Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Learning To Trust God for the Help I Need

In review of Genesis 32:26 it says, “Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (NLT).

Bottom Line:
We may wrestle with things for a while before a solution comes.

What this means to me:
God could have overpowered Jacob, but choose to wait and let Jacob wrestle with him. Things may not always get solved right away.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob wrestling with God. It says that a man came and wrestled with Jacob until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that the match would not be won, he touched Jacob's hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!" But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

In this instance Jacob continued this wrestling match all night just to be blessed. He was persistent. I’m learning that God encourages persistence in all areas of my life, including the spiritual. Today I need to consider where in my spiritual life do I need more persistence? Strong character will develop as I struggle through tough conditions.

It’s obvious that when God and Jacob entered their wrestling match, God could have overpowered Jacob and ended things instantly. So why did God let the struggle go on?

Here’s what I can learn about this: When God allows a crisis into my life, he doesn’t solve it immediately. He lets it go on for a while because he wants to see if I’m really serious about seeking him. If God answered every prayer immediately, I’d begin to think God was a big vending machine: Put in a prayer, pull out whatever I need.

Back when I was in serious debt, all I wanted was for financial miracle to occur in my life. However, I didn’t get into debt miraculously. I had a history of poor financial habits that keep me stuck in debt. It was a result of foolish decisions. I spent more money than I was making. I didn’t save for the lean times. Overall I didn’t use my money wisely.

Given that, why should God just immediately bail me out of any crisis or problem? If God had just instantly bailed me out my financial crisis which was rooted in my poor choices, then I would just go out and overspend again. I wouldn’t learned discipline, money management, wisdom, or persistence. God is not just going to bail me out of the debt I got myself into; he will help me get out of debt, but he really wants to build my character in the process.

So for today’s crisis, I am to hang in there and not give up. I shouldn’t run from it or try to escape it. Most problems I experience didn’t get there overnight. I may have worked years getting myself into this mess. I have some ingrained patterns, bad responses, and wrong habits that have built up over the years. So God isn’t going to remove those all at once. It’s more like peeling an onion; he takes it off one layer at a time. But there’s the hope. God is with me and he is for me. When I ask God for help, and trust him to provide, I’ll experience the peace of his wisdom and blessing.

I’m thinking my current situation God is wanting me to work on my natural habit of procrastination and taking initiative. I need to push out of my comfort zone and take immediate action. Today I will trust God for the help I need.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It's a Crisis That Helps Lead Me To Change

In review of Genesis 32:24-25 it says, “This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket” (NLT).

Bottom Line:
Persistence is required in critical situations

What this means to me:
Persistence on my part within a crisis situation can lead to healing.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob wrestling with God. In summary, a man came and wrestled with Jacob until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob's hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!" But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." "What is your name?" the man asked. He replied, "Jacob." The man told him that his name will no longer be Jacob, from now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won." "Please tell me your name," Jacob said. "Why do you want to know my name?" the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

When I face a difficult conflict, I can run about frantically or I can pause to pray about it. Which approach will be more effective?

In this instance Jacob continued this wrestling match all night just to be blessed. He was persistent. I’m learning that God encourages persistence in all areas of my life, including the spiritual. Today I need to consider where in my spiritual life do I need more persistence? Strong character will develop as I struggle through tough conditions.

When I find myself in crisis, I can be certain that God is up to something! I’m about to be changed. I don’t have to stay the same. God is getting ready to make a change in my life.

The Bible teaches that my biggest struggle in life is with God because I want to be in control. I want to be God.

This was Jacob’s problem — he tried to control his life to such an extent that he even wanted to change the order of his birth. Jacob was a twin, and the Bible says when he came out of his mother’s womb, he was clinging to his older brother’s ankle, grappling to be the first one out. He spent a lifetime in conflict with his brother, Esau, but his biggest battle was with God.

One night he even tried to go one-on-one with God. Some people want to debate whether Jacob actually wrestled with God, but the Bible tells us in Hosea: “Even in the womb, Jacob struggled with his brother; when he became a man, he even fought with God” (Hosea 12:3 NLT).

As I consider my biggest problem right now; it boils down to these two issues:

Will I obey God in this situation and do what he says is the right thing to do, whether I like it or not?” Or, “Will I trust God in this situation, letting him handle it?”

No matter what my problem is, my biggest problem is not really my problem. The real problem is not obeying and trusting God. And that makes the problem bigger.

When it comes to no-win situations, who do I think is behind it? God is! God often allows a crisis in my life in order to get my attention. All of a sudden I’m laid flat on my back and forced to look up.

God loves me just the way I am, but he loves me far too much to let me stay stuck in my habits, hang-ups, and hurts. He wants to change me. He wants to help me grow, to be better, to be different, and to be all that I was meant to be. And so he allows a crisis.

Why? Because I rarely change until the pain I feel exceeds my fear of change. I don’t change when I see the light; I change when I feel the heat.

God can use this situation to move me to where I need to be. A crisis gets my attention and forces me to look toward God. As I consider this today, what comes to mind is my current struggle at work to make a positive difference and provide overall high level of service, attention and quality as well as completing some key tasks. As I reflect I have been doing things on my own merit. Rarely am I praying and asking God for his guidance and assistance.

This morning God “I pray that you will fill my life with your caring spirit. Help me to communicate effectively with my team and help them to view our roles and responsibilities differently. Help me to communicate the need for us to adjust work shifts to better adjust for needs of the organization early in the morning and later in the afternoon / evening. Help me to love those who work for me and those who we serve. I also ask father that you help me guide the team to complete the key work tasks in front of us; OEA server builds, and system clean-up activities this week. Father I want to commit to being obedient to your word and promptings. I will place my trust in you to work through me to accomplish the work challenge that is ahead of me. In your Son’s name, Amen!”

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Giant's Between Myself and My Dream

In review of 1 Samuel 17:47 it says, “Everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (NLT).

Bottom Line:
This the Lord’s battle. He will rescue his people.

What this means to me:
My faith matters. This is the Lord’s battle. Everyone will see that the Lord rescues his people.

Today’s passage comes from 1 Samuel 17 where David faces the giant with a simple object. We see David’s faith played out in a most difficult circumstance. In meeting the giant, David replied to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, But I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven's Armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!. And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord's battle, and he will give you to us!"

When David was with the Saul’s men, criticism of him and his size couldn't stop David. While the rest of the army stood around, he knew that importance of taking action. With God to fight for him, there was no reason to wait. People may try to discourage me with negative comments or mockery, but continue to do what I know is right. By doing what is right, I"ll be pleasing God, whose opinion matters the most.

What made David effective, was more than his ability with a sling; it was his courage and his faith in God. To fight like David I need David's kind of fearlessness. David had grown strong in his confidence by trusting God when he had encountered wild animals while guarding his father's sheep. When I face towering problems, I should recall how God has helped me in the past. Take heart because God gives me strength. Use the skills God has already given me and move forward.

I’m reminded this morning that In the story of David in 1 Samuel, he actually had to fight four other giants before he got to Goliath. They weren’t physical giants, but they were giants in his mind.

I’m far more likely to have to face those giants than a Goliath, but they can be just as big and intimidating, and they can keep me from becoming who God wants you to be and fulfilling the dream that God has put in your heart.

The first giant in facing your dream is delay. No dream is fulfilled instantly. God gives you the dream on one day, but he doesn’t fulfill it the next day. It may be years before you see the fulfillment of your life dream. There is always a waiting period. In David’s case, his dad held him back from the dream. After Samuel anointed David as king, Jesse told David to get back to tending the sheep! When God’s plan contradicts somebody else’s plan, there’s going to be a delay, and people are going to try to hold me back — sometimes even the people who love me the most. But God is faithful, and he will complete his work in me in his time.

The second giant you may face is discouragement. Goliath created a climate of fear in Israel, and everybody was convinced they were going to lose the battle. Who am I listening to who says it can’t be done? Who is putting down my dream, saying it won’t ever happen? Sometimes I just need a fresh voice — a kid from the village with fresh eyes who says, “This guy’s nothing. We can take him down.”

The third giant standing in my way is disapproval. In David’s case, his own brother questioned his motives and disapproved of him going after Goliath. When other people are afraid of my God-given dream but I go for it anyway, I will be misjudged, maligned, and misunderstood. I have to decide what matters more to me: the approval of other people or the approval of God.

The fourth giant I may have to face is doubt. Nobody was a greater expert on war than King Saul, and he told David he was crazy for thinking a boy could fight a warrior like Goliath. Maybe the expert is saying I can’t do it, either. That’s enough to make me doubt myself.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Learning to Love Others the Way God Loves Me

In review of 1 Corinthians 13:7 it says, “Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up” (GW).

Bottom Line:
Love should never stop or give up.

What this means to me:
Love on my part is something that should continue on regardless of my patience, belief, or hope. Love never gives up.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells me that I could have the greatest gifts in the world, however if I don't love others, I would be nothing. If I don't love others, I gain nothing. He explains that love is:
Patient, kind, not jealous, not boastful, or not rude. Love does not demand its own way. Is not irritable. Will keep no record of being wronged. Will not rejoice about injustice, but rather rejoice when the truth wins out. Love on my part should never give up, or lose faith. My love should be helpful. It should endure through every circumstance. In summary, Paul indicates that love is more important than all the spiritual gifts exercised. Love makes my actions and gifts useful. People may have different gifts, however love is available to everyone.

The culture I live in often confuses love and lust. Unlike lust, God's kind of love is directed outward toward others, not inward toward myself. It is utterly unselfish. This kind of love goes against my natural inclinations. It is impossible to have this kind of love unless God helps me set aside my own natural desire so that I can love and expect nothing in return. The more I become like Christ, the more love I will be able to show to others.

The same love that God gives to me, he wants me to offer to everybody else that I come in contact with. It’s not an option or a suggestion. It’s a command from Jesus himself: “Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34 NLT).

As a follower of Christ, I must love everybody, whether I like them or not, in the same way that Christ loves me. That means I am to accept them completely, love them unconditionally, forgive them totally, and consider them extremely valuable.

When I love others in this manner, my relationships will be transformed.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up” (GW).

This is how God loves you. God never stops being patient with me. God never stops believing in me. God never stops hoping for the best in my life. God never gives up on me. And that’s what God wants me to do with everybody else.

“Love never stops being patient.” That means love extends grace. I offer grace to others.

“Love never stops believing.” That means it expresses faith. I tell someone, “Even though we’re having a tough time, I will never stop believing in you.”

“Love never stops hoping.” That means love expects the best. Am I expecting the best in my marriage, or have I settled for less than the best?

“Love never gives up.” That means love endures the worst. It means I can look at the other person and say, “You can throw everything at me, but I’m going to keep loving you, no matter what.”

To start transforming my relationships today, I pray: “Dear God, I admit that I have made a mess in my relationships. They’re complicated and broken, and I’ve often settled for less than the best. They need a transformation! I’d like you to begin by changing me. Deliver me from my fears, because I can see how they make me distant and defensive and even demanding. Today and every day from now on, I want to surrender my heart to you. I want to learn to live my life in your love and be filled with your love.Help me to accept others, just as you’ve accepted me. Help me to love others unconditionally, just as you have loved me. Help me to forgive others totally, just as you’ve forgiven me. And help me to value others as much as you value me. Help me to extend grace to and express faith in the people around me. Help me to expect the best in others, and help me to endure the worst when it happens. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

God’s Unfailing Love for Me

In review of Isaiah 54:10 it says, “The mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end” (54:10 GNT).

Bottom Line:
Even with the destruction of things around you, God’s love will never end.

What this means to me:
Everything around me may be destroyed, but God’s love for me will never end.

Just as God swore in the time of Noah, that he would never again let a flood cover the earth, so he swears now that he will never again be angry and punish me. For the mountains may move and the hills may disappear, but even then God's faithful love for me will remain. His covenant of blessing will never be broken, he has mercy on me.

As I read this passage, I'm reminded of how God had made a covenant with Noah that he has never broken. Likewise, God made a covenant of peace with the people of Israel that a time would come when he would stop pouring out his anger on them; he would restore their wealth, and would personally teach their children.

What I’m learning is that, if I’m not feeling loved by God, it will be hard to offer love to anybody else. It is impossible to be a truly loving person unless I understand and remember the way God loves me.

I need to remind myself every day what God thinks about me, not what the world thinks or what I think about myself. This is what will remove my fear.

Here are four things God thinks about me. This should help to remind me why and how to love.

1. I’m completely accepted.
I can spend a lot of my life trying to earn acceptance from my parents, peers, those I respect, those I envy, and even total strangers. But I need to realize God has already settled this issue of acceptance: “Jesus . . . made us acceptable to God” (Titus 3:7 CEV). What Jesus did on the cross made me completely acceptable to God, no matter what I’ve done or will do.

2. I’m unconditionally loved.
God doesn’t say, “I love you if” or “ I love you because.” He says, “I love you — period!I can’t make God stop loving me, because his love is not based on what I do but on who he is. Isaiah 54:10 says, “The mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end” (GNT).

3. I’m totally forgiven.
Because Jesus died on the cross and gave his life as a payment for my sins, I’m totally forgiven once I accept that gift of forgiveness. Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). God doesn’t rehearse my sins; he releases them.

4. I’m considered extremely valuable.
There are two things that create value: who owns something, and what somebody’s willing to pay for it.

I am a child of God and “have been bought and paid for by Christ” (1 Corinthians 7:23 TLB). Jesus Christ paid for me with his life. That’s how valuable I am.

When I remember that I’m accepted, loved, forgiven, and valuable to the Creator of the universe, I’ll be better equipped to show that same love to others and build deeper relationships.

This is a great reminder of how much God loves me. He paid an extremely high price for me and thus makes me a valuable asset of his. Knowing this reminds of the essence of the Gospel message that I should be sharing with others who have not yet accepted his free gift. I think one of my big problems is that I continue to focus on myself. I realize that I’ve been looking for assurances from others that I’m doing good. I’m forgetting that all that matters is what God thinks. From that and my daily relationship with him to get his guidance, I will be doing what pleases him and will ultimately bring value to those around me that I serve.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Three Steps of Surrender

In review of Job 11:13-18 it says, “Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins — even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. Your troubles will go away like water beneath a bridge, and your darkest night will be brighter than noon. You will rest safe and secure, filled with hope and emptied of worry” (CEV).

Bottom Line:
Surrender your heart and will to God, go to him and ask for forgiveness. Then you will be safe and secure, and filled with hope.

What this means to me:
I need to surrender my heart and will to God. I can turn to him in prayer and confess/give-up my sins, all of them. He will fill me with confidence and not shame. My troubles will flow away. The darkest situation will become bright. I’ll be safe and secure, filled with hope.

Job 11 reminds me that God knows those who are false, and he takes note of all their sins. An empty-headed person won't become wise any more than a wild donkey can bear a human  child.

Therefore, I should prepare my heart and lift up my hands to him in prayer. Get rid of my sins and leave all iniquity behind me. If I do, then my face will brighten with innocence. I will be strong and free of fear. I will forget my misery; it will be like water flowing away. My life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give me courage. I will be protected and will rest in safety, I will like down unafraid, and many will look to me for help. But the wicked will be blinded. They will have no escape. Their only hope is death.

I’m reminded this morning of 1 John 4:18 which says, “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear” (NCV). So how can I learn to live in God’s love so that I can live free of fear?

I do it by daily surrendering my heart to God.

When I wake up every morning, before my feet hit the floor, I need to learn to say, “God, before I even start this day, I surrender my emotions to you. I want you to be Lord of my feelings. I want you to control my mind and my emotions. I surrender my heart to you. I want you to fill me with your love.

Job 11:13-18 says, “Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins — even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. Your troubles will go away like water beneath a bridge, and your darkest night will be brighter than noon. You will rest safe and secure, filled with hope and emptied of worry” (CEV).

In this I find three commands and eight promises that I can obtain from these verses. God says I do this, and then he’ll do that. Every promise has a premise.

First, he gives me the commands: Surrender my heart to God every day. Turn to him in prayer. And give up my sins, or confess my sins to God.

Then, I will obtain eight benefits: I won’t be ashamed, I’ll be confident, I’ll be fearless, my troubles will be like water under the bridge, the dark night I’m going through is going to be brighter than noon, I’ll be able to sleep well because I’m safe and secure, I will be filled with hope, and I’ll be emptied of worry.

Let it remind me to do those three things — surrender my heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and confess my sins — so that God’s love will fill my life and cast out all my anxiety and fear.

As I reflect on this, I can see where my pride or refusal to believe I am wrong can get in the way of my full surrender. I need to consider what fears I have that I need God’s love to cast out. I need to take a step of faith and do what he asks. God won’t always show me the road map, he will guide me one step at a time. I just need to take the next step.

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...