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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Working Together With Others, I Can Accomplish More

In review of Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Bottom Line:
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.

What this means to me:
God has made me who I am, I’m his handiwork. He created me anew through Christ Jesus’ sacrifice and guidance. By placing my trust in Jesus, I’m now positioned to do all the good things which God had prepared in advance for me to do. As such, God had placed me in the world to do a certain work that only I can accomplish. Ephesians says that God made me to do good works and that he planned in advance what I would spend my life doing. However, what I find is that he didn’t plan for me to do this work alone. I need others to work with me. Doing too much work on my own will only get me exhausted and burned out and God never meant for it to be that way. God explains in Ecclesiastes 4:9 that “two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together” (NCV). When I work as a member of a team, I’ll get so much more done. Beside, having good teammates alongside me is more fun and less tiring!  Rick Warren explains that “when we work together here on Earth, we’re actually practicing for eternity. In Heaven, we will all have to work, but each of us will have just a small piece of work, so we’ll never get overloaded or tired. Though no one will carry a heavy burden as each one of us does our small part, all the work will still get done.”  As I walk through life, I need to remember that I’m not supposed to do everything on my own. I need other people to walk and work alongside me. As I learn to share the burden of my work with fellow Christians, I’ll find that I can actually accomplish more for the glory of God.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Developing A Safety Net

In review of 1 Peter 3:8 it says, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”

Bottom line:
All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

What this means to me:
I am to have a like-mind (same attitude), live in harmony and understand others.  I am to love them like family. I am to always be compassionate and humble in my interactions. In life tough times and tragedies are inevitable; and no matter what, I will face them. However I don’t need to go through them alone. I need God’s safety net to help hold me up through the difficult times. God’s safety net is a group of other believers, a handful of people who are really committed to each other and myself. This group is call a “community.” Here’s God’s plan for community: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26a). Community is God’s answer to despair. Romans 12:15 expresses a very similar idea: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” The first part of that verse is easy. When something good happens to someone, it’s easy to join in on the party. But when someone is having a tough time, it can be more difficult. But, really, it’s quite simple. When going through a crisis, advice is not what is always required; in fact we often just want somebody to be there to sit with you, put an arm around your shoulder, or cry with you. As Paul tells us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11a). Encouraging someone else doesn’t always mean giving a pep talk or words of wisdom. Sometimes the best kind of encouragement is just sitting in silence, waiting and weeping with a friend. It’s important to have a safety net, a committed group of fellow Christians I know that I can count on in life’s toughest times. The hard times in life are inevitable, and only a fool would go into them unprepared. It’s important for me to be building this type of friendships in my life. Today I will start to consider who I can continue to build community with in order to reach that level of commitment.  I will also consider what practical ways I can provide someone else with a safety net.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Is God's Gift

In review of 1 Timothy 2:5 it says, “There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us.”

Bottom Line:
For there is only one God, and only one Mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus who gave himself to rescue us.

What this means to me:
There is only one God and Christ is the only one who can bring me to Him. Jesus paid the ultimate price and became human, giving himself up in order to rescue me and you. On Christmas we celebrate this Good News. Contrary to what many believe and practice, Christmas is not all about the good news of special gifts, big meals or spending time with friends and family. Christmas is the representation of the Good News of God’s love. The Bible explains that I am (or we are) lost without God. On my own I’m directionless and without protection from God. My potential eternal impact upon the world goes unfulfilled. I am without real joy and my eternity in Heaven isn’t secure. The Good News about Christmas is that God sent Jesus to seek and save the lost. The Bible says, “There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us” (1 Timothy 2:5 CEV). Jesus came to rescue me. On my own I can’t possibly solve my problems and I’m trapped in the expectations of others. I’m only living for the approval of my peers. I’m trapped in addictions. And as much as I can try to change, I personally don’t have the power to escape it on my own. The power I need comes from Jesus. Without Christ, I can only long to recover my strength, confidence, reputation, innocence, and my relationship with God. Jesus came to reconnect me. Jesus came to Earth on the first Christmas to reconcile me to God, to give me harmony with him again. Jesus came to Earth to give me the gift of himself. To many people celebrate his birthday without accepting his free gift of salvation. It goes unwrapped year after year after year. I was made by God and for God. Jesus came to reconnect me back to God.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Making Room for Jesus

In review of Luke 2:7 it says, "She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them."

Bottom line:
She gave birth to her first, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and laid him in an animal's feeding trough, as there was no room anywhere for them to stay.

What this means to me:

The coming of our Savior happened in the lowest of settings, there was “no lodging available” for Joseph, Mary and Jesus at any of the places of lodging. I know my wife would not appreciate it if we went away and then couldn’t find any place to stay at night. The coming of the eternal God and our promised Messiah had been anticipated for thousands of years. Prophecies had foretold the truth that the Savior of the world would be coming. His birth was so important that it split our history into B.C. and A.D. However, when the Son of God came into the world, there was no room for him. I can’t be too harsh on the innkeeper for not having room for Jesus. I too, do it all the time. There are time when I miss giving him the significance in my life that he deserves. I often fill up my schedule with events that can crowd out the significance of Jesus. I tend to spend my money on comforts or gadgets. I spend a lot of my time advancing with work, school, etc. What’s important is having room in the “inn of my life” to accept and cherish Jesus and what he has done for me.  So no matter how busy my schedule might get these coming weeks, I want to make sure I pursuing my daily time with him so that I don’t miss out on what’s best.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Learning To Be At Home In God's Rest

In review of Matthew 11:28 it says, “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest.”

Bottom Line:
Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.

What this means to me:
When I find myself being tired from carrying a heavy load or burden, I need to turn to Jesus. He promises to help me get the right perspective and to give me rest.  Without Jesus in my life, peace becomes difficult. Jesus offers something incredible, he tells me that, “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 CEV). What can be better than that!  It’s quite the opposite to what the world would think.  They would think it means to come to God is to subcomb to rules, regulations, restrictions, rituals and religion. But in reality God doesn’t say any of those things. He says, “Come home to me, and I will give you rest.” The reason I become so tired and stressed out is because I try to live life on my own power. God never meant for me to do that.  The Bible says, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless” (Isaiah 40:29 NLT).  So when I start feeling down, anxious, fatigued or worried, I need to come home. Home to God. He’s the one who made and created me, who’s watches every moment of my life, who knows everything about me and still loves me, who forgives me and says, “Come home to my peace and strength.” When I do that, I’ll have real peace of mind.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More Reasons to Celebrate

In review of John 3:16 it says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Bottom Line:
God loves us so much that he would give up his one and only Son.  Whoever believes and has faith in Him will have eternal life.

What this means to me:

This verse reminds me that God loved me and those in the world around me so much, that he would give up his one and only Son. Such that whoever believes and has faith in his Son, will not perish, but have an eternal life with him. Christmas time often brings stress and pressure as folks prepare for gifts and celebrations. In truth Christmas is about the greatest news ever. The angels in announcing the birth of Jesus told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy, and it’s for everybody.” It was a celebration of the news that God loves us. The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). That’s why he sent Jesus. God was on a mission of love. The Bible tells me God is love. It is his nature. God created the entire universe just so he could create the human race, just so he could create me, just so he could love me. God made me to love me. And his love isn’t based on what I do. His love is based on who he is. God is love. Secondly, God is with me. I may not always feel his presence, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The Bible says Jesus’ name was to be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” God will never abandon me. Jesus truly was “God with us.” And he is still present today.  Having God near, helps to remove my fear. This means that I don’t have to worry or be anxious about what’s coming next. Thirdly, God is for me. He’s on my side. He wants me to succeed. In fact, Jesus said this: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NLT). Many people are afraid of God because of their guilt. But the Bible says Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world. He came to save it. That’s good news! We need to celebrate this Christmas. Jesus’ birth was, and is, good news of great joy. And it’s for everybody, regardless of their background. It’s good news of great joy for all people because God says, “I love you, I’m with you, and I’m for you.”  In Summary, it’s important for me to remember  that God loves, is with, and is for me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Giving Jesus My Best This Christmas

In review of Matthew 2:11 it says, “When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him.”

Bottom Line:
They bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their gifts and gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

What this means to me:
Like the wise men, I too should bow down and worship Jesus as well. I should give him the best gifts of all. Christmas is near, however Jesus often gets completely shut out. This is like planning a party for someone and inviting many people. Everyone brings lots of gifts, and the invitees trade presents with one another — and the person the party was for gets nothing. That’s Christmas. We give gifts to everyone but Jesus. However, what do I give the God who has everything?  There are four things he doesn’t have unless I give them to him.  
  • . Give him my trust. Faith is a voluntary matter. He will never force it from us. Jesus won’t have my trust unless I give it to him.
  • . Give Jesus first place in my life. If anything or anyone other than Jesus holds first place in my life, it would be considered an idol. This Christmas, I want to choose to make Jesus first in my finances, interests, relationships, and schedule— and even in my troubles. One important way I can give Jesus my heart this Christmas is by giving of my resources to his work. Jesus doesn’t need my money, but he does want what it represents — my heart.
  • . Give Jesus my heart. My heart is what I love, what I value, and what I care about most. His word reminds me that, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34 NIV).
  • . Bring others to Jesus. God wants a family more than anything else this Christmas. He wants children who choose to love and trust him. It is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Invite others to Jesus this Christmas time. Tell them about what Jesus has done in my life.
The verse also reminds me that the Wise Men didn’t give Jesus their leftovers when they visited him, but instead gave three very significant and valuable gifts: “They bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their gifts and gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 NCV). In summary, when I give Jesus my trust, make him first in my life, give what I value to his work, and bring other people to him, I would be giving him gifts far more valuable than the ones the Wise Men brought.  This year I will tell Jesus “happy birthday” this Christmas and give him my best, gifts that he would really want.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The difference between knowledge and wisdom

In a recent class discussion post, I was asked to "Discuss the difference of knowledge and wisdom as it applies to your life. Is one better than the other?" with Proverbs 28:26, “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe" as the reference verse. Listed below is my response:

Bottom Line:
It is foolish to trust in your own insight and opinions.  Following the teachings of wise and you’ll survive and be kept safe.

What this means to me:
For me, wisdom is better than knowledge.  I think of knowledge as learning and knowing something.  Wisdom, on the other hand, is not only knowing something, but taking the next step as to what to do with it.  Personally, I’m only being foolish If I think I have all the answers on my own.  It is much better for me to following the teachings of those wiser who walk in wisdom.  Doing so will be prove to be a much safer route.

Our world tends to think that a rugged individual who needs no help is a hero.  There is a tendency to admire the bold, self-directed individuals who know what they want and willing to fight for it.  These types of individuals are self-reliant, neither giving nor asking advice.  This is completely in contradiction to God’s way.  There is no positive way to know the future or to predict the consequences of our choices with any certainty.  A completely self-reliant person is doomed to failure.  He/she is trusting in their own under understanding.  A wise person depends fully on God.  They follow guidance from God and seek counsel from those who have been walking with God for a long time and the results of their lives reflect good fruit.

One of my favorite verses, Proverbs 3:5-8, emphasizes this notion:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
   do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
   and he will show you which path to take.
7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
   Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
8 Then you will have healing for your body
   and strength for your bones.

In summary, I think it is foolish to trust in your own insight and opinions, instead follow the teachings of wise and you’ll survive and be kept safe.  So, instead of trusting myself! I work toward trusting God!   As I do, I'll gain wisdom when I fully you trust Him with my life.  If I do, God promises safety and protection.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Writing Down What God Tells Me

In review of Habakkuk 2:2 it says, “The LORD gave me this answer: ‘Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance.’”

Bottom Line:
Write what the Lord reveals clearly on tablet, so that others can read, benefit and tell others.

What this means to me:
God will speak to me if I listen correctly. He instructs me to write down clearly what He says so that It can be easily seen and referenced (read at a glance.)  Others can see it and tell even others. Listening correctly means withdrawing to a quiet place, waiting patiently and expectantly, asking God to give me a picture of what he wants to say, and then writing down God’s responses to my questions. In the book of Habakkuk, the Lord commands the author to “write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance.” Habakkuk 2:2 (TEV). That’s how the book of Habakkuk came to be. In chapter one, Habakkuk wrote down what he said to God. And in chapter two, he wrote down what God said back to him. The book of Psalms was done the same way from David’s quiet time. David meditated on the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, and then he wrote down his thoughts. In many of the psalms, he starts out with what he’s feeling and then ends up with what God says. One of the ways that I specifically pray is to actually write my prayers out. In writing them down God can hear my thoughts. Some of my prayers I re-use each day, thus I then read what I had written down. Whether I write or read it, I’m praying. This is all part of my journaling, its the writing down of the lessons I am learning, the mistakes I’ve made and what I learned from them. Personally I use Google Docs to write down what I’m learning and my thoughts on them and next steps. I then publish them in this blog so that I can easily go back and read them / recall specifics about topics. I have actually found that others have found my blog and drawn encouragement from it and possibly tell others. In a way it’s doing what Habakkuk 2.2 references.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Open Your Eyes to God's Vision

In review of Psalm 119:18 it says, “Open my eyes, so that I may see the wonderful truths in your law.” (Psalm 119:18 TEV)

Bottom Line:
Open my eyes to see the miracles in your teachings.

What this means to me:
I need to ask God continually to open my eyes so that I can discover the wonders and miraculous things in his Word and catch his vision. God’s word is filled hundreds of examples of people catching God’s vision. I believe that God will gladly clarify my next steps and give him his vision if I’m willing to be quiet enough to hear it. One way that I can better get and understand his vision is by asking “God, is there anything you want to say to me?”  As I wait, I can also ask “God, is there anything I need to know that I’m not thinking about?” And then continue to wait. James 1:5 says, “If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won’t correct you for asking” (CEV). God wants me to ask him for advice, and he wants me to be specific. He’s just waiting for me to ask.  Next, look into God’s Word to see what God might want to say to you. Todays verse, Psalm 119:18 is a great verse for me to keep close: “Open my eyes, so that I may see the wonderful truths in your law” (TEV). This is a good verse to use in my quiet time as I open up God’s Word. Every answer to every problem I could ever have can be found in his word. I just need to keep reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on it, as I seek God’s vision for my life or even just for today.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Making Time To Be Quiet

In review of Matthew 6:6 it says, “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

Bottom Line:
When you pray, get away to a quiet place.  Pray privately to your father who is with you. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me that when I pray, I need to seclude myself to quiet place where I can’t be distracted.  Then pray as simply and as honestly as I can.  Allow the focus shift from me to God.  If I can do this then I’ll be able to sense his grace.  Scripture tells me that I won’t hear God speak if there’s a bunch of noise going on in my life.  To hear from God, I need to get alone and get quiet, and thus have “quiet time.”  Jesus says it like this in Matthew 6:6: “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace” (MSG).  One of the key things I need to keep in mind is that God wants to meet with me. I’m not waiting on God; rather he’s is waiting on me. God made me to have a relationship with him. He wants me to spend time with him on a daily basis. He wants me to schedule a date with him every day. God is waiting. Typically I break my quiet time up into two blocks when I’m not traveling. One of scripture reading/prayer and one of scripture decomposition / lessons learned from it. The first part I do at home where it is quiet.  The second part I do at a Starbucks while enjoying my first cup of coffee. Starbucks is not the most quiet place on earth. For the most part I can tune out what’s taking place, but it still affects me. I will consider what I can do to make it quieter, perhaps putting in earbuds to deaden some of the noise. In summary, to hear from God, I need to be quiet so that I can hear.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Obedience Leads to Peace

In review of Philippians 4:6-7 it says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Bottom Line:
Don’t worry or be anxious, instead pray about it.  Let God know what I need.  Thank him for what he has done.  Soak in his peace.  It is something that surpasses all understanding.  It’s a peace that will guard my heart, mind and thoughts.  It is all part of living in Christ.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me that I should never worry or be anxious about anything at all.  Instead, I should pray ask God about everything.  Let him know what I need.  Then with a thankful heart thank him for all he has done.  When I do this, I’ll experience God’s peace, a peace that which exceeds anything I could possibly understand.  It will be a peace that will guard my heart and keep my heart, mind and emotions safe.  It will all come from my union with Christ.
If I find myself feeling overwhelmed and confused about a decision, it likely that I am caught up in myself and not hearing God’s voice. The Bible says, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33a NIV). He is not the author of confusion. So if I’m feeling confused, its because I’m not hearing God’s voice speak. Possibly the only time pressure I feel could be legitimate, especially if its something God’s told me to do, but I keep saying “no” to. There will always be peace when I say “yes” to what God’s asks me to do. I am to be obedient to what he asks. Satan wants to drive me compulsively, but God wants to draw me compassionately. Satan wants to take advantage of my compulsions and use them to drive my life. But God is my Good Shepherd. He wants to draw me in toward himself and peace. In summary, this verse tells me to not worry or be anxious, instead I am to pray about everything. Let God know what I need. Thank him for what he has done. Then soak in his peace.  It is something that surpasses all understanding.  It’s a peace that will guard my heart, mind and thoughts. It all comes from living in Christ.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Learning To Really Hear From God

In reviewing Deuteronomy 4:29 it says, “You will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.”

Bottom Line:
When you search for the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, you will find him.

What this means to me:
I can always find God when I search for him with all my heart and soul.  Likewise, I’m not going to hear God unless I really want to hear him. It’s a necessity!  God won’t tell me about his dream for my life if he knows that I just debate it.  He won’t tell me why he put me here on earth for just to say, “let me think about it.”  King David wrote in the book of Psalms, “My God, I want to do what you want” and “What I want most of all and at all times is to honor your laws” (Psalm 40:8 NCV, Psalm 199:20 CEV).  David was passionate in his declaration that what he wanted most of all was to honor God. Being obedient and following God were not options for him. It was the only thing David wanted to do. He used words for seeking God like, “I long for it,” “I crave it,” “I hunger for it,” and “I’m like a deer panting for water.”  When I have that kind of desire I’ll hear from God.  I often find myself talking to God but not really listening.  This is like me talking to my wife but never having her talk back to me.  I need to strive for a conversation. It’s important for me to not only talk but to listen to God.  I need to adjust my quiet times to make sure that I’m listening for what he wants to tell me.  I need to search for him and listen for his voice.  Today I will ponder what I can do to slow and quiet my life down so that I can hear him clearly.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Deciding To Say "Yes" To What God Says, Even Before He Speaks

In summary of Luke 8:15 it says, “The seeds that fell in good soil stand for those who hear the message and retain it in a good and obedient heart, and they persist until they bear fruit.”

Bottom Line:
The seed that fell on the good ground is like those who hear God’s teaching with good, honest hearts.  They obey it and then patiently produce good fruit.

What this means to me:
Taking in and absorbing God’s teaching, incorporating it into my life, being obedient to it no matter what; will enable me to produce good things, despite whatever situation life may bring me. God will speak to me if I’m going to do what he tells me to do, even before he tells me. My attitude should be, “God, if you want me to move, I’ll move. If you want me to _____, I’ll do ____. Before you even tell me, my answer will be ‘yes.’ Whatever you want me to do, I will do it.”  Luke 8:15 says, “The seeds that fell in good soil stand for those who hear the message and retain it in a good and obedient heart, and they persist until they bear fruit” (TEV).  The passage in Luke 8:4-15 speaks of four attitudes, of which I can experience all four in the same day.  At one moment I can be saying, “God, I don’t want to hear you, because I know what you’re going to say.” And the next moment I can say, “Lord, tell me quick”, hear it and think it’s good, but not do anything about it. Perhaps the fruit begins to bear in my life, but then I get busy with my job or school work, and the weeds grow up and take hold. Then other times I say, “God, whatever you want. I’m totally open to you.” God would want me to adopt the attitude of obedience. When I do, I can bear fruit (the biblical term for being successful.) Overall God wants me to be fruitful in my work, my family, my friendships, my health, and my relationship with Him and with others.  One hint I just learned this morning from Rick Warren in his Daily Hope devotional for Dec. 6th to help me accomplish this is that, I’ll bear fruit when God tells me something, I do it and then pass it on. This means when God tells me something, the quickest way to let it bear fruit in my life is to tell somebody else what I just learned. In summary, I can bear fruit by obediently doing what God is telling me with a willing attitude. Then I am to pass what I’m learning on to others.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Being Clear to Hear God

In summary of Luke 8:14 it says, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

Bottom Line:
The seeds that fell among thorn bushes stand for those who hear; but the worries and riches and pleasures of this life crowd in and choke them, and their fruit never ripens.

What this means to me:
This verse is a caution to me about what can happen if I get caught up into worries, riches, and pleasures of this life. When my mind is crowded with other thoughts or concerns I can’t hear from God and I will not grow or produce the kind of fruit that God wants from me. I really don’t want to have a situation where God calls, but all he gets from me a is a busy signal or “all circuits are busy.”  In order to be clear, I need to eliminate life's distractions. Jesus says in Luke 8:7, “Some other seeds fell where thorn bushes grew up and choked the plants” (CEV). The kind of soil with weeds in it, was actually planted with crops and begins to grow. However as it grows, the weeds grow up around it, and begin to choke out the life of the vegetable or the plant, so it never bears fruit. Jesus explains that “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14 NIV). This verse refers to three things that choke out hearing God:
. Worry - this is much like weeds. If I’m so busy with the problems and pressures of daily living, it makes it harder to hear God.
. Money/Riches - I can be so busy trying to pay bills, so busy trying to get out of debt, so busy trying to make more, and so busy making a living that I don’t make a life.
. Pleasure - God says when you’re busy pursuing fun, you miss him and his plans for your life.
We all know that weeds do not require any special cultivation, they grow automatically and are usually a sign of neglect. When I start seeing weeds in my yard, it means I’m not properly attending to it. Similarly weeds in my spiritual life are also a sign that I’m neglecting time with God. So when all the circuits in my life are busy (getting caught up into worries, riches, and pleasures of this life), I need to just need to get quiet and refocus on listening to God  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fruit Only Comes from Deep Roots

In summary of Luke 8:13 it says, “The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it. But they don’t have deep roots, and they believe only for a little while. As soon as life gets hard, they give up.”

Bottom Line:
And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

What this means to me:
This verse reminds me that to be effective I can not only listen to the word and think “that’s great”, instead the word needs to permeate deep within; take root.  Its when trouble comes or times of testing that my endurance and faith has a chance to grow based on what’s deep inside.  This notion is very similar to the springtime in Southern California when everything turns green.  However when the rains stop, everything turns brown again.  This is because the quickly growing grass and wild flowers do not have any deep roots. They don’t go down deep enough to get water from beneath. When there aren’t deep roots, a plant may only look good for a while.  Luke 8:13 says, “The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it. But they don’t have deep roots, and they believe only for a little while. As soon as life gets hard, they give up” (CEV).  A lot of times I can hear God’s Word and get excited about it, but if I don’t allow it to change me, I’ll only kidding myself. To be effective I need to let the word sink into my life.  The best way to develop deep roots is to continue with a daily quiet time with God and to spend time in fellowship with others.  Not spending time with God on a daily basis will cause me to dry up and blow away when pressures come.  I know this to be true, as I took some time off of work recently and thus my daily routine and quiet time periods.  I easily got distracted and didn’t face a temptation well.  In addition, I need to make sure I take time to listen during my time with him. To just race through a quiet time and execute tasks is not enough. I need to sit and be quiet. I need to do whatever it takes to keep the focus on God. Also, being part of a regular fellowship group helps me with my perspective as others in the group can see things in my life that I can’t see.  I can learn from those in the group and help each other as we encourage each other and help our roots grow stronger.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Overcoming Mental Barriers to Hearing God's Voice

In summary of James 1:21 it says, “Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

Bottom Line:
Put out of your life every evil thing and every kind of wrong. In gentleness accept God’s teaching that is planted in your hearts, it has the power to save.

What this means to me:
I am to get rid of every evil, immoral, and wicked conduct in my life. Then with humility submit to and accept his word that he plants in my heart.  With his word, my life can be so much more.  However, in order to receive his word I must position myself correctly so that I can properly hear God speak.  Often I do not give God a chance to talk to me.  I pre-make up my mind to do what I want to do and not what God would want me to do.  I harden my heart and become unwilling to listen.  When I’m closed like this, he’ll not talk to me.  In general there are three mental barriers that will close me off from hearing God’s message.
. Pride - I think I don’t need God and want to handle things myself.  In this case I’m not open to listening for him to speak. Its this pride that keeps me from being open to the possibility that God might want to say something to me.
. Fear - I may not hear God speak because I’m afraid to hear what he has to say.
. Bitterness - If I’m holding on to hurt, resentment, or a grudge, then I’m not going to be able to hear God.  When I’m bitter my heart will be hardened.  Resentment is a self-inflicted wound that allows people from my past to continue to hurt me today.
Ultimately I need to get rid of the bitterness, fear, and pride that keep you from hearing God’s voice and living out his purpose for your life.  James 1:21 says, “Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls” (NLT).  To “Humbly accept” means that I let go of my pride and stop trying to figure it out on my own. Doing this will be the key to opening my mind and heart so that I can hear from the Lord.