Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Kind of Goals God Blesses

In review of 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says, “When you eat or drink or do anything else, always do it to honor God.”

Bottom Line:
Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, or do anything else, do it all for God's glory.

What this means to me:
In anything that I do, whether it be my regular routines or anything else, my goal should be to do it all for the glory of God.

Not every goal that I can set, is a good goal, and one that God’s going to bless. What I’m learning is that goals that God will bless come from asking myself two key questions:

Will my goal honor God?”

God will bless any goal that causes me to trust in, depend on, love him and love other others more. It is the ones that serve God and others and require me to less selfish.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “When you eat or drink or do anything else, always do it to honor God” (CEV). Everything can be done to honor God. I can take out the garbage to honor God. I can wash dishes to honor God. I can study for a test to honor God. I do this by doing it with the right motive: gratitude. If I want my life to bring honor to God, my goals should help me be the best I can be for God’s glory.

Is my goal motivated by love?”

God will not bless a goal I have that is motivated by greed, envy, guilt, fear, or pride. He will however honor a goal that is motivated by my desire to demonstrate love to him and to others. In the end life is all about learning how to love.

If I set loveless goals, I’ll end up treating people as projects. I’ll end up running all over them to get to reach my goal. I’ll end up running over my marriage, friends, and other people as I climb up the ladder of success. God says, “No. You've got it all wrong. It’s not about accomplishments. It’s about relationships. It’s about learning how to love.”

Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14 NIV). The number one goal in my life should be to learn to really love; my family, neighbors, unlovely people, and those who are hard to love. Doing so will make me more like God, because God is love.

As I start to think about goals for the coming year, I should keep these two questions in mind (honoring God and motivated by love). Also, I should adjust my attitude when it comes to the menial tasks of the day. I should consider how I can do it to honor God in gratitude. In the long run it's often the small things that shape who I will ultimately be. All of these should be done in order to achieve God’s purpose for my life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Every Life Matters

In review o f 1 Samuel 16:7 it says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Bottom Line:
The Lord doesn't see things the way we do. We judge and make decisions about others by their outward appearance. The Lord doesn't, He looks at a someones heart.

What this means to me:
The Lord doesn't see things the way I tend to. I’ll often look at the outward appearance, apply a value and make a decision. The Lord however, looks at one’s thoughts and intentions.

What I’m learning is that life is sacred to God. It is the mentality and thinking that “some lives matter more than others” that caused the Holocaust. That was the mentality of Hitler: “Some people are more important than others. So we’ll just wipe out the weak, the infirm, the aged, or people we disagree with.” Today we even see in couples that are expecting and hear about their baby having a birth defect, considering abortion.

If everybody who had a defect were aborted, I would have been aborted. I definitely have defects. In fact everybody is handicapped in one way or another. We just don’t admit it. In my own life I have some emotional handicaps, and I have some fears that I won’t even talk to my wife about. And I have some physical handicaps. But we all have defects and problems.

The Bible says that God loves the weak, the infirm, the special needs person. And we need them in our lives to learn unselfishness.

Also, I’m learning that I must always protect the sanctity of life. It reveals God’s purpose and shows God’s glory.

To God, I’m valuable, no matter what and so is every child.

The Bible tells us that God accepts responsibility for all our genetic defects. Not the problems in our lives we brought on ourselves because of overeating or smoking or drinking too much, but all the genetic weaknesses that you didn't have any say in are all part of your SHAPE.

The Bible says in 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (NIV).

God accepts responsibility, because he has a bigger perspective than any human. He can see what I can’t see. He loves each person he made for their potential to do the great things he has planned for us.

The good news is that God isn't going to compare me with anybody else. But he is going to compare me with my potential. It’s not my goal to be the best person in the world. I’m not even trying. It’s my goal to be the best person I can possibly be given the talent, background, opportunities, and gifts that God gave me. This is what I’ll be evaluated on.

So today, I don’t want to compare myself with others and I don’t want to focus on any physical restrictions I have. I will just do my best to live the life that God wants me to live and fulfill.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Accepting Myself; Flaws and All

In review of Romans 9:20 it says, “My friend, I ask, ‘Who do you think you are to question God? Does the clay have the right to ask the potter why he shaped it the way he did?’”

Bottom Line:
Who do you think you are to question God? Does the thing being made have the right to ask the maker why he shaped it the way he did?

What this means to me:
Who am I to question God and how he created me. I have no right to ask him why he had made me the way he has.

Spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, experiences; these are the five things that make me, me. These are called my SHAPE. Accepting my SHAPE; or the unique way that God made me that brings glory to him, means that I need to believe that God knows what’s best. It all comes down to the matter of trust. Do I think that God made a mistake when he made me, or will I trust him, knowing that he has a plan for my life? And furthermore, will I believe it?

When I say, “God, there are things I don’t like about myself. I wish I had different hair or a different color of skin. I wish I were taller, shorter, skinnier. I wish I had more talent. I wish I could do ‘that.’ I wish I looked like him. I wish I had her smarts” and on and on. This kind of thinking is basically telling God, “He blew it! Everybody else is OK. But you goofed up big when you made me.”

When I reject myself, in essence I’m rejecting God, because he’s my creator. When I don’t accept myself, it’s rebellion against God. I’m saying, “God, I know better than you. You should have made me different, with a different set of strengths and a different set of weaknesses.”

But God is saying, “No, that He made me exactly, He wants me to be me, with my strengths and my weaknesses. Both my strengths and weaknesses can give Him glory. I just need to start doing what He made me to do instead of trying to be like everybody else.”

In reality, it’s actually quite arrogant to reject myself. The Bible says in Romans 9:20, “My friend, I ask, ‘Who do you think you are to question God? Does the clay have the right to ask the potter why he shaped it the way he did?’” (CEV)

Whenever I doubt God’s love and wisdom, I will always get into trouble. A key root behind all of my problems is that I don’t trust God. I don’t believe God really loves me. I don’t believe that he really has my best interest at heart. I wish he had made me something different. As a result, there’s a spirit of bitterness that keeps me frustrated and keeps me from being the man God meant for me to be.

Job 10:10 says, “You guided my conception and formed me in the womb” (NLT). God wanted you, and he loves you. Believe it, and then trust it!

Today I will consider things about myself that I've wanted to change and how God might have intended use that very trait to bring glory to him.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What It Means to Be Lost

In review of Luke 19:10 it says, “The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them.”

Bottom Line:
The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost.

What this means to me:
Jesus, the Son of Man, came to look for and save those who are lost.

Understanding the true importance of Christmas is extremely important. If one doesn't understand the purpose of Christmas, they might as well skip the Christmas lights and decorations this year. They might as well forget about buying Christmas presents. And they might as well forget the Christmas dinner. Not knowing why we celebrate Christmas makes all the festivities pointless.

To find the purpose of Christmas, we need to fast forward beyond the manger, the Wise Men, and the shepherds. Jesus told us the reason he came to Earth on the first Christmas: “The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them” (Luke 19:10 NCV).

Quite simply, Jesus came because people are lost without God. To be spiritually lost means to be separated from God, disconnected, and out of whack. Without Jesus, everybody in the world is lost; regardless of how much power, wealth, or fame they have.

This lostness has immense ramifications on a life. To know why Jesus came to Earth, we must understand what it means to be lost.

Without God, we've lost:

Our direction. We’re bound to have little understanding of where we should go and what we should do in this life.
His protection. We’re on our own when we’re not under the Lord’s protection. That’s a huge reason many people are stressed out. They’re trying to live under their own care and protection instead of God’s.
Our potential. We’ll never know half the gifts and talents we have if we’re not in a relationship with him.
Our happiness. We can have all the money and power in the world, but without God we will never have true joy.
Our home in Heaven. God allows us to rebel while we’re here on Earth, but there’s no rebellion in Heaven.

But being lost doesn't mean one has lost value to God. Even if someone doesn't have a relationship with Him, they still have immense value to Him. Lostness implies value. Whatever someone is willing to spend to recover something that’s lost shows how valuable that item is.

In the most famous verse in the Bible, Jesus clearly explains our value: “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

The Good News is God loved us so much he sent his Son to Earth on the first Christmas to seek and save us. That’s the reason to celebrate!

In my quiet times, it’s easy for me to keep this perspective, however, when I get involved in the tasks of the day and the preparations, it’s easy to lose sight. I’m thinking the best way for me to keep this perspective is to do everything I do in honor of Christ. It is He that I serve. It’s important for me to remember that Christ came to seek and save those who are lost. My life should be about assisting Christ in this by being an example and introducing others to Him through my life.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Getting to Know My Creator

In review of 2 Corinthians 6:12-13 it says, “The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”

Bottom Line:
Don’t hold back your love and desire to know God, and live a small life. Rather open your hearts and mind to Him; responding with love, then you will live largely.

What this means to me:
Paul explains that there is no lack of love on his part, the smallness we feel comes from within, because it is us who have withheld our love from Him. Our lives aren't small, but rather we are living our lives in a small way. Paul speaks this as plainly as he can and with great affection. We are to open our hearts wide and live expansively.

This is time of year, where I have many important tasks to get done. Year-end conversations to have with people, classwork to finish, reports to write, holiday meals to get ready for, and gifts to buy.

But there is something much more important to focus at Christmas time. It is important to develop a personal and growing relationship with Jesus.

Here are two important reasons to get to know Jesus better:

First - Jesus made me. The Bible says, “Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is — nothing exists that he didn't make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind” (John 1:1-4 TLB).

I have the opportunity to not just meet the Creator of the universe but also to meet my Creator. When we have trouble working with an electronic gadget, we often “consult the manual.” Well, knowing Jesus is even better that that. In order to get the most out of life, its better to get to know the One who created me.

Second - Jesus opens up my heart to enjoy a life of purpose, peace, and power. Having a relationship with Jesus will secure my place in Heaven, but it also promises a life of purpose, peace, and power to all who know him.

Knowing Jesus in a personal way changes everything about how I live. Purpose, power, and peace are just the beginning of what God wants to give me in this life. Unfortunately, most people are living in such a tiny, insignificant way because they've filled their lives with meaningless activity.

As Christmas approaches this year, I want to think of the innkeeper who didn't make room for Jesus on the first Christmas. His actions didn't keep Jesus from being born. His actions didn't stop God’s purpose in history. It just hurt the innkeeper. He missed the privilege of housing the Son of God at his birth.

The same is true for me. If I don’t take the time to get to know Jesus, I’ll miss the opportunity to know my Creator. I’ll miss the opportunity to have the purpose, peace, and power that only comes through God’s Son. I'll miss his purpose for my life if you never make room for him.

Today, I would like to have God’s power and peace in my life. I really need him to reveal to me my next steps. So instead of filing my time with meaningless activities I want to concentrate on getting to know my Creator better.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Being Careful to Not Miss Jesus at Work

In review of John 4:10 it says, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

Bottom Line:
Jesus answered, you don’t know what wonderful gift God wants to give you. If you knew who it was that is saying this you would ask me to give you the life-giving water.

What this means to me:
God has a wonderful gift to give me. It is the water that gives life and it comes from following Jesus as Lord and leader of my life. It’s important for me to remember this always and to pass it onto those who are part of my life.

Currently there are TV and radio waves all around me. With a tuner, I can see what’s on those waves. But just because I can’t see them doesn't mean they aren't real. I’m just not tuned in.

That’s what it it must have been like in Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas. Despite the fact that Bethlehem had an inn with the sole purpose of taking care of travelers, there was no room in that inn for undoubtedly the most significant family of travelers in Bethlehem that night.

This Christmas, I need to make sure that I don’t miss an important parallel of this story to my own heart. My heart was made to hold God. I was made by God and for God. Until I fully grasp this, life will never make sense. Unfortunately, I can easily fill my life with other things. I can crowd out the Inn to my heart. As my wife and myself invite other guests into our homes, our hearts can be filled with other ideas, interests, values, loves, and commitments.

Also, my life can be so full that I’m not even aware when Jesus shows up around me. God shows up in my life all the time, providing opportunities I’d never thought I would get, in the midst of problems I didn't know I was going to have. But often, I just don’t see him.

This happened in the Bible all the time. Jesus would show up and talk to people who never realized who he was. In the book of John, Jesus was sitting by a well when a woman came up to him, looking for water. She didn't recognize Jesus. In fact she got in a religious debate with the Son of God! Then Jesus said, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT). But the woman didn't recognize Jesus.

God is at work all around me; not just during Christmas but also throughout the whole year. If I’m not tuned in, it is possible that I will miss him.

I know from my own experience that I can get so involved in what’s taking place in my life that significant dates of remembrance such as Christmas and Easter can come quickly and I forget to stop and focus on Him. At my house we can get so involved with preparations that we can miss key times to just slow down and thank God for all he has done for us this year and for how we know he will work in our lives in the future.  

In this past few weeks, I've seen how God has helped me to accomplish a long sought after goal (completing my bachelor’s degree), helped my son-in-law and daughter with a new job opportunity that will enable them to build for their family. This year, I have also seen how God has healed both myself and my wife.  

This week, I will try to focus each day on the significance of Jesus coming to earth and testifying to the truth and showing us the way.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'll Hear God If I’m Willing To Listen

In review of 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:
If you search for the Lord your God with all your heart and soul you will find him.

What this means to me:
When I search for God, with a willingness in my heart to obey him completely, I will find him.
God will speak when I’m willing to listen. I won’t hear him if I’m not listening.

God won’t tell me his dream for my life if I want to debate it. God won’t tell me his vision for my life if I want to discuss it. God doesn't tell me why he put me on Earth to do just so I can say, “Let me think about it.”

I need to ask why I’m here. I've got to know what He wants me to do with my life. I've got to hear His voice. I’ve got to have His vision.”

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 he wanted to do. When you get that passionate about it, you’re going to hear from God.

A lot of people talk to God, but they never hear from God. For them, prayer is a monologue. But you can’t have a relationship with a monologue. This is much like me talk to my wife, but she never talks to me. That’s not a relationship. We need to have a conversation. Just as important as talking to God in prayer is listening to God and letting him talk to you.

What I’m learning is that to hear from him, I need to want it more than anything else.

Deuteronomy 4:29 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” (NLT). Guaranteed!

This verse from Deuteronomy comes from a speech Moses gives to the next generation who is about to leave the wilderness and enter into the promised land. It was given as a reminder to them that God will always be there for you if you are willing to seek and listen to him. God will not chase after you.

Today’s verse also reminds me that I as I make decisions I need to make sure that I willing and ready to listen to God speak. I find that I may be tending more toward a monologue than I am in a two way conversation.  Today I ask God to speak to me, especially regarding decisions that are coming up regarding my career.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Finding Lost Joy

In review 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.” (Romans 14:17 NLT)

Bottom Line:
The Kingdom of God is not just a matter of what we eat or drink. Rather is living a life of goodness, peace and joy that come from the Holy Spirit.

What this means to me:
The important thing for me as a Christian does not involve what I eat or drink but rather living a life of goodness, peace and joy. All of this comes from the Holy Spirit’s presence in life.

One of the easiest things to lose is your joy. All it takes is one phone call or email, a letter or a conversation. It’s the easiest thing in the world to lose. And a lot of people in a lot of circumstances are conspiring to rob it from you.

When God’s children aren't filled with joy, it doesn't reflect well on God. If I’m cranky I’ll be a bad witness and example for Him. In my life, God wants me to be witnesses with my countenance.

The Bible tells us that the Christian life can be summed up in three words: goodness, peace, and joy. Romans 14:17 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” (NLT).

It’s good to know that it’s easy to get my joy back.

The first step is to admit I’ve lost it. I simply look at my past and ask myself a couple of questions: 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?

What was different then about your spiritual walk and quiet time? What are the things that are robbing me of my joy? Do those things change anything about God? Should they change anything about how much you love him and trust him?

Now is the time to make the change. But I've got to start by admitting that I've lost what I've had in the past. You could ask God about it; he’s waiting to help you. David prayed this in Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (NIV).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joy No Matter What

In review of Philippians 4:6 it says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

Bottom Line:
Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. With a thankful heart tell God what you need.

What this means to me:
I am not to worry about anything. Instead, I am to pray about everything. I am to tell him what I need and thank him for all he has done.

Worry will zap the joy out of life and life without joy can be overwhelming, overburdened, and oppressive. The more joy we have, the more productive we can be. In the book of Philippians, Paul uses the word “joy” 16 times. Interestingly enough, Paul didn’t write this book when he was on vacation in the Caribbean. He wrote this while he was in prison in Rome, waiting to be executed. In the darkest days of his life, he wrote the most positive book in the Bible.

In Philippians, Paul offers us six joy-builders that will help diffuse discouragement and lift depression. Here’s an acrostic; JOYFUL. Today, I’ll look at the first three.

J indicates a jettison of all regrets about the past. “Jettison” means “to abandon as worthless, to discard, to eliminate, to get rid of.” Paul says if you want to enjoy life, there are some things you’ve got to get rid of because they will wear you down and overburden your life. The Bible says to forget your regrets, because that's what God does; he chooses to forgive your mistakes once they're confessed. The starting point of joy is letting go of the past. Philippians 3:13 says, “One thing I do is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead” (GN).

O is for omitting all worries about the future. If you’re going to enjoy the present, you must omit all worries about the future. Worry is the greatest killjoy of them all. Its hard to be joyful and worried at the same time. Paul’s antidote are these verses: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6 NLT). So I can either worry or I can pray.

Y is for yielding myself to God's purpose. If I’m just drifting, if I don’t know where you came from or where I’m going or why I’m here, then I’m not going to have any joy. I need to live for a cause that is greater than myself. Living for that greater cause is what brings joy. Living for myself will not bring joy.

Even when Paul had literally lost everything, there was one thing that could not be taken away from him; his purpose in life. Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (NIV).

In order to have a joy-filled life, I need to get in line with God’s purpose for my life. When I begin to live the purpose for which I’m made, life will make sense, and joy will be more easily found.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Enjoying Life

In review of 1 Timothy 6:17 it says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Bottom Line:
Let those who are rich know that they shouldn't be trusting in their wealth, as it can be easily lost. Rather they should learn to put their trust and hope in God. God is the one who provides us with everything we need and should enjoy in life.

What this means to me:
I am to not put trust in money that I have in the bank or assets I own, these are things that are easily lost. Rather I should always look to God, as He is the one who provides all that I need and can enjoy in this life. Likewise I should communicate this same message to others.

This verse reminds me that when things are going well and I have some funds banked, it’s easy to relax and trust in having money to get me through it. With this thought pattern, I may be trusting in having this more than in trusting God to provide for me. This lesson comes at a key time, especially as I see account balance dwindle down to lesser amounts due to medical expenses that have just come in.

Also, money and the economy causes a lot of stress for people and can even affect me. Seems money that I have goes quicker than I would have liked it to have gone. This verse today also  reminds me that God has given me all I have to enjoy this life.

With Christ as my leader, I can enjoy life because my conscience is clear. I can enjoy life because I’m secure within God’s love. I can have fun and laugh in church. I can enjoy friends who don’t manipulate me because they are learning to be like Jesus, and that means they are learning to look out for the interests of others.

Unfortunately, there are those who do not want to let God into their lives because they fear he will make them give up anything that is fun. They think that to become a Christian is the same as saying the party’s over, that to be spiritual is to be miserable.

People are frantically looking for fun fixes, but that means they operate under the law of diminishing returns. They spend more time, more money, and more energy to get less and less of a thrill. They go around asking, “Are we having fun yet?”

The truth is, God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17b NIV).

God wants me to enjoy my life and all he has provided.  Today is a good day for me to thank God for all he has provided and how he as worked in my life. I want to enjoy each day, as it is a gift from God in which I can make a difference to those around me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Opening My 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.”

Bottom Line:
Open my eyes to discover the wonderful truths that come in your Word.

What this means to me:
Allow me to open my mind to be able to see the wonderful truths that come from your Word.

God’s Word, the Bible, is filled with many examples of people getting God’s vision. People like, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, Jonah, and Micah. Seeing God’s vision for own life is not a crazy thing. I’m learning that God will often use a mental picture to clarify the next step he wants me to take.

Traditionally I’m not a visual thinker. I tend to think more in words, rather than pictures. In order to get God’s vision I can:

First, ask God a specific question. In my quiet time, after I’ve read the Bible and prayed, and being quiet and waiting before God. I could ask, “God, is there anything you want to say to me?” And then wait. “God, is there anything I need to know that I’m not thinking about?” And then 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 waiting for me to ask!

Second, look into God’s Word to see what God might want to say to me. Psalm 119:18 says: “Open my eyes, so that I may see the wonderful truths in your law” (TEV). I can use this verse as I pray as I open up God’s Word. Every answer to every problem I have can be found here. I just need to read, study, memorize, and meditate on it as I seek God’s vision for my life or even just for today.

Its often hard to be still. I’m use to so much stimulation, noise and distractions taking place. I need to just make time to be quiet and to calm my mind and thoughts so that I can hear Gods voice. Also, given the internet, fast food restaurants and microwave ovens, I’m so used to getting information and things quickly. This makes it more difficult to wait on anything. I used to getting immediate answers. It something doesn't happen quickly, I get impatient.

While I do spend time being quiet at home, it still seems rushed, as I want to get through some prayer time, eat breakfast and get on the road for my commute to work. I may just need to get up even earlier so that I can be quiet and listen to the Lord.

So far when it comes to vision from God, I get that he want’s me to be an example of a life that follows him. Then to share my experiences, counsel and mentor others.

Choosing to Accept God’s Grace

In review of Romans 6:23 it tells me that “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lor...