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.’

Staying Power (1)

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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 4:8–9) (2) ‘All the problems you’ll ever encounter are addressed in the Bible.’ God tells us many things in His Word, but He still requires us to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV) That means receiving guidance from His Word, from the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and from the counsel of godly friends. (3) ‘If you’re having problems, you must be unspiritual.’ The opposite is true. Satan’s attack is proof that you haven’t been conquered, that you represent a threat to the kingdom of darkness, and that you’re doing the will of God. And the greater the attack, the greater the level of blessing that awaits you beyond it, so keep going. (4) ‘Being exposed to sound Bible teaching automatically solves every problem.’ It will certainly help you solve your problems, but it won’t solve them for you. You must be a ‘doer’ of the Word and not a ‘hearer only’ (see James 1:23). Paul writes, ‘Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies [and tricks] of the devil.’ (Ephesians 6:10–11 NLT) In other words, you need ‘staying power.’

What it Means to Really Love

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‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV

Some of the greatest insights on what it means to love someone come from the pen of the apostle Paul: ‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’ (1 Corinthians 13:3–7 NKJV)

John had been married to Mary for fifty years. One night in bed she said, ‘When we were young, you used to hold my hand.’ A little irritated, he slowly reaches out his hand. ‘When we were young, you used to snuggle up to me,’ Mary said. Even more slowly, John’s body creaks and turns, nestling against hers. ‘When we were young, you used to nibble on my ear,’ she whispered. Abruptly he throws back the covers and jumps out of bed. Bewildered, Mary asks, ‘Where are you going?’ ‘To get my teeth!’ he grumbles.

To nibble on an ear when you’re full of romance and bubbling hormones is one thing. To nibble on that same ear years later when it holds a hearing aid, when the scent in the air is Vicks VapoRub, and when you have to get up to get your teeth—that’s love!

Be Joyful!

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‘You shall go out with joy.’ Isaiah 55:12 NKJV

Every morning say, ‘Today, I will go out with joy.’ That’ll set your attitude straight! Generally speaking, there are three kinds of people: (1) Those who feel bad about feeling good. They believe we’re not supposed to be happy, just ‘responsible.’ (2) Those who rain on your parade because your joy bothers them. Often these people have been hurt by life and anger simmers just beneath the surface. (3) Those who lift your spirit and breathe life into you.

You say, ‘But doesn’t the Bible tell us believers are supposed to be different from nonbelievers?’ Yes, but not negatively different—positively different! And unless you commit yourself to walking in the joy of the Lord, you’ll find negative ways of distinguishing yourself from nonbelievers. Paul writes, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ (Philippians 4:4 NIV) If you’re thinking, ‘That’s easy for Paul to say; he doesn’t have my problems,’ think again! When Paul wrote those words he was in prison with no chance of getting out. For him joy was a decision, not a reaction to circumstances. You ask, ‘How could Paul be joyful in prison?’ Because he understood that true joy comes from devoting yourself to something bigger than your own interests. The Bible says, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ (Nehemiah 8:10 KJV)

True joy calls for three things: (a) Making a conscious choice to focus on God’s goodness every single day. (b) Reaching out to bless others every chance you get. (c) Understanding that joy produces strength, which explains why your joy is the devil’s primary target. When you lose your joy you lose your strength, and he wins—so be joyful!

Divine Guidance (3)

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‘We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us.’ 2 Corinthians 1:10 NLT

Paul writes: ‘We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in…Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed…we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And He did rescue us from mortal danger, and He will rescue us again.’ (2 Corinthians 1:8–10 NLT) For Paul, what looked like the end of the road was just the beginning of a fresh infusion of God’s power and favour into his life. As a result he went on to say that through it all he learned not to trust in himself, but in God ‘who raises the dead.’

It’s when your plans look dead that God’s resurrection power begins to operate in your life in greater measure. As long as you have a loving heavenly Father to call on, a word from the Lord to stand on and faith to activate it, you have every reason to rejoice.

So come on—start calling on God today! And do it in faith—not doubt. Expect Him to release His power on your behalf; then watch as He turns your situation around. Why? Because now you’re starting to trust the One who can really do something about it! Always remember that no matter how strong or successful you are, there’ll never be a time in your life when you don’t need God’s grace and guidance. And the sooner you learn that, the better off you’ll be.

Divine Guidance (2)

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‘God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.’ Philippians 2:13 NLT

Underline these words: ‘God is working in you.’ He does this as you engage your mind, open your mouth, move your feet and use your hands to do what He’s already put into your heart. The moment you say yes to His will, He gives you the ability to perform it.

Notice, He doesn’t reveal His will to you, then call you. He calls you and, as you step out in faith and obey Him, He reveals His will to you step by step, empowering and equipping you as you go.

If you’re thinking you’d like a little more detail before you make a commitment, take note. First: God may make you uncomfortable where you are. ‘Like an eagle that stirs up its nest… the Lord…led him.’ (Deuteronomy 32:11–12 NIV) To teach her children to fly, a mother eagle literally pushes them out of the nest. Talk about being out of your element! Can you imagine what they are thinking? ‘It’s my mother doing this to me.’ But until a baby eagle is forced out of its comfort zone, it doesn’t realise it was born to fly, spread its wings, release its power and take its place in the skies. Is God stirring up your comfort zone today? Second: God’s direction is impossible to follow without His help. He plans it that way. Jesus said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5 NKJV) Third: There’s persistence in His leading. Human ideas go away, but God’s direction stays. That means time is on your side—so stay in step with God and don’t get ahead of Him.

Divine Guidance (1)

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‘He shows the proper path to those who go astray.’ Psalm 25:8 NLT

Throughout Scripture God talked to ordinary people, and He’ll talk to you too! He told Abraham when to leave home (see Genesis 12:1), and Jacob when to go back home (see Genesis 31:3). He told Elijah where to find food in the middle of a famine (see 1 Kings 17:1–5). On two different occasions He stopped Paul from walking through what appeared to be a door of opportunity because He had something better in mind for him. The Bible says: ‘The Lord is good and does what is right; He shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them His way. The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep His covenant and obey His demands.’ (Psalm 25:8–10 NLT)

Nothing is more important in life than being led by God. Other people’s input should confirm and clarify what God’s already telling you. But until you’ve heard from Him, you’ll be tempted to think other people’s ideas are God’s leading—and that can hurt you.

You’re unique, and God has a unique plan and purpose for you. When you’re not sure which way to go, stand on His promise: ‘I will lead My blind people by roads they have never travelled. I will turn their darkness into light and make rough country smooth before them. These are My promises, and I will keep them without fail.’ (Isaiah 42:16GNT) It doesn’t get any better than that!

Bound by a Commitment to Love

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‘Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it.’ Song of Solomon 8:7 NLT

The story’s told of a wedding where the minister said to the groom, ‘Do you take this woman for better or for worse? For richer or for poorer? In sickness and in health?’ And the groom said, ‘Yes, no, yes, no, no, yes.’

We all want the better, richer and healthier parts of marriage, but that’s not the way relationships work. In some modern marriage ceremonies the bride and groom pledge to stay together ‘as long as love shall last.’ Let’s hope they both know a good divorce attorney, because they’re probably going to need one. The truth is that relationships which are based on feelings don’t last. The only real stability in marriage is produced by a firm commitment that holds two people steady when emotions are fluctuating wildly. Can you imagine a parent saying to a child, ‘I’ll care for you as long as I shall love you?’ No, and neither does a wishy-washy expression of love hold much promise for the future of a marriage. Think about it this way: emotion is like the carriage of a train, but commitment is the engine that pulls the relationship through all the ups and downs of everyday living.

Solomon puts it this way: ‘Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.’ (Song of Solomon 8:7 NLT) And one more thought—the theme of the Bible is resurrection. That means even though your love may feel dead, God can cause it to live again if you’re both willing to let Him work in your heart.

Four Steps to Overcoming Fear

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‘The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.’ Psalm 118:6 NIV

First, be willing to take a risk. Yes, you might be hurt or embarrassed—so what? To overcome insecurity and gain confidence you must allow yourself the freedom to take a chance. Start writing that book, take those music lessons, stand up and speak at the meeting! Feel the fear and do it anyway! ‘Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.’ (Proverbs 29:25 NIV)

Second, learn to laugh at yourself. Get over your obsessive need for approval and acceptance and learn to laugh at your mistakes. We’re all human; stop taking yourself so seriously! When you make a mistake, be the first to see the funny side, and you’ll find people more supportive than you think.

Third, start thinking realistically. It’s time to drop the security blanket and realise it’s not all about you. You are not the centre of the universe, and your little faux pas don’t mean that much in the bigger scheme of things. Besides, mistakes are often better teachers than success.

Fourth, reward yourself for little victories. When you complete a project, reward yourself. When you take advice or correction without retaliating, reward yourself. Often the people we lash out at are those trying the hardest to help us. Get used to the idea that you’re valuable, talented and skilled, and your worth in God’s eyes is inestimable. Stop scrutinising yourself through distorted lenses and start seeing yourself with 20/20 vision. Once you can do that, your fears will be replaced by God honouring confidence in yourself and in your future.

Getting What You Want (3)

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‘You do not have because you do not ask.’ James 4:2 NKJV

Notice: (1) There are benefits you won’t receive unless you ask for them. Plus, ‘asking and receiving’ works wonders for your self-esteem. Imagine the joy these five women felt when their petition was granted. Obviously they were emotionally secure or they wouldn’t have tried it. So, as a redeemed child of God declare, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31 KJV)

(2) Timing is important. ‘A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.’ (Proverbs 27:12 NLT) The daughters of Zelophehad spoke up while they were still in the wilderness; the Promised Land hadn’t yet been conquered. There’s nothing like good planning. You can’t just sit around and assume others are thinking about your welfare. For example, after the raises are announced is not the time to petition your boss for an increase. Zelophehad’s daughters made life better for every other woman in Israel. So by speaking up and confronting the situation not only will you be blessed, others will too.

(3) Strive for a win-win situation. The battle was not yet over. The daughters of Zelophehad had uncles who appealed the new ruling, pointing out that if these women married men outside their tribe then their land holdings would go to other tribes. So God made another ruling; to possess land you must only marry within your own tribe (see Numbers 36:5–11). And when it comes to marriage, spiritually speaking that principle still applies. ‘She is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 7:39 NKJV) The same for men.

Getting What You Want (2)

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‘The daughters of Zelophehad…stood before Moses.’ Numbers 27:1–2 NKJV

The daughters of Zelophehad teach us that we must: (1) Be willing to do something about it. Complaining doesn’t change anything; it just makes you more miserable. With millions of people entering the Promised Land, other women were in the same predicament. But nothing changed until these five women became proactive and refused to accept the status quo. That took courage. Going before Moses was like appealing to the Supreme Court. Solutions are found when you decide to face your problems head-on and do something about them.

(2) Be clear about what you want. What do you want to happen, or stop happening? When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there; you must have a clear goal in mind. These women believed they were entitled to the same blessing the male members of their family received, and they refused to settle for less. As a result, God gave it to them. And He will do the same for you. ‘Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.’ (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)

(3) Refuse to be deterred by opinions, policies, and traditions. Under the law of Moses women weren’t even numbered as part of the census (see Numbers 26). Can you imagine the shape the church would be in if we lived by that policy today? Many times in the Scripture God altered ‘the norm’ in response to bold faith, and changed the destiny of those individuals. And what He did for them, He will do for you.

Getting What You Want (1)

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‘Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.’ Numbers 27:4 NKJV

The five daughters of Zelophehad are a great example of how to get what you want. The Israelites were about to possess the Promised Land. Guidelines had been established for allocating the land among the various tribes. But the law said that only males could inherit land. These five women thought this was unfair since it denied them the ability to inherit their deceased father’s property. So they challenged this law by taking their case to Moses. ‘Our father died in the wilderness… and he had no sons… Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.’ (Numbers 27:3–4 NKJV) Now, since it was God who gave the law, only He could change it. So Moses took their case before the Lord, and here’s what He said: ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right… you shall…cause the inheritance…to pass to them.’ (Numbers 27:7 NKJV)

These brave women took matters into their own hands. They had no men in their lives to speak up on their behalf—no husbands, no brothers, and no sons. Yes, they had uncles, but it was unlikely that they would support them in their request since they were asking for land that would, under the current plan, default to the uncles.

Here’s what we learn from this story: (1) When something is unfair and unjust, God may be calling you to challenge and change it. (2) All things don’t come to those who wait, but to those who are willing to go and get them. (3) Man may close the door, but when you turn to God He can open it for you.

Groaning in Prayer

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‘The Spirit… intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.’ Romans 8:26 NIV

We usually think of groaning as something negative. But when the Spirit groans in prayer it’s good. ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’ (Romans 8:26–28 NIV)

Sometimes when we’re praying about a certain need, we feel it so deeply that we can’t express ourselves in words. At that point the Holy Spirit enters the picture and helps us with our weakness. But He does more than just feel for us, He takes our pain and deepest longings and presents them before God. What does this tell us about prayer? That the Holy Spirit connects with your prayers when they come from your heart and not just your lips. There are times when you’re unable to articulate a single word in prayer; nevertheless you’re making an important connection.

Ever reach a point where you’re so concerned about something that when you come before God, all you can do is sigh? You’re learning something important about prayer! God allows us to groan; otherwise we’d never truly pray. We’d utter words but never really pray from deep within—where ‘effectual fervent prayer’ has to begin (James 5:16 KJV).

‘The Fear of the Lord’

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‘In the… fear of the Lord there is strong confidence.’ Proverbs 14:26 AMP

When you submit to God, you don’t have to be afraid of anything because He becomes your ‘refuge and strength.’ (Psalm 46:1 NAS) Fearing God doesn’t mean being afraid He’s going to hurt you. He’s a good God! ‘The fear of the Lord’ is about honour and respect—it just means you follow His directions and recognise His authority in all things.

You’ve probably noticed there’s not a lot of respect for authority these days; we’ve developed the kind of mentality that says, ‘Nobody’s going to tell me what to do!’ But the Bible says, ‘In the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord there is strong confidence.’ (Proverbs 14:26 AMP) Why does it say that? Because a reverent and worshipful fear means being respectful and obedient. It means you’ll do what God says to do, and your confidence and trust in Him will continue to grow. And you’ll notice something else that’s important: the more reverential fear and awe you have of God, the more careful and courteous you’ll be in your dealings with others. That’s because you know you’re accountable to God for your actions, and you recognise that other people are just as valuable to Him as you are.

Solomon writes, ‘Here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep His commandments… this is the whole duty of man.’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV) Moses told the children of Israel, ‘What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God… walk in all His ways… love Him… serve the Lord your God with all your heart and…soul.’ (Deuteronomy 10:12 NIV) It’s not complicated!

Start Giving to Others

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‘Give, and it will be given to you.’ Luke 6:38 NKJV

Generosity isn’t just about money. Lots of people say, ‘As soon as I get rich I’ll become more generous.’ But the greatest givers often have the least money. Grandmothers on meagre pensions are sending a few dollars a month to help build orphanages. People barely making it are giving to feed the hungry. Retired employees are mentoring younger workers. Single people with limited resources are spending their evenings working with the homeless or families in need.

No matter where you are financially, you can begin a lifestyle of giving. If you can come up with the money for a nice car, dining out, movie tickets, dating and other leisure activities, chances are you can find something to give if you really want to. Jesus said, ‘Give, and you will receive… The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.’ (Luke 6:38 NLT) Want a bonus? Want a blessing? Start giving your time, treasure and talent to others. Jesus either lied or He told the truth, and you need to find out which. If you believe He told the truth you’d be foolish to withhold instead of giving.

Studies have revealed that, in general, giving makes us happier, is good for our health, promotes gratitude, increases connection and cooperation and is even—sometimes—contagious! So start giving to others and see what happens.

Spend More Time With Your Family

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‘When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me.’ Job 29:5 NKJV

Here’s a true saying: ‘The family that prays together, stays together.’ Here’s another true saying: ‘The family that eats together and communicates, raises well-adjusted children.’

When the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre studied five hundred teenagers, here’s what they discovered: children whose parents ate dinner with them five times a week or more were the least likely to be on drugs, to be depressed or to be in trouble with the law. They were also more likely to do well in school, and be surrounded by a supportive circle of friends. Even when families met together at a fast-food restaurant they got the same results. By contrast, the more poorly adjusted teens ate with their parents only three times a week or less. What do these findings mean? (1) You need to make time to be involved with your children on a daily basis, especially during the formative years. (2) When you give your children things, you give them short-term pleasure and excitement, but when you give them time, you give them self-worth. This may call for working fewer hours or eliminating certain activities, but it’s an investment you’ll never regret.

Job was one of the wealthiest men in his generation. But after tragedy struck and all ten of his children died in a single day, he looked back and wrote, ‘The Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me.’ You need to ask yourself: ‘Am I spending enough time with my family?’ If you don’t like the answer, start changing things.

When You’re Not Expecting It (2)

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‘We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices.’ 2 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV

On the heels of a spiritual victory it’s tempting to let down your guard, but that’s when you’re most vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. You can’t afford to be ‘ignorant of [Satan’s] devices.’ Even Jesus wasn’t exempt. In a display of supernatural power, He fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. After a miracle like that most of us would have decided it was time to kick back and take it easy for a while. But instead of basking in the afterglow, Jesus ‘departed to the mountain to pray.’ (Mark 6:46 NKJV) It wasn’t apparent at the time, but He was about to face one of the fiercest storms of His ministry (see Mark 6:48).

Henry Blackaby observes: ‘The disciples raced headlong into the tempest unprepared, but… Jesus entered the storm prepared and met the crisis with all the power of God… Stand guard over your high points… when you experience God mightily… go immediately to a place of prayer so the Father can prepare you for what’s to come.’ Times have changed but human nature hasn’t. We’re still our same old predictable selves—and Satan knows it. That’s why he ‘prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8 NLT)

To stop him from gaining an advantage: (1) ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you'(James 4:7 NIV); (2) Surround yourself with godly companions (see Psalm 1:1); (3) Stay connected to God through His Word and prayer. Vern McLellan said, ‘In the morning prayer opens the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings, and in the evening it shuts us up under His protection and safeguard.’ That’s a fail-safe strategy you should adopt.

When You’re Not Expecting It (1)

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‘Then the devil comes.’ Luke 8:12 ESV

Anne Graham Lotz writes: ‘In the course of a week, the hot-water heater broke, water pipes burst… the bathroom showerhead fell off… [and] I was confronted with friction between family members and problems with my ministry staff. I was tempted to lose my temper, to worry instead of trust, and to neglect my prayer life. What looked like ordinary frustration… was something more sinister… Satan attacks our weakened defences in the mundane areas of our lives.’

The Bible says that immediately following the spiritual blessing He received at His baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert ‘to be tempted by the devil’ (see Matthew 4:1–11).

There are important lessons here: (1) Don’t rest in success. After the benediction comes the battle. What incredible blessing has God recently given you? Whether it involves your ministry, family, career or your personal walk with God, watch out! Satan targets us when we’re off-guard. (2) Stay in God’s will. Have you ever thought, ‘If it’s this hard it can’t be God’s will,’ and decided to quit? Just because you’re doing the right thing doesn’t mean you’re immune. Jesus was in God’s will when the enemy attacked Him. When things look bleak, don’t ‘lean…on your own understanding’; that’s the time to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart.’ (Proverbs 3:5 NKJV) (3) Know the Scripture. Every time Jesus was attacked He countered with, ‘It is written.’ God’s Word is called ‘the sword of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 6:17 NIV) because it’s our primary offensive weapon against evil (see Ephesians 6:16). Jesus used it to defeat Satan, and so must you.

Dad, Treasure Your Children

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‘The children God has graciously given your servant.’ Genesis 33:5 NIV

We live in a day when children have never been given more of the things they want, and less of the things they need. What do they need? You! Not trinkets, treasures and toys, but your love and your time.

Read these unsettling words in a Newsweek column entitled, ‘Dear Dads, Save Your Sons,’ by psychologist Christopher Bacorn. He tells about an anxious mother in her mid-thirties who came to his office with her 15-year-old son. The boy’s dad had left four years before. Since then the teenager had descended into alcohol, gang membership and violence. The mother had nowhere else to turn, and it was obvious the boy was at best a hostile participant. After attempting for thirty minutes to crack the steel vault of this boy’s heart, Dr. Bacorn realised the futility of it all. He wrote these poignant and sad words: ‘I’ve come to believe that most adolescent boys can’t make use of professional counselling… What a boy can use, and all too often doesn’t have, is the fellowship of men—at least one man who pays attention to him, who spends time with him, who admires him. A boy needs a man he can look up to. What he doesn’t need is a shrink… As a nation we’re racked by youth violence, overrun by gangs, guns and drugs. The great majority of youthful offenders are male, most without fathers involved in their lives in any useful way.’

In Genesis we read that Jacob was a successful businessman, but he discovered that his greatest earthly treasure was ‘the children God has graciously given to your servant.’ (Genesis 33:5 NIV) Dad, have you discovered that?

Ministering to Others (2)

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‘Therefore comfort one another with these words.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:18 NKJV

A well known pastor once planned to attend the funeral of an acquaintance and, by mistake, ended up at the wrong funeral parlour. The body of an elderly man was laid out, and his widow was the only mourner there. She seemed so lonely, he stayed for the funeral and then accompanied her to the cemetery. After the committal service, as they were driving away, he confessed that he hadn’t actually known the lady’s husband. ‘I thought so,’ she replied. ‘I didn’t recognise you. But it doesn’t matter. You’ll never, ever, know what this means to me.’

Philip Yancey writes: ‘Simple availability is the most powerful force we can contribute… We rightly disparage Job’s three friends for their insensitive response to his suffering. But read the account again: “When they came, they sat in silence beside Job for seven days before opening their mouths”…those were the most eloquent moments they spent with him. Instinctively I shrink back from people in pain. Who knows if they want to talk about their predicament or not? Do they want to be consoled or cheered up? What good can my presence possibly do? My mind spins out these rationalisations and as a result I end up doing the worst thing possible: I stay away… No one offers the name of a philosopher when I ask, “Who helped you the most?” Most often they describe a quiet, unassuming person… who was there… who listened more than they talked, who didn’t keep glancing down at a watch, who hugged and touched, and cried… someone who was available and came on the sufferer’s terms, not their own.’

That’s how you minister to others.

Ministering to Others (1)

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‘God…comforts us…so that we can comfort [others].’ 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NIV

A century ago a lady visited an American orphanage and asked the matron, ‘Is there a child here nobody has offered to adopt?’ The matron replied, ‘There is. Her name is Mercy Goodfaith. She’s ten years old, not much to look at, and has a hunchback.’ The lady said, ‘That’s the child I want!’ 35 years later the director of the Orphanage Inspection Department in Iowa submitted the following report on a state-run facility: ‘This home is outstanding. It’s clean, the food’s good, the children are well cared-for, and the atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The matron, Mercy Goodfaith, has a soul that oozes love; she has such beautiful eyes I forgot how homely her face was—or that she was a hunchback.’ Because a Good Samaritan had the courage to love and nurture a little girl others overlooked, Mercy Goodfaith went on to share that same love with hundreds of other orphans.

Paul says, ‘God… comforts us… so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we… received.’ (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NIV) And Billy Graham adds: ‘Those who have suffered the most are best able to comfort others …to empathise with [their] afflictions because of what they’ve experienced… Our sufferings may be hard to bear, but our goal should be to learn all we can from what we’re called to endure so we can fulfil a ministry of comfort as Jesus did. “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18 NIV) The sufferer becomes the comforter in the service of the Lord.

Your Personalized Road Map

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‘Who works out everything in conformity with… His will.’ Ephesians 1:11 NIV

The Bible says before you were born: ‘Every day of [your] life was recorded… Every moment… laid out before a single day had passed.’ (Psalm 139:16 NLT) God personalised a road map for your life ‘in conformity with… His will.’ (Ephesians 1:11 NIV) And it’s your job to discover it and walk within its confines.

Terry Nance says: ‘You may know your ultimate destination, but need guidance on how to get there. First and foremost, “God’s Word is a lamp for your feet and a light for your path.” (Psalm 119:105) He sees the big picture… the shortcuts and pitfalls… Don’t look for external guidance… the Holy Spirit lives inside you, and it’s from within that you’ll get the inside track.’ Meditate on these Scriptures and make them personal prayers: ‘God has made us what we are… to do good works, which [He] planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.’ (Ephesians 2:10 NCV) ‘The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.’ (Psalm 37:23 NLT) ‘You clear the way for me, and now I won’t stumble.’ (Psalm 18:36 CEV) ‘Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.’ (Proverbs 3:6 NLT) ‘Behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or…left.’ (Isaiah 30:21 NLT)

At the end of his life Paul could say, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’ (2 Timothy 4:7).Notice, sometimes Paul had to ‘fight’ to stay on course, but by God’s grace he made it—and so will you!

Growing in Love

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‘Your love for one another is growing.’ 2 Thessalonians 1:3 NLT

When Paul says, ‘Your love for one another is growing,’ it’s not the kind where life’s perfect and everybody accommodates you. God’s intention is to ‘grow’ you into the kind of love that’s not defined by your feelings, but a sacrificial love that says, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20 NIV) It’s possible to be in love with the idea of a perfect marriage, without actually loving your mate. Or the dream of what your children could become, if only they’d follow your advice. But when it comes to loving a rebellious teen who acts like ‘the other side of the family,’ it’s a growing process that puts your love to the test.

Jesus said, ‘As I have loved you… you must love one another’ (John 13:34 NIV), and He never asks us to do anything without giving us the ability to do it. So are you ready to do a little growing?

Kristin Armstrong says: ‘When we’re hurt it’s common to withdraw. But the worst thing a parent can do is to withhold affection in response to a child’s behaviour. A child’s heart grows when it’s nurtured with unconditional love. Affection doesn’t depend on behaviour, mood or circumstances. Being pleasing does not equate to being lovable. Imagine if Jesus loved us only when we behaved perfectly. We’d never experience His affection, and consequently we’d wither away. And since Jesus is our example, we need to love others with Christlike grace. He loves us according to His capacity, not according to the degree of our merit. We must love others… not by our standards but by His.’

Overcoming Temptation (4)

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‘Its fruit looked delicious… So she… ate it.’ Genesis 3:6 NLT

Let’s look at the first time in Scripture anyone was tempted and see what we can learn. The Bible says, ‘The serpent was the shrewdest of all the [creatures] the Lord God had made… he asked the woman, “Did God really say…?”’ (Genesis 3:1 NLT) First, Satan will blind you to all the good things God has in store for you. Then he’ll take mood-altering substances like drugs or alcohol, or somebody else’s husband or wife, or internet porn, and tell you it won’t hurt you. Don’t bite! He’s a liar! Don’t believe him! ‘Temptation comes from our own desires… These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.’ (James 1:14–16 NLT)

Any weakness that’s constantly indulged, excused, denied or hidden has the power to enslave you. Failure to identify and target your weakness strengthens it. Ignoring your areas of vulnerability makes defeat inevitable. Satan has assigned certain people to feed your weaknesses. Be discerning. Your weakness will be drawn to any friendship that accepts it, enjoys it and feeds on it. It has an agenda of its own—to take over your life and sabotage God’s plan for you. It’ll always bond with the wrong people and make you uncomfortable in the presence of the right ones. And it can emerge at any time, including your latter years.

So how do you overcome your weakness? Through willpower? No, through God’s power! And it’s available to you today—so reach for it!

Overcoming Temptation (3)

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‘He ran from the house.’ Genesis 39:12 NLT

The Bible says, ‘Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife… began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded. But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household… How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.’ (Genesis 39:6–12 NLT)

Note the words: ‘She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day.’ Joseph’s temptation kept happening when he was around a certain person: Potiphar’s wife. And it kept happening when he was in a certain place: Potiphar’s house. So he ran. Not because he was weak—but because he was wise! He understood that if you hang around temptation too long you’re playing with fire and setting yourself up to get ‘burned.’

So, what people and what places do you need to avoid? What sources of temptation do you need to remove from your life in order to live victoriously? Remember the old Kenny Rogers song: ‘You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em; know when to walk away and know when to run’? God isn’t dishonoured when you run—you’re dishonoured when you don’t!

Overcoming Temptation (1)

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‘Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.’ 2 Chronicles 20:12 NKJV

When Jesus told Peter he would soon deny his Lord, Peter virtually boasted, ‘Others may, but not me!’ Yet within a few hours he was swearing and disavowing any knowledge of Jesus. It can happen to any of us. The Bible says, ‘Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own [particular] desires and enticed.’ (James 1:14 NKJV)

We all have areas of vulnerability which, if not disciplined by character and commitment, have the potential to defeat or even destroy us. What can you do? (1) Recognise it. Before you yield to temptation you usually go through certain stages. By neglecting prayer and Bible reading you become indifferent to God, insensitive to danger, and find yourself drawn like a moth to a flame. Then you begin to rationalise your disobedience and think, ‘Nobody knows. What harm will it do?’ And the more you silence the voice of conscience, the stronger your carnal appetites become. Then you surround yourself with people who do the same things, or are at least willing to look the other way. Jesus said, ‘Pray… that you may not enter into temptation.’ (Mark 14:38AMP) Pray for strength before the temptation comes! (2) Reach for help. When Jehoshaphat came up against an enemy too big to handle alone, he prayed, ‘We have no power against this great multitude… nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.’ (2 Chronicles 20:12 NKJV) Jehoshaphat knew he was no match for the enemy, and he knew where to turn for help.

What’s the secret of victory? Lean less on yourself and more on God!

The Ultimate Purpose of Prayer

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‘To be conformed to the likeness of His Son.’ Romans 8:29 NIV

The Bible says, ‘Those God foreknew He… predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.’ (Romans 8:29 NIV) When you read the preceding verses in the chapter you discover God does this through prayer. This should encourage you to pray. Many times we don’t pray because we don’t think anything’s happening. But with God, something’s always happening! We wonder, ‘When is He going to work?’ What we fail to understand is—He’s always working.

When it comes to prayer He’s either answering the way you hoped, or changing your heart through the Spirit’s intercession to bring your prayer into harmony with His will. You say, ‘But I don’t see anything happening.’ When you plant a seed, you don’t come back the next day expecting green shoots and leaves. Does that mean nothing’s happening? No, a host of necessary processes are taking place below the ground where you can’t see them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because you don’t see the evidence that nothing’s happening. It’s just not harvest time yet. One way in which God is making us more like Jesus is by helping us to pray the way Jesus prayed, ‘Not My will, but Thine, be done.’ (Luke 22:42 KJV) That means when your prayer lines up with His will, He’s already working on it even though you can’t see it. And if your prayer isn’t in accordance with His will, He’s working to change your request by changing you.

Unanswered prayer can be as big a blessing as answered prayer, when it keeps us from violating God’s will. And what is God’s will? To make you more like Jesus!

Instead of Judging People, Let’s Love Them

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‘Let us stop passing judgment on one another.’ Romans 14:13 NIV

You can work alongside and pray for someone who’s having an extramarital affair, without having one yourself. Remember, you were a sinner before you were saved by the grace of God, so act with humility and don’t fall into the trap of self-righteousness. As Merv Rosell says, ‘When God forgives, He consigns the offence to everlasting forgetfulness,’ so show grace when you encounter somebody whose lifestyle makes you uncomfortable. Learn as much as possible about them, and allow your interactions to dispel any preconceptions and prejudices. See them as hurting individuals loved by God—people who need the same grace you received.

When you love the unlovely, you’re just doing what God did for you. Just because somebody’s ‘different’, doesn’t mean you should dismiss them or consider them inferior. You don’t want to be judged or demeaned because of your colour, culture or countenance, so don’t do it to others! Because the Bible is clear about not emulating others in their sinful practices, we can be tempted to think we’re better than they are. That’s the sin of pride!

Sometimes we think if we love and accept certain people, we’re condoning their sin. No, the truth lies in remaining respectful, and accepting others the way Jesus did. Whether it was racial differences (Samaritans), lifestyle differences (the five-times-divorced woman at the well), or class differences (Nicodemus), Jesus loved and accepted people as they were, while inspiring them to a higher standard.

Give Yourselves to God

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‘Do not let sin control the way you live.’ Romans 6:12 NLT

When someone says, ‘I can’t help myself; it’s just the way I am,’ they are right, but only partially right! Researchers identified more than a hundred identical twins who had been separated at birth. They were raised in various cultures, religions and locations. By comparing their similarities and their differences it became clear that as much as 70 percent of their personality… was inherited. Their DNA determined such qualities as creativity, wisdom, loving-kindness, vigour, longevity, intelligence, and even the joy of living. Consider the ‘Jim twins’ who were separated until they were 39 years old. Both married women named Linda, owned dogs named Toy, suffered from migraine headaches, had wood-working shops in their garages, drove Chevys and served as sheriff’s deputies. Their personalities and attitudes were virtual carbon copies.

What do these findings mean? Are we puppets on a string, playing out a predetermined course without free will or personal choices? Not at all. Unlike animals, we’re capable of rational thought and independent action. We don’t have to act on every sexual urge, for example, despite our genetic underpinnings. Heredity may nudge us in a particular direction, but our impulses can be brought under control. This is where the new birth comes in. God gives you a new nature, and the power to overcome your old one.

Paul addresses it: ‘Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.’ (Romans 6:12–13 NLT)

Bless Them

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‘…and especially [be a blessing]…’ Galatians 6:10 AMP

When someone hurts you, you have three options: (1) hurt them back; (2) avoid them altogether; (3) pray for them and look for ways to bless them (see Matthew 5:44–45). Paul says: ‘So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing]…’ (Galatians 6:10 AMP)

We’re so caught up with how others treat us that we’ve little or no concern about how we treat them. We’re afraid of being taken advantage of, especially if our past experience with someone has been painful. Not only do fear and dread make us supersensitive to everything they say and do, we may misinterpret their motives and see them in a negative light. Without question, it’s difficult not to be concerned that others will treat you badly if they already have a proven track record. That’s why it’s so important not to think about it at all (see Philippians 3:13 and Isaiah 43:18). Does this mean the person won’t have to account for how they treated you? No. The Bible says, ‘Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.’ (Romans 14:12–13 NIV)

Hand the situation over to God—and refuse to take it back. Then, ‘be a blessing’. In other words, occupy your thoughts with ways in which you can be helpful. When you do that you’ll have no time to dwell on personal grievances. Plus, it gives God an opportunity to work on them—and you.

Stay Focused on Your Mission

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‘My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.’ Job 23:11 NKJV

Many of our endeavours in life fail for one reason—broken focus. We allow ourselves to get distracted. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Concentration is the secret of strength in politics, in war, in trade; in short, in all management of human affairs.’ Where should you focus your concentration? On your mission! And when you make a mistake, don’t chase after it. Don’t try to defend it. Don’t throw good money after it. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. If you need to, seek forgiveness from God and the person you have hurt. And when possible try to make amends. Once you’ve done these things, refocus your attention on your mission and move on. Keep your eye on what it is you desire to do.

You’ll never meet a person focused on yesterday who had a better tomorrow. John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under President Eisenhower, observed: ‘The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is still the same problem you had last year.’

A problem resolved is a springboard to future success, to bigger and better things. The key is to focus on what you’re learning, not losing. When you do that you open the door to future possibilities. Regardless of how you feel about a problem, you can still thinkabout it with calm assurance. Peace in the most troubled circumstance comes when you ask for God’s help in planning what to do about the problem. And in the end, that’s what matters.

Hidden by Design

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‘In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me.’ Isaiah 49:2 NKJV

When you’re called to serve God in a particular capacity, it’s not unusual to go through a period of anonymity where you feel invisible. Isaiah was called of God ‘from the womb’. (Isaiah 49:1 NKJV) But he experienced a season of being hidden ‘in the shadow’ while God perfected his ministry. When a vision takes a long time to come to fruition, and you’ve sacrificed and worked without recognition or seeing results, it’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your life. Isaiah was human too. He got discouraged and said, ‘I have laboured to no purpose… spent my strength… for nothing.’ (Isaiah 49:4 NIV) But just because you feel that way doesn’t mean it’s true. ‘God… rewards those who earnestly seek Him’ (Hebrews 11:6 NIV), and you’re no exception.

It took thirty years before Jesus started His public ministry. Moses, David, John the Baptist and Paul endured years of obscurity before they were brought to the forefront. In God’s Kingdom there are no overnight sensations or flash-in-the-pan successes. Beth Jones says: ‘Anyone who wants to be used of God will experience hidden years in the backside of the desert. During that time the Lord is polishing, sharpening and preparing us to fit into His bow, so at the right time, like “a polished shaft” He can launch us into fruitful service. The invisible years are years of serving, studying, being faithful in another person’s ministry and doing the behind-the-scenes work.’ The Bible says, ‘God is not unjust; He will not forget your work.’ (Hebrews 6:10 NIV) Be patient; when the time is right He will bring forth the fruit He placed inside you.

Renew Your Mind with God’s Word

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‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Romans 12:2 NKJV

The most important thing you can do every day is—renew your mind with God’s Word. When you get that right, everything else will begin to fall into place. You’ll think and act differently, so you’ll get different results.

Do you remember the old TV series The Beverly Hillbillies? What made the show so interesting is that Jed and his family had been set free from their past—a life of poverty back in the Ozarks. But even after they moved to California’s Beverly Hills, they continued in their ‘hillbilly’ ways. Their location had changed, but their mindset hadn’t. The same was true of the Israelites. They had a slave mentality. Even though they were free and God was providing their every need, the minute a problem came up they wanted to go back to Egypt. They couldn’t enter tomorrow because they were still carrying the baggage of yesterday! Read these words carefully: ‘Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.’ (Hebrews 4:1 NKJV) You ask, ‘But aren’t God’s promises guaranteed?’ Yes, if you do what He says! God promised to bless you—if you sow with a joyful and generous heart. He promised to direct your paths—if you acknowledge Him in all your ways. He promised to forgive you—if you forgive others.

You only ‘prove what is that good… acceptable… perfect will of God’ by continually renewing your mind! So the word for you today is: renew your mind with God’s Word.

‘It is well with my soul’

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‘My peace I give you … Do not let your hearts be troubled and … afraid.’ John 14:27 NIV

The peace Jesus gives brings a sense of assurance that no matter what happens you know ‘it is well with my soul’. He says to us: ‘My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and … afraid.’ The peace Jesus gives doesn’t depend on conditions and circumstances. It comes from knowing you’re God’s child and that your Father controls the universe, loves you and always has your best interests at heart. That’s why people who’ve lost everything will often tell you they wouldn’t trade what they’ve learned, even if it meant recouping all their losses. Joni Erikson Tada discovered a supernatural peace when an accident confined her to a wheelchair, and Corrie Ten Boom found it in a Nazi death camp. Missionary Elisabeth Elliot found it ministering to the Indian tribe who massacred her husband. She wrote, ‘Only in acceptance lies peace … not in resignation.’ There’s a big difference! Author Creath Davis points out that: ‘Resignation is surrender to fate. Acceptance is surrender to God. Resignation lies down quietly in an empty universe. Acceptance rises up to meet the God who fills that universe with purpose and destiny. Resignation says, “I can’t.” Acceptance says, “God can.” Resignation paralyses the life process. Acceptance releases the process for its greatest creativity. Resignation says, “It’s all over for me.” Acceptance says, “Now that I’m here, what’s next, Lord?” Resignation says, “What a waste.” Acceptance says, “In what redemptive way will you use this mess, Lord?” Resignation says, “I’m alone.” Acceptance says, “I belong to you, Lord.”’

Don’t Be Afraid (3)

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‘Why are you so fearful?’ Mark 4:40 NKJV

Following Jesus invariably means going through storms. When you’re in over your head and sinking fast, you learn things about the Lord you’d never know otherwise. At first you wonder, ‘How’d I get into this mess?’ Then you start to see His hand at work and end up saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’ (Mark 4:41 NKJV) The disciples finally reached a place where they were willing to follow Jesus—without question. And that’s God’s plan for you.

‘Don’t be afraid’ isn’t a call to naïvety or ignorance. God doesn’t expect us to be oblivious to the challenges life brings. But as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, the waves couldn’t take him under. So look to God, stand on His Word, and recall His goodness. The Bible says, ‘We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.’ (Hebrews 2:1 NAS) Do whatever it takes to keep your eyes on the Lord. CS Lewis wrote: ‘Moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable… that’s why faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where to get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro with his beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of his digestion. Consequently, one must train the habit of faith.’

So the word for you today is: Don’t be afraid.

Don’t Be Afraid (2)

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‘Oh, that [we] would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness.’ Psalm 107:8 NKJV

When you’ve been through hard times, it can make you want to cut back on trusting God, and start playing it safe. When you’ve been through back-to-back storms, the security of the harbour starts looking good. Now it’s ok to rest and regroup, but don’t settle for safety and miss what God has planned for you.

The Bible says: ‘Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters… see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro… stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness.’ (Psalm 107:23–31 NKJV) Where do we see God’s wonders? In life’s storms!

The most common command Jesus issued was: ‘Don’t be afraid’ or ‘Have courage.’ His second most common commandment is to love God and your neighbour. That means the one statement Jesus made more than any other was ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Why? Because He wants you to trust Him more!

Don’t Be Afraid (1)

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‘Why are you so fearful?’ Mark 4:40 NKJV

Notice how the disciples reacted to the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and see if you recognise any of the same traits in yourself:

(1) Fear makes us doubt God’s care. The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Do You not care that we are perishing?’ (Mark 4:38 NKJV) They didn’t ask about His strength: ‘Can you still the storm?’ Or His knowledge: ‘Are you aware of the storm?’ Or His know-how: ‘Do you have any experience with storms?’ Instead they voiced doubts about His character: ‘Do you not care?’ If you let it, fear will erode your confidence in God’s love and make you forget His faithfulness. (2) Fear makes us reach for control. Jesus was asleep, so the disciples woke Him and basically said, ‘Do something, quick!’ Fear comes from a perceived loss of control. When we’re afraid, we grab for a component of life that we can manage—like our diet, or our job, or the neatness of our house, or in many cases—people. The more insecure we feel, the more controlling we tend to become. (3) Fear makes us forgetful. The Bible says, ‘He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.’ (Matthew 8:16 NKJV) What a résumé! But fear gives us spiritual amnesia; it makes us forget what Jesus has already done and how good He has been to us.

And what was Jesus’ response? ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ Faith doesn’t eliminate fear; it silences it, robs it of its power and draws us closer to God. And when that happens things begin to change for the better.

Spirit-Filled Living

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‘When the Spirit has His way with us.’ Galatians 5:17 TLB

Always remember that no matter how long you walk with God, your carnal nature never improves. It never becomes more like Jesus, even over time. That’s why we’re told to ‘crucify’ it daily (see Galatians 5:24).

Even the apostle Paul struggled with his lower nature: ‘We naturally love to do evil things… opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has His way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces within us are constantly fighting… to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures… But 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 5:1722–23 TLB)

You ask, ‘Is such a lifestyle even possible?’ Yes, but you must do these four things: (1) Remember that Satan never takes a day off. You’re constantly in his crosshairs, so you must protect yourself with God’s Word and prayer. (2) Identify the sin you’re most prone to. The Bible says, ‘Lay aside… the sin which so easily ensnares.’ (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV) Why? Because the area of your greatest weakness is the one in which you’ll constantly be attacked. (3) Keep your spiritual tank full. ‘The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.’ (Romans 8:6 NIV) (4) Walk in God’s strength, not your own. Does the fight ever end? No, but God’s power plus your choice to obey and keep fighting, always lead to clear and lasting victory.

Bible Study: Make It Personal

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‘The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you.’ Mark 4:24 AMP

Martin Luther said studying the Bible was like picking apples. First you shake the trunk, then you shake the limb, then you shake the branch, then you shake the twig, then you look under every leaf. There’s no other book in the world like it. You can read the same Bible verse a dozen times and get a dozen different insights. That’s because it’s ‘God-breathed’. (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV) Here’s what Jesus said about studying God’s Word: ‘[Things are hidden temporarily only as a means to revelation.] For there is nothing hidden except to be revealed, nor is anything [temporarily] kept secret except in order that it may be made known.’ (Mark 4:22 AMP) Then He adds: ‘Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.’

Do you want to grow spiritually? Build better relationships? Succeed in your career? Conquer anxiety and find peace? Break a bad habit? Be healed from the emotional wounds of your past? Then meditate on, ponder, think about, practice mentally and verbalize the Word of God. Instead of living off someone else’s spiritual insight, study God’s Word for yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to bless you with life-transforming insights.

Jesus said, ‘The Spirit takes My message and tells it to you.’ (John 16:15 CEV) And you’ll experience the truth of those words when you personalize the Scripture you’re reading.

Pray for Self-Control

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‘Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.’ Romans 6:12 NIV

Self-control is one of the great keys to success in life. And since God’s Word has a lot to say about it, if you ask Him He will help you to cultivate it. What you struggled with when you were young will be different from the things you struggle with when you’re older, but you’ll face temptation in one form or another as long as you live.

Self-control is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in the Bible (see Galatians 5:22–23). It calls for bringing every aspect of your life under the mastery of the Holy Spirit. It’s a lifestyle characterised by discipline, not impulse. The Greek word for ‘self-control’ comes from a root word meaning ‘to grip.’ It calls for getting a grip on your spending so that you don’t go into debt for things you don’t need and can’t pay for. It calls for getting a grip on your temper and not saying things you’ll later regret: ‘Better… a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.’ (Proverbs 16:32 NIV) It calls for getting a grip on your desires. If Joseph had failed to say no to the repeated advances of his boss’ wife, he’d never have seen his life’s dream fulfilled or have sat on a throne of Egypt. Understand this: Satan has discerned your destiny and he’s out to stop you from reaching it. So pray for self-control, and practice it on a daily basis.

When You Are Criticized

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‘He did not retaliate when He was insulted.’ 1 Peter 2:23 NLT

When it comes to constructive criticism, try to learn from it and grow wiser. When it comes to unjustified criticism, remind yourself that Jesus was criticised too, so you’re in good company. And when you’re tempted to give in to resentment and strike back, read these Scriptures: ‘If you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.’ (1 Peter 2:20–23 NLT)

There’s an interesting story about Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War he signed an order transferring certain regiments. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton refused to execute it, calling the president a fool. When Lincoln heard he replied, ‘If Stanton said I’m a fool then I must be, for he’s nearly always right, and he says what he thinks. I’ll step over and see for myself.’ He did, and when Stanton convinced him the order was in error, Lincoln quietly withdrew it. Part of Lincoln’s greatness lay in his ability to rise above pettiness, ego, and sensitivity to other people’s opinions. He wasn’t easily offended. He welcomed criticism, and in doing so demonstrated one of the strengths of a truly great person: humility.

So, have you been criticized? Make it a time to learn, not lose.

‘Does This Person Belong in my Life?’

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‘Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?’ Amos 3:3 NKJV

A toxic relationship is like a limb with gangrene: unless you amputate it the infection can spread and kill you. Without the courage to cut off what refuses to heal, you’ll end up losing a lot more.

Your personal growth—and in some cases your healing—will only be expedited by establishing relationships with the right people. Maybe you’ve heard the story about the scorpion who asked the frog to carry him across the river because he couldn’t swim. ‘I’m afraid you’ll sting me,’ replied the frog. The scorpion smiled reassuringly and said, ‘Of course I won’t. If I did that we’d both drown!’ So the frog agreed, and the scorpion hopped on his back. Wouldn’t you know it: halfway across the river the scorpion stung him! As they began to sink the frog lamented, ‘You promised you wouldn’t sting me. Why’d you do it?’ The scorpion replied, ‘I can’t help it. It’s my nature!’ Until God changes the other person’s nature, they have the power to affect and infect you. For example, when you feel passionately about something but others don’t, it’s like trying to dance a foxtrot with someone who only knows how to waltz. You picked the wrong dance partner! Don’t get tied up with someone who doesn’t share your values and God-given goals. Some issues can be corrected through counselling, prayer, teaching and leadership. But you can’t teach someone to care! If they don’t care they’ll pollute your environment, kill your productivity and break your rhythm with constant complaints. That’s why it’s important to pray and ask God, ‘Does this person belong in my life?’

Reach for Help

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‘The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.’ Exodus 18:18 NIV

God has placed people within your reach who are willing to help you. If you don’t accept their help, you will be frustrated and they will be unfulfilled because they’re not using their gifts. God hasn’t called you to do everything, for everybody, in every situation. You can’t be all things to all people all the time! You yourself have legitimate needs, and when they are not met you suffer and so do the people around you. There’s nothing wrong with needing help and asking for it; in fact, it’s wrong to need help and be too proud to ask.

Because the children of Israel looked to Moses for everything, he tried to be ‘all things to all people.’ And that’s when he reached a breaking point. So his father-in-law suggested he delegate some of his authority and let others make the less important decisions while he made the more important ones. It worked! Moses did what Jethro suggested and it enabled him to succeed in his assignment. Plus, those under his leadership got to enjoy a sense of accomplishment too. It was a win/win, and the job got done right!

Question: Are you complaining that people are placing too many demands on you, and you’ve too much to do? Are you reluctant to let others help because you don’t think anyone can do the job as well as you? Look out! The Scriptures caution about developing ‘an exaggerated opinion of your [own] importance.’ (Romans 12:3 AMP) Reach for help. You’ll last longer and enjoy life more if you do!

Parenting and the Battle for Control

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‘Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.’ Ephesians 6:4 NLT

If your teenagers don’t like you telling them what to do, relax; they’re normal. And it’s not peculiar to teenagers; it starts much earlier. One psychologist tells about the mother of a tough little four-year-old girl who was demanding her own way. The mother said, ‘I’m your boss, I have the responsibility to lead you, and that’s what I intend to do!’ Little Jenny thought over her mother’s words for a minute, then said, ‘How long does it have to be that way?’ Already, at four years of age she was yearning for the day when nobody could tell her what to do. That’s a God-given instinct.

One of the first things God said to Adam and Eve was, ‘Take control over the earth.’ So the task for you as a parent is to hang on to the reins in the early days, and gradually begin to grant independence as maturity is demonstrated. This is one of the most delicate responsibilities of parenting. Power granted too early produces folly, but power granted too late brings rebellion. Knowing when to let out the rope, and by how much, requires wisdom; and God is the giver of wisdom (see James 1:5). If you pray, observe, and listen carefully, you’ll begin to see the critical milestones in your child’s life.

Paul writes, ‘Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6:4 NLT) And as a parent, that’s some of the best advice you’ll ever get.

Don’t Give Up—Go Through

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‘Pursue … overtake … and … recover all.’ 1 Samuel 30:8 KJV

When King David and his men returned home from battle, they discovered that the Amalekites had burned their homes to the ground and taken their families prisoner. They were devastated. They wept until they’d no tears left. Then God spoke to them and said, ‘Pursue… overtake… and… recover all.’ And with His help they did!

So no matter how bad your situation looks right now, don’t give up. Cry if you have to, then dry your tears and go out in God’s strength and take back what the enemy has stolen from you. If necessary, take it a centimetre at a time, drawing on His strength and not your own. Paul writes: ‘Let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.’ (Galatians 6:9 AMP) God won’t quit on you, so don’t quit on Him! He has promised in His Word: ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God.’ (Isaiah 43:2–3 NIV)

Don’t give up—go through! It’s easy to quit, but it takes faith to go through. When your faith honours God, He honours your faith! And with Him on your side you’ll come out stronger than you were when you went in. So the word for you today is: ‘Pursue … overtake … and … recover all.’

Healthy Confrontation (3)

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‘Lord, You have searched me and You know me … You perceive my thoughts.’ Psalm 139:1–2 NIV

Just as a body builder develops a great physique by using the correct weightlifting techniques, you must apply the right techniques to achieve the desired results in resolving your conflict. No athlete attempts to lift heavy weights or engage in intense exercise without first warming up his or her muscles. The warm-up is crucial to the workout, as it minimises the risk of injury and increases overall muscle performance. Similarly, preparing for confrontation is almost as important as the confrontation itself. Confronting someone spontaneously or without preparation can have disastrous results. Preparation allows you to look at the situation more clearly and not in the midst of an emotional moment, and will most likely lead to a more effective encounter. This would be a good time to pray: ‘Lord, You have searched me and You know me… You perceive my thoughts from afar… Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely.’ (Psalm 139:1–4 NIV)

It’s important that you first deal with your negative emotions, such as anger or resentment. While you may deem them justifiable, if you don’t ‘release them’ by the power of the Holy Spirit they will become a roadblock to achieving harmony. And you must also refuse to succumb to the fear of addressing the issue, lest you abandon the entire notion of initiating a confrontation.

God can work on both ends of the line. While you are praying and preparing your heart, He can prepare the other person’s heart. ‘There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace.’ (Proverbs 12:20 NIV)

Healthy Confrontation (2)

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‘A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.’ Ecclesiastes 3:7 NKJV

Confronting at a time when the person is most receptive takes wisdom. Wife, when your husband first comes home from work, give him space before you bombard him with the problems of the day. Husband, don’t wait until you arrive at the event to tell your wife you don’t like the outfit she’s wearing. Tell her when she can do something about it. And you should make every effort to confront a person when he or she is alone, just as Jesus commanded: ‘If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private.’ (Matthew 18:15 NAS) Confronting someone in the presence of others can cause them to become defensive in order to save face. Your goal is reconciliation, not embarrassment.

If you have something ‘heavy’ to tell someone, it’s not a good idea to have the confrontation at their house or yours—select a neutral location. That way it will be easier for the person being confronted to leave the scene, if he or she becomes belligerent. And there’s always the possibility that this could happen.

Sometimes you have to temporarily lose people, to win them later. ‘He who rebukes a man will find more favour afterward than he who flatters with his tongue.’ (Proverbs 28:23 NKJV) Note the word ‘afterward’. If you don’t get the immediate response you desire, you can still win—especially if you pray, relying on the Holy Spirit to work in a person’s heart. But you must be willing to take the risk and confront the situation in order to bring about the change you desire. If you don’t, things will remain the same—or get worse.

Healthy Confrontation (1)

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‘When Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face.’ Galatians 2:11 NKJV

When Peter showed partiality to Jews over Gentiles, Paul confronted him over it! Why? To keep unity in the church. Sometimes you’ve no option but to confront someone. The question is, ‘How?’ None of us are born with the innate ability to do this; it’s a skill only learned through practice and patience. And the reason we’re not good at it, is because we avoid it like the plague. As a result, our relationships suffer and our problems don’t get resolved.

The first step in preparing for a confrontation is to establish the right purpose for putting the issue on the table. The focus should be on achieving a better relationship. This can either involve getting someone to stop doing something, or start doing something. At no time should your goal be to tell someone off, or get something off your chest, or lay a guilt trip on them. So it’s important that you first confront yourself. Be honest about why you’ve decided to confront the issue. Do you have an ulterior motive such as resentment or wounded pride, or do you want to see a genuine change in behaviour? You need to ask yourself, ‘When this confrontation is over, what behaviour do I want to see the offender change?’

Remember, in effective confrontation you are looking for a desired outcome and a win-win for both sides. ‘A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.’ (Proverbs 18:19 KJV) If a person knows you truly care about them and are seeking to glorify God in the situation, you’re more apt to get the response you seek.

Trusting God Brings Joy and Peace

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‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.’ Romans 15:13 NIV

Trusting God is so much simpler than not trusting Him. When you doubt God, His Word, and His promises, you’re left to your own devices and reasoning when it comes to working things out. And as a result you get stressed out.

Take a moment and read the following three verses, then think carefully about what they mean: ‘But the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest.’ (Hebrews 4:2–3 NIV) ‘He who has once entered [God’s] rest…has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labours.’ (Hebrews 4:10 AMP) ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are… overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]’ (Matthew 11:28 AMP)

How are you supposed to approach God? In faith! The Bible says: ‘Without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that… He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].’ (Hebrews 11:6 AMP) That means when you come to God, you must do the believing. And when you do, you’ll receive His joy and peace. These two things are God’s will for you; they were bought and paid for at the cross. Christ’s work is already finished, and the only thing that remains to be accomplished is for you to believe. When you do that, God will respond and bless you every time!

Start Looking Forward

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‘Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.’ Philippians 3:13 NLT

There are things inside you that must be dealt with before you can move ahead. Every experience you’ve had from birth until the present moment has helped shape who you are. The things that happen to you, good and bad, are instrumental in determining how you’ll act and react for the rest of your life.

Paul talks about ‘forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.’ You ask, ‘What did Paul have to forget?’ A lot! Paul was there, looking on with approval, when Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death. Before he met Christ on the Damascus Road, Paul routinely imprisoned and put Christians to death. The fact is, if he hadn’t overcome his past, he would never have written half the New Testament and helped establish a church that would last two millennia. Was Paul perfect? Not even close! That’s why he said: ‘I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be… I am still not all that I should be but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to Heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.’ (Philippians 3:12–14 TLB)

The only place the past can live is in your memory; and the only power it has over you is the power you give it. So the word for you today is: Start looking forward.

Has God Given You a Vision?

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‘Write the vision and make it plain… that he may run who reads it.’ Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV

When God gives you a vision for your life, write it down, keep it before you at all times, and run with it. You say, ‘But I see no way for it to come to pass.’ The Bible records God’s answer to Habakkuk when he posed this question , ‘The vision is yet for an appointed time… wait for it; because it will surely come.’ (Habakkuk 2:3 NKJV) You may not know how to get from where you are right now to where God’s vision will ultimately take you—but God does.

So ask Him to reveal the next step to you. Whether you’re in prison like Joseph, in a soup kitchen in the inner city, or at home taking care of small children, God will fulfil the vision He placed in your heart. The more you see yourself leading in the boardroom, launching your own business, serving in ministry, writing your first book, or helping others through your gifts, the sooner it’ll become a reality. Before a vision becomes clear, God gives us glimpses of it—like a picture developing from a soft hue into sharp resolution.

So take the vision God has given you and run with it. Let it motivate you to perform to the best of your ability in your present position, while staying in communication with the One who knows and loves you best. Today pray: ‘Lord, I know that where I am right now isn’t where You’re taking me. Give me glimpses of Your vision for my future, so that my understanding may grow in accordance with Your timing. Give me patience along the way, and faith to trust that You’re always working for my good. Amen.’

Always Do More Than What’s Expected

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‘But you must always act like your Father in Heaven.’ Matthew 5:48 CEV

Jesus said, ‘Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.’ (Luke 6:38 KJV) Notice, He didn’t say, ‘Only give to those who can give back to you.’ John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, said, ‘You haven’t lived today successfully, unless you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you.’

In the days of Jesus, a Roman soldier could legally force a Jewish civilian to carry his heavy backpack for up to a mile. That was his right, and you refused to do so at your peril. So to walk the first mile was to do only what was required. Then Jesus came along and said, ‘If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.’ (Matthew 5:41 NIV) Why? Because ‘extra-mile service’ gives you an opportunity to impact the lives of others. A person with an extra-mile attitude is someone who cares more than others think is wise, risks more than others think is safe, dreams more than others think is practical, believes more than others think is possible, and gives more than others think is necessary.

Here’s how Jesus bottom-lines it: ‘If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that? But you must always act like your Father in Heaven.’ (Matthew 5:46–48 CEV) So always do more than is expected.

Reach Out to Those Who Hurt

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‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.’ Luke 19:10 KJV

The first thing you generally notice about someone who’s in trouble is their problem. But if you look beyond their problem, God will help you to see their potential. At each Kentucky Derby the crowd sings ‘My Old Kentucky Home’. But most people don’t know it was written by Stephen Foster, who purportedly died of alcoholism. The police allegedly found him in a New York doss-house with a deep gash in his throat. They rushed him to Bellevue Hospital but it was too late to save him. Among his belongings they found a note with the words written, ‘Dear friends and gentle hearts’. It sounded like the words of another song, but he died before he could write it. Jesus came to ‘seek and to save that which was lost’. There are people around you today who have lost their way, their family, their job, their health, and their hope—people Jesus came to save! And that’s where you come in. You’re called to be His hand extended. Elizabeth Holt Hartford lived and died in a Los Angeles slum. Here were her parting words: ‘You see me as an old lady who’s all broken down with age. But what you don’t understand is that this is me in here. I’m trapped in a body that no longer serves me. It hurts, and it’s wrinkled and diseased. But I haven’t changed. I’m still the person I used to be when this body was young.’ Today ask God to do two things for you: (1) Open your eyes to the needs around you. (2) Activate your heart to meet them.

Set ‘Rules of Life’ for Your Children

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‘What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?’ Judges 13:12 NKJV

When God told Samson’s father Manoah that he would have a son in his old age, he asked, ‘What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?’ He was a wise father. He knew that in order for his son to fulfil his destiny, he must be raised by certain rules. Children feel more secure and tend to flourish when they know what the boundaries are. Imagine driving your car over a bridge that’s suspended hundreds of metres in the air. For first-time travellers, it can be a scary experience. One little fellow was so awed by the view that he said, ‘Wow, Daddy! If you fell off here it would kill you constantly!’ Suppose there were no guardrails on the side of the bridge; where would you steer the car? Right down the middle of the road! Even though you don’t plan to hit those protective railings, you just feel more secure knowing they’re there. And it’s the same with your children. They need to know what the ‘rules of life’ are, and that you’ll enforce them consistently. When the rules are clear at home, children live in safety. As long as he or she stays within those reasonable, well-marked guardrails there’s joy, freedom, and acceptance. Your children may not admit that they want you to be the boss, but they breathe more easily when you are. Bottom line: when God gives you a child, it’s a twenty-one-year project, at a minimum. During that time you train them either for failure or for success. The choice is yours.

Honesty on Three Levels

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‘Each of you must … speak truthfully to your neighbour.’ Ephesians 4:25 NIV

Telling the truth sounds simple, but it takes commitment on three levels: (1) Verbally. When you’re found out in a lie, it undermines the confidence others have in you. For example, when a husband or wife denies blowing the family budget, or covers up a drinking problem, inevitably there’s trouble. But when each knows that the other ‘will hold firmly to the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15 PHPS), the relationship becomes stronger and more likely to weather the storm. (2) Behaviourally. ‘Unless you are honest in small matters, you won’t be in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.’ (Luke 16:10 TLB) Cheryl Richardson says, ‘Integrity is the key to living an authentic life.’ You become known as a person of integrity by keeping your word. So when you make a commitment, follow through—even when it costs you, and even when you get a better offer. (3) In actuality. Why is telling the truth such a big deal? Because every relationship in your life is based on trust. When you don’t deal truthfully: a) You end up losing your influence and the respect of others. b) You live in fear of being found out, which makes you insecure and forces you to live on two levels: public perception and private struggle. c) You have to worry about what you’ve said, and to whom. d) You get to where you can’t trust or believe others because ‘as you live your life, you judge your neighbour’. e) You make yourself feel better by rationalising, ‘Everybody lies.’ The trouble with that line of thinking is—you can’t trust them either!

The Peace Process

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‘Great peace have they who love your [Word], and nothing can make them stumble.’ Psalm 119:165 NIV

One of the last things Jesus told His disciples before leaving this world was, ‘In this world, you will have trouble.’ (John 16:33 NIV) And He was right, wasn’t He? We all experience stress, occupational demands, deadlines, expectations, personal pressures ganging up on us and constantly trying to rob us of the peace we desperately desire. No one is immune to stress, frustration, and the feeling that we’re on the ‘autobahn of life’. What is all this but the absence of peace? And the answer can’t be found in a pill, a possession or a pleasure. All those things wear off or wear out. The Bible talks about three different kinds of peace. Let’s look at them: (1) Peace with others. ‘As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:18 NIV) This is external peace, and it’s necessary for human relationships to flourish. (2) Peace with yourself. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.’ (Colossians 3:15 NIV) This is internal peace, a rest of mind and soul that escapes most of us. (3) Peace with God. ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1 NIV) This is eternal peace, and it comes from knowing you’ve a right relationship with God. So here’s how it works: when you’re at peace with God you’ll be at peace with yourself, and when you’re at peace with yourself you’ll be at peace with others. That, in a nutshell, is the peace process!

Dealing with Difficult People

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‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ James 1:19 NIV

The only way to avoid having to deal with difficult people—is to move to another planet. Human beings are a mixture of vices and virtues, and unless you understand that, you won’t be able to work or live with them successfully. The story’s told of a monk who joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. Once a year he was invited to appear before the abbot, and he was permitted to say one thing. After the first year when he was asked what he had to say, he replied, ‘The bed’s too hard!’ At the end of the second year when he was asked, he responded, ‘The room’s too cold.’ At the end of the third year he was asked the same question. He replied, ‘The food’s terrible. I quit.’ At that point the abbot smiled with relief and said, ‘Thank goodness! Because you’ve done nothing but complain since you got here!’ Think about it: even if you joined a monastery you’d still have to deal with difficult people! So what can you do? Learn from the farmer. He plants, pulls weeds, and cultivates, knowing the harvest will eventually come if he patiently keeps doing these things. It’s one of the reasons James writes, ‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.’ (James 1:19–20 NIV) There are no shortcuts. The only way to have a good relationship is to work at it and be patient. When you do, God will bless that relationship.

You Need a Vision

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‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.’ James 1:17 NKJV

If your vision in life is to become as rich as possible, hoard every penny you make, and indulge your every whim—your vision is not from God. But if your vision is to succeed, use your success to bless others, and fulfil the purposes of God in the earth, your vision is from God. When God called Abraham, He promised him three things: ‘I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing [to others].’ (Genesis 12:2 NIV) Understand this: every worthy vision comes from God whether or not it’s related to so-called ‘spiritual’ matters, and whether or not the person with the vision realises the source of their vision. The Bible says, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.’ We tend to compartmentalise our lives, to view God as having influence and relevance when it comes to ‘spiritual’ visions, missions, and goals, but little relationship to ‘secular’ visions, missions, and goals. St Augustine said, ‘Let every Christian understand that wherever truth is found, it belongs to his Master.’ God is the fountain of all truth, and the source of all worthy visions. And since He gave you your vision you must pour yourself into it every day. The psalmist said, ‘Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity [success] of His servant.’ (Psalm 35:27 NKJV) With God as your partner you must expect to succeed—and you will!

‘God is for me!’

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‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31 NIV

The question isn’t simply, ‘Who can be against us?’ That’s an easy one to answer: disease, inflation, corruption, exhaustion, calamities, and fears. The real question is, ‘If God is for us…?’ Let’s read these words slowly, placing emphasis on each of them: (1) God is for you. Your parents may have forgotten you, your teachers may have neglected you, your siblings may be ashamed of you, but within reach of your prayers is the Maker of the oceans: God! (2) God is for you. Not ‘maybe’, or ‘has been’, or ‘would be if’, but ‘is’! God is for you today, at this minute, as you read this sentence. No need to wait in line and come back tomorrow. He’s with you. He couldn’t be closer to you than He is at this second. His loyalty won’t increase if you’re better, nor lessen if you’re worse. He is for you. (3) God is for you. Are you too tired to continue? He’ll carry you. Are you too discouraged to fight? He’ll fight for you. Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering you on. Look past the finish line; that’s God applauding your steps. (4) God is for you. When you’re pushed aside, ignored, forgotten, He’s on your case—and He remembers you with delight. We already know He has a scar that says: ‘I have written your name on My hand.’ (Isaiah 49:16 NCV) So when you get up each morning look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘God is for me!’

Recovering from Divorce (3)

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‘When there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping.’ Romans 4:18 NLT

Let’s examine the last three stages involved in recovering from a divorce. Stage Five is acceptance. Yes, acceptance can and eventually does come! And when it does, sometimes you’ll feel a twinge of guilt for not feeling depressed and sad any more. What’s happening? You’ve stopped fighting. The war within has settled down and you’ve begun to experience peace. And it’s God’s peace that transcends human understanding (see Philippians 4:7). Stage Six is hope. ‘When there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping … In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.’ (Romans 4:18–21 NLT) Something inside you rises up and says, ‘I will live again, and I will love again. My life is not over.’ This is when purpose is rediscovered, new friendships develop, and you start to grow stronger. Emotionally you age fast—and it becomes an advantage. Stage Seven is fulfilment. You say like David: ‘I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done.’ (Psalm 118:17 NLT) Whether it’s a new relationship, another career, or a particular achievement, God will see to it that you find fulfilment again. This is the place where complaining is never heard because you no longer need to rehearse old memories of failure or betrayal. The God who said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5 NKJV), is giving you a new future, and you refuse to trade it for the pain of your past.

Recovering from Divorce (2)

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‘I will restore to you the years.’ Joel 2:25 NKJV

Recovering from divorce and learning to live again takes time, so please be patient with yourself. Chances are you’ll go through the recognised stages of grief: (1) Denial. You try to ignore or minimise what has happened in hopes it’ll go away. You fear confrontation and refuse to face it. You won’t go for professional help because you think ‘it’ll all work out in the end’. (2) Anger. When someone rejects you, it affects your self-worth and you react the wrong way. You make wild, unchecked statements born out of emotional chaos—sweeping statements like, ‘Good! I’m glad it’s over! Just you wait! I’ll find someone who really loves and appreciates me!’ (3) Bargaining. Once you realise anger just robs you of joy and drives the wedge deeper, you resort to looking for a solution or a compromise. And when that doesn’t work you progress to the next stage. (4) Depression. It hits you at the most inopportune times like birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. Re-runs of ‘our favourite movie’ on television or restaurants where you made memories together depress you. At two o’clock in the morning you’re wide awake and can’t sleep. This depression is often the result of introspection, because you can’t think wrong and feel right at the same time. So what can you do? Learn to discipline your thoughts. Set new goals for your life. Focus on helping someone else. When Job prayed for his friends, God healed him and restored his fortunes (see Job 42:10). And He will restore yours too, so keep trusting Him and don’t lose heart.

Recovering from Divorce (1)

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‘Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.’ Isaiah 43:18 NAS

Divorce is one of the most painful things the human heart can experience. If it’s happened to you, you know that’s true. If it hasn’t, be grateful and show compassion towards those who’ve been devastated by it. Have you been crushed by someone you trusted? Does loneliness overwhelm you in the midnight hours? Do you feel as though your hands are completely tied? Does it upset you because your friends don’t seem to understand? Don’t despair—your present circumstances will change. You will recover; you will rebuild; you will not stay down. It will take time, and you’ll have to invest some effort. You will experience pages of sadness in your diary of success, but by God’s grace you will learn to live again and love again. As you draw close to God and search His Word, He will reveal to you the secret of inner peace, and how to take back your life. If you are the innocent party, read this Scripture and hide it in your heart: ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.’ (Psalm 147:3 NIV) If you are the guilty party, remember you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin. So your failures are forgivable and forgettable. God’s promise to you is: ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’ (Isaiah 43:25 NIV) Whether you are the innocent or the guilty party, the word for you today is: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past … I am doing a new thing! … I am making a way.’ (Isaiah 43:25 18–19 NIV)

Pray with the Right Motives

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‘Search me, O God, and know my heart.’ Psalm 139:23 NKJV

Here are two mistakes we make when it comes to praying. (1) We focus on our failures. Therefore we pray without faith and confidence (see 1 John 3:21–22). (2) We fail to examine our motives. The psalmist wrote, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart … see if there is any wicked way in me.’ (Psalm 139:23–24 NKJV) There are prayers God won’t answer for our own good—or at least not right now. Pastor Jerry Sittser writes: ‘Your cause may be right, but you may still be wrong: manifesting pride, gloating in victory, punishing wrongdoers with excessive severity … The great hazard for people on a crusade is … they become blind to their own faults. They fight for civil rights but treat janitors like second class citizens. They uphold standards of Biblical sexuality but show little grace toward their spouse. Unanswered prayer is God’s gift … it protects us from ourselves. If all our prayers were answered we’d abuse the power … use prayer to change the world to our liking, and it would become hell on earth. Like spoiled children with too many toys and too much money, we’d grab for more. We’d pray for victory at the expense of others … intoxicated by power we’d hurt people and exalt ourselves. Isaiah said, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you … therefore He waits.” (Isaiah 30:18NAS) Unanswered prayer protects…breaks…deepens and transforms. Past unanswered prayers which left us hurt and disillusioned, act like a refiner’s fire to prepare us for future answers.’ Bottom line: pray with the right motives!

Brokenness Produces Character

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‘The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.’ Psalm 51:17 NLT

When we submit to God’s dealings in our lives, He empowers us to reach our full potential by gently breaking areas of our stubborn will that need to be submitted to Him. As these areas are broken, His power within us is released and things begin to change for the better. Power and talent without character and direction, have destroyed many a man and woman. You probably know some of them. So be warned; unless your talent is governed by character, you’re headed for trouble. A horse may come from a line of blue-ribbon champions, but until its will has been broken its power endangers itself and those around it. You’ll notice two important things about a thoroughbred champion horse: (1) It hears many voices during the race but it has learned to respond to only one—the voice of its rider. And that’s God’s plan for you. You’ll get a lot of opinions, but to win in life you must be led only by God. And that calls for humility. ‘He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.’ (Psalm 25:9 NIV) (2) Its power is realised and its full potential released only when it can be harnessed and directed. So, is God breaking you in similar fashion? Is He putting His harness on you and saying, ‘You can’t live like that anymore, or do your own thing, because I have plans for you’? The word for you today is: ‘You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NLT)

Conquering the Fear of Death (2)

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‘He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’ John 11:25 NKJV

Years ago a best-selling country song said, ‘Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.’ Why? Sometimes it’s because we’re not sure that we’re ready. But you can be. How? (1) You can prepare spiritually and emotionally. Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25–26 NKJV) When you put your trust in Christ, death is not the end of you but the beginning of the best version of you. (2) You can prepare relationally. How? By letting the key people in your life know on a regular basis how much you care about them. You must also forgive anyone who has hurt you, and seek their forgiveness if you hurt them (see Mark 11:25–26). (3) You can prepare financially. One of Christ’s last acts on the cross was to commit the care of His mother to one of His disciples. Good stewardship requires that you leave a valid will with clear instructions concerning your earthly possessions and how you want your funeral to be handled. This may not be a pleasant thought, but it’s your spiritual responsibility. Paul writes, ‘I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.’ (Philippians 1:23 NKJV) Why did Paul say Heaven was ‘far better’? Because God had already given him a glimpse into Heaven. David felt the same way: ‘In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)

Conquering the Fear of Death (1)

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‘Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.’ Psalm 39:4 NLT

Next time you drive through a tunnel and come out on the other side, remind yourself that’s how death will be for every redeemed child of God. You say ‘good night’ on earth, and hear ‘good morning’ in Heaven. Dr Elizabeth Kübler-Ross explained that most of us go through the following stages when we face the prospect of dying: (1) Shock stage: ‘Oh no, God!’ (2) Denial stage: ‘It can’t be true!’ (3) Anger stage: ‘Why me?’ (4) Bargaining stage: ‘Spare me, God, and I will do something for You.’ (5) Depression stage: ‘It’s all over. I have nothing to look forward to.’ (6) Testing stage: ‘What can I do to make my remaining days worthwhile?’ (7) Acceptance stage: ‘It doesn’t make sense to fight the inevitable.’ The truth is, the moment we were born we all began to run out of time. It’s just that in the wonder and excitement of childhood and adolescence, and the busyness and stresses of mid-life, we don’t think about it much. We’re like the hypochondriac who put the words on his tombstone: ‘I expected this, but not just yet!’ But as we age and realise that we’ve less time ahead of us than behind us, we begin to pray with the psalmist: ‘Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’ (Psalm 90:12 NKJV) Someone asked Charles Spurgeon, ‘Do you have dying grace?’ He replied, ‘Not today, but I will when I’m dying!’ And the grace that has saved and sustained you thus far will be with you as you transition from your lesser life into your greater one.

Who Tells You the Truth?

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‘Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.’ Proverbs 27:6 NLT

When it comes to seeing ourselves clearly, we all have blind spots. So we need people who’ll tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. When someone really loves you, they’ll feel compelled to point out the shortcomings in your life, the sinfulness and areas that need improvement. You may be tempted to dismiss them, but you need to get beyond the sting of their words and listen for the truth in their message. The writer of Proverbs tells us, ‘Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.’ The truth sometimes hurts. But you must have faith that the encouragers in your life really have your best interests at heart. If you’re ever to experience a sense of accomplishment in this life you need someone you can trust; someone who sees where you are, and where the path you’re on is leading. If you want to really know yourself and how you come across to others, you need a trustworthy mirror committed to reflecting the truth back at you instead of what you want to hear. And if you find yourself resenting the very input you need, think about these Scriptures: ‘The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.’ (Proverbs 12:15 NIV) ‘Pride … breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.’ (Proverbs 13:10 NIV) ‘Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.’ (Proverbs 15:22 NIV) So here’s the question: who tells you the truth? That person’s your real friend!

‘I Wish…’

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‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ John 15:12 NKJV

James Dobson wrote: ‘A sixth grade teacher shared with me the results of a creative writing project assigned to her class. She asked the kids to complete a series of sentences that began with the phrase, “I wish…” The teacher expected her students to write about their desires for bicycles, toys, animals, and trips to theme parks, etc. Instead, twenty of the thirty students made reference to the breakup of their families or conflict at home: “I wish my parents wouldn’t fight.” “I wish my father would come back.” “I wish I could get straight A’s, so my dad would love me.” “I wish my mother didn’t have a boyfriend.” “I wish I had one mum and one dad, so the kids wouldn’t make fun of me. I’ve three mums and three dads, and they botch up my life.” “I wish I had an M-1 rifle so I could shoot those who make fun of me.” It’s hardly front-page news that the family is in trouble today, but it continues to distress me to see little children like these struggling at a time when simply growing up is a major undertaking. Millions of their peers are caught in the same snare. Every aspect of their young lives is influenced by family instability during their developmental years. Without gaining access to professional counselling, many of these kids will drag their problems into future relationships. Then the pattern of disintegration will repeat itself in the next generation. Returning to the responses given by these sixth grade students, I wonder how your children would complete a sentence that began with the words, “I wish…”’

How to Minister to People (2)

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‘They dug through the clay roof above [Jesus’] head.’ Mark 2:4 TLB

When the four people carrying their paralysed friend arrived at the house where Jesus was preaching, the crowd was so big that they couldn’t get to Him. So they’d a choice to make: give up, or persist and find a way through. That’s when they decided to climb up and dig ‘through the clay roof above [Jesus’] head’. When they finally broke through and Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ (Mark 2:11 NLT) And what happened next is notable: ‘The man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”’ (Mark 2:12 NLT) Whatever ‘roof’ is separating you or the person you love from Jesus, it must be removed. Tear it off! Don’t let anything stand in your way! Jesus can give anyone healing, a fresh start, a good job, a strong marriage, healthy kids, or an effective ministry—if they are willing to dig for it. These people were radical in their approach. They didn’t just have faith—they had faith in action! They had come to see Jesus and they refused to be denied. As they dug through the clay roof they believed they were only a metre away from a miracle, and they weren’t about to be put off. Knowing that is what kept them going. So no matter what you have to do today, let nothing stop you from getting to Jesus. You’re closer to a breakthrough than you realise, so keep digging and don’t stop until you get there!

How to Minister to People (1)

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‘Four men arrived carrying a paralysed man on a mat.’ Mark 2:3 NLT

It took four people to get this man to Jesus, and fortunately they weren’t the kind who gave up easily. They refused to let the crowd stand in their way. They even ‘raised the roof’ to get him to Jesus. So if you want to minister to people: (1) You must be aware of their need. They may look like they’ve ‘got it all together’, yet inwardly be lying on a stretcher. When they’re alone they cry out, ‘God, unless you help me I’m finished.’ They’re hurting, desperate, and powerless, and they know it. (2) You mustn’t let them down. Committing to bring somebody to Jesus means picking them up, refusing to let them down, and carrying them the whole way. It means comforting, encouraging, and holding them securely until He touches them. (3) You must allow Jesus to do it His way. Often hurting people don’t know what they need—but Jesus does. So once you get them there, back off and let Him work. When we’ve been in church a while we tend to look for outward signs of change. But Jesus recognised that this man’s first need was for forgiveness: ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ (Mark 2:5 NLT) After that He addressed the man’s second need: ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ (Mark 2:11 NLT) Don’t dismiss God’s tendency to work in ways that don’t make sense to you. He knows what He’s doing, and He never does anything by half-measures. Once He starts working on somebody, He’ll continue His ‘good work in you [and] will perfect it’(Philippians 1:6 NAS) so Jesus will be glorified.

Ask God for a Vision

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‘Looking unto Jesus…’ Hebrews 12:2 KJV

A vision is a picture of what ‘can be’ rather than ‘what is’. Your vision may be to bring health where there is sickness—like the vision Albert Schweitzer had for Africa. Or of education where there’s ignorance—like the one that motivated Gilbert Tennent to help establish Princeton University. It may be a vision of freedom where there’s oppression—like the one that made William Wilberforce give up a life of privilege to eradicate slavery. Or your vision may be smaller and simpler—like being the first one in your family to graduate from university, or becoming a great parent to your child even though you yourself never had one. Or breaking a bad habit before it breaks you…or overcoming your fear of technology and learning to use an iPad…or spending your retirement years impacting the world around you instead of sitting in a rocking chair waiting to die. Thoreau said, ‘If you’ve built castles in the air…put foundations under them.’ But having a vision isn’t enough; there has to be a commitment to act on it. That’s called a mission—and it requires setting specific, measurable steps to achieve it. Those steps are called goals; they establish a plan for accomplishing your mission and thus fulfilling your vision. You’ll generally have one vision, but many goals. And each goal you reach brings you a step closer to fulfilling your vision. And here’s the really good news: when your vision comes from God and you look to Jesus, He’ll give you the strength, wisdom, connections, relationships, and resources to make it happen.

Don’t Be a Gossip

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‘A talebearer reveals secrets.’ Proverbs 11:13 NKJV

When you gossip you’re like a loose cannon. Stop and try to imagine that. When a cannon is anchored and aimed in the right direction it can win the battle. But when it’s not, it can destroy everything in its path. And that’s what gossip does: ‘A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.’ The word ‘talebearer’ comes from the Hebrew word rakal, which means ‘to go about’; it’s likely derived from an old word meaning ‘merchant’. So a talebearer is someone who goes around peddling gossip! The story is told of a mother who was preparing dinner one evening when her little boy came running into the kitchen. ‘What has Mama’s little darling been doing all day?’ she asked. ‘I’ve been playing mailman,’ he replied. ‘Mailman?’ the mother wondered aloud. ‘How could you do that when you’ve no letters?’ He said, ‘Oh, I had a whole bunch of letters.’ Alarmed, she said, ‘What letters?’ Her son replied, ‘I found them all tied up with ribbon in an old trunk in the attic, and I put one in every mailbox on the street.’ Even when you don’t intend harm, your words can start a chain reaction that devastates people’s lives and drives wedges. That’s why the Bible says, ‘A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.’ (Proverbs 16:28 NKJV) Unless you’re sure that what you’re sharing in confidence will remain in confidence and result in good, don’t share it at all. And if you feel like you must talk to somebody, talk to the One who can do something about it—God!

Soul Prosperity

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‘I pray that … your soul prospers.’ 3 John 1:2 NKJV

John wrote, ‘I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.’ For your soul to prosper you must: (1) Question your doubts and not your faith. We spend too much time dwelling on our misgivings, and experiencing faith as an occasional flash in the pan. God’s promises are for ‘believers’, so start believing what He says. (2) Not be a ‘Lone Ranger’. It’s no coincidence that the Old Testament tells the story of God’s ‘people’, and the Epistles were addressed to ‘congregations’. We grow as we relate—not isolate! (3) Guard your thought life. Practise mind management! When your ‘thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death. But if [it’s] controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace.’ (Romans 8:6 NCV) (4) Fall asleep, and wake up, immersed in gratitude. It’ll transform your day. ‘In everything give thanks.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV) (5) Get rid of anything that distracts you from God. Toss the junk reading material, and if need be—throw in the TV! (6) Always err on the side of mercy. Philip Yancey writes, ‘I marvel at the humility of a God who descends to live inside His flawed creatures, but do I show that same attitude toward people of whom I disapprove?’ (7) Be specific, and not revert to generalities when discussing your faith. Paul wasn’t ‘ashamed of the Gospel’ (Romans 1:16 NKJV), and neither should you be. (8) Be gracious to those who irk you. Remember, God chose them too! Sometimes it’s easier to be gracious to nonbelievers than to uptight, judgmental Christians. But that just makes you a different kind of judgmental! (9) Forgive those who hurt you. Harbouring hatred hinders healing; instead, bring your hurts to God.

Choose to ‘Live in Peace’

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‘Live in peace … and the Author and Promoter of peace will be with you.’ 2 Corinthians 13:11 AMP

When Jesus sent His disciples out to preach, He told them to go into each city, find a suitable house in which to stay, and say, ‘Peace be unto you.’ If they were accepted they were to stay there and minister. If not, they were to leave and shake the dust of that place off their feet (see Matthew 10:11–15). Why did Jesus say that? Because instead of staying where you’re tolerated, you need to go where you’re appreciated. You shouldn’t waste your time on people who don’t want to be helped. If you remain where there is strife you can’t be effective. Strife grieves the Holy Spirit. When peace leaves, the Holy Spirit leaves, and He’s the one who does the real work. Question: when you picture Jesus ministering to others, how do you see Him? Certainly not with the stressed-out, hurry-up attitude we often have. Don’t you get an image of Him ministering in a quiet, tranquil peace? That’s a trait you need to develop too. As ambassadors of Christ we need to become more like our Master in dealing with others. Paul writes, ‘Live in peace, and [then] the God of love [Who is the Source of affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence toward men] and the Author and Promoter of peace will be with you.’ When you resort to force, argument, intimidation, anger, and coercion, you’re on your own. But when you demonstrate affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence towards people, God has promised to be with you. So the word for you today is—choose to ‘live in peace’.

Listen to God’s Voice

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‘Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”’ Isaiah 30:21 NIV

One of England’s finest preachers decided because of his wife’s failing health not to go to America and speak at an important conference. Although he’d purchased his ticket, the ship sailed without him, and J. Stuart Holden missed a golden opportunity in the prime of his preaching career. A devoted husband, he gave himself to caring for his wife and tried not think of what he was missing on the other side of the Atlantic. The truth is we’re too easily disappointed when our plans fall through; too easily discouraged when ‘great career opportunities’ are missed, and our complaining proves that we don’t know God like we say we do. Delay is often the protective hand of our heavenly Father. It certainly was for Holden, who resolved never again to question God’s timing. Why? Because the unused ticket he held reserved his passage on the new ‘unsinkable’ luxury liner—RMS Titanic. There’s so much talk in the Church today about self-help, that God’s providence and guidance is seldom mentioned. But the bottom line is we don’t decide God’s plan for our lives, we discover it. Much of the time we don’t understand how He leads us, and it’s only in retrospect that we see His hand at work. Paul wrote, ‘When I go to Spain… I hope to visit you.’ (Romans 15:24 NIV) But, as far as we can know for sure, he never made it; instead he ended up in prison. But it was from there that he wrote the Epistles. So here’s the question: if you really believe God is directing your steps—why are you questioning, doubting, and complaining?

You Can Live a Victorious Christian Life

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‘Don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.’ Romans 13:14 NLT

If you’re serious about living a victorious Christian life you must do three things: (1) Burn the bridges to your old lifestyle. Any bridge you refuse to burn gives Satan an invitation and re-entry point into your life. The new believers at Ephesus did something radical; they brought out all their books on witchcraft and pornography and burned them in public. They weren’t namby-pamby or willy-nilly; they were committed! They lived by the words: ‘Don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.’ (2) Establish prayer as a top priority. Prayer puts a shield of divine protection around you; don’t start your day without it. Jesus said, ‘Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.’ (Matthew 26:41 NLT) Unless you acknowledge your vulnerability for sin, you won’t pray against it and you’ll end up experiencing defeat. The most effective weapon the enemy has against you—is you. Your old nature must be crucified daily, and prayer is how you do it. (3) Fill your mind with God’s Word. Jesus said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4 NKJV) Three different times in the wilderness Satan tried to get Jesus to submit to temptation, and each time Jesus responded, ‘It is written.’ (Matthew 4:4;7;10 KJV) After the third attempt Satan gave up and left Him alone. Why? Because he can’t prevail against you when you know God’s Word and stand on it. So have your ‘It is written’ armour ready. Build yourself up on the Word of God before the attack comes.

Be Faithful

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‘She is your companion and your wife by covenant.’ Malachi 2:14 NKJV

As the culture around us becomes more permissive, the idea of faithfulness in marriage is being challenged. The entertainment industry promotes the idea that infidelity is a marvellous game for two. But they don’t tell you the downside. When it has run its course, it brings pain and disillusionment. And not only for the two people involved, but for those who love them, depend on them, and look to them for an example. It’s time for some straight talk about the covenant of marriage. After the thrill of the chase and the cooling of passion, you get back to cooking, cleaning and earning a living. Yes, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed. When you’re dating you get to see the best aspects of someone but when you marry them, you get to live with their flaws, frailties, and irritants, much like those in your former husband or wife. And guess what? Married life begins to feel confining. Then what does the individual do when he or she is beginning to feel trapped? Hopscotch from one life to another in a vain search for something indescribable—something they never seem to find. What’s the answer? Instead of looking for the right person, seek to grow and mature and become the right person. Often the qualities you’re looking for in someone new lie undiscovered and unappreciated under the surface in the person you’re married to. These qualities are like seeds: if you water them, nurture and protect them, they will grow into something beautiful you can enjoy.

Choose Christ

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‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.’ John 3:36 NIV

No matter how many bad choices you may have made in the past, you can be redeemed by one good choice—the choice to surrender your life to Christ and follow Him. Max Lucado writes: ‘Ever wonder why there were two crosses next to Christ? Or why Jesus was in the centre? Those two crosses symbolise one of God’s greatest gifts—the gift of choice. The two criminals have much in common: convicted by the same system, condemned to the same death, surrounded by the same crowd, and equally close to the same Christ. In fact, they began with the same sarcasm; each said cruel things to Jesus. But one of them changed. He said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”’ (Luke 23:42–43 NIV) We rejoice that this thief could change, but we dare not forget the one who didn’t. There are times when God sends thunder to scare us. There are times when God sends blessings to lure us. But there are times when God sends nothing but silence, as He honours us with the freedom to choose where we will spend eternity. We have never been given a greater privilege than that of choice. Think about the thief who repented. Though we know little about him, we know this: in the end, all his bad choices were redeemed by a solitary good choice. He chose Christ!’ And you can make that choice today too. ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.’

The Power of Praise

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‘All the prison doors flew open.’ Acts 16:26 NIV

The Bible says: ‘About midnight Paul and Silas were … singing hymns to God … Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken … all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.’ (Acts 16:25–26 NIV) Praise opens doors. Praise breaks chains. Any time you praise God in spite of the circumstances, the forces of Heaven come to your aid. You say, ‘But sometimes I don’t feel like praising God.’ The psalmist wrote, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times.’ (Psalm 34:1 NKJV) Sometimes praise is an emotional response to God’s goodness; other times it’s an act of your will. Anybody can praise God in the good times. But when you have to rise above your feelings and your circumstances, that’s when it really counts. The battle of Jericho teaches us that sometimes you have to shout God’s praise when: (1) You are up against a brick wall. (2) It feels like you’re going in circles. (3) Your circumstances seem to mock you. (4) Your rational mind thinks, ‘This plan doesn’t make any sense.’ (5) It’s the last thing you feel like doing. But when you praise God anyway, you discover the truth of Nehemiah’s words: ‘The joy of the Lord [the joy that comes from knowing He is present with you and has gone before you to work things out in your favour] is your strength.’ (Nehemiah 8:10 AMP) When you’re ruled by circumstances and emotions you live on a rollercoaster. But if you look to the Lord of your circumstances and praise Him, you move from weakness to strength.

Love Your Neighbour

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‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 NIV

In The Fine Art of Friendship Ted Engstrom outlines ten ways to love others: (1) Love is unconditional. If it’s not… it’s manipulation. (2) Our natural tendency is toward self-centredness (which isn’t related to a healthy self-esteem); that’s why it takes a conscious effort to love. (3) Each of us is a one-of-a-kind creation. Therefore it takes time—often a long time—to understand one another. (4) Do you really listen and try to understand what people are saying? Or do you listen in order to give an answer; in other words, by letting the other person talk while you mentally formulate your response? One who loves, listens with understanding. (5) Simply being there to care, whether or not you know exactly what to do. Loving your neighbour involves fulfilling, in a visible way, Christ’s promise, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV) (6) Just because God put you in a leadership position doesn’t mean He made you ‘better’ than others. Paul warns the leader ‘not to think of himself more highly than he ought to.’ (Romans 12:3 NKJV) (7) Be generous with your praise and encouragement. Inspiring words build up the self-esteem of others, whereas critical comments kill enthusiasm and love. (8) Make your friends number one: ‘In honour preferring one another.’ (Romans 12:10 KJV) This is another point where we see a clear difference between the leader who loves, and a power-holder who ‘looks out for number one’. (9) Learn to love God with all your heart. Then love your neighbour as yourself. (10) Emphasise other people’s strengths and virtues, not their sins and weaknesses. Why? Because you’ll be needing grace and love yourself before the day’s done!

God Loves You

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‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16 NIV

God loves you so much that He gave His only Son to save you. ‘Save me from what?’ you ask: (1) Going through this life lost, directionless, joyless, and unfulfilled. (2) The judgment of God—Spending the next life lost and without the joys of Heaven He wants you to share. That’s how highly God values you. So when you keep putting yourself down, you’re rejecting His opinion of you. And to disagree with God is to make yourself equal with Him, or worse, put your opinion above His. Maybe you never thought about it like that before. Actress/singer Ethel Waters ministered to great crowds in the Billy Graham crusades. She was born black and poor in a segregated society, but when she found Christ she gained true self-esteem. With a smile that would melt your heart, she told her audiences, ‘God made me—and my God don’t make no junk!’ When you refuse to see your worth as a creation of God and as an adopted child of the Father (2 Corinthians 6:18), it’s impossible to love others with a genuine Godly love or accept that they love you. You become skilled at tuning out compliments and picking up on criticism, because it confirms the negative opinion you have of yourself. As a result, you distance yourself from people and end up lonely without ever knowing why. Maybe your parents failed you, or your spouse betrayed you. You may feel like ‘damaged goods’, and seek escape in addictions or affairs or a lifestyle of ritual accomplishment. But it doesn’t work. Only when you accept that God loves you unconditionally, that you are valuable to Him, will you have love to give to others.

The Weakness of Willpower

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‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ John 15:5 NKJV

We think that if we have enough willpower, we can fight off every temptation that comes our way. And sometimes it works. Here’s the problem, however. Willpower is your best friend when things go well, but often the first friend to check out when you get weary. When you don’t want to do something, your carnal mind will give you plenty of reasons why you don’t have to. Your emotions will even join in and say, ‘I agree, because I don’t feel like doing it anyway.’ Your mind, will and emotions would love to run your life, but the Bible says you’re to be led by God’s Spirit. ‘Walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh.’ (Galatians 5:16AMP) Willpower and discipline are necessary to a successful life, but willpower alone won’t be enough. Determination may get you started and keep you going for a while, but it’s never enough to bring you across the finish line. ‘“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.’ (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV) What happens when instead of turning first to willpower, you turn to God? He releases His power into your willpower and energises it to bring you across the finish line. That way willpower doesn’t get the credit for your success, God does. That’s why Jesus said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ This is one of the most important and difficult lessons you must learn if you want to enjoy the life Jesus died to give you.

Knowing What Not to Say

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‘A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.’ Proverbs 29:11 NKJV

Honesty and good communication are the foundation stones for a healthy relationship. This is particularly so in marriage. But any good idea can be misused. For example, it’s honest for a man to tell his wife that he doesn’t care for the way she cooks. It’s honest for a woman to express anger over her husband’s shortcomings. But honesty that does not have the best interest of the other person at heart is cruel, and a form of selfishness. This is especially so when the other person can’t do anything about it. Some couples, in their determination to share every thought and opinion, destroy the sweet spark of romance that drew them together. No longer is there any sense of magic. They’ve unravelled the romantic allure that first attracted them to one another. Your spouse is the person you chose to marry. So if you didn’t do your homework up front, don’t complain when you don’t like the test results. Peter writes, ‘Continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.’ (1 Peter 4:8 NLT) Paul writes: ‘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 does not rejoice about injustice but 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) When you practise these virtues, you’re guaranteed a happy marriage.

Overcoming the ‘I Can’t’ Mentality

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‘We saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight.’ Numbers 13:33 NKJV

Wherever you go, you take your mentality with you. After four hundred years as captives in Egypt, the Israelites developed a slave mentality. Because they were dominated for so long, they never learned to be decision makers. They functioned best when other people told them what to do. Consequently when they approached the Promised Land and their leader sent twelve spies in to check it out, ten came back, saying, ‘The inhabitants of the land are giants. We are like grasshoppers compared to them.’ But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, knew God was with them so they reported the opposite about the land: ‘We are well able to overcome it.’ (Numbers 13:30) Joshua and Caleb developed the capacity to see things from God’s vantage point. It spelled the difference between success and failure—and this one secret will change your world. You learn to ‘mount up with wings’ like an eagle (Isaiah 40:31 KJV) and see every situation from a higher viewpoint: through God’s eyes! You stop looking at the devil’s picture of defeat and focus on God’s portrait of success. This is your ticket to the Promised Land! Having consulted with God, start speaking what you desire—not what you dread (see Psalm 107:2). Speak your expectations—not your fears. This isn’t mind-over-matter or pop psychology. It’s standing on God’s Word instead of thoughts that have held you captive. It’s declaring instead: ‘I am what God says I am … I have what God says I have … and I can do what God says I can do!’ (see Philippians 4:13).

Prayer Gives You Access to God

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‘We can come before God … without fear.’ Ephesians 3:12 NCV

Dr James Kennedy said: ‘I read an interesting book by an unbeliever who attempted to “do in” the Christian faith. Despite his lack of belief, I found insightful something he said regarding prayer. He called it “the most incredible conceit in the history of mankind,” arguing that if you worked for General Motors as a lowly employee and wanted to see the boss, you wouldn’t have the remotest chance … Think about it. What would happen if a citizen tried to speak to the President of the United States? I’ve thought about putting in a call just to see … I’d probably speak to a secretary or an assistant to somebody, but not likely the President … “And so,” says my skeptical friend in his book, “What an incredible conceit to suppose that at any moment we can talk to the boss of the whole shebang.” And indeed the concept of prayer would be an incredible conceit … if it weren’t true. But it is … and it’s the most incredible condescension on the part of a gracious God. You could probably never speak to the highly placed people in this world, yet the most highly placed person in the universe—“the boss of the whole shebang”—waits patiently to hear what you have to say. “We can come before God with freedom and without fear … through faith in Christ.” Don’t you find that amazing? This day … You can talk to the boss, tell Him your worries and cares, share with Him your triumphs and joys—and He always has time to listen.’ Prayer gives you access to God!

Start Now

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‘An intelligent person aims at wise action … a fool starts off in many directions.’ Proverbs 17:24 GNT

Successful people have one thing in common: they’ve developed the habit of doing what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do. We all want more money, but we don’t all want more work. We’d all like to be slim and trim, but we’re not all willing to eat right and exercise daily. The bookends of success are commitment and consistency. Without commitment you’ll never start, and without consistency you’ll never finish. Getting started is the hardest part, because we come up with so many reasons not to. So: (1) Start small. Take the first step. You can’t take step two until you’ve taken step one. Taking the first step to prioritise your life will focus you in the right direction. But don’t expect to immediately understand all that’s required. ‘By faith Abraham … went out, not knowing.’ (Hebrews 11:8 KJV) God guides you when you’re in motion, so ‘you’ll know as you go’. (2) Start with yourself. If you want others to respond to you differently, give them a different set of attitudes and actions to respond to. (3) Start early. Someone said, ‘Noah didn’t wait for his ship to come in—he built one.’ Hard work is an accumulation of the easy things you didn’t do when you should have. The truth is, the work doesn’t seem nearly so hard once you stop putting it off. (4) Start now. What are you waiting for? Until you finish school, get married, have kids, the kids leave home, you retire, or you die? If you wait long enough you’ll only have one regret—that you didn’t start now.