Lessons from the Life of David (5)

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‘These are the last words of David.’ 2 Samuel 23:1 NLT

Someday we will all die, and our last words are often considered some of our most important. The question is, have you lived to your highest potential and fulfilled God’s purpose for your life? The Bible says, ‘These are the last words of David.’

What will he tell us? His story is a checkerboard of good and bad, profit and loss, victory and defeat. During David’s lifetime his son raped his daughter, one son killed another, his wife turned her back on him, his friends betrayed him and took his kingdom, his mentor tried to kill him, his family rejected him, and he spent a lot of time hiding out in caves. Now David speaks to us one last time. Will he talk about Goliath? Or Saul? Or Bathsheba? No.

‘David, the man who was raised up so high… the man anointed by the God of Jacob… the sweet psalmist of Israel, [said], “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me; His words are upon my tongue. The God of Israel spoke. The Rock of Israel said to me: ‘The one who rules righteously… in the fear of God, is like the light of morning at sunrise… a morning without clouds… the gleaming of the sun on new grass after rain.’ Is it not my family God has chosen? Yes, He has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail. He will ensure my safety and success.”’ (2 Samuel 23:1–5 NLT)

Why are these words recorded in Scripture? For the benefit of those of us, like David, who are less than perfect but whose hearts never cease to follow God.

Lessons from the Life of David (4)

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‘So the three mighty men broke through.’ 2 Samuel 23:16 NKJV

David knew how to develop other leaders. He didn’t ‘use’ people to get what he wanted. He recognized their talent, gave them opportunities to serve, then rewarded and honored them. And as a result they were willing to lay down their lives for him.

In 2 Samuel 23 we read: ‘David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem” …So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well… and brought it to David.’ (2 Samuel 23:15–16 NKJV) It’s impossible to learn leadership without actually leading. After all, leadership is action. As leaders our natural tendency is to give others tasks to perform rather than leadership functions to fulfill. But if we don’t delegate leadership—with authority as well as accountability—our people will never gain the experience they need to lead well.

If you’re a leader, answer this question honestly: are you providing your people with leadership experiences? ‘But what if they fail?’ you ask. Count on it—they will! But if you’ve picked people with genuine leadership ability, they will learn from it.

Dr John Maxwell writes: ‘As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to think of myself as a lid lifter. That’s my main function as a team leader. If I can lift the leadership lids for the members of my team, then I’m doing my job. The more barriers I remove for my people, the more likely they are to rise up to their potential.’

David developed leaders who became known as ‘mighty men’, and you must invest in others too.

Lessons from the Life of David (3)

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‘They mobilized all their forces.’ 2 Samuel 5:17 NLT

Paul writes, ‘Fight the good fight of faith.’ (1 Timothy 6:12 KJV) Some of God’s promises have to be fought for.

The Jebusites who controlled Jerusalem told David, ‘You’ll never get in here!’ (2 Samuel 5:6 NLT) So expect resistance to your vision, especially when there’s no evidence yet to validate it. To make matters worse, Jerusalem was on a commanding height above David’s army and the only way up was through a water cistern, which meant wading through muck. ‘Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion.’ (2 Samuel 5:7 NKJV)

Understand this: if He has to, God will bring you up through the gutter to get you to the throne. Note the word ‘nevertheless’. When you’re up to your neck in problems and the enemy is saying you won’t make it, stand on God’s promises and declare, ‘Nevertheless.’ Rise up in faith and claim what God has promised you. ‘The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.’ (Daniel 11:32 NKJV)

God can show you how to exploit the circumstances for your good and His glory. But don’t expect everybody to be helpful. ‘When the Philistines heard… David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him.’ You’ll have to fight to get to your destiny, and fight to hold it. And with each new battle you’ll have to turn to God for fresh instructions. ‘David asked the Lord, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The Lord replied… “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.”’ (2 Samuel 5:19 NLT)

Today move forward knowing that God is with you.

Lessons from the Life of David (2)

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‘Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ Hebrews 6:12 NKJV

Here are three lessons from David’s life:

(1) God makes the choice. When Samuel the prophet came to David’s house to pick Israel’s next king, David wasn’t considered. But God chose him anyway—just like He chose Deborah to lead the nation in a male-dominated society. Stop trying to figure God out! And stop comparing yourself to others! We’d have rejected many of the people God used—which shows how little we know.

(2) God designs the plan. ‘Being confident of this… that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.’ (Philippians 1:6 NKJV) Who designs the plan? Who performs it? Who should your confidence be in? God! His plan for David involved years of ducking Saul’s spears, living in caves as a fugitive, and working with six hundred misfits who redefine the word ‘dysfunctional’. God trains you through the difficulties you experience so you can handle the assignment He has in mind for you.

(3) God sets the schedule. ‘Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ Patience means standing firm under pressure. The prize belongs to the one who’s committed for the long haul. David was anointed king in his teens, but he didn’t take the throne until he was thirty. So be patient. God’s doing a work of preparation in your life so you’ll be ready when your time comes. Yes, waiting is hard. But if you run before the starter fires the gun, you’ll be disqualified from the race. Just keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up.

Lessons from the Life of David (1)

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‘All things work together for good to those who love God.’ Romans 8:28 NKJV

God said, ‘I have found David… a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (Acts 13:22 NKJV) When God says that about someone, you’d be wise to observe that person’s life. David started out as a shepherd and ended up as king. The chances of that happening were zero. Shepherds were so low on the social totem pole they couldn’t testify in a court of law because their word wasn’t considered reliable. Yet David ended up writing the most widely read psalms of all time.

Understand this: when you invite God into your life, He cancels the liabilities of your past and rewrites your future. But you must choose what God has chosen for you! There’s an interesting contrast between Paul and David. Paul lived his chapters of disobedience before he met Christ, then went on to live an exemplary life. David became king at thirty, and during his forty years in leadership experienced devastating failure, including adultery and murder.

There are two important lessons here:

(1) Don’t rush to judgment. It’s not over until God says it’s over! David’s story is a warning to the transgressor, a rebuke to the self-righteous, a verification of God’s justice that won’t allow you to escape your consequences, and a testimony to His love that will never let go of you.

(2) God can bring good out of what seems like a bad situation. He can take every experience you’ve been through and make it work for good—either your own good or the good of others. Bottom line: He can make ‘all things work together for good.’

Put Your Heart And Soul Into It

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‘Whatever work you do, do your best…’ Ecclesiastes 9:10 NCV

Solomon writes: ‘Enjoy life… enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best…’ (Ecclesiastes 9:9–10 NCV)

Professor Howard Hendricks writes: ‘Recently I lost one of my best friends, a woman eighty-six years young. She was the most exciting lay-teacher I’ve ever been exposed to. The last time I saw her on planet earth was at one of those “Christian parties” where we all sit on eggshells and try to look pious. In she walked, looked at me and said, “Well, Hendricks, I haven’t seen you for a long time. Tell me, what are the five best books you’ve read in the last year?” (That’ll change the group dynamic in a hurry.) Her philosophy was, “Let’s not bore each other… let’s get into a discussion. And if we can’t find anything to discuss, then let’s get into an argument.” She was eighty-three years old on her last trip to the Holy Land. She went with a group of NFL football players. And one of my most vivid memories is seeing her out in front yelling back to them, “Come on, men, get with it!” Recently she died in her sleep at her daughter’s home. Her daughter told me that just before she died she’d written out her goals for the next ten years!’

So whether you are nineteen or ninety-nine, the word for you today is: ‘Whatever work you do, do your best…’ In other words: Put your heart and soul into it.

Choose Gratitude

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‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.’ Psalm 103:2 KJV

He sat on the park bench so depressed-looking that a policeman tried to console him. ‘Something the matter?’

‘Yeah,’ he replied. ‘The month before last my grandfather left me $500,000 and some holiday resorts.’

The policeman responded, ‘That doesn’t sound like something to be upset over.’

‘Yeah, but you haven’t heard the whole story. Last month my uncle left me $1,000,000.’

The policeman shook his head. ‘I don’t get it. Why are you so unhappy?’

He replied, ‘So far this month, nobody’s left me anything.’

Seriously, he’s part of a group of people who are unhappy no matter what they have. The psalmist shows us how to overcome an ungrateful attitude by cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving. ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.’

Thinking and thanking go hand-in-hand. Memory is a catalyst for worship. An old hymn declares, ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one… see what God has done.’

The psalmist encourages us to do three things: First, think about what God has given us—His forgiveness, healing, protection, redemption, love, and compassion (Psalm 103:1–5). Second, think about what God has not given us—the punishment our sins deserve (Psalm 103:8–12). Third, think about what God is yet going to give us. ‘From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him.’ (Psalm 103:17 NIV)

God accepts you when you trust in Christ’s performance, not your own. So each morning look in the mirror and say, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.’

Look for the Best in Others

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‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels.’ 2 Corinthians 4:7 KJV

One of the worst arguments recorded in Scripture took place between one of the most successful ministry teams of all time—Paul and Barnabas. What was it about? John Mark. Barnabas wanted to take him on their next missionary journey and Paul didn’t. Why? Because Paul was upset with John Mark for wanting to take time off to be with his family. (Sometimes passionate, purpose-driven people don’t see things clearly!)

But after consideration, Paul changed his mind and wrote: ‘Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world… Get Mark, and bring him with you: for he is useful to me for ministry.’ (2 Timothy 4:10–11 NKJV)

There are three important lessons here:

(1) Everyone deserves another chance. After all, that’s what God repeatedly does for you. Now, in extending grace you can get hurt and disappointed, but if you’re going to be Christlike it’s a risk you must take.

(2) Not everyone has the same calling. The person you’re upset with may not be called to do what you’re called to do, or they may have been called to do it in a different way. Never make your personal preferences a condition for loving, accepting, and working with someone.

(3) Look for the best in others, not the worst. The Bible says, ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels.’ That means everyone you deal with has ‘treasure’, but it comes in a flawed ‘earthen vessel’. It also means it’s your responsibility to look for that treasure and value it. Generally speaking, when people feel appreciated they try to rise and meet your expectations.

At Home in God’s Presence

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‘Lord, through all the generations You have been our home!…’ Psalm 90:1 NLT

At the end of a hard day it feels good to come home to a place you know—a place where you can kick off your shoes, run around in your bathrobe and not worry about what anybody thinks. And reverently speaking, God’s presence can become equally comfortable to you too. With time, you can learn to go there for strength, for protection, and for guidance. God wants you to be at home in His presence and aware of His nearness at all times. We think of God as a deity to discuss instead of a place to dwell, but God wants us to see Him as the One in whom ‘we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28 NIV)

When God led the children of Israel through the wilderness, He didn’t just show up once a day and then disappear. No, the pillar of fire was present with them all night and the cloud of smoke was present with them all day. God never leaves us. Jesus promised, ‘I am with you always.’ (Matthew 28:20 NIV)

The psalmist said, ‘The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.’ (Psalm 27:4 NLT) ‘That’s nice,’ you say. ‘I’d love to live in God’s house too, but I’m stuck in the real world.’ No, just the opposite; you are just one decision away from your Father’s presence. You don’t need to change your address—just your perception.

Find The ‘Key Log’

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‘I thought about my ways.’ Psalm 119:59 NKJV

One of the great keys to success in life is having the right approach. But to improve your approach you need to assess where you’re starting from. This may take some time. And depending on how self-aware you are, it may even be difficult. The key is to look at yourself objectively, to separate yourself from your attitude. Your goal isn’t to condemn yourself; it’s to see yourself clearly so you can make positive changes in the way you think.

When professional loggers discover a logjam, they climb a large tree near the river so they can look over the problem and find the cause. What they’re looking for is the ‘key log’ creating the jam. Once they remove that, the river takes care of the rest. An inexperienced person could spend hours, days, even weeks moving logs around without results. The point is you don’t necessarily need to change all your thinking—just the few items that keep you from having the right approach to life. Once you do, your life will begin to flow in the right direction.

Here are some questions that may help you discover the ‘key log’ that’s holding you back. How do you feel about yourself? When do you feel the most negative about yourself? What causes you the greatest problems when dealing with others? Insecurity? Resentment? Inferiority? What negative thoughts constantly control your mind? These are important questions, for ‘as he thinks in his heart, so is he.’ (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV) If you want to change your life for the better, ask God to make you aware of what’s impacting it for the worse.

Which ‘Law’ Are You Operating Under?

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‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.’ Romans 8:2 NKJV

You say, ‘I fall so far short of God’s standards. Will there ever come a time when my old carnal nature will stop acting up, and trying to drag me down?’ There’s bad news and there’s good news.

The bad news is, just as the law of gravity is always in operation, so is ‘the law of sin’ that your fleshly nature wants to respond to.

The good news is, you can access a higher law and operate in it. It’s called ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’, and it overrides ‘the law of sin and death’. The law of gravity says that what goes up must come down. But when you’re in an airplane another law is in operation—the law of aerodynamics. It works like this: the plane moves at a certain speed, and the proper thrust enables it to climb out of gravity’s pull. That doesn’t mean the law of gravity is no longer the law of gravity.

Getting the idea? You ask, ‘What is this law of the Spirit?’ Good question. Here’s the answer. When you’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit and relying on His power rather than your own, which means being sensitive to His leading and obeying His commands, you’re no longer controlled by ‘the law of sin and death’. It’s no longer about trying harder, but leaning harder on God’s Spirit who lives within you and drawing from Him the strength to live victoriously.

Guard Against Intolerance

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‘God shows no partiality.’ Acts 10:34 NKJV

Tolerance is not just about agreeing to embrace our differences. It’s about accepting the other person’s right to believe as they wish, and to behave according to those beliefs. One of the great tests of spiritual maturity is our willingness to love and pray for those whose beliefs and behaviors are unacceptable to us. Instead of condemning people who err, we should see them the same way we see a blind man walking towards a cliff’s edge. Our reaction should not be to condemn him, but to have compassion and try to show him a safer route.

Now let’s be clear: compassion is not compromise—any more than we could accuse God, Who loves sinners and hates sin, of compromise. Why don’t we just emulate our heavenly Father? In the first century Jews looked down on Gentiles and referred to them as ‘dogs’ (see Matthew 15:26–28). But Jesus came and redeemed those ‘dogs’ and turned them into disciples. When Cornelius the Gentile summoned Peter the Jew to his home, Peter was reluctant to go.

He explained, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.’ (Acts 10:28 NKJV) God was uprooting embedded traditions and opening up new opportunities for the gospel. Peter continued, ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.’ (Acts 10:34–35 NKJV)

Could it be that God wants to expand the borders of your mind for His glory? If you’re open to it, He will bless you.

Develop Your Child’s Potential

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‘The genuine faith that is in you… dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.’ 2 Timothy 1:5 NKJV

It’s said Timothy became an apostle when he was seventeen. He was Paul’s spiritual son, and his designated successor. And it happened because of two women: his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Interestingly, his father and grandfather are not mentioned. So, as a single parent, you can raise a winning child. According to a ten-year study conducted at Harvard Medical School, there are six factors related to the eventual intellectual capacity of a child:

(1) The most critical period of a child’s mental development is between eight and eighteen months old.

(2) The mother is usually the most important person in the child’s environment.

(3) The amount of ‘live’ language directed to the child between twelve and eighteen months is absolutely critical.

(4) Children given free access to living areas of their homes progressed much faster than those whose movements are restricted.

(5) The family is the most important educational delivery system.

(6) The best parents are those who excel at three key functions: they are superb designers and organizers of their children’s environments; they permit their children to interrupt them for brief thirty-second episodes during which personal comfort and information are exchanged; finally, they are firm disciplinarians while simultaneously showing great affection for their children. In other words, they love their kids, talk to them, treat them with respect, expose them to interesting things, organize their time, discipline them fairly, and raise them in strong stable families. It’s a time-honored recipe for producing bright (and happy) children.

Avoid Strife

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‘Where… strife is, there is… every evil work.’ James 3:16 KJV

The apostle Paul encourages us to act out of love, live in harmony and be of one mind. He adds, ‘Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.’ (Philippians 2:2–4 GWT) Strife wreaks havoc in relationships. It often stems from an inflated ego and leads to comparing, competing, and condemning.

James points that out: ‘Where… strife is, there is… every evil work.’ So be a strife-spotter! The moment it rears its ugly head—uproot it! ‘Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.’ (Hebrews 12:15 NLT)

If you want to walk in God’s blessing today, try to live in harmony with others. Is that always easy? No, but the sooner you learn to do it, the better things will go for you. When God prompts you to ‘turn the other cheek’, or ‘take the short end of the stick’, draw on His grace and do it. Pray: ‘Lord, give me Your wisdom in this situation.’ He will. ‘The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and… good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.’ (James 3:17–18 NLT)

Bottom line: if you want God’s blessing on your life—avoid strife.

Pursue Change

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‘You will be… complete.’ James 1:4 NLT

If you’re serious about changing your life, well-known leadership expert John Maxwell offers this advice: ‘Don’t just change enough to get away from your problems—change enough to solve them. Don’t just change your circumstances to improve your life—change yourself to improve your circumstances. Don’t do the same old things expecting different results—get different results by doing something new. Don’t see change as something hard that must be done—see it as something helpful that can be done. Don’t avoid paying the immediate price tag of change—if you do you’ll pay the ultimate price of never improving.’

The Bible says, ‘When your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.’ Character building is a slow process; don’t expect it to be easy. When you try to escape life’s difficulties you short-circuit the process, delay your growth, and end up with a worse kind of pain—the useless kind that accompanies denial and avoidance. A letter was once returned to the post office and handwritten on the envelope were these words: ‘He’s dead.’

Due to an oversight the letter was sent again to the same address. This time it was returned with a note that said: ‘He’s still dead!’

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t like change; we do everything in our power to avoid it. We want improvement but we don’t want to pay the price that goes with it. And that’s a problem, because you’ll never become what God intends you to be by remaining what you are. It’s not enough to want change, and be open to it, you must pursue it!

Keys to Spiritual Growth

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‘Until Christ is formed in you.’ Galatians 4:19 NKJV

Here are the three Scriptural keys to help you grow and mature spiritually:

(1) Conception. This results from intimacy between two people who love each other. Now, God’s love for you is clear and compelling (see 1 John 3:1); the question is how much do you love Him? (see John 21:15.)

(2) Forming. Paul writes, ‘My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.’ God knows the tests and trials required to produce in you the character of Christ, and He will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

(3) Pushing. When you’re fully committed to bringing forth what God’s placed within you, you’ll have to push against every negative thing people have done to you or said about you. You’ll have to push against Satan’s attacks in all their debilitating forms: painful memories, feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem. The enemy may have spent years pushing you aside, pulling you back and putting you down, but God will empower you to give birth to what He’s placed in you. And here’s something else to think about: when a baby is born, everything in the family changes. And the same is true for you. When you give birth to what God has put inside you, everything in your life will be affected. God’s blessing is an ‘overflowing’ blessing; it will touch every area of your existence. Just as a mother can tell when she’s pregnant, the same is true in the spiritual realm. So don’t fail to give birth to what’s within you. Now is the time to bring it forth!

Don’t Try To Please Everybody

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‘I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.’ Galatians 1:10 NLT

We tend to fall into one of two traps:

(1) Thinking too much of ourselves. Harry Truman was thrust into the US presidency by the death of Franklin Roosevelt. That’s when Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House, took him aside and said, ‘From here on out you’re going to have lots of people around you, and they are going to tell you what a great man you are. But Harry… you know and I know you ain’t.’ Truman took that advice to heart, and became a truly great president. To succeed in the assignment God has given you in life you need two things—dependence on God and confidence in God (see 1 John 3:21–22). As long as those two things are in place you’ll succeed.

(2) Thinking too little of ourselves. Many of us have made it our goal to change someone’s opinion of us; to prove to them that we’re valuable. Until you stop agreeing with the opinions of those who criticize you, you’ll remain locked in a prison of your own making. When your critic’s opinion becomes your opinion, you’ve built a prison inside your soul with only one prisoner—you. The fact is some of the people you’ve spent your life trying to impress may never be impressed. And you need to accept that—from God’s perspective—it doesn’t matter! To succeed, you must be able to work alongside others without letting yourself be controlled by their moods and opinions. That’s why Paul wrote, ‘I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.’

God Wants to Set You Free

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‘There is a way that seems right… But its end is… death.’ Proverbs 14:12 NKJV

Ever noticed how zookeepers handle an injured animal? Even though the keeper is only interested in helping, the animal doesn’t understand because it is focused solely on the pain. As a result, it strikes out at the very one who’s trying to help. Is that what’s happening in your life right now?

Perhaps people who call themselves Christians have hurt you. You didn’t expect them to be the ones inflicting the pain. You may have been hurt to the extent that you no longer trust anybody—not even God. You haven’t actually said, ‘Lord, I don’t trust You,’ but your actions speak louder than your words. You avoid reading His Word to find an answer. You won’t pray, or allow anyone to pray for you. You try to bury yourself in your job. You move from one relationship to another. You try alcohol or mood-altering chemicals. You spend hours watching television and surfing the internet, and some of the things you’re watching violate your conscience and leave you feeling worse.

What’s the answer?

(1) Turn to God. Give Him ‘all your worries and cares… for He cares about you.’ (1 Peter 5:7 NLT) Give Him your pain, your failures, your hang-ups, and your challenges.

(2) Forgive the person who hurt you. Obsessing over what they did and trying to make them pay just keeps you chained to them. But forgiveness breaks the chain and sets you free. In your own strength you may be able to do something to alleviate your pain. But God can destroy the root of the pain and cause you to walk victoriously into the future.

Don’t Let Jealousy Destroy Your Marriage

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‘Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.’ 1 John 4:18 NLT

Solomon writes, ‘Jealousy is cruel as the grave.’ (Song of Solomon 8:6 KJV) There are many practical applications for this verse, and one of them is that jealousy can cause the death of a marriage. When you’re jealous of your partner, you distrust them and try to control their every move. And that’s doubly true when someone in your past has betrayed you. Your fear of it happening again can make your spouse feel like his or her feet are always being held to the fire. And if you keep doing it long enough you’ll create the very thing you fear; you’ll end up driving them away. Even if they do stay, they may live in emotional isolation without ever fully giving themselves to you.

With that in mind, here’s what the Bible has to say: ‘We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them… as we live in God, our love grows more perfect… Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.’ (1 John 4:16–18 NLT) When you know that God loves you in spite of your imperfections, your sense of self-worth grows and you start believing you are worthy of love. And when that happens, it’s easier to accept that your spouse loves you too and will be faithful.

That’s like getting out of prison—a prison of your own making called ‘jealousy’. Today God wants to set you free from jealousy and give you the relationship you’ve always longed for. Talk to Him about it.

Recognize When Satan Is At Work

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‘He had astonished them with his sorceries.’ Acts 8:11 NKJV

Just as the apostles worked astonishing miracles through the power of God, Simon the sorcerer was able to do astonishing things through occult power. So how did the apostles handle the situation? Did they sidestep it? Coexist peacefully with it? Say, ‘It’s no big deal’? No, Peter confronted Simon, saying, ‘Repent…[that] your heart may be forgiven.’ (Acts 8:22 NKJV)

Today the forces of evil are real and you must know how to deal with them. Jesus said, ‘Behold, I give you the authority… over all the power of the enemy.’ (Luke 10:19 NKJV) The Bible tells us two important things about the demon-possessed man in Gerasa whom Christ healed:

(1) The forces of evil within him introduced themselves as: ‘Legion… for we are many.’ (Mark 5:9 NIV) A legion was a well-trained, fully-equipped division of the Roman army that took orders from Caesar.

(2) They ‘begged Jesus… not to send them out of the area.’ (Mark 5:10 NIV)

That’s because they’d established a stronghold within him. Understand this: you can’t win spiritual battles with natural weapons. True, blaming Satan for all your problems can be a cop-out. But failing to see him at work gives him the advantage every time. You must be wise and know when you’re dealing with natural, human, psychological problems. But you must also be discerning when you’re dealing with ‘principalities… powers… the rulers of the darkness… spiritual hosts of wickedness.’ (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV) How can you overcome them? By taking up ‘the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.’ (Ephesians 6:13 NKJV)

Live A Balanced Life

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‘Come with Me… to a quiet place and get some rest.’ Mark 6:31 NIV

The Bible says, ‘The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty.’ (Psalm 90:10 NIV) If you’re blessed to live that long you’ll typically spend an average of twenty-four years sleeping, twenty years working, ten years in church and on holiday (mostly holiday), seven years eating, six years traveling, four years dealing with sickness, and two years getting dressed. Kierkegaard said: ‘The press of busyness is like a charm… seeking to lay hold of ever-younger victims so that [we] are scarcely allowed time for God to develop in us Christian character.’

It’s a mistake to think that rushing through life buys you more time. It doesn’t. Apart from keeping your adrenaline pumping and perhaps making you feel and look important, busyness can be the enemy of your soul. It can rob you of spiritual growth by preventing you from reflecting and examining your heart.

We’re not talking about the number of things you manage to get done every day, but the quality of your life’s product. You can be busy, yet not be balanced. ‘Come with Me… to a quiet place.’ Solitude enables more than rest, it enables transformation. There are three kinds of solitude:

(1) Brief intervals experienced daily.

(2) Longer ones involving a few days or more away from it all. Despite His hectic schedule, Jesus made a habit of withdrawing from the demands of the crowd to spend time with His Father. (Did He know something we don’t?)

(3) Forced rest. ‘He makes lie down.’ (Psalm 23:2 NIV) Don’t wait until God makes you lie down! Endeavour to live a balanced life.

You Can Start Again

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‘A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.’ Matthew 12:20 NIV

Aren’t you glad that God is a mender and not a discarder? With Him, broken lives don’t have to be the end of the story. He’s often been called the God of the ‘second chance’. How short-sighted is that? If we got only two chances we’d all be miserably, hopelessly lost. But instead He’s the God of the ‘seventy times seven’! (see Matthew 18:22). So He’s the God of unlimited grace. As long as you humbly acknowledge your failure and desire to start again, He will enable you.

The ‘reed’ referred to in today’s verse is a shepherd’s makeshift flute that had withered, cracked, and become worthless. The smoldering ‘wick’ no longer gave light and was considered useless. Both represent people set aside as damaged goods and rejected by others. But Jesus is committed to mend and heal, not break or quench those who have failed. He desires to give us a fresh start regardless of our failures.

The truth is that we all fail! As Adam’s descendants, messing things up comes naturally and effortlessly to us. Abraham lied and put Sarah at risk. Jacob was a cheat and self-promoting con artist. Moses determined to do things his own way and ended up a fugitive. David was an adulterer and a conspiratorial assassin who betrayed a faithful friend. Peter turned his back on Christ. Yet God used each of them to accomplish His will. And He will use you too, because ‘where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.’ (Romans 5:20 NKJV) So you can start again.

Get Rid of the Mental Baggage!

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‘Love… ties everything completely together.’ Colossians 3:14 CEV

If you’re the kind of person who harbors grudges and holds on to past mistakes, even your own, you know what it feels like to be weighed down by mental baggage. It’s hard for a relationship to survive when neither party has processed what happened in the past. Like blame, mental baggage keeps you stuck.

For example, if someone in a past relationship has hurt you and you’ve never let go of it, every time your mate does something similar it’s likely you’ll react with unwarranted fervor, as if he or she was the original person who hurt you. When this happens, your mate is left feeling upset and confused by your over-the-top reaction to a minor infraction that, on the surface, appears insignificant. Just as you clean house to get rid of physical rubbish, you need to keep your mental, emotional, and spiritual house clean and in order.

Praying, reading, counseling, journaling, meditation and exercise are all good ways to help ensure that past issues don’t seep into your current relationships. And when they do come up from time to time, it’s best to talk to the people you’re in relationship with. Just be sure to do it in kindness, truth, and honesty.

The old adage—‘Love means never having to say “I’m sorry”’—is wrong! A more Scriptural motto for keeping mental and emotional baggage in the bin where it belongs, is: ‘Don’t go to bed angry.’ (Ephesians 4:26 GWT) The Bible says, ‘Be gentle, kind…meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love… ties everything completely together.’ (Colossians 3:12–14 CEV)

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

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‘Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you.’ 2 Timothy 1:6 NAS

Don’t let fear make you hide your talents and abilities. God expects us to make the most of all He has given us. He wants our hearts to burn brightly for Him; He wants us to invest in our own growth and to learn how to be more effective for Him.

Paul wrote to the people of Philippi, ‘Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.’ (Philippians 1:9 NLT) He wrote to Timothy, ‘Be sure to use the abilities God has given you…Put [them] to work.’ (1 Timothy 4:14–15 TLB) and also, ‘Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you.’

Just as when you don’t exercise your body, your muscles lose their strength, when you don’t exercise your God-given skills, they don’t maintain their level. Remember the story of the fearful servant who hid his talent in the ground and what happened to him? ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ (Matthew 25:28 NIV) So put your gifts and abilities into practice so that you’ll become more proficient as time goes by.

Maturity and experience don’t spring into instant life the moment you start. Practice, study and feedback all help you grow. Become a lifetime learner. ‘Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval.’ (2 Timothy 2:15 NLT) Take advantage of every opportunity to sharpen your skills. Remember, in Heaven we’re going to serve God forever, and we prepare here on earth. And God will reward us for our faithfulness: ‘Well done!… You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ (Luke 19:17 NLT)

You’re Called to a ‘Special Work’

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‘Each part… helps the other parts grow.’ Ephesians 4:16 NLT

Paul writes: ‘As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body [church] is healthy and growing and full of love.’ Let’s look at two different kinds of growth—symbiotic growth and parasitic growth.

Symbiotic growth is a give-and-take relationship in which both sides benefit.

Parasitic growth is when one side feeds off another but gives nothing back.

So when you come out of church and say, ‘I didn’t get anything out of that service,’ you may be practicing parasitic growth. Parasitic growth is characterized by such words as ‘pray for me, preach to me, counsel me, help me… but expect nothing from me.’ Symbiotic growth is characterized by such words as: ‘yes, I have needs, but I’m willing to give, too, because everyone needs to benefit.’ Your body is made up of systems. These include the nervous system, circulatory system, muscular system, lymphatic system, skeletal system, immune system, etc. These systems rely on one another. They are interdependent. So when one of them goes down, the rest of the body is negatively impacted by it. Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to church,’ remind yourself, ‘I am the church.’ Paul writes: ‘The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ… and God has put each part just where He wants it.’ (1 Corinthians 12:1218 NLT) God wants you to be a fully functioning part of His church. And if you’re not sure what your ‘part’ is, ask Him and He will show you.

When Jesus Prayed (5)

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‘He… prayed…“Not My will, but Yours be done.”’ Luke 22:41–42 NIV

Jesus prayed before He faced the greatest crisis in His life. The Bible says: ‘Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed him. On reaching the place… He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” An angel from Heaven appeared… and strengthened Him.’ (Luke 22:39–43 NIV) Jesus didn’t wait until the hour of His greatest crisis before He prayed.

For three and a half years during His earthly ministry, He had built a life of prayer. Before He raised Lazarus from the dead, we read, ‘Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me… that You always hear Me.”’ (John 11:41–42 NIV) Jesus had such an intimate relationship with His Father that in times of pressure and pain He could go to God, confident He would receive His sustaining grace.

Can you do that? Until you do, you’ll be vulnerable to people and situations beyond your control. Consider this question: do you think Jesus prayed so much because He wanted to, or because He thought He should? The answer is—He wanted to! And if you want to follow in His footsteps and enjoy God’s richest blessings, you need to move from ‘should’ to ‘want to’. Here’s a truth that people who pray know: the less you pray, the less you want to pray. And the more you pray, the more you want to pray. The power behind Christ’s amazing success in life was the power of prayer. Starting now, commit to praying each day.

When Jesus Prayed (4)

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‘Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you.’ Luke 22:31–32 NIV

Jesus prayed when He was concerned about the people He loved. He told Peter: ‘Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you… that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And Peter did turn back. The disciple who denied his Lord in a moment of weakness eventually stood before a crowd of thousands and preached the Gospel to them, and three thousand were won to Christ.

Jesus not only taught His disciples, He warned them of danger. But ultimately He realized that the greatest thing He could do was pray for them. Unfortunately, that’s a truth we tend to arrive at later rather than sooner. We promise, we rescue, we threaten, and only when all our other efforts have failed do we pray.

Prayer shouldn’t be your last resort, it should be your first response. Prayer takes the situation out of your hands and puts it into God’s. Do you remember the four men who carried their sick friend and laid him at the feet of Jesus? (see Mark 2:3–5) That’s what you do when you pray for someone. It’s not easy to pick up the weight of another person and carry them to God each day in prayer. But it’s the most effective thing you can do for them. The old-timers used to say, ‘Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.’ And they were right!

When a loved one disappoints or wounds you, instead of lashing out, lift them up in prayer. Invite God into the situation, then stand back and allow Him to work.

When Jesus Prayed (3)

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‘He departed to the mountain to pray.’ Mark 6:46 NKJV

Let’s look at another point at which Jesus prayed: when the pressures and expectations of others threatened to derail God’s plan for His life.

The Bible says: ‘While it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for You!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching.’ (Mark 1:35–39 NIV) The lesson here is this: unless you get God’s plan and stick with it, others will try to plan your life for you. Given the success Jesus enjoyed in every town He visited, many preachers would have stayed and built a church and enjoyed the accolades and rewards of their ministry. Not Jesus; He marched to the beat of a different drum.

As you look back on some of your mistakes, you find decisions made in response to pressure instead of prayer. When you’re prayerless, you get careless. God has a plan for your life, and a schedule. To stay in sync with both you must pray regularly. Jesus realized He had only enough time to do what His Father wanted done, and that gave Him the ability to say no to other things. You’ve been called to love people—but please God. And your confidence in prayer comes from knowing you’re operating within His will (see 1 John 3:21–22).

When Jesus Prayed (2)

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‘He went… to a solitary place; and… prayed.’ Mark 1:35 NKJV

By failing to pray—you set yourself up to fail. The reason Jesus never failed is because He never failed to pray. Note the times when He prayed: when His heart was heavy. During His ministry on earth, His cousin John the Baptist was arrested and publicly beheaded for confronting a king about his sin. ‘When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew… privately to a solitary place.’ (Matthew 14:13 NIV)

Disappointment, desertion, divorce and death will write their chapters in the book of our lives. Thank God for therapists and doctors, but ultimately there’s no one who can heal a broken heart like God. ‘He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power.’ (Psalm 147:3–5 NIV) Whether placing stars or healing scars, no situation is too big or too small to get the attention of our loving God.

To understand God’s healing expertise, look at the life of Job. Possibly no one in history lost more than Job did, yet God brought him through it all. In Job chapter eleven we read: ‘You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help.’ (Job 11:16–19 NLT) Are you sad and heavy-hearted today? Do what Jesus did. Take time to pray about it.

When Jesus Prayed (1)

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‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ Luke 5:16 NIV

If you want to know about prayer, examine the life of Jesus:

(1) He prayed when the pressures of life increased. ‘News about Him spread… so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed… But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ (Luke 5:15–16 NIV) It’s when you think you don’t have time to pray, that you need to pray most. Spending time with God is the secret to having power with Him.

(2) He prayed when important decisions had to be made. When it came to picking His closest friends, Jesus sought His Father’s guidance. He ‘went out to a mountainside… and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve…[as] apostles.’ (Luke 6:12–13 NIV)

When you really think about it—the truth hits you on the side of the head! We can spend a year, not to mention a small fortune, planning a wedding. Yet amazingly we won’t seek God’s guidance when it comes to choosing a mate to spend the rest of our life with. God is not just the creator of the universe; He’s the CEO who runs it. Can you imagine what He knows about operating a successful business? His CV reads: ‘I am the Lord… who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.’ (Isaiah 48:17 NKJV) Before you hire an employee, form a partnership, formulate a plan, or invest a penny, God invites you to discuss it with Him and get His input.

‘Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.’ (Proverbs 3:6 NLT)

What Will You Be Remembered For?

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‘Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.’ Daniel 12:3 NLT

Dr James Kennedy wrote: ‘Consider the great pyramid of Giza, one of the world’s most massive structures. Someone built it as a memorial to himself… King Khufu, not exactly a household name! The Shah of India built the Taj Mahal as a tribute to his wife, yet he too built in vain; after all, who knows the name Arjumand? And how about the Great Wall of China? Astronauts can see it from space, yet no one remembers Qin Shihuang, who was initially responsible for the largest man-made structure in the world. While these people are all forgotten, you can make a permanent imprint on the world. How? By leading others to Christ!’

The Bible says, ‘Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.’

Louis Pasteur, the pioneer of immunology, lived at a time when thousands of people died every year from rabies. He had worked for years on a vaccine, and just as he was about to experiment on himself, a nine-year-old boy named Joseph Meister was bitten by a rabid dog. The boy’s mother begged him to try the vaccine on her son. So Pasteur injected him for ten days—and he lived. Decades later, out of all the epitaphs Pasteur could have chosen, he asked for three words to be etched on his tombstone: JOSEPH MEISTER LIVED!

Your greatest legacy can be those who live eternally because you shared Christ with them. Jesus said, ‘The words… I speak to you are spirit, and… life.’ (John 6:63 NKJV) What moves hearts? What changes lives? The words of Jesus!

Complaining Doesn’t Help

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‘In everything give thanks.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

The Bible has basically one thing to say about complaining—don’t do it! You say, ‘If you’d my problems you’d complain too.’ If that’s how you feel, read on: ‘Do all things without complaining.’ (Philippians 2:14 NKJV)

Here’s why:

(1) Complaining usually makes things worse. The cycle goes like this. You have a problem so you complain and stay stuck. You feel bad, so you complain even more and end up with stress, but not a solution.

(2) Complaining won’t get you where you need to go. Instead of committing the situation to God, you’re doubting His wisdom and provision. Thousands of Israelites died in the wilderness for doing that. Paul writes, ‘Do not grumble, as some… did—and were killed… These things…were written down as warnings for us.’ (1 Corinthians 10:10–11 NIV) When you overlook your blessings and dwell on your problems, you lose your joy.

(3) Complaining can lead to stress-related illness. ‘A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body.’ (Proverbs 14:30 AMPC) Be honest; how many ‘calm and undisturbed’ complainers do you know? Instead of complaining, start counting your blessings. Author Barbara Johnson gives us this tongue-in-cheek example. ‘A hand-lettered sign nailed to a telephone pole read: “LOST… three-legged dog, blind in left eye, missing top of right ear, recently castrated… answers to the name of Lucky.”’ As a redeemed child of God luck has nothing to do with it, you’re blessed!

So the word for you today is: ‘In everything (not necessarily for everything, but in everything) give thanks; for this is the will of God… for you.’

Break Out Of The Box!

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‘He will bring us safely into that land and give it to us.’ Numbers 14:8 NLT

When others saw giants in the Promised Land and wanted to return to Egypt, Caleb said, ‘The Lord… will bring us safely into that land and give it to us.’ At that point two things happened. ‘The whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.’ (Numbers 14:10 NLT) When the people around Caleb said no, God said yes—and all you need is His approval! When you have that, you can disregard the nay-sayers and move forward. If you wait for everyone to approve, agree with you, and applaud you, you’ll get nowhere.

There was a time when people thought the earth was flat, and that man would never walk on the moon. In 1899 the U.S. Patent Office almost closed because the commissioner, Charles H. Duell, said, ‘Everything that can be invented has been invented.’ In retrospect this statement is ridiculous, but some of us have this same mindset. We stop learning because we think we’re too old. We’re afraid to change careers in case we jeopardize our pension. We don’t pursue our dreams in case we fail or get ridiculed. We’re so used to self-imposed limitations and telling ourselves, ‘I can’t do that,’ we think we can’t do anything. In essence, we’ve built a box, crawled inside, and now we’re looking for something or someone to blame for our lack of faith.

God didn’t box you in—you did—and you need to take the initiative for breaking out. Today decide to do it—and God will bless your endeavors.

Rock Your Box

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‘He… increases the power of the weak.’ Isaiah 40:29 NIV

A little boy was disabled and the doctors of the time said there was nothing they could do to help him. So his mother took an orange crate, put him in it, tied a rope around it, tied the rope to her waist, and pulled him around with her. After a while the boy developed a habit his mother didn’t like: he began to rock his box. Sometimes he rocked it to the point that it tipped over and he fell out. No matter how many times she put him back in, he kept doing the same thing. Eventually he rocked his box until he was finally able to get out of it. Then to everyone’s amazement, he learned how to walk and ended up with a great life.

That little boy did something the doctors and not even his mother believed could happen. He refused to settle for life inside a box someone had put him in. Has someone put you in a box today? If so, keep rocking your box until you’re free!

Other people are self-appointed ‘experts’ at telling us what we can and can’t do. They don’t always celebrate anything ‘out of the box’, which is something out of the ordinary. One of the great promises in the Bible is: ‘He… increases the power of the weak.’

Start reading ‘rock your box’ Scriptures. Here’s one: ‘But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord.’ (Micah 3:8 NIV) Here’s another: ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ (Matthew 19:26 NIV) Today declare, ‘Lord, You promised it, I believe it, and that settles it!’

Know Your Calling (2)

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‘He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also.’ John 14:12 NKJV

Your calling will always be connected to an unmet need or an opportunity to do good. It was in listening to the cries of an enslaved people that Moses discovered his calling. So did William Wilberforce. He devoted his life to seeing slavery eradicated in Britain. Nelson Mandela was a lawyer with the potential to make money. But he chose a different path—one that involved years of imprisonment. And when he was finally set free he didn’t seek vengeance, he sought justice and equality for his people, and changed his country.

Ezekiel writes: ‘I came to the exiles… And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—overwhelmed. At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me.’ (Ezekiel 3:15–16 NIV)

If you want to discover your calling, start praying about situations that trouble you deeply. Usually we try to avoid discomfort, but if you sense that your calling involves helping the poor, spend time around those in poverty. Allow your heart to be moved; carry within you the conviction that things must change, and keep praying, ‘Lord, make me a change agent.’

When Jesus called His disciples, He chose people from different backgrounds: a doctor, a government worker, a group of fishermen. In essence He told them, ‘I believe in you. What I know I’ll teach you,’ and promised them that ‘he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also.’

Bottom line: Jesus empowered His followers to go out and live like He did. And today that’s what He’s calling you to do.

Know Your Calling (1)

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‘What is that in your hand?’ Exodus 4:2 NIV

When God called Moses, one of the first questions He asked him was: ‘What is that in your hand?’ Moses was holding his shepherd’s staff—the one he used each day to lead and protect his sheep. But God had a different plan for it—a greater one! He used it to part the Red Sea and lead Israel into the Promised Land. When God asks you, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He wants you to think about your talents, experiences, relationships, education, resources, your mind and your temperament.

‘Signature strengths’ fall into six categories:

(1) Wisdom and knowledge. These include things like curiosity, love of learning, sound judgment and social intelligence.

(2) Courage. This includes perseverance and integrity.

(3) Humanity. The capacity for kindness, and the ability to express mercy.

(4) Justice. The ability to bring about fairness and leadership.

(5) Temperance. Qualities like self-control, prudence and humility.

(6) Transcendence. An appreciation for beauty, the expression of gratitude, the ability to hope and the capacity for joy. We all have the capacity for each of these strengths, but the ones that resonate most deeply within you are your ‘signature strengths’.

Once you identify these you begin to understand your calling. But be careful; the enemy wants to convince you that God can’t use you because of your weaknesses, when in fact the opposite is true. Who can speak to those who are grieving better than those who’ve suffered loss? Chuck Colson was the chief White House lawyer until Watergate. But only when he became a convict was he equipped to begin his ministry, Prison Fellowship. So, know your calling.

Having The Right Attitude

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‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.’ Philippians 2:5 NLT

How many jobs do people lose every day because of poor attitudes? How many are passed over for promotion because of the way they approach their work and the people around them? How many marriages fall apart? It would be impossible to calculate.

No one should ever lose a job, miss a promotion, or destroy a marriage because of a poor attitude. Why? Because a person’s attitude isn’t set; it’s a choice. Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It’s more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I’m convinced that life is 10 per cent what happens to me and 90 per cent how I react to it. And so it is with you… We are in charge of our attitudes.’

Paul writes, ‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.’ He always approached people with love, grace, acceptance, and a heart to serve rather than be served. So if your attitude hasn’t been as good as it could be, make this your starting point.

Pray: ‘Father, give me a Christlike attitude towards everyone I meet.’

Hold On—Help Is On The Way

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‘The hair of his head began to grow again.’ Judges 16:22 NKJV

When we think of Samson we usually think about his failures—the steamy story of him and Delilah. It’s true that Samson lost everything: his hair, his strength, his sight, his position, his family, and his reputation. The mightiest man Israel had ever seen was now in a Philistine dungeon: blinded, humiliated, grinding corn like an ox—a laughing stock. But it’s not over until God says it’s over! At his lowest point Samson cried out to God for mercy, and got it. ‘The hair of his head began to grow again.’ His hair, which was the secret of his strength, was restored. And as a result his greatest moments in ministry were his last ones!

Today he is mentioned with honor in Hebrews chapter eleven, alongside the other heroes of faith (see Hebrews 11:32). God’s promise is: ‘Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.’ (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV) You may be hurting right now, but be patient, help is on the way. You prayed, ‘Lord, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.’ Hold on, God is coming to your aid. He’s coming to deliver you and set you free. He’s going to bring you out, set you free from captivity, and restore you.

In the Old Testament when Job the patriarch was battling boils, bankruptcy and bereavement, he said, ‘All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes.’ (Job 14:14 NKJV) God restored Job and gave him back twice as much as he lost. And He wants to do the same for you. So hold on—help is on the way!

What’s Slowing You Down?

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‘Let us strip off every weight that slows us down.’ Hebrews 12:1 NLT

The Bible says, ‘Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.’ What’s slowing you down, or tripping you up? In life you only get to run once, so run to win. To avoid stumbling and losing your place in the race, don’t look back. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it.

Don’t be anxious about the next lap, just focus on the next step. If you miss that, you may fall and not get up again. Keep going, and before you know it you’ll have more laps behind you than ahead of you. Make every one count.

Many of us carry the weight and worry of burdens. But older and wiser people have come to understand their burdens are of no real importance. We waste our strength extinguishing fires that, if left alone, would burn out on their own. Time is your most valuable resource. Save it, and you’ve increased your assets and decreased your liabilities. Travel light. Ditch the baggage of self-sabotaging habits and pointless fears.

There are enough painful trials in life; why endure the ones you can ‘strip off’? When blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was within reach, he threw off his coat so it wouldn’t trip him up, and ran towards Him. And his faith paid off: ‘Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus.’ (Mark 10:52 NKJV) You’ll never know how successful you can be until you get rid of the things that slow you down and trip you up.

Shalom

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‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Exodus 33:14 NIV

The Hebrew word for peace is ‘shalom’. And apart from God it will always remain a pipe dream, a philosophical fantasy, or a tantalizing fish that is just beyond your bait and hook. Marriages go awry and fall apart because we look to an imperfect mate to give us the perfect peace we’re searching for, and we discover they can’t.

The story’s told of a woman at a cocktail party who was trying her best to look happy. Noticing the gargantuan sparkling rock on her finger, a guest exclaimed, ‘Wow! What a beautiful stone!’ She replied, ‘Thank you. It’s the Callahaune diamond.’ The onlooker said, ‘I wish I had one!’ The woman replied, ‘No, you don’t.’ ‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘Because it comes with the Callahaune curse,’ she replied. ‘The Callahaune curse—what’s that?’ asked the questioner. She sighed and said, ‘Mr Callahaune!’

Perfect peace can only come from a perfect peace-giver, and the only one who meets that qualification is God. Peace isn’t the absence of problems; it’s the presence of God in the midst of your problems. What’s more, nobody ever finds peace by looking for it. Peace isn’t something you find; it finds you when you surrender your life to the One who said, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Note the words ‘My Presence’.

Only God’s presence can bring peace. The assurance of God’s love, God’s help, and God’s presence is what takes the stress out of living. Are you longing for peace today? When you surrender your life to Christ, you’ll ‘experience… peace… far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.’ (Philippians 4:7 TLB)

Trust In God’s Goodness

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‘The Lord is good.’ Nahum 1:7 NIV

The Bible says, ‘When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come… down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us… gods who can lead us.”’ (Exodus 32:1 NLT) Why did Israel make a golden calf? Because they wanted a god you can see. It’s harder to relate to an invisible God, and Moses, His representative, stayed on Mount Sinai so long they felt helpless and abandoned. So they did what we do when we’re scared—resort to the comfort of the familiar.

Mark D. Roberts writes: ‘How often do we find ourselves in a situation like the Israelites? We hear God’s call to something new, and boldly step out in faith. But when we don’t sense His presence and our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, we feel abandoned, scared, and helpless. We grasp for the familiar.’ The Bible says, ‘The Lord is good… He cares for those who trust in Him.’

Nancy Ortberg says: ‘The difficult parts of change are most often where God lives… All the things I glibly say, in change I have to live out… Most of us go kicking and screaming instead of moving into it with an assuredness that not only is God on the other side, but new facets of Him that we haven’t heretofore understood are also there. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a job loss, a move across the country, becoming an empty nester—if we allow ourselves to push through the difficult parts we’ll discover God is there… and He’s entirely, wonderfully, amazingly, good.’

When God closes one door, He opens another—but you must be willing to walk through it.

Forgive—And Set Yourself Free

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‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.’ Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

Years after her harrowing experience in a Nazi concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom was speaking in a church when she found herself standing face-to-face with a man who had been one of the cruelest guards she had ever met in the camps. This man had humiliated and degraded both her and her sister, jeering at them and visually ‘raping’ them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with an outstretched hand, asking, ‘Will you forgive me?’

Corrie said, ‘I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I knew that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, “Jesus, help me!” Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me, and when I did I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arm, and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother,” I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God as intensely as I did in that moment.’

The Bible says, ‘Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.’ (Ephesians 4:32 NAS) Who are you struggling to forgive today? Rise above your feelings and do it! When you do, you will set yourself free and be able to walk in the peace and joy of the Lord.

Today God Is With You

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‘Although they saw Him, they didn’t recognize Him.’ Luke 24:16 GWT

When you face a crisis it’s easy to lose perspective. It happened to two of Christ’s disciples on the Emmaus Road. Discouraged about His death, they were ‘talking with each other about everything that had happened… Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing Him.’ (Luke 24:14–16 NIV) When you take your eyes off Jesus, you start to feel helpless about your situation.

Dr Michael Youssef says: ‘Facing a major crisis, I tend to be the kind of person whose vision becomes blurred. My perceptions are shot. My contemplations are one-sided. I often shut out the very people who can deliver me, just like those two disciples… Their vision was blurred about the person who was walking with them and talking to them. The one whose death they were mourning was alive… but they didn’t realize it because their focus was on the wrong thing.’

But everything changed the minute they recognized Jesus. ‘Within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There…the two…told…how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along…and how they had recognized Him as He was breaking the bread.’ (Luke 24:33–35 NLT) Note the words ‘within the hour’. In an instant they went from fear to courage, pain to joy, and despair to hope. Paul wrote, ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.’ (Ephesians 1:18 NIV) When you stop focusing on the problem and fix your eyes on Jesus, you get 20/20 vision and you’re filled with hope.

‘Precious Blood—Precious You!’

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‘It was the precious blood of Christ.’ 1 Peter 1:19 NLT

The Bible says, ‘God paid a ransom… it was not paid with mere gold or silver… it was the precious blood of Christ.’ (1 Peter 1:18–19 NLT) You must come to a place in your life where you are secure in who you are ‘in Christ’; where you don’t allow your sense of worth to be based on the opinions or actions of others. Stop trying to find your worth in how you look, or in what you do for a living, or in how people treat you. Your worth in God’s eyes is incalculable because Jesus shed His blood for you.

‘Precious blood, precious you!’ Yes, you have faults. Yes, there are things about you that need to be changed, but God is working on you just as He is on everybody else. Don’t let somebody else dump their issues on you. You’re a blood-bought child of God! Don’t allow them to make you feel worthless or useless because they don’t know how to treat you right, or love you as you deserve to be loved. Don’t spend your life trying to win their acceptance or approval. You’ve already been accepted and approved by God, so make sure your validation and sense of worth come from Him.

You’re redeemed by Christ’s blood, covered by Christ’s blood, and accepted through Christ’s blood. And since His blood is ‘precious’, that makes you precious too!

Satan, who’s called ‘the accuser’, would like you to forget that and see yourself only in the light of your flaws and failures. Instead, get up every morning, look in the mirror, and announce, ‘I am precious, because I have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus!’

The Beauty of the Breastplate (3)

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‘Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.’ 1 Peter 2:7 NKJV

We learn from looking at the breastplate worn by Israel’s high priest that:

(a) we are precious to God; (b) we are close to His heart;

(b) we are close to His heart;

(c) He will never turn His back on us.

You say, ‘If God will never turn His back on us, does that mean we can live any way we please?’ No, and here’s why. As a redeemed child of God, not only are you precious in His eyes, He is also precious in your eyes. So you will value your relationship with Him above all else and protect it from anything that threatens it. Question: When you realize how valuable and precious you are in God’s eyes, does that make you want to go out and sin, or continue living in sin? Of course not! On the contrary, your thoughts will run more along the lines of: ‘This is not how a believer who is precious to the Lord behaves.’ A precious diamond doesn’t belong in the mud, grime, and filth of sin. Its rightful place is close to the heart of God where it sparkles and shines. Knowing your true, righteous, and precious-to-God identity in Christ elevates you above the desire to give in to sin. It makes you want to walk and live as a child of the King. Indeed, holy living is the result of seeing yourself as God sees you—‘in Christ’. Instead of giving in to temptation, you’ll ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus do in this situation?’ Then you’ll draw on His strength and do the right thing. A true understanding of God’s grace doesn’t prevent holiness, it produces it.

The Beauty of the Breastplate (2)

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‘We have a great High Priest… Jesus the Son of God.’ Hebrews 4:14 NLT

Notice two more things about the breastplate worn by Israel’s high priest:

(1) It was close to his heart. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, he went into the ‘Holiest of Holies’ where God’s presence was, in order to obtain forgiveness for the people’s sins. And he wore different things, each signifying different truths. But of all the garments he donned, the breastplate was the closest to his heart. This speaks of how much God loves and values you, and His desire to be close to you. Today He’s saying to you: ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]’ (Hebrews 13:5 AMPC) What a wonderful promise!

(2) The name of each tribe was not merely written on the breastplate, but engraved on it (see Exodus 39:14). When something is written, it can be erased or accidentally blotted out, but not when it’s ‘engraved’. There are two ways you can sin. First by deliberately choosing to, and second by stumbling through weakness. And God will chastise and correct you in order to get you back onto the right path, but He will never turn His back on you or throw you away. No, you’re too precious to Him.

He remembers the price He paid for you and He says, ‘I will not blot out [your] name from the Book of Life.’ (Revelation 3:5 NKJV) As long as you are trusting in Christ, you can be sure of God’s love and acceptance.

The Beauty of the Breastplate (1)

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‘Twelve stones… engraved… according to the twelve tribes.’ Exodus 39:14 NKJV

As you look at the breastplate worn by Israel’s high priest, you see how precious you are in God’s eyes as His redeemed child. The Bible gives us very detailed information about what the high priest wore, and there are no insignificant details in God’s Word.

As we examine this breastplate we see something wonderful about the way the Lord sees us. There were twelve stones on it, each with the name of one of the twelve tribes. And since Jesus is our great High Priest, let’s look at this breastplate and see what we can learn. These were precious stones. God didn’t use common rocks and pebbles found in abundance in Israel; He chose the most costly, rare and precious gems such as sapphire, topaz, emerald, amethyst, diamond, onyx and jasper to represent us. Note the word precious. The Bible says you are ‘precious’ in God’s sight (see Isaiah 43:4). It also says that you were redeemed with the ‘precious’ blood of Jesus (see 1 Peter 1:19).

How do you establish the value of something? By the price someone is willing to pay for it. So here’s a truth you must keep in mind when you have blown it and Satan is condemning you because of your sins and shortcomings. With full knowledge of all your sins—past, present, and future—God loves you so much that He sent His Son to redeem you by shedding His precious blood. And as long as you are trusting in Christ, your value in God’s eyes never diminishes. Why does God think you are precious? Because at all times He sees you ‘in Christ’.

Use Words Befitting A Christian

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‘The lips of the righteous know what is fitting.’ Proverbs 10:32 NIV

When George HW Bush was running for president of the United States in 1988, he admitted he’d made an inappropriate remark about American journalist Dan Rather and White House correspondent Lesley Stahl after an on-air confrontation.

Bush referred to Rather in an unprintable term, and also took God’s name in vain in speaking about the Columbia Broadcasting System. When confronted, he said, ‘If I’d known the microphone was on, I wouldn’t have taken the Lord’s name in vain, and I apologize for that.’ The fact is, he shouldn’t have said it whether the recorder was on or not.

Remember, God’s recorder is always on! The Bible says, ‘A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and He examines all his paths.’ (Proverbs 5:21 NIV) Centuries ago Jesus declared: ‘There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.’ (Luke 12:2–3 NIV)

Take a moment and consider these two Scriptures:

‘The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.’ (Proverbs 15:28 NIV)

‘The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.’ (Proverbs 10:32 NIV)

The first Scripture tells you that a wise person will think before he or she speaks, because they realize every word has a consequence. The second Scripture tells you that a righteous person automatically knows what’s acceptable, and keeps in mind the fact that God hears every word.

‘To Thine Own Self Be True’

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‘A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor.’ Proverbs 21:6 NIV

It’s easier to maintain your integrity than to regain it. It may cost you to do the right thing, but it will cost you more to abandon your principles. ‘Like a bird hatching an egg it did not lay, so are… people who get rich by cheating. When their lives are half finished, they will lose their riches. At the end… it will be clear they were fools. ’ (Jeremiah 17:11 NCV)

In 1994 golfer Davis Love called a one-stroke penalty on himself during the second round of the Western Open. He moved his marker out of the path of another player’s putting line; then later he couldn’t remember if he’d moved his ball back to its original spot. Since he wasn’t certain, he gave himself an extra stroke. And that one stroke caused him to be eliminated from the tournament.

At year’s end Love was $590 short in winnings to automatically qualify for the Masters, and needed to win a tournament to get into one of golf’s most coveted events. Fortunately, the story ends well. The week before the big event he qualified by winning a tournament in New Orleans, and went on to earn $237,600 by finishing second in the 1995 Masters.

Later, when asked how he’d have felt if he’d missed the Masters because of calling a penalty on himself, Love replied, ‘The question is how I’d have felt if I’d won and spent the rest of my life wondering if I’d cheated.’

In the words of Shakespeare: ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’

Let Go Of Your Past

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‘Do not call to mind the…past. Behold, I will do something new.’ Isaiah 43:18–19 NIV

Comedian Jerry Lewis joked that his best wedding gift was a film of the ceremony—because when things got really bad in his marriage he could go into a room by himself, run the film backwards, and walk out a free man! We smile, but you can’t go back and rewrite history any more than you can unscramble an egg. When you dwell on the past it’s always at the expense of the future, but when you learn from the past it has the potential to make your future better.

Whenever you find yourself saying, ‘If I knew then what I know now,’ remind yourself that unless you grow you’ll be saying the same thing ten or twenty years from now. You say, ‘If only I’d been willing to forgive my spouse instead of doling out punishment, maybe I could have kept my marriage together and built a great relationship.’ Maybe you struggle with the memory of an abortion, wondering about the child who might have been and the joy he or she might have brought. Perhaps you’re a good person who did a bad thing and ended up with a criminal record; now you’re saying, ‘If only…’

Well, here’s what God says:

(1) ‘Your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.’ (1 John 2:12 NLT)

(2) ‘I… will blot out your sins for My own sake and will never think of them again.’ (Isaiah 43:25 NLT)

(3) ‘Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth…’ The word for you today is: let go of your past.

Anger Management (5)

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‘Those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.’ Proverbs 11:13 NLT

If you’re serious about managing your anger, here are two things to keep in mind:

(1) Don’t hang out your dirty laundry in public. Keep it in the laundry room. When you’re hurt and angry, spreading gossip about your offender comes naturally. Don’t do it. The Bible says, ‘A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.’ Dirty laundry generally gets aired in two ways:

(a) Embarrassment: you say things when you know others will hear them.

(b) Subtlety: you make jokes about their appearance, their friends and family, their personal hang-ups and habits in order to belittle them. This results in embarrassment for the other person, widens the gap between you, and makes reconciliation virtually impossible. The Bible says, ‘Love covers all sins.’ (Proverbs 10:12 NKJV)

(2) Don’t act in an un-Christlike way. For example, don’t say, ‘He brought it on himself, so let him get over it.’ That may be true, but as a follower of Christ, don’t walk away and leave wounds to fester and become infected. ‘Forgive… just as God forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:32 CEV) How did Christ forgive you? Was it after you’d acknowledged, confessed, repented, and earned grace? No.

Paul says, ‘When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.’ (Romans 5:10 NKJV) Just as God took the initiative, you are called to extend grace to other people before they ask for forgiveness. And even if they choose to remain your enemy, you must forgive them anyhow. Only then will you have peace, your wounds will be healed, and you will be able to put it behind you.

Anger Management (4)

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‘Don’t use… abusive language.’ Ephesians 4:29 NLT

The Bible says: ‘Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.’ (Ephesians 4:29–30 NLT) Notice, when you lash out in anger you not only hurt the other person, you grieve the Holy Spirit. Have you considered that? As followers of Christ we’re called to try to understand what the other person needs. That means not bringing up previously confessed offenses, dragging in other people, or using wisecracks about someone’s weight, color, IQ, or physical, mental and emotional limitations. Don’t bring up things that cloud the issue and keep you from finding a solution. And don’t raise the decibel level in order to intimidate or manipulate. God made you with a capacity for anger because, when handled right, it can be the fuel needed to bring positive change and the medicine that heals. So:

(1) Seek a solution, not a ‘victory.’ Name-calling and ‘diagnosing’ others just makes things worse. Your focus shouldn’t be on what they did, but what you can do together to resolve it.

(2) Acknowledge your flaws and ask for forgiveness. Admitting your imperfections makes it easier for the other person to admit theirs.

(3) For every difficulty you address, give a sincere compliment. Instead of criticizing, try saying, ‘I’m sure this wasn’t easy for you to hear. Thanks for listening to me so graciously.’

Being solution-focused instead of blame-focused gives people something to live up to, not down to.

Anger Management (3)

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‘Out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.’ Luke 6:45 NIV

What you store on your computer’s hard drive can be recalled with a few clicks. Jesus said: ‘The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart… the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.’ And when you download old resentments you grow bitter. When you’re angry, deal with it quickly. Don’t walk around on a ‘slow boil’. And don’t sit around hoping the other person will see the light and apologize to you. What if they never do?

Jesus said, ‘If your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once—just between the two of you. If he will listen to you, you have won him back.’ (Matthew 18:15PHPS) What do you value most—your point of view, or the relationship? When you ‘stuff’ your anger and refuse to deal with the issue in a healthy way, you add another skeleton to your emotional closet. Imagine what that does to you.

Some doctors say resentment eats at your stomach lining, attacks your immune system, and predisposes you to heart problems, cancers, and other physical, social, and emotional disorders. And that’s not all! It preoccupies your mind, drains your energy, and cripples your creativity. It strains your fellowship with God, your family, and friends, as well as denying your offender an opportunity to clear their conscience and make things right with God and with you. Until you deal with the issue, you’ll drag it around like a ball and chain. Refuse to live that way! Ask God for the humility and courage to deal with the issue—today.

Anger Management (2)

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‘My inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things.’ Proverbs 23:16 NKJV

When it comes to practicing anger management, here are two important Bible principles:

(1) Don’t blame people and things. Blaming is a way of evading responsibility while pointing your finger elsewhere. ‘If only you’d arrive on time, I wouldn’t have to nag you,’ or ‘If you’d stop nagging me, maybe I’d start being on time.’ Words like that don’t help, they just antagonize the other person, perpetuate your anger, and fail to get the results you want.

(2) Don’t use words as weapons or a form of control. Instead keep your emotions in check and express them in a healthy way. Remember, your goal is to solve the problem and strengthen the relationship, not leave wounds that fester. Is this easy to do? No—that’s why you need God’s help. The Bible says that your words can crush the other person’s spirit (see Proverbs 18:14), break their heart (see Proverbs 15:4), and destroy the relationship (see Proverbs 18:21). Solomon said that angry words ‘go down to a man’s inmost parts.’ (Proverbs 26:22 NIV) What you say can live in the memory of another person their whole life—all the way to the grave. Is that what you want?

Surely not!

On the other hand, anger properly managed never needs to be regretted or repented of. Learn to discern the difference between the anger you feel and the words you speak. Anger can reveal what needs to be changed in the relationship. So ask God to show you what needs changing—first in yourself, then in the other person.

Anger Management (1)

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‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Ephesians 4:26 NLT

Here’s a Bible plan for growth that includes anger management: ‘Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil… Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them… Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.’ (Ephesians 4:23–32 NLT)

God gave you every emotion you have, including anger. But He wants you to handle it the right way. Note the words ‘let us… tell the truth’. When you’re angry, instead of denying it, use it to bring about positive change. Saying, ‘I’ve been feeling angry because I value our relationship and I’d like to talk about it,’ brings healing and solutions. Pretending you’re not angry when you are is basically dishonest. So is exaggeration. ‘You never listen to me… You always ignore my wishes… Nobody does anything around here except me.’ Such generalizations are untrue and serve only to aggravate and polarize, guaranteeing the problem gets obscured and goes unsolved.

God’s will is for you to control your anger rather than letting your anger control you.

Focus On What Really Matters

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‘Life is not measured by how much you own.’ Luke 12:15 NLT

One day a man was talking to an angel. The story goes that the angel said, ‘What can I do for you?’ The man said, ‘Show me the Wall Street Journal one year from today. This way, I’ll know where to invest my money and become a multimillionaire.’ So the angel snapped his fingers and out came a Wall Street Journal dated one year in the future. The man flipped the pages of the newspaper, studying the listings and observing which stocks would be high and which ones would be low. But in the midst of his joy, tears began to roll down his cheeks.

Why? Because when he looked over the obituary column, there was his face.

God is not opposed to you acquiring and achieving things in life. But He wants you to know that this life can only offer so much, and unless you live each day in the light of eternity, you’re going to waste your time on the wrong things. It’s ok to enjoy temporal things, as long as your main focus is on eternal things.

Paul said: ‘My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.’ (Acts 20:24 NLT) If you live to be one hundred, you may receive a ‘congratulations’ card from Buckingham Palace, signed by the Queen herself. But it doesn’t compare to the ‘well done’ you’ll receive from God for fulfilling the assignment He has given you here on earth.

You Belong To God

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‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you… You are Mine.’ Isaiah 43:1 NKJV

When God redeems you, He owns you. And what He owns, He protects! This is illustrated in the story of Belshazzar. The Bible says: ‘Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords… Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple… in Jerusalem, that… his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.’ (Daniel 5:1–2 NKJV)

Now, if they’d just abused some worthless old cup it might not have mattered, but God valued these sacred vessels too much to let them be mishandled. So out of the invisible sleeve of the night, the finger of God wrote the fate of Belshazzar on his palace walls. ‘That very night… Belshazzar was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom.’ (Daniel 5:30-31 NKJV)

As a redeemed child of God, here’s an unchanging principle you can stand on: ‘He permitted no man to do them wrong… saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones.”’ (1 Chronicles 16:21–22 NKJV)

You may have to fight on foreign soil, work at home in a difficult situation, or endure hardship for your faith. But you can be sure of one thing—God has too much invested in you to let you be destroyed. And any time Satan tries, God will interrupt his party and say, ‘This vessel is off limits—it took Me too long to teach this woman to pray… I’ve invested too many years training this man how to overcome… They’ve endured too much for My name’s sake for Me to let you harm them. Take your hands off them; they’re Mine!’

Set Goals For Your Life

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‘Write the vision and make it plain.’ Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV

Only when you’re clear about your personal goals, can you measure your personal growth. Here are eight proven principles that will help you to establish the right goals for your life:

(1) Begin with prayer; otherwise the ladder you’re climbing may be leaning against the wrong wall. ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but…the Lord’s purpose… prevails.’ (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

(2) Think on paper. God told Habakkuk, ‘Write the vision and make it plain.’ Writing your goals down gives them a sense of permanency, plus it energizes you.

(3) Set deadlines. ‘The vision is yet for an appointed time.’ (Habakkuk 2:3 NKJV) Without a definite beginning and ending, it’s easy to procrastinate and get nowhere.

(4) List the steps you need to take. Then keep the list before you at all times; it will show you the path to follow.

(5) Prioritize the steps in order of importance. What do you need to do first? What can you do later? An organized plan is always better than trying to carry stuff around in your head.

(6) Take action—now. ‘Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.’ (Ephesians 5:15–16 NIV) A mediocre plan that’s implemented always beats a brilliant plan that isn’t.

(7) Do something each day to move you forward. For example, read systematically through the Bible in a year… call a specific number of clients every week… engage in physical activity every day.

(8) Have goals you’re willing to devote your life to. The psalmist said, ‘Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’ (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

Write It Down—Then Tear It Up!

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‘Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.’ Philippians 3:13 NKJV

There will always be people who speak ill of you. ‘She’ll never amount to anything… His parents were nothing, his grandparents were nothing, and he’s going to be nothing too!’ The question is: who are you going to believe, God or your critics?

According to Scripture: ‘Anyone… in Christ… is a new creation; old things have passed away… all things have become new.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV) God says that by His grace you’re going to prove your critics wrong, so stop listening to their negative predictions. Stop believing the family members, school teachers, employers, and so-called ‘friends’ who try to put you down. Turn a deaf ear to racism and sexism.

Jesus said, ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:32 NIV) Renew your mind daily with the truth of God’s Word (see Romans 12:1–2). You may have been abused, misused, rejected, and neglected, but it’s time to forget those things that are behind and start reaching forward. When God speaks a word over your life, as far as He’s concerned it has already been accomplished; it’s ‘a done deal!’ Now it’s your job to believe it, speak it, and walk in the reality of it each day. When someone says something that leaves a scar on your heart and mind, do this:

(1) Write it down on a piece of paper.

(2) Ask God to help you forgive them and to erase the scar.

(3) Tear up the paper, toss it into the rubbish, and ‘press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:14 NKJV)

Get The Mix Right!

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‘It was not mixed with faith.’ Hebrews 4:2 AMPC

In order for cement to become concrete, it must be mixed with sand and water. If you don’t get the mix right, the cement will never become concrete. And just as your body needs good nutrition each day, your soul needs to be fed on God’s Word. But you can’t stop there. You must act on what you hear and read. Faith is acting like God is telling the truth!

If you don’t act on God’s Word, it won’t do you any good. ‘The message they heard did not benefit them, because it was not mixed with faith (with the leaning of the entire personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness) by those who heard it.’

To get the results God’s Word promises, note what you must ‘mix’ in: ‘confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness.’ Why do you go to church and sit down in a pew? Because you are confident that the pew will hold you up. The reverse is also true. You may say you believe the pew can hold you up, but if you never sit down on it, you’re not exercising faith—because you’re not acting on what you say you believe. What does it mean to ‘act’ in faith?

(1) To agree with God’s Word and refuse to say anything that contradicts it.

(2) To wait patiently, allowing God to fulfill His Word in His own way and on His own schedule. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for.’ (Hebrews 11:1 KJV) Note the word ‘substance’. Your faith must be based on something substantial. And that ‘something’ is the tried, proven, unfailing truth of God’s Word.

Don’t Give Place To Envy

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‘Lord… You guard all that is mine.’ Psalm 16:5 NLT

Have you allowed envy to form a ‘stronghold’ in your life? Do you find yourself avoiding or feeling resentful of certain people because of their success? The Bible says, ‘Envy rots the bones.’ (Proverbs 14:30 NIV) and the New Living Translation paraphrases it this way: ‘Jealousy is like cancer in the bones.’

If you find yourself constantly criticizing someone and craving what they have, read these words and think about their implications for you and your family carefully and prayerfully: ‘I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.’ (Jeremiah 29:11–12 TLB)

In essence, envy says to God, ‘You made a mistake when You made me like I am. I want to be like that other person, and have what they have!’ No, God has a unique calling and destiny for you. So instead of giving place to envy, let it motivate you to become the best possible ‘you’—the person God intended you to be.

If you’re fighting a losing battle with envy, here’s a prescription from God’s Word you need to take every day: ‘Lord, You alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land You have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance! I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.’ (Psalm 16:5–9 NLT)

Shout It From The Rooftops!

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‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.’ Psalm 107:2 NKJV

No matter how badly you have failed, God will give you another chance.

After Jonah had disobeyed God, spent three days in the belly of a whale, and been regurgitated on the shore close to where he started, the Bible says, ‘The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time.’ (Jonah 3:1 KJV) King David’s sins were front-page tabloid material. Yet God restored him, and he wrote: ‘He… brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay… set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.’ (Psalm 40:2–3 NKJV)

When God restores you, it doesn’t matter who’s fighting against you. When He raises you up, no one can keep you down. If God has redeemed you—say so. Nobody else can tell your story. Nobody else knows what God has done for you. Nobody else knows how far you’ve come. Nobody else knows what you’ve been through. But you do—you know it was only by God’s grace that you survived.

So don’t allow the devil to steal your testimony. It may have taken you longer than everybody else, but God has given you the victory. The devil would love to silence you. Why? Because when you tell people what God has done for you, someone else will be set free. The Bible says, ‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.’ So the word for you today is: shout it from the rooftops!

Spend Time Alone With God

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‘Be still, and know that I am God!’ Psalm 46:10 NLT

God can speak to you anytime, anywhere, through anybody, by dropping a thought into your mind (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). But because that thought can be crowded out by busyness, He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’

In stillness you can hear God more clearly. ‘Jesus used many… illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand… but afterward, when He was alone with his disciples, He explained everything to them.’ (Mark 4:33–34 NLT) Alone with God—that’s the key.

In High Call, High Privilege, Gail MacDonald writes: ‘Today there’s a strange logic that spiritual resource and renewal are found in constantly seeking new voices, attending more meetings… to exchange half-thought-out opinions… We fall into the trap of believing God is most pleased when we’ve maximized our information, our schedules, and our relationships. Disengagement means silence before God… a time of heavenly discussion during which we listen more than we speak. And silence demands solitude.’ In waiting quietly before God, your spiritual ear is trained to know His voice.

Sylvia Gunter writes: ‘I understand why David had to command his soul to be still… Being quiet is difficult… almost impossible for some of us. But I’ve discovered that my soul and spirit have been starving for stillness for a long time, and now that I’ve given my soul a taste of stillness again it will not be satisfied unless it’s a regular part of my day.’

How Change Happens (5)

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‘And he was limping because of his hip.’ Genesis 32:31 NIV

The Bible says, ‘The sun rose above [Jacob] as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.’ That’s significant, because the thigh muscle is one of the most powerful muscles in the human body. In order to get Jacob’s attention, God touched him at a point of strength.

Once we start thinking, ‘This is what I’m really good at; this is where I’m really strong,’ God may have to touch that very thing to get our attention. Jacob’s limp served as a lifelong reminder that he was no longer to trust in his own power, but in the power of God. He was no longer to live in his own strength, but in God’s strength. And in so doing he became a much stronger person.

Think about it: every time Jacob got in a mess, his first response was to turn tail and run. Sound like a familiar pattern? Do you do that? So God finally said, ‘I know how to take care of that—I’ll put a limp in his walk!’ And for the rest of his life Jacob would have to stand and face his problems head-on, not in his own strength but in God’s strength. How about you? What’s the one thing you’d most like to change about your life? Do you want God to help you? He will—in His own way. He will use the process of crisis, commitment, confession and cooperation. And when God does the changing, it will be permanent. You won’t have to worry about willpower and sticking with it because you’ll be cooperating with God, relaxing and trusting in Him alone.

How Change Happens (4)

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‘Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face.”’ Genesis 32:30 NIV

Change happens through cooperation. God started changing Jacob the moment he admitted who he was and began to cooperate with His plan. Jacob named the place where he wrestled with the angel ‘Peniel’, meaning ‘the face of God’. Each of us must eventually come face to face with God, and when we do He can change us.

In essence God told Jacob, ‘Now we can get down to business. Cooperate, and trust Me. I’ll make the changes you want, and I’ll bless you.’ Notice: God didn’t say, ‘Try hard and use your willpower to become perfect.’ That doesn’t work, and God knows it. Willpower alone doesn’t bring lasting change in our lives. It just deals with the outward circumstances. Internal motivation brings about lasting change, and that’s what God works on. He told Jacob, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.’ (Genesis 32:28 NIV)

Jacob would never be the same. Once you have a personal encounter with the living God, He changes you. He changed Jacob from a ‘cheater’ to a ‘prince’.

God saw his potential. He looked beyond the tough exterior of a guy who portrayed himself as hardened and worldly-wise. God saw all Jacob’s weaknesses, but He also saw beneath the surface: ‘That’s not the real you, Jacob; you’re actually an Israel—a prince.’

And the same goes for each of us: ‘We are…heirs…and joint heirs with Christ…that we may…be glorified together.’ (Romans 8:16–17 NKJV) In the words of Paul: ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.’ (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

How Change Happens (3)

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‘The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.’ Genesis 32:27 NIV

Change happens through confession. When he identified himself as ‘Jacob’, which means ‘deceiver’, Jacob was acknowledging his character flaws. This is an important part of God’s process for changing us, because we never change until we honestly face and admit our faults, sins, weaknesses, and mistakes. We need to say, ‘Lord, I have a problem, I’m in a mess and I admit I made it.’ Then God can go to work. Ever noticed how easy it is to make excuses? We become experts at blaming others and saying things like, ‘It’s not my fault, you know. It’s the environment I was brought up in—my parents are to blame.’ Or, ‘The situation I’m in at work is because of my boss.’ Why do we act and talk this way? Because it’s hard to admit our personal faults and failings, and it can be scary to ask for help. Why do we need to confess our faults to God? To let Him know what’s going on? No: He already knows that! When we tell God we’ve sinned, it is no surprise to Him; He knew our problems all along. We confess to Him because He wants us to say, ‘You’re right, God; I have a problem. I’ve blown it.’ It is humbling to admit our mistakes, but once we do, God gives us access to His power to help change us for the better. And at that point we start to become the person we’ve always wanted to be. The truth is: God loves you just the way you are—but He loves you too much to leave you that way.

How Change Happens (2)

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‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ Genesis 32:26 NIV

Change happens through commitment. When Jacob realized he was wrestling with the angel of the Lord, he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ That’s what it takes—commitment. Jacob was committed and persistent; he stuck with it until he worked his way through it. He didn’t like where he was any more than you do. It was frustrating and it was getting him down. But he was totally committed to sticking with it until God turned it around for his good.

When God gets our attention through a crisis, He doesn’t always solve it immediately; sometimes He waits to see whether we really mean business. We’re so conditioned to instant everything—instant food, instant internet access, instant success—that when we don’t get an immediate answer to our prayer or an instant turnaround we say, ‘Forget it, God.’ The fact is you didn’t get into this mess overnight, and you won’t get out of it overnight. Sometimes God has to remove our weaknesses layer by layer.

Experts tell us it takes six weeks of doing the same thing every day before it becomes a habit. Think of that in terms of developing the habit of praying and reading your Bible each day, or relearning to love your spouse. That’s six weeks… forty-two days… over a thousand hours… and Satan will fight you at every turn. So what should you do? Spend time with God. ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)

How Change Happens (1)

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‘We are changed into His glorious image.’ 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

Change happens through crisis. God changed Jacob’s name, which means ‘deceiver’, to Israel, which means ‘a prince with God’. And He did it through crisis. Realizing he had to go home and face the wrath of his brother Esau, whom he’d mistreated, Jacob became desperate. That night in his tent he wrestled with the angel of the Lord. And the change in his life didn’t come quickly or easily, because we’re told he wrestled until daybreak. But suddenly it dawned on Jacob that he was wrestling with God, and it was a fight he couldn’t win.

Likewise, God will let you wrestle with an issue you can’t resolve, to get your attention. He’ll bring you to the place where you must concede, ‘I can’t handle this situation. It’s too big for me. I need God!’ If that’s where you are today, you’re on the cusp of a breakthrough. If you’re asking God to make you comfortable in the mess you’re in, forget it—it’s not going to happen.

‘As an eagle stirs up its nest… so the Lord alone led him.’ (Deuteronomy 32:11–12 NKJV) A mother eagle withholds food from her children to persuade them to leave the nest and learn to fly. Can you imagine what they’re thinking? ‘It’s my mother doing this to me!’ And God will do the same to you. He’ll allow a crisis in order to get your attention. He knows you won’t change until your fear of change is surpassed by the pain you’re experiencing. Bottom line: ‘The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.’

The Qualities of a Spiritual Leader

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‘Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor.’ 1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV

To be a spiritual leader worth following:

(1) You must be accountable to someone. Someone who knows you well enough to pray with you, strengthen you in your vulnerable areas, and counsel you on important decisions. Authority without accountability inevitably leads to disaster.

(2) Your personal priorities must be in order. Priorities have a way of slipping. Too many of us become successful at the cost of a broken home and failing health. Why? Because we allowed our priorities to slip.

(3) Your walk with God must be consistent. David said, ‘Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.’ (Psalm 119:11 NAS) A disciplined daily walk with God is your best protection against sin. If instead of spending time with God you’re spending it on things that have become more important, it should alarm you. Pay particular attention to the word ‘treasured’. It means to value and protect something, and let nothing threaten it. Take time to pray and read your Bible every day—and guard that time with your life.

Give God your mind every morning when it’s fresh. And if you’re a pastor, your first calling isn’t the building project, the board, or the budget, it’s ‘feed My sheep.’ (John 21:16 KJV) If Saturday finds you searching for a sermon outline on the internet, make some changes. Delegate secondary things and get back to putting first things first. ‘Seek out from among you… men… whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and… ministry of the Word.’ (Acts 6:3–4 NKJV)

God Is Your Unfailing Source

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‘The brook dried up.’ 1 Kings 17:7 NIV

The psalmist wrote, ‘Joyful are those…whose hope is in the Lord their God.’ (Psalm 146:5 NLT)

One author writes: ‘Sometimes when there’s not enough money to make ends meet, people tell us to budget and we chuckle. We look at the situation and say, “No way.” That’s the time to trust God. Your possibilities aren’t limited by past or present circumstances. If there’s not enough to pay legitimate expenses, do your best and then let go. Trust God to supply your need, then look beyond your wallet. Look to your source. Claim a divine, unlimited supply. Do your part. Strive for financial responsibility in thought and action. Ask for wisdom, and listen to God’s leadings. Then let go of your fears and your need to control. We all know money is a necessary part of living—and so does God.’

FB Meyer said: ‘The education of our faith is incomplete till we learn that God’s providence works through loss… There’s a ministry to us through the failure and fading of things. The dwindling brook where Elijah sat is a picture of our lives! “Some time later the brook dried up” (1 Kings 17:7 NIV) is the history of our yesterdays and the prophecy of our tomorrows. We must learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the giver. The gift may last for a season, but the giver is eternal. If the Lord had led Elijah directly to the widow at Zarephath, he’d have missed something that helped make him a better man—living by faith. Whenever our earthly resources dry up, it’s so we may learn that our hope and health are in God.’

How To Maintain Your Peace

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‘Search for peace, and work to maintain it.’ Psalm 34:14 NLT

You can maintain a peaceful state of mind wherever you go and whatever you do. ‘How is that possible?’ you ask. The Bible says, ‘Search for peace, and work to maintain it.’ To enjoy a life of peace, you must first recognize what’s stealing your peace. Satan uses many of the same tactics on everyone, but we each have particular issues.

For example, one person may be disturbed by having to do two or three things at a time, while another may be energized by fielding several projects at once. We’re all different, and we must learn to know ourselves. Satan studies you carefully and knows which buttons to push.

Joyce Meyer writes: ‘I can endure things better when I’m not tired… so [Satan] waits to attack until I am worn out. I learned by pursuing peace what Satan already knew about me; now I try not to get overly tired because I know I’m opening a door for him when I do. It will be virtually impossible to enjoy a life of peace if you don’t study yourself, and know what your “peace stealers” are. Keep a list of each time you get upset. Ask yourself what caused the problem, and write it down. Be honest with yourself or you’ll never break free.’

In the middle of life’s storms you can be anchored by God’s peace. But He won’t just drop it into your lap; you have a part to play. You must ‘seek, inquire for… crave peace and pursue (go after) it!’ (Psalm 34:14 AMPC) So if you’ve lost your peace today—go after it and get it back.

Today Share Your Faith With Someone

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‘A woman of Samaria came to draw water.’ John 4:7 NKJV

One day Jesus met a woman who’d come to draw water from a well. After five marriages, her trust in men was zero—and her self-esteem was into the negative! But after her encounter with Christ, she left the well radically changed.

When it comes to sharing our faith, we learn three important lessons from her story:

(1) Jesus sees the best in everybody. ‘The Pharisees… complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners.”’ (Luke 15:2 NKJV) And when it came to the woman at the well, they were right. She’d been through five marriages and was the talk of the town because she was living with another man. Yet she was the first person to whom Jesus introduced Himself as the Messiah. Why didn’t He do that when He called His disciples? Or performed His first miracle? Or interviewed Nicodemus? Because Jesus doesn’t measure you by your past or your pedigree—but by your potential.

(2) Jesus changes you, then He uses you to change others. This woman was the first person to share the gospel in Samaria, and ‘many… Samaritans… believed in Him because of the word of the woman.’ (John 4:39 NKJV) Out of your brokenness, God can use you to make others whole.

(3) Jesus doesn’t need you to explain Him, just to introduce Him. He speaks for Himself. The Bible says: ‘Many more believed because of His own word…They said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ.”’ (John 4:41–42 NKJV) Today share your faith with someone.

A Praying Mother

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‘Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart.’ Luke 2:19 TLB

Max Lucado writes:

‘Some things only a mom can do… like powdering a baby’s bottom with one hand while holding the phone with the other… Spending the day wiping noses, laundering socks, balancing a check book, and still mean it when she thanks God for her kids. Some things only a mom can fix… like the cabinet doors her husband couldn’t, and his bruised ego when he found out she could! Broken shoelaces… broken hearts… breaking up with your sweetheart.

Some things only a mom can know… like how long it takes to drive from piano lessons to football practice… how many pizzas you need for a sleepover… the number of days left in a term. The rest of us can only wonder… “Mom, what was it like when that infant’s cry first filled the room? Or the day the school bus pulled to a stop, you placed a kiss on a five-year-old’s cheek, waved goodbye and then saw the tricycle—silent and still? How did you feel? Did you cry? Did you smile?” Were you like Mary who “quietly treasured all these things in her heart”?’

A mother who loves and prays for her children is a force to be reckoned with. When a preacher stopped by a house and asked to speak to the mother, her little boy said, ‘You can’t see her right now, she’s praying.’ That’s because Susanna Wesley spent one hour every day praying for each of her seventeen children. Eventually two of them, John and Charles, were used by God to bring a spiritual awakening to Britain and America and establish the Methodist Church. Such is the influence of a praying mother.

The Truth About Marriage (3)

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‘The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.’ Luke 6:38 NLT

The truth about the container: when the offering plate was passed in church, a lady didn’t put anything in. When she complained all the way home about how poor the service was, her little boy said, ‘Mom, that proves if you don’t put anything in, you won’t get anything out.’

Marriage is like an empty container—you get out what you put in. This truth frees you to make your relationship rich and rewarding by becoming a giver rather than a taker. Some people think the container comes filled with romance, sexual fulfillment, and being served in the style to which they’ve become accustomed. They think they can take whatever they want from a never-ending supply—instant, low-maintenance, satisfaction guaranteed!

Then one day they dip in and come up empty. Shocked, disappointed, angry, despairing and hopeless, they conclude that their partner failed, fooled or forsook them. Why else would the container be empty? Then they go looking for a new container. The truth is, it’s your responsibility to make enough deposits every day to guarantee sufficient withdrawals for a rich relationship.

Jesus said, ‘The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.’ Ask yourself what you’d like to have in the container, and how much. Then start depositing towards it. J. Allan Petersen said: ‘There’s no love in marriage; love is in people, and people put it into marriage. There’s no romance in marriage; people have to infuse it into their marriages. A couple must form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising—keeping the box full.’

The Truth About Marriage (2)

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‘Love… cannot be bought, no matter what is offered.’ Song of Solomon 8:7 CEV

The truth about Mr. and Mrs. Right: many who excel in their careers struggle when it comes to meeting people in a social setting. This has given rise to the twenty-first century phenomenon of finding a mate through the internet. Today, in the western world, two out of five marriages begin that way. Generally speaking, dating services profile people based on their age, looks, values, tastes, ambitions and preferences, and help them get together for a date.

Well, guess what? The divorce rate is just as high among couples who met via the internet as those who did it the old-fashioned way. How come? Because ‘love… cannot be bought, no matter what is offered.’

And when the bubble bursts, three things happen:

(1) We cry, manipulate, or pressure our mate. And when that doesn’t work we blame them for changing and making us miserable. ‘He’s not the man I thought he was.’ Maybe not, but he’s the one you married—and, with some exceptions, the problem isn’t all his.

(2) We conclude that Mr. and Mrs. Right are Mr. and Mrs. Wrong. So we start searching for the right one, or give up on the opposite sex as being false, faithless, and fickle.

(3) We realize that lasting happiness can only be found in one Person—God. So instead of trying to find the right person, we decide to become the right person; the one God created us to be… giving generously, allowing others to be real, limited, changeable human beings, and looking to God for our joy.

The Truth About Marriage (1)

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‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:32 NLT

The idea of ‘the perfect marriage’ misleads and disillusions us, preparing us to walk away when fantasy clashes with reality. And it always does! Only when you accept the truth about frail, faltering, frustrating people—and you yourself are one—can you find lasting happiness in marriage.

So for the next few days let’s look at some of the most common misconceptions about marriage. The love bug: We think if we’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right person, love will ‘bite’ us and we’ll embark on a lifetime of bliss. The trouble is, when we are worn out from taking care of kids, jobs and mortgages, the love bug flies off. In the daily grind of dishes, nappies and drudgery, something has to give.

So romance vacates center stage and reality takes over. And because we confuse romance with true love, we mistakenly think love has moved out and we need to follow it. The truth is, love doesn’t die because romance bows to reality. If two people who fall in love are willing to stand together in love through the challenges of life, romance can blossom again stronger and more resilient than ever. Romance may bring us together, but unselfish love keeps us together.

The Bible says: ‘Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It… rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.’ (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 NLT)

Put Away The Measuring Stick!

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‘If you, Lord, kept a record of sins… who could stand?’ Psalm 130:3 NIV

We live in a results-oriented society where we’re rewarded for our performance in school, in sports, and on the job. But God doesn’t think like that. His thoughts and ways are far above ours (see Isaiah 55:8–9). He’s not impressed by empty duty. ‘Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to Him.’ (1 Samuel 15:22 TLB)

Feelings and emotions are powerful, but they’re seldom objective. And when you base your worth as a Christian on your performance as a flawed human being, the enemy has a field day. Satan is called ‘the accuser of our brethren’ (Revelation 12:10 KJV); he wants you to run a checklist of your failures and mistakes. That way he can torment you by reminding you of all the times you lose your temper, criticize, fail to speak up for what’s right, or let a misconception go unchecked to make yourself look better. David said if the ‘Lord, kept a record of sin… who could stand? ’

Even the most disciplined believer has areas where he or she struggles and fails. It’s why we need God’s grace and forgiveness 24/7. ‘He knows how weak we are’ (Psalm 103:14 NLT), and He’s never surprised when, despite our best intentions, we fall short.

Reimar Schultze says: ‘God doesn’t measure us by our performance, but by our love for Jesus. Indeed, in the Kingdom of God our love for Jesus is our performance. Everything else is secondary. Desire to be with Him, to abide in Him, to keep in fellowship with Him, to please Him, is what our Master longs for.’ So put away your measuring stick and be glad God’s not grading you based on your performance, but on Christ’s performance.

Humble Yourself

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‘I… lifted my eyes to Heaven, and my understanding returned to me.’ Daniel 4:34 NKJV

God always responds in love to a humble heart, and He always rejects a proud one. One moment King Nebuchadnezzar was boasting about having built the world’s most advanced civilization. The next moment he’d lost his mind and was crawling on all fours, eating grass like an animal.

But when he repented, God restored him to his throne. He said: ‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to Heaven, and my understanding returned to me… Now I… praise… the King of Heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.’ (Daniel 4:34–37 NKJV) To fall is bad enough; but to fall and not cry out for help, or refuse to repent of your sin, is worse than the fall itself.

Maybe you’re ashamed to let anyone know you’ve fallen. Is your public image so important that you’re willing to continue on in your pitiful state? Are you so deceived that you refuse to acknowledge you need God? Stop being so proud! Isn’t that what caused you to fall in the first place?

Pride is dangerous because it forces you to languish needlessly in a helpless state for days—sometimes years. The truth is, if you’d asked for help sooner you could have gotten up and gone on with your life. But the good news is—it’s not too late to repent and acknowledge your need of God. When Nebuchadnezzar did that, his reason and understanding returned, and he was restored to his kingdom. And the same can happen for you.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

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‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Romans 12:2 NKJV

Sometimes we try to excuse our negativity by saying, ‘It was just a thought, it didn’t mean anything.’ But it does! A wrong thought left to roam around in your mind can take root and grow into what the Bible calls a ‘stronghold’ (see 2 Corinthians 10:4). And when a thought becomes that strong, it begins to control your outlook, your attitude, and your actions.

That’s why the Bible says, ‘Be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude].’ (Romans 12:2 AMPC) Remember, where the mind goes, the man follows! We all face challenges and difficulties in life. You might allow yourself to think thoughts such as: ‘I just can’t take any more,’ or ‘If one more thing happens I’m going to go over the edge!’ or ‘If things don’t change soon—I’m giving up!’ That kind of thinking prepares you to be defeated before you even encounter a problem. There is nothing strong, powerful, enabling, or victorious in thinking you will ‘go over the edge’ or in deciding to quit. Those are losing attitudes, not winning attitudes. Instead you should think, ‘If the attack is this great, then the blessing that lies beyond it is greater.’ Or, ‘If Satan is attacking me this hard, God must have something good in store for me!’

Become a person who is spiritually, emotionally, and mentally prepared for any challenge that crosses your path, and don’t allow yourself to be easily discouraged or defeated. And you do that by ‘the renewing of your mind’ with God’s Word.

Comfortable In Uncomfortable Places

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‘He comforts us in all our troubles.’ 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

God can make you comfortable in some of life’s most uncomfortable places. He can bring you through situations you think you won’t survive, or feel like you’ll be stuck in forever. He can give you peace when you’re under pressure. Before your life is over, you’ll experience loss. Indeed, losing some things will actually help you to appreciate the things you have. It’s the taste of failure that makes success so sweet. You’ll live not knowing what tomorrow holds, but knowing that God has all your tomorrows planned out. Your future isn’t in the hands of your boss, your banker, your spouse, or anybody else. Nor is it in your own hands to control.

All your tomorrows are in God’s hands. And just because you don’t understand the path you’re on, doesn’t mean He isn’t leading you. He promises: ‘I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.’ (Isaiah 42:16 NKJV)

So get to know God, because you’ll need Him. And He will be there when everybody else has failed you. He will be there for you in the dark places. The psalmist writes, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’ (Psalm 30:5 NKJV) However long the night, morning will come—and with it His joy. Looking back, you’ll realize that His grace has protected you, provided for you, calmed you, comforted you, and brought you through. Times and seasons change, but not the Lord. He’s ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV)

You Owe It To Your Child (3)

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‘Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.’ Proverbs 29:17 NKJV

The third thing you owe your child is: correction.

Many parents make the mistake of always telling their children when they are wrong, rather than also taking the time to tell them how to get right, and stay right. Biblical correction involves both. The number one extra-biblical Beatitude for all parents is: ‘Blessed are the balanced.’ When you police a child but never play with them, you’re out of balance.

Note carefully what Solomon wrote: ‘Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.’ The word ‘correct’ means to chastise, to reprove, or to force back to the right way. Always remember that discipline is like a two-edged sword; it’s not only to correct children when they’re wrong, but to direct them to a way that’s right. And you’ll get better results from positive reinforcement than you will from negative reinforcement.

Understand this: it’s not your job to make your child happy; it’s your job to nurture them into maturity. When you do that, their happiness is guaranteed! So you may as well quit trying to win a popularity contest with your children. They may always love you, but there are times when they definitely won’t like you! Don’t be discouraged. ‘This too shall pass.’ Just keep administering the right mixture of nurture and discipline, and eventually they’ll grow to like you again. More importantly, when they grow up, get married, and have children, they’ll have a role model and a plan for success.

You Owe It To Your Child (2)

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‘All children are foolish, but firm correction will make them change.’ Proverbs 22:15 CEV

The second thing you owe your child is: direction.

The Bible says, ‘All children are foolish, but firm correction will make them change.’ Now, it’s not talking about your child having fun, or even making mistakes; that’s a normal part of childhood learning. The Bible is talking about ‘foolishness’. This word has several meanings, such as a lack of maturity, a lack of wisdom, or a tendency to rebel against rules.

If you love your child, you’ll teach him or her that life is built on rules—if you obey them you succeed, and if you don’t you suffer. For example, when your child is caught speeding, the police won’t let them get away with it. And when they fail to pay their mortgage, the bank won’t let them keep living in the house.

The Bible says these are the misconceptions you must ‘drive’ out of the heart of your child. Just as a car that’s out of alignment tends to drift and needs correction, your child is born ‘out of line’ and needs to be corrected by you.

Solomon says, ‘A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.’ (Proverbs 29:15 ESV) Why’s that? Because children left to themselves are left in the condition in which they were born. And they were born in a condition of ‘foolishness’. Therefore, children must be taught to respect authority and to obey rules; they must learn that for every action there’s always an equal and opposite reaction. You owe it to your child to explain that to them.

You Owe It To Your Child (1)

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‘If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them.’ Proverbs 13:24 NLT

As a parent, there are three things you owe your child. The first is: affection. The Bible says if you love your child you’ll discipline them. And you’ll do it in love, and not anger. Don’t buy into the idea that good parents don’t discipline their children because they ‘love them too much’.

The truth is, if you don’t discipline your child it’s not because you love them too much, it’s because you love yourself too much. A Gallup poll revealed that more than 90 percent of graduating high school seniors wished their parents and teachers had loved them enough to discipline them more and require more of them. Like water, we follow the path of least resistance. It’s much easier to let things slide, avoid confrontation, stick your head in the sand, and hope things will get better, than it is to suffer the pain of disciplining a child you love. Keep in mind, however, that the only person who ever got anywhere by letting something slide was a trombone player.

Seriously, the Bible says, ‘Whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.’ (Proverbs 3:12 NKJV) Let that sink in! The greatest and wisest father of all is God. He not only loves, He is love. Yet we read here that our loving God is one who disciplines. Any parent who refuses to discipline their child is really saying they are a better parent than God. Love always does what is best for the other person. And there are times when love demands discipline and training.

Do Your Best To Resolve The Issue

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‘Go and be reconciled… Settle matters quickly.’ Matthew 5:24–25 NIV

Are your talents not being recognized and received? Do you have a particular talent, yet God doesn’t seem to be blessing you with success? This may be the key: ‘If you are offering your gift at the altar and… remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift… go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly.’ (Matthew 5:23–25 NIV) Don’t be led by your wounded ego; be led by God’s Word.

You say, ‘The person I had the issue with is no longer around, yet I’m still troubled about it.’ Read these two Scriptures:

(1) ‘Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’ (James 5:16 NLT)

(2) ‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ (John 20:23 NKJV) Share your feelings with someone worthy of your trust. Pray with them, openly confessing your wrongs and the guilt you feel. Prayer and the presence of an affirming friend can provide you with the peace of mind you seek.

After David murdered Uriah, his lover’s husband, his guilt was overwhelming and he sought God’s forgiveness. But Uriah wasn’t around to hear his confession; he’d been dead almost a year. So David turned to Nathan the prophet and poured out his heart saying, ‘I have sinned.’ Nathan listened patiently and told him, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.’ (2 Samuel 12:13 NIV) Follow David’s example—then put the issue behind you and move on.

Living in a Peaceful State of Mind

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‘You will keep in perfect peace… all whose thoughts are fixed on You!’ Isaiah 26:3 NLT

Who are you trusting to solve your problems, God or yourself? Before you answer, read this: ‘You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You… whose thoughts are fixed on You!… for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and You smooth out the path ahead of them.’ (Isaiah 26:37 NLT)

What a great promise! If you want to maintain a peaceful state of mind, live by this principle: ‘Do your best, and trust God with the rest.’ Some of us grew up with the notion that it’s wrong to enjoy ourselves when we have problems. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we can’t do anything else—at least we can worry and be miserable. Paul addresses this: ‘Do not [for a moment] be frightened…for such [constancy and fearlessness] will be a clear sign… from God.’ (Philippians 1:28 AMPC)

Satan doesn’t know what to do when he can’t get you upset; you’ve taken a powerful weapon out of his hands. By trusting God completely, you’re no longer at the mercy of circumstances, other people, or your own emotions and limitations. Broadcaster Paul Harvey once quipped, ‘In times like these, it’s helpful to remember there have always been times like these!’

The question isn’t: ‘Will trouble come?’, it’s ‘How will you handle it?’ The Bible says, ‘We who have believed do enter that rest.’ (Hebrews 4:3 KJV) When things go wrong—don’t go wrong along with them. Follow God’s leading, stand on His Word, then rest in Him and trust Him to work on your behalf.

God Can Restore You

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‘As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.’ Jeremiah 18:6 NKJV

The prophet Jeremiah writes: ‘I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: …“Can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.”’ (Jeremiah 18:3–6 NKJV)

There are three important lessons in this story for you:

(1) As long as you stay pliable and responsive to God, He will never throw you away. Instead, He will mold you into something He can use.

(2) When others put you down, God will lift you up. A potter doesn’t press down on the clay, he continuously lifts it up and shapes it as it spins on the wheel. And God will do that for you too. David said, ‘He… brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.’ (Psalm 40:2 NKJV)

(3) Notice whose foot is on the wheel. If he could, Satan would have thrown you off the wheel a long time ago, but he can’t. Look under the table and see whose foot is on the wheel: the Potter’s! Nothing can separate you from God’s love (see Romans 8:39).

The word for you today is: ‘As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.’

You can change

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‘Put off…your former conduct…and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.’ Ephesians 4:22–23 NKJV

Mindsets are patterns whereby your mind automatically operates a certain way. That means you can set yourself up for misery by reacting to the same people and circumstances in the same way, yet expecting different results. Maybe you are saying: ‘After all these years I thought he’d change… No matter how hard I try, my family doesn’t appreciate me… How come I’m the only one who makes an effort to stay in touch?’

It’s easy to blame your problems on others: ‘Look what he’s doing. Look how long I’ve waited. Why doesn’t she call?’ We think the answer lies in getting the other person to do what we want, but that kind of thinking is self-defeating; it gives control to others. Your happiness isn’t determined by other people, even though you’ve convinced yourself it is.

An experienced counselor writes: ‘If you don’t like the same results… try pushing a different button. Look at your relationships. Is there a situation that’s going downhill despite your best efforts? Are you waiting for something to change, instead of doing something different? Stop pushing the same button, and ask God for clarity to see the situation honestly and to act with wisdom and responsibility.’ You’re not a victim of circumstances; you don’t have to stay stuck or keep going round in circles. Paul says, ‘Put off…your former conduct …and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.’ The word for you today is: you can change!

Trust Requires Truth

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‘Don’t lie to each other.’ Colossians 3:9 NLT

Deception in a relationship destroys trust and respect. One lie or one act of betrayal can cause a wound that takes years to heal and, in some cases, is never healed at all. The person who hides something is basically selfish, protecting their own interests. They care little about the feelings of the other person. There’s nothing shallower than empty words and lying clichés that have no real meaning.

There are some people who coerce others into a sexual relationship by claiming they love them. Deception at this level is emotional rape! It’s a terrible feeling to be used by someone. The deceiver may continually promise that they will leave their spouse, and the victim holds on to hope. But it never seems to come true. The deceiver makes every kind of excuse possible for taking advantage. When victims are vulnerable, they follow blindly along until the relationship has gone so far that they are trapped. As a sinner, you may have been excused for acting this way, but not as a redeemed child of God. ‘Don’t lie to each other.’ When someone has given you their trust, they’ve given you a priceless gift; don’t abuse it. And if your trust has been betrayed, confront it head-on.

Though you may love the person, back off until they show clear signs of repentance and a willingness to make amends. And don’t give up hope. Sometimes good people make bad choices. If you work at it, and seek God’s help, it’s possible to restore the trust you’ve lost and maybe even end up with a better relationship.

Speak Well Of Them

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‘Do good to those who hate you.’ Luke 6:27 NKJV

When General Robert E. Lee was asked by Confederate US President Jefferson Davis to give his opinion about a certain officer, he gave a glowing report. One of the officers in attendance was amazed at his words and said to Lee, ‘General, do you know that the man of whom you speak so highly to the president is one of your bitterest enemies, and never misses an opportunity to criticize you?’ Lee said, ‘Yes, but the president asked my opinion of him. He didn’t ask for his opinion of me.’

It takes character, compassion and courage to speak well of a critic. But when you do, three good things happen:

(1) You increase your own value. You show you’re able to rise above criticism by bestowing praise on another.

(2) You defuse your enemy’s criticism of you. When people hear your praise of a critic and their disdain for you, their respect for you rises and they see you in a different light.

(3) People see you as fair-minded and generous. It takes very little effort to respond in kind to a critic, but it takes Christ-like character to turn the other cheek and bless them.

Jesus said: ‘Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also… And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.’ (Luke 6:27–31 NKJV) You say, ‘That’s a high standard.’ It’s the one Jesus set, practiced throughout His life, and is calling you to live by today.

Go By The Book

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‘Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.’ Hebrews 10:35 NKJV

How long should you keep praying and believing God for the answer? Until He tells you differently. In other words, go by the book! ‘Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.’ (Hebrews 10:35–36 NKJV) Many of God’s promises have timelines, and you need long-distance faith to receive them. The word endurance pictures a runner determined to reach the finish line. You say, ‘But I’m not sure what God’s will is.’ His will is revealed in His Word, and that’s what you must believe and speak over your situation. To say otherwise is to contradict God.

Abraham stood on God’s promise that he’d be the father of many nations when there wasn’t a shred of evidence to prove it. For twenty years he looked up into the night sky believing, ‘Lord, You said my children would be as numerous as the stars. I don’t know how You’re going to do it for I’m a hundred years old and my wife, Sarah, is ninety. But I’m going to believe You anyway.’ When you pray that way, you risk looking foolish in the eyes of others.

But receiving the miraculous often involves looking ridiculous, like Jesus telling the disciples to fill wine pots with water or rubbing clay in a blind man’s eyes. But the guests at the wedding in Cana drank the finest wine, and the blind man went home seeing. Why? Because they obeyed the word Jesus gave them. So the word for you today is: go by the Book.

God Will Make It Up To You

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‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.’ Joel 2:25 NIV

Kristine Steakley writes: ‘Loss can make us feel forsaken and utterly destroyed… For many, divorce meant leaving the house we grew up in, our neighborhood, our friends, our school… even our church because we were ashamed and heard condemnation from those who should have been concerned for our souls. To use Joel’s metaphor, locusts ate our family; more locusts ate our friendships… and still more ate our church… But God promised, “Never again will My people be shamed” (Joel 2:26).

I can’t tell you what restoration will look like… or when it’ll happen. Some of us will see relationships with parents and siblings mended… others will build great marriages and loving families… and some may have to wait for Heaven where all wrongs will be righted, all wounds healed, all tears wiped away.’

Kristin Armstrong says: ‘Resist the temptation to despair or delve into disappointment. You may feel like you’ve forfeited years, opportunities, finances, and a significant return on investment of self. But hear the fantastic promise of redemption: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” No one on earth can make anything up to you. No one can pay. No one can set things right or make things fair. Pressure and manipulation won’t bring justice. So let it go and let God fill your life with new blessings. If you’re full of resentment and wrath He can’t find space for His gifts. God will make it up to you if you keep an expectant attitude of faith, and thank Him that His promises are yours.’

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

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‘Nor will I flatter any man.’ Job 32:21 NIV

When Stephen Spielberg was a skinny teenager, he became the target of a bully. Fed up with the constant harassment which he later described as ‘hell on earth’, he decided to flatter the bully by telling him he looked like John Wayne and should consider playing the hero in an eight-millimetre movie about World War ll he was thinking of making. Once Spielberg outfitted him and cast him as a heroic squad leader, the bully became putty in his hands. However, unlike Spielberg’s bully, emotionally healthy people only appreciate sincere praise they have earned. And they can detect a compliment given with an ulterior motive or to gain their favor.

The paradox is that most people tend to look with disfavor on someone who compliments them, for no apparent reason. Elihu—the patriarch Job’s friend—said, ‘I will show partiality to no one, nor will I flatter any man; for if I were skilled in flattery, my Maker would soon take me away.’ (Job 32:21–22 NIV) And the psalmist tells us, ‘The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips.’ (Psalm 12:3 KJV) So here’s the question: is flattery worth being cut off from the blessing of God?

When you engage in or become susceptible to flattery, it’s clear evidence of your lack of faith in God’s ability to give you favor with other people. Favor is a fringe benefit of being in right standing with Him. ‘Surely… Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield.’ (Psalm 5:12 NIV)

The Wonder Of Grace

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‘For by grace you have been saved through faith.’ Ephesians 2:8 NRS

Some of us live as if God has a big performance chart with our name on it and, at the end of each day, He grades us to determine if He will love us more, or less, or at all.

You say, ‘If I were God, some days I wouldn’t love me.’ Then be glad you’re not God, and we’ll all be twice as glad—or we’d all be sunk! God does not save us by grace and then base how He feels about us on our spiritual performance. The Bible says, ‘God… out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.’(Ephesians 2:4–5 NRS) The wonder of grace is that you are chosen, you are wanted, and God desires you for His family. By grace you have been made alive to God. You have strength to endure, power to serve, a reason to hope, and death has no hold over you. God took your indebtedness and guilt and nailed it to the cross. He erased the bill; He destroyed the I.O.U. and set you free. Unburdened. Cleansed.

Today you can live with a heart as light as a feather—no matter what you did yesterday. The truth is that no one in Heaven will ever boast, ‘Look what Jesus and I did.’ No, when Jesus cried from the cross, ‘It is finished’ (see John 19:30), God wrote ‘PAID IN FULL’ over every sin you would commit—all the way from the cradle to the grave. This is the wonder of grace.

Unmoved By Any Circumstance

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‘Those who trust in the Lord are… unmoved by any circumstance.’ Psalm 125:1 TLB

By age twenty-nine, author Carson McCullers had suffered three strokes. Then while she was still crippled and partially paralyzed, her husband committed suicide. Despite her problems she forced herself to write every day, and as a result became a distinguished novelist.

The English poet John Milton was blind. World-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman had polio. Former Miss America Heather Whitestone is deaf. Stephen Hawking, physicist and lecturer at Cambridge University, has motor neurone disease. No wonder Thomas Edison said if we did all the things we were capable of doing, we’d astound ourselves!

So, what’s the secret to enduring and enjoying life? It’s this: ‘Those who trust in the Lord are… unmoved by any [did you get that—any] circumstance.’

Despite how you feel today, your problems aren’t insurmountable. The Bible says, ‘God can do what men can’t.’ (Luke 18:27 TLB) And what’s more, He listens to ‘the prayers of the destitute… He is never too busy.’ (Psalm 102:17 TLB) Einstein said, ‘In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.’

The same God who guided Abraham when he didn’t have a clue where he was going, gave Sarah a child in her old age, rolled back the Red Sea, and raised Jesus from the dead, is alive and working in your life. So ‘be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.’ (Ephesians 6:10 KJV) Remember, His chariots of deliverance ‘are…thousands and thousands of thousands.’ (Psalm 68:17 NIV) Today take heart! ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you.’ (Deuteronomy 33:27 NLT)

Be An Encourager

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‘Anxiety in the heart… causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.’ Proverbs 12:25 NKJV

When Enrico took his first voice lesson at ten, the teacher said, ‘You haven’t any voice at all.’ But Enrico’s mother heard greatness in her son’s voice. She believed in his talent. And even though they were very poor she put her arms around him and said, ‘My boy, I’m going to make every sacrifice to pay for your voice lessons.’ Her confidence in him and her constant encouragement paid off, because he became one of the most beloved and widely acclaimed singers of all time. His name? Enrico Caruso.

When the world tries to tear us down, we need people who build us up, people who recognize our talent and help us make the most of it. Consider these ‘commands for parents’, written from a child’s point of view:

(1) My hands are small; please don’t expect perfection whenever I make a bed, draw a picture, or throw a ball.

(2) My legs are short; slow down so that I can keep up with you.

(3) My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; let me explore it safely, and don’t restrict me unnecessarily.

(4) Housework will always be there; I’m only little for a short time. Take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.

(5) My feelings are tender; don’t nag me all day long. Treat me as you would like to be treated.

(6) I am a special gift from God; treasure me as God intended you to—holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner. Today, be an encourager!

You Must Go Through the Fire

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‘I have refined you…for My own sake.’ Isaiah 48:10–11 NKJV

Undercover Boss is a popular TV show where company owners disguise themselves as regular staff members and work with everybody else. Some of the discoveries they make are real eye-openers—leading to changes that make the company more efficient, profitable, and enjoyable for everybody to work in. To ‘understand’ people, you have to ‘stand’ in their shoes. Ezekiel said, ‘Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib… and I sat where they sat, and… the word of the Lord came to me.’ (Ezekiel 3:15–16 NKJV)

In order to heal the pain, you must be able to feel the pain. The Bible says Jesus can be ‘touched with the feelings of our infirmities’, because He walked in our shoes (see Hebrews 4:15). He experienced family conflict, rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and hunger. He walked the path you’re on and He knows how you feel; that’s why you can turn to Him when you’re in trouble and get the help you need. ‘For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.’ (Hebrews 2:18 NKJV)

When you offer advice, people want to know if you’re speaking out of experience or just head knowledge. So God will permit you to go through experiences you don’t enjoy or understand, to equip you and make you effective in ministering to others. Job said, ‘When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.’ (Job 23:10 NKJV) If you’re in the refiner’s fire today, it’s because God has something He plans to do through you and for you.

Be Proactive

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‘How long will you neglect to go and possess the land…?’ Joshua 18:3 NKJV

When it comes to building good relationships, you must be proactive. This calls for knowing who you are as a person, and what you want from the relationship. While it seems counterintuitive to focus on who you are individually versus who the two of you are as a couple, the whole is only as strong as the parts. Great relationships are based on each party being truthful and up-front about their real needs, desires, feelings, and values. While as a couple you must make decisions together, decisions about who you are as a person and what you want your life to be are yours alone to make. Allowing someone else to make those decisions for you is a mistake. When you let someone else decide who you are and what you want, you give away the power that God gave you.

Understand this: (1) Doing nothing is not making a decision. (2) Sitting back and pretending not to see a situation for what it is, is not a decision. (3) Procrastinating about what to do until something happens where you’ve no choice but to go one way or the other is not a decision. It’s passivity, and in the end it won’t serve you well.

Sometimes you have to accept unchangeable circumstances, but you always have the choice to decide what you want to be within them. This principle is taught clearly by what God told His people on the threshold of the Promised Land: ‘How long will you neglect to go in and possess the land which the Lord… has given you?’ So, be proactive.

Anger

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‘They do not know what they are doing.’ Luke 23:34 NIV

Max Lucado writes: ‘It begins as a drop of water… Someone gets your parking place, pulls in front of you on the motorway, a waitress is slow and you’re in a hurry, the toast burns… Get enough of these seemingly innocent drops of anger and you’ve got a bucket full of rage… We trust no one…bare our teeth at anyone who gets near… become walking time bombs that, given the right amount of tension and fear, could explode… We can’t deny…anger exists. How do we harness it? Jesus said about the mob that killed him, “Father, forgive them…they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV)… He saw this bloodthirsty, death-hungry crowd not as murderers, but as victims… He saw in their faces not hatred, but confusion… He regarded them not as a militant mob but “like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34 NIV) “They don’t know what they are doing…”

Think about it… they hadn’t the faintest idea…They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they couldn’t see so they took it out on, of all people, God. They didn’t know what they were doing, and for the most part neither do we. Much as we hate to admit it, we’re shepherdless sheep… born out of one eternity and frighteningly close to another… We can’t answer our own questions about love and hurt… can’t solve the riddle of aging… don’t know how to heal our own bodies or get along with our mates… My point is: uncontrolled anger won’t better our world… sympathetic understanding will. Once we begin to operate not from a posture of anger but of compassion… we realize the lights are out… a lot of people are stumbling in the darkness… So we light candles.’

Develop An Overcoming Attitude

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‘He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.’ 1 John 4:4 NKJV

The disappointments of life can cause you to see nothing but negativity in your future. You express hopelessness, belittle your own abilities, refuse to take any risk, say no to personal growth opportunities, complain about the unfairness of life, and say that nothing you do will make a difference in a particular circumstance. Do you recognize any of these attitudes in yourself? If so, there’s good news.

Dr Paul Meier, a Christian psychiatrist, said, ‘Attitudes are nothing more than habits of thought, and habits can be acquired. An action repeated becomes an attitude realized.’ That means with practice, you can develop an overcoming attitude. Here’s how:

(1) Be honest about your quest to conquer pessimism. Give someone you respect the permission to point out when you are being negative.

(2) Limit your exposure to negative input. Since you become like the company you keep, look for people who fortify your faith and not feed your fears. ‘Walk with the wise and become wise.’ (Proverbs 13:20 NLT)

(3) Volunteer to serve others who are less fortunate. Serving creates positive feelings and gives you a sense of value; it’s also the right thing to do.

(4) Look for the good in every situation and always express faith that it’s there! US President Harry Truman said, ‘A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities, and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.

When you face a difficulty today, see it as an opportunity because ‘He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.’

Do You Believe This?

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‘I am the Resurrection and the Life… Everyone who…believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?’ John 11:25-26 NLT

We struggle with the idea of our own mortality. It’s alleged that Florence Nightingale feared death so much, after the Crimean War she went to bed and basically stayed there until she died in 1910.

Chuck Swindoll says we skirt the subject by using:

‘(1) Humour. Making a joke of it keeps death at a safe distance so we never have to face reality.

(2) Denial. King Louis XIV of France wouldn’t allow the word “death” to be uttered in his presence. But on September 1, 1715, he discovered that death can’t be wished out of existence. People spend so much on anti-aging creams, Botox, and plastic surgery to avoid seeing evidence of death’s approach.

(3) Romanticism. A man in Europe built a special room where he can live with his dead wife. His bed is next to her casket. He decorated the room with flowers and candles. He writes her poetry every day in a romantic attempt to avoid the pain of her passing.

(4) Fear. Observe fellow passengers on an aeroplane when turbulence causes sudden drops and vibrations. Young and old alike scream and cry out.’ The good news is you don’t have to fear death! The One who defeated it said, ‘Because I live, you also will live.’ (John 14:19 NIV)

When you repent and commit your life to Christ, you have His personal guarantee of eternal life. After Lazarus died, Jesus told his sister Martha: ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life… Everyone who… believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?’ If you do, you’ll live forever with Christ.

Keep The Fire Burning

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‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us…?’ Luke 24:32 NKJV

After the resurrection Jesus met two of His disciples who’d seen Him crucified and didn’t know He’d been raised from the dead. Then later as He ate supper with them at their house, an interesting thing happened: ‘Their eyes were opened… they knew Him… and they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”’ (Luke 24:31–32 NKJV)

This story has much to teach us about keeping the fire of love and devotion to Christ burning in our hearts. As you walk with Jesus and spend time in His presence, He talks to you and reveals Himself through the Scriptures. We all know that to keep a fire burning you must tend it, stoke it, and keep fuelling it.

Why do some of us go on to higher heights and deeper depths in our walk with God, while others seem to go around in circles without getting anywhere? Because one group commits itself to pursuing God until His presence becomes a daily reality in their lives, while the other group doesn’t. It’s that simple. The question is, which group are you in? If you’re lukewarm and half-hearted in your walk with God, today He is saying to you, ‘Return to Me… and I will return to you.’ (Zechariah 1:3 NKJV) Or in layman’s terms: ‘Turn around and come back. You’ll find Me where you left Me.’

So the word for you today is: keep the fire burning.

Calvary Was Always Part of God’s Plan

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‘But it was the Lord’s good plan to … cause Him grief.’ Isaiah 53:10 NLT

The psalmist wrote: ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me…I am…a reproach of men, and despised…All those who see Me ridicule Me…saying, “He trusted in the Lord… let Him deliver Him”…I am poured out like water…My bones are out of joint… My tongue clings to My jaws… They pierced My hands and… feet… and for My clothing they cast lots.’(Psalm 22:1–18 NKJV)

Think about it: David could be describing Jesus’ crucifixion in detail. Yet when he wrote these words crucifixion hadn’t been introduced as a form of execution. It was initiated centuries later by the Phoenicians, and long after that, it was adopted by the Roman Empire. Dr Charles Augustus Briggs says: ‘You can take this psalm… lay it side-by-side with New Testament accounts of the crucifixion… and see how they dovetail perfectly. It’s astonishing that someone could describe something so intimately and intricately a thousand years before it happened.’ Calvary wasn’t the result of happenstance.

Long before Jesus came on the scene, God had a plan to reconcile us to Himself through Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). Historian Paul L. Maier says: ‘In Isaiah chapter 53 we have almost a running commentary on what happened on Good Friday… It would be mathematically impossible for anyone else to fulfill all these parameters of prophecy in the Old Testament better than Jesus.’ Bottom line: ‘It’s what God had in mind all along… that He give Himself as an offering for sin.’ That means long before there was an Easter, God was thinking about you!

Jesus Doesn’t Condemn, He Cleanses

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‘Go. From now on sin no more.’ John 8:11 NAS

The Bible says: ‘The Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery…they said to [Jesus]…“in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.”’ Jesus replied: ‘“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”…When they heard it, they began to go out one by one…Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”’ (John 8:3–11 NAS)

Notice two things:

(1) Those least qualified to condemn you, will. Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees. They made a practice of lifting themselves up by putting others down. Their aim that day was to trap Him by exposing her. Steer clear of modern-day Pharisees! Find your friends among those who’ve been redeemed by grace, and know how to extend it to others.

(2) The One most qualified to condemn you, won’t. Stay close to Him. When you do, you’ll discover your scars aren’t permanent and you’ll recover much more quickly. Christ will meet you in your dark places and heal the wounds of your past because His grace is greater than your shame. Where sin abounds—His grace super-abounds! There’s no limit to the depth of shame He can see us through, because there’s no limit to the grace He can supply.

Today, if you’re feeling the weight of your shameful past and sinful ways, come to Jesus. He’s ready to forgive you and set you free. But His invitation to freedom reads ‘R.S.V.P.’

God Is At Work In Your Circumstances

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‘[His] power…is at work within us…to [carry out His purpose].’ Ephesians 3:20 AMP

Jon Walker writes: ‘We manage time, waste time, spend time, and save time. We wish it would come… we wish it would pass… we see time fly… we feel it drag. We watch clocks and carry calendars… yet God controls time. He created time, and His creations are fenced by His time, directed and guided by His loving hand.

We’re surprised by unexpected developments, but God is never surprised by even the most disastrous turn of events. And your outlook on life changes dramatically when you know that at this very moment God is working within you “to carry out His purpose”. Think about how you’d live if you were absolutely certain God was at the end of your deadline. That even if there were mere seconds left, you believed with certainty He was working through your circumstances. Believing God is there and about to provide is the essence of faith. “Jesus…is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NLT)

Time can’t diminish His love or His power to work within your life. He was there in the past; He’s present in the now, and He’ll be there in the future.’ The truth is, God has time in the palm of His hand. ‘…a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday…’(Psalm 90:4 ESV) God’s ultimate goal is to bring to eternity, not just get you through to the weekend. Remind yourself that in every situation: ‘[His] power…is at work within us…to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly…above all that we [dare] ask or think…[beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams].’

Be Willing To Learn From Others

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‘Happy is the man who finds wisdom.’ Proverbs 3:13 NKJV

Certain people can make us feel ‘less than’ when we’re in their company, but truly wise and mature people never try to do that. If you’ve had a bad experience with this, don’t allow it to drive you back in defeat. If you don’t stand near a ruler, you won’t be able to measure your growth or monitor how much you’ve developed. Whatever successful people know, they haven’t always known it—they had to learn and grow too. So don’t pretend you know what you don’t know. It’s best to speak genuinely and sincerely, asking questions when appropriate. Most successful people enjoy a chance to discuss and share what they know, so take advantage of this.

Fear of rejection keeps us from going forward in life and in relationships. You’d be surprised how many people limit themselves to socializing only with those who are comparable to them. They feel uncomfortable the moment they’re surrounded by people who are different from them. An important part of your development occurs when you decide to cross the tracks and relate to people who are ahead of you in some way. These relationships create a chance for you to grow. It’s not wrong to lack knowledge; it’s wrong to be unwilling to learn.

Joshua learned the principles of good leadership from Moses. Ruth learned how to find the right relationship by listening to Naomi. Make this Scripture a guiding principle of your life: ‘Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.’

Were You Really ‘Born That Way’?

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‘I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.’ Psalm 51:5 GWT

Whether your struggle is with alcohol, drugs, sex, anger, gossip, unforgiveness, stealing, lying, or gambling, one thing’s certain—we are all born with a propensity towards certain behaviors. So it’s not a genetics issue, it’s a spiritual issue. It’s not about science, it’s about sin. Any of us might find ourselves struggling with these issues—not because we inherited a gene for it, but because we inherited Adam’s fallen nature the day we were conceived.

David said, ‘I was born guilty. I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.’ Solomon said there are no exceptions: ‘Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT) So the answer is yes, we were all ‘born that way’. The reason these behaviors come naturally to us is not because we ‘can’t help being the way we are’; it’s because our sin nature is stronger than our desire to please God. Even when we try, at times we lose the fight! Paul, the greatest of Christians, admitted to failing when he tried to do right. ‘I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.’ (Romans 7:18 NIV) So if we are all born that way, what’s the good news?

Paul gives it to us: ‘Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.’ (Romans 7:24–25 NLT) When you were born you received Adam’s corrupt nature, but through the new birth you receive Christ’s sin-conquering, life-changing, righteous nature!

You’re Qualified For The Job

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‘God has chosen.’ 1 Corinthians 1:27 NKJV

People are often drawn to us because of our difference, not our similarity. So don’t fail them by downplaying the things God has given you that qualify you to meet their needs. The disciples didn’t blend in, they stood out, and the world they lived in took note that ‘they had been with Jesus.’ (Acts 4:13 KJV) They preached His message, used His methods, and demonstrated His miracles. At Antioch they were first called ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26). That’s because they talked and acted so much like Christ. What a compliment! What a calling! What a challenge!

Because a cleaning lady told a Syrian general about her God, he was healed of leprosy (see 2 Kings 5). Because Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams when others couldn’t, he saved the world from famine (see Genesis 41). Because a boy offered Jesus what he had—five loaves and two fish—a multitude of hungry people was miraculously fed (see Mark 6:34-44).

When it comes to hiring, personality profiling is a useful tool for discovering someone’s suitability for a job. But it’s different in God’s Kingdom. When God calls you, He equips you. Do you think you’re not qualified? Who told you that? Not God! His Word says: ‘God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise… the weak things… to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things… which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.’ (1 Corinthians 1:27–29 NKJV)

So, the word for you today is—you’re qualified for the job!

Simplifying Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

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‘Do not worry about your life.’ Matthew 6:25 NKJV

Thoreau said, ‘Our lives are frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.’ Jesus put it another way: ‘Do not worry about your life… the birds… neither sow… reap nor gather into barns…yet your…Father feeds them.’ (Matthew 6:25–26 NKJV)

Charlie Shedd pastored a large church with many demands. He and his wife created a simplicity list:

Make sure you need to simplify. Your problem may be inertia… because you aren’t doing enough. Selfishness never simplifies—it complicates.

Remember why you’re here. Put God’s will first. You unclutter by having a pivotal purpose on which your life swings.

Drop useless goals. Don’t wear yourself out on meaningless pursuits. You frustrate yourself by dedicating your life to the unimportant.

You can’t do everything. If God intended you to be six people, he’d have divided you up! Leave some ‘world building’ to others.

Live one day at a time. Plan and hope for the future—but don’t live there. ‘Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ (Matthew 6:34 NIV) Live well today and tomorrow’s strength will come.

Wherever you are—be there. Stop thinking happiness comes at five o’clock, or at the evening’s party, or when you fall asleep. Live in the present.

Develop a hobby. A change of activity keeps you fresh. Time spent playing is time well spent.

You can’t slow the world, so slow yourself. Learn to gear down. When you can’t alter the pace, retire to the inner sanctuary and alter yourself.

Adopt the perfect pattern: Christ… whose life cut history squarely in two. Follow Him as He lives a mighty life in quiet confidence.

‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 2:5 KJV)

Be a Uniter, Not a Divider

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‘How good… it is… to dwell together in unity!’ Psalm 133:1 NKJV

David said, ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity… there the Lord commanded the blessing.’ (Psalm 133:1–3 NKJV) When we strive to work together in spite of our differences, God ‘commands’ His blessing to be upon our efforts. Satan knows this, so his chief strategy is to divide and conquer. He knows the power, synergy, and blessing that results from working in harmony; therefore he makes every effort to bring division. So when things begin to splinter and fall apart, look for ‘the devil in the details’.

The sixth chapter of Proverbs lists seven things the Lord detests; among them is ‘a man who stirs up dissension.’ (Proverbs 6:19 NIV) Paul says, ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’ (Ephesians 4:3 NIV). (He knew that sometimes it required tremendous effort.) We can’t afford to be ignorant of Satan’s tactics designed to keep us at odds with one another. He’ll cause you to become offended over a harmless statement, or read more into a comment than the speaker intended, or ascribe impure motives to someone’s behavior, or believe a lie.

But when you pray and seek God, He’ll reveal the truth of the situation. ‘He is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14 KJV), and when we embrace Him, He directs us into peaceful resolution of our issues. In fact, our conflicts can become stepping stones to stronger relationships when we make a commitment to understand each other and refrain from divisiveness. That’s why Paul writes, ‘I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.’ (1 Corinthians 1:10 TLB)

Overcoming Bad Memories

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‘Do not… ponder things of the past.’ Isaiah 43:18 NAS

To overcome bad memories you must: (1) Reframe them. Looking back, Joseph said, ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ (Genesis 50:20 NAS) (2) Reject them. The next time a bad memory resurfaces, refuse to entertain it. ‘Do not…ponder the things of the past.’ (3) Refocus your thoughts. ‘Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.’ (Philippians 3:13 NKJV) You say, ‘I can’t help remembering.’ If you can recall your troubles, you can recall your blessings.

The most effective way to overcome bad memories—is to replace them with good ones! And here’s some great news: every promise God gives you contains the power to fulfill it. So meditate on these words and personalize them: ‘Fear not…do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth.’(Isaiah 54:4 NAS) ‘The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind…be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create.’ (Isaiah 65:17–18 AMP) Notice the word create. God can create beauty out of ashes and order out of chaos—but it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll do a lot of growing and forgiving along the way. In some cases you’ll forgive others; in other cases you’ll forgive yourself. You say, ‘But all those promises are from the Old Testament!’ Yes, but the Bible says, ‘He carries out and fulfills all of [His] promises, no matter how many…there are.’ (2 Corinthians 1:20 TLB) So bring your bad memories to God and let Him heal them.

Don’t Let Complaining Creep In (2)

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‘The Lord… has heard your grumbling against Him.’ Exodus 16:7 NIV

When you complain, God takes it personally. It shows a lack of faith in His Word that says, ‘God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [Him] .’(Romans 8:28 NLT)

The Bible says that when ‘Pharaoh…let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way.’(Exodus 13:17–18 NLT) God sees the end from the beginning, and He’s leading you in a roundabout way! Once you accept that, you can stop complaining.

When Israel grumbled, ‘the Lord’s anger blazed…and…He destroyed some of the people.’ (Numbers 11:1 NLT) Dr Dale A. Robbins writes: ‘They refused to trust Him to provide, protect, and direct their lives…The whole premise of Christianity is Jesus becomes the “boss” of our circumstances. We’re in His hands. If believers complain, it becomes an accusation against the Lord to whom we’ve trusted our lives, and He “[hears] all your complaints against Him.” (Exodus 16:8 NLT)’

When you go through tough times, don’t resort to complaining. Praise God in spite of what’s happening. ‘Be thankful in all circumstances.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT) Thanksgiving is the opposite of complaining. It expresses appreciation for everything God has done and what He promises to do, and shows confidence that He’s in charge. The psalmist said, ‘Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and… in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.’ (Psalm 50:14–15 AMP) Gratitude—not grumbling—motivates God to work on your behalf.

Don’t Let Complaining Creep In (1)

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‘These people are grumblers and complainers.’ Jude 1:16 NLT

Jon Gordon says: ‘My wife’s friend Rachel wouldn’t stop complaining about her job …the company, the economy, her lack of sales… I finally stopped her and said, “It’s simple. You have a choice. You can accept your company’s new policies, come to work with a positive attitude and be your best every day, or you can find a new job. But whatever you do, stop complaining because it’s not doing any good. Change your job or change your attitude…” The conversation was over, and so was our friendship, I thought. Rachel wouldn’t speak to me for a few months. Then I saw her at a party and she told me she decided to take my advice. She stayed in her job, stopped complaining and started selling more. Three months after changing her attitude her sales were up 30 percent, a year later they were up 70 percent… The other day, three years after our initial conversation, I caught up with Rachel again and asked her how she was doing. She told me during the last two years her sales continued to grow. She’s been promoted twice and is now in her dream job. It’s the job she always wanted and she’s more excited and passionate than ever. Is complaining sabotaging you and/or your team?… I was in a similar situation ten years ago. But I learned when you stop whining and take positive action, you start winning.

The Bible places whiners and complainers in the same class as ‘sinners [who] have spoken against [God]… grumblers and complainers… living only to satisfy their desires… to get what they want.’ (Jude 1:15–16 NLT) Instead, you should be full of faith—thanking God for His blessings and trusting Him for the future.

Use What God Has Given You

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‘She has done what she could.’ Mark 14:8 NKJV

Jesus paid one of His greatest compliments to a woman of the streets who poured costly ointment from an alabaster box onto His head: ‘She has done what she could.’God requires no more of us, and is worthy of no less.

One night in 1837, a woman called Florence heard the voice of God telling her she’d a special mission in life. Nine years later that mission began to take shape when a friend sent her information about an institution in Germany that trained deaconesses, so she went there and learned to care for the sick. In 1853 she became superintendent of a women’s hospital in London. When the Crimean War broke out in 1854 she volunteered to take care of British soldiers and went to Constantinople. Once in Turkey, she was put in charge of nursing at a military hospital. It was a male-dominated society and the doctors were hostile towards her. The hospital was deplorably filthy, so she dug in her heels and began caring for her patients, at first using the provisions she brought with her and then undertaking a correspondence campaign to resupply the hospital. She spent hours each day in the wards, touching virtually every wounded soldier who entered it. The comfort she gave them on her night rounds earned her the nickname ‘the lady with the lamp’. Who was she? Florence Nightingale.

One of her most famous sayings was, ‘I never made an excuse, or accepted an excuse.’ So instead of focusing on the talents and resources you don’t have, use what God has given you.

Peace Comes By Trusting In Christ

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‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Romans 5:1 KJV

Charles Stanley tells of asking his waitress, ‘If you could ask God for anything, what would that be?’ Instantly she answered, ‘I want to feel at peace.’ Through tears she spoke of painful losses that turned her life into intense emotional turmoil. Many people, like this young woman, want inner peace without a relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. They seek it in ways that don’t work—physical fitness, improving their appearance, financial security, fame, social status, or human relationships. Some seek it in alcohol and drugs. But none of these things can provide peace of heart and mind; only a relationship with Jesus can do that.

Before we meet Jesus we are slaves to sin, living in opposition to God (Romans 6:16). And our sins separate us from God so we live with guilt, stress, and shame. But He has provided a remedy. ‘God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8 NIV), removing our sin, guilt, and shame, and ending our separation from God. When we trust in Christ as our Saviour He promises, ‘Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 5:1 NIV)

If you have placed your trust in Christ, read this: ‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.’ (Philippians 4:6–7 TLB)

Confront them!

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‘Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”’ 2 Samuel 12:7 NKJV

Can you imagine the courage and integrity it took for Nathan the prophet to challenge King David about his affair with Bathsheba? Most of us tend to avoid confrontation because we fear being disliked and rejected. But when you avoid confrontation it often makes things worse. By hiding his sin, David was robbing himself of the blessing of the Lord. Looking back, he wrote, ‘If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my… prayer.’ (Psalm 66:18–19 NIV)

The tiny growth you don’t want to deal with now can end up becoming a cancer that consumes you in the future. That’s too high a price to pay. If you love someone, you’ll take your courage in your hand and confront them in love. Confrontation is an opportunity to help develop that person—provided you do it respectfully and with their best interest at heart.

Here are ten guidelines to help you confront someone in a positive way:

1) Do it ASAP. (2) Address the wrong action, not the person. (3) Address only what the person can change. (4) Give them the benefit of the doubt. (5) Be specific. (6) Avoid sarcasm. (7) Avoid saying ‘you always’ and ‘you never’ because they are not true. (8) When it’s appropriate, tell them how you feel about what was done wrong. (9) Give them a plan to fix the problem. (10) Affirm him or her as a person and as a friend. The Bible says, ‘The Lord corrects those He loves.’ (Proverbs 3:12 NCV)

So if you love someone, you’ll confront them in the right way.

Christ Is In You (2)

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‘This mystery… is Christ in you.’ Colossians 1:27 NIV

Paul writes, ‘Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20 NIV) No other religion makes such a claim. No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers. No wonder Paul refers to it as ‘the mystery’. We comprehend the idea of Christ for me, or with me, or ahead of me. But Paul said it’s better than that—Christ in me!

In his writings Paul refers to this union with Christ 216 times. John mentions it 26 times. They describe a Christ who not only woos us to Himself, but actually ‘ones’ us with Himself. John writes, ‘Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.’ (1 John 4:15 ESV) Just as you own the home you live in, so the Christ who lives in you owns you. And when you own a home you rearrange it the way you want it. Likewise, Jesus moves in and commandeers your hands and feet, requisitions your mind and your tongue.

Do you sense things being rearranged in your life today? That’s ‘Christ in you’! And here’s what it means that He is in you: ‘God, in His foreknowledge… chose them long ago; when the time came He called them, He made them righteous in His sight, and then lifted them to the splendor of life as His own sons.’ (Romans 8:29 PHPS)

Ever hear the old saying, ‘Making a silk purse out of a pig’s ear’? That’s what Jesus does when He takes up residence in your heart. He has a plan for your life, and He also provides the power to fulfill it. And what’s your part? To surrender and cooperate fully with Him.

Christ Is In You (1)

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‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.’ Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV

When God said, ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you,’ you could call it ‘a spiritual heart transplant’. Tara Storch understands this miracle. In 2010 a skiing accident claimed the life of her thirteen-year-old daughter, Taylor. What followed for Tara and her husband, Todd, was every parent’s worst nightmare: a funeral, a burial, a flood of questions and tears.

They decided to donate their daughter’s organs to needy patients. And few people needed a heart more than Patricia Winters. Her heart had begun to fail five years earlier, leaving her too weak to do much more than sleep. Taylor’s heart gave Patricia a fresh start in life. Taylor’s mom had only one request: she wanted to hear her daughter’s heartbeat. She and Todd flew from Dallas to Phoenix and went to Patricia’s home, where the two mothers embraced for a long time. Then Patricia offered Tara and Todd a stethoscope.

The question is: when they listened to the healthy rhythm, whose heart did they hear? Did they not hear the still-beating heart of their daughter? It indwelt a different body, but the heart was still the heart of their child. And when God hears your heart, does He not hear the still-beating heart of His Son?

Paul said, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20 NKJV) The apostle sensed within himself not just the philosophy, ideals, and influence of Christ, but the person of Christ. Christ moved in—and He still does. ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ (Colossians 1:27 NKJV)

To Be Kind Is To Be Godly

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‘That… He might show… His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.’ Ephesians 2:7 NIV

The Bible says: ‘God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms… that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.’ (Ephesians 2:6–7 NIV) God sent Jesus from Heaven to earth, so that we can leave earth one day and go to Heaven. This is evidence of God’s kindness, even to those who aren’t yet believers.

Beyond that, enjoying the presence of Christ in Heaven will remind us of God’s great kindness for all eternity. God places so high a premium on kindness that He never wants us to forget it. So if you want to be ‘godly’ you must endeavor to be kind.

Sometimes Christians are so committed to the tenets of their faith that they come across sounding harsh, and end up turning people off. Be careful; you can have the right doctrine—and the wrong spirit! God’s grace attracts people, it doesn’t repel them.

In The Lion and the Mouse, Aesop said, ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, ever is wasted.’ It costs to be unkind, but it pays to be kind. So take every opportunity today to be kind to others. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.’ The apostle Paul puts it like this: ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.’ (Romans 12:10 NIV) Today remember that to be kind is to be godly.

How Do You Affect Others?

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‘Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you.’ Romans 1:12 NCV

We’ve a tendency to adopt the attitudes of the people closest to us. That’s why Paul wrote, ‘Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you.’ The truth is that doubters get what they expect—and so do believers!

Looking for God’s best in every situation isn’t just Scriptural; it helps you identify opportunities you’d otherwise miss. Seeing people through God’s eyes causes them to be attracted to you and open in how they react. Is that important? Absolutely! Why? Because often your attitude will touch them before your message does.

Management consultant Fred Smith points out that there are two kinds of people in any organization: polluters and purifiers. The polluters are like smokestacks, belching out dirty smoke all the time. They hate clear skies, and no matter how good it gets they find a way to make it gloomy. When the people around them breathe their toxins they feel sicker and sicker. Purifiers, on the other hand, make everything around them better. It doesn’t matter what kind of rotten atmosphere they encounter. They take in the toxic words of polluters just like everyone else does, but they filter them before passing them on. What goes in gloomy and negative comes out fresh and clear.

The question is: when you spend time with people, do they walk away feeling better or worse? Do you clear the air by giving them encouragement and fresh perspective, or do they leave feeling downcast and discouraged? Observe how people respond to you and you’ll know which group you belong to.

Thank God for the Blood

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‘…you were redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ…’ 1 Peter 1:18–19 NIV

The story of redemption begins in Eden with God shedding the blood of a lamb to cover Adam’s and Eve’s sin, and ends in Heaven with a multi-national choir singing, ‘…You…have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every…nation.’ (Revelation 5:9 NKJV) The blood of Jesus Christ represents two things:

(1) The cost of your sin. Rolled on to Christ’s shoulders was the weight of your every misdeed from the cradle to the grave. Next time you’re tempted to violate God’s Word and do your own thing, bear that in mind!

(2) The cure for your sin. Your salvation wasn’t a joint effort. You didn’t contribute a cent because you were spiritually bankrupt. ‘…you were redeemed [bought out of slavery and set free]… with the precious blood of Christ… ’ (1 Peter 1:18–19 NIV)

The preaching of the blood will offend those with sins to hide, a moralistic ego to protect, or a gospel that offers salvation through good works and social evolution. The blood of Jesus not only saves the repentant but also condemns the defiant, for ‘…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ (Hebrews 9:22 NIV) Plagues and apocalyptic hail could not release God’s people from the iron grip of Pharaoh. What did? The blood. Nothing but the blood! And the blood has never lost its power. It can (a) heal your painful memories (b) cleanse and set you free from the sin you dare not speak of (c) put a canopy of protection over you, and (d) draw a line in the sand over which the enemy dare not step. Today, thank God for the blood!

Enjoy Each Season Of Your Life!

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‘Which yields its fruit in season.’ Psalm 1:3 NIV

Your life is lived in seasons, and to be fruitful you must recognize the season you’re in and maximize it. ‘How can I tell when a season is ending?’ you ask. Because the grace that accompanied that season will lift, and what was once rewarding will start to feel unrewarding.

The Bible says a successful man or woman is like a tree planted by streams of water ‘which yields its fruit in season’. You can only be fruitful in your season! That’s where blessing and success occur. You can’t just do it whenever you want to; it has to be in your appointed time. When the right season comes, it’s effortless for a tree to produce what’s stored within. And there’s fruit within you that will be produced when you understand what season you’re in.

But there are rules for each season; let’s look at them.

Spring—is for training and discipline. That’s when you begin to see God’s purpose for your life and prepare for it.

Summer—is for maturing what spring started. The seeds you sowed and nurtured then will grow and multiply now.

Autumn—is when you no longer have the passion of youth but the steady calm of the seasoned veteran. If you’re wise, you’re now working smarter instead of harder. It’s time to transition and prepare for the upcoming winter.

Winter—is when you assess your accomplishments, enjoy your rewards, pass on your counsel, and take your bows. You have fought the good fight, kept the faith, and finished the course (see 2 Timothy 4:7). If you do it right, each season can be the best season of your life!

Teaching Children Patience (3)

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‘For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.’ Hebrews 10:36 NKJV

Do these three things:

(1) Don’t be Mr or Mrs. Quick-Fix-It. Your kids need to learn to respond the right way to difficult conditions. That means dealing with frustrations, not being rescued from them. Overprotecting produces a sense of inadequacy and powerlessness in them. By quick-fixing everything, you’ll rear children who cannot handle life. They’ll expect to be rescued from all trouble, and become overly dependent on others. The Bible says, ‘Problems and trials… help us develop endurance.’ (Romans 5:3 NLT) Allow your children to experience age-appropriate challenges, and they will thank you later for the strengths and coping skills they’ve developed.

(2) Prepare them to wait. When you know in advance that your child will have to wait (for instance, in a doctor’s office or an airport), help them prepare for it. ‘Make the most of every opportunity.’ (Ephesians 5:16 NLT) Have them pack items they enjoy. Because they chose the items, they’ll feel they invested in the process.

(3) Keep a positive attitude. If you constantly complain while waiting in traffic, or for someone who’s late, your children will do the same. Instead, try saying, ‘This delay gives us time to tell each other about our day.’ Or, ‘Even when we feel frustrated about waiting, God’s timing is always perfect!’ Teach them God’s perspective on patience: ‘Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.’(James 5:7 NIV)

Teaching Children Patience (2)

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‘Bring forth fruit with patience.’ Luke 8:15 KJV

Here are five more teaching tips:

(1) Teach by experiment. Toddlers through ‘tweens’ can appreciate the time it takes a plant to grow, so involve them in planting a seed and watching it grow. Explain how everything in life takes time to change and develop. Teach the meaning of Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV: ‘To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.’

(2) Make use of visuals. Younger children especially need visuals when waiting for an event to happen. If it’s 4:30 and dinner is at 5:00, use a timer. If it’s eighteen days until the family holiday, let them mark the days off on a calendar. Often their problem with waiting is not knowing when it will end.

(3) Don’t interrupt and don’t tolerate interruptions. Toddlers to teens—kids interrupt! Adults, too. Interruptions are usually a rude and frustrating display of impatience. Unless it’s an emergency, be clear: kids—and adults—are to wait their turn to speak. It’s more than good manners—it’s obeying God’s Word. ‘There is… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:17 NKJV)

(4) Make use of board games. Most board games require taking turns, which means waiting. Your kids will hardly realize they’re practicing patience! Chess and draughts are good for tweens. Scrabble educates teenagers and teaches them patience.

(5) Reward their patience. When your toddler waits for his sippy cup to be filled while you feed the baby, thank him for waiting so well. If your teen saves her money to buy a new phone, compliment her wisdom and reinforce it by perhaps donating the last few dollars to her purchase.

Teaching Children Patience (1)

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‘But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.’ Romans 8:25 NLT

Waiting patiently is what life, God, and success demand. Even when we’ve done the right things, God requires us to wait for the results. ‘You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.’ (Hebrews 10:36 NKJV)

How do we help our children develop this vitally important life skill? Writer Tammy Darling says:

(1) Set clear boundaries. For instance, say, ‘You may have that when I’ve seen you wait patiently.’ Don’t be moved by their demands!

(2) Refocus their attention. Queuing in a shop can be an occasion for impatience. So try a guessing game—like ‘I Spy’—with younger kids, or get older kids talking about family holiday plans.

(3) Teach by example. Do you pass other motorists on the road just to get one car-length ahead? Impulsively buy something on a credit card rather than wait until you have the money to buy it? Whether they’re three or thirteen, your children learn by watching you.

(4) Avoid constantly saying, ‘Hurry up!’ Toddlers typically dawdle. They’ve no idea how long getting ready takes. So instead of always telling them to hurry, help them learn the process and pace of getting ready. ‘It’s time to put your toys away… time to get your shoes and socks on… time to put your jacket on.’ Instead of frustrating them with commands to hustle, involve them in actions they understand and can handle. This teaches them how to manage time practically.

Be Kind To The Unkind

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‘Pray for those who mistreat you.’ Luke 6:28 NIV

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ (Luke 6:27–28 NIV) Then He added, ‘Your reward will be great.’ (Luke 6:35 NIV) God sees, He records, and He’ll reward you for every kind act you do. It’s easy to be kind to those who are kind to us, but you must grow in grace in order to be kind to the people who mistreat you.

In the comic strip Nancy, the character Sluggo once told Nancy, ‘That new kid in school is nothing but a big fathead!’ Nancy replied, ‘You shouldn’t call people names like that. I never call people names.’ Sluggo replied, ‘Well, I just got mad when he said you were stupid looking.’ Whereupon Nancy demanded, ‘What else did that big fathead say?’

It’s easy to react to acts of kindness with kindness. The real challenge is responding with kindness to those who lack it. Os Guinness in The Case for Civility wrote about politicians as society’s role models: ‘Name-calling, insult, ridicule, guilt by association, caricature, innuendo, accusation, denunciation, negative ads, and deceptive and manipulative videos have replaced deliberation and debate. Neither side talks to the other side, only about them.’ Civility—being respectful whether we agree with another person or not—is a good policy!

Every one of us has a ‘kindness kit’ we carry with us everywhere we go. It’s better known as our tongue. Never underestimate the power of one kind word.

Judgment Day Will Be A Great Day For You

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‘In this world we are like Jesus.’ 1 John 4:17 NIV

Will you get into Heaven because you are worthy? No, you’ll get there because Jesus,the One in Whom you’ve placed your trust, is worthy! ‘As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 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.’ (1 John 4:17–18 NLT)

On the Day of Judgment earthly wealth won’t matter. Physical beauty won’t be factored in. Fame will be forgotten. You might stand next to Napoleon or Julius Caesar, but you won’t be asking them about Waterloo or Brutus. All eyes will be on Jesus. Those who ignored Him will hear the words, ‘Depart from Me.’ (Matthew 25:41 KJV) But for those who accept Him as their Lord and Savior there need be no fear. ‘We can face Him with confidence because we live like Christ here in this world.’

Think about that! God sees you the way He sees Christ—worthy and accepted. And since you’re ‘in Christ’ you can view Judgment Day the way He does—with confidence. Does Christ fear judgment? No, a sinless soul needn’t. Does He fear death? No, the giver of life wouldn’t. So should we who are ‘in Christ’ fear judgment or death? Not at all: ‘In this world we are like Jesus.’ So Judgment Day will be a great day for you!

Battling Bitterness

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‘I had great bitterness; but You…delivered my soul.’ Isaiah 38:17 NKJV

At ninety-two, Jenny never missed a chance to recall how her sister refused to buy her a pair of shoes fifty years ago! All those years marinating ‘in the gall of bitterness.’ (Acts 8:23 KJV)

Anne Peterson says: ‘An offense burrows into our hearts. We replay it…creating ruts that’ll be hard to rebuild later…we enlist support, which pushes us further into resentment. We decipher the offense as intentional, and our offender as full of spite. As we find reasons, real or imagined, to dislike them… we form another layer of bitterness… Then like a beach ball we try to submerge… it pops up… splashing everyone.’

The Bible says, ‘Make sure… bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many.’ (Hebrews 12:15 GWT) So remember:

(1) Forgiveness isn’t optional. ‘If… possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:18 NIV) It may not be possible to live in harmony with everyone, but God still requires you to forgive those who’ve hurt you.

(2) As you forgive, you’re forgiven. The Bible says when you’re ‘full of bitterness’ you’re ‘captive to sin’. (Acts 8:23 NIV) Don’t forget that Jesus didn’t just die for you, He died for those who offend you. Do they deserve forgiveness? No. But then again, do you?

(3) Pray for your enemies. Ask God to bring to mind the people you need to forgive, and melt the bitterness in your heart towards them. It’s impossible to harbor resentment towards somebody you’re praying for. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to forgive; but you ‘can do all things through Christ.’ (Philippians 4:13 KJV)

Good Thinking

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‘We have the mind of Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 2:16 KJV

In his book, Thinking for a Change, Dr. John Maxwell gives us eleven different types of thinking; to each we’ve added a Scripture:

(1) Big picture thinking. The ability to think beyond yourself is required in order to process ideas from a ‘faith’ perspective (Ephesians 3:20).

(2) Focused thinking. The ability to think with clarity on issues by removing distractions and mental clutter (Philippians 3:13–14).

(3) Creative thinking. The ability to break out of the box and explore ideas and options in order to experience a breakthrough (Isaiah 54:2–3).

(4) Realistic thinking. The ability to build a solid foundation on facts, to think with certainty (Luke 14:28).

(5) Strategic thinking. The ability to implement plans that give direction for today, and increase your potential for tomorrow (Proverbs 19:21).

(6) Possibility thinking. The ability to unleash your enthusiasm and hope, to find solutions for even seemingly impossible situations (Matthew 19:26).

(7) Reflective thinking. The ability to revisit the past in order to think with understanding (Psalm 1:1–3).

(8) Questioning popular thinking. The ability to reject common thinking and accomplish uncommon results (Isaiah 55:8–9).

(9) Shared thinking. The ability to include others who can help you think ‘over your head’ and achieve greater results (Psalm 133:1–3).

(10) Unselfish thinking. The ability to consider others and their journey, to think with collaboration (Romans 12:10).

(11) Bottom-line thinking. The ability to focus on results, in order to reap the full potential of your thinking (Matthew 25:14–30).

Let’s add: (12) Spiritual thinking. ‘We have the mind of Christ.’ One God-given thought can change your life!

Are You Resisting A Rest?

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‘Come away… and rest a while.’ Mark 6:31 NRS

Following Jesus should energize you, not leave you feeling burned out. Jesus preached to farmers who used oxen to plow their fields. They also lived by religious rules that didn’t permit you to relax and experience God’s love and grace. So Jesus told them: ‘Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you… and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’ (Matthew 11:28–30 NLT)

Jesus had more to do than any of us, yet He never seemed to do it in a way that severed the life-giving connection with His Father, or interfered with His ability to show love when it was called for. He regularly withdrew from the rat race in order to pray. Even when His disciples returned, flushed with success from a busy time of ministry, He told them, ‘Come away… and rest a while,’ because as Mark records, ‘Many people were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’ (Mark 6:31 NRS) Constant hurry is the mark of an un-prioritized life—a sure sign that second and third things have become first things.

Not only did God command us to rest every seventh day, He told Jewish farmers to let their fields rest every seventh year so they’d produce better harvests. The problem is we want microwave maturity… to exchange wisdom for information and depth for breadth—but it doesn’t work. Depth comes slowly. Following Jesus can’t be done at a sprint; you can’t go faster than the One who’s leading.

Value Your Friends

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‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls… in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ Ruth 2:22 NIV

Kristin Armstrong writes: ‘If you have godly girlfriends, love and nurture those relationships as though your life depends on them—because it does. Everything is better when you “go with His girls”… Life is safer, more authentic, longer lasting, and just plain more fun. God created women to rely on other women. I’m blessed by girlfriends who lift me when I’m low, level me when I’m high, and show me the face of God on a daily basis through compassion, humor, strength, and unconditional love. May you cultivate and enjoy the same.’ And not only do women need friends, men do too.

One of the first things God said in the Bible was, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’ (Genesis 2:18 KJV) Solomon writes, ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.’ (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV) Poet William Carlos Williams wrote: ‘When trouble comes your soul to try, you love the friend who just “stands by”. Perhaps there’s nothing he can do—the thing is strictly up to you. For there are troubles all your own, and paths the soul must tread alone. Times love cannot smooth the road, nor friendship lift the heavy load. But just to know you have a friend who will “stand by” until the end, whose sympathy through all endures, whose warm handclasp is always yours—it helps someway to pull you through, although there’s nothing he can do. And so with fervent heart you cry, God bless the friend who just “stands by”.’

Beware of Pride!

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‘Pride goes before destruction.’ Proverbs 16:18 NKJV

Think about the things we become proud over: the home we live in, the car we drive, the diploma hanging on our wall, the people we mingle with, and the position we hold. When you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, look out for pride! Paul asks, ‘Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV)

So what should you do?

(1) Examine your belief system about who you are, what you have, and what you can do.Jesus said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5 NKJV) Remind yourself: ‘I’m just the glove; God’s the hand that fills it.’ That’ll help you to keep your perspective right!

(2) Focus more on others than on yourself. The saying—‘When a person is all wrapped up in themselves, they make a pretty small package’—is true. ‘Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’ (Philippians 2:4 NKJV)

(3) Respect and value everyone you meet regardless of their social status, race, gender, or other distinguishing factors. When you walk in humility, people respect you and receive your input, and they don’t suspect you of having selfish motives. The Bible says: ‘These… things the Lord hates… a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.’ (Proverbs 6:16–19 NKJV) Today, beware of pride.

Misconceptions About Success (2)

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‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning.’ Proverbs 1:5 NIV

Here are three more misconceptions about success: (1) We think success comes from having the right connections, so we strive to make them. People who endorse this philosophy believe they’d ‘have it made’ if only they’d been born into the right family, or met the right person. Knowing good people has its rewards, but connections alone won’t improve your life if you’re off track. ‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.

(2) We think success comes from having leverage, so we work for it. This notion is reinforced by people like industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who said, ‘Success is the power with which to acquire whatever one demands of life.’ Then we take it a step further by assuming all successful people have taken advantage of others in order to get where they are, and we look for ways to manipulate people too. We think we can ‘muscle’ our way to success, but it doesn’t work—usually it backfires on us.

(3) We think success is the result of opportunity, so we wait for it. People who work hard and don’t seem to get anywhere sometimes believe the only thing they need is ‘a break’. Their motto is ‘If only’. If only my boss would cut me some slack; if only our church was in a better area of town; if only I had start-up capital; if only I’d married someone different. The door of opportunity is marked, ‘Push!’ The truth is, people who do nothing more than wait for success are neither able to see it—nor seize it—when it comes.

Misconceptions About Success (1)

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‘Give yourself wholly… so that everyone may see your progress.’ 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV

Here are some common misconceptions about success:

(1) We think success is impossible, so we criticize it. We want to believe life should be easy, so we assume anything difficult must be impossible. Then when success eludes us we throw in the towel and say, ‘Who needs it anyway?’ And if someone we consider less deserving than ourselves is successful, we get really upset.

(2) We think success is mystical, so we search for it. Author/entrepreneur Seth Godin says: ‘We need to stop shopping for lightning bolts. You don’t win an Olympic medal with a few weeks of intensive training. There’s no such thing as an overnight opera sensation. Great companies [and great churches] don’t spring up overnight… every great thing has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little.’ There are no shortcuts; you must be willing to pay the price.

(3) We think success comes by chance, so we hope for it. We say, ‘Oh, he or she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.’ The chances of that happening are about as good as the chances of winning Lotto—over eight million to one. If you’re serious about succeeding, you’ll concur with the small-business owner who posted this sign in his store: ‘The 57 Rules of Success: Rule one: Deliver the goods. Rule two: The other 56 don’t matter!’

Paul shared his formula for success with Timothy, and it’s one that works in all areas of life: ‘Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.’

Give Your Love Away

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‘Let us love one another, for love is of God.’ 1 John 4:7 NKJV

One evening before Mary Martin, the great Broadway musical star, was to go on stage in South Pacific, a note was handed to her. It was from Oscar Hammerstein. He had written it to her from his deathbed: ‘Dear Mary, a bell’s not a bell till you ring it. A song’s not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.’ After her performance a number of people rushed backstage, exclaiming, ‘Mary, what happened to you out there tonight? We have never heard anything like that performance! You sang with more power than you’ve ever sung!’ Blinking back tears, Mary read them the note from Hammerstein and added, ‘Tonight, I gave my love away!’

The poorest person in the world has something to give others if he or she has love in their heart. Love’s gifts take many forms—a smile, a hug, a gift, a note of thanks, a hand up, and just being there in tough times. Love is the one gift that always fits, is always appropriate, and always in season. Jesus said, ‘By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:35 NKJV) Paul wrote, ‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all.’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NKJV) John writes, ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.’

So the word for you today is: give your love away.

Be Willing To Pay The Price

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‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.’ Nehemiah 6:3 KJV

Success usually comes at the end of struggle; if it came easily, everybody would be experiencing it. When it comes to success, there are no shortcuts, reduced prices, or ‘special deals’. The value of anything is determined by the price you’re willing to pay for it. And when you truly value something, you won’t easily jeopardize it because you remember what it cost you. What are you afraid of today? Failing? Your concern should be the opposite—regret that you didn’t try.

Are you afraid of criticism? Face it, as you move upward in life certain people will resent your success; that’s true whether you’re arrogant or not. We all want to be liked, but at some point you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘How much am I willing to forfeit in order to be liked and accepted?’ Nehemiah, the builder of Jerusalem’s walls, said, ‘I am doing a great work, so…I cannot come down.’ Any time you defer to the opinion of people instead of the will of God, you are ‘coming down’. Stay up on the wall! Keep laying bricks—or whatever God has called you to do.

Advancement often brings isolation and criticism, and God may be grooming you right now for a new level of blessing by exposing you to both. Can you handle it? Not everybody can. But if you’re the kind of person who can’t sit on the sidelines and watch while others play the game—go for it! God will reward every step of faith you take and every sacrifice you make.

How To Bounce Back

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‘He was moved with compassion.’ Matthew 9:36 KJV

One of the best ways to bounce back from grief and loss is taking your memories and turning them into motivators, then reaching out in love to others who are hurting. ‘But I’m busy,’ you say. Jesus was never too busy to show compassion to hurting people.

After Ray and Judy Williamson’s son David was killed in a fall, Ray said: ‘I used to wonder if I should go to the funeral home when somebody had a tragedy, because I always feel so awkward and don’t know what to say. But I’ll never ask again. I’ll always go. It’s not what you say, but your presence that makes the difference.’ When two teenagers died in a car accident, their parents decided to have a joint wake. Over a thousand people attended, some waiting up to three hours to comfort the bereaved families. When one man who’d stood by himself in line finally reached the front, he said, ‘I don’t know your children and I’ve never met you. But I came here tonight because I had a son who died two years ago. I know how it feels. In the days ahead you’ll go through every emotion you can imagine. I just want you to know that I’m here for you if you ever need to talk.’ Then he pressed his card into their hand and walked away.

Think about that. A stranger gave three hours of his time to people he didn’t know, because he wanted to help them through the most tragic experience of their lives. Understand this: it’s in reaching out to others that (a) we become more like Jesus; (b) we ourselves are made whole.

Relationships (2)

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‘Then the Lord God made a woman…and He brought her to the man.’ Genesis 2:22 NIV

Adam lived in a perfect neighborhood and had a perfect job—one God gave him. It doesn’t get much better than that. Nevertheless he was lonely; something was missing from his life. The Bible says, ‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God… made a woman.’ (Genesis 2:20–22 NIV) God recognized Adam’s need for companionship and He met that need. However, this is where some of us acting on loneliness, frustration, or bad advice, rush ahead of God.

There’s a reason one of the nine gifts of the Spirit listed in the Bible is ‘the ability to distinguish between spirits.’ (1 Corinthians 12:10 ESV) When someone comes into your life they don’t just bring their looks, talents, and financial assets; they also bring their spirit. If you’ve ever been around someone with a controlling spirit, a vindictive spirit, a resentful spirit, or a negative spirit, you know why this particular gift is so important. So make yourself a hard jury, one that’s not easily convinced, one that requires concrete evidence before reaching a verdict. And remember that it’s better to lengthen the deliberation process and ensure the decision you make is right, than to reach a hasty conclusion and end up with a broken heart.

You may not feel wise and experienced when it comes to making such decisions, but hear this: it’s not how much you know that arms you with the tools of great decision making, but how much you ask. The first person to ask is God, and the time to do it is before, not after you get into a relationship.

Relationships (1)

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‘I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Genesis 2:18 NIV

Adam lived in a perfect world, yet he was incomplete. So God created ‘a helper suitable for him.’ And since God made you with a core need for companionship, He can introduce you to the right person. But you must be willing to consult Him, follow His guidance, and wait for His timing.

That’s not always easy. Some of us find it easier to be unhappy than to be alone. Driven by unfulfilled longings, we make rash decisions that end up hurting us. It’s impossible to make a good decision when you’re motivated by the fear of being alone or of being rejected. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the need to be needed by another person, or to share your life with someone. Don’t let anyone convince you that your need to love and be loved is a weakness. God created man to ‘multiply’, and it takes two to do that.

We are incomplete without one another. However our fear of vulnerability, of exposing our inner self to another person, makes us act as if we don’t need anyone. But God’s Word says we do. Not only that, throughout Scripture, He introduced people to one another. So pray and believe that God has someone ‘suitable’ for you; someone who fits where you are and will fit where you’re going. When you find the person God has in mind for you, you’ll discover strengths and gifts in yourself you never knew existed.

Increase Your Pastor’s Effectiveness (5)

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‘Pastors…equip His people for works of service.’ Ephesians 4:11–12 NIV

Here are two final principles for increasing your pastor’s effectiveness:

(1) Don’t limit them by what happened in the past. The ‘ghost of pastors past’ can block what God wants your church to do now. Don’t say, ‘In the good old days when Pastor Smith was here, we didn’t do it that way.’ That hinders your church’s growth and obstructs your pastor’s effectiveness. God is always on the move, and He requires us to stay in step with Him. Don’t expect your pastor to do things exactly like his predecessors. Appreciate what God did in the past but understand that His blessings—like His mercies—are ‘new every morning’! Yesterday’s manna won’t do for today; God will give your pastor fresh manna and fresh vision to take your church to new spiritual heights. The pastor’s job is to lead—yours is to follow.

(2) Your pastor can’t do it all alone. ‘Pastors…equip [God’s] people (that’s you!) for works of service.’ Paul writes: ‘Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.’ (Romans 12:4–6 NIV)

Who’s responsible for your church’s growth? You are! And if you don’t know where you fit, ask God and your pastor for direction. Until you know your place, you’re an unemployed body-member. Get connected and help fulfill the vision God has given your pastor.

Increase Your Pastor’s Effectiveness (4)

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‘Make disciples of all nations.’ Matthew 28:19 NIV

Don’t tie your pastor’s hands when it comes to a budget. A church’s budget reveals its heart, and it should also reflect God’s values and priorities. Jesus said, ‘Make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I… commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19–20 NIV)

Our responsibility is twofold: to evangelize sinners and to equip saints. Many churches tie the pastors’ hands by penny-pinching, preventing the church from fulfilling the Great Commission. It’s commendable to be wise about spending money, but fear-driven churches stockpile savings and investments for a rainy day. This not only hinders effective ministry, it discourages giving. When people know there’s lots of money squirreled away in a bank account, they’re apt to say, ‘Why should I give from my limited resources?’ Mission-focused churches aren’t afraid to spend money on ministry, and as a result God moves people’s hearts to give generously.

Remember the three stewards in Matthew 25 who were charged with administering their master’s money? Two put the money to work and earned his approval by doubling their investment. The third steward was risk-averse and held on to the money, returning just the original amount. Consequently the master said, ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags… Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness…’ (Matthew 25:28–30 NIV) The church’s job isn’t to amass funds—it’s to go out on a limb of faith by enabling God’s servants to do His work unhindered, and trust God for the ‘rainy days’.

Increase Your Pastor’s Effectiveness (3)

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‘[Pastors]…should be considered worthy of respect.’ 1 Timothy 5:17 PHPS

When it comes to pastors: (1) You must pray for them. Nothing releases the power of a pastor’s ministry like the prayers of their flock. Paul recognized that his effectiveness in ministry depended on the people’s prayers: ‘Pray in the Spirit… Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me… that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel.’ (Ephesians 6:18–19 NIV)

Satan targets pastors who preach the truth. The thing he hates and fears most is God’s Word: ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against… the powers of this dark world and… spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) Often when pastors are preaching, the spiritual struggle is so intense that afterwards they find themselves drained. Praying ‘in the Spirit’ for your pastor strengthens them and maximizes their effectiveness when it comes to reaching the lost and bringing those who are saved into spiritual maturity (see 1 Corinthians 1:21).

(2) You must respect them. In a day when church has become more ‘casual’, it’s easy to lose respect for God’s leaders. The Israelites did it: ‘The Lord Himself has scattered them… The priests are shown no honor, the elders no favor.’ (Lamentations 4:16 NIV) And God’s standards haven’t changed: ‘Elders [pastors] with a gift of leadership should be considered worthy of respect.’ By respecting your pastor and church leaders, you act as a role model for the sacredness of God’s ministry to this generation and the next.

Increase Your Pastor’s Effectiveness (2)

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‘Preach the Word… correct, rebuke and encourage.’ 2 Timothy 4:2 NIV

Let’s consider some other ways you can help your pastor be more effective:

(1) Understand that it’s your pastor’s responsibility to enlighten you, not entertain you.Writing to Timothy, Paul says, ‘Preach the Word…correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.’ Encouragement we enjoy; correction and rebuke we must learn to accept. ‘The Lord disciplines those He loves.’ (Hebrews 12:6 NIV) Your pastor is God’s instrument for your spiritual growth, not for your entertainment. When you don’t like the sermon, maybe it’s ‘scratching where the real itch is’. Don’t resent the messenger; instead review the message in light of God’s Word. Emulate the Berean Christians who ‘received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.’ (Acts 17:11 NIV)

(2) Talk to—not about—your pastor. If you’ve an issue, you’ve a Scriptural obligation to talk first to the Lord, then personally to your pastor—and always with love and grace (see Matthew 18:15Ephesians 4:15). Remember, pastors are cut from the same bolt of cloth as you. They forget things, have ‘off days’, make mistakes, and are occasionally insensitive. And a good pastor will receive the truth when it’s spoken in love. They’ll consider your concerns, admit when they’re wrong, and seek to grow by it. On the other hand, talking about your pastor creates strife in the church. Like yeast, it ‘leavens the whole lump of dough.’ (1 Corinthians 5:6 NAS)

Bottom line: ‘Don’t touch [God’s] chosen [ones]’ (1 Chronicles 16:22 CEV) by talking about them behind their back, and don’t give credence to those who do.

Increase Your Pastor’s Effectiveness (1)

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‘[Pastors] who do their work well should be… paid well.’ 1 Timothy 5:17 NLT

Your attitude and actions affect your pastor and your church. When you bless your pastor you bless your church, and when you hinder your pastor you hinder your church. Let’s look at some ways in which you can increase your pastor’s effectiveness:

Provide a good salary. Once in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament, God holds us responsible to provide generously for our pastor. The old quip, ‘Lord, You keep him humble and we’ll keep him poor!’ is no joking matter, and is contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Many pastors are hampered by inadequate incomes, causing them stress and worry over their family’s financial needs. God established the law of compensation for those who provide for our bodies and souls—from oxen to pastors. An ox’s strength and capacity to do its job effectively required that it ate as much as it needed from the grain it was threshing.

‘But was God concerned only about an ox? No, he wasn’t! He was talking about [his servants].’ (1 Corinthians 9:9–10 CEV) And Paul applies the same principle when it comes to compensating those who minister to us: ‘[Pastors] with a gift of leadership should be considered worthy of respect, and… adequate salary, particularly if they work hard at their preaching and teaching. Remember the Scriptural principle: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads the grain,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”’ (1 Timothy 5:17–18 PHPS)

When possible, free your pastor from financial worry. Allow them to focus on developing the potential God sees in you, your church, and His Kingdom in your community.

God Will Keep His Word To You

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‘I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass.’ Isaiah 46:11 KJV

Friends may fail to keep their promise to you, but not God! He has put His reputation on the line by promising to perform every word that He’s spoken. ‘You have magnified Your word above all Your name.’ (Psalm 138:2 NKJV) If God has spoken it, He will do it! But there’s one qualifier: if He’s decreed a condition, you must fulfill it in order to receive His promise.

After Elijah’s confrontation with Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel, he told King Ahab, ‘Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.’ (1 Kings 18:41 NIV) Ahab ate and drank, and Elijah, atop Carmel, fell on his face in prayer. It hadn’t rained in three and a half years, but Elijah fulfilled God’s condition and the desperately needed rains came.

Often we claim God’s promises without checking the conditions. Yet His conditions are an integral part of many of His promises—and He expects us to fulfill them. God will do what He says if you follow the simple steps Elijah practiced: (1) Believe the promise. (2) Fulfill the condition. (3) Pray persistently, believing God will keep His Word. (4) Be patient.

Elijah sent his servant out seven times to look for signs of rain, never once doubting God’s promise. On the seventh time the rains began. Question: are you being obedient to the conditions that accompany the promise you’re claiming? Do your part and watch God honor His word to you: ‘I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.’

Share Your Struggle

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‘Confess your faults one to another.’ James 5:16 KJV

It’s usually only when addicts ‘hit bottom’ that they’re willing to embrace a twelve-step program of recovery, and submit to the guidance of a ‘sponsor’ who will help them by holding them accountable. Where did the twelve-step principles originate? From Scripture! The Bible says, ‘Confess your trespasses one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.’ (James 5:16 NKJV)

Have all the years you’ve spent hiding your problem only made it worse? If so, an important step towards your deliverance is having someone in your life who understands, wants to see you set free, will stand by you, identifies with your struggle, and knows how to keep your confidence. And it needs to be someone you trust and respect; otherwise you won’t take them seriously.

There must be an agreement between you that you’ll work together until lasting change takes place. That means finding someone who won’t be shocked by your problem and who won’t ‘shame’ you, no matter what. It’s the broken who become masters at mending, so find someone who has won the battle you are fighting. And make sure they share your faith and values.

Why do you need to share your struggle with someone? Because we are only as sick as the secrets we keep! Jesus said, ‘Very truly I tell you, My Father will give you whatever you ask in My name… Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.’(John 16:23–24 NIV) By opening up to another person and asking for help, you’ve taken a major step towards a better life.

Try To Be More Patient

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‘Be patient with all.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:14 NKJV

You’ve probably heard the joke about the lady who prayed, ‘Lord, give me patience; and I want it right now!’ That’s not so funny when it reflects how you live. If you get annoyed at having to wait for anything, your impatience can hurt you. The only person who has the power to make things happen the way He wants them to, is God. But even He is gracious, and respects our will and waits for us to get in line with His will. And since we’re not God, think how foolish it is to become upset with the supermarket assistant, the bank cashier, or the slow driver who doesn’t move at warp speed.

Jesus said, ‘By your patience possess your souls.’ (Luke 21:19 NKJV) Here the word, souls, refers to our emotions. Jesus is saying, ‘Take control of your emotions and show a Christlike attitude.’ Your ability to handle delays, disappointments, and detours will determine your level of joy and peace. When you discover that you cannot control what’s going on around you, decide to control what’s going on within you.

Overcoming impatience involves three things:

(1) Admitting you have the problem. As long as you rationalize and justify your attitude, you won’t grow.

(2) A commitment to allow the Holy Spirit to produce patience in you. Patience doesn’t come by making New Year’s resolutions or counting to ten; it’s the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit, and it grows with your cooperation (see Galatians 5:22).

(3) A decision to ‘be in the moment,’ rather than obsessing over what must happen next.

Try To Be Kind Today

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‘A gentle answer turns away wrath.’ Proverbs 15:1 NIV

If you’re an organized, time-conscious, purpose-driven, make-it-happen kind of person you can get upset with incompetence and low productivity in others. And you can end up speaking words that hurt them and don’t bring the result you hope for.

In Proverbs chapter thirty-one here’s how Solomon describes a wise woman: ‘On her tongue is the law of kindness.’ (Proverbs 31:26 NKJV) Speaking kindly to and about others was one of this woman’s core principles. And when you think about it, there’s never any justification for being harsh or unkind in your communication. Certainly not if you’re a Christian!

Hasn’t God been gracious with you? Then extend that same grace to others. The old adage, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,’ isn’t true. Harsh words can impact a person for a lifetime. Many so-called ‘social outcasts’ have been victims of verbal abuse at some point in their lives. They have suffered at the hands of parents, teachers, insecure spouses, and others battling their own emotional issues. If you find you’re prone to speaking harshly to people, pray for God’s help. Whatever it takes, including seeking help from a pastor or counselor, do it.

The Bible says, ‘He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.’ (Proverbs 16:32 NKJV) Decide today to ‘rule your spirit’ and make kindness a hallmark and guiding principle of your life.

A Mother-In-Law’s Prayer

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‘Adjust yourself to [people].’ Romans 12:16 AMP

A woman who was about to become a mother-in-law wrote to columnist Abigail Van Buren: ‘My son will marry his girlfriend this summer. She’s a lovely girl…already a cherished member of our family. I remember a prayer you ran; a pep talk from a woman to herself as she approached mother-in-law status.’

… Here’s the prayer: ‘Lord, let me be glad when my son picks a mate. If he brings home a girl with two heads, let me love both of them equally. When he says, “Mum, I want to get married,” forbid that I should blurt out, “How far along is she?” Help me get through the wedding preparations without squabbling with the “other side”. Drive from my mind the belief that had my child waited, they could’ve done better. Remind me when I become a grandmother, that my kids don’t want advice on raising their children any more than I did. If you’ll help me with these things, perhaps my children will find me a joy to be around, and I won’t end up writing another letter complaining about them neglecting me.’

Just because another person doesn’t do things the way we do, doesn’t necessarily mean their way of doing things is wrong. Different people have different ways of achieving the same ends. A sign of maturity is the ability to get along with someone who thinks and acts differently—without getting offended. Paul says, ‘Adjust yourself to [people]… Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.’ It takes humility to keep your own counsel and resist giving unsolicited advice to your adult children.

Go To The Mountain Of Prayer!

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‘He departed to the mountain to pray.’ Mark 6:46 NKJV

Before Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee, He climbed a mountain to be alone with His Father in prayer. He left the demands of the crowd at sunset, prayed until dawn, then came down the mountain in the power of God’s Spirit and stilled a raging storm. (Wouldn’t you love to know how He prayed that night?)

Prayer is a mountain; you have to climb it. ‘Peter and John went up together…at the hour of prayer.’ (Acts 3:1 NKJV) If you wait until you feel like it, you won’t pray consistently. It’s a discipline. And the more you pray the more you want to pray, and the more rewarding it becomes. But first you must turn your back on the ‘crowd’.

Because Christ knew how to walk away from life’s demands and distractions, He was able to still the storm that threatened His disciples. So before you get caught up in the daily rat race, go to the mountain of prayer. It’s a place of stability in an uncertain world; a place where the view is unobstructed and the frantic pace of life is left behind. There you gain perspective. There Christ reminds you that there’s nothing you’ll face today that He hasn’t already handled, and He’ll give you grace to do the same.

It’s easy to recognize people who’ve been to the mountain of prayer. Their struggles are no different from yours—some are even more challenging. But they’ve an inner peace that transcends family problems, health concerns, budgetary shortfalls, etc. You can endure hard times with grace when you know that the summit is just a prayer away!

Walk In The Light

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‘If we walk in the light…the blood of Jesus…purifies us from all sin.’ 1 John 1:7 NIV

Twice in Scripture God spoke into our darkness. In Genesis chapter one He said, ‘Let there be lights.’ (Genesis 1:14 NIV) And in John chapter three Jesus declared,  ‘Light has come into the world.’ (John 3:19 NIV)

To walk with God you must reject the ways of darkness and walk in the light. Fungus grows best in the dark, but when you turn on the light it withers and dies. This is more than a metaphor—it’s a spiritual fact of life! Jesus said, ‘People loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’ (John 3:19 NIV) As Ester Nicholson says, ‘Secrets keep us sick. They keep us in shame and uncertainty.’

Secrecy is the ideal environment for sin to grow until ultimately you’re taken captive by thoughts, deeds, and habits. And staying in darkness intensifies your cycle of secrecy and slavery to sin. ‘If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.’ (1 John 1:6 NIV)

Once you step into the light everything changes! So confess your secret sins to God, and, if necessary, to a trusted friend or counselor who can pray with you. Then through God’s strength reclaim your power to overcome sin and live victoriously. Once you’ve turned on the light, the fungus begins to wither. Its grip loosens, and freedom dawns.

Each time sin comes knocking at your door bring it into the light immediately. When you do, cleansing and fellowship with God will be yours. The Bible says, ‘If we walk in the light…we have fellowship…and the blood of Jesus…purifies us from all sin.’

Things You Must Overcome (3)

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‘Though it cost all you have, get understanding.’ Proverbs 4:7 NIV

The third thing you must overcome on your way to success is ignorance. As the ancient writer Aristophanes pointed out, ‘Ignorance can be educated… but stupid lasts forever.’

Far too often we don’t think realistically, or we fail to seek out the information and expertise we need. Edison failed many times, but his eventual success didn’t come from luck—it came from preparation. Many of us undervalue knowledge. For example, because computers allow us to try and to fail so many times, we don’t take time to read the manual. Because we’re so rushed, we’re reluctant to stop and find out what we really need to know. Because young people feel pressured into getting a job, often they fail to see the value of investing time in higher education.

Golf champion Jack Nicklaus said, ‘Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last.’ You may be fortunate enough to get promoted beyond your level of competence. But if your knowledge doesn’t keep up with your position, you’re doomed to fail.

Here are some Scriptural words to live by: ‘Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honour in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.’ (Proverbs 3:15–18 NLT)

Things You Must Overcome (2)

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‘I discipline my body… Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.’ 1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT

The second issue you’ll have to address is your emotions. While they can be a gauge of how you feel and a clue to what needs to be changed in your life, never let emotion alone dictate your decisions.

Ask anyone who has to perform at the top of their game, and you’ll find that much of their time is spent overriding their emotions. However, listening to your emotions to get to the core of what’s bothering you can be a very revealing indicator of your condition.

Consider these two statements:

(1) I don’t feel like working today. Why not? Did you stay up too late last night? Perhaps you need to change your schedule. Are you eating well? Maybe you need to adjust your diet. Not motivated? Talk to God, read His Word, spend time with an encouraging friend, etc. Don’t just sit there, do something!

(2) I’m a little depressed. Are you getting enough relaxation? Have you taken a break lately? Our moods generally swing up after exercise, so start moving and get into shape. You can’t afford to live life based on your emotions. They’ll delay you, stop you, and create detours on your journey to success.

You say, ‘I’m waiting for inspiration!’ As novelist Jack London said, ‘You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.’ Follow Paul’s example: ‘So I run with purpose in every step… I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.’ (1 Corinthians 9:26–27 NLT)

Things You Must Overcome (1)

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‘Do not turn…to the right or…the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.’ Joshua 1:7 NIV

Sometimes we’re so afraid of mistakes we avoid situations where they might occur. Yet that could be the biggest error of all. For the next few days let’s look at some things you must overcome to succeed in life.

Situations. Do you feel like you’re mired in a dead-end one? Maybe you’d like to train for a higher position but can’t afford it. Or change jobs, but you feel trapped by your salary or the fear of forfeiting your retirement pension. Perhaps you feel trapped by a physical handicap or illness. The secret to overcoming is to divide your circumstances into situations you can change and those you can’t. Nearly everything in life can be changed, or approached in a different way. But it can’t always be done right now.

Make a list of things you can change. Too many of us fail—and keep failing—because we persist in trying to change what can’t be altered. Stop banging your head against a wall, and practice realistic thinking. Understand the difference between faith and fantasy.

Somebody said, ‘For every problem under the sun, there is a remedy or there is none. If there’s a solution go and find it, and if there isn’t, never mind it.’ God has given you certain gifts. When you discover, develop, and deploy them He’ll give you success in the face of seemingly impossible odds. Ignore what you can’t change, focus on what you can, and opportunities will reveal themselves.

As Hannibal said during his famous march across the Alps, ‘We will either find a way, or make one.’ You need that spirit too!

Don’t Rush Into This Relationship

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‘He made…a woman, and…brought her to the man.’ Genesis 2:22 NKJV

Patience is a difficult skill to practice when it comes to relationships. This is particularly so when you feel lonely, empty, and incomplete. When that happens you can jump the gun, and make a choice based on your limited perspective rather than the larger picture that would emerge if only you had sought more information and waited patiently.

To keep you from making a mistake that can negatively impact the rest of your life, here are three important steps you should take when it comes to forming a relationship:

(1) You must ask the right questions. Be curious, inquisitive, and hungry for all the pieces of the puzzle. Always, always, ask!

(2) You must find the answer to those questions. Sift through the surface impressions of what you see and hear and you’ll soon see a clearer picture emerging. This picture must harmonize with two things: (a) your participation in this particular relationship; (b) God’s will and purpose for your life.

(3) You must act when the time is right, and know that you are acting on the best and most comprehensive information available. If it doesn’t work out, you can relax in the knowledge that you did everything possible to make a wise decision.

Statistically, about half of all marriages today end in divorce. But if you take these three steps, you could finish up in the right half.

Even if a friendship fails, you can carry into your next relationship the wisdom gleaned from the last one. ‘He made…a woman, and…brought her to the man.’ God knows just what you need, so seek His guidance.

Take The High Road

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‘Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate.’ 1 Peter 3:9 NLT

It’s been said that the depth of your hurt determines the width of your response. So it’s likely that when someone hurts you, your first impulse will be to get even. But any momentary satisfaction you experience will invariably be followed by a lingering sense of regret. Why is that? Because you know you’ve failed God by retaliating.

We retaliate in two ways:

(1) ‘Tit for tat.’ Before you make your offender suffer, carefully consider these words: ‘Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone… never take revenge. Leave that to…God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.’ (Romans 12:17–19 NLT)

(2) By involving others. Not only do you not have the right to strike back, you don’t have the right to tear down your offender in front of others. Joseph not only refused to punish his brothers for their betrayal, he refused to publish the details to those who worked in his courts. Why? Because he saw God’s hand at work, and realized that what he’d suffered at his brothers’ hands had made him the man he was.

Peter writes: ‘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.’ (1 Peter 3:9 NLT) So if you want to walk in the blessing of God today, take the high road.

What Kind Of Christian Are You? (3)

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‘The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light…’ Matthew 11:30 NCV

Jesus said, ‘[The Pharisees] tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders.’ (Matthew 23:4 NIV) They imposed rules that people couldn’t keep, and on the rare occasion when they could keep them it brought them no joy.

Stephen Mosley writes: ‘Our morality calls out rather feebly. It whines from the corner of a sanctuary; it awkwardly interrupts pleasures; it mumbles excuses at parties; it shuffles along out of step and slightly behind the times… It’s often regarded by our secular contemporaries as a narrow, even trivial, pursuit… Tragically, conventional religious goodness manages to be both intimidating and unchallenging at the same time. Intimidating—because it may involve 101 different rules about so-called spirituality. Unchallenging—because we may exhaust ourselves trying to keep all these rules, yet never experience the true joy Jesus offers. That’s why people inside the church so often get weary. Conforming to such a religion is simply not a rewarding enough experience to fill the void in our hearts.’

Have you grown weary of pursuing spiritual growth? Could it be you’ve been pursuing the wrong thing, or going at it the wrong way? If so, consider these words of Jesus: ‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV)

What Kind Of Christian Are You? (2)

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‘I have come that they may have life… abundantly.’ John 10:10 NKJV

Here are some questions you should ask yourself regularly:

(1) Am I approachable? Speaking of the Pharisees, Jesus said, ‘They love the place of honor… and to be called “Rabbi”.’ (Matthew 23:6–7 NIV) In Jesus’ day some rabbis had the idea that true spirituality required you to distance yourself from people. Ironically, the only Rabbi the outcasts could touch turned out to be God Himself. Jesus was the most approachable person they’d ever met.

(2) Am I gracious? John Ortberg writes: ‘As soon as we start to pursue virtue, we begin to wonder why others aren’t as virtuous as we are. It reminds us of the reply Homer Simpson’s neighbors gave when Homer asked them where they’d been: “We went to a Christian camp; we were learning how to be more judgmental.” Have you been to that camp? Does a little voice inside you categorize people: “This one’s needy and dependent—stay away. That one’s bright and has much to offer—try to connect.” Why do we constantly find ourselves rating people, as though we were in some kind of contest?’

(3) Am I real? A little boy in Sunday school knew the kind of answer he was supposed to give, so when the teacher asked, ‘What’s brown, furry, has a bushy tail and stores up nuts?’ He muttered, ‘I guess the right answer is Jesus—but it sounds like a squirrel to me!’ Often we try to say spiritual-sounding things to impress people, when they haven’t a clue what we are talking about. So let’s be real with ourselves—and others!

What Kind Of Christian Are You? (1)

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‘They… recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.’ Acts 4:13 NLT

The Pharisees were self-appointed experts in matters of dietary laws, dress codes, etc. These practices allowed them to decide who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’. And what’s worse, the insiders became judgmental towards the outsiders.

Dallas Willard writes, ‘How many people are… repelled… by Christians who are unfeeling, stiff, unapproachable, boringly lifeless, and dissatisfied? Yet such Christians are everywhere.’ The truth is, when our lives aren’t marked by genuine joy and devotion to Christ we start looking for superficial ways to distinguish ourselves from the people we classify as ‘worldly’. Jesus didn’t do that! When He was asked to identify what the law was all about, He simply replied, ‘Love God and love people’ (see Mark 12:29–31). Paul writes, ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV)

It’s possible to think you’re becoming more spiritual, when in fact you’re becoming what Mark Twain termed ‘a good man, in the worst sense of the word.’ Winston Churchill had a political opponent called Cripps, an arrogant man who was widely disliked for his smug self-righteousness. The story goes that one day Churchill saw Cripps passing by and remarked, ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes God.’

One of the greatest compliments ever paid to the apostles is that they were ‘recognised…as men who had been with Jesus.’ The strongest argument for Christianity—is Christians drawing life from Christ. The strongest argument against Christianity—is Christians who are smug, judgmental, and complacent. So, what kind of Christian are you?

Give Yourself Away!

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‘They gave themselves first to the Lord… then to us.’ 2 Corinthians 8:5 NIV

What do people usually value more than your money? You! Think about it. What takes greater effort—writing a cheque or giving of your time and energy? Which shows a greater level of commitment?

Take a moment and recall the people who’ve had the greatest impact on you: a teacher who helped you realise you could think, learn and achieve; a parent who loved you, sacrificed for you and gave you the gift of self-worth; a mentor who painted a picture of your future then equipped and challenged you to reach for it. Next to your salvation, what could be greater?

Ponder these words: ‘When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you brought to other people’s lives than from the times you outdid and defeated them.’ Too many of us see giving as more than just an act of love—we see it as a transaction—we only give to get!

Missionary to Labrador and Newfoundland, Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell, said, ‘It is obvious that man is himself a traveler; that his purpose in this world is not “to have and to hold,” but “to give and to serve”. There can be no other meaning.’ It’s so easy to live only for yourself. In fact, it’s one of our most basic instincts—one we have to overcome each day. But we can take another path—to be generous with our love and our time. When you give those gifts, you’re being as generous as you can be!

Don’t Let Fear Stop You (2)

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‘I was afraid, and… hid your talent.’ Matthew 25:25 NKJV

The master of an estate gave each of his servants a sum of money to invest for him. One man got five talents, the second two talents, and the third man one talent. The servants with two and five talents turned a respectable profit, while the man with one talent told his master, ‘I was afraid, and… hid your talent in the ground.’

What’s the lesson here? Simply this: fear makes you unproductive!

A seasoned pastor writes: ‘Fear will stop you from singing in the choir… witnessing… giving cheerfully… and walking in love with your spouse… The underlying issue is fear that God won’t do what He says. But as believers we should be so full of the Word that fear can’t get a foothold… Jesus said, “Take no thought for your life. ” (Matthew 6:25 KJV) Paraphrased: Why would you even think fearful thoughts when I’ve told you I’ll never leave you… I’ll protect you… and give you everything you need to do the job?

Bottom line: God is with you even when you can’t feel or see Him, and when others imply He’s abandoned you.’ Fear disguises itself behind many different faces. We want to do things our way, or we say we’re not interested, or it’s not the right time. What we’re coming up against isn’t a closed door—it’s repressed fear. If you’re wondering why you’re not progressing in certain areas, see if hidden fear is holding you back. And if it is, ask God to help you release your fears and start trusting what He says.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You (1)

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‘Whom shall I fear?’ Psalm 27:1 NAS

Life’s filled with fear-inducing situations: fear of sickness, unemployment, rejection, other people’s opinions. Left unchecked, fear will steal your inner peace. But as Chuck Swindoll reminds us: ‘David met fear head-on at his front door with two questions. “Whom shall I dread? Whom shall I fear? ” And he slammed the door in fear’s face by declaring, “My heart will not fear… I shall be confident” (Psalm 27:3). Then he walked back into his house, reminding himself how to counteract fear’s attacks.

Prayer: “I have asked from the Lord” (Psalm 27:4).

Vision: “I behold the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4).

God’s Word: “I meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4).

God’s protection: “In the day of trouble He will conceal me” (Psalm 27:5).

Worship: “I will sing” (Psalm 27:6).

Rest: “Wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13–14).

Determination: “Let your heart take courage” (Psalm 27:14)

Courage isn’t limited to the battlefield… Its real tests are broader… deeper… like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking… enduring pain when the room is empty… standing alone when you’re misunderstood… It can be as simple as saying “No”, as uneventful as facing a mountain of laundry… God’s medal-of-honour winners are made in secret… away from public acclaim.’ When fear nips at your heels, God says, ‘Be strong and courageous!’ (Joshua 1:9 NAS)

Dick Mills writes: ‘Every commandment…comes with the assurance that we can perform it. God doesn’t issue orders we’re not capable of fulfilling… It’s incongruous to say, “I’ve lots of courage but no strength,” or, “I’m a powerhouse of energy but I’m afraid.” Courage and strength were given to you by God. Courage motivates our will, and strength accompanies our effort.’

What She Needs—What He Needs

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‘Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.’ Ephesians 5:33 NLT

The Bible says, ‘Male and female He created them.’ (Genesis 1:27 NIV) God created women to be more than a slightly altered version of men. Adam was all male; Eve was all female—as different from each other as day is from night. They thought, felt, talked, and acted differently. Their priorities differed. They needed different things from each other. And just as getting along under the same roof was essential for them then—it is for us now. And it calls for things like understanding, patience, unselfishness, mutual effort, and showing grace.

Following Paul’s philosophy is fundamental to a happy marriage—the husband must understand that his wife needs his love, and the wife must understand that her husband needs her respect. Dr Emerson Eggerichs reminds us that men and women speak different relationship languages, based on their differing needs. Yes, both need love and respect, but husbands feel loved when they’re given their wife’s unconditional respect, and wives feel respected when they’re given their husband’s unconditional love.

Notice that Paul’s words are not simply wise words of counsel, but divine orders to be observed and obeyed. The husband ‘must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband’. God doesn’t require him to earn her respect, or her to deserve his love.

Jesus, our role model, respected and loved us unconditionally at the cost of His life. And He calls us to do the same for each other. As the author of marriage, God knows what really works; so follow His guidance at home.

Giving At A Higher Level

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‘She…has given everything she had.’ Mark 12:44 NLT

God doesn’t want your generosity to be restricted by fear. Either you’ll trust Him financially and experience the joy of participating in His purposes on earth, or trust your own earning ability and live with anxiety.

The danger of not moving to a higher level of giving is that you can miss out on something great that God wants to do for you—and through you. Count on it; at some point He’ll challenge you to give more than you’ve ever given before. And at that moment your faith will cause you to say yes, or your fear will cause you to dismiss it as impractical. That’s a pivotal point in your life, because your response to God’s challenge will determine your future.

Some levels of giving are effortless, while others make us uneasy. Sooner or later we all hit a wall called fear, and unless you recognize it you’ll never be able to break through it. As a result you’ll live with less than God intends you to enjoy.

What’s the solution? Change your concept of ownership!

Adolphe Monod said, ‘There’s no portion of money that is our money and the rest God’s… It’s all His; He made it all, gives it all, and has entrusted it to us for His service.’ If you believe that, there’s no reason not to give. However, getting God involved in your finances means surrendering control of your money to Him. And that can be scary. Jesus’ model for generosity was a widow who gave her last cent, without having anything to fall back on except God’s promise to meet her needs. When you reach that point, you’re on the threshold of the miraculous.

The Secret of Having Joy (3)

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‘In Your presence is fullness of joy.’ Psalm 16:11 NAS

The word happiness comes from the old English word happ, which means ‘chance’. It corresponds to the Latin word fortuna, which means ‘luck’. Both words suggest that when things happen the way we want them to we’re happy, and when they don’t we’re unhappy.

But such happiness is temporary and fickle; true joy is permanent and settled. Some Christians are so serious and solemn they’d lead you to believe God cringes at laughter and hates anything that smacks of joy and delight. The psalmist wrote, ‘In Your presence is fullness of joy.’

CS Lewis observed, ‘Joy is the serious business of heaven.’ The truth is, the Bible is one of the most joy-filled books ever written. The words joy and joyful are found there over 200 times. The word rejoice shows up around 150 times, and we’re instructed to be joyful and rejoice nearly 400 times! That means joy isn’t an emotion, it’s an attitude. An emotion can’t be commanded; no one can tell you to feel happy if you’re not. But you can choose to be joyful regardless of your circumstances. And neither is joy a commodity that can be bought. Many people find out too late that money can’t buy happiness, much less joy.

It’s been said that the poor are better off than the rich because, while the poor keep thinking money will buy happiness, the rich know better. Trying to find happiness and joy in materialism is like drinking salt water: the more you drink, the thirstier you get. The secret to lasting joy is in realizing that you’re unconditionally loved, valued, and accepted by God.

The Secret of Having Joy (2)

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‘A merry heart does good, like medicine.’ Proverbs 17:22 NKJV

The Bible says, ‘A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.’ Do you know that laughter is such good medicine that it can help to relieve stress, cure headaches, fight infections and alleviate hypertension? Some doctors tell us laughing produces physical benefits similar to the benefits we get from vigorous physical exercise. When you throw your head back and laugh out loud, the muscles in the abdomen, chest, shoulders, and elsewhere in your body contract, while your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Just one burst of laughter can cause your pulse rate to double from 60 to 120, while your systolic blood pressure can shoot from a normal 120 to 200. Then once you stop laughing your heartbeat and blood pressure dip below normal—signalling reduced stress.

God created laughter because He knows it’s good for your health. Don’t, however, confuse happiness with merriment. Merriment comes from joy, not happiness, and understanding this is crucial to your emotional well-being.

There are times when we can’t and shouldn’t be happy—when people are hurting, going through tragedy, or losing jobs and loved ones. In the face of injustice, happiness is inappropriate, if not impossible.

Yet the joy that comes from knowing that you are unconditionally loved and accepted by God enables you to remain joyful. That’s because: (1) Happiness is external; joy is internal. (2) Happiness depends on outward circumstances; joy depends on inward character. (3) Happiness depends on what happens to us; joy depends on who lives within us. (4) Happiness is based on chance; joy is based on choice. So today—choose joy!

The Secret to Having Joy (1)

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‘That My joy may be in you.’ John 15:11 NIV

Jesus said, ‘I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’ The joy Jesus is talking about is unique: ‘My joy.’ And it’s fulfilling in a way that the world’s happiness isn’t: ‘That your joy may be complete.’ Being a faithful follower of Christ’s teachings brings inner joy that’s real and resilient regardless of economic indicators, interest rates, government deficits, and even disease or death. You can’t be happy without being joyful, but you can be joyful without being happy!

How’s that possible?

Jesus had previously told His disciples that we enjoy a love which transcends all others—the love of our heavenly Father that’s unconditionally offered and, once accepted, is permanently experienced. Nothing can compare to the love of God. His love isn’t based on looks, personality, wealth, or even moral goodness. It’s offered without any preconditions. And it’s neither fickle nor failing. You can’t do anything to make God love you more, and you can’t do anything to make Him love you less.

Furthermore, divine love doesn’t just give you ‘warm fuzzies’. It’s constantly at work to direct you towards making wise decisions, to protect you from making poor ones, and to correct you when you make bad ones. God’s love guarantees His acceptance when all others have rejected you, His forgiveness when all others have judged you, and His mercy when all others have condemned you.

When you bask in His love, you experience a wellspring of joy bubbling up in your heart. And since the world didn’t give you this joy—the world can’t take it away.

How Do You Come Across?

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‘He made him a coat of many colors.’ Genesis 37:3 KJV

God gave Joseph a dream of future greatness—one in which his brothers would bow down to him. But when he announced his dream, his brothers hatched a plan to kill him. And to make things worse his father ‘loved Joseph more than all his children… and he made him a coat of many colors.’ Try to see it from Joseph’s brothers’ perspective: ‘How come he gets special treatment? What’s wrong with us?’ There are important lessons here:

(1) Be careful how you come across to others; your enthusiasm can be interpreted as arrogance.

(2) When God blesses you, it’s always for the benefit of other people. One day Joseph would wear a royal robe and ride in Pharaoh’s chariot, but that was just a fringe benefit. His true calling was to preserve his father’s lineage, from which would come the Redeemer of the world.

(3) You must be generous towards those who have less than you. Joseph’s brothers worked hard and deserved their father’s love too. The coat Joseph wore didn’t mean he was better than they were; it simply marked him as having a different destiny.

(4) The coat of his father’s favor didn’t exempt Joseph from hardship. Actually, he suffered more than all of them because of it. Why? Because the level of your assignment determines the level of Satan’s attack.

(5) Joseph’s character, not his coat, sustained him through years of betrayal, temptation, accusation and imprisonment. How do we know that? Because he was able to look back and see the hand of God at work: ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ (Genesis 50:20 NAS)

Self-Control

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‘Make every effort to add to your faith… self-control.’ 2 Peter 1:5–6 NIV

If you’ve the faith to believe, the moment you pray for salvation you receive it. It doesn’t work that way with self-control. Yes, you should pray for it, but Peter writes, ‘Make every effort to add to your faith…self-control.’ It only becomes a reality when you ‘make every effort’ to practice it daily. And here are three areas in life that will test you:

(1) Your temper. Your circumstances are no excuse for a short fuse and an explosive temper. The Bible says, ‘Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.’ (Proverbs 16:32 NIV) When you lose your temper, you lose respect and credibility with others.

(2) Your time. Time is the stuff life is made of, and wasted time really is wasted life. It takes time to build relationships, learn skills, execute meaningful actions, achieve goals, and fulfill plans. A mismanaged life is often the result of mismanaged time.

(3) Your tongue. The Bible says, ‘Let your speech be always with grace.’ (Colossians 4:6 KJV) Every day brings new opportunities to control your tongue; if you’re wise you’ll take them! And if you must speak, let this Scriptural principle govern what you say: ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ (Colossians 4:6 NIV)

Benjamin Franklin put it this way: ‘Would you live with ease, do what you ought and not what you please.’ The word for you today is ‘make every effort’ to control your temper, your time and your tongue.

Always Tell the Truth

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‘Nothing… impure will enter the city, nor anyone who… tells lies..’ Revelation 21:27 GNT

When it comes to telling the truth, here are two stories:

(1) One morning a mother was out shopping when she bumped into her son at a shopping center. Angry and alarmed that he’d skipped school, she demanded to know why he wasn’t in class. She listened patiently to his explanation and then replied, ‘I’m not accusing you of telling a lie, but I never heard of a school giving time off for good behavior.’

(2) A dentist with a hypodermic needle in his hand says to a patient sitting in his chair, ‘You might feel a little sting. On the other hand, it might feel as though you have been kicked in the mouth by a mule.’ We smile, but the moral of these two stories is clear.

Sometimes the truth hurts—but never as much as being told a lie. When you fail to tell someone the truth because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, you risk hurting them more. Truth is like a mirror; it allows those you love to see themselves as they really are and make the necessary corrections and adjustments. And when you fail to tell the truth about yourself you risk losing your credibility. When that’s gone it may take you a long time to get back, if ever. That’s why the Bible says, ‘Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ (James 5:16 NLT)

When you open up and share your struggles, you set others free to do the same. And in the process you are both made whole. So, the word for you today is: always tell the truth.

Don’t Be a Critic, Be a Cheerleader (2)

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‘Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.’ Proverbs 12:25 NKJV

Why do we find it easier to be a critic than a cheerleader?

(1) Our self-importance. Once we’ve achieved a certain level of success, we think that ‘we know best’. But sometimes what we are ready to teach, people are not ready to learn. And at that point we have a choice—back off and let God deal with them, or try to ram it down their throats. In such times we’d do well to remember the old adage: ‘A man, convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.’ Perhaps there was a time when you yourself were not very teachable, so pray for them and allow God to work according to His time scale.

(2) Our gifting. We don’t stop to consider that our talents and experiences are unique to us—given by the grace of God (see Romans 12:6). So we expect everyone else to come up to our level, and we put them down when they don’t. ‘Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.’ (Psalm 127:1 NKJV) Back off and let God work on them!

(3) Our earliest experiences. We are molded by the attitudes of our caregivers. They nurture in us the coping mechanisms, positive and negative, that we work with. Indeed, some of our parents actually believed that praise would hurt us and criticism would help us. So we must change our way of thinking and begin to line up what we say with what’s in the Word of God. ‘Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.’

Don’t Be a Critic, Be a Cheerleader (1)

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‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’ Matthew 7:1 NKJV

Parent, you can break your child’s spirit by emphasizing what they do wrong rather than what they do right. Church member, you can discourage your pastor through criticism or encourage him until he enters the fullness of all that God’s called him to be.

Why do we choose to be critics rather than cheerleaders? Because it’s easier to point out the faults of others than deal with our own! By dwelling on their shortcomings, we feel better about ourselves. But Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook: ‘How can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck in your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite!’ (Matthew 7:4–5 NKJV)

Think of the person, group or organization you’re most critical of, and whom you criticize them to. Are you trying to increase your stature in the eyes of others? Are you carrying within you unhealed wounds and unresolved issues, so you vent your anger at anybody who gets in your way? Jesus said: ‘For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’ (Matthew 12:34–37 NKJV)

What’s the answer? Pray: ‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.’ (Psalm 19:14 NKJV)

‘We shall be like Him’

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‘We shall be like Him.’ 1 John 3:2 NIV

Let every parent write these words on their child’s bedroom wall. Let those who are struggling, physically or mentally, fall asleep with the promise: ‘We shall be like Him.’ Let us all take this promise to heart: ‘We shall be like Him.’ We shall graduate from this version of life into His likeness. You’ll have a spiritual body.

In your current state your unregenerate flesh battles your regenerated spirit. Your eyes look where they shouldn’t. Your taste buds desire the wrong drinks. Your heart knows you shouldn’t be anxious, but your mind still worries. Can’t you relate to Paul’s confession? ‘In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.’ (Romans 7:22–23 NIV) In Heaven your ‘parts’ will no longer rebel. Your new body will be a spiritual body, with every part cooperating towards one end.

Joni Eareckson Tada, who’s been confined to a wheelchair since age seventeen, says: ‘I can’t wait to be clothed in righteousness, without a trace of sin. True, it’ll be wonderful to stand, stretch, and reach to the sky, but it’ll be more wonderful to offer praise that’s pure. I won’t be crippled by distractions, disabled by insincerity. I won’t be handicapped by half-heartedness. My heart will join with others and bubble over with effervescent adoration. We’ll finally be able to fellowship fully with the Father and the Son. For me, this will be the best part of Heaven.’ The word for you today is: ‘We shall be like Him.’

Have You Prayed About It?

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‘Pray and ask God for everything you need.’ Philippians 4:6 NCV

Can you imagine walking into a restaurant and asking if your order is ready? ‘When did you call it in?’ the server asks. ‘Oh, I didn’t,’ you reply. ‘I just thought perhaps you might have something with my name on it.’ That’s as ridiculous as expecting God to answer prayer requests you haven’t made—or haven’t made in faith. The Bible says, ‘The reason you don’t have what you want is… you don’t ask God.’ (James 4:2 TLB)

Will God give you everything you ask for? No. ‘Even when you do ask you don’t get it because… you want only what will give you pleasure.’ (James 4:3 TLB) Your request must be in harmony with God’s will. ‘If we ask anything… according to His will… He…hears.’ (1 John 5:14 AMP) Jeremiah said, ‘The Lord is good to those who wait…expectantly for Him.’ (Lamentations 3:25 AMP) Expectant prayer demonstrates confidence in God’s goodness. So instead of fretting, or talking about it to everybody but God, or taking matters into your own hands, say, ‘Lord, I’m going to trust You with this regardless of the outcome,’ and He will honor your faith.

Paul writes, ‘Pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.’ Do you need a job? Help overcoming a problem? The salvation of a loved one? A deeper spiritual walk? Physical or emotional healing? Guidance? Jesus said, ‘It gives your Father great happiness to give you the [benefits of His] Kingdom.’ (Luke 12:32 NLT) God wants to be good to you, so tell Him the ‘desires of your heart.’ (Psalm 37:4 NKJV) Then thank Him and believe the answer will come—in His time!

Financial Increase

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‘He will increase what you have.’ 2 Corinthians 9:10 CEV

Some people think God is opposed to our having money, or that He doesn’t want us to have very much of it. But the Bible says, ‘He will increase what you have, so… you can give even more to those in need. You will be blessed in every way, and you will be able to keep on being generous.’ (2 Corinthians 9:10–11 CEV)

Want some good advice? Get God involved in your finances, and keep Him involved! It’s an area in which you can have an interactive relationship with Him, but you need to invite Him in. Think about it. Have you ever heard anyone pray, ‘Lord, I’ve withheld from You all these years while I followed my own plan. As a result, I’ve gotten into this financial mess. But I still think my plan can work, so I’ll figure things out on my own and You can go help somebody else’? No, when the bottom drops out of the financial bucket we want God to get involved, so we focus on persuading Him to come to our rescue. At this point our prayers become an S.O.S. ‘Help, Lord! Please do something! Anything!’ We reach a point where we’re finally willing to acknowledge that He controls everything. We’re no longer bashful about asking Him to do what we’ve always known He’s capable of doing: to move some money here, or take away some financial pressure there.

So what’s stopping you from asking God to get involved now—before the bottom drops out? Doesn’t it make sense to position yourself to receive His direct intervention as soon and as often as possible?

Conquering Your Fear of Intimacy (2)

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‘They…fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him.’ Acts 20:37 NKJV

Emotional intimacy is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. It fills their souls and yours too. It eliminates our loneliness. And yes, even in our macho society the Bible suggests emotional intimacy between men. The elders of the church at Ephesus, realizing they would never see Paul again, ‘wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more.’ (Acts 20:37–38 NKJV) Famed athlete Bill Russell says, ‘Most people have a harder time letting themselves love than finding someone to love them.’

So, what can you do? (1) Understand the source of your fear. What happened to make you avoid a desire to be known? (2) Accept yourself completely—every feature, every imperfection—as God’s masterpiece; then you can stop worrying about someone rejecting you because you’re not perfect. (3) Test the waters. Start gradually with a few friends and begin to share your needs and how you really feel. Confess your struggle with your weight, self-image, habits or other issues. Instead of pretending you’re something that you’re not, ask for support. Find joy in being authentic. (4) Practice saying, ‘I love you’ to the significant people in your life even if it feels foreign to do so. Stop fearing. ‘I love you’ doesn’t translate, ‘I want to be your slave,’ nor does it say, ‘I’ll tolerate anything and remain in relationship with you.’ It just means ‘I’m committed to our relationship, and I believe that by God’s help we can work through the problem.’

Conquering Your Fear of Intimacy (1)

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‘They were both naked…and were not ashamed.’ Genesis 2:25 NKJV

Adam and Eve had no secrets from each other. ‘They were both naked…and were not ashamed.’ As a couple, God said they had power to rule the world. And that’s when Satan entered the picture. What did he attack? Their intimacy! ‘The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.’ (Genesis 2:7 NKJV)

The word intimacy means ‘to be open, transparent, and trusting.’ When Adam and Eve lost that, they started hiding from God—and each other. And we’ve been hiding from each other ever since. Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of any meaningful relationship. Without it, relationships become shallow and unfulfilling. We are afraid of revealing to others our fears, needs, insecurities, secrets, hopes, dreams, weird opinions or our undesirable parts. And this fear is rooted in the fear of loneliness: ‘If you really knew me, you’d leave me.’ Or the fear of inadequacy: ‘You may be disappointed in me because I cannot fulfil all your expectations.’ Or the fear of losing control: ‘Now that you know how I feel, you may use it to control me.’ Women play ‘hard to get’ and men play the ‘tough guy’ who doesn’t need anybody.

What’s the answer? Learning to pray together. Our most honest moments are before the God who already knows everything about us. When we share such moments the barriers come down, our hearts tenderize toward one another, and we move closer together.

The Father/Son Talk (2)

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‘With her enticing speech she caused him to yield.’ Proverbs 7:21 NKJV

Psychologist Henry Brandt tells how his son got upset when he wouldn’t permit him to go out alone in a car with a girl down to the lake after dark. ‘What’s wrong, Dad?’ demanded the son. ‘Don’t you trust me?’ Brandt replied: ‘In a car, alone at night, in front of a lake, with a beautiful girl? I wouldn’t trust me!’ Solomon got involved early and strongly in the lives of his children, and educated them about God’s perspective on sex. The three largest sections in Proverbs dealing with one topic are found in chapters 5 through 7. In chapters 5 and 6, Solomon dealt exclusively with premarital sex—fornication. He devoted almost the entirety of chapter 7 to extramarital sex—adultery. And in between, he gave a frank discussion of sex within the will of God.

For too long pastors and parents have kept their heads buried in the sand, hoping this topic would just go away. But the subject can’t be avoided. Pollster George Gallup stated: ‘There’s no question about it, sex-related issues are going to become the most important issues facing all churches in the foreseeable future. Abortion, AIDS, premarital sex, homosexuality—all those are going to be at the vortex.’ Solomon warned his son, ‘With her enticing speech she caused him to yield.’

So whether you’re a father, a mother, a single parent, or even a grandparent, your child won’t make the wrong move if they’re not in the wrong place, with the wrong person, at the wrong time. So teach them, ‘If you don’t want to get burned, stay away from the fire!’

The Father/Son Talk (1)

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‘My son, hear the instruction of your father.’ Proverbs 1:8 NKJV

In Proverbs the words my son are used twenty-three times, and the word father is used nineteen times. So it’s a letter from a father to his son. It’s also a letter from a father to other fathers, about being a good father. It not only teaches a father how to lead his children, but how to live before them.

Interestingly, the letter contains a lot of warnings about the misuse of sex and the heartache it can bring. We’ve probably all heard the story of the twelve-year-old boy whose dad said, ‘Son, don’t you think it’s time we had a talk about sex?’ The little guy said, ‘Sure, Dad. What do you want to know?’ The sad truth is that today our children are getting their sex education in school, from their friends, from the internet and from experimentation—but not at home. Solomon writes, ‘Why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman?’ (Proverbs 5:20 NKJV) Sex education is the answer—as long as it involves the right teacher, the right classroom and the right curriculum. And the right teacher is you, Dad; the right classroom is your home; and the right curriculum is the Bible. A study of 10,000 high school students revealed that strong parental values and supervision have the most significant effect on a teen’s sexual activity. Parents who had a close relationship with their daughters and supervised their schoolwork and activities, were able by 42 percent to curb the likelihood that they’d ever become pregnant out of wedlock.

So Dad (and Mum), speak up. Get involved. You can’t afford not to!

If You Want It, Give It!

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‘You will be given a full amount in return.’ Luke 6:38 CEV

One night a man came to Mother Teresa’s house and told her about a family of eight who hadn’t eaten for a week. When she got there she saw the faces of little ones suffering from malnutrition, so she gave them a sack of rice. Then the children’s mother did something interesting. She kept half the rice and went out carrying the other half. When she returned Mother Teresa asked, ‘Where did you go?’ She answered, ‘To my neighbors; they’re hungry also.’ Mother Teresa says, ‘I wasn’t surprised that she gave; the poor are usually very generous. But I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we’re suffering we’ve no time for others.’

The Bible teaches that when you focus on the needs of others God will make sure your needs get met too. (See Ephesians 6:8) So if you want it, give it! Here’s why: (1) Giving is the key to blessing. Jesus said, ‘If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap.’ (2) The seed you sow now decides the size of the harvest you’ll reap later. No seed is too little to multiply if you’re willing to sow it. By finding a cause greater than your own self-interest and pouring yourself into it, you discover two things: first, it’s ok to acknowledge your limitations as long as you don’t build your life around them. Second, God’s blessing is released when you give what you have instead of talking about what you don’t have.

So if you want it, give it!

The Principle of Reciprocity

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‘God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor.’ Acts 10:4 CEV

Up until this time the Gospel had been preached exclusively to the Jews. But all that was about to change: ‘One afternoon at about three o’clock, Cornelius had a vision. He saw an angel from God coming to him and calling him by name… “God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor. Now send some men to Joppa for a man named Simon Peter.”’ (Acts 10:3–5 CEV) As a result of Cornelius’ prayers and generosity, he became the first Gentile to hear the Gospel and be saved. What a payoff!

God hears the kind words you speak to others when they’re hurting. He sees your sacrificial giving when you can least afford it. By doing what you’re doing, you’re paving the way for God to help you. He’s storing it all up so that in your time of need you’ll have a rich account to draw on. A lady was praying about starting a pet-grooming business but she couldn’t afford to advertise. So she went to her local animal shelter and volunteered to groom the pets to increase their chances for adoption. Interestingly, the harder she worked, the more her own business grew by word of mouth until she ended up with more clients than she could handle.

You say, ‘Does that mean if I don’t help others God won’t help me?’ Thankfully, no! God’s love is unconditional. But when you say ‘no’ to an opportunity to give, you miss out on an opportunity to receive. The principle of reciprocity is simple: when you’re generous with others, God promises to be generous with you. (See 2 Corinthians 9:6–8)

Never Assume

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‘The hand of the diligent makes rich.’ Proverbs 10:4 NKJV

Never assume your instructions are clearly understood and will be carried out. The Bible says, ‘The hand of the diligent makes rich,’ and the word diligent means paying careful attention to details.

When you give someone instructions, check to be sure they’ve made a note of them. If not, you should be concerned. The unlearned and uncommitted tend to trust their memory with everything, but the shortest pencil is still better than the longest memory. When someone doesn’t consider what you’re saying important enough to write down, they are sending you a signal; the light is flashing red. Even if their intentions are good, in their busyness or overconfidence your instructions can easily be forgotten. Those who are follow-through people always ask additional questions about the assignment and instructions you give them. For example, when you ask them to telephone somebody about a particular matter, they should automatically ask you: (a) Is there a deadline on this? (b) When do you need a report back on the results of this call? (c) Is there any additional information I need to know? If those kinds of questions are not forthcoming, chances are that person is not giving enough thought to their assignment. When someone tells you, ‘I’ll try to get to it,’ that’s another flashing red light, because much of the time they won’t. The word try often reveals halfheartedness. Give your instructions to one specific person—not two. Document the date you gave it to them and when you need them to report back.

In other words: only give instructions to someone who is qualified to receive and implement them.

Knowing You’ve Truly Forgiven Someone

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‘They didn’t even smell of smoke!’ Daniel 3:27 NLT

When King Nebuchadnezzar threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fiery furnace, God brought them out and ‘they didn’t even smell of smoke!’ We’ve all encountered people who still ‘smell like smoke’. Their attitude says, ‘I’ve been through a hard time, and I’m still upset about it.’ How about you? Have the experiences you’ve been through hardened your heart or softened it? When you speak, do you sound positive or negative? Are you bound by the memories of your past? Do you talk about your pain to anyone who will listen? Don’t you see what you’re doing—chaining yourself to the past? When circus elephants are young and unaware of their strength, they’re bound by a chain to a stake to limit their mobility. Later when they’re full-grown and have the strength to break that chain, they’re still bound by it. Why? Because they accept this limitation as permanent!

But it’s not the chain that binds them, it’s the memory! If you are bound by painful and debilitating memories, the word for you today is: ‘Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor. They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.’ (Isaiah 26:13–14 NIV)

Whatever your haunting memory is, you must begin to declare your deliverance from its bondage. By standing on God’s Word, you activate its power to set you free.

Is God Directing You To Zarephath?

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‘Go at once to Zarephath… and stay there.’ 1 Kings 17:9 NIV

The stream Elijah had been drinking from dried up and the ravens that brought him food every day stopped coming. When that happens God’s trying to get your attention! He’s getting you ready to move. Next God sent Elijah to an impoverished widow in the town of Zarephath, assuring him that she’d feed him. That must have been difficult for a leader who was used to ministering to others. Elijah found the widow in the middle of a famine, cooking one last meal for herself and her son. Nevertheless he challenged her to obey God, promising, ‘There will always be flour and olive oil… in your containers until… the Lord sends rain and the crops grow.’ (1 Kings 17:14 NLT) What gave Elijah the faith to say that? Because he’d proven God’s faithfulness in his own life!

You can only talk in faith when you walk in faith. And associating with people of faith is contagious; it builds your faith. That’s what happened to this widow. She and her son may not have eaten a five-course meal every night, but God made sure that for the duration of the famine they had all they needed. So if you don’t have everything you want right now, obey God with what He’s given you and trust Him that when the time is right He’ll send an increase. Notice also, the faith of both the widow and the prophet was tested. So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned believer, tests of faith will keep coming your way.

Is God directing you to your own personal Zarephath today? Don’t argue! ‘Go at once,’ because His blessing hinges on your obedience.

Ten Commandments for a Great Marriage

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‘Honor…marriage.’ Hebrews 13:4 NLT

Here are Ten Commandments for building a great marriage:

(1) God said, ‘Honor…marriage,’ so remain faithful to one another. Forsaking all others, put your mate before your mother, your father, your son and your daughter. Your mate is your lifelong companion. (2) Remember, ‘You…are the temple of God and…the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (1 Corinthians 3:16 NLT) Don’t abuse your health with excessive food, tobacco, drugs and alcohol, and hopefully you’ll enjoy a long, healthy life around the people you love. (3) Never permit your business or hobby to make you a stranger to your own family. ‘Children are a gift from the Lord…a reward from Him’ (Psalm 127:3 NLT), and the most precious gift you can give them is your time. (4) Don’t forget that cleanliness is a virtue. (5) Willingly share all your worldly goods, and don’t make your mate a beggar. ‘…love… just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.’ (Ephesians 5:25 NIV) (6) Don’t forget to say, ‘I love you.’ Even though your love may be constant, your mate never gets tired of hearing those words. (7) Remember that the approval of your spouse is worth more than the admiring glances of a hundred strangers. (8) Keep your home peaceful and in good repair, for out of it comes the joys of old age. (9) Always forgive with grace, for who among us doesn’t need to be forgiven? ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) (10) Honor God, and your children are much more likely to grow up and honor you. (See Proverbs 22:6)

Refuse to Settle

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‘They set out…to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.’ Genesis 11:31 NIV

Are you pressing ‘on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you]’ (Philippians 3:14 NIV), or have you ‘settled’ along the way?

God made a pact with Abraham—one that continues to influence the modern world. A lesser-known fact is that years earlier Abraham’s father, Terah, ‘set out… to go to Canaan,’ the land of abundance where God later called Abraham. But Terah never made it: ‘When they came to Haran, they settled there.’ No question, it couldn’t have been easy traveling hundreds of kilometers across rough terrain with flocks, herds, children and servants. Can you imagine the sheer logistics! Remember, there were no professional movers to pack and load your stuff! Finally, Terah decided they couldn’t go any farther, so they settled where they were comfortable.

One pastor adds: ‘I wonder how many times we do the same thing? We have a big dream …to excel in our careers…as parents…and in our walk with God. We get started, but things get difficult and achieving our goal doesn’t happen as quickly as we hoped. Perhaps similar to Abraham’s father we say, “Let’s just settle here. It’s not really what we wanted, but it’s good enough.” Don’t fall into that trap. You were made for more than “good enough”…Don’t settle for a little love and joy, a bit of peace and contentment, or a small helping of happiness… Pull up stakes, pack your tents, get your belongings, and start moving forward. Enlarge your vision. You may have had a delay, but…you can begin again.’

Go All the Way

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‘I consider everything a loss compared to…knowing Christ…’ Philippians 3:8 NIV

While John was a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos, far from his loved ones and surrounded by the cries of abused captives, he had a vision of Jesus. He writes, ‘…When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead…’ (Revelation 1:17 NKJV) Incredible revelation in the midst of confinement, chaos and pain; that’s how it works! The difficult circumstances you’re going through right now can actually clear your perceptions, cause you to seek God as never before, and find answers for your life. John’s predicament proves that negative experiences don’t hide the Lord; they reveal Him. Instead of destroying you, Satan’s attack can actually develop you. Yes, it stresses you, but it also stretches you spiritually. In Hebrews chapter 11 we see two things: the deeds of their faith and the depth of their faith. Where did God prove His faithfulness to Daniel? In the lions’ den. Where did the Lord reveal Himself to the three Hebrew children? In a fire, heated seven times over. There’s a place in God where fiery trials consume everything except your desire to know Him. Though that place may sometimes escape your grasp, never let it escape your gaze. It was Paul’s all-consuming goal: ‘I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.’ (Philippians 3:8 NIV) There it is: no reservations, no retreat, and no regrets; just a desire to know God intimately and a commitment to ‘go all the way with Him.’ Let that be your heart’s desire today!

To Be Faithful Is To Be Successful

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‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Matthew 25:23 NKJV

God wants you to succeed in life (See Joshua 1:8). And He will give you the tools, strategies and relationships necessary for success. David started out as a lowly shepherd boy, but God made him King of Israel. The Bible says, ‘In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.’ (1 Samuel 18:14 NIV)

But God’s definition of success is very different from the world’s definition. Former US Senator Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa. They visited the ‘House of Dying’ where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers faced daily. ‘How can you bear the load without being crushed beneath it?’ he asked. Mother Teresa replied, ‘My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.’ Some of us are called to serve in the limelight while others are called to serve in the shadows. Some are privileged to receive the world’s accolades and rewards, but most of us aren’t. Should we be discouraged? Not for a moment! With God, faithfulness counts as success.

One day when you stand before God you will hear these words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’ (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)

Don’t Just Pray—Believe!

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‘Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.’ Mark 11:24 NKJV

One of the dangers in praying is not expecting God to answer. The Bible says, ‘Without faith no one can please God. We must believe… God is real and… He rewards everyone who searches for Him.’ (Hebrews 11:6 CEV) The only currency God trades in is faith, and ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ (Romans 10:17 NKJV) As you immerse yourself in Scripture, faith takes root and begins to grow. And faith is what makes your prayers effective. But what if your faith lines up with God’s Word and the answer is delayed? Keep praying and believing! ‘Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.’ (Hebrews 10:35–36 NIV)

When a rural farming community was hit by severe drought, the local church called a prayer meeting. Almost everybody in town showed up (interesting how trouble has a way of getting our attention). As the pastor stood before a packed church he noticed an 11-year-old girl beaming with excitement in the front row. Lying on the pew beside her was a bright red umbrella poised and ready for use. The beauty and innocence of the sight made him smile, as he compared the child’s faith with that of all the others in the church. Looking at the congregation, he announced: ‘The rest of us came to pray for rain, but she came expecting God to answer!’

So don’t just pray—believe!

He’s Always A Step Ahead (3)

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‘No plague will come near your home.’ Psalm 91:10 NLT

For nine-year-old Keith Pulles, winterizing the family swimming pool signaled the end of summer. He writes: ‘I watched glumly from the window as Dad opened a jug and started dumping chemicals into the pool. Then he got another jug and added more stuff. “That’s a lot of stuff to put into the pool,” I thought. Just then the phone rang and I ran to check the caller ID. “Unknown name, unknown number.” Mum and Dad had warned me about talking to strangers, but that day a voice inside said, “Pick it up!” The urge was so strong I lifted the receiver and said hello. “May I speak with Steve Pulles, please?” I didn’t recognize the voice. Probably a telemarketer, but something made me say, “Hang on. I’ll go get him.” I went outside, phone in hand, and shouted, “Dad! Phone!” He walked around the side of the garage from the backyard and took the cordless phone from me. “Hello? Hello? Who’s calling?” he hollered. A couple of seconds later he took the phone from his ear and turned it off. “Nobody there,” he said. Suddenly there was an enormous boom from the back yard. “The pool!” Dad shouted. It turned out he’d mixed two chemicals he shouldn’t have. The mixture exploded out of the water, leaving toxic fumes… if Dad had been out there at that moment he could have died. Unknown caller? I don’t think so. The person on the phone that day certainly had our number.’

The Psalmist said, ‘No evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.’ Today, pray for God to protect you and your loved ones.

He’s Always A Step Ahead (2)

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‘His faithful promises are your armor and protection.’ Psalm 91:4 NLT

A vendor at a fair gave Mavis Gustafson Pigford a free Gideon Bible. She tucked it in her purse and forgot about it. Later as she walked along, a car pulled up, the driver pointed a gun and told her to get in. She writes: ‘I did as he said. He pulled over and tried to force me down on the seat. I struggled… and finally he ordered me out of the car. Before my feet hit the ground, I heard a shot and felt a sharp pain in my side. I collapsed, and the man came around… took my wallet… threw my purse at my head and shot it. I felt a dreadful impact. Still conscious… I heard the car drive away and I stumbled to a nearby farmhouse. The woman called for help… and as I was rushed to hospital, the police closed in on the drug-crazed driver who attacked me. Before surgery to remove the bullet in my side, my sister came to see me. “Do you know what saved your life?” she asked. She handed me the Bible from my purse. A bullet was lodged inside, its tip stopping exactly at Psalm 37:14–15 NIV: “The wicked draw the sword… to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.”’

Yet another example of how God’s always a step ahead: ‘He will rescue you from every trap… shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection… He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go…The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love Me… protect those who trust in My name.”’ (Psalm 91:3–41114 NLT)

He’s Always A Step Ahead (1)

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‘Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.’ Isaiah 65:24 NKJV

When Wilda Lahmann’s husband woke in the small hours of the morning gasping for air and clutching his chest, there wasn’t time to wait for an ambulance. She got him into the car and he slumped against the door. She writes: ‘Fifteen miles to the hospital…we’re not gonna make it. Please send help, Lord! A mile down the road I saw something. Were my eyes playing tricks? It was an ambulance with a paramedic standing beside it. Was he waiting for us? Who could’ve known to call? I slammed on the brakes and ran screaming for help. They started treatment immediately and rushed Randy to the hospital. The next three days were touch-and-go. I never left his bedside, praying he’d wake up. When he did, he asked, “What happened?” “You had a massive heart attack. Another minute or two and who knows?” “You called the paramedics?” Randy asked. “No,” I replied. “They were responding to an accident at that intersection. They even called headquarters to confirm they had the right location. Then we came along seconds later.” Fifteen miles on empty roads in the middle of the night; Randy’s heart attack would’ve been fatal if the paramedics hadn’t been there. I’d say they were in the perfect location.’

Often in a crisis there’s no time to call the pastor or your prayer partner. That’s when it’s good to know God said, ‘Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.’ He’s on the job 24/7, redeeming ‘your life from destruction’ (Psalm 103:4 NKJV) long before you even know you are in trouble!

Don’t Proceed Without Peace

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‘To be controlled by the Spirit results in… peace.’ Romans 8:6 GNT

When your thoughts, actions and plans are approved by God, He’ll confirm it by giving you an inner ‘knowing’. (See 1 John 2:20) The Bible says: ‘Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers].’ (Colossians 3:15 AMP) When you’re being led by God, you’ll have a sense of peace even in the midst of difficult circumstances. His peace is like a baseball umpire who decides what’s ‘safe’ and what’s ‘out of bounds’ for you.

But beware of false peace. Sometimes your desire to do a certain thing will be so strong that it will actually produce a false sense of peace that comes from your own excitement about the idea. As time passes this false peace will disappear and God’s true will, will emerge. So wait for it. As a rule you should never move too quickly on important decisions. The Bible says, ‘To be controlled by the Spirit results in… peace.’ So don’t proceed if your inner peace can’t hold its weight against what you think or hear. You don’t have to explain to others why you don’t have peace about it; indeed, sometimes you won’t know why. Just say, ‘I feel it’s not wise for me to do this at this time because I don’t have peace about it.’

There’s power in having peace. And one more thing: once you know that you’ve heard clearly from God, do all you can to keep your peace and don’t become anxious.

Be Teachable

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‘That the Lord…may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.’ Jeremiah 42:3 NKJV

Twelve bees were placed in a jar in a darkened room. A light was beamed onto the bottom of the jar, and then the lid removed. Instinctively, the bees flew toward the light and couldn’t escape. So they died trying to buzz their way through the bottom of the jar. Next the researchers took twelve common houseflies and repeated the experiment. Within seconds the flies had found their way out of the jar. Now, bees are more intelligent than flies and their survival instincts are better. Yet it was those very instincts that doomed the bees. There’s a lesson here. You may be very intelligent, yet your preconceived notions can doom you to failure in life. Assumptions, rigidity and force of habit can cause you to keep doing things that don’t work and make no sense.

Dr. James Dobson says: ‘Until 1992 I wrote books with pencils and yellow pads. I did that for years after word processors were available. The twentieth century was almost over before I decided to join it.’ Are you afraid to abandon an old belief system, or learn a new skill or tackle a new project? When you’re finished learning, you’re finished! The only real limitations are those we place on ourselves by refusing to learn. ‘Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.’ (Proverbs 9:9 NKJV) ‘The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.’ (Proverbs 18:15 NKJV)

Don’t let your fears and preconceived ideas keep you from growing; be teachable.

Prepare Them For Adolescence

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‘Children are known by the way they act.’ Proverbs 20:11 NLT

When you see signs of adolescence in your child, it’s time to talk with them. As the parent of a preteen, your task is similar to that of a football coach who’s trained his squad all through the late summer and early autumn. Now the first game is about to occur, when direct coaching is not going to be possible. So the coach gathers the players in the dressing room and makes one last speech before they take the field. He reminds them again of the fundamentals of the game, and gives them the old pep talk about winning.

Similarly, as the parent of a preteen you’ve been teaching them through preschool and primary school years about right and wrong, what to believe, and how to behave. Now the big contest called adolescence is about to begin and your team will take the field. From that point forward, very little parental advice can be given.

A Christian psychologist recommends that parents take an eleven- or twelve-year-old child on a ‘preparing for adolescence’ trip, during which moral values and family principles are repeated and emphasised: sex education and the physical changes of adolescence, the approaching social pressures, and other fundamentals that should be discussed. When you’ve done this, you’ve two things left to do: (1) Assure them you love them and will always be there for them, and that will never change. (2) Pray for them every day. And don’t just pray, have confidence in the power of your prayers: ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’ (James 5:16 NLT)

Dealing with the Devil (4)

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‘The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain.’ Matthew 4:8 NKJV

Temptation 3: The Bible says, ‘The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!…You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’ (Matthew 4:8–10 NKJV) Paraphrased: Satan said to Jesus, ‘If you serve me I’ll help you rise to the top.’

When your ultimate ambition is to glorify God, you’re being led by God. But when your ultimate ambition is to glorify yourself, you’re being led by Satan. And he’ll appeal to your pride, for pride is at the very core of his being. His fall from the number-two spot in Heaven was preceded by these lofty aspirations: ‘I will ascend to Heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:13–14 NIV) Satan wants to take God’s place, but God isn’t moving. Satan covets God’s throne, but God isn’t abdicating. Satan wants to win you to his side, but God will never let you go.

The truth is: You can’t defeat Satan in your own strength, but you don’t have to. The Bible says, ‘Let us… feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.’ (Hebrews 4:16 NCV)

Dealing with the Devil (3)

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‘If you are the Son of God, jump off!’ Matthew 4:6 NLT

Temptation 2: The Bible says, ‘The devil took Him…to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, He will order His angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”’ (Matthew 4:5–7 NLT) Notice, Satan will misquote the Scriptures. So when you do battle with him you need to be able to say as Jesus did, ‘The Scriptures also say.’ Jesus defeated Satan by using Scripture correctly—and that’s a secret Satan hopes you never discover. So arm yourself with God’s Word. Load your pistol with Scriptures and keep your finger on the trigger.

Notice where this temptation took place: in church [the temple]! ‘If you are the Son of God, jump off!’ In church, of all places, Satan will urge you to do tricks, impress others with your service, make a show of your faith, call attention to your good deeds and manipulate your way into a position of prominence. God has called you to be a servant, not a star. Kneel, don’t strut. ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honour.’ (1 Peter 5:5–6 NLT)

When Satan told Jesus to jump into the arms of God, Jesus refused. Not because God wouldn’t catch Him, but because He didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, much less the devil. And you don’t either.

Dealing with the Devil (2)

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‘Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.’ 1 Peter 5:8 NLT

When Jesus fought the devil in the wilderness, Satan never landed a single punch. Three times Jesus told him, ‘It is written.’ (Matthew 4:4710 NKJV) And with those three solid right hooks, Satan went down and couldn’t get up.

Let’s look at each of the three temptations. Temptation 1: ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.’ (Matthew 4:3 NLT) Note Satan’s twofold attack: (1) ‘If you are the Son of God.’ Satan will make you doubt your salvation, your Saviour and your righteous standing before God. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21) He’ll remind you of all your flaws and failures. He’ll tell you, ‘The Christian life is too hard; give up!’ That’s a lie; don’t believe him. Yes, the Holy Spirit will point out your character defects so you can overcome them. But you’re not saved by your own goodness. ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ (Ephesians 2:8 NKJV) (2) ‘Change these stones into loaves of bread.’ Forty days of fasting had left Jesus famished. His stomach was empty, so Satan began with the topic of bread. Where are you empty? Are you hungry for attention, craving success, and longing for intimacy? You must be aware of your weak spots and bring them to God before Satan brings them to you and says, ‘Meet your own needs. Take matters into your own hands. Leave God out of the picture.’ No, if you could live the Christian life without God, you wouldn’t need Him!

It’s the life that’s totally dependent on God that defeats Satan’s strategies every time.

Dealing with the Devil (1)

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‘We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] schemes.’ 2 Corinthians 2:11 NAS

The devil is thrilled with the current skepticism with which he’s viewed. The more we doubt or downplay his existence, the more he’s free to hurt and hamper us. Jesus never doubted the reality of the devil. The Bible says, ‘Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ (Matthew 4:1 NKJV) But Jesus was victorious. And He proved that God uses Satan’s schemes to strengthen us.

Times of testing are actually times of spiritual training. ‘My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when… trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’ (James 1:2–4 GNT) God loves you too much to leave you undeveloped and immature. ‘Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children… If you are not disciplined… then you are not… true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us… How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! … God disciplines us for our good… that we may share in His holiness.’ (Hebrews 12:7–10 NIV)

Paul says, ‘We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] schemes.’ In the film Patton, the American general counterattacks Field Marshal Rommel’s troops during World War ll. In the thick-of-battle scene, Patton shouts, ‘Rommel… I read your book!’ Patton had studied Rommel’s Infantry Attacks. He knew the German leader’s strategies and planned his moves accordingly. And when you become acquainted with Satan’s moves you can stop him cold in his tracks.

Let God Be God

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‘Casting down imaginations…’ 2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV

How does God provide for us? One day at a time. Do you remember the Israelites in the wilderness? God fed them faithfully each day by sending manna from Heaven. But some of them wanted to make sure they’d have enough for tomorrow, revealing their lack of trust in God, so they gathered more. But God would only allow them to collect enough for each day; when they tried to collect more the excess rotted. Understand this: when you worry over the future or things you can do nothing about, it’s like trying to store up manna for tomorrow. Before you know it you feel rotten. God wants you to give tomorrow’s concerns to Him because they’re too big for you. You only receive enough grace for today, so stay in the moment.

Question: Are you being tormented by the ‘what ifs?’ What if I get hurt or become ill, or the company downsizes and I lose my job? What if people don’t like or accept me? What if I can’t find someone to love me and I end up alone? What if I’m not hearing from God and I make a big mistake? The Bible calls this ‘imaginations’—you’re literally imagining the worst case scenario. Paul says, ‘Cast it down,’ for if you don’t you’ll live in dread concerning things that haven’t happened—and probably never will. What if you ‘figure it all out,’ then God surprises you and does something different, something better? All that time would be wasted.

Haven’t you already wasted enough time worrying? Here’s an idea: this year why don’t you just relax and let God be God in your life?

Recognize Your Calling

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‘It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’ Philippians 2:13 NIV

By recognizing and fulfilling your God-given assignment in life you free yourself from a sense of failure, and are able to stop worrying about what others think. Why? Because your self-worth no longer depends on people but God!

However, you must do these three things: (1) Be honest about your gifts, and recognise your limitations. Don’t go through life as a stranger to yourself. Honestly assess your strengths and limitations; ask the hard questions and be willing to live with the answers, even if it means letting some things go. Each of us has been given a calling in life, and happiness belongs to those who find and fulfil that calling. (2) Allow God to work on you. Sometimes amateur potters limit the potential of clay by seeing it only as a flowerpot. But a master potter sees much more—he or she knows what it can become. Watch them; they don’t merely impose a shape on it, they release the shape that’s already within. And that’s what God does with us. (3) Recognise your source. Fulfilling your life’s assignment begins with identifying the desires God has placed within you. ‘It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.’ (Philippians 2:13 NIV) Who’s at work within you? God! Where do your desires come from? God! Where do your abilities come from? God!

Make knowing God and walking in step with Him be your highest priority every day.

Find Lasting Satisfaction

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‘But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.’ John 4:14 NLT

Jesus asked the woman at the well for a drink of water. Surprised that a Jew would talk to a Samaritan, she asked Him why He was asking her for water. He replied: ‘If you only knew… you would ask Me, and I would give you living water… Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.’ (John 4:1013–14 NLT)

Notice the distinction between ‘this water’ and ‘the water I give’. Jesus wasn’t discussing regional water qualities. He was talking about her five failed marriages and the man she was currently living with. The truth is, she had no idea how or where to find the satisfaction she’d thirsted for. One disappointing relationship after another; no matter how often she drank from ‘this water’ her thirst could not be satisfied. And her response to each failed relationship was another failed relationship—supposing, as we often do, that doing more of what doesn’t work will eventually make it work! Jesus wasn’t criticizing her lack of morals. No, He was offering her the only real cure for emptiness. ‘Anyone who drinks the water… I give will never thirst again.’

Whatever you’re looking to for fulfilment—drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, serial relationships, money or popularity—it’s all water that can never satisfy. Focusing your life on Jesus, spending time with Him, talking with Him, and ‘drinking in’ His Word daily will absolutely fill the void within you.

Don’t Look Back

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‘Anyone who…looks behind him is useless for the Kingdom of God.’ Luke 9:62 PHPS

Jesus sought out people prepared to do more than just believe in Him—He wanted people willing to follow Him. His early ministry was marked by people like Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel. (See John 1:35–52) These were people willing to leave where they were and what they owned in order to follow Him. Jesus called people to a life of radical commitment. When He ‘called the crowd to Him… He said, “If people want to follow Me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives.”’ (Mark 8:34 NCV) No half-measures, but a willingness to follow Him full-time.

Trusting in Jesus will get you into Heaven, but nothing less than following Him daily will make you useful in His Kingdom on earth. Three different men told Jesus, ‘I’ll follow you, Lord’ (Luke 9:61 NIV), but they weren’t willing to give up the priorities of their old lives (Luke 9:62). And Jesus responded with this powerful metaphor: ‘Anyone who puts his hand to the plough and… looks behind him is useless for the Kingdom of God.’

Following Jesus means whatever is back there, stays back there—old hang-ups, attachments and lifestyles. You can’t plough the straight furrow of discipleship looking back at the past. Don’t let the gravitational pull of past failure, guilt, fear, shame, betrayal, loss, abuse, rejection, resentment and unforgiveness ruin your future. Cut the cord; join those willing to ‘follow the Lamb wherever He goes.’ (Revelation 14:4 NKJV)

Put on the Garment of Praise

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‘The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.’ Isaiah 61:3 NKJV

Praise works like a magnifying glass. It causes what you’re focusing on to get bigger, to be ‘magnified’. David said, ‘Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.’ (Psalm 34:3–4 NKJV) It’s a mistake to wait until you’ve no problems, fewer problems, or your problems are solved before you praise the Lord. Praise is one of the great Scriptural keys to problem-solving because it gets your focus on God, the problem solver. Charles Spurgeon said: ‘My happiest moments are when I am worshipping God, really adoring the Lord Jesus Christ… In that worship I forget the cares of the church and everything else. To me it is the nearest approach to what it will be in Heaven.’

God has promised you ‘the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.’ It works like this. When you begin to praise Him with a heavy heart, you experience a new sense of hope and joy. Through worship you are reminded that God is bigger than the situation you face; that He’s not only capable of managing your concerns but willing, wanting and waiting to. The Psalmist wrote: ‘Seven times a day I praise You.’ (Psalm 119:164 NKJV)

Fill your day with praise. Don’t just take coffee breaks and tea breaks, take ‘praise breaks.’ Begin to praise God for two things: (1) His attributes. His power, love, grace, favour, guidance, etc. (2) His acts. Recall His goodness to you. Go ahead; take off the spirit of heaviness and put on the garment of praise.

Why Jesus came

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‘Enoch walked faithfully with God three hundred years.’ Genesis 5:22 NIV

Life is a journey with a definite beginning and end. And if you’re wise you’ll do what Enoch did for three hundred years—he walked with God. Can you imagine how well you’d know God after spending all those years with Him? There’s nothing dull or boring about walking with God. The Psalmist says, ‘You have made known to me the path of life; You fill me with joy in Your presence.’ (Psalm 16:11 NIV) God made you for Himself, and only when you discover His purpose for your life will you find peace and joy.

If you were to take a fish out of the ocean and place it on the beach, you’d see its scales dry up as it gasped for breath. Is that fish happy? No. If you covered it with a mountain of cash would it be happy? No. Would an iPad, a good book or a cool drink make it happy? No. Would a new wardrobe? No. Only one thing will make it happy: putting it back in the water. That fish will never be happy on the beach because it wasn’t made for the beach. It was made for the ocean, in the same way you were made for fellowship with God. You’ll always feel like a fish out of water—never knowing peace and joy—till you find Him.

And the good news is He’s as close to you as a prayer. Once you ask Him into your heart you’ll never feel empty again. Do you know why Jesus came that first Christmas? He tells us: ‘So that [you] may have the full measure of My joy within.’ (John 17:13 NIV)

‘How silently the wondrous gift is given’

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‘You will find a baby… lying in a manger.’ Luke 2:12 NIV

One Christmas in London Phil Yancey went to hear Handel’s Messiah. He says: ‘I’d spent the morning viewing remnants of England’s glory—crown jewels, a gold mace, the Mayor’s gilded carriage… such images must have filled the minds of Isaiah’s contemporaries who heard the promise, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” (Isaiah 40:5 KJV) No doubt the Jews thought back to the glory days of Solomon when “silver and gold [were] as common as stones.” (2 Chronicles 1:15 NIV) The Messiah who showed up, however, wore the glory of humility… The God who could order armies and empires like chessboard pawns emerged as a baby who… depended on a teenage couple for shelter, food and love. In London I caught glimpses of the way rulers stride through the world: with bodyguards, trumpet fanfares… bright clothes… flashing jewellery. Queen Elizabeth II had recently visited the US with 2000 kg of luggage… 2 outfits for every occasion… her own hairdresser… and a host of other attendants… God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants and nowhere to lay the newborn King but a feed-trough. A mule could have stepped on him! The sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw that spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, “nobodies” who failed to leave their names.’

The Christmas story inspired an Episcopal priest visiting Bethlehem in 1865 to pen the familiar words: ‘How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts of human hearts the blessing of His Heaven. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin; where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.’

Smile, and Start a Chain Reaction

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‘I smiled on them… my cheerful face gave them comfort.’ Job 29:24 GNT

If you think you’ve nothing to smile about, consider these words from a man who’d just experienced the death of all his children, the loss of his entire fortune, and was now covered from head to toe in boils. ‘I smiled on them when they had lost confidence; my cheerful face encouraged them. I took charge and made the decisions; I led them as a king leads his troops, and gave them comfort in their despair.’ (Job 29:24–25 GNT) That’s the power of a smile!

One Christmas a big department store posted this sign: ‘The Value of a Smile: it costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive it, without impoverishing those who give it. It happens in a flash, and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None are so rich that they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits. It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friends. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is no earthly good until it is given away. And if in the last minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours. For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give!’

Start a chain reaction this Christmas! Walk round around with a smile on your face and see what happens.

The Key to a Successful Life

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‘These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature.’ 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The story is told of a pastor who was invited to dinner with one of the families in his congregation, so the woman of the house decided to impress him. After dinner she wanted him to read something inspiring to the family. She said to one of her children, ‘Please go and get the Good Book, the book we love, the book we read every day.’ Guess what happened? The child came back with a shopping catalogue!

Seriously, just as you cannot thrive physically without a daily intake of good nutrition, you cannot thrive spiritually without a daily intake of God’s Word. Everything you need for living a joyful and victorious Christian life is found in your Bible. ‘By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself… He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.’ (2 Peter 1:3–4 NLT) What did Jesus use to overcome Satan’s temptations in the wilderness? Intellect? Willpower? No, He used the Scriptures because He knew Satan has no defence against them.

Do you want to succeed in your career, in your home, in your relationships, and everywhere else? ‘Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.’ (Joshua 1:8 NLT)

The Hardest Thing You’ll Ever Do

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‘[Jesus] made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.’ Philippians 2:7 KJV

The hardest thing you’ll ever do is to put others first and yourself second, because we intuitively look out for ourselves. Self-preservation is man’s first instinct—but it doesn’t work. Do you know how two goats respond when they meet on a narrow path above a river? They can’t turn back, and they can’t pass each other because they lack the smallest bit of spare room. The goats instinctively know that if they butt each other they’ll both fall into the river and drown. So how do they handle it? Nature has taught one goat to lie down so the other can pass over it; and as a result both animals survive and arrive at their destination safe and sound. Instead of seeing itself as a doormat to be walked on, the goat sees itself as a bridge to be crossed over. So it becomes a win/win.

The Bible says Jesus ‘made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.’ (Philippians 2:7 KJV) And to do that you must focus on other people’s needs instead of your own ‘rights’. President Calvin Coolidge once said: ‘No enterprise can exist for itself alone. It ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others; or failing therein, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist.’ And what’s true for any organization or business operation, is true for you.

And here’s the best part: Every time you sacrifice in order to serve someone, you’re sowing seeds of blessing you will surely reap.

Transformed By Beholding

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‘We all… beholding… the Lord, are being transformed into the same image… by the Spirit of the Lord.’ 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

Many Christians think God is just waiting to pounce on them for their failures, and their wrong believing produces wrong living. When you view God that way you can’t help but live in constant fear, insecurity and anxiety over your sins and struggles.

Today make a decision to turn your eyes away from yourself and place them on Jesus, for He has already made you righteous with His blood. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21) The more you behold Jesus, the more you will be transformed into His likeness. ‘We all…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV) Keeping your eyes on Jesus leads to the greatest expression of holiness. Many of us think we have to do more in order to be more holy and accepted by God. As you focus on Jesus and see His love, His forgiveness, His abundant grace and His gift of righteousness purchased for you with His own blood, your approach to Christian living changes and you are transformed—from the inside out.

Holiness comes by focusing on Jesus, not yourself. This is not outward behaviour modification, it’s inward change sustained by a heart that’s been touched by grace and an emancipated conscience that’s freed from guilt and condemnation. As a result you begin to walk in victory instead of defeat. And this is the life that God wants you to experience today.

Dealing With Depression (5)

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‘They are trying to kill me too.’ 1 Kings 19:10 NIV

Here’s another mistake that triggered Elijah’s depression: He exaggerated the negative. It’s that old ‘everybody’s against me!’ thinking. The fact is, almost nobody was against Elijah. Only one person opposed him, and her threat wasn’t real. Queen Jezebel didn’t dare kill Elijah. Think about it: if she’d really intended to kill him she wouldn’t have sent a messenger to warn him, she’d have sent a hit man! Jezebel feared Elijah’s influence. If he’d ended up a martyr, that would have increased his influence and likely caused a revolution. Having just witnessed what God did to the prophets of Baal, Jezebel was probably afraid of what God would do to her if she touched His prophet. So her words were empty threats. But instead of stopping to realistically evaluate the situation, Elijah ran away.

When we’re depressed we tend to exaggerate the negative. In reality, Elijah wasn’t the only person still faithful to God. There were seven thousand other prophets who hadn’t succumbed to pagan religion (see 1 Kings 19:18), but Elijah exaggerated the problem and ended up sinking lower than ever.

If you feel depressed today, put your trust in God. Rise up and say, ‘This too shall pass. What does not destroy me will only make me stronger.’ Here’s a promise you can stand on with complete confidence: ‘How great is the goodness You have stored up for those who fear You. You lavish it on those who come to You for protection, blessing them before the watching world.’ (Psalm 31:19 NLT)

Dealing With Depression (4)

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‘I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty.’ 1 Kings 19:10 NLT

After Elijah fled to the desert and hid in a cave, God asked him, ‘What are you doing here?’ (1 Kings 19:9 NLT) Whereupon Elijah replied, ‘I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with You, torn down Your altars, and killed every one of Your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.’ (1 Kings 19:14 NLT)

Another thing that causes depression is assuming false blame. When we take on a responsibility God never gave us, it’s too heavy a burden to bear. If you’re in the habit of helping people, you soon realise they don’t always respond in the way you’d like. And that’s the case whether it’s your children, your friends, your spouse or the people you work with. People react in many different ways, and you can’t assume personal responsibility for their responses. God has given each of us a free will, and when you accept responsibility for other people’s decisions you take on a burden that will only depress you. At best, you can influence people but you can’t control them. The final decision is theirs, so don’t let yourself get down over something that you can’t control. When you know you’ve done what God told you to do, trust Him to do what you can’t do. Any time you try to convict, convince, convert, control or change another person, you’re setting yourself up for misery.

The Bible says, ‘It is God who works in you [and others] to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’ (Philippians 2:13 NIV) So when you’ve done your part, back off and let God do His.

Dealing With Depression (3)

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‘Lord… take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ 1 Kings 19:4 NIV

Another cause for depression is comparing ourselves with other people. We think, ‘If I could just be like so-and-so I’d be happy.’ When you compare yourself with other people you’re asking for trouble. (See 2 Corinthians 10:12) There’s only one person you should strive to be—and that’s yourself. When you try to imitate another person and act like them, invariably you end up depressed. You need to be honest with yourself, and be who you are. That’s all God wants. That’s all He expects.

When we start comparing ourselves with other people, we fall into another trap: we compare our weaknesses with their strengths. We forget that those people may be weak in areas where we are strong. What’s more, we try to motivate ourselves through self-criticism and condemnation. We do it by ‘should-ing’ ourselves: ‘I should be able to be like that person. I should be able to act better. I should be able to accomplish it. I should be able to stop it’—as if whipping ourselves verbally is going to change us! Nagging doesn’t work when we do it to another person, and nagging ourselves doesn’t work either.

So what’s the solution? Start reprogramming your mind with God’s Word. ‘By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself…has given us great and precious promises…that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.’ (2 Peter 1:3–4 NLT)

Dealing With Depression (2)

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‘He… sat down… and prayed that he might die.’ 1 Kings 19:4 NIV

The Bible says: ‘Elijah was afraid and ran for his life… into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life…”’ (1 Kings 19:3–4 NIV) What was Elijah’s mistake? The same one we sometimes make when we’re depressed: we focus on our feelings rather than on the facts of the situation. It happens when we get down. Elijah felt like a failure because of one incident that intimidated him. He thought to himself, ‘I’m such a coward—why am I running?’ And because he felt like a failure he assumed he was a failure.

Feelings often lie; and when we focus on how we feel instead of focusing on reality we get into trouble. For instance, when we make a mistake in one area, we tend to feel like we’re failures at all of life in general. That’s a misconception. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes, and you can fail in some areas without being a failure as a person. Mental health experts encourage us to vent our feelings and get them out. But that’s not the complete answer, because feelings are notoriously unreliable. God doesn’t tell us to get in touch with our feelings, but to get in touch with the truth of His Word because ultimately that’s what sets us free. (See John 8:32)

To overcome depression you must study God’s Word and practice bringing your feelings into alignment with what it says.

Dealing With Depression (1)

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‘Elijah was as human as we are.’ James 5:17 NLT

Elijah, who’d been fearless for three years, became frightened when Jezebel threatened his life. So he ran to the desert, where he became depressed and announced, ‘I have had enough, Lord… take my life.’ (1 Kings 19:4 NIV) Elijah became a prime candidate for depression when he got physically tired, emotionally drained, and felt threatened. He was a basket case of emotional problems: fear, resentment, guilt, anger, loneliness and worry. And the Bible says, ‘Elijah was a man just like us.’ He wrestled with the same problems we do. He got so depressed that he wanted to die!

Why do we get ourselves into such emotional messes? Sometimes it’s because of what happens to us—bad circumstances that occur in our lives. But more often it’s due to faulty thinking. The truth is our emotions are generated by our thoughts, and when we think in destructive ways we are going to feel depressed. Our emotions spring from how we interpret life, and if you always see things from a negative viewpoint you’re going to get down. To rid yourself of harmful emotions you must learn to change the way you think.

That’s why the Bible talks about being ‘transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Romans 12:2 NKJV) To overcome depression you must learn to correct your wrong thinking and attitudes about life. In the words of Jesus, when you ‘know the truth… the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:32 NIV) Looking at things from the right point of view—God’s viewpoint—is the path to overcoming depression.

Don’t Be So Self-Absorbed

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‘Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.’ Philippians 2:4 NLT

Do you want to maintain other people’s respect? When they share their struggles and successes with you, don’t say, ‘That’s nothing; let me tell you about my…!’ Haman, a Persian government official mentioned in the book of Esther, was self-absorption personified. He ‘boasted to [his friends and wife] about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored… and… elevated him above the other nobles and officials.’ (Esther 5:11 NIV) Not once do we read of his expressing interest in anyone but himself. Indeed, he was so resentful of the favor the king had shown toward Mordecai, a Jew, that he built a gallows on which to hang him. And how did the story end? The king hanged Haman on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.

So unless you want to tie a noose around your own neck, stop talking so much about yourself! Chances are you may not even be aware of this character flaw in your communication. So ask God to point it out when you do it, and give you grace to overcome it. Self-centredness dies slowly, so start with small steps. Try going for a whole day without making your issues the focus of every conversation. Give everyone you meet your full attention—and watch your friendships multiply and your relationships deepen.

The word for you today is: ‘Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’

Understanding Your Child

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‘Give to Your servant an understanding heart.’ 1 Kings 3:9 NKJV

Do you remember the ‘class clown’ in the school? He could make everyone crack up at the most inopportune times. He was a trial to his teachers, an embarrassment to his parents, and an utter delight to every child who wanted to escape the boredom of school. Teachers probably wonder if the Board of Education assigns at least one clown to every class to make sure they earn every dollar of their salaries. These skilled little disrupters are usually boys. Often they have reading or other academic problems. They may be small in stature, although not always, and they’ll do anything for a laugh. Their parents and teachers may not recognise that behind the boisterous behaviour is often the pain of inferiority.

You see, humour is a classic response to feelings of low self-esteem. That’s why within many successful comedians is the memory of a hurting child. Jonathan Winters’ parents were divorced when he was seven, and he used to cry when he was alone because other children teased him about not having a father. Joan Rivers frequently joked about her unattractiveness as a girl. She said she was such a ‘dog’, her father had to throw a bone down the aisle to get her married. These famous comedians got their training during childhood, using humour as a defence.

That’s also the inspiration for the class clown. By making an enormous joke out of everything, they often conceal the self-doubt that churns inside them. Understanding that should help you meet their needs and manage them more effectively. ‘Give to Your servant an understanding heart’ is a prayer every parent and teacher should pray.

When You Pray

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‘While He prayed… Heaven… opened.’ Luke 3:21 NKJV

When Jesus was baptized the Bible says, ‘While He prayed… the Holy Spirit descended… upon Him… and a voice… from Heaven…said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”’ (Luke 3:21–22 NKJV) After the crucifixion the disciples ‘prayed with a single purpose’ (Acts 1:14 CEV) and ‘the place…was shaken. They were…filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke God’s word without fear.’ (Acts 4:31 NCV) Make no mistake, prayer can be hard work, but our most rewarding moments will come from time spent on our knees. God uses prayer to accomplish things that won’t happen any other way.

Henry Blackaby says: ‘As we pray our attention is turned towards God and we become more receptive to aligning our lives with His will. He won’t equip us with His power while we’re racing off to our next appointment! His Spirit won’t empower us if we’re oblivious to what He’s saying. He requires our complete attention… ‘Jesus told His disciples…they should always pray and not give up.’ (Luke 18:1 NIV) If you’ll commit yourself to spend sustained time in prayer… God will work in your life as He did in the lives of Jesus and His disciples… The fervent prayer of the people at Pentecost didn’t induce the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Prayer brought them to where they were ready to participate in the mighty work God had already planned.’

The Bible says, ‘Before daylight, [Jesus] went… to a solitary place; and…prayed.’ (Mark 1:35 NKJV) And before He chose His disciples, ‘He spent the night praying.’ (Luke 6:12 NCV) If it took a whole night for Jesus to determine His Father’s will, what makes you think you can do it in a few hurried moments?

Walk in the Light!

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‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world.’ John 3:19 NIV

Here are some helpful observations on ‘walking in the Light’.

(1) Sin is God’s enemy, and yours. Jesus said, ‘Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.’ (Luke 11:23 NIV) Neutrality and passivity aren’t options; you must treat sin like the enemy it is. (2) Be honest with yourself and God. Don’t excuse your sin as a ‘condition’ or ‘tendency’. You didn’t just make a bad judgment—you sinned. You may have had a troubled past, but today you have choices! (3) Don’t indulge in beating yourself up. You’re not supposed to wallow in condemnation before acknowledging your sin. Making yourself miserable doesn’t signify that you deserve forgiveness. That comes by grace, through faith alone. Every second spent in self-condemnation is time stolen from you by Satan. The moment that brings the acknowledgment of sin also brings the cleansing of sin. (4) If you repeat the sin, repeat the confession. ‘Won’t God get tired of me coming to Him?’ you ask. No. God accepted Jesus as a substitute for all your sins for all time, so He will never reject you. Isaiah told God’s people, ‘Return to the Lord, and He will have mercy… and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.’ (Isaiah 55:7 NKJV)

Above all, be patient with yourself. Give the Holy Spirit time to develop in you the strength needed to transcend your old nature and overcome your old sinful habits, and be assured it will happen. (See Philippians 1:6)

The Power of Intercessory Prayer

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‘Moses… stood before [God] in the breach.’ Psalm 106:23 NKJV

Sometimes God moves sovereignly, giving you neither notice nor explanation. Other times He moves only in answer to prayer. The prayers of Rees Howells, ‘the Welsh intercessor’, were so powerful that they’re credited with thwarting the Nazis and influencing certain events in World War II. Thank God for knowledge and ability, but some things only happen when we ‘give ourselves continually to prayer.’ (Acts 6:4 NKJV) The Bible says God would have destroyed Israel ‘had not Moses… stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath.’

Behind some of the greatest spiritual awakenings in history was an unseen, unsung force known as ‘intercessors’. Many of the victories we celebrate in the open are first won by such people in the secret place of prayer. It’s a specialized ministry, and God could be calling you to it. Even though your limbs may not carry you beyond your own front door, through prayer you can limit Satan’s movements and defeat his best-laid plans. Through prayer you can call the forces of Heaven into any situation, anywhere, anytime, for anybody. No wonder Satan downplays the power of intercessory prayer and will do whatever it takes to keep us from giving ourselves to it. There’s no distance in prayer.

God said, ‘Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.’ (Psalm 2:8 NKJV) It’s time to move beyond our ‘bless me’ prayers and start claiming bigger things for God. When what we declare on earth lines up with what God has decreed in Heaven—it will be done!

The Golden Rule (3)

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‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 NIV

To make the Golden Rule part of your daily life, you must try to do three things for others:

(1) Trust them. Without trust there can be no real relationship. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson said, ‘The chief lesson I’ve learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is by trusting him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.’ Is it always easy? No, especially when it’s someone you don’t know very well. Nevertheless, that’s Christ’s Golden Rule. As you strive to invest confidence in others just as you’d like it to be invested in you, remember that the person who trusts others will always lose less than the person who distrusts them. (2) Thank them. Human relations expert Donald Laird said, ‘Always help people increase their self-esteem… There’s hardly a higher compliment you can pay an individual than helping him to be useful and to find satisfaction in his usefulness.’ How do you do that? By letting them know you appreciate their efforts. By making a point of praising them in the presence of those closest to them. As Broadway producer Billy Rose observed: ‘It’s hard for a fellow to keep a chip on his shoulder if you allow him to take a bow.’ (3) Value them. Surveys confirm that 70 percent of workers who leave their jobs do so because they don’t feel valued. That’s an indictment of how poorly some leaders treat employees! There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t want to be appreciated. Don’t you?

So make a habit of practicing the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule (2)

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‘For you will be treated as you treat others.’ Matthew 7:2 NLT

In his book Running with the Giants, John Maxwell tells of a new pastor who shared the following eight rules with his congregation: (1) If you’ve a problem with me, come and see me privately. I’ll do the same for you. (2) If someone else has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. I’ll do the same. (3) If someone won’t come to me, say, ‘Let’s go see him together.’ I’ll do the same. (4) Be careful how you interpret me—I’d rather do that. It’s too easy to misinterpret intentions. I’ll also be careful how I interpret you. (5) If it’s confidential, don’t tell. If you or anyone else comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell, unless they’re going to harm themselves, harm someone else, or a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you. (6) I don’t read unsigned letters. (7) I don’t manipulate. I won’t be manipulated. Don’t let others manipulate you. And don’t let others try to manipulate me through you. (8) When in doubt, just say so. If I can answer without misrepresenting something or breaking a confidence, I will.

Those eight rules can be reduced to the one Golden Rule: ‘Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.’ Good marriages, business relationships and friendships are based on the Golden Rule Jesus gave us.

One final thought: ‘Abstain from every form of evil.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV) If people could construe that you’re taking advantage of them even after you’ve had a chance to explain your motives, you may need to rethink your idea.

The Golden Rule (1)

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‘Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.’ Matthew 7:12 NLT

Try to slot yourself based on one of these statements: (a) I’m always ethical. (b) I’m mostly ethical. (c) I’m somewhat ethical. (d) I’m seldom ethical. (e) I’m never ethical. Which slot do you fall into?

If we’re truthful, most of us would likely put ourselves in slot (b). Why? Because of personal convenience. Think about it. Paying the price for success is inconvenient. Putting others first is inconvenient. Practicing personal discipline is inconvenient. Risking confrontation is inconvenient. Most of us think being ethical is fine—unless we’re on the losing end of somebody else’s ethical lapse.

But if you’re serious about establishing an ethical standard to live by, you need look no further than the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.’ And: (1) It brings peace and self-worth. When all is said and done, you need to be able to live with yourself because ‘wherever you go you take yourself with you.’ If the only way you can win is by cheating, you lose self-respect, fear being exposed, lack confidence in approaching God, and your successes feel hollow. (2) It results in a win-win. Are you the kind of person who thinks that in order for you to win, somebody else must lose? That philosophy doesn’t work. When you treat other people the way you want to be treated, they win; and when they reciprocate, you win. There are no losers. (3) It’s easy to understand. You simply put yourself in the other person’s shoes. That’s it! There are no complicated rules and no loopholes.

Don’t Be A Hypocrite

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‘…each of you must put off falsehood.’ Ephesians 4:25 NIV

It’s not your shortcomings that make you a hypocrite; it’s hiding them and pretending you don’t have any! Note two things about hypocrisy: (1) It’s as natural as breathing. It appeals to our ego. We get hooked on it because it looks so impressive, and results in our getting lots of positive strokes. Who doesn’t enjoy that? (2) Dealing with it is hard. It’s easier to train a new Christian than to retrain an old one steeped in religion.

To win the battle with hypocrisy you must first admit you’ve a problem with it. Only then can the Holy Spirit begin a work of deliverance and set you on the path to freedom. But be warned, it’s a long and brutal fight. Our desire to look good in front of others dies slowly—if at all.

Paul writes: ‘So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking… darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they… indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ… You were taught… to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood.’

Don’t Forget To Thank God

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‘When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God.’ Deuteronomy 8:10 NIV

We decided to reprint this story because its message is timeless.

‘They huddled inside the storm door—two children in ragged, oversized coats. “Any old papers, lady?” I was busy. I wanted to say no—until I saw their feet. Little sandals sopped with sleet. “Come in and I’ll make you some hot cocoa.” There was no conversation. Their soggy sandals left marks on the hearthstone. I served them cocoa with toast and jam to fortify them against the chill outside. Then I went back to the kitchen to work on my household budget. The silence in the front room struck through me. I looked in. The little girl held the empty cup in her hands and looked at it. The boy asked, “Lady, are you rich?” I looked at my shabby slipcovers. “Am I rich? Mercy, no!” The girl put the cup in its saucer—carefully. “Your cups match your saucers.” Her voice was old with a hunger not of the stomach. They then left, holding their bundles of paper against the wind. They hadn’t said thank you. They didn’t need to—they’d done more than that. Much more. Plain blue pottery cups and saucers, but they matched. Potatoes in brown gravy; a roof over our heads; my man with a good steady job—these things matched, too. I moved the chairs back from the fire and tidied the living room. The muddy prints of small sandals were still wet on my hearth. I let them be. I want them there in case I ever forget how rich I am!’

The word for you today is: Don’t forget to thank God.

The Virtue of Humility (2)

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‘Humility brings honor.’ Proverbs 29:23 NLT

The story’s told of a young pastor who was widely known to be a gifted preacher. But as his congregation swelled—so did his head! One Sunday after he’d delivered his latest masterpiece, a church member shook his hand and said, ‘You are, without a doubt, one of the greatest preachers of our generation.’ It was all the young minister could do to squeeze his head into the car as he slid behind the steering wheel. And as he and his wife drove home he told her what his parishioner had said. She didn’t respond, so after fishing for affirmation he said, ‘I wonder just how many “great preachers” there are in this generation?’ She replied, ‘One fewer than you think, dear!’

Try to imagine Jesus kneeling with a towel and a basin to wash the dirt from your feet. In those days of unpaved streets, it was a common courtesy. When you visited someone’s home they’d wash your feet as a way of saying, ‘I welcome and honor you.’ When Jesus’ disciples protested, He said to them, ‘I have given you an example to follow: do as I have done to you… That is the path of blessing.’ (John 13:15–17 TLB) Someone once asked Leonard Bernstein, the brilliant New York Philharmonic conductor, what the most difficult position in the orchestra was. He replied, ‘Second fiddle.’

Everybody wants to sit in the first chair. But in God’s Kingdom we’re called to consider others first and ourselves second. When we do, God promises to honor us.

The Virtue of Humility (1)

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‘Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.’ Proverbs 22:4 NIV

When Benjamin Franklin was 22 he was living in Philadelphia after escaping an oppressive apprenticeship. He was, as they say, ‘trying to find himself.’ One question burned in his heart: ‘What are the greatest priorities of my life?’ In answer, he developed twelve ‘virtues’—values that would govern his life. They were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility and chastity. Franklin took his list of virtues to an old Quaker friend and asked his opinion. His friend read them and said, ‘Benjamin, you’ve forgotten the most important one.’ Surprised, Franklin asked which one. The old man replied, ‘Humility.’ Franklin immediately added it to his list. He organized his life into repeating thirteen-week cycles, focusing on one of those virtues each week. At seventy-eight years of age, he began reflecting on his life and the qualities he’d built it around. Though he felt pretty good about having achieved most of them, here’s what he said about humility: ‘I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue; but I have had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.’

The Bible says, ‘Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honour and life.’ Humility is an interesting virtue; you’re supposed to show it—but not know it! Jonathan Edwards said, ‘Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility.’

If there’s one thing in this world your ego will neither seek nor strive for, it’s humility. Yet true and lasting success depends on it.

The Double Standard

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‘…the way of the wicked is like total darkness.’ Proverbs 4:19 NLT

The Bible says: ‘The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over.’ (Proverbs 4:18–19 NLT)

In 1966 Dr. Joseph Fletcher published a book which became a best seller. It was called Situation Ethics. In it he said love was the only standard for determining right from wrong. The result was ethical chaos. Why? Because it allowed us to set our own standards, which changed from situation to situation. And to make matters worse, it’s our natural inclination to go easy on ourselves, judging ourselves according to our intentions while holding others to a higher standard and judging them based on their actions. For example, someone who cheats on his taxes or steals office supplies still expects honesty from the company whose stock he buys and the business clients he deals with. That’s what’s known as the double standard. It’s easy to get disgusted with people who fail the ethics test—especially when they’ve wronged us. But it’s a lot harder to make ethical choices in our own lives.

Understand this: when you operate on the edge of honesty, you invariably go over that edge! It may be possible to fool people for a season, but your deeds always catch up with you. Just as someone may appear to profit temporarily from dishonesty, being truthful may sometimes look like a losing proposition. But both your pleasure and profit will be short-lived, because ultimately we’ll all stand in judgment before God—and how will you look then?

Be Prepared

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‘They prepare… in the summer.’ Proverbs 30:25 NKJV

Ants are small, but smart; they ‘store up food all summer.’ (Proverbs 30:25 NLT) Do you remember the story about the ant and the grasshopper? In summertime the ant is busy working, gathering food while the grasshopper plays. Then when winter sets in the ant retires to his home and enjoys life. He paid the price, now he can enjoy the reward. But now it’s time for the grasshopper that played on the front end to pay on the back end. As a result he starves in the cold because he didn’t understand that the only adequate preparation for tomorrow is the wise use of today. Think about it: when you were in school, did you ever prepare so well for an exam that you walked into the classroom with absolute confidence, knowing you’d ace it? Well, you can bring that same confidence to everyday life.

Sadly, many of us don’t lead our lives, we accept them! But life’s not a dress rehearsal. You don’t get a second chance. Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘The secret of success in life is to be ready when the time comes.’ Question: if God gave you everything you’re praying for right now, would you be ready to handle it? Nothing great is created suddenly; success doesn’t occur overnight. And neither does failure. Each is a process. The fact is, every day of your life is preparation for the next.

So the questions are: what are you preparing for, and how are you preparing? Are you grooming yourself for success or failure? Only if you’re willing to work hard on the front end, will you reap the rewards on the back end.

God Knows ‘The Purpose’ Of Your Life

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‘The Lord rewarded me because I did what was right.’ 2 Samuel 22:25 NCV

You can be successful yet still feel empty inside. Solomon’s life proves that. He was the world’s wealthiest man, as well as one of the most famous. Yet amazingly he begins the book of Ecclesiastes with these words: ‘Everything is meaningless.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NLT)

Solomon discovered that a fulfilling life can only be built on two things: relationships and purpose. And the first and foremost relationship you must establish is with God. Once that happens you discover your life’s purpose. And as you start walking in it your joy and fulfilment knows no bounds. Self-help gurus tell us, ‘Look inside yourself and you’ll find the key!’ But how can you uncover the plot for your life by simply examining your life? You’ll have more luck following ‘the yellow brick road’! No, ‘All things are done according to God’s plan and decision; and God chose us to be His own people in union with Christ because of His own purpose, based on what He had decided from the very beginning. Let us, then, who were the first to hope in Christ, praise God’s glory!’ (Ephesians 1:11–12 GNT)

Your life’s purpose has already been determined by the greatest mind and the kindest heart in the universe: the mind and heart of God. You say, ‘But things aren’t working out too well for me right now.’ We all have times like that. But here’s a promise you can stand on: ‘He makes everything work out according to His plan.’ (Ephesians 1:11 NLT) God knows the purpose of your life. Pray and He will reveal it to you.

When God Sends Someone To Help You

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‘Let the godly smite me! It will be a kindness!’ Psalm 141:5 TLB

The greatest indictment against not knowing is not learning. If you look at it the right way every experience in life is a school, and every new acquaintance is a teacher. So seize every opportunity to learn. Just make sure you pick the right teachers: those who’ve earned the right to come alongside you and, when appropriate, ask the hard questions, bring perspective, and keep you on track. Solomon said, ‘Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring.’ (Proverbs 25:11–12 NLT)

When God sends someone to help you: (1) Show your appreciation. Never take others for granted and never forget to say thank you. An attitude of ‘I don’t expect appreciation so I don’t give it’ will hurt you and close doors to your future. (2) Pull your weight. Don’t be self-serving and opportunistic. Look for ways to make your presence an asset, not a liability. Life owes you nothing except an opportunity to grow. (3) Understand the boundaries. Other people may know someone well enough to address them by their first name, but that doesn’t mean you should—especially not a potential mentor. If someone says, ‘Hello, my name is Charles,’ don’t come back with, ‘What’s up, Charlie!’ Show respect, and don’t try to change the protocol to suit the environment you’re used to.

Observe boundaries, respect others and listen, and you’ll always have people willing to help you get where you need to go.

Don’t Doubt God’s Word

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‘Faith comes from hearing.’ Romans 10:17 NIV

You may doubt your own ability, but never doubt God’s—or His promises and His willingness to fulfill them. The Psalmist wrote, ‘You have magnified Your word above… Your name.’ (Psalm 138:2 NKJV) The only thing in the universe that God has placed above His name is His Word. So fill your mind with it, speak it daily and don’t ever question it. Doubt often originates from our inclination to portray ourselves as self-confident. Self-confidence is a concept touted by the world; it encourages us to rely on our own skills and abilities. But the Bible says, ‘Those who trust in themselves are fools.’ (Proverbs 28:26 NIV)

Reportedly, the verse at the center of the Bible is: ‘It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.’ (Psalm 118:8 NKJV) So center your confidence around God, not yourself or anybody else. Do you doubt yourself and your own worth? Do you question your ability to pursue your career? Do you doubt your aptitude to form healthy relationships? Despite having lived with Jesus for almost three years and hearing His promise that He’d rise again from the dead, Thomas still said, ‘Unless I can see His wounds and touch Him, I will not believe.’ (See John 20:25) Did Jesus turn His back on Thomas because of his doubts? No, He never rejects a sincere, doubting heart! Jesus showed up in person and resolved all of Thomas’ doubts.

And as you read His word and seek His face, He will alleviate your misgivings and qualms too. When you stop living in the ‘sense’ realm and learn to ‘walk by faith’, your doubts will begin to die. (See 2 Corinthians 5:7)

Try to See People as God Sees Them

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‘You are a letter from Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV

When you consider some of the people Jesus called to be His disciples, the word ‘dysfunctional’ comes to mind. But Jesus wasn’t put off. Like finding treasure in the rubbish, He was able to see their potential, draw it out and develop it. And that’s your story too, isn’t it? Paul writes, ‘You are a letter from Christ… written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.’ Other people don’t write your story. Even you don’t. ‘The Spirit of the living God’ is writing it. That means your best days are still ahead!

An old Bible lay on a bargain table along with hundreds of tattered books. A lot of people had picked it up and thumbed through its pages. It wasn’t in very good shape—certainly not worth very much—so it was cast aside. Then a man picked it up, stifled a shout and, rushing to the counter he paid the meager asking price. Turns out it was an original Gutenberg estimated to be worth more than a million dollars! How many times did that old book change hands before it was redeemed? How many times did the world cast it aside, unaware of its value?

The truth is, we were all passed over until Jesus saw value in us. But rather than paying bargain price, He paid the highest price possible. ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8 NIV) So when you’re having a bad day, look in the mirror and remind yourself, ‘God loves me calvary-worth!’ Then go out and try to see others as treasures God couldn’t live without; sinners Christ died to redeem.

Encourage Your Pastor

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‘He…encouraged them for the service of the house of the Lord.’ 2 Chronicles 35:2 NKJV

The Bible says King Josiah ‘set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service of the house of the Lord.’ Josiah did two things: he instructed them, and he encouraged them. Why? Because one without the other doesn’t work! How often have you left church feeling lifted, encouraged and inspired by the sermon? Question: have you ever thought of telling your pastor how much it meant to you, or sending them an email to let them know you appreciate their ministry?

Pastors get more kicks than kisses. Some 37 percent quit the ministry because of discouragement. Did you know that? Even the great apostle Paul got discouraged: ‘When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!’ (2 Corinthians 7:5–7 NLT)

Titus encouraged Paul in two ways: (1) By showing up. ‘We were glad just to see him.’ Like it or not, when you don’t go to church you’re saying, ‘Pastor, you’re not worth coming to hear.’ (2) By offering encouragement. ‘He told us how much you long to see me.’ This week, encourage your pastor.

How to Stay Together

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‘Wives… submit yourselves to your husbands… Husbands, love your wives.’ Colossians 3:18–19 NIV

Picture two little rowing boats setting off across a choppy lake. A man sits in one, and a woman in the other. They have every intention of rowing side by side, yet they begin drifting in opposite directions until they can hardly hear each other above the wind. Soon the man finds himself at one end of the lake and the woman at the other. Neither knows how they drifted apart, or how to reconnect. Now picture two newlyweds. They stand at the altar and pledge to live together in love and harmony. Unfortunately, 50 percent of the time it doesn’t work that way. Unless their relationship is maintained and cultivated, they will grow distant. That is why two romantic little rowboats often drift toward opposite ends of the lake.

So how can husbands and wives stay in love, and stay together for a lifetime? The answer is to row like crazy! Take time for romantic activities. Think about each other through the day. Avoid that which breeds conflict and resentment. Be aware of each other’s needs and desires. These are the keys to harmony and friendship. Yes, it’s difficult to keep two rowboats together, but it can be done if each partner is determined to row. Nothing beats a good marriage, but you have to work at it because the currents of culture and the stresses of life can cause you to drift apart.

Hence the Bible says, ‘Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.’ (Colossians 3:18–19 NIV)

Express Your Love

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‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 NLT

When it comes to loving others:

(1) You need to say it. An old fisherman who’d been married for fifty years to his patient, long-suffering wife, rarely took time to express his affection. Finally in frustration one day she said to him, ‘How come you never tell me you love me?’ Without batting an eyelid he announced, ‘I told you I loved you when I married you, and if I ever change my mind I’ll let you know!’ That’s a cute story, but not so cute if it’s a reality. Your husband or wife may know you love them, but they still need to hear you say it. And so do your children, your friends and the people in your circle of influence. The fact is you can never say ‘I love you’ too much! (2) You need to show it. Everybody needs ‘a pat on the back’. Dr. Dolores Krieger, a professor of nursing at New York University who conducted numerous studies on the power of human touch, discovered that both the ‘toucher’ and the ‘touchee’ experience great physiological benefit from human contact. It works like this: red blood cells carry haemoglobin, a substance that transports oxygen to body tissue. And Dr. Krieger found that when one person lays hands on another, the haemoglobin levels in the blood stream of both people increase. And as they rise, body tissue receives increased oxygen, which invigorates you physically and can aid in the healing process. What you’re seeing is the literal power of love in action.

Loving is good for you! There’s nothing as rewarding, satisfying, or encouraging as loving others through your words and actions.

Start Taking Time Off

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‘On the seventh day you shall rest.’ Exodus 34:21 NKJV

One of the best ways to maintain your perspective on what’s truly important is to plan times of rest and recreation. The word recreation means to ‘re-create’: to recharge your batteries physically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally. Rest and recreation restore your creativity, fuel your vision, and bring balance to your world.

The fact is, some of the people we admire most are socially and relationally dysfunctional. For example, if you took the pulpit away from certain preachers and the CEO title away from certain executives, they’d be totally lost. And if you’re honest, you’d conclude that in all likelihood they needed counselling. They’ve only one string on their fiddle—work. Without it they don’t know how to live! The Bible says, ‘God…rested from all His work.’ (Genesis 2:2 NIV) Now, since God doesn’t sleep and never gets tired, clearly He was setting an example for us to follow. Purpose-driven people can become obsessed with work and believe they don’t have time for fun. Some may even consider fun to be ‘carnal’. But Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ (Mark 6:31 NIV)

God, who thought that taking time off was so important that He put it in the Bible, said, ‘…if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord.’ (Isaiah 58:13–14 NIV) So the word for you today is: ‘Start taking time off.’

The Power of One (2)

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‘I set before you today life and prosperity.’ Deuteronomy 30:15 NIV

God told His people: ‘See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you.’ (Deuteronomy 30:15–16 NIV)

One person with the love of God in their heart can start a chain reaction. John Wilkes Booth shocked the world by assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. At the time, Booth’s brother Edwin was considered one of the greatest actors in America. Believing the family name had been shamed forever, he retired from acting and went into seclusion. But his legacy turned out not to be one of death and disappointment, but of life and influence. A year or so before Lincoln’s assassination, Edwin was at a train station in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was standing nearby when a young man lost his footing on the platform and almost fell into the path of a moving train. Without hesitation, Edwin rescued the young man by reaching down and pulling him up by his collar. There was a brief exchange of gratitude, but Edwin never dreamed how significant that moment would become. Some years later he received a letter from then President Ulysses Grant thanking him for his heroic deed. Why? Because the young man he had saved was Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln. Edwin Booth took that letter to his grave; a reminder that we may not be able to change our past but we can certainly change our future.

And by God’s grace you can change yours too!

The Power of One (1)

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‘Go in the strength you have… Am I not sending you?’ Judges 6:14 NIV

Gideon came from a family of idol worshippers, so he didn’t think he had much of a future. But God thought differently. He said to him, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ And today Gideon is remembered as one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. That’s what’s known as ‘the power of one’.

Do you doubt that one person can make a difference? Winston Churchill convinced England they could survive the Nazi war machine. Lee Iacocca turned Chrysler around and saved the company. Florence Nightingale transformed the care of patients by emphasising sanitary design and hygiene in hospitals, practices that carry over to this day. Rosa Parks, a lone black woman, overturned two centuries of racial discrimination. But you don’t have to be a George Washington, an Abraham Lincoln, or a Mother Teresa to make a difference. Your influence may not be as far-reaching as theirs, but ‘charity begins at home’, which means you can grow and thrive where you’re planted. In A Psalm of Life Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes, ‘Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime; and departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.’

Like Gideon, you may not be able to change your family history or undo your past mistakes. But you can learn from them, grow, and create a legacy that outshines your heritage. Not sure where to start? Commit your life to Christ and start following in His footsteps.

God Says ‘Yes’

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‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV

You will notice that in the Old Testament God’s promises came with conditions that had to be met. In other words, you had to do something. ‘If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.’ (Isaiah 1:19 NIV) To receive God’s promise there was a price to be paid, conditions to be met, and a performance of certain things on your part. But all that changed at the cross. When Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ the Greek text could literally be translated ‘paid in full.’ Hence Paul writes, ‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.’

Are you a redeemed child of God? Are you ‘in Christ’? Then God says, ‘Yes, I’ll meet your needs, I’ll do for you what I have promised.’ Just as a bank will tell you, ‘You’re pre-qualified for the credit card,’ as a believer you’re pre-qualified for the promises God has made to you in His Word. Under the Old Testament law God said, ‘If.’ But to those who are in Christ and living under grace, He says, ‘Yes.’

And what should your response be? ‘Amen,’ which means ‘So be it.’ This is a life-changing truth! Now you understand why Paul could confidently write, ‘And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:19 NKJV) Not only is God able to meet ‘all’ your needs, He’s looking for opportunities to do it.

Who Are Your True Friends?

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‘Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers.’ Proverbs 18:24 GNT

Who are your true friends? Stop and think about that for a moment. How many of the people you consider friends truly care about you? How many encourage you in your visions and dreams, and are there for you when you hit a wall? If we’re honest, most of us would have to concede that some of our so-called friends and associates aren’t there for us in a pinch. In fact, some of the people we spend time may be time-wasters who drain our energy and trivialise our dreams.

In the Old Testament David and Jonathan were willing to lay down their lives for each other. And Ruth told Naomi, ‘Wherever you go, I will go.’ (Ruth 1:16 NKJV) Do you have friends like that? If not, spend more time cultivating relationships with those who genuinely care about you; who don’t feel threatened by your success and want to see you succeed. You don’t need to be cold or rude to the others. Maintain their friendship, but spend your serious time with friends who believe in you and want you to achieve your God-given potential. Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard said, ‘Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.’

Here’s a fail-safe principle when it comes to cultivating great friendships: whatever you desire in your own life, you must first give to others. If you want true friends, you must become a true friend. If you want a harvest of blessing in your own life, plant seeds of blessing in the lives of others.

Words (2)

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‘My mouth will speak words of wisdom.’ Psalm 49:3 NIV

The Bible says that you are to be gracious in what you say. That means your goal in conversation should always be to bring out the best in others, not denigrate them or cut them off. Good communication makes good friends, so you need to be clear when it comes to your personal boundaries, beliefs, values and desires. It may well be true that more problems are forgotten than are ever solved, but healthy relationships sometimes call for healthy confrontation. And there’s a right time and a right way to do it.

When you have to deal with a difficult situation, pray and stand on this Scripture: ‘My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.’ Your words are the vehicle through which your thoughts are conveyed, and your tongue is the driver. So if you don’t want to end up on the wrong road, or end up in a wreck, pray: ‘Lord, give me words of wisdom. Help me to say the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.’

The Holy Spirit is a great driving instructor! He will guide you, instruct you and keep working with you until you get it right. He will help you grow in grace until you reach the place of maturity in your relationships where you’re able to say, ‘My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge.’ (Proverbs 8:8–9 NLT) When you can say that, you know you’re making progress!

Words (1)

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‘I will… not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue.’ Psalm 39:1 NLT

An unknown poet wrote: ‘A careless word may kindle strife; a cruel word may wreck a life. A bitter word may hate instil; a brutal word may smite and kill. A gracious word may smooth the way; a joyous word may light the day. A timely word may lessen stress; a loving word may heal and bless.’

The Bible says, ‘No man can tame the tongue.’ (James 3:8 NKJV) ‘Well, if it can’t be done,’ you ask, ‘How am I supposed to do it?’ By pausing before you speak, cultivating a sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit within you and drawing on His power. By reminding yourself that once a word has left your lips it can never be taken back, and all the ‘I’m sorrys’ in the world won’t alter that. The Psalmist, who’d evidently made the mistake of talking when he should’ve been listening, wrote: ‘I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue.’ (Psalm 39:1 NLT)

In the Bible, abstaining from food for a period of time is called ‘fasting’. It has a spiritually cleansing effect. It draws us closer to God. It strengthens and sharpens us. So here’s an idea for you: How about going on a verbal fast for the next thirty days? At least a partial one. Isaiah said, ‘The Sovereign Lord has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary.’ (Isaiah 50:4 NLT) Instead of your tongue doing the leading and you doing the following, let your mouth become Spirit-guided.

Move Closer to God and Stay There!

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‘…if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!’ 1 Corinthians 10:12 NIV

Writing about mistakes some of God’s people made in the past, the apostle Paul penned these words: ‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’ (1 Corinthians 10:11–13 NIV)

Here Paul addresses two kinds of people who are particularly at risk: (1) Those who think they’re incapable of falling. ‘So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.’ (2) Those who believe they’ll never be able to get back up again. ‘God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’ Isn’t that great news? God not only understands your struggle, He promises you an exit strategy: a way to get through it.

So the word for you today is: move closer to God and stay there!

Heaven (3)

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‘God… has planted eternity in the human heart.’ Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

Why do thousands of children die of starvation each day, while every night the world’s wealthiest nations throw away enough food to feed them? In 3,500 years of recorded civilisation, only 268 years have passed without war raging some place on the globe. Yet during that same period 8,000 peace treaties have been signed. Why is the dash between the dates on a tombstone so small? Something tells us this isn’t right, good, fair. This isn’t home. Who put these thoughts in our heads? The Bible says, ‘God…has planted eternity in the human heart.’ As a redeemed child of God your life on earth is just the beginning. It’s the first letter, of the first sentence, of the first chapter, of the great story God is writing. We’re like homing pigeons; we have an innate home detector. We’re Heaven bound and Heaven hungry.

That doesn’t mean you can be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly use. If you want to hear the ‘well done…good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:21 NKJV), you’ve got to be a good and faithful servant of God each day on earth. But your mandate is: ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God.’ (Matthew 6:33 NKJV) In His plan, it’s all about the King and His Kingdom. He wrote the script: ‘And this is [God’s] plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in Heaven and on earth.’ (Ephesians 1:10 NLT)

The Bible ends with these words: ‘He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’ (Revelation 22:20 NIV) How do you get to Heaven? By putting your trust in Jesus Christ.

Heaven (2)

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‘Set your sights on the realities of Heaven.’ Colossians 3:1 NLT

Five hundred years ago sailors feared the horizon, believing if you sailed too far you could fall off the edge of the world. Today we smile at such an idea. But back then they were deadly serious; so much so that they erected a monument at the Strait of Gibraltar to commemorate the concept. At its narrowest point Spaniards assembled a huge stone marker bearing the Latin inscription Ne plus ultra, which means ‘No more beyond.’ Then in 1492 Christopher Columbus came along and blew their theory out of the water (no pun intended!) The discovery of new worlds and new horizons changed everybody’s mind. Spain even acknowledged this in its coins which came to bear the inscription Plus ultra—‘More beyond.’

Have you limited yourself in your thinking? Do you regret wasting seasons of life on foolish notions and pursuits? Do you feel like your best years are gone by? Not so! You’ll have eternity to make up for lost time in a glorified celestial body that knows no limitations. Your biggest moments lie ahead, on the other side of the grave.

So: ‘Set your sights on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honour at God’s right hand. Think about the things of Heaven.’ (Colossians 3:1–2 NLT) John the Revelator was a prisoner, surrounded by the sea on the tiny island of Patmos. Everywhere he went, the sea was there. It confined him. It hemmed him in and separated him from those he loved. Then God showed him the glories of Heaven and he wrote, ‘There was no more sea.’ (Revelation 21:1 NKJV) No more limitations—in Heaven you’ll be ‘free at last.’

Heaven (1)

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‘I am going there to prepare a place for you.’ John 14:2 NIV

In this devotional we stress the importance of maximizing each day: enjoying where you are on your way to where you’re going. And that’s good advice. But ultimately, as a redeemed child of God, your greatest longing shouldn’t be for that which is temporal but for that which is eternal—your heavenly home. Jesus described it this way: ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.’

Max Lucado writes: ‘The journey home is nice, but the journey is not the goal. I prepared part of this message on an airplane. As I looked around at fellow passengers, I saw contented people. Thanks to books, pillows and crossword puzzles, they passed the time quite nicely. But suppose this announcement were heard: “Ladies and gentlemen, this flight is your final destination. We’ll never land; your home is this plane, so enjoy the journey.” The passengers would become mutineers. We’d take over the cockpit and seek a landing strip. We wouldn’t settle for such an idea. The journey isn’t the destination. The vessel isn’t the goal. Those who are content with nothing more than the joy of the journey are settling for too little satisfaction.

Our hearts tell us that there’s more to this life than this life. We, like the alien in the movie E.T., lift bent fingers to the sky. We may not know where to point, but we know not to call the airplane our home.’ Jesus said, ‘I am going there to prepare a place for you.’ And there’s no place on earth like it! So live with Heaven in mind.

From the Bottom to the Top

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‘In the prison, the Lord was with him.’ Genesis 39:20–21 NIV

When Potiphar’s wife cried ‘rape’, her husband believed her and had Joseph thrown into prison. Some of us would have said, ‘It’s not fair. I did the right thing. Maybe I should have had some fun, kept my job, and even gotten a promotion.’ Not Joseph! At that point in his life there was no better place for him to be, because he was exactly where God wanted him. It was in prison that he met the royal butler, who in turn introduced him to Pharaoh, who eventually placed him on the throne. Sometimes God takes us to the bottom in order to take us to the top. The hard part is remembering that when you hit the bottom it’s not the end of the trip.

The Bible says of Joseph: ‘Until his word…came true… the word of the Lord tested…him.’ (Psalm 105:19 AMP) Pharaoh was about to have a dream nobody in his kingdom could interpret except Joseph. And as a result Joseph was about to go from a zero to a hero, from prison stripes to Pharaoh’s second-in-command. No one can perform that kind of miracle but God. If most of us were in jail we’d settle for early release, a suit of clothes, and a hundred dollars to get back home. But God had something much better in mind for Joseph.

And He has for you too! He knows where He’s taking you. He knows the lessons you need to learn along the way so that when you get there you can do the job. So look for God’s hand in your situation today.

Free to be Yourself!

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‘If the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.’ John 8:36 AMP

We live in a world of peer pressure. Others set the standard and we wear it, drive it, quote it or do it. In some cases that’s ok, but not when it comes to your life’s direction. Jesus said, ‘If the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.’ (John 8:36AMP) That means you’re free from the pressures others try to put on you; free to be the person God called you to be; free to look to Him for answers instead of always looking to other people. The Bible says, ‘A man can receive nothing… unless it has been granted to him from Heaven.’ (John 3:27 AMP)

When you scratch the surface, you discover that deep down many of us struggle with insecurity. We’re competitive, always comparing ourselves to others. We’re envious of their possessions, abilities and accomplishments. We find ourselves trying to keep up with certain people, or be just like them. And as a result we get frustrated because we’re operating outside of what God called us to be. In other words, we’re not being ourselves!

Understand this: the Christian life is a race, and you must run on your own track. You’ll never enjoy the fullness of God’s blessing until you commit to being the person He created you to be. So look in the mirror today and announce, ‘I am what I am. I can’t be anything other than what God has called me to be. So I’m going to concentrate on being the best me I can be—and celebrate every moment of it.’

“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”

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‘Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’ Philippians 2:4 NKJV

When it comes to homemaking, generally speaking women tend to care more than men about the house and everything that’s in it.

Marriage expert Dr. James Dobson shares the following insightful story: ‘A few years ago my wife and I hired a plumber to install a gas barbecue unit in the backyard, and then we left for the day. When we returned, we both observed that the device was mounted about eight inches too high. My wife Shirley and I stood looking at the appliance, and our reactions were quite different. I said, “Yeah, you’re right. The plumber made a mistake. By the way, what are we having for dinner tonight?” But Shirley reacted characteristically. She said, “I don’t think I can stand that thing sticking up in the air like that.” I could have lived the rest of my life without thinking again about the height of the barbecue unit, but to Shirley it was a big deal. Why? Because to a man a home is a place where he can relax, kick off his shoes, and be himself. But to a woman, especially to a homemaker, the house is an extension of her personality. She expresses her individuality and her character through it. That’s why husbands would be wise to recognise this differing perspective, and accommodate the creative interests of their wives. By the way, the plumber was summoned back to our house the next day and asked to fix his mistake. As the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”’

Fruit or Just Leaves?

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‘He… found nothing but leaves on it.’ Matthew 21:19 AMP

The Bible says: ‘As Jesus was coming back to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree at the roadside, He went to it and found nothing but leaves on it; and He said to it, “Never again will fruit come from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.’ (Matthew 21:18–19 AMP) Perhaps you’re thinking that’s pretty harsh treatment. After all, it wasn’t the tree’s fault that it didn’t have any figs. So why did Jesus curse it? You’ll find the answer in these words: ‘Seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves.’ When Jesus saw leaves on the tree, He’d a right to expect fruit. And when there was none, He cursed it for being a phony while giving off the impression that it was the real thing.

There’s an important lesson here for each of us. Be careful that you don’t display an impressive array of leaves without actually bearing fruit. It takes more than a bumper sticker on your car, a Jesus pin in your lapel, and a big Bible under your arm to influence and win others to Christ.

The Bible says, ‘When the Holy Spirit controls our lives He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5:22–23 TLB) That’s the kind of fruit people can see, touch, taste and enjoy. And it’s the kind God wants to see manifested in your life today.

Learn to Encourage Yourself!

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‘David strengthened himself in the Lord.’ 1 Samuel 30:6 NKJV

David had just won a string of spectacular military victories. But when he returned from battle and found his home destroyed by the Amalekites and his family taken captive, he was heartsick. He and his men fell to the ground and wept, until they could weep no more. But he didn’t stay down. ‘David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”’ (1 Samuel 30:8 NKJV) And David’s self-encouragement, coupled with God’s guidance, led him to his next victory.

There’s a lesson here. You must learn how to talk to yourself the right way, how to quote God’s promises, and how to pray for yourself. And here’s a promise from the Psalms that you can stand on: ‘Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ (Psalm 30:5 NLT) Your joy will return. God has promised it! So look in the mirror today and declare, ‘This too shall pass. What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger. In the meantime I’ll let this situation drive me closer to You, Lord.’ Come on—start encouraging yourself! The biggest battles bring the biggest victories. Your weaknesses can become discovery points for strengths you never knew you had. Recalling the worst time in his life, Joseph said, ‘God turned into good what you meant for evil.’ (Genesis 50:20 TLB) And He still does that!

Other people don’t control your destiny, God does, and He’s not like others. He can turn your pain into gain and your scars into stars! Regroup, refocus and resolve to press on. The word for you today is: learn to encourage yourself.

Test the Waters (2)

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‘But each one must examine his own work…’ Galatians 6:4 NAS

It’s possible to have gifts and talents you know nothing about. And it’s even possible to take hundreds of tests to assess your gifts and abilities—and still remain ignorant. It may be only when you accept the opportunity to actually do something that your God-given talents emerge.

Unless you’re willing to risk getting involved, you’ll never know what you’re good at. Sure you’ll make mistakes—and some of them may be so discouraging you’ll want to give up and not try again. But if you turn your mistakes into learning experiences you’ll not only discover what God has called you to do, you’ll grow and become proficient at it. Paul writes: ‘But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.’ (Galatians 6:4–5 NAS) Then he adds: ‘Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.’ (Galatians 6:9–10 NAS)

Today take a serious look at what’s left of your life and decide to make it count. Some of the saddest words in life are on a tombstone that reads: ‘When I came to die, I discovered I had not lived.’ Don’t let that be said of you!

Test the Waters (1)

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‘We each have different work to do.’ Romans 12:5 TLB

Bob Buford was a successful businessman who felt God calling him to some kind of ministry. He just wasn’t sure what, so he decided to test the waters. He brought together a group of pastors of large churches to see if they could benefit from the kind of organisational expertise he had. The cost of doing this was low enough that, had it been a dead end, he could easily have focused his search elsewhere. If he’d impulsively quit his job as CEO and taken a staff position in a church somewhere, he might have missed his calling and jeopardised his chance to keep searching. As a result, today he has a ministry that literally impacts the world.

Now, you can’t just walk away from your previous commitments. Amos transitioned into the prophecy business while he still had his shepherding job to fall back on. Paul kept his tent-making operation running when he went into church planting. Discerning God’s will requires time and patience, and most of us have bills to pay and families to take care of. So what should you do? Keep your day job—but test the waters! And remember you’re not alone. God’s more committed to your success than you are. When you feel like He’s given you the green light, gently push the accelerator and move forward.

Playwright Arthur Miller said: ‘It’s wrong to remain in a situation you know is a mismatch for you… God didn’t place you on this earth to waste away your years in labour that doesn’t employ His design or purpose for your life, no matter how much you may be getting paid.’

Don’t Quit

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‘We have this treasure in jars of clay.’ 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Paul writes: ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ ‘Jars of clay’ refers to cups, bowls, pots, etc., and what really matters is what’s in them. A vessel may be chipped and flawed, but once it’s washed and cleaned it can be used again.

So don’t quit because someone discovered you’re a jar of clay with chips and flaws. There’s a cry from the Jericho Road nobody except you may ever hear. Some dying thief will be saved if you’ll just keep preaching through your pain, because the message that saves others is the one that saves us too. Accepting the fallen is the strength—not a weakness—of the Gospel. There’s a world of difference between the coldness of a rebellious heart and the cry of a troubled heart that says, ‘God save me from myself.’ One glimpse of God’s grace brings all of us to our knees confessing and forsaking sin, ‘bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV) One pastor writes: ‘People listen to our one-sided testimonies of success and become discouraged. They think that while they struggle, we have it all together. That’s because we falsified the records and failed to tell the whole truth. God help us! Our message is we were saved by grace, we are being saved by grace, and we will be saved by grace.’

If need be, go down into the Potter’s house and let Him put you back on the wheel and remake you—but don’t quit! (See Jeremiah 18:1–4)

Integrity

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‘The integrity of the upright guides them.’ Proverbs 11:3 NIV

The word integrity is related to the word integer, a mathematical term for a whole number as opposed to a fraction. So when you walk in integrity, that means you tell the whole truth and not just a fraction of it. That’s why we take an oath in court to tell ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.’

Why do we slant the truth, embellish it, and tell half-truths? Sometimes it’s for financial gain, other times it’s for social advantage. Sometimes it’s to hide our actions, other times it’s to avail ourselves of certain benefits. Jacob, whose name meant ‘trickster’, conspired with his mother and deceived his father into giving him the birthright of the firstborn—twice as much of their father’s inheritance which rightfully belonged to his older brother Esau. And Jacob paid dearly for it. He spent the next twenty years as a fugitive working for his father-in-law, who was an even bigger and better cheat than Jacob. Jacob had forgotten His encounter with God and these promises: ‘I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go… I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ (Genesis 28:15 NIV) As Jacob’s value system changed, the taker became a giver. He told God, ‘Of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.’ (Genesis 28:22 NIV) Despite Jacob’s slip-ups, God blessed him beyond his wildest dreams. He eventually became a man of integrity and returned home after many years with a beautiful family, great riches, and a new name: Israel. The truth is, integrity pays dividends every time. Why? Because God guarantees it.

Look for Ways to Serve Others

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‘Share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.’ Hebrews 13:16 NIV

When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he sometimes slipped out of his office early, telling his administrator Michael Deaver, ‘I’ve a few errands to run.’ Deaver became curious, so he leafed through the ‘to-read’ file on the governor’s desk. On top was a wrinkled letter from a man stationed in Vietnam. The soldier had written to Reagan telling him about his life in Southeast Asia, and how much he missed his wife. That particular day was their wedding anniversary and he wanted her to know how much he loved her and longed to be with her. Although he had already sent her a card, he asked the governor if he’d make a phone call to make sure she was ok and pass on his love in case she didn’t receive the card. The next day Deaver discovered Reagan had done much more than the soldier requested. He’d picked up a dozen red roses and delivered them to the man’s wife. Dale Rowlee, the governor’s driver, told Deaver that Reagan approached the woman with an extremely humble attitude, and offered the flowers on behalf of a loving husband stationed in a jungle hell on the other side of the world. Then he spent over an hour with her, drinking coffee and talking about her family. Reagan’s humility may, in fact, have been one of the secrets to his enduring popularity.

Somebody said, ‘To be humble to superiors is duty; to equals, courtesy; to inferiors, nobility.’ It’s not big deeds, but small acts of kindness that make us great as God counts greatness. ‘With such sacrifices God is pleased.’ (Hebrews 13:16 NIV)

Heed the Warnings

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‘He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.’ Proverbs 29:1 NKJV

In the official magazine of the Naval Institute, Frank Koch reported on a very unusual encounter at sea. A battleship was coming in for manoeuvres in heavy weather. Shortly after the sun went down, the lookout reported a light in the distance, so the captain had the signalman send a message: ‘We’re on a collision course. Advise you change your course twenty degrees.’ Minutes later a signal came back: ‘Advisable for you to change your course.’ The captain angrily ordered that another signal be sent: ‘I am a captain. Change course twenty degrees.’ Again came the reply: ‘I’m a seaman, second class. You’d better change your course.’ Furious by this point, the captain barked a final threat: ‘I’m a battleship! Change your course!’ The signal came back, ‘I’m a lighthouse.’ The captain changed his course!

It’s foolhardy to ignore the beacons that warn you of danger. They take various forms: symptoms of health problems, prolonged marital conflict, rebellious children, excessive debt, soul-destroying habits, stress that ties you in knots. The list goes on. It matters not whether you’re successful, influential, and busy. When God sends you a warning and tells you to change course, if you’re wise you won’t argue. Instead you will do it with haste.

Let’s get personal. Has God been dealing with you over something in your life that’s wrong, but you keep resisting Him? Or putting off dealing with it? Things will go right for you when you turn to Him instead of away from Him.

You can do it!

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‘I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.’ Philippians 4:13 AMP

One of Satan’s favourite strategies is making you feel incapable of accomplishing anything worthwhile. He’ll remind you of your past mistakes so that even when you do make an effort, your fear of failure will sabotage you. This is commonly referred to as ‘Failure Syndrome’. Satan wants you to feel so bad about yourself that you’ll have no confidence at all.

But the fact is you don’t need confidence in yourself—you need confidence in the God who lives within you! Without that, you’re like a plane without fuel sitting on the runway; you look good but you’ve no power. Hear this: through Christ you have the power to do what you never could on your own. Once you learn this truth, anytime the devil tells you, ‘You can’t do anything right,’ your response will be, ‘Maybe not, but Jesus in me can; and He will because I’m relying on Him and not myself. His Word says I’ll succeed in everything I put my hand to.’ (See Joshua 1:7) When the enemy says to you: ‘You’re not able to do this, so don’t even try! You’ll fail again like you did in the past,’ your response should be: ‘It’s true; without Jesus I’m not able to do a single thing. But with Him, and in Him, I can do all I need to do.’

Read these words, get them down into your heart and stand on them today: ‘I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.’ (Philippians 4:13 AMP) The word for you today is: YOU CAN DO IT!

On-the-job Training

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‘Lord, please send someone else.’ Exodus 4:13 NIV

When God called Moses to go into Pharaoh’s palace and announce, ‘Let my people go,’ he responded by saying, ‘Please, send someone else to do it.’ Is that how you feel today? If so, here’s what God told Moses: ‘Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ (Exodus 4:12 NIV)

When God calls you He equips you. But He doesn’t necessarily do it in advance. Sometimes your training takes place in the process of doing what God said. And that can be scary. Maybe you’ve been saying to God, ‘I’m afraid to speak in front of people—what do You mean You want me to lead this meeting?’ Or, ‘Why would You want me to apply for this job when I’m not particularly qualified?’ You can’t rely on your own perspective. The only qualifications needed to do any job God asks of you are His strength and His ability. The rest is on-the-job training. You simply have to trust God and act on His urging. That doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid. You will! But that’s when you must exercise your faith to stretch and grow beyond what you can imagine, and start doing what needs to be done based on what you currently know. That can be humbling. You’ll find yourself more dependent on God than ever. It’s likely you’ll have to ask a lot of questions of those around you—and sometimes more than once. But don’t be afraid to ask, to make mistakes, to seek assistance, or do things differently from your predecessor.

If God called you—you’re the right person for the job. Never lose sight of that!

Be Careful What You Watch

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‘…be sure to put a railing around the edge of the roof.’ Deuteronomy 22:8 GNT

Hundreds of pornography sites are being introduced to the internet. The idea is to have you accidentally exposed to them through clever marketing. This helps explain how children as young as eight become addicted to pornography and to the websites that feed it in the middle of the night when parents are sleeping. But these websites are also visited by teenagers and adults. So protection isn’t just called for on the part of parents, but by all those on the front line in the battle for moral purity. In his book Getting Through the Tough Stuff, Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘One in every two churchgoers is actively involved with internet porn. (Are you shocked?) Nine out of ten children have been exposed to it—most of them accidentally while doing homework online. Thirty-seven percent of pastors say internet porn is a current struggle in their lives. Most are exposed to it through… computer screen pop-ups, unsolicited email, and links to websites with innocent-sounding names. When an enticing image flashes, temptation is hard to overcome, especially for males. The internet has become an integral part of our lives. There’s much that’s good, but there’s just as much that’s deadly. It is therefore our responsibility as Christians to protect ourselves from the dangers that are part of internet usage!’

God commanded the Israelites: ‘…be sure to put a railing around the edge of the roof. Then you will not be responsible if someone falls off and is killed.’ (Deuteronomy 22:8GNT) Even the apostle Paul recognised that he was capable of being ‘disqualified’ as a leader in God’s work (see 1 Corinthians 9:27). So the word for you today is: ‘Be careful what you watch.’

The Bible Formula for Happiness

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‘Time and chance happen to them all.’ Ecclesiastes 9:11 NIV

Are you the kind of person who needs clear answers to everything and can’t tolerate shades of grey? Well, the truth is we don’t have answers for much of what happens in the world. God stamps many of the issues we struggle with: ‘Will explain later!’

Modern science would have us believe that given enough time, everything is concrete, exact, measurable, and provable. But we’ve discovered this isn’t so. For example, why does one family experience tragedy and another doesn’t? Why do the ‘haves’ throw more food into the garbage every night than what it would take to feed the ‘have-nots?’ Why do the young and innocent die? You could drive yourself crazy with these questions and still not find the answers. So what should you do? The Bible says: ‘Eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favours what you do… Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love… Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.’ (Ecclesiastes 9:7–12 NIV)

Bottom line: Learn to live with unanswered questions, trust God with all your heart, and wring the most out of each day. That’s the Bible formula for happiness.

A Joyful Outlook

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‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Nehemiah 8:10 KJV

You get to choose your outlook each day, so choose wisely and well. Observe: (1) A joyful outlook gives you the winning edge. When world heavyweight champion Joe Louis got knocked down by Tony ‘Two Ton’ Galento in Yankee Stadium, he immediately jumped up and went after his opponent. When his trainer protested, ‘Why didn’t you stay down for nine like I’ve always taught you?’ ‘What?’ growled Louis. ‘And give him all that time to rest?’ Then he went out and won the fight. (2) A joyful outlook determines how others respond to you. When you smile, people tend to smile back. But if you come across as hard-nosed, they’re likely to respond in kind. If you want to enjoy people as you go through your day, think well of them. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s easily forgotten. (3) A joyful outlook brings happiness. English literary figure Samuel Johnson said: ‘He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the grief… he proposes to remove.’ (4) A joyful outlook always brings the best result. Successful people embrace this truth, whether it’s a surgeon going into the operating room, a pastor preparing a sermon or an executive launching a new business venture. Confidence increases your chance of success every time.

So when you approach a task, especially one you don’t relish, fix your mind on God’s promises and not your feelings. It’ll get you back on track every time—guaranteed!

Try to Make Amends

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‘I will pay back four times the amount.’ Luke 19:8 NIV

Zacchaeus had a bad reputation; as a tax collector he got rich by bilking people. And the fact that Jesus spent the night at his house shocked the religious community. We’re not privy to what Jesus told Zacchaeus that night, but it caused him to respond, ‘Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus answered, ‘Today salvation has come to this house.’ (Luke 19:9 NIV)

There’s an important lesson here about becoming whole. The basis of true emotional healing rests on your willingness to forgive and, when possible, make amends to those you’ve hurt. If you owe someone a debt, you must try to pay it. If you’ve wounded them, you must apologise and try to restore the relationship. Jesus said: ‘So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.’ (Matthew 5:23–25 ESV)

So, who do you need to make things right with today? Pray for grace—then go take care of it. When you do God will bless you, and you’ll feel better about yourself too!

Praying According to God’s Will

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‘The Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.’ Romans 8:27 NLT

Since we sometimes pray outside of God’s will, part of the Holy Spirit’s job is to change our minds—not convince God to give us what we want. That’s why the Spirit ‘searches our hearts’ in prayer. Sometimes words are inadequate; you don’t always know what someone’s really thinking or wants based on what they say. But if you could see inside their heart you’d know exactly how to interpret their words. That’s what the Spirit does when He searches our hearts and interceded for us to the Father.

But if the Holy Spirit is going to intercede for us (appeal to God on our behalf) we’d better learn what God’s will is. And where do we learn that? In His Word. Before we can pray in the will of God two things have to happen. First, we must have a regular intake of Scripture. God’s mind is revealed in His Word, so when you read the Bible you learn how to pray the way you should. Second, if our prayers are going to hit the mark we need to practise meditating on the Scriptures. Just as a good cook allows a stew to simmer in order to bring out all the flavours, we need to ‘marinate’ our minds in Scripture and allow it to become part of us. When that happens we’ll start to see things change in our prayer lives because the Spirit’s intercession is tied to God’s will, which is tied to His Word.

In the final analysis you may think you know what you want, but God knows what you need!

Let it Go

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‘Put your heart right… Reach out to God.’ Job 11:13 GNT

Jesus, ‘the Great Physician’, never covers up an infected sore. He insists it be lanced, drained, cleansed and given time to heal. Maybe you’ve given birth to a child out of wedlock, or had an abortion, or been in prison, or walked through a bitter divorce. Don’t be discouraged. Jesus is not impressed by our virtues, He’s touched with ‘the feeling of our infirmities.’ (Hebrews 4:15 KJV) He understands your struggle. ‘He Himself has… been through suffering and temptation, He knows what it is like… and… is wonderfully able to help us.’ (Hebrews 2:18 TLB)

Maybe you’re wondering if someone with your past problems can be blessed and used by God. Absolutely! The hymn by William Cowper puts it like this: ‘There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.’ The rewards of repentance are awesome! Zophar replies to Job: ‘Prepare your heart and lift up your hands to Him in prayer! Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear. You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away… Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and… rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help.’ (Job 11:13–19 NLT)

Whether it’s guilt over something you’ve done, or the pain of something that was done to you—let it go! Today, step into the river of God’s grace and let it flow over you, setting you free.

Take the Risk!

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‘…give it to the one who has the ten bags.’ Matthew 25:28 NIV

Remember the three stewards who were each given a sum of money to invest? The first two doubled theirs; the third buried his in the ground. The first two were promoted; the third was fired. ‘Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness.’ (Matthew 25:30 NIV)

Could there be a more powerful incentive to taking a risk of faith based on what God promised you? You say, ‘But what if I fail?’ Failure trains you for success! It can show you what you need to change in order to move forward. Think of it this way: as a redeemed child of God you have a security net that allows you to fail safely. But if your reputation and self-worth are all tied up in knots over some failed enterprise, you won’t be motivated to try again. It’s human nature to want to feel good, to succeed, to win the prize, to move forward. But just like a world-class athlete backs up to gain the momentum to run faster, sometimes a few steps backward now will fuel your progress later. And here’s something else to keep in mind: God assesses our accomplishments differently than people. A failure in the eyes of men is often a success in the eyes of God. Remember Noah? Before the flood he looked like a loser; afterward he became the most successful man on earth.

Your most fulfilling reward isn’t human approval—it’s God’s ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ (Matthew 25:21 NIV) So take the risk!

Personal Growth (3)

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‘As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.’ Proverbs 27:17 NLT

When you stop growing, you stop enjoying your co-workers and associates. In most cases it’s another symptom of lack of growth, and it’s directly linked to your lack of influence. When you’re the ‘go-to’ person, everyone seeks you out. They want your advice and expertise on a myriad of issues and concerns. But once you stop growing, the focus shifts to someone else. Personal growth keeps you focused on people, and keeps them focused on you.

So what can you do to stay fresh? Start cross-pollinating. Bees spend their lives moving from flower to flower, carrying pollen from one source to another. And what’s the result? Growth! Because bees continually spread pollen around the garden, more flowers start growing and it becomes a more beautiful environment. In life, cross-pollinating means identifying valuable information from multiple sources and spreading it in various ways to different people. So start looking for answers in unexpected places. Paul writes, ‘Stir up the gift… which is in you’ (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV), otherwise it’ll lie dormant and you’ll become bored. Dedicate some time every day to personal growth. Discover where you do your best thinking, and go there regularly. Get up earlier, use your lunch break, turn off the TV in the evening. The time and place don’t matter—the important thing is that you stick to it. Eugene S. Wilson said, ‘Only the curious will learn, and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The Quest Quotient has always interested me more than the Intelligence Quotient.’ Often innate curiosity will tell you more than intelligence.

The point is, you must be committed to personal growth in order to succeed.

Personal Growth (2)

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‘A wise man has great power.’ Proverbs 24:5 NIV

Another indicator of your need for personal growth is—losing interest in your career. Many people think this comes from staying in one job too long or experiencing a midlife crisis. The truth is, most of us lose interest in our job because we lose interest in growing.

Consider those who experience the highest levels of intensity and creativity. Generally speaking, they’re passionate about their job and they’re not nearly as concerned about specifics as they are about ‘the big picture’. While those around them get bogged down in the minutiae of daily routine, growth-oriented people are busy swinging the bat and trying to hit the ball out of the park. These are people who are growing, learning and expanding their experience—people who never lose interest in their work—or in life. Growing peanuts sounds pretty boring, right? Not to George Washington Carver! He studied them, developed them, discovered hundreds of different uses for them, and became so famous he was invited to Washington, D.C. to explain the secret of his success to a congressional committee. Here’s what he told them: ‘God created the peanut. So I just asked Him to tell me what could be done with it, and He showed me!’ It’s that simple.

Spend as much time expanding your knowledge and experience as you spend on the mundane, and see if your interest levels and excitement don’t change for the better. The Bible says, ‘A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength.’ (Proverbs 24:5 NIV)

Personal Growth (1)

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‘Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.’ Proverbs 2:10 NIV

Personal growth leads to promotion. Stop and look at the people in your church, your company or your circle of friends. Management consultant W. Edwards Deming said, ‘Learning isn’t compulsory… neither is survival.’ In corporate culture, the higher your position, the less ‘doing’ is involved, and the more ‘critical thinking’ comes into play. Consider a corporate conference room during an important meeting. Typically, a cadre of foot soldiers sits around the table with laptops, briefcases and boxes of files, while the president enters the room carrying very little. That’s because he or she wasn’t hired to run computers, maintain schedules and manage files. They were hired for their expertise and the power of their ideas. Organisations want people with the best ideas to be in leadership; consequently, promotions generally go to the self-starters—men and women who exhibit initiative and growth. So start generating some new ideas and see how quickly you get noticed!

Daniel began as a slave in Babylon, on the bottom rung of the ladder. But he was soon promoted to a position in Nebuchadnezzar’s cabinet. That’s because the king was looking for people with the following qualifications: ‘Showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve.’ (Daniel 1:4 NIV) Talk about job security! And what’s more, ‘Daniel remained there.’ (Daniel 1:21 NIV)

So dedicate yourself to personal growth.

Holy! Holy! Holy!

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‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.’ Isaiah 6:3 NIV

When Isaiah saw God he wrote: ‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”’ (Isaiah 6:1–8 NIV) Now, this portion of Scripture wasn’t intended to make you indulge in morbid introspection, or doubt your righteous standing before God as His redeemed child. Isaiah was the nation’s leading prophet, and God had an assignment for him. But before he could undertake it, he needed to acknowledge his heart’s condition and let God change him. And today you need to do that too!

He’s Saying the Same to You

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‘Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”’ John 20:19 NIV

One of the first things Jesus did after His resurrection was to go looking for the disciples who’d failed Him so badly. ‘On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”’ (John 20:19–21 NIV)

Among the group was Peter, who’d walked on water, whose hands had distributed miracle food to five thousand hungry people, who’d witnessed Moses and Elijah standing next to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Big, bold, brave Peter who’d said, ‘Even if I have to die with You… I will never deny You!’ (Matthew 26:35 NLT) And he wasn’t the only one. ‘All the other disciples vowed the same.’ (Matthew 26:35 NLT) Yet the record reads, ‘All His disciples deserted Him and ran away.’ (Mark 14:50 NLT)

Saint John, Saint Andrew and Saint James—all guys depicted on the stained glass windows of churches worldwide—abandoned Jesus when He needed them most. Yet when He rose from the dead, He never once brought it up. Instead: ‘He showed them His [wounded] hands.’ (John 20:20 NKJV) Why? To let them know He loved them in spite of their failure. Instead of disowning them, He said, ‘As the Father has sent Me, I also send You.’ (John 20:21 NKJV) And today He’s saying the same to you!

His Timetable

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‘Until the time came to fulfil his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.’ Psalm 105:19 NLT

God works according to His own timetable. And when you accept that, you’ll be able to enjoy where you are right now and get to where He wants you to be. Furthermore, God may not answer all your questions; at least not in the way you’d like Him to. But be assured He is working. And since what He’s working on is often bigger than you can comprehend, He won’t bother you with details you can’t handle.

Think—if God had told you all the things you’d have to go through to get to where you are right now, could you have handled it? He knows how long it’ll take and how hard it’ll be— that’s why He’s silent. If He showed you your whole life in advance you’d faint. Joseph discovered during his time in prison that when God gives you a vision and you commit yourself to it, there’s no ‘opt-out clause.’ So stop projecting into the future. When you live in yesterday you end up with a case of the ‘if onlys’, and when you try to live in tomorrow you get a case of the ‘what ifs’.

Remember the popular hit song: ‘One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that’s all I’m asking of you. Just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do. Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today, show me the way, one day at a time.’ What should you do? Trust God to work things out for you according to His timetable.

Don’t Waste Your Life in Regret!

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‘His mercies begin afresh each morning.’ Lamentations 3:23 NLT

Are you living with regret over the time you’ve wasted, the opportunities you’ve squandered, the sins you’ve committed and the relationships you’ve destroyed? Regret is a waste of time, unless it teaches you wisdom and fuels your resolve to do better next time. And as long as you’re breathing, there will be a ‘next time.’ The Bible describes God this way: ‘Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.’

So how should you handle regret? By doing three things: (1) Recall. Stop and consider the actions, thoughts and emotions that drove you to do what you did. Take an honest inventory of your mistakes. Own them! There’s no solution in excuses. When Adam was confronted with his sin, he hid in the bushes. When David was confronted with his, he said, ‘I’m guilty before God.’ Follow David’s example. (2) Repent. The Bible says, ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance.’ (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) When you’re caught in a cycle of repeated sin, a glib ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ kind of prayer won’t help you. Sin hurts God, hurts you and hurts others. The idea behind repentance is to get you to where you loathe sin, and decide to renounce and forsake it. (3) Refocus. One of the Bible’s central themes is ‘resurrection.’ That means you can rise again. God said in His Word, ‘But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do!’ (Isaiah 43:17–18 TLB)

It’s a new day with a new opportunity to get your life together and move on to greater things. Don’t waste it looking back in regret!

A Prayer for Integrity

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‘Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the [law] of the Lord.’ Psalm 119:1 NLT

If you’d told David that a day was coming when he’d commit adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and then have him murdered to cover it up, he’d probably have said, ‘No way!’ Nevertheless it happened.

Forgiven, restored, and looking back on it, he wrote this prayer: ‘Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the [law] of the Lord. Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths. You have charged us to keep Your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect Your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with Your commands. As I learn Your righteous [laws], I will thank You by living as I should! I will obey Your decrees. Please don’t give up on me! How can a young person stay pure? By obeying Your word. I have tried hard to find You—don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. I praise You, O Lord; teach me Your decrees. I have recited aloud all the [laws] You have given us. I have rejoiced in Your laws as much as in riches. I will study Your commandments and reflect on Your ways. I will delight in Your decrees and not forget Your Word. Be good to Your servant, that I may live and obey Your Word. Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in Your [law].’ (Psalm 119:1–18 NLT)

Today, make that your prayer.

Start with What You’ve Got

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‘What good is that…?’ John 6:9 NLT

Observe what the disciples said to Jesus just before He fed five thousand hungry people: ‘There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?’ End of story? No, ‘Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people… And they all ate as much as they wanted… So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.’ (John 6:11–13 NLT)

God always gives you something to start with. But you have to look for it, recognise it and put it into His hands. The miracle of multiplication happened when a boy took what he had, and made it available to Jesus. The Bible says, ‘Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin.’ (Zechariah 4:10 TLB) Don’t be afraid to take small steps, just make sure they’re steps of faith and God will work through you. Jesus said, ‘I will build My church.’ (Matthew 16:18 NIV) And what did He build it with? Twelve flawed people just like us! But when He poured Himself into them, the mix was so concentrated that when two of them got together they could turn whole towns upside down (See Acts 17:6).

You say, ‘But I’ve so many shortcomings.’ We all come to the Lord damaged and in need of repair. But the good news is, you can be strong in some areas and struggling in others and God can still use you—as long as you’re willing to start with what you’ve got.

Working with Difficult People

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‘There are… vessels of… honour, and… dishonour.’ 2 Timothy 2:20 KJV

God used a raven, a bird considered ‘unclean’ in Jewish culture, to feed the prophet Elijah during a famine. Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem with funds provided by a heathen king. The point is: don’t limit God. Sometimes the people we’d normally shun are the very ones He uses to provide what we need, and by shutting them out we forfeit a blessing He has in mind for us. Be careful; your tendency to be ‘picky’ can end up hurting you!

The truth is, you can’t avoid working with difficult people. God planned it that way. Why? Because He wants you to grow in the midst of negativity without getting sucked into it. David developed the ability to work with people who were hard to get along with. It doesn’t get much harder than working for a boss with an evil spirit! At first David enjoyed King Saul’s favour but, after he killed Goliath, Saul sought to kill him. Yet David never changed his strategy. He stayed in Saul’s house because he knew his destiny was there. And because of the wisdom he exhibited, he ended up owning the place! God’s principles are timeless. David didn’t limit himself, and he didn’t limit God. He understood that people fall into two categories: ‘Vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour.’ And God uses both. Getting his eyes off people, and being neither impressed nor depressed by them, afforded David great opportunities because he freed others up to be used by God.

So learn to get along with difficult people; your greatest challenge today may be the person who assists and blesses you tomorrow.

‘Words of Wisdom’

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‘The Sovereign Lord has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort.’ Isaiah 50:4 NLT

Before the crisis comes, God can prepare you in advance by giving you ‘words of wisdom.’ He did it for Isaiah. You say, ‘But Isaiah was a prophet.’ Yes, but when God first called him, he protested, ‘I am a sinful man.’ (Isaiah 6:5 NLT) That means you can be flawed and still hear from God! Ever been in a room when somebody said something that grabbed your attention? Like a light coming on, your mind was illuminated and you stopped talking. Why? Because what you were hearing were ‘words of wisdom.’

And God won’t just give you insight for your own life, He’ll give you wisdom to share with others. And if you’re humble enough not to dominate every conversation, He’ll also speak to you through them. Think about it: God didn’t create the universe brick by brick—He spoke it into existence with a single sentence. So imagine your possibilities when He gives you ‘words of wisdom’! But first you must learn to recognise His voice, and that takes time. The first few times God spoke to Samuel, he thought it was Eli the high priest talking to him. But he kept listening, and eventually he became God’s voice to the nation. Indeed, he became so good at it that he was able to tell two different kings, ‘This is what the Lord says.’

The point is, you must want to hear, take time to hear from Him and practise listening until you become familiar with His voice.

First Thing in the Morning (2)

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‘Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.’ Psalm 5:3 NLT

Why does God say so often in Scripture that He will speak to us first thing in the morning? After all, He can speak to us any time He chooses.

There are two reasons: (1) He wants to have first place in your life. He wants to be number one on your list of priorities for the day. So before you turn on the TV, or check your computer or iPhone or go galloping off, learn to be still and allow God to give you insight and understanding as to what’s important for your day—and your life. You’ll be amazed at the solutions He gives you: the creative ideas, and the clear sense of guidance. You’ll find the promise really is true: ‘The steps of a good man [and woman] are ordered by the Lord.’ (Psalm 37:23 KJV) In fact, after a few weeks or months of living this way you won’t want to go back to your old routine. (2) He wants a blank page to write on. Ever try talking with someone who’s distracted or preoccupied? You just want to move on. But when that person is really important to you, you try to pick a time of day when you know they’ll really listen. Well, you are important to God and He wants to speak to you! Can you imagine your loss if you fail to hear what He has to say, or to understand what He has in mind for you?

One of the secrets of King David’s strength was this: ‘Each morning I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly.’ (Psalm 5:3 NLT) In order to succeed, you must put hearing from God at the top of your morning routine!

First Thing in the Morning (1)

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‘Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will.’ Isaiah 50:4 NLT

Here’s a wonderful promise from God’s Word: ‘The… Lord has given me His words of wisdom… that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will. The… Lord has spoken to me, and I… listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.’ (Isaiah 50:4–5 NLT) Isaiah said God woke him up every morning and told him what he was supposed to do that day, and what he was to say to others! This wasn’t a ‘one-of-a-kind’ occurrence: It happened ‘morning by morning.’

Can you imagine how differently your day would go if you took the time to hear from God before you got out of bed? Notice the word ‘understanding.’ God can give you understanding about what you should say and do before you get into a given situation. He said, ‘I am the Lord… who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.’ (Isaiah 48:17 NIV) Talk about having a plus in life and an edge on the competition!

And here’s the best part: Even if you’re not listening, or you’re not in the right place spiritually, or you don’t have much experience in this realm, God will work with you ‘morning by morning’ until you learn to recognise and respond to His voice. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be! After all, that’s what good parents do with their children when they want them to grow up, mature and enjoy life’s best.

‘Restless, Irritable and Discontent’

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‘Give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty.’ John 4:15 NIV

In Alcoholics Anonymous’ twelve-step programme those seeking recovery are taught that when they become ‘restless, irritable and discontent’, they’re in danger of going back to their drug of choice. And that doesn’t work! Why? Because inside each of us there’s a God-shaped blank that only He can fill. Some of us try to fill the blank with human relationships. Jesus met a woman who’d been divorced five times and was now living with her boyfriend. The conversation went like this: ‘Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty.”’ (John 4:13–15 NIV)

Your body tells you when it’s hungry and thirsty. So does your soul—and if you’re wise you’ll listen. The only ‘safe’ addiction is total surrender and dependency on God! We all have a tendency to respond to what our flesh craves instead of what our spirit needs. So we turn to things like work, sex and entertainment. Now we’ve added a new one—the internet. Psychologists are actually treating people with ‘internet addiction.’ Honestly!

King David had it all: power, popularity, pleasure and possessions. But it left him empty, so he wrote, ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.’ (Psalm 42:1 NIV) Learn to recognise when you are ‘restless, irritable, and discontent’ and reach for God.

‘Turning… Serving… Waiting’

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‘You turned… from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven.’ 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10 NKJV

Let’s read what Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers: ‘You became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe… from you the Word of the Lord has sounded forth… in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare… how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from Heaven.’ (1 Thessalonians 1:6–10 NKJV)

The lives of these believers could be summed up in three words: ‘Turning… serving… waiting.’ Let’s look at each, and see what we can learn. (1) Turning. Repentance means doing an about-face turn. It calls for renouncing and forsaking your carnal thought patterns and self-indulgent ways. (2) Serving. Try serving others rather than expecting them to serve you. At the end of each day, pray, ‘Lord, how well did I serve You today?’ For it’s in serving others that you serve Him. (3) Waiting. If you knew for sure Jesus was coming back tomorrow, what would you do differently today? Would it change your habits, your words, your attitudes? Some of us live our lives as if Christ had changed His mind about coming back again. Make no mistake—He is! Don’t be caught off guard. Endeavour to live each day in the light of His soon return. Doing that will rearrange your priorities!

Qualifying for Leadership in the Church

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‘If someone aspires to be [a leader]…’ 1 Timothy 3:1 NLT

The Bible outlines specific qualifications for leadership in the church.

‘An elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation… must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot mange his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced… and fall. In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity… They must be committed to the mystery of the now revealed faith and must live with a clear conscience. Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do… Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.’ (1 Timothy 3:1–13 NLT)

Submit to God’s Correction

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‘I … reprove and chasten.’ Revelation 3:19 AMP

God’s correction humbles us in ways we need to be humbled. And when He does it, we have three options: (1) Rebel against Him. (2) Rationalise and make excuses. (3) Receive His correction and get back on track.

But lasting change can’t even begin until you accept that God loves you unconditionally and just as you are. Without that, you’ll keep trying to change yourself in a vain attempt to earn His love and acceptance. The truth is, you already have it—you just don’t know it! Many of us think that by accepting ourselves we’re excusing all the things that are wrong with us. Not so! You can’t properly receive God’s correction until you’ve a clear understanding of how much He loves you. Without that you’ll interpret His correction as rejection, and see His disapproval of your behaviour as disapproval of you. To grow spiritually you must believe that God is committed to you, especially when He deals with you correctively and leads you in ways you don’t understand. During such times you must have an unshakeable trust in His love for you. The apostle Paul was convinced that nothing could separate him from God’s love (See Romans 8:39).

In the third chapter of Revelation, God is speaking to each of us when He says, ‘Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults … convict and convince … reprove and chasten.’ (Revelation 3:19 AMP) One of the strongest evidences of God’s love and acceptance is His correction. Indeed, you should be concerned about the absence of it! So if God’s correcting you right now, take heart and rejoice! It means He has good things in store for you.

‘God Is’ (7)

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‘He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied.’ Psalm 104:13 NIV

Have you ever wondered why nowhere else in the universe do we find water in any abundance, except here on earth? To date, all our telescopes and space travellers confirm that.

Water, the amazing solvent, dissolves almost everything upon this earth except those things that are life-sustaining. This amazing liquid we take for granted exists as ice, breaks up rocks and produces soil. As snow, it stores up frozen water in valleys. As rain, it waters and cleanses the earth. As vapour, it provides moisture for much of the arable land on earth. It exists as cloud cover in just the right amount. If it had clouds like Venus, the earth couldn’t support life. But we have around 70 percent of the surface of the earth covered by clouds at any one time, allowing just the right amount of sunlight to filter through. As steam, for centuries water has run some of the most powerful machinery we have. Other than bismuth, it’s the only liquid heavier at four degrees Celsius than it is when it’s a solid. If this were not so, life as we know it could not exist on this planet. Because when water is frozen solid, it’s lighter and it rises. If this wasn’t the case, our lakes and rivers would freeze from the bottom up and kill all the fish; the algae would be destroyed, oxygen supply would cease, and mankind would die.

So when you feel like God doesn’t notice you or care about you, drink a glass of water and say, ‘Thank you, Lord!’

‘God Is’ (6)

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‘You give life to everything.’ Nehemiah 9:6 NIV

Let’s look at another miracle of God’s creative genius: the nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen is extremely inert—if it wasn’t we’d all be poisoned by different forms of nitrous combinations. However, because of its inertness, it’s next-to-impossible for us to get nitrogen to combine naturally with other things. But it’s definitely needed for plants in the ground, so what provision does God make for getting it out of the air and into the soil? Lightning! A hundred thousand lightning bolts strike our planet daily, creating a hundred million tons of usable nitrogen plant food in the soil every year.

Between 20 and 30 kilometres up, there’s a thin layer of ozone. If compressed, it would be less than a fingernail’s width in thickness, yet without it life wouldn’t be sustainable. Eight killer rays continually fall on our planet from the sun; without ozone we’d be burned, blinded or boiled. The ultraviolet rays come in two forms: longer rays, which are deadly and are screened out, and shorter rays, which are necessary for life on earth and are administered through the ozone layer. Furthermore, the most deadly of these rays are allowed through the ozone layer in a very limited amount, just enough to kill the green algae which otherwise could grow to fill the lakes, rivers and oceans of the world.

No doubt about it, we are totally dependent on God’s goodness. That’s why the Psalmist said, ‘All look to You to give them their food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.’ (Psalm 104:27–28 NIV) We have an awesome God!

‘God Is’ (5)

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‘The moon marks off the seasons.’ Psalm 104:19 NIV

Here’s an amazing thing: without the moon it would be impossible for us to live on this planet. And if anyone ever succeeded in deflecting the moon from its orbit, all life would cease. It acts like a maid to clean up the oceans and the shores. Without the tides created by the moon, our harbours and shores would become one big stench pool of garbage and it would be impossible to live anywhere near them. Because of the tides, continuous waves break upon the shores of the ocean, aerating the waters of the planet and providing oxygen for plankton, the very foundation of our food chain. Without plankton there would be no oxygen, and all life would end.

God is a creative genius, isn’t He? He made the moon the right size, and placed it the right distance from the earth to create the exact atmosphere we need. We live within a great ocean of air—78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen. These elements are continually mixed by the tidal effect of the moon upon the atmosphere. This has the same effect it has upon the seas, and always provides the same proportion of oxygen. Though we keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it’s absorbed into the ocean and we’re able to continue to live. If the atmosphere wasn’t as thick as it is, we’d be crushed by billions of pieces of cosmic debris and meteorites that fall continually upon our planet.

Who takes good care of you? God! And He’s on the job 24/7! Aren’t you glad?

‘God Is’ (4)

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‘I… made the earth and created mankind upon it.’ Isaiah 45:12 NIV

Ever wonder why we’ve failed to find life on any other planet, yet ours is designed to sustain us and meet our most basic everyday needs? It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Do you think it’s just a coincidence? Not according to the Bible. In it God says, ‘I … made the earth and created mankind upon it.’ (Isaiah 45:12 NIV)

Did you know that if the earth was 10 percent larger or 10 percent smaller, life as we know it wouldn’t be possible? Or that we’re just the right distance from the sun so we receive the right amount of heat and light? If we were any farther away we’d freeze, and if we were closer we wouldn’t be able to survive. Consider for a moment the amazing tilt of the axis of the earth. None of the other planets are tilted like ours at 23 degrees. This angle allows the sun’s rays to touch every part of the earth’s surface over the course of a year, as the earth circles the sun. If there was no tilt to the axis, the poles would accumulate enormous masses of ice, and the centre of the earth would become so hot we couldn’t stand it.

Like an excited parent designing a room for the arrival of their newborn child, God made this earth specifically for us. ‘For this is what the Lord says—He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.’ (Isaiah 45:18 NIV) That’s how much God cares for us.

‘God Is’ (3)

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‘The Lord is … the Creator of … the earth.’ Isaiah 40:28 NIV

Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, science and Scripture aren’t necessarily opposed. The ranks of Bible-believing scientists have grown rapidly since the discovery of quantum physics, which demonstrates the amazing symmetry and order that make up the universe. Did you know that one of the most brilliant scientific books of our time was written by no less than sixty notable scientists, including twenty-four Nobel Prize winners? The book’s title is Cosmos, Bios, Theos, which means Universe, Life, and God. And one of the contributing authors, Yale physicist Professor Henry Margenau, concludes, ‘There’s only one convincing answer’ for the intricate laws that exist in nature. And what does this brilliant man think it is? Evolution? Coincidence? Happenstance? No! Margenau believes that ‘creation is by an omnipotent omniscient God.’

So to believe in God is to believe in science… and the infallible Word of God. The Bible says: ‘The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth… He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ (Isaiah 40:28–31 NIV)

That means through prayer you can tap into the greatest power and most loving care in the universe. Amazing! How you face each day depends on Who you’re looking to. So look to God. Put your trust in Him. ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.’ (Proverbs 16:3 NIV)

‘God Is’ (2)

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‘Lift your eyes … to the heavens; Who created all these?’ Isaiah 40:26 NIV

Many of the world’s greatest thinkers believe that God not only exists, but that He created the universe and its inhabitants. So the next time someone tells you that only simple, uneducated people believe in God—don’t buy it.

Dr. Robert Jastrow, founder and director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, writes in his blockbuster book, God and the Astronomers: ‘The astronomical evidence supports the Biblical view of the origin of the world… The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same… Science has proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment… What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter or energy into the universe? Science cannot answer these questions… and for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance… is about to conquer the highest peak, and as he pulls himself over the final rock he’s greeted by a band of theologians who’ve been sitting there for centuries.’ Pierre-Simon Laplace, another of the world’s great astronomers, said that the chances of a universe coming into existence without a Creator were like the chances of a set of writing implements being thrown randomly against parchment and producing Homer’s Iliad.

The evidence for God as opposed to the evidence against Him as the creator of this universe approaches infinity to one. It can’t even be measured. So rejoice: ‘God is.’ He’s accessible and available, if you’ll just take time to pray and invite Him into your life.

‘God Is’ (1)

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‘God is… a very present help in trouble.’ Psalm 46:1 NKJV

The Bible says, ‘God is… a very present help in trouble.’ (Psalm 46:1 NKJV) But first you must believe that ‘God is,’ otherwise the best you can hope for is good luck or human help. And how far do you think that’ll get you? When the doctor says he can’t do any more to save you or a loved one, who will you turn to? When you’ve run out of answers and need guidance, where will you go to find them? When you’re guilt-ridden and long for peace and forgiveness, who’ll provide them for you? When you do away with God, you become your own god, because you recognise no greater power in the universe than yourself. You can see why the Bible says, ‘The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”’ (Psalm 14:1 NKJV) How foolish to cut yourself off from the greatest source of help in all the universe!

For the next few days let’s talk about why ‘God is,’ and why you should put your trust in Him.

First, let’s look at astronomy. The Bible says: ‘The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship …night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word… Yet their message has gone throughout the earth.’ (Psalm 19:1–4 NLT) Did you know that 90 percent of the world’s astronomers believe in God? That’s a higher percentage than can be found among butchers, bakers and candlestick makers! The great minds who have thoroughly examined His handiwork, believe that ‘God is’. How about you?

Is it You?

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‘Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”’ Matthew 26:25 NIV

In a sermon about commitment to Christ, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said: ‘I’ve known some who preached the Gospel with power, but lived to depart from it altogether. I’ve known others who discharged the duties of deaconship and eldership with considerable diligence, who have afterwards given way to their evil passions. I’ve thought some of them to be the holiest of men. While they’ve been praying I’ve been lifted up to the very gates of Heaven; if anyone had said these would one day fall into gross sin, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’d sooner have believed it of myself. Those who seemed stronger than we have fallen, so why not we? Our Lord’s disciples who sat at the table with Him, when they were told that one of them would betray their master, each enquired: “Lord, is it I?” That was a very proper question. There wasn’t one who asked, “Lord, is it Judas?” Probably not one of them suspected him. And it may be that the worst hypocrite in this assembly is the one upon whom there doesn’t rest at this moment a single shade of suspicion. He has learned to play his part so well that his true character hasn’t yet been discovered.’

If those words hit too close for comfort, don’t walk—run—to the foot of the cross today! Run to the One who, with full knowledge of your struggles and temptations, loves you unconditionally; the One whose blood cleanses you from sin, whose grace can lift and sustain you, and whose power can help you live an overcoming life.

How to Improve Your Relationships

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‘Let us not love with words … but with actions.’ 1 John 3:18 NIV

Here are five Scriptural ways to improve the quality of your relationships:

(1) Always show appreciation. Who are the people that really matter in your life? Let them know you love them, and do it often. Practice the ten-to-one rule: ten compliments to every one criticism! Many of us think the best way to help people is to ‘straighten them out’. No, the best way to help others is to look for the best in them. Dr John Maxwell calls this ‘the 101 Percent Principle’. Look for one thing you admire in somebody, then give them 100 percent encouragement for it. That’ll help you to like them, and vice versa. (2) Put others first. ‘Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.’ (Ephesians 6:7 NIV) If you adopt that mindset in your dealings with others, you will go far in life. (3) Serve others gladly. Talking about how difficult it is to hire and train people, an airline executive said, ‘Service is the only thing we have to sell, but it’s the toughest thing to teach because nobody wants to be thought of as a servant.’ (4) Forgive it, resolve it and move beyond it. If someone has hurt you and you need to address it, do it immediately. Then forgive it, resolve it and move beyond it. And if it’s not worth bringing up, forget it and move on. (5) Make time for the people who matter. Don’t give away your time on a first-come-first-served basis. Don’t devote so much energy to ‘the squeaky wheel’ that you short-change the people in your life who matter most.

Prepare Yourself

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‘We rebuilt the wall … for the people worked with all their heart.’ Nehemiah 4:6 NIV

To succeed, Nehemiah needed favour with his boss, the king. So he prayed that this heathen potentate would finance the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. It was a bold prayer, and it wasn’t answered overnight. But Nehemiah didn’t sit around waiting. In the meantime he put together a plan, assembled a team, and scheduled a date to begin the work. That way when the king said yes, he was ready to move.

Some people think if God’s going to do something, why should they do anything? Then there are those who think they don’t need God at all, so they try to do it on their own. But both extremes are wrong. Sometimes God has to balance what He’s doing in your life with what He’s doing in somebody else’s life, so that ‘all things work together for good.’ (Romans 8:28 KJV) In Nehemiah’s case, waiting for a letter of authorisation from the king and funding for the project was like waiting for a government grant—it can take a while. But the Bible says, ‘The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.’ (Proverbs 21:1 NAS) Nehemiah exercised bold confidence in God’s willingness to provide. He also understood that, while he was waiting, it was his responsibility to prepare and set things in place so that when God gave him the green light he was ready to move. He exercised faith—and wisdom. He knew he couldn’t do God’s part, and that God wouldn’t do his part. So the word for you today is: ‘Prepare yourself!’

Enjoy Each Day

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‘…be happy, because that is what God wants you to do.’ Ecclesiastes 9:7 NCV

Solomon writes: ‘So go eat your food and enjoy it; drink your wine and be happy, because that is what God wants you to do. Put on nice clothes and make yourself look good. Enjoy life with the wife you love. Enjoy all the useless days of this useless life God has given you here on earth, because it is all you have. So enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best, because you are going to the grave…’ (Ecclesiastes 9:7–10 NCV) Despite his sarcasm, Solomon has a point. Two chapters later, he gives the bottom line of a happy life: ‘Fear God and keep His commandments.’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV) So, what are you waiting for? To graduate? Get married? Have children? Retire? Life is about the journey, not just the destination! Your life is here and now, your family is here and now, your marriage is here and now, your career is here and now. The journey takes place every day, and you can find meaning when you search for a greater purpose. You can find small joys every day if you have eyes of faith. Solomon recognised that ultimately we all end up at the same destination—the grave. The only difference lies in how much we enjoy the journey. Instead of obsessing over the things you can’t control, revere God, keep His commandments and leave the control to Him.

Phil Cooke writes: ‘I have to believe that God’s in control, and for me to always demand answers is to assume His role. I’ve decided to sit back and let Him be God and let me be me.’ That’s a philosophy you would do well to adopt!

Be an Esther

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‘These things happened to them as examples for us.’ 1 Corinthians 10:11 NLT

It’s a mistake to think the great achievers in the Bible were somehow different from us and say, ‘In my situation a life like that isn’t possible.’

Esther’s freedom was taken from her when, because of her beauty, a pagan king made her one of his wives. Talk about feeling out of place! But no place is out of place when you’re in the place God wants you to be! When Haman plotted to have the Jews exterminated, Esther was strategically positioned by God to save them. She discovered her life’s purpose when her uncle Mordecai told her she had ‘come to the kingdom for such a time as this.’ (Esther 4:14 NKJV) And what was her response? ‘I will go to the king [on behalf of my people]…and if I perish, I perish!’ (Esther 4:16 NKJV) But instead of perishing, she prevailed!

So what can we learn from Esther? (1) When you first start out, God won’t give you all the details. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t have a plan. It’s in seeking Him that you discover His plan and draw on His strength. (2) Knowledge is power. Whether you’re a slave or a sovereign, when you know God has called you it enables you to overcome each obstacle as it arises. (3) Knowing God’s in control gives you boldness. When Esther said, ‘If I perish, I perish,’ she was simply putting herself into God’s hands, knowing that even death can be faced with confidence when you trust Him. Not only does God have a place for you here on earth, He has an even better one for you in Heaven. And that puts you in the ultimate win-win situation.

Five All-Important Answers

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‘If God is for us, who can ever be against us?’ Romans 8:31 NLT

Paul asks five all-important questions:

(1) ‘If God is for us, who can ever be against us?’ (Romans 8:31 NLT) The assurance of God’s presence tilts the scales in your favour. So whatever you’re facing today, remind yourself, ‘God is for me.’ (2) ‘Since [God] did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t [God]…give us everything else?’ (Romans 8:32 NLT) Think about it: Would God save your soul, then leave you to fend for yourself? Or address your eternal needs and not your earthly ones? No! (3) ‘Who dares accuse us…? No one—for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself.’ (Romans 8:33 NLT) Every accusing voice, including your own, counts for nothing in the court of Heaven. God’s acceptance trumps everybody else’s rejection—and He accepts you because He sees you ‘in Christ.’ (4) ‘Who then will condemn us?… Christ Jesus died for us… He is sitting in the place of honour at God’s right hand, pleading for us.’ (Romans 8:34 NLT) When your accusers rise up and speak against you, Jesus, your defence attorney, silences them. Why? Because His blood covers you! (5) ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ (Romans 8:35 NLT) Paul answers his own question: ‘Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love… nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38–39 NLT)

Knowing these five truths will help you enjoy your day, and sleep better at night!

Staying Power (4)

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‘Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him.’ Genesis 37:5 NIV

Staying power overcomes misunderstanding and rejection. Sometimes the people you count on to support you will actually try to undercut you. When God gives you a vision too big for them to handle, they’ll say, ‘You’re getting too big for your boots,’ and then try to cut you down to size—their size!

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, then went home and told their father he’d been killed by a wild beast. Can you imagine how Joseph felt when someone asked, ‘Tell me about your family’? General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, ‘There are no victories at bargain prices.’ And sadly, betrayal happens as often in church as in secular society. When Charles Spurgeon was in his early twenties, such large crowds came to his church that the building couldn’t accommodate them. So he met with thirty of his church leaders and suggested they build an auditorium that would seat 5,500 people. Allegedly, he told them that if any of them doubted the possibility of accomplishing this, they should leave. And twenty-three did! But Spurgeon held true to the vision God had given him. He had the ‘stickability’ to see it through, and for over thirty-five years crowds packed the Metropolitan Tabernacle morning and night, making it one of the most influential churches in history.

An old Gospel song says, ‘Got any rivers you think are un-crossable? Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through? God specialises in things thought impossible; He can do just what no other can do.’

Staying Power (3)

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‘I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.’ Judges 11:35 KJV

Staying power overcomes family opposition. When Jephthah’s family disowned him and threw him out of the house, he built an army that ultimately delivered Israel from the hands of their enemies. As a result, he ended up becoming the nation’s youngest judge. When faced with the challenge to ‘fold up or hold up,’ David Livingstone demonstrated staying power. His wife, Mary, gave him so much trouble, always complaining and criticising, that she made his life’s work almost impossible. The tension between them became so great that Livingstone sent her home to England for a period of more than twelve years while he suffered, bled and ultimately died in Africa for the cause of Christ.

When Jesus went home to Nazareth to minister to the people He grew up around, some of them tried to throw Him off a cliff. And in spite of His teachings and miracles, His family thought He was mad. Did that hurt Him? Of course. But He didn’t let it stop Him. He said: ‘Anyone who wants to be My follower must love Me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers or sisters—yes, more than his own life—otherwise, he cannot be My disciple. And no one can be My disciple who does not carry his own cross and follow Me… don’t begin until you [first] count the cost.’ (Luke 14:26–28 TLB)

When your family opposes you, love them and pray for them because God can change their hearts. And until He does, keep serving Him.

Staying Power (2)

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‘Here on earth you will have many trials.’ John 16:33 NLT

Two more reasons you need to develop staying power are:

(1) It overcomes prolonged illness. When sickness saps your physical, emotional and mental strength—that’s when you need staying power. The Bible says, ‘The strong spirit of a man [or woman] sustains him in bodily pain or trouble, but a weak and broken spirit who can … bear?’ (Proverbs 18:14 AMP) Charles Spurgeon was known to multitudes as ‘the prince of preachers’. His ministry impacted London and much of the British Isles. Yet he was so sick that he had to spend a lot of his time resting in Southern France. His wife, who became an invalid after the birth of their twin sons, transcended her physical limitations with staying power. Though paralysed, she directed from her bed an unprecedented book distribution effort. And it’s largely because of her staying power that Spurgeon’s books are on the shelves of more people around the world than the books of most other ministers.

(2) It overcomes financial limitations. George Müller, who founded homes for orphans in England, is a prime example of staying power. He saved the lives of thousands of children, and he did it by faith. Many times he didn’t have the money to buy food for their next meal, but he never complained. Instead he prayed. And in response to his faith, money poured in from all over the world, much of it from people he never knew. Müller lived by the Scriptural principle: ‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’

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‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.’ 2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV

Here’s a saying that has proven to be true: ‘What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger.’

And here are four sayings that have proved to be false: (1) ‘When you become a Christian all your problems are over.’ Whoever told you that didn’t get it from Scripture. Paul said, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’ (2 Corinthians 4: