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Thursday, May 31, 2018

God Makes Me New And Is Always Developing Me

In review of Genesis 32:28 it says, "Your name will no longer be Jacob", the man told him. "From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won." (NLT).

Today’s verse come from Genesis 32:22-28 and reflects Jacob wrestling with God. I’m told that Jacob sent his family and possessions across the Jabbok River. After this Jacob was 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. 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."  The man changed Jacob's name to Israel, because he had fought with God and with men and have won.  

The passage indicates that Jacob continued this wrestling match all night just to be blessed. He was persistent. God encourages persistence in all areas of my life, including the spiritual. I should consider where in my spiritual life do I need more persistence? Strong character develops as I struggle through tough conditions.

God gave many of the Bible people new names. Their new names were symbols of how God had changed their lives. Here I see how Jacob's character had changed. Jacob, the ambitious deceiver, became Israel, the one who had struggled with God and with people and had overcome. He was learning to live in an ongoing relationship with the God who would fight for him.

What this teaches me is that I don’t have to stay the same! In conversion, I was given a new identity. Look at Jacob in the book of Genesis. Once Jacob confesses his manipulative behavior, God gives him a new identity.

I can see three things happen:

God gives Jacob a brand new identity (Genesis 32:28). Essentially, God says, “I know you’ve blown it. I know you’re conniving, but I see in you a prince. Beneath all your emotional hang-ups, all your insecurities, all the stuff you don’t want anybody else to know, I see a prince.” God is saying that today: “Beneath all of my sins and hang-ups, I see a princess/prince. You can be something great. You can be what I made you to be.”

God blesses Jacob/Israel (Genesis 32:29). Deep down, I desperately want God’s blessing. If I want God’s blessing, I need to take the steps God requires of me.

God gave Jacob/Israel a limp (Genesis 32:31). Remember, when they wrestled, God dislocated Jacob’s hip. Jacob walked away with a limp, and it served as a daily reminder to depend upon God.

God does his deepest work in my life when he deals with my identity, who I am and the way I see myself. What I find is that I will always tend to act according to the way I think about myself. So God does his deepest changes in my life by changing the way I see myself.

He says, “Let me show you how I see you.” When I can learn to see myself the way God sees me, it’s going to change my life.

Bottom Line:
Character and faith is built as you struggle with things. Persistence is key.

What this means to me:
Often to build my character and faith, I may struggle with situations, people and even God. Persistence is the Key.

In summary, I'm learning that God will encourage persistence in all areas of my life. Strong character develops as I struggle through tough conditions and situations. God has given me a new identity. Even though I blow it, God sees beneath this and sees me for who He made me and wants me to be. I need to take the steps God requires of me. Little pains and annoyances in my life can serve as a daily reminder for me to depend on him.  

This morning Father I thank you for your presence in my life and for the way you want me to grow through situation and circumstances. I pray for your assistance and continued work in my life through my struggles and circumstances, help me to understand who you have made me to be and what you are developing in me. I ask that you help me prioritize and organize the work load in front of me. Also help me deal lovingly and rightly with people around me today. In your Son Jesus name I pray, Amen!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Learning to Stand Strong on God’s Extravagant Love

In review of 1 John 4:9–10 it says, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love . . . he sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (NLT).

Today’s passages come from 1 John 4:7-10 where John is talking about loving one another. He tells me, dear friend, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loves me by sending his one and only Son into the world so that I might have eternal life through him. This is real love, not that I loved God, but that he love me and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away my sin.

Love is usually thought of as a feeling. In reality, love is a choice and an action, as God shows. God is the source of our love. He loved me enough to sacrifice his Son. Jesus is my example of what it means to love; everything he did in life and death was supremely loving. The Holy Spirit gives me the power to love; he lives in my heart and make me more and more like Christ. God's love always involves a choice and an action. and my love should be like his. How well do I display my love for God in the choices I make and the actions I take?

John tells me that "God is love," not "love is God." This world, with its shallow and selfish view of love, has turned these words around and contaminated the understanding of love. The world thinks that love is what makes person feel good and that it is all right to sacrifice moral principles and others' rights in order to obtain such "love." But that isn't real love; it is the exact opposite, selfishness. And God is not that kind of "love." Real love is like God, who is holy, just, and perfect. If I truly know God, I will love as he does.

Love explains: (1) why God creates, because he loves, he created people to love; (2) why God cares, because he loves them, he cares for sinful people; (3) why we are free to choose, God wants a loving response from me; (4) why Christ died, his love for me caused him to offer a solution to the problem of sin, and (5) why I receive eternal life, God's love expresses itself to me forever.

Nothing sinful or evil can exist in God's presence. He is absolute goodness. He cannot overlook, condone, or excuse sin as if it never happened. He loves me, but his love does not make him morally lax. If I trust in Christ, however, I will not have to bear the penalty for my sins. I will be acquitted by his atoning sacrifice.

Everything in life changes; relationships, jobs, fame. One minute I feel like a hero; the next minute I feel like a zero. But there’s one thing in the universe that will never change: God’s love.

Knowing that God still loves me no matter what happens; my failures, brokenness, sin, all provides a rock solid foundation in my life.

Consider the small word “so” that goes before “love” in the Bible’s most famous verse, John 3:16. The verse says, “God so loved the world . . . " (NIV).

God loves me with an extravagant, lavish love that can never be taken away. It’s beyond comprehension. He loves me on my good days and my bad days. He loves me when it’s raining and when the sun is shining.

God says he doesn’t want me to just recognize this lavish love intellectually. He wants me to recognize it emotionally. Love is God’s nature. God created the universe and everything in it for no other reason than so he could love it. And God created me so he could love me.

In fact, in Jesus, God shows me what real love, his love, looks like. “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love . . . he sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9–10 NLT).

Many people say they love me. God showed me how much he loves me. He loved me so much it hurt. He sacrificed his Son. When Jesus died for me, he was saying he loved me so much he’d rather die than live without me.

And the Bible says that’s what real love, the kind of love that I can build my life upon, looks like. Real love makes sacrifices. Real love endures to the end. Real love gives all.

That’s the kind of love only God has for me. And he’s waiting with open arms to show me.

Bottom Line:
God loved by sending His Son to save us by paying our penalty, wiping our slates clean.

What this means to me:
God loves me so much that He sent his Son into the world to teach me and so that I might have eternal life through him. This is real love, not that I love Him, but that he sent his Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for me and take away my sins.

In summary, I am to love others for real love comes from God. When I love like this, I'm showing I'm a child of God. God showed how much he loves me by sending his one and only Son into to world to that I might have eternal life through him. This is real love, not that I love God, but that he loved and sacrificed me. Love on my part is a choice and an action. My actions in love should be like this. And the Holy Spirit will give me the power to do this, for he lives in me and is making me more like Christ each day. Finally while everything in life changes, there's one thing that won't, and that’s God's incredible love for me.

Father this morning “I first thank you for your incredible love for me. I pray that through the Holy Spirit that you help remind me make love as part of the actions I take today and really show love and even sacrifice when needed to demonstrate my love. I also ask that you help me organize priorities before me and to lead the team to accomplish them. I pray that you help me respond rightly to those I interact with. In Jesus name I pray, Amen!”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How to Keep My Enthusiasm

In review of Romans 12:11-12 it says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (NIV).

Today’s verses come from Romans 12:9-13. It says to not just pretend to love others, but really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

I know how to be courteous to others. I'm even skilled in pretending to feel compassion when I hear of others' needs. But God calls me to a genuine love that goes far beyond pretense and politeness. Genuine love requires concentration and effort. It means helping others become better people. It demands my time, money, and personal involvement. Look for people who need my love, and look for ways I can love for Christ.

I can honor others in one of two ways. One involves ulterior motives. I honor my leader so they will reward me, my employees so they will work harder, the wealthy so they will contribute to my cause, the powerful so that will use their power for me and not against me. God's way involves love. As a follower of Christ, I honor people because they have been created in God's image, because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and because they have a unique contribution to make to Christ's church  Does God's way of honoring others sound too difficult for my competitive nature? Why not try to outdo others in showing honor? Put others first!

Christian hospitality differs from social entertaining. Entertaining focuses on the host: the home must be spotless; the food must be well prepared and abundant; the host must appear relaxed and good-natured. Hospitality, by contrast focuses on the guests. Their needs, whether for a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear, or acceptance, are the primary concern. Hospitality can happen in a messy home. It can happen around a dinner table when the main disk is canned soup. It can even happen while the host and the guest are doing chores together. Don't hesitate to offer hospitality just because I'm too tired, too busy, or not wealthy enough to entertain.

To reach my goals, I have to figure out how to maintain my enthusiasm over the long haul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm.” I’ve got to have passion and enthusiasm, or I’m never going to make it to the finish line.

I need to learn to be consistently enthusiastic about the goals that I’ve set for my life.

Positive thinking is not enough. Pulling myself up by my psychological bootstraps is not enough. Talking myself into optimism is not enough.

The way to stay enthusiastic for a lifetime is found in the word “enthusiasm.” The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek word en theos. En is the Greek word for the English word “in.” Theos is the Greek word for “God.” So en theos means to be “in God.”

When I get in God, I will be enthusiastic. It’s the kind of enthusiasm that isn’t affected by the economy or the weather or my circumstances. It’s eternal because I’m tied to the eternal God. I am in Christ.

Paul tells me how to do this in Romans 12:11-12. He says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (NIV).

If I want to reach my goals, I need to tap into God’s power by being joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.

Bottom Line:
Don’t energy or enthusiasm, for it is the Lord you serve. Have joy, patience, and be faithful in prayers.

What this means to me:
I should never let myself lack enthusiasm, but rather remember that in what I do, I’m serving the Lord. So remember to joyful in the hope I have, be patient when afflictions come, and to always be faithful in prayer.

This morning I pray: “Dear God, I don’t want to go another day without you in my life, controlling every part of my heart. I offer you my body. I dedicate myself to you. In light of all you’ve done for me, I give myself as a living sacrifice to you as a spiritual act of worship.

“I humbly admit that I need help. I want you to renew my mind. Help me to think the way you want me to think. Please forgive me for my pride. I don’t want to think more highly of myself than I should. My faith needs to grow, and I need your help to set goals that can be measured so I can manage them. Forgive me for trying to change on my own.

“I want to fill my life with love. I want to fill my life with you. Help me to get group support. Help me to take delight in honoring other people, to focus on giving my life away so that you can take care of my needs. I want to nurture my enthusiasm by being in you. Help me to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. I give myself to you. In your name I pray. Amen.”

Friday, May 25, 2018

Don’t Give Up: Learn to Accept Help from Others

In review of Job 6:14 it says, “When desperate people give up on God Almighty, their friends, at least, should stick with them” (The Message).

When things get desperate and I find myself looking toward wanting to give up, I need to look for my friends, or brothers who are truly walking with God for help and perspective. Interestingly enough, given the workload myself and my team are facing, I have others in the organization who recognize and see this. They have offered to help, and offer some suggestions or volunteer to take on tasks. I just need to swallow my pride, because I keep thinking I can do it all, reach out, ask and coordinate with them. I need to humble myself, set aside my pride (arrogance in thinking I know it all) and accept the help.

Lately, I have thoughts that have cropped up especially given what’s been going on in my work life, where I perhaps I should just give up and find a different job, and avoid the pressure.

Part of my goals in changing jobs was to use what I know to make a difference in a different organization that needed help. God did grant me this opportunity, but I believe I may have gone into it with some forms of arrogance in my abilities and being able to handle problems from past experiences. What I’m finding is a much more difficult situation to what I thought of. So while He granted me what I thought I as was asking for, He provided an opportunity which is stretching much more than I anticipated.

I’m reminded as I read this passage from Job and the application notes associated with it, that God does not always grant my request in the way I want it. He has a greater plan for me. While my tendency may be to just give up and get out when the going gets rough, He is teaching me more about His character and to put my trust Him during the difficult times tests. These are all things to grow my limits and exercise my faith. So, in my struggles, large or small, I need to trust that God is in control and that he will take care of me. I also must believe that God offers help from those who know me and my situation.

So while my natural reaction is to withdraw from others when I face these problems, I’m reminded that is is a bad idea! God doesn’t want me to try handling pain or loss or stress by myself.

Also the Bible says, “When desperate people give up on God Almighty, their friends, at least, should stick with them” (Job 6:14 The Message). God commands me to bear each other’s burdens! I’m told to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV). But I’m also to be open to be encouraged and built up by others.

Everyone experiences difficulties and pain. Pain is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if I’m rich or poor, old or young. Everyone faces troubles. This is why small groups are so important. The Bible says, “By helping each other with your troubles, you truly obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NCV).

Job says, “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14 NIV). The Good News Translation says, “In trouble like this I need loyal friends — whether I’ve forsaken God or not.

I need Christian friends who will stand alongside me even when I say, “I don’t think I can do it right now” and who will nurse you back to faith.

This also speaks to myself when I see those around me suffering from trouble. When others are going through severe trials, ill-advised counsel on my part is distasteful. While they may listen politely, inside they can still be upset. Often it is better to show compassion more than advice.

Bottom Line:
When things are tough, we need our friends to help ease us through it.

What this means to me:
When I get desperate and want to give up, look to my friends, or brothers who are truly walking with God for help and perspective.

Thank you Father for your word and time with you today. “I pray, that you will help me humble myself and my arrogance and accept help that is coming my way. I also continue to ask you for wisdom in handling the tasks in front of me, in communicating and encouraging those who work for me, and to respond rightly to others.