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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I Can Be As Close to God As I Choose to Be

In review of Philippians 3:8 it says, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ”

Bottom Line:
Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.

What this means to me:
Nothing in this world is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord. It is worth giving up everything else, considering it all as garbage as compared to knowing and wanting Christ in my life. Getting close to him is a choice that only I can make.

Today’s verse reminds me that It would be extremely difficult to become a friend of God in my spare time. I need to make knowing God my number one priority in life.

Paul said it like this: “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 NLT).

The thought for me to consider today is am I doing this? Am I seeking God with all my heart every day?

I’m as close to God as I choose to be. I’ll become a friend of God when I want to become a friend of God.

I won’t be able to blame anybody else. I’ll be as close to God as I want to be. When I feel far from God, guess who moved? I didn’t give him the number one priority in my life.

As human’s, knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege. And being known and being loved by God is the greatest pleasure.

I’m reminded that you can tell what’s important to people by what they brag about. If their kids are most important, they brag about their kids. If their job is the most important thing in their life, they brag about their job. If travel and having experiences is most important, that’s what they talk about. We brag about what we value most.

God says in Jeremiah 9:23, “The wise should not boast of their wisdom, nor the strong of their strength, nor the rich of their wealth. If any want to boast, they should boast that they know and understand me” (TEV).

This is what life is all about. Knowing God is what matters most. The God of the Universe loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. Getting close to God helps provide peace and perspective. This is Good News!

Today, I will consider what would people say is most important to me by what I talk about most.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Learning How to Refuel My Tank

In review of 1 Corinthians 13:7 it says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance”

Bottom Line:
Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

What this means to me:
Love as illustrated on my behalf will never give up, lose faith, be hopeful, and would endure through every circumstance.

Today's passage comes from 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul is explaining how love is the greatest. Starting in verse 4 he says, Love is patient and kind, it is not jealous, boastful, proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable and keeps no records of being wronged. It doesn't rejoice about injustice but rather rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Lastly he tells me that love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

This means that the kind of love that really makes a difference in this world requires a big effort on my part, but I will enjoy huge rewards from it.

Interestingly enough I find times when I just don’t feel like I have any more love to give. The job has been extremely people-intensive and I come home and think, “I just can’t face another need, another problem, or another heartache.” So I just shut down and veg.

I’ve also experienced times when I need to show love to a particular person who is demanding, selfish, and never returns my love. And I think to myself, “I’m done. No more.”

While that’s perfectly natural and perfectly human, it’s not the standard of love God calls me to as written by Paul. This verse reminds me that, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT). Love never gives up.

So how can I have that kind of patient love for another person? I need to get refueled.

To give the kind of patient love that God wants me to give, I have to refuel my love tank. It's easy to see all around me the debris from relationships that have crashed and burned because people didn’t refuel their love.

What I’m learning is that I refuel my love tank by letting God love me. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NIV). When I’m worn out, tired, and can’t imagine showing love to anyone else, remember that God loved me so much that he sent his Son to die for me.

That’s real fuel. It’s what will keep me going when I want to just quit.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Learning That Love Drives Out the Fear in Relationships

In review of 1 John 4:18 it says, “Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it … shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love”

Bottom Line:
There is no fear in love, perfect love expels all fears. If have fear in loving, it's because you have not really experienced his love.

What this means to me:
There is no fear in love, because a perfect love expels all fears. If we are afraid it only indicates that I have not fully experienced his perfect love.

Today's passage comes from the latter part of 1 John 4 where John speaks to us of loving one another. John says we can continue to love because love comes from God. If we do not love, then we really don't know God, because God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  This is real love, not that we loved God, but that he loves us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. So we love each other because he loved us first.

So when people say, “I hate you!” in relationships, it’s often a sign that somebody’s trying to control somebody else. If we were to probe into what’s beneath that control, we would find It’s fear. Insecurity will cause me to try to control others or resist the control of others. If I become so insecure that all I think about is what others think of me, it will destroy my relationships and disable a joyful life.

It’s an amazing dilemma, I long to be close, but I also fear being close. I long to have intimacy with others, but I’m also scared to death of it.

This insecurity is preventing intimacy and destroying my relationships. I can’t get close to somebody if there’s fear in the relationship. So, If insecurity destroys relationships, then what builds them? Love! Love builds relationships.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it … shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (NLT). How does that work? How does love expel all fear?

Love will take the focus off of me and put it on others. I need to learn to get the focus off of myself and focus on the people in my midst instead. If I stood there thinking about what they thought of my hairstyle, I would have something to be afraid of, right? But the minute I start thinking about how much I love my church family and how we serve God together, all of a sudden the fear is gone.

I’m thinking it’s the same in any relationship. Focusing on the other person gives me the power to throw fear out in my life.

So how do I find that power to focus on other people? I start by realizing how much God loves me. I begin to understand how much God loves me, and that I don’t need to prove myself any more. I don’t have to spend my life trying to impress others, because I already know that God loves me.

As I become more secure in my relationship with Christ, I’m no longer pressured by everybody else’s expectations. God’s love frees me to love others fearlessly.

Today, I’ll consider what insecurities or fears keep me from opening my life and heart to someone, whether it’s a friend, spouse, or family member?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pride Destroys Relationships, Humility Builds Them

In review of Philippians 2:3b it says, “Be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves”

Bottom Line:
Don’t be selfish, rather be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves

What this means to me:
I am to change from being selfish, proud or conceited. Instead I am to be humble and consider others as being better than myself.

Pride will always destroy a relationship. It will show up in a lot of different ways, such as criticism, competition, stubbornness, and superficiality.

A major problem with pride is it is self-deceiving. Everybody else can see it in us but us. When you have a problem with pride, it's almost as if I have blinders on, I won’t see it.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride leads to destruction; a proud attitude brings ruin” (NCV). This verse is even better in the Message translation: “First pride, then the crash; the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

While pride destroys relationships, humility is its antidote. Humility will build my relationships. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:8, “Live in harmony, be sympathetic, love each other, have compassion, and be humble” (GWT).

In order to grow in humility? I need to let Jesus Christ control my thoughts, heart, attitude and reactions. He’s got to be a part of this. Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person” (CEV).

So how do I start to think in a different way? The basic law of relationships is this: You tend to become like the people you spend time with. If I spend time with grumpy people, I’ll get grumpier. If you spend time with happy people, I’ll get happier. If you want to have more humility, spend time with Jesus Christ. He is humble. He wants a relationship with me. He wants me to spend time with him in prayer and reading his Word and talking to him. He is humble, and as I get to know him, I’ll become more like him.

Be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves … You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to” (Philippians 2:3b, 5-6 NCV/NLT).

No one has done anything more humble than Jesus, coming from Heaven to Earth to become a man, live for us, give his life for us, and be resurrected for us. When I spend time with him, it makes me more humble, and that will build my relationships.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When I’m Selfless, It Brings Out the Best In Others

In review of Galatians 6:7-8 it says, “The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others — ignoring God! — harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life”

Bottom Line:
If you ignore others and only sow to fulfill your own desires you’ll only reap weeds. If you plant in response to God goals and desires you’ll reap everlasting life.

What this means to me:
If I only plant my own selfishness, ignore the needs of others, ignore God, I’ll only end up harvesting weeds. A man reaps what he sows. If I plant in response to Go, letting his Spirit do the growth work will harvest a crop of real and eternal life.

Today's passage comes from the first part of Galatians chapter 6 in which Paul speaks of harvesting what we plant. Paul starts this section off by telling me to gently and humbly help other believers that may have been overcome by sin, back onto the right path. Also I am to share other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If I think myself too important to help someone, I'm only fooling myself.

I am to pay careful attention to my own work, then I can obtain the satisfaction of a job well done and won't need to compare myself with others. For I am responsible for my own conduct.

And lastly to not be misled. I cannot mock the justice of God. I will always harvest what I plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. Those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 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.  Therefor, whenever I have the opportunity, I should do good to everyone, especially to others in the family of the faith.

In general, selfishness destroys relationships. It is the number one cause of conflict, arguments, divorce, and even war.

James 4:1 said, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (NIV) Every trouble starts because of our self-centeredness.

It’s very easy for selfishness to creep into relationships. When you start a relationship, you work really hard at being unselfish. But as time goes on, selfishness begins to creep in. We tend to put more energy into starting and building relationships than we do in maintaining them.

If selfishness destroys relationships, then it is selflessness that makes them grow. What does selflessness mean? It means less of “me” and more of “them.” It means thinking of others before I think of myself and putting the other person’s needs before my own (Philippians 2:4).

Selflessness brings out the best in others. It builds trust in relationships. If I was to start acting selfless in a relationship, it forces the other person to change, because you’re not the same person any more, and they have to relate to you in different way.

The Bible says in Galatians 6:7-8, “The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others — ignoring God! — harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life” (MSG).

This is the biblical principle of sowing and reaping. What I sow, I’m going to reap. God rewards selflessness with eternal life. He has wired the universe so that the more unselfish i am, the more he blesses me. Why? Because he wants me to become like him, and God is unselfish. Everything I have in life is a gift from God, because he was unselfish with me.

I am most fulfilled in this life when I give yourself away. Jesus said, “Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live” (Mark 8:35b TLB).

Monday, May 23, 2016

Every Person Is Worthy of Respect

In review of 1 Peter 2:17 it says, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

Bottom Line:
Respect everyone, love others, take God seriously, follow those in authority.

What this means to me:
I am to show proper respect to everyone, especially loving the family of believers. I am to take God seriously and respect those in authority.

Today's passage comes from the middle of 1 Peter chapter 2 in which Paul is speaking about respecting those in authority. He says for the Lord's sake, we should submit to all human authority, whether the king or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

It is God's will that our honorable lives should silence those who make foolish accusations against us. While we are free, we are God's slaves, so don't use our freedom as an excuse to do evil.  We are to respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. So, not only am I to respect authority, but I am to also respect everyone equally.

It seems that respect has become an endangered value over the past few decades. We now live in the “Age of Irreverence,” where sarcasm rules the day and everyone loves a good put down.

Scriptures makes it clear that stable families and societies are built around respect. The Bible commands us to honor our parents, respect civil authority, and respect church leaders. Wives are called to respect husbands in Ephesians. In the book of 1 Peter, husbands are called to respect wives. Just to make it clear that the Bible leaves no one out, the Bible also tells us to “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17a NIV).

Everyone, regardless of beliefs or behaviors, is worthy of respect because God made everyone. Psalm 8:5 says, “You [God] made them inferior only to yourself; you crowned them with glory and honor” (GNT). God doesn’t make junk. No one is worthless. People make wrong decisions all the time, but they are still valuable to God. Even the most unlovable person in the world is loved by God.

Jesus died for everyone. The Bible says, “God paid a ransom to save you .... He paid for you with the precious life blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19a TLB). You may not place much value in certain people, but God does. In fact, he says every person you meet is worth dying for.
It shows you know God. The Bible tells us that God is love. If you know God, you’ll fill your life with love. The Bible says, “If a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Love always treats people with respect.

It’s the law of the harvest, you’ll get back whatever you give out. Whatever goes around comes around. If you want to be respected, you must treat other people with respect. The Bible says, “A man’s harvest in life will depend entirely on what he sows” (Galatians 6:7b Phillips).

Today I will consider how every person I meet today is worthy of my respect. Given this, wow will this change my behavior?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Relationships Go Better When We Find Things In Common

In review of 1 Corinthians 1:10 it says, “You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.”

Bottom Line:
We must strive to get along with and be considerate of each other avoiding divisions or taking sides. Work to cultivate a life in common.

What this means to me:
I am to strive to always get along, be considerate and live in harmony with others. I am to avoid divisions, especially in the Church. Paul encourages me to work on being of one mind, united in thought and in in purpose.

In today's passage from 1 Corinthians 1, Paul writes about Divisions in the Church. He starts by appealing to each of us, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the the Church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

Paul spoke this because he had heard of quarrels where some are saying, I'm a follower of Paul, others Apollos, others Peter. or that they only follow Christ. Paul points out that Christ has not been divided into factions, nor has anyone been baptized in the name of one of us. Christ has sent he (Paul) to not baptize but rather preach the Good News, and not with clever speech as to distract away from the Cross of Christ.

Conformity, compromise and working well with others seems to be one skill that isn’t really reflected in our culture or taught in our schools. However, it’s a very important skills to learn especially if we are going to be a happy and joyful person. Quite the opposite, being uncooperative with others, leads to unhappiness.

In order to work with other people I must learn to:

First, learn to cooperate with others. Epaphroditus was a man that the church in Philippi sent to Rome with a gift of financial support for Paul while he was in prison. Philippians 2:25 says, “I feel that I must send Epaphroditus — my brother, co worker, and fellow soldier — back to you. You sent him as your personal representative to help me in my need” (GWT). By calling Epaphroditus his brother, co worker, and fellow soldier, Paul was saying that life and ministry is a family, it’s a fellowship, and it’s a fight.

The church is the family of God. I am a brother with the people I minister to and worship with, and we should treat them as such. It’s also a fellowship, where I work and serve together with a common goal, the Great Commission. In addition, I’m in the same fight as others against Satan, and I need to support and to support others. I need to defend and encourage others. The “best” place to learn how to cooperate with others is in the church.

Secondly, I need to learn to be considerate. Paul is speaking of Epaphroditus again in Philippians 2:26 when he says, “He has been longing to see all of you and is troubled because you heard that he was sick.” There are two examples of consideration. Paul is considerate of his co-worker’s homesickness, and Epaphroditus is considerate about the Philippians’ concern. The more considerate I learn to be of other people’s needs, doubts, and fears, the happier I’ll be.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common” (MSG).

By nature I am not a considerate person, because I tend to think of myself first and not the needs of others. “Cultivating a life in common” takes work, and learning to get along and work well with others takes practice. Like a garden that requires cultivation to bear fruit, you’ll see how your effort bears the fruit of happiness and strong relationships.

In summary, I am to strive to always get along, be considerate and live in harmony with those around me. I am to avoid divisions, especially as it relates to my Church family. Paul encourages me to work on being of one mind, united in thought and in in purpose.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Remembering My Mission: Helping Others Get into God’s Family

In review of John 17:18 it says, “In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.”

Bottom Line:
Just as God sent Jesus, Jesus sends us.

What this means to me:
In the same way God give Jesus a mission in the world, Jesus gives me a mission as well.

Today's verse comes from the middle of John chapter 17 where at the end of his life here on earth Jesus is praying for us believers. Jesus asks the father to bring glory to him so that he can give the glory back to God.  Jesus recognizes his authority over everyone and how he can give eternal life. Jesus then reveals that he has completed the work that he had been given.

Interestingly enough, Jesus prays not for the world, but for those God has given him (not just the current disciples, but those who ever will believe in him through their message.) He prays for our protection and that we would be united. He doesn't ask God to take us out of this world, but rather to keep us safe from the evil one. He asks that the father continue to set us apart and teach us the truth in the Word.

Just as Jesus was sent by the Father into the world, He is sending us into the world. Jesus has given us his life as a holy sacrifice so that we can be made holy by the Father's truth. Jesus longs for us to be with him to see the glory the Father has given even before the world began.

This means that as a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, God has given me a mission in this world. I’m not here to just take up space; I’m not here to just strive after my own personal goals.

I have an assignment from God himself. Once I’m in the family, my life changes. I have a new reason for living. My life isn’t about me anymore; it’s about God’s mission.

And this mission fits into God’s mission for all of history. God created everything in the universe because he wanted a family. He didn’t need Earth. He didn’t need the other planets. He didn’t need the stars. He created all of it because he knew some of us would willingly choose to be a part of his family.

The mission God gave Jesus he now gives to the Body of Christ, the Church. He wants me to help get other people into his family. Jesus said it like this: “In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world” (John 17:18 MSG).

Once I know Jesus, I am to go! Go and tell those I know and come across about him. But I am to not stop there. God has never made anyone he doesn’t want saved. He loves everyone, across the entire globe.

God wants me to live out his mission everywhere: in my family, my community, and the world. His mission for my life is both global and local. The Bible says, “Now the Lord says to me, ‘It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth’” (Isaiah 49:6 CEV).

This is God’s plan for the world. That’s his mission for me. He wants everyone on Earth to know him. And he wants to use me to see that happen. God didn’t just say that to missionaries or pastors. If I’m in his family, he gave his mission to you!

Its obvious to me that I need to change a few things about the way I live in order to fulfil the mission from God. My life should be characterized by sharing the love of God and what He means to me. I am to communicate the Good News message so that God’s family can grow. I not only to communicate but to help others understand what it means to live it out.  

Today I honestly pray that I have some fears in sharing with others. I ask you God to help me get through this, have courage, discernment where I need it and more importantly grace as I rely on his strength and not my own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Was Made for Something Greater Than Myself

In review of Mark 8:35 it says, “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.”

Bottom Line:
If you try to save you life for your own goals, you’ll only end up losing it. Those who give up their life for the sake of sharing the Good News, will save it.

What this means to me:
If I try to save and secure my life for just my own benefit, I will ultimately lose it for eternity. I’m made for something much greater, and that is to share the Good News so that it can make a difference in others lives as well. This will help me save my life for what is best.

Today's passage comes from the last part of Mark chapter 8 in which Jesus predicts his death.

Jesus explained to his disciples that he must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. Although he would be killed, three days later he would rise from the dead.  To this Peter pulled Jesus aside and reprimanded him for saying such things.  Jesus replies with "get away from me, Satan!" You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not God's.

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, Jesus said, "if any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.  What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father.

In summary, this passage provides some direction and guidance for my life. I am to give up my own way, take up my cross and follow Jesus. I am to give my life for the sake of communicating the Good News. With this I can see that I was made for something much greater than myself.

Fulfillment in life is often never really achieved. With all we have, why don’t we feel more fulfilled? Far too many people are asking that question. It seems we’re not happy, we’re not satisfied, in fact, we’re often miserable.

Rick Warren provided this example from a book titled, “Rich, Free, and Miserable”, in which a sociologist John Brueggemann shared a great story that illustrated why this is. Climbing Mount Everest is one of the challenges that inspire people to do something big. Lots of people try, even though nearly 10 percent of the people who do, die in the process. Many of the corpses still line the path up the mountain. Yet people still want to climb the mountain — though it has no real redeeming social value.

A few years back one climber, David Sharp, was clearly in trouble on the mountain. There were 40 climbers who noticed his obvious need but passed him that day. He died on Mount Everest because none of the other climbers were willing to put their personal goal on hold to help him.

That’s us. Our own personal drive to have more, be more, and do more causes us to lose sight of what really matters. But that isn’t how God wired us. Life isn’t about what you make, who you know, or what you do. Life is all about love, loving God and loving others.

Jesus tells us in Mark 8:35, “Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live” (TLB). God has wired me in such a way that I’ll never be happy unless you’re giving your life away in his work. You were made for something greater than yourself. The Bible calls this your mission in life. Significance doesn’t come from status, salary, or sex. It comes from service. Only by giving your life away can you feel that your life has significance.

I need to keep in mind those times when I’m unhappy, unsatisfied or miserable that I’m focusing on some cause other than Christ’s. I’ll find significance in my life from serving others.