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Friday, November 25, 2016

To Keep from Fearing Rejection, Keep Eternity in Mind

In review of Isaiah 51:12 it says, “The Lord says, ‘I am the one who strengthens you. Why should you fear mortals, who are no more enduring than grass?’”

Bottom Line:
God is the one who provides comfort. There is no need to fear man who will end up drying up and dying like grass.

What this means to me:
God says that he is the one who comforts me and gives me joy. Why should I be afraid of or fear mere humans. After all they are nothing more than grass that is here one day and then withers and dies.

Today's verse comes from Isaiah chapter 51. In Isaiah writes about our call in trusting the Lord. He speaks on behalf of God our Father who tells us, "Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance, all who seek the Lord! who we came from. The Lord will comfort his people. His mercy and justice are coming soon. While everything on this earth will pass away, God's righteous rule will never end. God's righteousness itself will last forever, and his salvation will continue from generation to generation. After all God is the one who comforts us. Given this why are we afraid of mere humans who wither like the grass and disappear? Yet we tend to forget the Lord, our Creator.

One way I can learn to overcome the fear of rejection, is by keeping the right perspective in mind. While I can listen to the opinions of others, I should never overvalue what they say.

In our verse today, Isaiah is indicating that our life here on Earth is only temporary, so why be afraid of other people’s opinions? Other people are not God, and their actual opinions will not last. The secret to success is to outlast my critics.

Isaiah indicates that if mortal men put me down, don’t worry about it. God’s opinion is the one that counts, and not theirs. Don’t assume that their judgments are infallible or straight from God. You don’t have to automatically accept someone’s criticism. You ought to judge it for what it’s worth.

If I allow people’s approval becomes all-important, then I’ll be setting myself up to fear rejection.

The Bible says, “In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 GNT) If you recognize how much God is for you, it gives you the ability to withstand tremendous rejection.

For some people, all that matters is popularity, fame, or applause. “What do other people think of me? How do I look to everybody else? Image is everything!”

If I live that way, then I’m at the mercy of everybody else’s judgments. If they think I’m a loser, I must be a loser! If they think I’m a dork, I must be a dork! This is no way to live.

God never intended for you to live that way. He says, “What are you listening to them for? They’re just mortal men. I’m the one that counts. They are no more enduring than grass.”

Paul said his goal in life was to please God, not men: “Does this sound as if I am trying to win human approval? No indeed! What I want is God’s approval! Am I trying to be popular with people? If I were still trying to do so, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

He says I have a choice. I can choose whether I’m going to live for the applause of God or the applause of men.

Who are you more interested in pleasing? The crowd or God? Paul indicates that I can’t seek the approval of both at the same time. So I’ll just have to decide who I want to impress. Just remember whose applause is “no more enduring than grass.”

This verse reminds me that God is for me and he wants to see me succeed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Learning to Love Difficult People

In review of Romans 12:18 it says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”

Bottom Line:
Strive for living in peace with everyone.

What this means to me:
I am to do everything possible on my part to live in peace with everyone.

Today's verse comes from Romans 12, where Paul urges me to give my live and be living sacrifice to God. I do so because of all God has done for me. I am to let my life be holy, one that he will find acceptable. This is the way that I can truly worship him. I am to avoid copying the behavior and customs of this world, and instead let God transform the way I think and act. I should never think of myself more highly than I should, rather learn to be honest in evaluation of myself, measuring myself by the faith that God has given me. I am part of the body with special gifts his has given in which I am to use to serve others. I am to not just pretend to love but really love and show honor to others. I should hate what is wrong and hold firmly to what is good. I should not become lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. I should rejoice in my confident hope always. I am to be patient in times of trouble, and to keep on praying in all things. I should be ready to help, especially when God's people are in need.  So given this, rather than trying to get even with those who wrong or oppose me, I am to bless to them. And I sam to share both good and bad times with others. I should never think of myself to highly or proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. I am to do all that we can to live in peace with everyone.

This morning I’m considering how I can develop skill in loving difficult people. Here are four things I’ve come across that Jesus modeled when he encountered difficult people:

First, realize I can’t please everyone. Even God couldn't do that! Refuse to play games (Matthew 22:18).

Secondly, learn to say no to unrealistic expectations. Confront them by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a NIV).

Third, never retaliate (Matthew 5:38-39). It only lowers me to their level.

Lastly to pray for them (Matthew 5:44). It will help both of us. Let God speak to them.

If I can learn to use and practice these methods, It will go a long ways toward loving the difficult people and displaying the character of Christ.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Learning To Choose Forgiveness, Not Gossip

In review of Proverbs 17:9 it says, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends”

Bottom Line:
Love prospers when a wrongdoing is forgiven, to dwell on it will separate close friends

What this means to me:
Love will prosper and I will keep my friends if I forgive them, however I will lose them if I keep dwelling on and talking about the wrong they did.

I have to admit that it's really hard not to tell someone else what someone else just did to me that I thought was offensive. I think it’s because deep down, I want affirmation from somebody else. It’s a very difficult thing to let go. While it may feel good to offload and spread the word about the incident, it’s also unloving.

In God’s Word, I am told to forgive everyone, even my enemies. Today’s verse in Proverbs 17:9 reminds me, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends” (NLT).

This offloading is a form of gossip. Gossip is sharing information with somebody who is not part of the problem or the solution. That person might not have had anything to do with the situation, but I bring them into it so I can feel better about myself. Gossip, in its essence, is a form of retaliation. I’m getting back at someone without talking to them. Instead, I’m talking about them behind their back. Gossip is incredibly destructive and separates the closest of friends.

The worst thing about gossip is that the one who made me crazy wins! All of a sudden, that person is controlling my conversation and emotions. My day is about gossiping instead of talking about some better.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:9, “Do not do wrong to repay a wrong, and do not insult to repay an insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing” (NCV).

I can gossip and miss out on God’s blessing. Or, I can choose to have positive conversations and use words that lift others up. When I strive to build others up, God will bestow his blessings on me.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Learning How To Give Grace to Those Who Irritate Me

In review of Proverbs 19:11 it says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense”

Bottom Line:
A wise person yields patience and overlooks offenses.

What this means to me:
It’s sensible for me to learn to control my temper, to be patient and to forgive / overlook others offenses against me.

Today’s verse comes from the book of Proverbs, which are quips or short bursts of wisdom. They can be strung together like a necklace of fine pearls. In this particular verse, it states how sensible it is for me to learn to control my temper, be patient and forgive others.

I’m learning that as I deal with people who are offensive or irritating, I need to look past the immediate behavior and imagine to the pain that may be behind it. Everything we do is always motivated by something. When people hurt others, it’s probably because they’re hurting on the inside. A hurt person will hurt others.

I believe that the more I can understand others backgrounds, the more grace I’ll be able to show them. It’s easier to cut someone some slack when you understand their background.

Today’s verse in Proverbs 19:11 say , “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (NIV). With wisdom, I won’t get offended because wisdom gives me patience. The more I understand somebody’s background, the more I’ll understand the stress that person may be under, making it easier to show grace. That in turn will give me patience to overlook the offense.

Scripture tells me in many ways that refusing to be offended by other people is actually an act of mature love. It shows me how much love I actually have in my heart. The more love I have, the harder it is to become offended.

The less love I have in my heart, the more insecure I’ll feel and the easier it will be to be offended. Proverbs 10:12 says, “Love overlooks the wrongs that others do” (CEV). The more I am filled with love, the less I’m going to be upset with others when they are demanding, demeaning or disapproving.

Therefore, the first step in dealing with difficult people is to make the choice and refuse being personally offended.

When I’m starting to feel offended, I ask the Holy Spirit to help remind to slow down, show patience and see what I can do to discover more about their background.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Taking Integrity Over Popularity

In review of Luke 9:26 it says, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels”

Bottom Line:
If you disassociate yourself with Christ in this life, He will disassociate himself with you when he returns.

What this means to me:
If I back away, disassociate, publicly reject or become ashamed of Christ, then He will do likewise toward me when he returns.

Today's passage comes from Luke chapter 9 where Jesus predicts and tells of his death to his disciples. So Jesus starts off by warning them to not to tell anyone who he was. Then he said, "For the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things. He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead." Then he told the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it (you can’t keep your own way and still follow him). But if you give up your life for my sake, you will actually save it for eternity. What would you benefit if you gain this whole world but in the end are lost or destroyed? Therefore, If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father”.

Ultimately there will come a day in which I will be called to give an account of my life before God. Knowing that this is coming should prompt me to consider my life and long-term thinking  on how I conduct it. This realization should change what I say, do and even who I try to impress.  It will be a people-pleaser antidote.

So in my interactions and in my thoughts, I need to consider if God would approve or disapprove of what I just said or did.  Am I more interested in what others think or what God thinks?

Rick Warren had explained how he gets interviewed on lot of tv shows. Within those broadcasts, he will be asked the toughest questions they can think of. They want to put him on the spot and, because he believes a certain thing, make him look like a bigot or a fool. They intentionally try to get him to back down off of what the Bible says.

He then explains that when he’s in those types of interviews, his human nature is to want to be liked, much like mine would be. His human nature wants to compromise, divert, punt, and leave out the truth. He then goes on to explain how he has actually heard other guys being asked those same questions and they reply with, “I just leave that up to God” or “Everybody has to make up their own mind.” Responses like those are simply cop-outs! While politically correct, those people are not standing for the truth.  Rick then said that in those moments, when he could say something that would be politically correct and wouldn’t offend, it would be a lie. He then recalls these truths, and does three things:

First, remember what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross. He didn’t deny me. He didn’t back down for me. He died for my sins. I owe him my life. He created me. He saved me. He forgave me. He’s taking me to Heaven. I’m not going to deny him.

Second, I remember that one day I’m going to give an account to God. And at that point God’s going to say, “What did you say in that interview? What did you say in that conversation at work? What did you say to your friend at school?” I remember that integrity is more important than popularity. And I’m not going to give up my integrity.

Finally, I tell the truth, and I let the chips fall.

I can learn from this and do the same as I walk in faith with Jesus. This morning I pray that “the Holy Spirit will come to me in these times and help me remember what Christ has done for me, that I will eventually give an account and that my integrity is much more important being popular.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Learning How to Get Past Regrets

In review of Isaiah 43:18-19 it says, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands”

Bottom Line:
Don’t dwell on the past. Something new is starting to take place. He is opening new paths and opportunities.

What this means to me:
I should not dwell on what has happened in the past. Instead I should be alert and present in the moment. God is doing something brand-new. He is paving the way for better things.

Dwelling on the past is much like playing the “if only” game...  
. If only I could do it over again.
. If only I had listened sooner.
. If only I could erase the past.
. If only I could forgive myself.

I have learned that this is a foolish question, mainly because there is no real answer. Furthermore pondering it will never change what had already taken place. I will always have regrets. I have made bad choices and said foolish things. I’ve wasted time and hurt myself and others. I need to keep in mind that I am not perfect.

What I am learning is that I need to release any regrets. Here are some strategies I had tended to fall back on that simply put, do not work:

Burying It - Burying the past will never help me get past any regrets. I can try to minimize (“It wasn’t a big deal”), rationalize (“Everyone does it”), and compromise (lower my standards), but the regrets are still there, and if unresolved, they’ll keep coming back to haunt me over and over again like a creature in a horror movie.

Blame - This tactic is as old as Adam and Eve. When Adam sinned, he took it like a man: He blamed his wife! I have used blame to balance out guilt.

Beating myself up - I try to pay for my guilt unconsciously through illness, depression, setting myself up for failure, and other forms of self-punishment. The problem with beating up on myself is this: My conscience never knows when to stop! I’d rather not spend my life in self-condemnation.

So instead, here’s what I can do:

Admit my guilt - Own up to it. Don’t make excuses. “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance” (Proverbs 28:13 TLB).

Accept Christ’s forgiveness - He’s waiting to clean my slate. I can ask him to clear my conscience. Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

Forgive myself, and focus on the future - “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands” (Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG).

Today I will consider, if there is anything I’m holding onto where I need to admit my guilt (or part in it), accept forgiveness and refocus on the future.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Settling the Score

In review of 1 Peter 3:9 it says, “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing”

Bottom Line:
Don’t be hateful and insult people just because they are hateful and insult you. Instead, treat everyone with kindness. You are God’s chosen ones, and he will bless you.

What this means to me:
I should not repay evil done to me with evil, nor should I replay an insult with an insult. Instead Paul tells me to pay them back with blessings for this is what God has called me to do. As I do, God will provide his blessings to me.

Today's verse comes from 1 Peter 3. Peter writes that all of us should be of one mind. We should sympathize with each other, and love, as brothers and sisters would. We are to be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. We should never repay evil for evil done to us. We should not retaliate with insults when we are insulted. Instead, Paul tells us to pay them back with a blessing for this is what God has called us to do. If we do, God will grant us his blessings.

I think that nothing crushes the spirit more than abuse; to feel devalued, unimportant, and misused. Jesus knows that. And he says, “I will care for you.”

What I’m learning is that the starting point in any healing is getting to know my Healer. I can start with, “Jesus, I don’t know how you did this, but you took the guilt for every sin in the world; the ones done to me and the ones done by me. I want to learn to love you. And I want you to come in and heal my heart and my mind and my body.”  And the good news is that he will.

When Jesus was abused, did he retaliate? Absolutely not! The Bible says, “Christ never verbally abused those who verbally abused him. When he suffered, he didn’t make any threats but left everything to the one who judges fairly” (1 Peter 2:23 GW).

I can count on the fact that one day God is going to balance the books and settle the score. One day God is going to right all the wrongs. At this point, the abusers will have to answer for their abuse. Based on my experience, I know that God is a truly just God. He can do a much better job at settling the score than I can. He wants me to leave it in his hands, because he’s God, and I’m not.

Today I will consider if I’m harboring anything against someone in my heart.  I will then turn to him with the goal of being tenderhearted and humble.

Monday, November 14, 2016

God’s Freedom

In review of John 8:36 it says, “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free”

Bottom Line:
If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

What this means to me:
Jesus, the Son of God has come and set me free. Because of this, I am truly free.

Our world defines freedom differently from God see it. The world defines freedom as a life without any restraint, it’s a “I can do anything I want to do and say anything I want to say without anybody telling me what to do.” While this may not benefit those around me, I would get to do it my own way. In this view, freedom means being totally selfish.

Yet, John reminds me that the only way to true freedom is through Jesus: “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:36 GNT).  In this case, real freedom is a freedom from fear, guilt, worry, bitterness, and death. I’m free to quit pretending because I’m free to be myself. The fears disappear by letting God love me! John tells me that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a NIV).

It is only by realizing how much God loves me, is when I can begin to live in true freedom. I truly worship God when I recognize that “God is love.” It is an act of worship to agree that he is a loving, caring, generous God and that we can “rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16a).

Since the Son has set me free, today I will examine where I have any existing guilt, worry, or bitterness in my life. What am I holding onto that I need to let go of?  Where am I not letting God love me?  What ways a I not relying on God’s love?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

My Pain Will Often Reveal God’s Purpose For Me

In review of 2 Corinthians 1:4 and 6 it says, “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others . . . When we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer”

Bottom Line:
The comfort we receive from God in the midst of trouble, we should share when others who are in similar situations. These things often happen so that we can comfort and encourage others.

What this means to me:
God comforts and helps me in my troubles so that I can comfort others when they are troubled. The things I suffer and endure happen so that I can in turn comfort others and and encourage them to endure.

Today's passages come from the 2nd letter Paul sent to the church in Corinth.  In it, he explains how God offers comfort to all. He tells us, that first all praise should go to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. Secondly that He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can in turn comfort others. For when they are troubled we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. The more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for the comfort and salvation of others. For when we are ourselves are comforted, we can certainly comfort other. Then they can patiently endure the same things we suffer.

I’m learning that the pain in my life often reveals part of God’s purpose for me. God never wastes a hurt! He wants me to help others going through similar hurts. God can use the problems in my life to give me a personal ministry to others. In fact, the very thing I’m most ashamed of in and resent the most, can become my greatest ministry in helping others.

After all, who can better help somebody going through a financial troubles than somebody who went through them as well? Who can better help somebody struggling with an addiction than somebody who’s struggled with an addiction? Who can better help parents of a special needs child than parents who raised a special needs child? Who can better help somebody who’s lost a child than somebody who lost a child?

The very thing I hate the most in my own life is what God wants to use for good. Today’s passages say, “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others . . . When we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:4a, 6 NLT).

One of the definitions of this is redemptive suffering. It is when I go through a problem or a pain for the benefit of others. This is exactly what Jesus did. When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t deserve to die. He went through that pain for my benefit so that I can be saved and go to Heaven.

There are many different causes for the problems, pains, and suffering. Sometimes it's stuff that we bring on ourselves, such as making stupid decisions. For instance if I go out and overspend and buy things I can’t afford and presume on the future, and then go deeply in debt and lose a house, I can’t say, “God, why did you let me lose my house?” In short, I can’t blame God for my bad choices.

But in some of my problems, I’m innocent. I’ve been hurt by the pain, stupidity, and sins of others. And some of that pain is for redemptive suffering. God may allow me to go through a problem so that I can then help others.

Today I will think through and consider what are some of the problems I’ve had and how I can use these experiences to minister to others?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Learning to Not Give in to Fears

In review of 2 Corinthians 1:10 it says, “From such terrible dangers of death he saved us, and will save us; and we have placed our hope in him that he will save us again”

Bottom Line:
If you place your confidence in Him, God will provide the rescue you need.

What this means to me:
In my own life, God had rescued me from mortal danger in the past. I have no reason to doubt that he will rescue me again if it is in his will. And because of my own experience I place my confidence in him to rescue me when I need it.

What I have learned from personal experience is that God is watching over me. Therefore I do not need to listen to fears in my mind. Today’s verse in 2 Corinthians 1:10 says, “From such terrible dangers of death he saved us, and will save us; and we have placed our hope in him that he will save us again” (GNT).

God’s promise that no matter what happens to me, he will be working for my good, especially as I love and follow him. Scripture reminds me as a believer, that all things will be working together for my good; not that all things are good, but that they are working together for good.

Because of this, I can stop listening to my fears. There will be no difficulty, dilemma, defeat, or disaster in my life that God can’t ultimately get some good out of. Therefore there is no need to fear the future. If I give into my fears, then I am not trusting God.

Today, I will think through any of my existing fears that I might be holding onto. I will ask God to help me identify why I have fear in those areas. Then, I will ask him to help me substitute my fears with trust in him.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

God Uses The Dark Times for Good

In review of 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 it says, “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead”

Bottom Line:
Stop relying on yourselves and learn to rely only on God.

What this means to me:
When I face overwhelming odds or pressure, I need to stop relying upon myself, and learn to give it to and to rely on God.

As I think about it, it is very comforting to know that Jesus became human and experienced everything I experience, including suffering, loneliness, discouragement, misunderstanding, or unjust criticism.

In my life, I will never be exempt from these feelings, mainly because God is developing within me the character of Christ, and, in order to do this, he must take me through all of the circumstances in life where I learn to turn to him.

While God does not cause tragedies, he will use any of the dark and stressful times for my good. He uses them to teach me to trust him, to show me how to help others, and to draw me closer to others believers.

Today’s verse from 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9 says, “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead” (NLT).

So, what should I do when I’m going through difficult times?

First, refuse to be discouraged. Then, remember God is with me. Finally, rely and lean on God’s protection and guidance.

Like others, I have and will continue to face difficult times. The difference is that I believe in Jesus and in him is the presence of light in the dark times.
There have been several difficult experiences in my life where God has used them for good. One of the more recent issues dealt with a serious health problem. I think because of my walk with him before this event, he granted me the peace of the Holy Spirit throughout the ordeal (I did not feel discouraged.) Even though what I had was serious, I never felt alone, abandoned or with the feeling of why me as he was with me. I felt an overwhelming peace that whatever happened he would be with and protect me. In this situation God miraculously healed me.

So today I will consider anything in my life that I have apprehension or concern over. I will consciously stop relying on myself, and turn it over to him.