of just sitting around, I should engage myself in serving in some fashion or another.  The world is filled with people waiting to be loved. I need to start saying, "God, who would you like me to minister to?  Who can I show your love to?”  I may go through lonely times in my life, but I'll never go through it alone if I have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  In summary I pray “Father, thank you that you meet my deepest needs, that you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, so that I could have a relationship with you that would never be taken away and I would never be completely lonely because you're in our lives. Thank you. In Jesus' name. Amen.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Caution: Loneliness Can Bring Bitterness

In summary of 2 Timothy 4:16 it says, “The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them.”

Bottom Line:
When you feel alone (everyone abandoning you), minimize the hurt and bitterness.  Don’t count it against others.

What this means to me:
Paul experienced times of real trials.  In this one he tells of how no one comes to his defense or stood by or helped him.  Loneliness is a tough thing and I experience it from time to time. The Bible gives me some good guidelines for what I should do when going through what seems like seasons of loneliness.  These guidelines are illustrated in the life of Paul in 2 Timothy 4, when he was in prison and awaiting his execution.  Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:16, “The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them” (NLT).  Paul, one of the greatest Christian’s, was on trial in Rome, and not one person stepped forward to defend him. Not one! He was absolutely by himself. Nobody stepped forward to say, "This is a good guy. He's alright.” Yet Paul did not say, "Those jerks — after all I've done for them all these years!” Instead, he said, "May it not be counted against them.” In other words, he was not going to let himself become bitter.  The key here is that bitterness can always makes the loneliness worse.  When I face loneliness I can minimize the hurt first by playing it down and then by praying it up. Resist the urge to rehearse it over and over.  If I do, the hurt will only get bigger and bigger and spiral out of control. I need to refuse the urge to become resentful.  Bitterness is something than can eat me up and take control.  Bitterness and loneliness can become a cycle. I become lonely. Then I start feeling bad about it and have a pity party. Then I become bitter. The bitterness makes me even lonelier, which makes me more bitter. Soon, I’m a hardhearted, depressed person that nobody would want to get close to.  In summary, bitterness will only perpetuate my loneliness. Next time a feel a season of loneliness, I need to minimize the hurt and not build a wall around my life.  Take on the characteristic of Paul, who even with people deserting him, still asked and prayed that God would not count it against them.  Pray it up!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sowing Today to Reap God's Blessing At The Proper Time

In reviewing Galatians 6:9 it says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Bottom Line:
Never give up doing what is right, for in God’s right timing, he will provide blessings.

What this means to me:
I’m the type that likes seeing immediate results for my investments and efforts.  This scripture reminds me that as a Christ follower, I should never grow weary of doing what I know is the right thing to do, even when I don’t get immediate feedback or results.  In God’s timing, not mine, he will bless me.  The analogy of a farmer explains this concept well.  Every farmer knows that what you sow in one season, you will reap in another season. You plant in the spring, and you harvest in the fall.  So, the way I respond right now is definitely going to affect my future. If I respond correctly in this season of life and do the right thing, especially when I don't feel like it, it will pay great dividends for my future.  There are four questions I can keep in mind to reap God’s blessing in the future:
  • What can I learn in this season of life: There are some things I can only learn through experience. Deuteronomy 11:2 says, "Remember ... what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him” (GNT).
  • What can I do to enjoy this current season of life:  The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV). I am to live the good and the bad days with a great sense of gratitude; each day is a gift from God.
  • What is most important for this season: Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” If that's true, then I can't have it all at one time. I have to make some tough decisions about what really matters at this particular time in life.
  • How can you help others in this season of life: The Bible says very clearly that I wasn't put on earth just to live for myself: "Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help” (Proverbs 3:27 NCV). God gave me abilities, talents, and energy to help other people.

In summary, I want to commit myself to Jesus Christ, to grow in him. I want to continue to develop spiritually.  As painful as it might be at times, I want God to use the seasons of my life to teach me to learn to trust him in every season, even the difficult ones? I invite you Lord to be at the center of every season of my life, so you can build the character that I will take with me to Heaven.”