Seek To Glorify God (3)

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‘Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

There are two ‘whatever you do’ verses in Scripture.

(1) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.’ (Colossians 3:23 NIV) Your goal in life should be to love what you work at, and work at what you love. But that isn’t reality at every stage of life. Sometimes you’re called to do a good job for a not-so-good company, boss, or salary. Thank God you have a job that supplies your needs; there are unemployed people who would switch places with you.

(2) ‘Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ How do you eat and drink for the glory of God? Paul is using our daily rituals to make an all-encompassing point. Even the most mundane of activities is absolutely miraculous. You take approximately twenty-three thousand breaths every day, but when was the last time you thanked God for one of them? We tend to thank God for things that take our breath away. And that’s fine. But maybe we should thank Him for every other breath too! The purpose-driven life is described in these words from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.’ It can’t be said any simpler, or any better. We exist for one reason and one reason alone: to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. And you’re called to do that in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Any way. Anywhere. Anyhow. Whatever. Wherever.

Seek To Glorify God (2)

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‘The whole earth is full of His glory!’ Isaiah 6:3 NKJV

The distinction between sacred and secular is a false dichotomy. All things were created by God and for God—no exceptions. Every note of music, every colour on the palette, every flavour that tingles the taste buds. Arnold Sommerfeld, the German physicist and pianist, observed that a single hydrogen atom which emits one hundred frequencies, is more musical than a grand piano which emits only 88 fundamental frequencies. So every single atom is a unique expression of worship. According to composer Leonard Bernstein, the best translation of Genesis 1:3 is not ‘And God said.’He believed a better translation is ‘And God sang.’ The Almighty sang every atom into existence, and every atom echoes that original melody in three-part harmony by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Super-sensitive sound instruments have discovered that earthworms make faint staccato sounds, while whale songs can travel thousands of kilometres under water. Lewis Thomas put it this way: ‘If we had better hearing and could discern the descants of seabirds, the rhythmic timpani of schools of mullets, and even the distant harmonies of flies hanging over meadows in the sun, the combined sound might lift us off our feet.’ And some day they will. Glorified eardrums will hear this Scripture fulfilled: ‘Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!”’(Revelation 5:13 NIV) Today make it your goal to glorify God in all that you do.

Seek To Glorify God (1)

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‘That the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.’ 2 Thessalonians 1:12 NIV

Bach composed over 200 cantatas. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring may be his most famous. Nearly four centuries later, it’s still one of the most popular soundtracks as the bride walks down the aisle to meet her groom. The reason his music touches your soul is because it came from his soul. But did you know his cantatas didn’t originate as music, and that they were prayers before they were songs? Before he started scoring a sheet of music he would scrawl JJ—Jesu, Juya—at the very top. It means ‘Jesus, help me.’ Then at the bottom of every composition he inscribed three letters: SDG. They stand for Soli Deo Gloria—‘to the glory of God alone’. His life was a unique translation of that singular motive. So is yours. No one can glorify God like you, or for you, because your life is an original score. Soli Deo Gloria is living for an audience of one; it’s doing the right thing for the right reason. It’s living for the applause of the nail-scarred hands. It’s declaring that Jesus Christ is your all in all. Just Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Paul bottom-lines it: ‘We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God.’ (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 NIV)

Let Others See God In You!

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‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ Zechariah 8:23 NKJV

The prophet Zechariah writes, ‘Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem… saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’ (Zechariah 8:22–23 NKJV) When people see God at work in your life, they’ll be drawn to you.

It happened to a short-order cook named Nicholas Herman. Dissatisfied with his life, he worried constantly about whether or not he was even saved. Then one day as he studied a tree, he was struck by the truth in Psalm 1:3: that the secret to growing spiritually lies in being rooted and grounded in God. So he decided to make his life an experiment in what he termed ‘the habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God’. Today he’s better known as Brother Lawrence, the name his friends gave him. Chances are, you’ve heard of him and his writings. Although he spent his life in obscurity working in a monastery kitchen, how he interacted with God caused people from around the world to long to know God like he did. His friends said he ‘found God everywhere…as much while repairing shoes as praying with the community’. And after he died they compiled a book of his letters and conversations called The Practice of the Presence of God.It’s one of the most widely read books of the last four centuries.

Jesus said, ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself.’ (John 12:32 NLT) The more you cultivate the presence of God in your life, the more others will be attracted to Him. So, let others see God in you!

 

Don’t ‘Turn A Blind Eye’

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‘He will separate them one from another.’ Matthew 25:32 NKJV

The Bible says: ‘All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom.”’ (Matthew 25:32–34 NKJV) But here’s what happens to those on the left hand: ‘He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me.”’ (Matthew 25:41 NKJV) What determines His choice? How does He separate people? Is it based on the fact that one group was highly moral while the other was loose-living? Is it based on the fact that one group was doctrinally correct while the other went astray theologically? No.

Jesus said the destiny of all present will be based on one thing: showing compassion to those in need. You object: ‘We are saved by faith alone!’ Yes. But as Calvin pointed out, ‘The faith that saves us is never alone!’ The Bible says that faith without works is dead (see James 2:26). Jesus said that this was the standard by which we’ll be evaluated and rewarded: ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ (Matthew 25:36 NKJV) Then He personalised it in these words: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NIV) That means you must open your heart and respond to the needs around you.

Pray For God’s Favour

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‘You bless the righteous, You surround them with Your favour.’ Psalm 5:12 NIV

When you ask someone for a favour, you’re generally asking for something they don’t owe you. The Bible says of God: ‘You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favour.’ This word ‘righteous’ doesn’t mean flawless, otherwise none of us would qualify! It means to be clothed in ‘the righteousness of God’, thereby making us acceptable before God and qualifying us for His favour (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). And that’s a truth you need to grasp and hold on to! Why? Because when you have God’s favour, people start favouring you too—often for reasons they themselves can’t explain! The favour of God made it possible for people in the Bible who otherwise wouldn’t have amounted to much, to do great things. God called a teenager named Esther to save the Jewish people. So she stepped out in faith, approached the king uninvited, even though it violated protocol, and ‘obtained favour in his sight.’ (Esther 5:2 AMP) God made a way for her to do the job He’d given her. Without the favour of God, Ruth, a Gentile, wouldn’t have been accepted by the Jews. But because God had a plan for her life and her heart was open to Him, she ended up marrying Boaz, ‘a mighty man of great wealth.’ (Ruth 2:1 KJV) And from that union descended King David, and ultimately our blessed Lord Jesus. What favour! The Bible says, ‘A good man will obtain favour from the Lord.’ (Proverbs 12:2 NAS) And a single moment of God’s favour will do more for you than a lifetime of striving. So pray for the favour of God today—and start looking for it!

Position Yourself To Receive

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‘The wise listen to others.’ Proverbs 12:15 NLT

Positioning yourself to receive—makes all the difference! For example, as you read this, if you position yourself to receive by saying to the Lord, ‘I will take action on what You show me,’ you’ll benefit more than if you read it just to be motivated or inspired. To resist or to receive—that’s a choice you make every day. Nothing dies quicker than a new idea in a closed mind. It’s impossible to learn, if you think you already know it all. One of the reasons Jesus reacted so strongly to the Pharisees was because they refused to receive what He had to say. A wrongly positioned mind is like a microscope that magnifies trifling things but can’t receive great ones. Every situation, properly viewed, is an opportunity. But opportunities can only ‘drop into your lap’ if you position your lap where opportunities drop. When you don’t position yourself to receive, it’s like asking for a bushel while you’re holding a cup. Too often our minds are locked on one track. We’re looking for red so we overlook blue; we’re thinking ‘tomorrow’ and God is saying ‘now’. We’re looking everywhere, and the answer is right under our nose. When a person is positioned correctly, he or she is ready to receive all God has for them.

The Bible often uses the word simple. The original term means ‘thick, dull, and sluggish’, and it describes those who are insensitive and unreceptive to the thoughts of others. God will speak to you through people, but unless you listen you won’t hear what He has to say. So today position yourself to receive.

Chosen And Appointed By God (5)

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‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.’ Hebrews 1:3 NIV

Are you so focused on your troubles that you’ve forgotten what God’s Word says: ‘Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’ (Psalm 23:6 KJV)? We know about Job’s troubles, but we tend to forget they were just for a short season in an otherwise very blessed life. The time Joseph spent in prison was eclipsed by the years of influence and privilege he enjoyed as the number-two man in Pharaoh’s palace. Are you having difficulty enjoying your blessings because you are afraid they won’t last? Maybe you’re so accustomed to trouble that you’re continually braced for it, like sitting in a comfortable recliner and not being able to relax. It’s time you stopped worrying and started believing God’s promises to you! He hasn’t brought you this far to abandon you. No, He has ‘appointed you to bring forth fruit that will last.’ Lasting joy and success—that’s God’s plan for you! The Bible says, ‘The Son is sustaining all things by His powerful word.’

God doesn’t speak something over your life, then let it fall apart. He said about His word: ‘It will accomplish all I want it to.’ (Isaiah 55:11 NLT) In Genesis, God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.’ (Genesis 1:14 ESV) And guess what? That same sun shines today because of the word that brought it into being—and, God willing, it’ll shine again tomorrow. Now, if God will do that for an inanimate object like the sun, don’t you think He’ll take care of you too? Come on, believe that you’re called and chosen by God!

Chosen And Appointed By God (4)

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‘I have chosen you and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit.’ John 15:16 KJV

The word ‘ordained’ comes from the word ordered. God ordered and designed you specifically. He chose your life’s direction. He preserved you when you thought you wouldn’t make it. He pushed you when you thought you had run out of steam. ‘The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall for the Lord holds them by the hand.’ (Psalm 37:23–24 NLT)

He wants you to win. ‘No weapon turned against you will succeed… These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord.’ (Isaiah 54:17 NLT) That means the attacks being directed against you won’t succeed! But being chosen by God doesn’t mean you can just go and do your own thing. Paul says, ‘Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?’ (Romans 6:1–2 NLT) When you’re chosen and appointed you have assurance of your position in Christ, even when your condition isn’t up to par. It’s also why God permits tests and temptations. He knows what it takes to keep you dependent on Him, and help you develop a strong root system. The first thing God told man was ‘be fruitful’(see Genesis 1:28). He wants you to be productive and successful in every aspect of your life. Jesus said, ‘It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom [to enjoy the advantages of Kingdom living].’ (Luke 12:32AMPC) Once that concept gets down into your spirit, it will change your life!

Chosen And Appointed By God (3)

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‘I will arise and go to my father.’ Luke 15:18 KJV

Once you grasp the fact that God has ‘chosen and appointed’ you to accomplish certain things, many of your unanswered questions will begin to make sense. Like why you see things differently from others, or feel compelled to move on while they’re happy to stay where they are. Paul said that long before we had heard of Christ, ‘He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan.’ (Ephesians 1:11 NLT) You’ve been handpicked and designed for the job! Why? Because God has certain things He wants to do through you. It’s the reason you’ve made it this far. It’s why you keep bouncing back each time Satan tries to destroy you. Here are two reasons you need to grasp this truth:

(1) If you think God chose you because you’re a great prayer-warrior, or read your Bible for hours on end, or you’re of sterling character, then the minute you let up or fail the devil will pounce and tell you you’re no longer accepted by God.

(2) Knowing your status before God enables you to say, ‘Even though I struggle and stumble and sometimes don’t have it all together, I can go to God at any time because He chose me.’ That’s powerful! It’s information the devil doesn’t want you to have because it will change your thinking, your outlook, and your confidence level. Even though he crashed and burned and ended up smelling like the pigs he fed, the Prodigal Son could say, ‘I will arise and go to my father.’ Rejoice, God is still your ‘Father’ even though you’ve messed up. Repent, return, recommit—you’re ‘chosen and appointed.’

Chosen And Appointed By God (2)

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‘We who believe are adopted as sons.’ Galatians 4:5 AMP

The word ‘appointed’ means God has scheduled certain things to take place in your life at certain seasons. Sometimes people have to make lifestyle adjustments to accommodate an unexpected pregnancy—but nobody adopts a child by accident. Think: knowing in advance about all your weaknesses, God chose you anyway. ‘God sent His son that He might redeem those who were under the authority of the Law and lead us into becoming, by adoption, true sons of God.’ (Galatians 4:4–5 PHPS) You never have to wonder whether it’s ok to approach your heavenly Father because He’s always ready to welcome you. Your seat is reserved at the table. ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.’(Psalm 23:5 NIV) That means obstacles and opposition can’t rob you of God’s blessing. Being ‘chosen and appointed’ is like having a platinum credit card: you get preferential treatment! But that doesn’t give you licence to live however you please. Some of us are like the little boy who prayed, ‘Lord, make me a good boy. But if You can’t, don’t worry—I’m having a great time the way I am!’ No, ‘the Lord disciplines those He loves, and he chastens everyone He accepts as a son.’ (Hebrews 12:6 NIV) And God’s correction isn’t rejection, it’s proof of His love! You’re not chosen and appointed based on your race, virtues, gifts, talents, looks, and intelligence. God chose you because He loves you and has a special plan for your life. And the best part is, He’s going to strengthen and equip you to fulfil it. ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.’ (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Chosen And Appointed By God (1)

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‘I chose you and appointed you.’ John 15:16 NKJV

Jesus said, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.’ How you begin a relationship is important. All parties need to feel secure in order for it to go well. For example, when you’re invited to somebody’s home for dinner, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll fulfil certain social obligations. You shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re welcome, or if there’ll be enough food to go around, or if there’s a place at the table for you. Those are things you might be concerned about if you stopped by uninvited.

Likewise, knowing you’ve been ‘chosen and appointed’ by God gives you confidence. It means you’re accepted; you don’t have to campaign to get elected. If you think walking to a church altar to commit your life to Christ means you chose God, think again! God chose you for two reasons: to bless you, and to make you a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2). But in the beginning not all His blessings may be things you rejoice about. The Bible speaks of blessings that you won’t have room enough to receive (see Malachi 3:10). Sometimes God’s blessings are so overwhelming that when He starts pouring them out you think, ‘I’m not sure I can handle this.’ And you’d be right—if you had been the one who initiated the relationship! But you didn’t choose God, He chose you. And whomever He calls, He equips. All you need to do is be open and responsive. ‘Give yourselves completely… be tools in the hands of God, to be used for His good purposes.’ (Romans 6:13 TLB)

 

‘Here Am I. Send Me!’

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‘I said, “Here am I. Send me!”’ Isaiah 6:8 NIV

Isaiah writes, ‘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!” He said, “Go…!”’ (Isaiah 6:8–9 NIV) In the preceding Scriptures Isaiah was making all sorts of excuses and telling God why he wasn’t qualified to do the job. But in God’s Kingdom, your calling trumps your credentials every time! And the litmus test isn’t experience or expertise, it’s availability and teachability. If you are willing to go when God gives you the green light, He will take you to inaccessible places and do impossible things. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Esther, Moses, Samuel, David, and Isaiah all have one thing in common. They all said, ‘Here am I.’

Isn’t it ironic that we spend so much time and energy trying to figure out how to get to where God wants us to go, when all we have to do is simply say, ‘Here am I’? It’s God’s job to get us to where He wants us to go; our job is to make ourselves available. Like a doctor on call or a police officer on duty or a firefighter on shift, it’s our readiness to respond that God is looking for. Sometimes it’s a simple prompting to go out of our way and love our next-door neighbour. Sometimes it’s a calling to move halfway around the world. But it always starts with the little three-word prayer of availability: ‘Here am I.’ That’s what Moses said at the burning bush. That’s what Caleb said when he finally set foot in the Promised Land. And that’s what God wants you to say today.

Do Something About It!

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‘He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things He planned for us.’ Ephesians 2:10 NLT

The Bible says God ‘created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.’ These are devastating times. A billion people are hungry, millions are trafficked in slavery, and pandemic diseases are gouging entire nations. Each year nearly two million children are exploited in the global sex trade. In the few minutes it will take you to read today’s devotional, almost ninety children will die of preventable diseases. More than half of all Africans don’t have access to modern health facilities. As a result, ten million die each year from diarrhoea, acute respiratory illness, malaria and measles. And many of those deaths could be prevented by one injection.

You ask, ‘What can I do about it?’ God answers prayer, so you can pray for those who are suffering. You can give, whether it’s a lot or a little. And you can volunteer. You’re surrounded by great causes in need of people. And here’s why you should get involved: your life is racing by, and if you aren’t careful, one day you’ll look up and your one shot at life will have passed you by. Some people don’t concern themselves with such thoughts. They grind through their days without lifting their eyes to look. They live and die and never ask why. If you want your life to matter, live it in such a way that the world will be glad you did. You were created and redeemed to ‘do the good things He planned for you long ago.’ And when you stand before God, He will ask you how well you carried out your assignment, and reward you accordingly.

Lead Your Children To Christ

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‘Memorise His laws and tell them to your children over and over.’ Deuteronomy 6:6–7 CEV

It’s not easy being a Christian parent in a world where peer pressure feels as if it’s crushing down on you like a million tonnes of bricks; where values are at an all-time low and immorality at an all-time high. But with God’s help you can do it! To lead your children to Christ, do these five things:

(1) Begin when they’re young, and read Bible stories to them each night. Let them hear you pray for them to know Jesus personally, constantly thanking Him for dying for their sins.

(2) As you take them to church, explain what the various actions and seasons (Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Easter, and Christmas) represent, and why they’re observed and celebrated.

(3) Be sensitive to every spiritual question they ask, and take the time to answer their questions in a way they can understand.

(4) Buy them Christian DVDs and cartoons that will present Bible truths on their level.

(5) Trust the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom at the right time to present the Gospel to them, and pray for their salvation continuously. On one occasion Evangelist DL Moody reported ‘two and one-half conversions’ at a service he conducted. Someone said, ‘I suppose you mean two adults and one child.’ ‘No,’ Mr Moody replied. ‘I mean two children and one adult. The children can give their whole lives to God, but an adult has only half a life left to give.’ And remember, the things we learn best are the things we hear most. So: ‘Memorise His laws and tell them to your children over and over.’

The Pluses And Minuses Of Role Models

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‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ 1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV

We all need good role models. But when you devote your life to being like somebody else, you risk becoming something God doesn’t want you to be. Always remember, your ‘heroes’ wrestle with blind spots and character flaws too. Paul said, ‘I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.’ (1 Corinthians 15:9 NIV) The same thing with Peter: when Cornelius sent for him, we’re told that as he ‘entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”’ (Acts 10:25–26 NIV) If you’re successful in life, you’ll adopt that same attitude. The danger in hero worship comes from forfeiting your individuality and missing the path God has mapped out for you personally.

Some of the lessons God teaches us may be similar, but another person’s purpose, gifting, journey and time-frame will be different from yours. For example, a friend starts a business and makes money, but when you quit your job and follow in his footsteps you go broke. Or a co-worker wears something that looks great on her, but on you the same outfit looks like a sack tied in the middle. God is ‘jealous’ concerning you (see Deuteronomy 4:24). Why? Because He wants to protect you from anything that would rob you of your uniqueness, or threaten your relationship with Him. Bottom line: if you want to be on safe ground, make Jesus your role model and you’ll win every time.

Love Your Church (3)

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

Christians aren’t perfect! Here’s why:

(1) Because they’re human. Yet with full knowledge of our highest potential and our lowest inclinations, God loves us unconditionally. The Bible says, ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.’ And guess what? Every time you meet treasure, you bump into the earthen vessel. An earthen vessel is just a clay pot, and when it’s cracked—it’s a cracked pot! That shouldn’t discourage you; it should give you hope and cause you to say, ‘If God can use that old cracked pot, He can use me too!’

(2) Because they’re spiritually depleted. The saying goes, ‘When your outgoing exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall.’ It happens to the best-intentioned among us. In the Old Testament a prophet told a story to the king of a soldier who was commanded to deliver a prisoner to a certain destination. His orders were clear: ‘Lose the prisoner and you’ll lose your life.’ The soldier lost his prisoner. ‘While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.’ (1 Kings 20:40 NKJV) The king, in pronouncing judgment on the soldier in the story, pronounced it on himself. So pay attention to your spiritual life and don’t let it get depleted.

(3) Because they’re asleep spiritually. It was while Samson slept that Delilah shaved the locks of power off his head and delivered him to his enemies. And it was while the servants slept that an enemy sowed tares (weeds) among the wheat crop. Two things you must stay alert to are—sin and righteousness. ‘Awake to righteousness, and do not sin.’ (1 Corinthians 15:34 NKJV)

Love Your Church (2)

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‘Stay with the ship [or] you cannot be saved.’ Acts 27:31 NIV

Every church has problems—and the people who cause them. It has always been so. Consider the Corinthian church. Some members got drunk during communion, and others formed exclusive clubs to support their favourite preacher! One guy was even having an affair with his stepmother (see 1 Corinthians 5:1).

Sitting beside you on Sunday mornings are some very messed-up and dysfunctional folks. But God keeps working with us, because He sees our potential value to His Kingdom. After writing about murmurers, complainers, the lustful, and the greedy, Jude ends his short book with these words: ‘Unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.’ (Jude 1:24 KJV) Noah didn’t jump ship for the same reason you shouldn’t leave your church—there’s no better alternative. Paul and 275 others were in a storm that looked unsurvivable. Nevertheless he told them, ‘Stay on board.’ Does that mean it’s always wrong to leave a church? No, but make sure your reasons are Scriptural and not self-centred. You say, ‘But the pastor’s sermons are too long.’ Paul once preached so long that a man sitting in a third-storey window fell asleep, plummeted to the ground, and died. And what did Paul do? He laid hands on him, revived him, and then went back to the rest of his sermon! (see Acts 20:9–11). Seriously, if your church has problems, don’t leave; stay and pray. That’s how things get changed.

Love Your Church (1)

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‘Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.’ Ephesians 5:25 NKJV

Before you criticise your church, remember ‘Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.’ He hasn’t given up on His church, so don’t you give up on it! And stop talking so much about what you don’t like. If your church was perfect, you’d be out of place! Noah didn’t sail on the Queen Mary; he sailed on a glorified cattle boat. Can you imagine the noise, the confusion, and the violent tossing of a ship in a storm big enough to destroy the world? And how about the smell? All those animals all cooped up! But here’s the thing—everybody inside the ark was saved while everybody outside of it was lost. The story’s told of an aristocrat bragging about his lineage and pure-blooded ancestry. Irritated, one of his listeners remarked, ‘I suppose your forebears were on board the ark with Noah!’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘my people had their own boat!’ You may smile, but there’s only one craft that’s guaranteed to make it safely into heaven’s port, and that’s the old ship of salvation.

Do things sometimes stink in the church? Sure. Jesus issued one of His harshest rebukes to Peter, the disciple who was destined to become a leader in the church: ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man.’ (Matthew 16:23 AMP) But the great thing is that when you mess up, the same grace that restored Peter will be there for you too. So, the word for you today is: love your church!

It’s Time To Move On!

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‘Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.’ Hebrews 6:1 NLT

Is what worked in the past not working for you now? Maybe it’s a job you’ve outgrown, or a relationship you need to re-examine, or a method you need to change. Regardless of what it is, don’t become so settled that you can’t let go and move on when you need to. They say the hermit crab looks for a shell that fits him, and lives there until he outgrows it. At that point he has to scurry along the ocean floor and find a bigger one—a process that repeats itself throughout his entire life.

So, here’s the question: are you clinging to something that no longer fits you just because it’s easy and familiar? David said, ‘You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress.’ (Psalm 4:1AMPC) You must be willing to move out of your comfort zone and deal with a little ‘distress’. That’s what makes you grow. Patience and persistence are admirable qualities, but they don’t work in situations you’ve outgrown. Instead of ‘hanging in’ and trying harder, at certain points in life you have to stop and ask yourself, ‘Is this situation good for me?’ If you’re not sure, ask God for ‘an understanding heart so that you can know the difference between right and wrong.’ (1 Kings 3:9 NLT) And when He tells you what to do—do it—even though at first it won’t feel comfortable. When God says it’s time to move on, it’s because there’s another shell out there designed to fit you even better.

The resurrection—you can believe it!

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‘He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs.’ Acts 1:3 NKJV

Evidence of Christ’s resurrection has been examined more carefully than evidence of any other fact in history! It has been weighed and considered by some of the greatest scholars, among them Simon Greenleaf, who held first the Royall, and then the Dane, professorships of law at Harvard University from 1833 to 1848. He helped bring Harvard Law School to prominence, and is viewed as one of the greatest authorities on legal evidence in the history of the world. When Greenleaf turned his mind to the resurrection and examined it in light of all the laws of evidence, he concluded that it was a reality, that it was a historical event, and that anyone who honestly examined the evidence would be convinced this was the case. And it was for Dr Frank Morison, a British lawyer/engineer who set out to write a book repudiating the resurrection of Christ. He did, in fact, write his book—but it wasn’t the book he intended to write! As he examined the evidence, this skeptical lawyer found it so overwhelming that he was forced to accept it, and became a believer. The book he wrote, Who Moved the Stone?, details evidence of the resurrection, and the opening chapter is entitled: The Book That Refused to Be Written. A Union general in the Civil War, attorney Lew Wallace, also set out to write a book disproving the deity of Christ and His resurrection—and ended up defending it in his famous book Ben-Hur, described as ‘the most influential book of the nineteenth century’. Christ arose! Your redeemed loved ones will too, and you can spend eternity with them in God’s presence.

Today, Act With Compassion

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‘He was moved with compassion for them.’ Matthew 9:36 NKJV

The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines ‘compassion’ as being moved in one’s bowels (the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity). It shares a root with the word ‘splanchnology’, the study of the visceral [inner] parts of the body. Compassion, then, is a reaction from deep within—a kick in the gut, if you will. Perhaps that’s why we turn away when we see news reports of children starving in refugee camps, and hear about the 1.7 billion people who live on less than $1.65 a day and go to bed hungry every night. It’s too much for us—especially when we perceive the need as so overwhelming that we couldn’t begin to meet it.

But what if you could? What if you could make life better for one hurting person? ‘Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.’ (Acts 3:6–7 NKJV) What if Peter had said, ‘I have no silver or gold, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut and pass on by’? But he didn’t, and as a result a crippled man who’d sat begging for years rose up and walked into a new life.

You say, ‘But I don’t have that kind of power!’ No, but God does! And when you see someone’s need and reach out your hand to meet it—God will release His power! It’s your compassion that flips the switch. So, today, act with compassion.

S.O.S. Prayers

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‘God is our mighty fortress, always ready to help in times of trouble. And so, we won’t be afraid!’ Psalm 46:1–2 CEV

One day a woman was driving through the countryside when she saw a tornado approaching, so she hid behind her car and watched as it demolished a nearby house. Running over to what was now a hole in the ground, she saw a man hunkered down with his eyes closed. ‘Are you ok? Is there anybody down there with you?’ she asked.

‘No,’ he replied. ‘Just me and God having an urgent conversation!’

Nothing fuels prayer like real need; in a crisis even unbelievers will pray. There are some issues in life we simply can’t resolve on our own, hence the psalmist wrote, ‘When I am in trouble, I pray, knowing You will listen.’ (Psalm 86:7 CEV) Sometimes our prayers are simply cries for help meant for God’s ears only. When you’re out of options, your faith develops fast and emergencies become opportunities to experience God’s grace and power in a greater way. So, if you’re in an S.O.S. situation today, here’s a prayer God will answer: ‘Father, it feels like I’m in an impossible position with no way out. Let me feel Your presence and the encouragement of Your Spirit, reminding me that with You all things are possible to those who believe. Send the answer from Heaven to my earthly situation. From where I stand, things look hopeless. But You are the God who created the earth from nothing, and rolled back the Red Sea so Your children could cross over safely. You made the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. Today I thank You that You’re my God, and that You are “always ready to help in times of trouble”.’

Life Is What You Make It

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‘For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.’ Proverbs 15:15 NLT

The story’s told of a wise old man. Every day he and his granddaughter would sit outside his petrol station in rocking chairs, waiting to greet tourists as they passed through their small town. One day a tall man with the appearance of a tourist started looking around like he was checking out the area for a place to live. ‘So what kind of town is this anyway?’ he asked. The old man replied, ‘Well, what kind of town are you from?’ The man replied, ‘One where the people are critical of each other. It’s a real negative place to live.’ The old man said, ‘You know, that’s just how this town is too.’ Later, a family passing through also stopped for petrol. The father stepped out and asked the old man, ‘Is this town a good place to live?’ ‘Well, what about the town you’re from?’ he replied. The man said, ‘Where I’m from everyone’s close, and always willing to lend a helping hand. I really hate to leave it.’ The old man smiled and said, ‘You know what, that’s a lot like this town.’ After the family drove off, the old man’s granddaughter looked up and asked, ‘Grandpa, how come you told the first man this was a terrible place to live, and when the second family asked, you told them it was a wonderful place to live?’ The old man looked into her big blue eyes and said, ‘Sweetheart, no matter where you go, you take your attitude with you—and that’s what makes it terrible or wonderful.’ Yes, life is what you make it! Which is why the Bible says, ‘For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.’

How To Help People (4)

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‘Who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.’ Acts 3:3 NKJV

Peter and John were willing to let the lame man at the temple gate interrupt their plans, and maybe make them late for ‘the hour of prayer’—which raises an important point. Is it possible to be so busy with religious activities that you don’t take time for people who are hurting? Selfishness is one of the easiest sins to commit, because when you’re busy, you’re unaware of committing it. Paul describes Jesus as ‘the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20 NKJV) It seems counterintuitive, but Jesus taught that we’re more blessed when we give than when we receive. Giving fuels us; withholding drains us. Giving requires energy, and that’s not always easy, especially in stressful situations.

Motivational speaker Trudy Metzger, who had an abusive childhood, became a giver in adulthood. However, she still finds it difficult to maintain the mind-set of a giver when dealing with some of the people from her past. She admits to becoming defensive and trying to control the situation if she feels vulnerable. And when that happens, she goes from being a giver to being a taker. She writes: ‘While giving requires energy, I have to say that the situations where I become a taker leave me completely drained and “dead” inside. To be a giver brings life—like watering a plant so that it grows—but to be a taker is like sucking the water and the nutrients from the soil, leaving both the plant and the soil depleted and useless.’ Being a giver is a win-win. It helps others, plus it energises and fills you with joy.

How To Help People (3)

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‘He gave them his attention, expecting to receive.’ Acts 3:5 NKJV

You can’t help someone until they’re ready. That calls for knowing the difference between those who are looking for solutions, and those who may just be looking for sympathy. Before the lame man at the temple gate received his healing, ‘he gave Peter and John his attention, expecting to receive something from them.’

Note two important words:

(1) ‘Attention.’ Have you got the other person’s attention? Are they really hearing what you say, or are they so blinded by circumstances and emotion that they can’t see a way out, even though you’re clearly pointing them to it?

(2) ‘Expecting.’ The most effective thing you can do to help somebody is to build their faith. And that takes patience. One leader writes frankly about his problem with impatience when working with others: ‘Early in my career I wanted to do things as quickly as possible and move on to the next thing. If someone didn’t want to move at my speed, I breezed right past him or her. But that leadership style hindered my ability to connect with others, and my relationships suffered. The good news was that I moved fast. The bad news was that I often moved alone. Moving at the speed of another person can be exhausting. It obviously takes energy to keep up with someone who’s moving faster than we are. But isn’t it also tiring to move at a slower pace than we want to?… I find it very frustrating. It tries my patience. However, if I want to connect with people, I have to be willing to slow down and go at someone else’s pace.’ And to help people, you must be willing to do the same.

How To Help People (2)

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‘What I do have I give you.’ Acts 3:6 NKJV

Notice two things in this story. First: it’s important to know what you have and don’t have. ‘Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”’ You must become comfortable in your own skin and confident in your calling. Paul writes: ‘Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all… Through the grace of God we have different gifts. If our gift is preaching, let us preach to the limit of our vision. If it is serving others let us concentrate on our service; if it is teaching let us give all we have… Let the man who is called to give, give freely; let the man who wields authority think of his responsibility… Let us have no imitation Christian love. Let us have a genuine break with evil and a real devotion to good.’ (Romans 12:6–9PHPS)

Second: learn to recognise the difference between what people want and what they truly need. Sometimes they need to be strengthened; other times they need to be stretched. Sometimes they need comfort, not correction; other times they need correction, not comfort. This lame man didn’t need a handout—he needed a hand up. And that’s what Peter gave him. ‘He took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.’ (Acts 3:7 NKJV) So, in order to help people you must love them, recognise what they need, know what you have to offer, and connect with them at the point of their need.

How To Help People (1)

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‘Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer.’ Acts 3:1 NKJV

The Bible says: ‘Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer… And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple…to ask alms from those who entered…who, seeing Peter and John…asked for alms… Peter said, “Look at us.” So, he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.’ (Acts 3:1–7 NKJV)

Notice two things: (1) Miracles happen in ordinary moments. This man was probably no stranger to Peter and John; they walked past him daily. But this day was different. Peter said, ‘Look at us. We have the answer you need.’ Supernatural faith rose up in Peter’s heart, causing him to see an opportunity to glorify God, and he seized it.

(2) You must be prepared when your moment comes. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t tell what you don’t know. You can’t share what you don’t feel. You can’t give out of a vacuum. The fact is, nothing great is created suddenly; it takes time. Three and a half years of walking with Christ, listening to His messages, and seeing His miracles had prepared the apostles for this moment. So had the ten days they’d just spent in the upper room being filled with the Holy Spirit. So, the word for you today is: to help people, you must be prepared!

Show Grace: You’ll Need It Yourself!

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‘If we can be acceptable to God by obeying the Law, it was useless for Christ to die.’ Galatians 2:21 CEV

While grace doesn’t give anyone a licence to live as they please, the judgmentalism that comes from insisting that others live by our standards has caused untold damage. Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘Legalism spreads a paralysing venom… blinds our eyes, dulls our edge and arouses pride in our heart… love is overshadowed by a mental clipboard with a long checklist requiring others to measure up… soon friendship is fractured by a judgmental attitude and a critical look. And before you conclude that you’renot guilty, observe your reaction when you meet another believer who doesn’t think, act, or dress the way you do. Even when you think you’re sophisticated enough to disguise your real feelings, they come out in the “stony stare” and the “holier than thou” attitude.’

Jesus said, ‘Don’t judge others, and God won’t judge you. Don’t be hard on others, and God won’t be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you.’ (Luke 6:37 CEV) A judgmental Christian acts as though blowing someone else’s light out will cause their light to shine brighter. But it’s not so. Paul writes, ‘If we can be acceptable to God by obeying the Law, it was useless for Christ to die.’ You say, ‘But what if someone is getting off track, or sinning intentionally?’ The Bible says, ‘If another believer is overcome by sin… humbly help that person back onto the right path… be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.’ (Galatians 6:1 NLT) When you take it upon yourself to condemn others—you are denying them the same grace you may need before the day is over.

Obedience Training

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‘I delight to do Your will.’ Psalm 40:8 NKJV

Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, wrote: ‘Tonight I sit on the porch, our old German Shepherd dog lying at my feet. Thunder rumbles in the distance. As the storm nears he tears into the front yard to meet it… furiously doing battle. As it passes he returns to the porch, convinced he has driven it away. He’s a German guard dog, carefully trained in search and rescue, attack and obedience. Search and rescue in these mountains can come in handy. I can’t imagine an occasion on which I’d give the order to attack. But a well-trained dog can sense hostility or spot a weapon (even what resembles a weapon), in which case it’s a wise person who freezes in his tracks. But it’s the obedience training that gives real joy. To stop, to sit, to lie down, to go away, to search, to stay, to heel. A disobedient dog is not only a headache, he can be a liability. Obedience makes a dog a joy. Is it less so with God and His children? There are some I know who’ve been trained in attack. We will not mention their names—you may know a few—but they’re skilled at it. Then there are those trained in search and rescue. (I put the Salvation Armyin this group.) And there are those who’ve been trained in obedience. I think this more than anything else must give the Lord pleasure. Simple obedience; joyful, eager, unquestioning obedience. To be able to say with the psalmist, “I delight to do Your will, O my God” would be the height of training for the Christian. For this is what gives God the greatest pleasure.’

The Cure For Worry

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‘Offer up your prayers and requests to God.’ Philippians 4:6 CEV

The Bible says, ‘With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.’(Philippians 4:6–7 CEV)

When you pray more, you worry less. That means you have a choice: either pray about it or worry about it. In prayer you give the problem to God, therefore you experience more peace of mind. Does that mean you won’t worry about the problem at all? No. It means you’ll worry about it less. While your goal is to give it completely to God and not worry about it at all, you’ll only get there step by step. God’s not asking you to exist in a state of denial. ‘Don’t worry—be happy!’ fails to appreciate the seriousness of the concerns you have. God doesn’t expect you to suddenly stop caring. Instead He offers an alternative to the pointless and exhausting habit of worry: ‘Pray without ceasing.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV)

Does that mean a thirty-second prayer will rid you of all anxiety? No. It means start your day with prayer, and continue praying off and on throughout the day. Pray as you drive. Pray at work. Pray before your lunch break. Pray when you get that difficult phone call. Pray when you’re disappointed by something. Pray when surprises come. Pray when you triumph. Pray in the midst of painful news. Pray without ceasing—literally. Your heavenly Father, being deeply touched by your struggles, loves it when you come to Him asking for help. He’s right there, ready to step in. Just invite Him to do it.

Break Your Alabaster Jar (3)

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‘She has done a beautiful thing to Me.’ Mark 14:6 NIV

Most of us are good actors, but it’s difficult to fake a reaction. And when the woman broke the alabaster jar, the reaction of the disciples is telling. ‘Why this waste?’ They thought she was pouring her perfume down the drain by pouring it at Jesus’ feet. They called it a waste, but He called it ‘a beautiful thing’. Then He went on to say, ‘Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ (Mark 14:9 NIV)

Can you imagine what this one statement did for her self-image? It had probably been years since she’d heard a kind word or a compliment. Those words could be paraphrased, ‘You may not believe in yourself, but I believe in you.’ No one can spot potential like Jesus. That’s because He’s the One who gave it to us in the first place. And that’s why God will never give up on you. It’s not in His nature (see Philippians 1:6). His ‘goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life.’ (Psalm 23:6 KJV) All you have to do is turn around. This woman was desperate enough to crash the party, and Jesus responds to desperate people. How desperate are you? Desperate enough to make a move, make a change, make a sacrifice? Desperate enough to pray through the night? Read through the Bible? Reconcile the conflict? Plead with a friend who is a lost cause? Give your life savings to a kingdom cause? The path of least resistance won’t get you to where you need to be. But if you go out of your way for God, God will go out of His way for you.

Break Your Alabaster Jar (2)

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‘More than a year’s wages.’ Mark 14:5 NIV

It’s possible the alabaster jar of perfume represented every cent of this woman’s life savings. The value is evidenced by the fact that two gospel writers find it noteworthy enough to give us a written estimate: three hundred denarii—the equivalent of an entire year’s salary. Let’s get down to the bottom line. For most of us, the alabaster jar of perfume is money. It’s our nest egg. It’s our pay cheque. It’s our retirement fund. And the question is this: are you willing to give it all away? We’re not suggesting you should not pay your bills or plan for your future or take care of your family. But if God prompted you to give it all away, would you be willing to break your alabaster jar and pour it all at the feet of Jesus?

During his lifetime, John Wesley gave away approximately thirty thousand pounds. Adjusted for inflation, that’s more than $2,270,000 in today’s money. Wesley made a covenant with God in 1731 to limit his income to twenty-eight pounds a year. But the first year he made only thirty pounds, so he gave just two pounds. The next year his income doubled, and because he managed to continue living on twenty-eight pounds, he gave away thirty-two pounds. He never had more than one hundred pounds in his possession because he was afraid of storing up earthly treasure. He believed God’s blessing should result in raising our standard of giving, not our standard of living. Even when his income rose to thousands of pounds, he lived simply and gave away all surplus money. He died with a few coins in his pocket, but a storehouse of treasure in Heaven. Think about it!

Break Your Alabaster Jar (1)

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‘A woman who had lived a sinful life… brought an alabaster jar of perfume.’ Luke 7:37 NIV

The Bible says, ‘A woman who had lived a sinful life… brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping… poured perfume on them.’ (Luke 7:37–38 NIV) This perfume was pure nard, a perennial herb that is harvested in the Himalayas. Half a litre of it! And the jar itself, made of translucent gemstones, was probably a family heirloom. It might even have been her dowry. Plain and simple, it was her most precious possession.

How ironic, yet how appropriate that the perfume used in her profession as a prostitute would become the token of her profession of faith when she poured out every last drop at the feet of Jesus. Breaking that bottle was her way of breaking with the past. No more masking the stench of sin with the sweet scent of perfume. No more secrets. No more shame. She walked out of the dark shadow of sin into the light of the world. There comes a moment when you have to come clean with God. A moment when you need to unveil your secrets, struggles, and sins. A moment when you need to fall full weight on the grace of God. Why do we act as though our sin disqualifies us from the grace of God? That is the only thing that qualifies us! Anything else is a self-righteous attempt to earn God’s grace. You cannot trust God’s grace 99 per cent. It’s all or nothing. When we try to save ourselves, we forfeit the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone, by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8–9).

Total Commitment to Jesus

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‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’ Galatians 2:20 NAS

When men first learned to navigate the seas by using the stars, a whole new world opened up to them. A common saying in those days was, ‘He who is a slave to the compass enjoys the freedom of the open sea.’ Make a total commitment to let Christ be your compass in life. Consult Him on every step you take. Let Him set your course and He will direct you to places of freedom and fulfillment you never knew existed. Be willing to say, like Paul, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

One night Toscanini, the famous Italian conductor, led the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a very difficult piece to conduct. So majestic was the music that the audience stood for ten minutes of applause. Toscanini took his bows again and again. He turned to the orchestra; they bowed. The audience continued to clap and cheer. Finally Toscanini turned his back on the audience and speaking only to the orchestra said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am nothing, you are nothing, Beethoven is everything!’

CS Lewis wrote, ‘To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin; though, we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God.’ So, kneel at the feet of Jesus today and say, ‘I am nothing; You are everything. Here are my gifts, my resources and my dreams. I lay them at Your feet. I give them all to You, holding nothing back.’

Make Prayer A Priority

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‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ Acts 6:4 NKJV

In Disciplines of a Godly Man, pastor and author R. Kent Hughes says: ‘Jay Sidlow Baxter once shared a page from his own personal diary with a group of pastors who had inquired about the discipline of prayer. He began telling how… he entered the ministry determined he would be a real man of prayer. However, it wasn’t long before his increasing responsibilities, administrative duties, and the subtle subterfuges of pastoral life began to crowd prayer out. Moreover, he began to get used to it, making excuses for himself. Then one morning it all came to a head as he stood over his work-strewn desk and looked at his watch. The voice of the Spirit was calling him to pray. At the same time another velvety voice was telling him to be practical and get his letters answered, and that he ought to face the fact that he wasn’t one of the “spiritual sort”—only a few people could be like that. “That last remark,” says Baxter, “hurt like a dagger blade. I couldn’t bear to think it was true.” He was horrified by his ability to rationalize away the very ground of his ministerial vitality and power.’ Understand this: minutes invested in prayer will give you a greater return than hours spent in ceaseless activity. The New Testament apostles understood that. As the church grew bigger and they became busier, they made a life-changing decision: ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ As a result, the church grew and multiplied. So, make prayer a priority!

Give God Your Best

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‘I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.’ 2 Samuel 24:24 NLT

Instead of trusting God for victory over his enemies, David decided of his own volition to count the number of troops in his army to see how strong he was. God considered it ‘a slap in the face’, and a plague hit Israel that wiped out seventy thousand people. In order to stop the plague, David was told: ‘Build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’ (2 Samuel 24:18 NLT) When Araunah realized what was happening, he offered his threshing floor and oxen to David free of charge. But David said: ‘“No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So, David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer… and the plague on Israel was stopped.’(2 Samuel 24:24–25 NLT) The old Anglo-Saxon word for worship is worth-ship, which is the act of ascribing worth or value to a person or object. What’s the point? It’s this: when it comes to serving God, if it doesn’t cost—it doesn’t count! God knows we can’t all give the same amount. But what He’s asking for isn’t equal giving, but equal sacrifice! The Bible says, ‘Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything.’(Proverbs 3:9 NLT) So, whether you’re worshipping, serving, or giving, make sure you’re giving God your best.

Take Better Care Of Your Body

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‘Honour God with your body.’ 1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT

To get the most out of the time God has given you on earth, you may need to get into better shape physically. The Bible says, ‘Honour God with your body.’

How do you do that?

(1) Change your diet. Many of us eat for the wrong reasons—like stress, boredom, fatigue, anger, depression, and low self-esteem. Try to get to the root of your problem. Insufficient fruit, vegetables, and fiber, and too much fast food can wreak havoc with your health. Practice self-control. ‘Those who belong to Christ… have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.’ (Galatians 5:24 NCV)

(2) Start exercising. The secret is to start slowly. Take the stairs instead of the lift, park your car and walk, play ball with your kids instead of watching TV. God designed your body to move, and that doesn’t mean strolling from your car to your desk every morning. Exercising three times a week for thirty minutes will reduce your blood pressure and stress, and boost your sense of well-being. Come on, get with it!

(3) Go to bed earlier. Pastor Tony Jenkins consulted his doctor about his wife’s snoring. ‘Does it really bother you that much?’ the doctor asked. ‘It’s not just me,’ Jenkins replied. ‘It’s bothering the whole congregation!’ Seriously, you require eight hours of shut-eye. You can probably get by on less, but do you want to just ‘get by’? The psalmist said, ‘It is no use for you to get up early and stay up late… The Lord gives sleep to those He loves.’(Psalm 127:2 NCV) So, turn off the TV and the computer and turn in at a reasonable hour. The word for you today is: take better care of your body!

Doodlebugs and Gossips

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‘The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles.’ Proverbs 18:8 NKJV

The doodlebug lives at the bottom of a little cone-shaped hole that he burrows in the sand. He gets down as low as possible so he’s always looking up at everything else. When the ant comes around and gets on the side of this carefully prepared cone, the doodlebug feels a few grains of sand slide down, which signals to him that ‘food’ is up there. At that point he begins to throw dirt on his victim. What he’s trying to do is drag the ant down to his level. And that’s what we do when we gossip. We throw dirt on others, hoping to bring them down to our level. It’s why Solomon warned: ‘The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.’

The ear craves gossip like a hungry stomach craves food. Solomon goes on to give this warning: ‘He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.’(Proverbs 20:19 NKJV) So, if you have gossipy lips or greedy ears, God says, ‘Don’t do it!’ Here’s something you may not have considered: while you can never be known and judged by what others say about you, you can be known and judged by what you say about them. In most cases it’s illegal to steal or receive stolen goods. That’s why the apostle Paul admonished, ‘Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.’ (1 Timothy 5:19 NKJV) And one more thought: a gossip must always have an accomplice to commit the crime. So, the word for you today is: don’t receive or repeat gossip.

Secrets of Self-Control (7)

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‘Let the Spirit direct your lives.’ Galatians 5:16 GNT

Depend on Christ’s power to help you. ‘Let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.’ The sequence in this Scripture is very important. ‘Let the Spirit direct your life’—that’s the first part—‘and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.’ Notice, it doesn’t say you won’t have those desires. Spirit-filled people still experience the desires of the flesh, it’s just that they won’t satisfy them. We usually get the sequence backward. We say, ‘I’m not good enough to have God’s Spirit in my life. Once I get my act together, then I’m going to let the Holy Spirit control my life.’

God doesn’t say, ‘Get your act together and then I will help you.’ He says, ‘Let my Holy Spirit control you while you are still struggling with the problem. I will help you change.’ The sequence makes all the difference. You wouldn’t say, ‘I’m going to get well first, then I’m going to go see the doctor.’ That’s absurd! You need Christ in your life now! He has the power to help you change. You say, ‘But I enjoy doing what I do.’ That’s because there are ‘pleasures of sin for a season.’ (Hebrews 11:25 KJV) None of us would sin if it immediately made us miserable. Don’t look for God to nullify the appeal of sin; ask Him for the power to overcome its appeal. ‘For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey Him, and then helping you do what He wants.’ (Philippians 2:13 TLB) You’ll receive the desire and the power to do what’s right.

Secrets of Self-Control (6)

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‘Don’t give the devil a chance.’ Ephesians 4:27 GNT

Avoid the things that tempt you. Stay away from situations that weaken your self-control. If you do not want to be stung, stay away from bees. Plan in advance to avoid situations that you know are going to cause temptation in your life. Don’t keep chocolate in the cupboard if you are trying to diet. Don’t acquire credit cards if you are an impulse spender. Get rid of your access to pornography if you are struggling with it. If you are a teenager, the time to begin thinking about self-control is not when you’re in the back seat of a car with someone who turns you on.

Question: what do you need to avoid? Or get rid of? Magazines? Books? DVDs? A relationship? The Bible says, ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV) Avoid people and situations that tempt you. You may need to change your job because a relationship there is wrong and harmful to you. That’s a drastic measure, but you may need to do something that drastic in order to avoid whatever is tempting you at this particular time. If you have lived through years of repeated failure, then it’s time to get honest. And humble. It’s time to pray: ‘Lord, I’m not strong enough to resist this temptation by myself. Help me!’ And He will! ‘I patiently waited, Lord, for You to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm… Many will see this, and they will honor and trust You, the Lord God.’ (Psalm 40:1–3 CEV)

Secrets of self-control (5)

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‘Share each other’s burdens.’ Galatians 6:2 NLT

Make yourself accountable to someone. Alcoholics Anonymous has a ‘buddy system’ in which you are encouraged to call someone whenever you feel the pressure building to return to an old, destructive pattern. And it’s Scriptural: ‘Share each other’s troubles.’ (Galatians 6:2 TLB) You may not like this step, but if you are fighting a losing battle you need it. Find someone who will check up on you, pray with you, and encourage you in areas where you want more self-control. ‘Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone.’ (Ecclesiastes 4:12 GNT) Every church needs ‘buddy’ relationships in which people are accountable to each other; relationships in which people encourage one another in the Lord. Having someone hold you accountable is tough, but it works. What should you look for in a ‘buddy’?

First, they should be the same gender as you. You don’t need to place another temptation in your path by sharing personal problems with someone of the opposite sex.

Second, you should look for someone you can depend on to follow through on this commitment—someone who is faithful.

Third, look for someone who will keep your problem confidential. Don’t choose someone who is known to talk too much.

Fourth, tell your buddy that he or she has permission to check up on you from time to time and ask, ‘How are you doing with your problem?’ Knowing that someone will be asking about your problem is an additional incentive not to give in to temptation. That may be the extra push you need to get you moving on the road to victory and self-control.

Secrets of Self-Control (4)

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‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Philippians 4:13 NKJV

Start believing you can change. Your beliefs control your behavior. The way you think determines the way you feel. And when your feelings become strong enough, they determine the way you act. The person who says, ‘I can’t do it,’ and the person who says, ‘I can do it,’ are both right. Much of the time you set yourself up to be defeated by what you’re saying. Your words reinforce either your right or wrong belief system. Three times in the first epistle of Peter, God reminds us to be clear-minded and self-controlled. Why? Because a clear mind is essential to self-control. God gave us the power to change our habits when He gave us the power to choose our thoughts.

Does Romans 12:2 tell us to be transformed by working hard or by sheer willpower? No. What are we transformed by? The renewing of the mind. When your self-control is being tested, you need to fill your mind with the promises of God. Here’s one: ‘When you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’ (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV) You must believe God when He says there’s ‘a way out’ for you. Paul writes, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ That means you can change, and you can be different. Stop setting yourself up for failure by constantly criticising yourself: ‘I’m no good. I simply have no control over my life.’ Nagging doesn’t work—on yourself or on anyone else! Instead say, ‘All things are possible to him who believes.’ (Mark 9:23 NAS) ‘And I believe.’

Secrets of Self-Control (3)

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‘The grace of God…offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness.’ Titus 2:11–12 NIV

Talk back to your feelings. We put far too much emphasis on our feelings. We think everything has to feel good or it’s not worthwhile. We say things like, ‘I don’t feel like studying… I don’t feel like working… I don’t feel like reading my Bible.’ Or, ‘I feel like having another drink… I feel like sleeping until noon.’ Don’t give your feelings so much authority. Feelings are highly unreliable; if you allow them, they will control and manipulate you.

God doesn’t want you to be controlled by your feelings. He wants you to master your moods. With Christ as the Master of your life, you can master your feelings. Talk back to them. God says He wants you to learn how to challenge your emotions. ‘The grace of God…teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.’ (Titus 2:11–12 NIV) God’s grace gives you the power to do what’s right. It gives you the ability to say no to that feeling, to that desire, to that impulse. Are you battling a weight problem? Before you ever walk into the kitchen and open the refrigerator door, you have already begun to talk to yourself about eating. If you are serious, you will have to challenge some of those subconscious attitudes about food. When you hear your mind saying, ‘I just have to have a snack or I’ll die,’ you have to say, ‘No, I’m not going to die. In fact, I will be healthier if I don’t have a snack.’ Bottom line: God’s supernatural power can help you to master your moods, thoughts, and desires.

Secrets of Self-Control (2)

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‘With the Lord’s help, they will stand.’ Romans 14:4 NLT

Put your past behind you. ‘One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal.’ (Philippians 3:13–14 NIV) This Scripture exposes a misconception that will keep you from gaining self-control: once a failure, always a failure! You may say, ‘Oh, I tried to quit my bad habit. In fact, I have tried over and over. I guess I’ll never be able to get control of this.’ That is a misconception. Paul says, ‘We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.’ (2 Corinthians 4:9 TLB)

Have you watched a baby learning to walk? They fall down a lot, but they don’t stay down. They keep on trying, and ultimately they succeed. How far do you think they’d get if they just gave up and said, ‘Some people were meant to be walkers, and some were not’? Failure in the past does not mean you’ll never be able to change. But focusing on past failures, however, does guarantee their repetition. It is like driving a car while looking in the rear-view mirror. You’re going to collide with what’s ahead of you. You have to put your past behind you. Few people had more failures than Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb. Most of us would have given up, but not him. He once said, ‘Don’t call it a failure, call it an education! Now I know what doesn’t work!’

When you realize sin doesn’t work, it’s a defining moment and your springboard to victory. A winner is simply someone who gets back up one more time than they fall down. So, the word for you today is: ‘With the Lord’s help, you will stand.’

Secrets of Self-Control (1)

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‘A man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires.’ James 1:14 PHPS

For the next few days let’s look at how to develop self-control. Here’s the first step: accept responsibility for your lack of self-control. Admit your problem. ‘A man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive.’ The main reason you do things—is because you like to! When you know something’s bad for you but you still do it, it’s because you want to. Sometimes we try to ignore the problem of self-control or deny it: ‘What problem? I don’t have a problem,’ or ‘It’s just the way I am,’ or ‘Everybody else is doing it.’ Sometimes we blame others: ‘If I just had different parents,’ or ‘The devil made me do it.’ As long as you waste your energy making excuses, you can’t make progress.

James points out that we like to take the path of least resistance, and giving in to temptation is usually the easiest course. The starting point for developing self-control is to face what God has already said in His Word: ‘Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’ (John 8:34 NIV) Do you want more self-control? Then admit you have a problem, and be specific about it: ‘I have this problem. This is where I need help.’ You may have a problem with food, drink, drugs, words, your temper, money, exercise, sex, TV, clothes, time—all these areas need self-control. So today get down on your knees and talk to God about the problem, believing that with His help you’ll be able to solve it.

Rules of Engagement

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‘A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.’ Proverbs 15:1 NLT

Even in the best of marriages arguments will arise from time to time. With two people of differing temperaments, tastes, and ways of thinking, how could it be otherwise? So here are a few rules of engagement:

(1) Think before you speak. Ask yourself if fear, stress, or worry may have provoked your mate’s response. Is it bothering you right now because you are feeling insecure and unappreciated? Could you be misreading or exaggerating the problem? Take time to try and identify what’s really happening.

(2) Ask for what you need. It’s ok to admit that some days you are needier than others. When a woman feels panicked every time her husband comes home late because her father did the same and was having an affair, it’s ok to say, ‘I know it’s irrational, but I’m having a panicky day.’ That kind of honesty strengthens a relationship.

(3) Never threaten. Threats just make your mate defensive and insecure. As a result, they can’t hear what you’re saying and nothing gets resolved.

(4) Ditch the baggage from previous relationships. The Bible says, ‘Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.’ (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT) It’s wrong to make your mate keep ‘proving’ themselves over and over again. Don’t assume that old relationship problems are destined to keep repeating themselves. They won’t if you’re communicating and growing.

(5) Say something nice to your mate every day. Any time you think something good about your spouse, stop and tell them. And when they reciprocate, respond graciously to what they’re saying. Remember, sharp words can create wounds, but ‘a gentle answer deflects anger’.

Instead of Worrying, Pray

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‘Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.’ Philippians 4:6 CEV

Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘The pressures of our times have many of us caught in a web of the most acceptable, yet energy-draining sin in the Christian family: worry. Chances are good you woke up this morning, stepped out of bed, and before doing anything, strapped on your well-worn backpack of anxiety. You started the day not with a prayer on your mind, but loaded down by worry. What a dreadful habit! Jesus challenged His followers with the question, “Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27 NAS) Worry solves nothing. It creates unrest and uneasiness, and if left unchecked it can churn our waves of anxiety into a perfect storm of emotions. Add a little imagination and creativity, and our worst fears come to life in Technicolor brilliance. The stress from worry drains our energy and preoccupies our minds, stripping us of our peace… We fret over big things and little things. Some of us have a laundry list of concerns that feed our addiction to worry. It’s a very unattractive addiction, yet we somehow manage to make a joke out of it. I’ve heard people say with a smile, “If I don’t have something to worry about, I get worried about not having something to worry about.” Anxiety has become a favorite pastime we love to hate. And worse, we’re passing it on to our children. As they see the worry on our faces and hear it from our lips, we’re mentoring them in the art of anxiety.’

So, what’s the answer? ‘Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.’

Strengthen Your Faith (3)

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‘Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.’ Psalm 56:3 NKJV

Faith is like a muscle; trouble may strain it, but in the end it grows stronger. David understood this truth. He was continually hounded by his enemies. Even as he was being anointed to sit on the throne of Israel, Saul was still occupying it. But instead of losing faith in God’s promise, David declared: ‘The Lord has chosen everyone who is faithful to be His very own, and He answers my prayers.’ (Psalm 4:3 CEV) When the Philistines captured him, he prayed, ‘There are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.’ (Psalm 56:2–3 NKJV) When he ended up in a cave fleeing from Saul’s jealous rage, he said, ‘I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until this storm is past.’ (Psalm 57:1 TLB)

During the third century when Felix of Nola was running from his enemies, he is said to have taken refuge in a cave. A spider began to weave a web across the small opening, sealing it off and making it look like nobody had been inside for months. Consequently, his pursuers passed by. Stepping out into the sunshine, Felix declared, ‘Where God is, a spider’s web is a wall. And where God is not, a wall is a spider’s web.’ Jesus said you’d have problems in life; people will disappoint you, and you’ll even disappoint yourself. Sometimes you’ll end up in a cave because of something you did, or because of circumstances over which you have no control. But with God on your side, you can say, ‘Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.’

Strengthen Your Faith (2)

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‘Just take your positions and watch the Lord rescue you from your enemy.’ 2 Chronicles 20:17 CEV

When you doubt God, you disappoint Him—because He deserves better. So, you must seek to strengthen your faith, because faith honors God and God honors faith. And He will send opportunities disguised as problems designed to strengthen your faith. When Job lost his health, his wealth, and his children, the Bible says he ‘fell to the ground and worshipped.’ (Job 1:20 NKJV) Job didn’t worship God because of his circumstances, but in spite of them. Notice the two things he did:

(1) He looked up. He recognized God’s sovereign right to decide all things. He trusted God’s loving character and believed He would ultimately do what was best for him. And you must do that too!

(2) He listened for a word. He realized this testing time was also a teaching time, so he declared, ‘He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.’ (Job 23:10 NKJV) Like gold being processed by the refiner, Job trusted God to bring out the best in him. Was it easy to do? No.

We want to cling to the familiar and return to the safety of yesterday, even though we know it’s not what God wants for us. The fears, surprises, and adversity that lie around the bend make us want to cut and run. But if you do, you’ll short-circuit God’s plan for your life. What should you do instead? Take your stand in faith: ‘Just take your positions and watch the Lord rescue you from your enemy.’ Whatever you are going through right now, remember that God is ‘with you’.

Strengthen Your Faith (1)

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‘Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.’ Hebrews 11:2 NLT

The Bible says: ‘Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.’ (Hebrews 11:1–2 NLT) The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews chapter eleven were far from perfect. Noah believed God, built the ark, and saved his family. But when he came out of the ark he got drunk. Abraham was known as a ‘friend of God’, yet he lied to save his own neck and ended up compromising his wife’s safety. When God told Sarah she’d give birth to a child at ninety years old, she laughed—and you’d probably have done the same. And how about Joseph? He was a slave with a prison record who ended up second-in-command when it came to ruling Egypt.

Then there’s Rahab the harlot; we wouldn’t let her sing in the church choir, yet God listed her as a woman of great faith. And how about Jacob, who duped his brother and deceived his father-in-law in business in order to enrich himself? Would you do business with him? Then there was King David, whose womanizing led to murder and national scandal. Even Gideon and Samuel, two spiritual giants, raised children who went astray spiritually. Every one of these people was as human as you are. They faltered, fumbled the ball, and went through times of failure. Their only claim to fame is they believed God and He honored their faith—and He will do the same for you each time you put your trust in Him.

Remember Those Who Have Helped You

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‘You sent help more than once.’ Philippians 4:16 NLT

Charles Swindoll tells the story of the giving tree: ‘When the boy was young he swung from the tree’s branches, ate her apples, and slept in her shade… But as he grew up he spent less and less time with the tree. “Come on, let’s play,” said the tree. But the young man was only interested in money. “Then take all my apples and sell them,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy. He didn’t return for a long time, but the tree smiled when he passed by one day. “Come on, let’s play!” But the man, older and tired of the world, wanted to get away from it all. “Cut me down. Take my trunk, make a boat, then you can sail away,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy. Many seasons passed—and the tree waited. Finally the man returned, too old to play, or pursue riches, or sail the seas. “I have a pretty good stump left. Sit down here and rest,” said the tree. The man did, and the tree was happy.’ Swindoll continues: ‘I stared into the fire, reviewing my life as I grew older with the tree and the boy. I identified with both—and it hurt. How many giving trees have there been? How many people have given themselves so I might grow, accomplish my goals, and find wholeness and satisfaction? Thank you, Lord, for each one. That night I crawled into bed. I had wept, now I was smiling. “Good night, Lord.” I was a humble man. Thankful I’d taken time to reflect.’

Where Are You Living Today?

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‘To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…be glory…forever and ever.’ Ephesians 3:20–21 NKJV

Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land illustrates three different places you can choose to live:

(1) The place of ‘not enough’. As slaves in Egypt they were forced to depend on Pharaoh for everything. And when you have to keep relying on anyone but God, you’re not truly free. Until you understand that God is your provider, you’ll live with a ‘not enough’ mentality. Elijah was living by a stream in the middle of a famine, and ravens brought him meat each day. Then one day the ravens didn’t show up, and the brook dried up. Why? God dried up a temporary source to drive Elijah back to his true source. Understand this: regardless of what or whom He uses—God is your source. He is called ‘Jehovah Jireh’, which means the Lord will provide.

(2) The place of ‘just enough’. In the wilderness Israel had just enough manna for each day. It’s no fun struggling to just get by. But we appreciate what we have to struggle for, and we learn to trust God more. Plus, living through such seasons builds into us a tenacity to keep moving towards better things.

(3) The place of ‘more than enough’. God’s plan for Israel was ‘a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing.’(Deuteronomy 8:9 NKJV) And His goal for you is abundance in every area of life (see 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV). Is that so you can hoard it? No, it’s so you can bless others and fulfill your assignment in life.

So, stand on this Scripture: ‘To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… be glory… forever.’

Handling Panic Attacks

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‘Do not be afraid of sudden fear.’ Proverbs 3:25 NAS

In the Bible panic attacks are referred to as ‘sudden fear’. You can’t breathe, your palms sweat, your chest gets tight, and you feel weak. If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you’ll recognize these symptoms. Doctors estimate that in our stress-filled world, about a third of us experience at least one panic attack a year. If you are one of them, here are some things you can do to help yourself:

(1) Breathe deeply. Panic makes you breathe in short, shallow bursts, whereas breathing deeply helps to calm and relax you. So, when you start to feel overwhelmed, stop and breathe the name of Jesus. Try it; it works!

(2) Talk to yourself. Say, ‘By God’s grace I can handle this’ (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). If you respond with more panic, you’ll just end up in double trouble. Allowing yourself to feel panic without reacting to it may sound difficult at first, but it helps you break the cycle and take control of your thinking.

(3) Do something calming. This may be the last thing you feel like doing, because panic attacks make you instinctively think thoughts that feed your fear. So, take a minute and whisper a prayer, quote a Scripture, listen to inspirational music, or talk to a friend. And if your panic attacks continue, there’s no shame in getting professional help. After all, it’s God who gives doctors the skills and abilities to intervene. Here’s a Scripture you should write down and keep handy: ‘You can go to bed without fear, you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster… for the Lord is your security.’ (Proverbs 3:24–26 NLT)

Seven Seconds (3)

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‘I am the good shepherd.’ John 10:11 KJV

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Your message may be wonderful and much needed by the hearer, but the look on your face can turn people off before you open your mouth. Ever notice how many people have bad memories of growing up in church? They recall stern, severe, strange-looking people who passed condemnation on the world at large. What a disservice to God!

A little girl once saw a mule looking over a fence. Patting him on the head, she said, ‘It’s ok; my aunt is religious too!’ Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd.’ The word ‘good’ comes from the Greek word kalos, which means ‘winsome’ [attractive, pleasant, engaging]. Jesus’ attitude won people over every time! What we say accounts for 7 percent of what people believe. How we say it accounts for 38 percent. What they see accounts for 55 percent. Amazingly, more than 90 percent of the nonverbal cues we give off have nothing to do with what we actually say! So, if you think communication is just about words, you’re missing the boat, and the chances are you’ll have a hard time connecting with others.

A member of his staff once asked Abraham Lincoln to give a friend of his a job. After interviewing the man, Lincoln turned him down. Asked why, he replied, ‘Because I didn’t like the look on his face.’ The White House staffer protested, ‘That’s not fair! Nobody’s responsible for the look on their face.’ Lincoln replied, ‘That’s where you’re wrong. Everyone over forty is responsible for the look on their face.’ So: what does your facial expression say to others?

Seven Seconds (1)

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‘Let your light shine before men.’ Matthew 5:16 NAS

Jesus said, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.’ (Matthew 5:16 NKJV) When you’re in darkness, you see the light before you see the carrier of the light, right? The old saying, ‘First impressions are lasting impressions,’ is true. John Maxwell quotes a communications expert: ‘You’ve got just seven seconds to make the right first impression. As soon as you make your entrance, you broadcast verbal and nonverbal signals that determine how others see you. In business those crucial first seven seconds can decide whether you win that new account, or succeed in a tense negotiation. Are you confident? Comfortable? Sincere? Glad to be there? In that first seven seconds, you shower your audience with subtle “clues”. And whether people realize it or not, they respond immediately to your facial expressions, gestures, stance, and energy. They react to your voice—the tone and pitch. Audiences, whether one or one hundred, instinctively size up your motives and attitudes.’

Whether you’re speaking, selling, interviewing, or dating, your appearance, attitude, and approach make all the difference in the world. People can tell a lot in seven seconds. They may decide they don’t want to hear anything you have to say, or they may be struck by how much they’re drawn to you. Henry Ward Beecher said: ‘There are persons so radiant, so genial, so kind, so pleasure-bearing, that you instinctively feel in their presence that they do you good, whose coming into a room is like bringing a shining lamp there.’

Dealing With Spiritual Depression

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‘Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.’ Jeremiah 15:16 NAS

People in Bible times dealt with depression too. Consider Elijah. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said, ‘Take my life.’ (1 Kings 19:4 NIV). Job said, ‘I loathe my very life.’ (Job 10:1 NIV) The psalmist wrote, ‘My soul is downcast.’ (Psalm 42:6 NIV) Now, when you’re clinically depressed you should seek professional help. But the kind of depression we’re talking about here is when your motivation is drained, your desire to pursue God is gone, your conversations have turned sour, you’re blind to your blessings, your enthusiasm is forced, and you’re in a daze regarding the future.

Here are some possible causes:

(1) Sin. Sin is like a stone in your shoe; you’ll have no peace until you get it out. No holiday, job change, relationship change, or doctor will heal it. But the blood of Jesus will cleanse it (1 John 1:7).

(2) Greed. King Ahab’s obsession with owning Naboth’s vineyard made him miserable and affected his entire family (1 Kings 21:4).

(3) Comparisons. Constantly comparing yourself to others will depress you (2 Corinthians 10:12).

(4) Speaking negatively. ‘The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.’ (Proverbs 18:21 NLT)

(5) Fatigue. Jesus called His disciples aside to rest. Why? Because He recognized that when fatigue walks in, faith walks out (see Mark 6:31).

(6) Unforgiveness. When you refuse to forgive someone, you carry them like an albatross around your neck. So, what’s the remedy for depression? Often it starts with prayer and Bible reading. Jeremiah, who battled depression, wrote, ‘When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.’ (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV)

The Importance of Self-Discipline

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‘Learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.’ Philippians 1:10 AMPC

To achieve greater self-discipline, you should:

(1) Start your day by doing the hard things first. And when you get side-tracked, make yourself go back and complete them. For example, make your bed, pick up your clothes, and wash the dishes; don’t make extra work for others. And don’t start several projects at once; the feeling of ‘getting something done’ will help you grow in self-respect and self-discipline.

(2) Make a commitment to be punctual. Tardiness is a hard habit to break. To conquer it you must be willing to call it what it often is—inconsiderate, selfish behavior.

(3) Plan ahead. Everything takes longer than you think, so don’t wait until the last minute and then rush around like a chicken with its head cut off. ‘Living under the gun’ can give you ulcers, whereas allowing extra time is good for your health and peace of mind.

(4) Accept correction from those who care about you, without sulking or retaliating. Until you’re willing to take correction, you’ll never be qualified to give it. The Bible says, ‘Wisdom is found in those who take advice’(Proverbs 13:10 NIV), so if you’re wise you’ll welcome feedback and seek counsel.

Ask God to help you control your unruly thoughts, feelings, desires, and behaviors. Identify the unmanageable areas in your life, stop making excuses, face the truth even if it hurts, refuse to feel sorry for yourself, and set a few attainable goals. In other words: ‘Learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.’

What Are Your Strengths?

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‘God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.’ Romans 12:6 TLB

Paul writes: ‘Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function… We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.’ (Romans 12:4–6 NLT) Dr. John Maxwell recommends that you work where you’re strongest 80 percent of the time, where you’re learning 15 percent of the time, and where you’re weakest 5 percent of the time.

So, what are your strengths? To find the answer to that question, you must:

(1) Be secure. If you allow your insecurities to get the better of you, you’ll become inflexible and resistant to change. And if you don’t change you won’t grow.

(2) Get to know yourself. Spend time exploring your gifts, ask for feedback and receive it, and be honest about your blind spots.

(3) Trust your leader. If you can’t trust the person you’re following, you should look for someone you can trust, or get on another team.

(4) See the big picture. Your place on any team only makes sense in the context of the big picture. If your sole reason for finding your niche is personal gain, your wrong motives will rob you of the very joy, fulfillment, and success you desire.

(5) Rely on your experience. The only way to know you’ve discovered your niche is to try things, take risks, learn from your failures and successes, and discover what God has gifted you to do.

Sound Financial Advice (3)

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‘The godly love to give!’ Proverbs 21:26 NLT

The level of financial blessing God will entrust to you depends on three questions:

(1) Are you mature enough to handle it?

(2) Are you hoping to reap but unwilling to sow?

(3) Are you a hoarder or a giver?

God knows we can’t all give the same amount. Jesus honored a widow for giving her last two coins, saying: ‘they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’ (Mark 12:44 NLT) On the other hand, businessman Barnabas ‘sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.’ (Acts 4:37 NIV) The more God blesses you with, the more He holds you accountable for. Jesus said, ‘Much is required from those to whom much is given.’ (Luke 12:48 TLB)

At offering time, a pastor told his congregation to reach out and grab the wallet or purse of the person sitting in front of them. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘open it up and give as much as you’ve always wanted to give but felt you couldn’t afford!’ The truth is, we’re not all called to give equally but we’re all called to sacrifice equally. That levels the playing field. Isn’t it interesting how you can go to dinner at the home of somebody who doesn’t have a lot, and leave feeling like royalty because of their hospitality? That’s because the essence of generosity is self-sacrifice. God entrusts financial blessing to people who aren’t controlled by the love of money. How can you tell when you’re controlled by the love of money? Because instead of giving when God tells you to, you withhold. Understand this: when God impresses on you to sow a seed, there’s a harvest coming your way.

Sound Financial Advice (2)

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‘Gather in all the food produced in the good years… Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.’ Genesis 41:35–36 NLT

Joseph gave Pharaoh some sound financial advice that we would all do well to live by: ‘Gather into the royal storehouses all the excess crops of the next seven years, so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. Otherwise, disaster will surely strike.’ (Genesis 41:35–36TLB) And how did Pharaoh respond? ‘Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh.’ (Genesis 41:37 TLB)

You’re making wise choices for your future if you practice these three Scriptural principles:

(1) Tithe. If you’re giving your ‘leftovers’ to God, what are you telling Him about your priorities? That He’s last and least? ‘“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in My Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of Heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put Me to the test!”’ (Malachi 3:10 NLT)

(2) Save. Discipline yourself to save a percentage of your income. Don’t worry if it’s a modest amount, just make it a priority! If you don’t, you’ll spend it on other things and never achieve your long-term goals for college, retirement, or helping the work of the Lord.

(3) Get out of debt. After giving to God and saving for the future, strive to pay off all your financial obligations. Stop paying the bare minimum on your credit cards. By not repaying them in full every month, you end up paying much more than you should. Put as much as you can towards eliminating outstanding debt, even if you have do without a few things for a while. In the long run, you’ll be way ahead.

Sound Financial Advice (1)

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‘The wise have wealth… but fools spend whatever they get.’ Proverbs 21:20 NLT

It’s foolish to buy things you don’t need and can’t afford, especially when your bills are overdue and you’ve nothing set aside for the future. Your financial security is determined by what you owe, not by what you earn! Having to work for years to repay debt severely limits your options.

So, determine your lifestyle by your actual income, not by what you wish it was or hope it will be. And when you get a raise, don’t automatically spend more. The Bible says, ‘There is precious treasure… in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.’ (Proverbs 21:20 NKJV) One of the wisest things you can do today is to start saving for the future, and sowing a portion of your income into God’s Kingdom (see 2 Corinthians 9:6).

Author John Kennedy writes: ‘Peddling biblically-based financial advice has become a cottage industry. It’s not that the counsel is new, or that people haven’t heard it enough. The fact remains… Christians have racked up debt with no plan for financial accountability… they’re tapped out keeping up with interest payments.’ Is your philosophy in life, ‘Why wait and save, when a credit card will let me have what I want right now?’

If you’re buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have, stop it! Before you purchase anything else, ask yourself if you really need it. And even if you think you do, ask yourself if you can live without it for a while; otherwise you’ll become a slave to credit card debt. Here’s some sound financial advice: pray for God’s guidance before you make any non-essential purchase.

Keep Pressing On

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‘Straining towards what is ahead, I press on.’ Philippians 3:13–14 NIV

Developing your faith is like taking swimming lessons. Observe:

(1) Fear is like water; if you let it, it will take you under.

(2) You can only tread water for so long before you drown.

(3) When you reach a certain point, there’s no turning back.

(4) Faith is like the air in your lungs; it will sustain you and keep you afloat if you just relax.

Have you ever watched a seasoned swimmer? Stroke after stroke, he takes what’s in front of him and pushes it behind him, letting it propel him towards his goal. He literally takes what stands between him and his goal, and uses it to get there. Sometimes we despair and say, ‘I’m just keeping my head above water,’ and that’s ok as long as you keep ‘stroking’ and pressing on. It’s when you feel backed into a corner with nowhere to turn, that you’ve got to take hold of the faith God has placed within you and keep moving forward. Jesus said, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.’ (Matthew 11:12 ESV) The word ‘violence’suggests ferocity, passion, and intensity. You must be relentless and fight your way through, confident that God is on your side—because He is (see Psalm 56:9). The waters you’re in don’t determine your destiny; they either carry you over or take you under. It takes faith to keep going. When you quit, God can do nothing more for you! So today whether you’re doing breaststroke, backstroke, or some other kind of stroke that nobody’s ever heard of—keep pressing on.

God Uses Ordinary People (2)

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‘Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.’ 1 Corinthians 1:26 NLT

Max Lucado writes: ‘Edith Hayes was a spry eighty-year-old with thinning white hair, a wiry five-foot frame, and an unquenchable compassion for South Florida’s cancer patients. I was fresh out of seminary in 1979 and sitting in an office of unpacked boxes when she walked in and introduced herself. “My name is Edith, and I help cancer patients.” She extended her hand. I offered a chair. She politely declined. “Too busy. You’ll see my team here at the church building every Tuesday morning. You’re welcome to come, but if you do we’ll put you to work.” Her team, I came to learn, included a hundred or so silver-haired women who occupied themselves with the unglamorous concern of sore-seepage. They made cancer wounds their mission, stitching together truckloads of disposable pads each Tuesday, and then delivering them to patients throughout the week. Edith rented an alley apartment, lived on her late husband’s pension, wore glasses that magnified her pupils, and ducked applause like artillery fire.’

Edith’s story does away with the excuse, ‘I’m too old to do something for God.’ Noah was over six hundred years old when he came out of the ark and helped to start the human race all over again. If you’re an older person, think about it this way: you’re a walking repository of decades of wisdom and knowledge. So, before you leave this earth, endeavor to give to others what God has entrusted to you. Right now, somebody, somewhere, needs something you have, and if you ask God, He will show you who they are. When He does—get involved!

God Uses Ordinary People (1)

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‘You will be My witnesses.’ Acts 1:8 NIV

A witness is someone who sees and experiences an event, then testifies to it in court in a way that convinces others. And that’s what you have been called to do! You say, ‘But I don’t feel qualified.’ God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. And don’t let Satan convince you otherwise, because he will try. He will tell you God has an IQ requirement, or an entry fee; that He employs only specialists, experts, and high-powered personalities. No, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘You will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth.’ You uneducated and simple folk. You temperamental net casters and tax collectors. ‘You will be my witnesses.’

The one thing the disciples had going for them was their willingness to take a step when Jesus said, ‘Follow Me.’ So, if you’re more plumber than executive, or more blue jeans than blue blood, you’re qualified! ‘Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26–27 NLT)

So, pray: ‘Lord, You’ve called me into Your Kingdom to serve You in this specific place, at this specific time, and for this specific purpose. Despite my ordinariness I belong to You—and You are anything but ordinary! Today help me to pour out Your grace and compassion upon others, that they too may experience the richness of Your love.’

Trust God, and Act!

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‘Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf.’ 1 Samuel 14:6 NIV

During the early days of Saul’s kingship, the Philistines controlled much of Israel, and battle lines were drawn at the pass called Michmash. Saul seemed content to sit on the sidelines, but Jonathan wanted to be on the front line. ‘Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.’ (1 Samuel 14:1 NIV)

There was only Jonathan and his armor-bearer, so the odds didn’t look good. But when you make a move that is motivated by God’s glory, it moves the heart and hand of God. What it requires is a step of faith. And often it’s the longest, hardest and scariest step you’ve ever taken. Usually when Israel’s kings went into battle it was because they had received a word from the Lord assuring their victory. Jonathan had received no such word. He simply said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf.’ Most people operate out of the opposite mentality: ‘Perhaps the Lord won’t act on our behalf.’ They let fear dictate their decisions instead of faith. So, they end up with Saul, sitting on the sidelines.

And how did the battle turn out for Jonathan and his armor bearer? ‘So the Lord saved Israel that day.’ (1 Samuel 14:23 ESV) All it took was one daring decision! That’s all it ever takes. When you move, God will move on your behalf. And if you don’t move, you’ll always wonder ‘what if?’ Often our longest regrets are our inaction regrets—the things we would have, could have, or should have done but did not do. So, the word for you today is: trust God, and act!

A Promise To Praying Parents

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‘They shall come back from the land of the enemy.’ Jeremiah 31:16 NKJV

Are you living under a cloud of guilt, feeling like a failure because your child has gone astray? Don’t do it! The Bible teaches that sometimes children simply won’t listen to the counsel of their parents. Solomon was probably giving a word of personal testimony when he wrote, ‘A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.’(Proverbs 13:1 NKJV)

Jesus didn’t hold the father accountable for the fact that his prodigal son went astray (see Luke 15:11). And if you did your best, God doesn’t hold you accountable either. The truth is that bad parents sometimes turn out good children, and good parents sometimes have children who go bad. God’s first two children were placed in a perfect paradise, yet they rebelled. Ultimately, we’re all given the power to choose. There comes a time when every child is no longer a child, and has to take responsibility for his or her actions. So, if you’ve done your best as a parent, don’t let the devil put a guilt trip on you.

And if you’ve failed as a parent, it’s not the unpardonable sin. Not only will God forgive you, but you can also claim this wonderful promise: ‘Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future… that your children shall come back to their own border.’ (Jeremiah 31:16–17 NKJV) Don’t give up on your children, because God hasn’t. Keep praying and believing, and allow Him to work on them.

Be ‘Aware’ of God in Your Situation

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‘I was not aware of it.’ Genesis 28:16 NIV

One night Jacob had a dream. He saw a ladder with angels on it extending all the way up to Heaven, and God said to him, ‘I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.’ (Genesis 28:15 NIV) The next morning Jacob said, ‘The Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’

When it comes to recognizing God at work in your life, you can be spiritually tuned in, or be like Jacob and not be ‘aware’ of Him. It was business as usual for Moses the day he noticed the burning bush—not an uncommon sight in a hot desert climate. Except this time the bush kept burning, and ‘when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him.’ (Exodus 3:4 NKJV) You’ll have some of your greatest encounters with God in the everyday experiences of life. But you have to be open and receptive, otherwise you’ll miss Him. Whether we’re aware of Him or not, God is constantly trying to catch our attention—every single moment! He wants to draw us into ever-deeper relationship with Him.

And you never know where He’ll appear, or through whom He’ll speak. After the resurrection, Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was just the gardener. Paul writes, ‘Wake up, sleeper.’ (Ephesians 5:14 NIV) You can be awakened by a miraculous healing, a restored relationship, or even a great trial. Don’t just look for God in your triumphs; look for Him in your troubles too. Theologian Frederick Buechner said, ‘There is no event so commonplace but that God is present, leaving you room to recognize or not to recognize Him.’

The Marriage Covenant (4)

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‘The wife must respect her husband.’ Ephesians 5:33 NLT

Paul writes, ‘The wife must respect her husband.’ Pay close attention to the word ‘must’. This is a command from the Lord, not a suggestion or a topic that’s open to debate (see Ephesians 5:33). Notice, the Bible doesn’t say a woman must ‘love’ her husband, but it does say that she must ‘respect’ him.

And guys, before you take the throne and start handing out decrees, that means you must prove yourself worthy of respect! To respect your husband is to hold him in esteem and honor. What a woman needs from a man is located in her heart, and what a man needs from a woman is located in his head. It’s called his ego.

You say, ‘I’m not going to feed his ego!’ That would be like your husband saying, ‘I’m not going to feed your heart.’ Men long to have their egos fed. When you fail to feed your husband’s ego, he may end up vulnerable to somebody else who feeds it for him! As a wife, you were created by God with the ability to feed your husband’s ego in a healthy manner, by respecting and honoring him. There’s nothing more dangerous in a marriage relationship than disrespect. When a man doesn’t feel respected, he will either rebel against you, remove himself, or become passive. God has given two simple rules for building a successful marriage. The first is for husbands to love their wives, and the second is for wives to respect their husbands. And when you operate by God’s rules you get God’s results. So, if you want God’s best, and His blessing at home, start doing things His way.

The Marriage Covenant (3)

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‘Being heirs together of the grace of life.’ 1 Peter 3:7 NKJV

A good marriage is built on mutual sacrifice. Adam had to sacrifice something near and dear to him in order to get Eve—a rib. And your wife will know you love her when you’re willing to give up things that are important to you in order to meet her needs and promote her well-being. Too many men want to be married but still function as singles. They don’t want to sacrifice any time, attention, or resources for the benefit of their wives. They don’t want a wife; they want a maid. They want to marry someone so they can be served. No—it’s the opposite! The Bible says you and your wife are ‘heirs together’. That means she is an equal partner. So, her opinions, thoughts, and perspectives matter. Yes, as the leader of your home you may make the final decision, but when you don’t get your wife’s input and consider her viewpoint, holy wedlock can turn into unholy deadlock.

Your wife will respond to you when she feels cherished and valued (see Ephesians 5:29). You say, ‘But my wife’s as cold as ice.’ How did she get that way? Ice only stays icy in a cold environment. So instead of complaining, work at changing your environment. Husbands are thermostats and wives are thermometers. Husbands determine the climate and wives thrive or shrivel accordingly. There’s a reason your wife is ‘cold’. And there’s a solution: warm her up and watch her melt! When you begin to love, nurture, cherish, and protect her as Christ did the church, you’ll have a whole new woman in your arms. Try it and see.

The Marriage Covenant (2)

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‘Husbands, love your wives.’ Ephesians 5:25 ESV

We sometimes throw the word ‘love’ around loosely, leaving it to be defined in many different ways. People say things like, ‘I love chocolate cake,’ or ‘I love football,’ or ‘I love that television show.’ What they really mean is they ‘like’ and ‘enjoy’ these things.

The Bible’s definition of love goes much deeper than what entertains and excites us, or even what makes us feel emotionally attached to one another. To love someone is to pursue their well-being and make it a priority. Love’s first concern is always: ‘How does this action contribute to my partner’s well-being?’ If it doesn’t—or if it does the opposite—then it isn’t love. The Bible says, ‘Husbands…love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her… In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it.’ (Ephesians 5:25–29 NLT) As a husband, you can learn two things from these Scriptures:

(1) We are all innately selfish. So, your greatest challenge will always be to put your wife’s interests ahead of your own, and be willing to sacrifice your own agenda to do it.

(2) We must practice being sensitive. Think how sensitive you are to the aches and needs of your own body, and apply that same principle to caring for your wife. You say, ‘That’s a tall order!’ Yes, and the God who commands you to do it will give you the grace to do it day by day. So, draw on His grace!

The Marriage Covenant (1)

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‘For those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord.’ 1 Corinthians 7:10 NLT

Having God’s blessing on your marriage is contingent upon your operating according to His rules. To enjoy His protection, peace and prosperity you must follow His instructions. For example, you can spend hours arguing and still not resolve the issue. Whereas, if you’d just followed God’s rules, the argument could have been over in a matter of minutes. And both parties would have been satisfied at the end of the process.

When your car breaks down, you take it back to the dealership. Why? Because they sold it to you and they know how to fix it! God performed the first marriage. So, when your relationship gets into trouble, if you’re wise you’ll talk to Him about it before talking to each other. Furthermore, when you get married with the attitude, ‘If this doesn’t work out I can always get a divorce,’ you’re running in the opposite direction from the truth of God’s Word.

Paul writes: ‘For those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.’ (1 Corinthians 7:10–11 NLT) Yes, there are some acceptable reasons for divorce, but they are the exception and not the rule! A Hollywood celebrity spent millions of dollars on her wedding and then divorced her husband just over two months later on the grounds of ‘incompatibility’. When you say, ‘Till death us do part,’ you say it before God and you’re supposed to mean it.

How Much Do You Love Jesus?

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‘When he had found one pearl of great price… [he] sold all that he had and bought it.’ Matthew 13:46 NKJV

In one of the most unique corporate take-overs ever, Stanley Tam legally transferred 51 percent of the shares of his company to God. He started United States Plastic Corporation with thirty-seven dollars in capital. When he gave his business back to God, annual revenues were less than two hundred thousand dollars. But Stanley believed God would bless his business, and he wanted to honor God from the get-go.

At that point, most of us would have been patting ourselves on the back. Not Stanley. He felt convicted for keeping 49 percent to himself. After reading the parable of the merchant who sold everything to obtain the pearl of great price, he made a decision to divest himself of all his shares. He said, ‘A man can eat only one meal at a time, wear only one suit of clothes at a time, drive only one car at a time. All this I have. Isn’t that enough?’ So on 15 January 1955, every share of stock was transferred to God, and Stanley became a salaried employee of the company he started. Before he was through, Stanley gave away more than 120 million dollars to the cause of Christ. If you want to measure the depth of your love for Christ, look at your calendar and your credit card statement. They don’t lie. How you spend your time and money are the two best barometers of your true priorities. Is Christ your pearl of great price? He wants to be. He deserves to be.

Move With God

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‘…the Spirit of God moved…’ Genesis 1:2 KJV

Christ’s disciples left everything to follow somebody they didn’t begin to comprehend. They dreamed of a Messiah who would establish a kingdom to overthrow Rome, so His crucifixion blew their minds. So did His resurrection, because they had to preach a message that would cost them their lives. Sometimes they didn’t know what to make of Jesus: ‘…the disciples saw Him walking on the sea… “It is a spirit,” they cried out.’(Matthew 14:26 KJV) When He ate with them on the shore following His resurrection, ‘None…dared ask Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord.’ (John 21:12 NKJV) If you’re going to walk with God get ready to have your faith stretched.

The first thing we read about God in Scripture is that He ‘moved’. If you plan to move with Him this year, you must overcome two things.

First, complacency. Scientists conducted an experiment with an amoeba in a stress-free environment. The conditions were ideal; it had no adjustments whatsoever to make. But it died. Why? Because change and challenge are as necessary as food and water. Complacency can kill! Second, you must avoid complaining. Failure to acknowledge God’s goodness caused Israel to go in circles for 40 years: ‘These things happened to them as…warnings for us.’ (1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV)

Two children sat down to lunch. One opened his lunchbox and moaned, ‘Ham sandwiches again? This is the fourth day in a row. I’m sick of ham sandwiches!’ His friend said, ‘I bet if you tell your mum you don’t like ham sandwiches she’ll make you something else.’ ‘Mum?’ replied the first child. ‘I make my own lunches.’ Hello! Have a problem with complaining? Fix it! Make up your mind to move with God!

Praise God Every Day

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‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory.’ Revelation 4:11 NKJV

A Christian farmer supposedly taught his horse to start and stop, using words from the Bible. When he wanted the horse to go, he would shout, ‘Praise the Lord.’ When he wanted the horse to stop, he would shout, ‘Hallelujah.’ All went well until one day a thunderbolt caused the horse to take off galloping at full speed. Realising he had lost control, the farmer panicked and forgot the words he had trained the horse to respond to. Up ahead was a cliff, and they were headed towards it at full speed. Desperately he tried to recall every religious word he’d ever heard of. He shouted, ‘Amen! Jesus saves! Worthy! Holy!’ Nothing worked. Just as the horse approached the precipice, he shouted, ‘Hallelujah!’ The horse stopped right there on the edge. Relieved, he wiped the sweat off his brow and said, ‘Whew, praise the Lord!’

Seriously, praising the Lord is not a religious activity that belongs only in church on Sunday morning. ‘From the rising of the sun to its going down the Lord’s name is to be praised.’ (Psalm 113:3 NKJV) That means let your first words in the morning and your last words at night, be praise to God. ‘Why should I praise God every day?’ you ask. Because He is worthy of your praise. ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.’ And one more thought. Spoken words of love and appreciation draw people together and create intimacy. Do you want to get closer to God? Start praising Him more.

A Small Change Can Make A Big Difference

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‘Who dares despise the day of small things?’ Zechariah 4:10 NIV

Imagine the temple lying in ruins, and having to be rebuilt from the ground up. That’s what things were like when Zechariah shared his vision with the people of Israel. Some thought it couldn’t be done, and others thought that their particular contribution would make no difference. So Zechariah challenged them in these words: ‘Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.’ (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)

In 1963, MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz presented the hypothesis that became known as the butterfly effect. He theorized that a minor event, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil, could conceivably alter wind currents sufficiently to cause a tornado in Texas. Lorenz came to the simple yet profound conclusion: ‘Minuscule changes in input can make macroscopic differences in output.’ That simple discovery has the power to change your life. It can radically alter your spiritual, emotional, relational, or financial forecast. It can change the atmosphere of your organization or your marriage. One decision. One change. One risk. One idea. That’s all it takes. You don’t have to make one hundred changes. All that does is divide your energy by one hundred, and results in a 1 percent chance of success. You have to be 100 percent committed to one change. It will take an all-out effort. It will probably be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But that one change has the potential to make a 100 percent difference in your life.

Blessed In ‘Every’ Area Of Life

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‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.’ Ephesians 1:3 NKJV

Farmer Brown, so the story goes, lived during the Great Depression. He was having trouble keeping up the mortgage payments on his farm. Eventually the bank gave him thirty days to catch up on his back payments or face foreclosure. Then something wonderful happened. A man from an oil company showed up on his doorstep, asking for a lease to drill for oil on his land. Since he was going to lose the farm anyway, Farmer Brown decided that it couldn’t hurt. Well, that oil company drilled and hit a gusher—82,000 barrels of oil a day. Immediately Farmer Brown became a millionaire many times over.

Now, here’s the question—when did he become a millionaire? Was it when oil was discovered on his farm, or when he first bought the land? He was a millionaire the moment he purchased the farm, but he lived in poverty because he didn’t know what was under his feet and within his reach. The Bible says God ‘has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.’ Some people think the only thing God will do for you is bless you with salvation, then He lets you struggle through the rest of life until you get to Heaven. As long as you believe that, you’re living in your own spiritual version of the Great Depression. You’re living spiritually poor, spiritually weak, and spiritually deprived because you don’t know what’s available to you in Christ or how to access it and appropriate it in your life. Refuse to live that way. Instead, read your Bible and begin to claim God’s promises in every area of your life.

Each Child Is Unique

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‘Before you were born I set you apart.’ Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

Does a baby come into the world with a complex personality, or is that child a blank slate on which experience will write? In the past, behavioral scientists believed newborns had no temperamental or emotional characteristics upon arrival from the womb. Their little personalities were supposedly formed entirely by the experiences that came their way in ensuing years.

But most parents knew better. Every mother of two or more children was convinced that each of her infants had a different personality—a different feel—from the very first time they were held. Now, after years of research, numerous authorities in child development acknowledge that those mothers were right. One important study identified nine characteristics that varied in babies—such as moodiness, level of activity, and responsiveness. They also found that the differences from child to child tended to persist into later life. Indeed, babies do differ in infinite ways that define our humanness and our individuality. If every snowflake that falls has its own design, and if every grain of sand at the seashore is unique, it makes no sense to suppose that children are assembly-line products stamped out by the same giant cookie cutter. There’s no denying the importance of environment and human experience in shaping who we are and how we think. But there can be no doubt that each person on earth is a one-of-a-kind creation from the earliest moments of life. As God told Jeremiah: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.’ You need to know that about your children.

The Island of Blessing

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‘You are complete in Him.’ Colossians 2:10 NKJV

In his book Outlive Your Life, author Max Lucado says the Greek word for ‘blessed’, makarios, was the name of an island off Greece. It was known as ‘the blessed island’ because it was self-contained. The residents didn’t need to leave it in order to get their needs met. The natural resources of this island were so rich that everything needed to enjoy life was already there. There’s a lesson here for you. The moment you trust in Christ as your Saviour, He becomes your King and you begin living in His Kingdom. You don’t have to leave it and go elsewhere to find what you need, because it’s all around you in the island of blessing. You don’t have to strive for God’s blessing; you simply have to ‘tune in’ and receive it. It’s like your radio; there are no orchestras or newscasters inside it, it’s only a conduit and a point of contact. Even when your radio stops working, there are still signals in the air. All your radio does is receive the signal that comes from another source and deliver it to you. If you lose sight of that fact, you’ll give the radio more credit than it deserves.

One of the reasons we don’t recognize the blessings of God in our lives is that we confuse the means of delivery with the source. If something doesn’t miraculously fall into our lap, we think it didn’t come from God. No, God will bless you at different times, through different people, in different ways. But you must always remember that they are only the carriers of blessing, while He is the source of it (see Psalm 31:19).

Don’t Just Read It, Do It (2)

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‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ John 14:26 NIV

Jesus ended His Sermon on the Mount with a striking story that addresses the gap between knowing and doing: ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ (Matthew 7:24 NIV) The problem is, we find it easier to be smart than to be good. You don’t need to know more about the Bible until you put into practice what you already know. John Ortberg says that when he taught tennis, unskilled novices would agonize over which racket to buy—whether to use nylon or gut strings, whether to string them up at 30 or 32 kg. The problem was, they couldn’t even hit the ball. Instead of debating the minutiae, they simply needed to practice. But a word of caution here: you don’t become a ‘doer of the Word’ by drawing on your own strength and willpower. The Holy Spirit who dwells within you is referred to in Scripture as ‘the paraclete’. The word means ‘one who comes alongside to help’. When you decide to do what’s right, the Holy Spirit within you empowers you to do it. When a situation arises, He will prompt you as to what you should do. Jesus promised, ‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ You ask, ‘But what if I don’t get it right?’ He will work with you, giving you opportunities until you do get it right.

Don’t just read it, do it (1)

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‘Be doers of the word… not merely hearers.’ James 1:22 NRS

A businessman known for his ruthlessness, arrogance, and religiosity told Mark Twain that before he died he intended to visit the Holy Land, climb Mount Sinai, and read the Ten Commandments aloud. ‘I have a better idea,’ Twain replied. ‘Just stay here in Boston and keep them!’

We’d rather cogitate on what we don’t know, than act on what we know we need to do. For example, a company knows it needs to improve its quality control so the executives discuss the problem, listen to presentations, read all kinds of books, look at state-of-the-art systems—but never actually get around to doing anything. Their problem isn’t ignorance; it’s knowing too much but doing too little. Another everyday example: people would rather debate the merits of protein vs. carbs, French cooking vs. vegetarian, lifting weights vs. cardio, than change how they eat. The bottom line is simple: expend more calories than you take in. Likewise, some Christians would rather debate doctrine than do what Jesus says. As the old ad for Nike trainers said—just do it! Practice loving a difficult person; try forgiving someone; give some money away; stop and say thanks; worship God; encourage a friend; bless an enemy; when you’re in the wrong say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Face it: you already know more than you need to. And nothing turns people off faster than somebody with a head full of knowledge, who lacks grace and character. It’s the same today as it was when James wrote, ‘Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers.’

Your New Christlike Body

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‘He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own.’ Philippians 3:21 NLT

The Bible says our heavenly bodies will be exactly like the one Jesus had following His resurrection. He resembled Himself, because the disciples could recognize Him. He ate and drank with them. He could be touched. He could miraculously pass through walls. Talk about ‘time travel’—He could appear in various places to different people without traveling by any recognized means. His transformed body no longer aged, nor was it subject to sickness and death. And your new body will be like His. ‘Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes back. After that the end will come.’ (1 Corinthians 15:23–24 NLT) Scottish Presbyterian Robert Baillie learned in 1684 that he would be hanged for his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate King Charles II, then drawn and quartered, and his head and hands nailed to a local bridge. How did he respond? By first quoting this Scripture: ‘Our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour…who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.’ (Philippians 3:20–21 NKJV) Then he declared: ‘They may hack and hew my body as they please, but I know assuredly that nothing will be lost, that all these my members shall be wonderfully gathered and made like Christ’s glorious body.’ The truth is that whether you get buried in a casket or cremated and your ashes scattered, it makes no difference. God has prepared for you a glorious body just like Christ’s.

The Differences Between Samson And Samuel (5)

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‘Then the Lord said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable towards this people.”’ Jeremiah 15:1 NKJV

Difference five: prayer. The Bible records only two occasions when Samson prayed: first, when he thought he was dying of thirst and needed water (Judges 15:18); second, in the last moments of his life when he’d lost everything and ended up in prison (see Judges 16:28). He was like the little boy who was asked, ‘Do you say your prayers every night?’ He replied, ‘No; sometimes I don’t need anything.’ On the other hand the Bible says, ‘Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.’ (1 Samuel 12:18 NKJV) One of the greatest tributes given to anyone in Scripture was spoken by God concerning Samuel’s prayer life: ‘Then the Lord said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favourable towards this people.”’ Such is the ‘clout’ Samuel had with God!

The Bible also has much to say about the prayer life of Jesus. Sometimes He prayed all through the night; other times He was up praying before dawn. It was the secret of His effectiveness in ministry. He made regular deposits in prayer so He could make regular withdrawals of power when He needed it. And you’ll notice that He seldom prayed for anyone He healed. Why? Because He’d already spent time in prayer. Old-timers in church used to refer to this as ‘staying prayed up’. And it’s the secret of victorious Christian living.

The Differences Between Samson And Samuel (4)

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‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ 1 Samuel 7:12 NKJV

Difference four: accountability. Samson had an independent attitude and refused to be accountable to anyone else. He was a ‘lone ranger’ who refused to work with others. And his erratic attempts at deliverance caused the Philistines to tax God’s people more and make their burdens heavier. Samuel, on the other hand, worked in consensus with others. When he prayed and God gave Israel a spectacular victory over their enemies, he refused to take any of the credit. ‘Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpeh and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”’

Samson was ‘me’ focused, but Samuel was ‘us’ focused. The psalmist said, ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…for there the Lord commanded the blessing.’ (Psalm 133:1–3 NKJV) The secret of walking in God’s blessing is not to operate alone, but cooperate with others. That’s how the New Testament church did it. ‘When they had further threatened them, they let them go… And being let go, they went to their own companions.’ (Acts 4:21–23 NKJV) When the apostles came under attack, ‘they went to their own companions.’ They had relationships in place with those who knew how to advise and guide them, strengthen and encourage them, pray and share God’s Word with them. You need such relationships too! And you can’t afford to wait until trouble comes before you establish them. Do it now, in the good times, and they’ll be there for you in the bad times.

The Differences Between Samson And Samuel (3)

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‘The Lord your God was your king.’ 1 Samuel 12:12 NKJV

Difference three: motives. Samson repeatedly dishonored the Lord by his actions and his lifestyle. That’s because he had no regard for God’s honor. What a contrast Samuel was! When Israel wanted a king in order to be like all the surrounding nations, it broke his heart. He said to the people, ‘The Lord your God was your king.’ Honouring God was his highest priority. And there’s a lesson here for us, especially those in ministry. Every time someone steps behind a pulpit, they must check their ego and ask themselves the motive question: ‘Is my aim to make God look good, or myself look good?’ And it’s a hard question to answer.

The Bible says, ‘For the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.’ (1 Samuel 2:3 NKJV) The truth is that without the power of God’s indwelling Spirit, none of us have what it takes to do the job, and we must never forget that. The tragedy of Samson’s end is described in these two Scriptures: ‘He awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.’ (Judges 16:20 NKJV) ‘So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them.’(Judges 16:25 NKJV) Note the word perform. Without God’s grace and power we are all, at best, just performers. So stay humble, and seek only to exalt the Lord.

The Differences Between Samson And Samuel (2)

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‘Get her for me, for she pleases me well.’ Judges 14:3 NKJV

Difference two: relationships. ‘Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren… that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”’

When it came to relationships, Samson was guided by his lower impulses instead of the principles of God’s Word. And he paid dearly for it. Three times we read in Scripture: ‘Samson went down…’ (Judges 14:1 NKJV) He went down to Timnath and married the wrong woman. He went down to Gaza and spent the night with a harlot. He went down to Sorek, ended up in the lap of Delilah, and lost his strength, his freedom, his reputation, his anointing and his life.

Samuel, on the other hand, was raised up to purify the ministry. Eli the high priest had two sons called Hophni and Phinehas whom he had ordained to the priesthood, but they were taking bribes to cover sin and brazenly consorting with prostitutes. There’s a lesson here for every redeemed child of God:  ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.’ (2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV) Is God being biased or unloving? No, He’s being protective! When you’re ‘yoked together’ in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your faith, your values, your goals and your priorities, you end up in a tug of war with each pulling in a different direction. When problems arise, as they surely will, what you need is someone by your side who turns to the same source you do for the solution—God.

The Differences Between Samson And Samuel (1)

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‘Time would fail me to tell of…Samson…and Samuel.’ Hebrews 11:32 NKJV

Samson and Samuel are mentioned in the same Scripture, but there are big differences between them. You ask, ‘Why should I be interested?’ Because as a Christian, you are like them. Each had a miraculous birth, so they’re a picture of those who’ve been born again and called to serve God. Paul writes, ‘These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition… Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.’ (1 Corinthians 10:11–12 NKJV) Difference one: finances.Samson was greedy and manipulating, whereas Samuel practiced integrity. One day Samson bet thirty Philistine princes that they couldn’t solve his riddle, saying, ‘If you cannot explain it to me, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.’ (Judges 14:13 NKJV) Quite a wardrobe, eh? Samson’s emphasis was ‘you shall give me.’ He’s an example of Christians in business who discredit the cause of Christ by unethical practices, and those in ministry who twist the Scriptures and resort to emotional manipulation to raise money.

The world is watching, so let’s heed the Scripture: ‘Provide things honest in the sight of all men.’ (Romans 12:17 KJV) Samuel was totally different. After forty years of his exemplary leadership, the people paid this tribute to him: ‘You have not cheated or oppressed us.’ (1 Samuel 12:4 NIV) When others can say that about you, you did it right! Jesus said, ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matthew 6:21 NIV) The condition of your heart is revealed in how you handle finances.

Start A Journal Of Your Spiritual Journey

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‘Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar.’ Exodus 24:4 NKJV

One of the secrets of Moses’ great success in life was this: he spent time each day with God, and he wrote down what God told him. And you should do that too. Here’s why. Writing clarifies your thoughts, gives you a permanent record you can refer back to and allows you to measure your progress. We only remember what we take time to record.

One of the best-known American missionaries was Jim Elliot, who became a martyr for Christ in 1956 in Ecuador. He kept a spiritual journal, and it makes interesting reading: ‘My devotional reading pattern was broken. I have never restored it… prayer as a single man was difficult… now it’s too hard to get out of bed in the morning… I’ve made resolutions on this score before now, but not followed them up.’ Such writings become a mirror that reflects your true spiritual condition—a condition it’s easy to forget unless it’s staring you in the face each day. Elliot, like all of us, struggled with the spiritual disciplines. But unlike most of us, he kept a written record of his spiritual defeats as well as his spiritual victories. Keeping such a journal will force you to reflect on your heart’s true condition, record your progress, regain your lost momentum, reject your bad habits, reinforce your good habits, and help you to reach your spiritual goals. Do you know any other discipline that offers such benefits?

No? Then start a journal of your spiritual journey today.

Give God Your ‘Firstfruits’

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‘Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.’ Proverbs 3:9 NKJV

Solomon writes: ‘Honour the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.’ (Proverbs 3:9–10 NKJV) The people who heard these words lived off their land and their livestock. Whenever they reaped a harvest or birthed new cattle, they’d take the first sheaf or the firstborn calf to the temple and offer it to the Lord. These were called ‘firstfruits’. By doing this they acknowledged that ‘everything I have comes from God, and belongs to God. And everything I’ll need for the future depends upon God’s goodness to me’. There’s not a more important money management principle you’ll ever hear than this: give God your ‘firstfruits’, not your leftovers! Businessman Arthur DeMoss was a spiritual giant and benefactor who gave millions to God’s work and left behind a foundation to carry on his legacy. DeMoss said that to be successful you should give God the first dime out of every dollar, the first hour out of every day, and the first day out of every week. You ask, ‘Does that mean God won’t love me if I don’t tithe?’ No; you can’t do anything to earn God’s love. However, giving back to Him willingly demonstrates our obedience and love for God.

The Virtue of Diligence

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‘The hand of the diligent makes rich.’ Proverbs 10:4 ESV

The word diligent means ‘to cut or sharpen’. It describes a worker who’s sharp, decisive, and keen. He or she wants to work, make a difference, and contribute to their families and to society. Life ‘owes’ you nothing except an opportunity to succeed. And you’ll have to work for that success.

One day two teens were talking when one said to the other, ‘I’m really worried. Dad slaves away at his job so I’ll never want for anything. He pays all my bills and sends me to college. Mum slaves everyday washing, ironing, cleaning up after me, and even takes care of me when I’m sick.’

Puzzled, his friend asked, ‘So, what’re you worried about?’

He replied, ‘I’m worried the slaves might escape!’

If you’re a parent, teach your children the virtue of diligence. And don’t just preach it—live it! You’ll know you’re succeeding when they no longer feel ‘entitled’ to an allowance, and stop seeing you as a human cashpoint machine with the words ‘Free Money!’ stamped on your forehead. Your children will spend over half the waking hours of their prime adult lives working, and they need to know that it was God’s idea and not a form of punishment. Some people think work was the result of the curse in Eden, but it wasn’t. God gave Adam the job of tending the garden before sin came on the scene (see Genesis 2:15). Jesus was a carpenter (see Mark 6:3). And Paul, one of the most influential Christians in history, was a tentmaker (see Acts 18:1–3). There’s nothing dishonorable about work worth doing, and work done well.

God’s Definition Of ‘Rich’

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‘The blessing of the Lord—it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].’ Proverbs 10:22 AMPC

It’s said the famous publisher William Randolph Hearst saw a picture of a beautiful painting and became very interested in acquiring it for his collection. He sent agents all over the world to search for it, but they couldn’t find it anywhere. A year later, out of the blue, one of his employees came and told him that the painting had been found. Excited about the discovery, Hearst asked where it had been unearthed. His employee said, ‘It was in a crate in your warehouse. You owned it all the time.’ The problem was, Hearst had never read the ledger that had the record of everything he owned.

Your Bible is a ledger filled with blessings God wants you to experience. Now, none of these blessings are greater than salvation, but it’s not the only blessing. ‘The blessing of the Lord—it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].’ John D. Rockefeller once said he’d exchange his fortune for a chance to go back and work as a clerk in his old office in Cleveland, Ohio. Why? Because stress caused him to suffer bouts of insomnia, ulcers, and depression. The blessing of God brings success—without stress! God tells you about it in His Word. He wants you to be ‘rich’ in your relationships, in your health, in your peace of mind, in your career, and in everything that concerns you. So get to know what God has promised you, then begin praying and believing Him for it.

Don’t Label People: Love Them

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‘We have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.’ 2 Corinthians 5:16 NLT

If you tend to associate only with ‘your own kind’, think about this: ‘We have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.’ Jesus went out of His way to meet a Samaritan woman at a well. From a cultural and religious point of view, it was a bad move. First, she’d been married five times so she had a tarnished reputation. Second, she was a Gentile. And in those days a Jew couldn’t drink water drawn by Gentiles or eat their food. Jewish physicians couldn’t attend to non-Jewish patients.

Jews actually referred to Gentiles as ‘unclean’, believing that by mixing with them they too would become unclean. But Jesus was all about including people, not excluding them: ‘The Word became human and made His home among us.’ (John 1:14 NLT) Jesus touched lepers, loved foreigners, and spent so much time with partygoers that religious leaders called him a ‘glutton and a drunk.’ (Matthew 11:19 GWT) Jesus didn’t label people; He loved them. And when you follow Him, He puts His finger on your prejudices and makes you deal with them. That’s because He wants to change the way you look at people, not seeing them as Jews or Gentiles, insiders or outsiders, liberals or conservatives, etc. ‘We have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.’ Today you may come across some discarded people like the woman at the well. They may have been thrown out of church, or just turned off by church—and you’ll have a chance to label them or love them. Honour God—and love them!

Stop Doing Things That Don’t Work

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‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.’ Colossians 3:16 NKJV

The story’s told of a couple who decided to go duck hunting together. They heard that they needed a good duck hunting dog, so they went to a kennel and got one. They heard that they needed a good shotgun, so they went to the store and bought one. Then they went hunting. At the end of the day they hadn’t got a single duck. The husband said to his wife, ‘Honey, we’ve got to be doing something wrong here.’ His wife replied, ‘Well, maybe if we throw the dog up a little higher he could catch a duck this time.’

When it comes to the Christian life, we try to accomplish things with tools that don’t work or don’t make sense. A dog is not the right equipment to get ducks—you need firepower to bring a duck down. Why did Paul write, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom’? Because when the word of Christ dwells richly in your heart, you’re equipped with God’s wisdom. You can’t solve a problem by using the very elements that caused it. You need God’s wisdom, and it’s found in His Word. Less than 30 percent of Christians read their Bible daily. Think about that: 70 percent of Christians look for the answer in the wrong places.

When you have a problem, the first thing you should ask is, ‘What does God’s Word say about this?’ ‘The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.’ (Psalm 119:130 NKJV) Instead of doing things that don’t work—turn to God’s Word.

God Wants To Set You Free

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‘If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’ John 8:36 NKJV

When you become a prisoner-of-war, the enemy controls all your movements and decides what each day of your life will be like. Has the enemy captured you? Perhaps you’ve tried over and over again to be free from your addiction but you are still imprisoned by it. There’s good news: ‘If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’ Whether you are addicted to drugs, lust, alcohol, gambling, food, or anything else, your answer is not natural—but supernatural. Your addiction is a ‘symptom’ of a deeper spiritual condition that Jesus the Great Physician wants to heal.

At the core of every twelve-step programme is this truth: it’s only by turning to a power greater than ourselves and developing a relationship with Him, that we can get free and stay free. And we know who that ‘power’ is—Jesus! When you feel ‘restless, irritable, and discontent’, His presence is what brings peace and serenity. When you’re tempted to turn to your addiction to find relief, His presence fills the emptiness within you and enables you to say no. When you experience ‘euphoric recall’ and begin to think about the best times of your addiction rather than the worst ones, His Word renews your mind and reframes your attitude, showing you the right path to take at that moment: ‘Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.’ (Psalm 119:105 NLT) Peter said,  ‘The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.’ (2 Peter 2:9 NKJV) Today, God wants to set you free.

Keep Morphing!

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‘Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle.’ Hebrews 11:34 NLT

The word ‘metamorphosis’ means to be changed from one form into another. In Hebrews chapter eleven, we find famous people such as Moses and David.

Did they have weaknesses? Yes.

Did they sometimes struggle? Absolutely.

But: ‘Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle.’ Picture a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly. It starts out slow and slimy, and takes hours to crawl a meter or so. When it undergoes the process of metamorphosis, however, it becomes a beautiful butterfly that can fly long distances by simply riding the air currents. The butterfly’s wings developed as a result of struggling in the cocoon until it broke free. No fight, no flight! Getting the idea? Are you struggling with something today? Are you in a spiritual battle? It’s your struggles that develop your strength, and your battles that bring your victories.

Satan doesn’t want you to know that. He hopes the battle you are in will destroy you instead of develop you, so he keeps pouring on the pressure. When Paul’s life became so hard that he thought he couldn’t stand another day of it, God told him, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT) How did Paul respond? He writes: ‘Now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NLT)

Dippers and Dwellers

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‘Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you.’ John 15:4 AMPC

There’s an art to making good tea. You can dip your teabag up and down in the hot water and then pull it out. Or you can let it dwell there so that you can experience the tea’s full strength and flavor. Jesus said: ‘Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.’ (John 15:4–5 AMPC)

The secret of victorious Christian living is not ‘dipping’ in God’s presence once a week in church, but ‘dwelling’ in it every day. That’s why this devotional is a helpful tool for your spiritual growth; it causes you to get into God’s Word each day, meditate on it, and ask, ‘Lord, what are You saying to me?’ When you’re a dipper, you’ve got to ‘make things happen’ by your own effort. You’ve got to move the bag up and down, wrap the string around the spoon, then pull, etc. That’s effort—and that’s not how God wants you to live the Christian life. No, He wants you to be a ‘dweller’. It’s the depth and duration of your dwelling that determines the strength and richness of your spiritual life. So the word for you today is: don’t be a dipper, be a dweller.

Get Closer To God

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‘Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world.’ James 1:7–8 NLT

The planet Mercury is hot, whereas the dwarf world Pluto is cold. That’s because Mercury is close to the sun and Pluto is a long way off. A planet’s temperature and climate are determined by its proximity to the sun. There’s an important spiritual principle here. As a redeemed child of God, your spiritual temperature is determined by how close you are to Jesus. You say, ‘I wish I were closer to the Lord.’ The truth is that you are as close to Him as you desire to be, decide to be, and discipline yourself to be. Your pursuit of God reveals your passion for God—or the lack of it. To experience true intimacy with someone, you must be willing to sacrifice other things and give yourself fully to that person. The psalmist wrote: ‘You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity].’ (Psalm 27:8 AMPC)

You’ll notice that the psalmist didn’t say you were to seek God’s gifts, but His face! Not the gifts, but the Giver of the gifts! And a wonderful thing happens when you do that: ‘Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.’ (Psalm 37:4–5AMPC)

Keys To Bible Study (3)

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‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine.’ Matthew 7:24 NIV

Certain products carry a label that says: ‘Warning! This can be hazardous to your health.’ Instead of helping you, certain kinds of Bible study can actually hurt you. The Bible says, ‘Knowledge puffs up.’ (1 Corinthians 8:1 NIV) The Greek word for puffs contains the idea of being inflated, like a hot air balloon. By the time a Pharisee completed his training, he could quote hours and hours of Old Testament law. Yet Jesus said the Pharisees were like beautifully painted gravestones: filled with dead men’s bones. Satan knows the Scriptures so well that he was able to quote them to Jesus in the wilderness temptation. And what is Satan’s chief quality? Pride. It’s the sin that got him thrown out of Heaven. The whole point in studying the Scriptures is to make you more dependent on God and give you the right approach to life.

People mainly read the Scriptures for three reasons:

(1) To find proof texts that support their views.

(2) To find promises that apply to their particular needs.

(3) To discover principles to live by.

If you’re wise you’ll be a member of this third group. Jesus said, ‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ When the storms of life came, the wise man’s house stood firm while the foolish man’s—the one who didn’t practice what he knew—came crashing down. Added knowledge brings added responsibility. ‘Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge and to your knowledge self-control…’ (2 Peter 1:5–6 NIV) So in addition to acquiring knowledge through regular study, plan to apply that knowledge towards self-control.

Keys To Bible Study (2)

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‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.’ Psalm 119:18 NIV

Here are some helpful keys to getting more out of your Bible study time:

(1) Ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll get out of it. Who was this written to? What was the situation the writer was facing? What was the main message the author was trying to get through to them? As you ask these questions you’ll begin to discover things you’ve overlooked or never seen before. The psalmist was a meditator and an in-depth studier of God’s Word. That’s why he prayed, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.’

(2) Write down the answers. The purpose of asking questions is to get answers. Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to say, ‘Thoughts disentangle themselves as they pass through the lips and fingertips.’ So have your notebook handy and write down the nuggets of truth God gives you. If you don’t, you’ll lose them.

(3) Don’t just discover it, do it! Evangelist DL Moody said, ‘The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.’ James wrote, ‘Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says.’ (James 1:22 NIV) Ask yourself, ‘What attitudes do I need to change? What do I need to stop doing, or start doing? What do I need to believe, or stop believing? What relationships do I need to work on? What ministry should I be having to others?’ Don’t go to your Bible with the attitude of finding some truth nobody’s ever seen before, or something to impress others with. Find out what God is saying to you.

Keys To Bible Study (1)

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‘Your commands are boundless.’ Psalm 119:96 NIV

The psalmist wrote, ‘To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.’ What does that mean? It means each time you read a Scripture you’ll see something different in it. It’s like shining light on a diamond. Each time you turn it slightly, you see another facet of its beauty. That’s why the Bible is different from any other book you’ll ever read. You’ll learn things about God from personal experience and from listening to the thoughts and experiences of others, but you’ll get to know Him better through the reading of His Word than any other way. You can study the same Scripture over and over again, dig into it, leave it for three or four months, and when you come back to it there is much more to find.

The key is this: stick with it! There’s no limit to the number of questions you can ask, no limit to the observations you can make, and no limit to the applications you can make. So don’t give up! The best attitude to have in Bible study is the one Jacob had when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord: ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ (Genesis 32:26 NKJV) As a result God gave him a new name, a new nature, a new walk, and a new future. Bible study has no shortcuts; it takes effort. But if you’re diligent and patient you’ll reap great rewards. Once you’ve felt the joy and satisfaction that comes from finding a great spiritual truth on your own, and applying it to your life, you’ll never approach Bible study the same way again.

Invest What God Has Given You

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‘Remember, each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of God.’ Romans 14:10 TLB

Judgment Day will be characterized by two things: rewards and regrets! Jesus highlights this in the story of three servants who were given talents to invest on behalf of their master. The first two invested well and were rewarded, while the third one buried his talent and was judged accordingly. The first two considered their options, crunched the numbers, took the plunge, and were willing to risk failure. As a result their boss said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ (Matthew 25:21 NKJV) Now, God doesn’t reward foolishness. So before you make a move, talk it over with Him (see Proverbs 3:5–6). The third servant, however, said,  ‘I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.’ (Matthew 25:25 NKJV) He made the most common and tragic mistake when it comes to giftedness: he failed to benefit his Master with his talent.

Some invest their talents and give God credit, while others misuse theirs and give Him grief. Some honor Him with ‘fruit’, while others insult Him with excuses. And how does God feel about the latter? ‘Take the money away from him and give it to the one who invested.’ (Matthew 25:28 GNT) Fear is the opposite of faith, and ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God].’ (Hebrews 11:6 KJV) So step out in faith; God won’t let you down. Take a risk; He won’t fail you. Even if you stumble on your way to success, He encourages you to envision the day when you’ll feel His hand on your shoulder and hear the words:  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone (2)

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‘So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.’ Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

Incredible though it may seem, when Israel encountered difficulties in the wilderness, they wanted to return to their old life of slavery in Egypt. The security of the known was less threatening to them than the challenges of the unknown. So the Lord said to them, not once, but twice, ‘So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.’ Why did He say that? Because it’s in taking action that you overcome your fear! When you challenge your fears, you master them. When you wrestle with your problems, they lose their grip on you. When you dare to confront the things that scare you, you open the door to the future.

A wise man once said, ‘Take the bull by the horns until you have him screaming for mercy.’ Almost without exception every man and woman in the Bible whom God called to do great things felt inadequate, and told Him so. And how did God respond to them? ‘I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10 NLT) Author John Mason writes: ‘The desire for safety stands against every great and virtuous dream. Security, many times, is the first step towards stagnation. Boldness in vision is the first, second, and third most important thing. If you dare nothing, you should expect nothing.’ So whatever opportunity or obstacle you’re facing today, factor God in. With Him on your side, what you have is always greater than whatever you lack.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone (1)

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‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’ Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Two of our biggest fears are—failure and criticism. And they never completely go away. You can overcome them, but they’ll show up when you face your next challenge. It’s in accepting fear as part of life’s journey instead of running from it, that you learn to conquer it. Indeed, as you look back at what you’ve already overcome, you realize that most times failure doesn’t do permanent damage—you actually grow stronger through it. If you’re anxious today, God is saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’ So trust Him, and get out of your comfort zone!

An unknown poet wrote: ‘I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I couldn’t fail; the same four walls of busywork were really more like jail. I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before, but stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor. I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much; I said I didn’t care for things like dreams and goals and such. I claimed to be so busy with the things inside my zone, but deep inside I longed for something special of my own. I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win; I held my breath and stepped outside and let the change begin. I took a step, and with new strength I’d never felt before, I kissed my comfort zone goodbye, then closed and locked the door. If you are in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out, remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.’

The word for you today is: get out of your comfort zone.

The Open-Door Policy

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‘We could only conclude that God was sending us to preach the Good News there.’ Acts 16:10 TLB

The Bible says, ‘Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.’ (Acts 16:6–10 NLT)

God has an ‘open-door policy’. When He opens a door, you’re supposed to walk through it. Note, however, that when God kept Paul from going into Asia, he didn’t hang around asking, ‘Why, Lord?’ He kept moving. For Paul, trying something and having it not work out was no big deal. He believed that his gift to God was his willing heart and his mobility, and God’s gift to him was that He’d always guide him to where he needed to be. What God prevents is as much divine guidance as what He permits. Every door that didn’t open, every opportunity you didn’t get, and every call that didn’t come were as much God’s leadings as those that did. So knowing you can’t stay where you are right now may be the starting point for God’s leadings in your life. And such leadings often begin with a stirring and restlessness in your soul.

Protected By The Blood Of Jesus

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‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ Revelation 12:11 NKJV

Irene Park became a committed Christian. Her story is remarkable. She said she was once a high witch in the state of Florida, seducing boys and girls into occult activities. She stated that the children she could never reach were those whose parents protected them by praying over them in the name of Jesus, standing on the merits of Christ’s atoning blood.

Today the occult has made its way into some of our public school systems under the guise of ‘pluralism’ and ‘free speech’. If you’re a parent, you should be concerned! It’s wise to give your child a mobile phone so they can contact you in emergencies. But the most powerful defense you can give them is praying over them in the name of Jesus and standing on the merits of His shed blood. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross. And today He’s saying to you, ‘My victory is your victory, and My authority is your authority—use it!’ You must acknowledge the existence of the devil, but you must not be afraid of him because ‘greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.’ (1 John 4:4 KJV) To deny the existence of Satan or underestimate his power gives him the advantage over you. But God has given you the key to overcoming Satan’s power in your life: ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’Start declaring what the blood of Jesus has done on your behalf. When you do, you’ll begin to walk in victory.

Bearing Fruit and Sharing Fruit

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‘By their fruits you will know them.’ Matthew 7:20 NKJV

When we speak about ‘the fruit of the Spirit’, we are talking about these nine qualities of character: ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ (Galatians 5:22–23 NKJV) These fruits are not for ‘show’, they are for sharing with others; otherwise they’re no better than fruit that was never grown in the first place. Suppose you drive up to a roadside produce market with your heart set on buying fresh vegetables. You see home-grown tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and several varieties of peppers—everything you need and more. Just as you start to select your items, the farmer who owns the stand says, ‘Sorry, this produce isn’t for sale. I just like to grow it and enjoy looking at it until it rots. Then I throw it away.’ Huh? Now you likely haven’t encountered such an absurd situation, and probably never will. That’s because farmers and customers know that produce is for consuming. Sure, it’s beautiful to look at, but its God-ordained purpose is to bring nutrition and health to people. If all we do is go to church and preach about fruit, analyze fruit, and examine each other’s fruit, we are failing miserably. It’s not enough to bear fruit, we must share that fruit with others so they can be blessed and impacted by the Kingdom of God. Paul writes, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.’ (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) Bearing fruit and sharing fruit are two sides of the same spiritual coin.

Say Yes To God

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‘Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”’ Isaiah 6:8 NKJV

William Carey is referred to as ‘the father of modern missions’. But the number of his accomplishments in India was almost equaled by the number of obstacles he overcame just to get there. He was told by a group of ministers, ‘If God wants to save the heathen, young man, He will do it without your help or ours.’ Carey was not a career missionary. He was a young Englishman in poor health with a pregnant wife and small children. He was just like the rest of us—trying to make ends meet and keep life together. But he had something else, a burning question he could not escape: ‘Who will reach the lost in India, if I don’t go?’ Looking back later, Carey realized that the challenges he overcame at home were what qualified him to succeed in his God-given assignment abroad.

The same thing happened to Isaiah the prophet: ‘I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people.”’ (Isaiah 6:8–9 NKJV) But before Isaiah was qualified to go, he needed a life-changing encounter with God. ‘Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.”’ (Isaiah 6:6–7 NKJV) Do you sense God preparing you and getting ready to send you? If so, say yes.

God’s Leadings

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‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’ 2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV

Good leaders will tell you there are times when they’re not sure; when they don’t know all they’d like to know. And if they’re really frank they’ll admit, ‘I’m glad the people I’m supposed to lead don’t know how much I don’t know!’

Whether you’re a leader or a follower, the Bible says, ‘We walk by faith, not by sight.’ But let’s be honest; sometimes we know what God wants us to do but we don’t like it. So we pray hoping He’ll change His mind and rubber-stamp what we want. But it’s not going to happen. God can’t bless you beyond your last act of disobedience. In the book of Hebrews we read, ‘By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.’ (Hebrews 11:8 NIV) When you follow God, most times you’ll go out not knowing as much as you’d like to. Counsellors, study groups, success manuals, committees, business plans, and projections can help you. But there comes a time when you have to leave your comfort zone and move in the direction God is pointing. Will you have answers to all your questions and clarity about all your concerns? No. Just like your car’s headlights don’t shine round the next corner, God will give you instructions on a ‘need-to-know basis’. And it’s the only way to live! It keeps you dependent on Him, helps you to remember who’s in charge and who deserves credit for your successes. And by the way, God’s leadings take a lifetime to learn, so don’t get discouraged.

People-Building (3)

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‘We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.’ Romans 15:1 NIV

If you think you’ve nothing of real value to offer others, consider the words of an unknown poet: ‘One song can spark a moment; one flower can wake a dream. One tree can start a forest; one bird can herald spring. One smile begins a friendship; one handclasp lifts a soul. One star can guide a ship at sea; one word can frame the goal. One vote can change a nation; one sunbeam lights a room. One candle wipes out darkness; one laugh can conquer gloom. One step can start a journey; one word can start a prayer. One hope can raise our spirits; one touch can show you care. One voice can speak with wisdom; one heart can know what’s true. One life can make a difference; you see… it’s up to you.’

Author Jon Walker says: ‘Encouragement is part of God’s nature. The New Testament word for encouragement is the same word Jesus used for the Holy Spirit who comes alongside us as an advocate… constant comforter… resident reminder… holy helper… indwelling guide… supplier of courage. Another way God encourages us is when other believers come alongside us as agents of encouragement. Encouragers offer affirmation and confirmation to those who see God’s hand working in their lives (see 1 Thessalonians 2:3–4); exhortation and reassurance to those who walk through trials and tribulations (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14); and reconciliation and restoration to those who stray (see Galatians 6:1). While there are many ways to bring out the best in others, in reality it only takes one: a willingness to “bear with the failings of the weak and not… please ourselves.” That’s how we strengthen them in the faith. It’s called “people-building.”’

People-Building (2)

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‘Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.’ Romans 15:2 NIV

Two men who shared a hospital room ended up becoming friends. One was allowed to sit up for an hour every day. His bed was beside the only window. The other man spent his life flat on his back. Each day the man at the window would describe the activity and color of the outside world: the park overlooking the lake, ducks swimming, children playing, couples walking hand-in-hand, the skyline in the distance. His friend, who could see none of this, smiled and imagined it all in his mind’s eye. One day the man by the window died and his roommate moved into his place. He propped himself up to look outside and was amazed to see a drab brick wall! Confused, he asked the nurse how come his friend had described the scenery in such glowing terms. She replied, ‘Actually, he was blind and he couldn’t even see the wall. He just wanted to encourage you.’

Paul said, ‘Each of us should please our neighbors…to build them up.’There’s great satisfaction in encouraging people, especially when your own situation is less than ideal. One author writes: ‘When you tell someone they’re beautiful, you change how they see themselves. A girl in love thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the world because her young man said so. When a teacher tells a student he’s smart, he works harder and achieves more. When a parent tells a child she’s loved, she has confidence to reach for the stars. On the other hand, a doctor who point-blank tells a patient that he’s “terminal” can speed up the death process.’

Words are powerful; use yours to build people up.

People-Building (1)

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‘Phebe… a succourer of many.’ Romans 16:1-2 KJV

Your church needs members committed to supporting and encouraging each other. People like Phebe, whom Paul calls  ‘a succourer of many’.Succour: in Greek, it applied to Olympic coaches who supported athletes and made sure they were trained and equipped to win. Bible scholar H.F. Moule describes Phebe as ‘a champion… who stood up for others… a devoted, brave friend of converts in trouble, who fought battles of protest where she found oppression… and pleaded the cause of the poor.’ That’s a heavy-duty assignment! And in today’s ‘Me Generation’ not many are willing to take it on. But the truth is, there’s no greater investment than people.

When you invest in another person you give yourself a gift, because you can’t light their path without brightening your own. And the divine rewards outweigh any earthly compensation: ‘Whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6:8 NKJV) As one pastor observed: ‘You have something nobody else can give. Think about how you can make somebody else’s life better. Who can you support and strengthen? Somebody needs your encouragement today… needs to know you believe in him, that you’re for him, that you think he has what it takes to succeed. Looking back, chances are someone played a pivotal role in helping you get where you are today. A parent or teacher who had confidence in you… a boss who placed you in a higher position when you didn’t feel qualified… somebody who saw more in you than you saw in yourself.’ Now it’s your turn!

Find A Prayer Partner; Pray In Agreement

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‘Whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father.’ Matthew 18:19 GNT

The Bible says, ‘Whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in Heaven.’ Becky Smith was eighty-four years old and her sister Christine was eighty-two. The years had taken sight from the first and bent the body of the second, so they couldn’t attend church. Yet their church needed them. They lived on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland, and a spiritual darkness had settled on their village of Barvas. The congregation was losing people, and the youth were mocking the faith, speaking of conversion as a plague. In October 1949, the Presbytery of the Free Church of Scotland called upon their members to pray. But what could two elderly, housebound sisters do? Quite a lot, they determined. They turned their cottage into an all-night house of prayer. From 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. two nights each week, they asked God to have mercy on their island. After several months, Becky told Christine that God had spoken these words to her: ‘I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground.’ (Isaiah 44:3 NKJV) She urged her pastor to conduct a revival and invite the well-known evangelist Duncan Campbell to speak. When Campbell refused to come, she insisted: ‘God says he’s coming and he’ll be here in a fortnight.’ And it happened! For five weeks Campbell preached every night to overflowing crowds at 7:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., midnight, and 3:00 a.m. Sinners were converted, pubs closed for lack of patrons, and the Isle of Lewis tasted the presence of God—all because two women prayed in agreement.

Pray That God Will Open Their Heart

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‘As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart.’ Acts 16:14 NLT

Some of us think that successful people are difficult to win to Christ because they don’t have the same needs as others. But they do. Everyone has an emptiness within them that only God can fill, and He wants to use you to fill it. Consider the story of Lydia. ‘One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth… As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.’ (Acts 16:14–15 NLT)

Not only did Lydia respond to the Gospel, she opened her home so that others could come and hear it too. In many cases it’s easier to reach successful people with the Gospel. Why? Because they know that to be successful you must be open to new ideas and concepts. And they understand that in order to enjoy continued success, you must stay open to change. Don’t let the fact that someone is not your social peer keep you from telling them about Jesus. Note the words, ‘As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart.’

It’s your job to tell them, and it’s God’s job to open their heart! So sow the seed of His Word into their life when you have an opportunity, and believe that the ‘Lord of the harvest’ will do the rest.

Nothing Can Separate You From God’s Love

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‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ Romans 8:35 NLT

Paul asked the great question: ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ When you don’t know why God loves you in the first place, it’s easy to doubt His love at times. You want to know how He feels about you when you act like a jerk, when you snap at anything that moves, when your thoughts are gutter-level, and when your tongue is sharp enough to slice a rock. You ask, ‘How does He feel about me then?’

And what about when bad things happen—does God care then? Does He love you in the midst of fear? Is He with you when danger lurks? In other words, ‘Will He ever stop loving me?’ That’s the great question, isn’t it? Perhaps you crossed the line this week. Or you started drinking and kept at it until you couldn’t walk. Or your business took you where you had no business being. Or you cursed God for making you stand at the grave of a loved one you weren’t ready to give up. Did you drift too far? Did you wait too long? Did you slip too much? Were you too uncertain? ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ No, absolutely not. Paul reassures us: ‘I am convinced that… 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. No power…above or…below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God… in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38–39 NLT)

How To Pray For Others

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‘May God… give you grace, mercy, and peace.’ 1 Timothy 1:2 NLT

Let’s face it; much of the time we don’t know what problems people are dealing with or what they’re going through. So when you decide to pray for them, follow Paul’s example, in which he asked God to give Timothy these three things:

(1) Grace. In the Bible, the word grace implies two things: first, God’s unmerited favor; second, ‘all of God’s ability you’ll ever need to handle whatever you are facing.’ Here’s a great Bible promise you should stand on in times of difficulty: ‘God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong… support you and keep you from falling.’ (1 Peter 5:10 NCV)

(2) Mercy. A large publishing house had a machine that automatically mailed reminders to its readers when their subscriptions had expired. One day it malfunctioned and a rancher in a remote Colorado town received 9,734 notices. So he drove for kilometers to the nearest post office, posted his cheque, and wrote, ‘Send me the magazine. I give up!’ That’s how it is with God; He keeps sending us notices. ‘Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:22–23 NKJV)

(3) Peace. The peace God gives can sustain us through the worst of circumstances. And it’s different from the peace the world offers. At best, the world offers temporary relief. But ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.’ (Philippians 4:7 NIV) So when you’re not sure how to pray for someone, ask God to give them His grace, His mercy, and His peace.

Do What God Has Told You (6)

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‘You need to persevere.’ Hebrews 10:36 NIV

Try to imagine what life on the ark must have been like for Noah. He probably didn’t get much sleep. He was feeding, cleaning and caring for thousands of animals around the clock. And it must have smelled to high heaven. Did you know that African elephants produce 136kg of waste per day? It was smelly and messy. And that’s a pretty accurate picture of what obedience sometimes looks like. It’s hard work, and it gets harder. The blessings of God can complicate your life. But unlike sin, they bring a level of joy and fulfillment you have never known (see Proverbs 10:22). No matter what vision God has given you, it will take longer and be harder than you ever imagined. Noah offers a little reality check, doesn’t he?

If a decade sounds like a long time to patiently pursue a God-ordained passion, try more than ten! It’s amazing what God can do if you just keep hammering away year after year! We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a year, but we underestimate what God can accomplish in a decade. The key is to be a planner and a plodder. Planners see into the future and cast a vision; plodders put one foot in front of the other and keep going one day at a time. Success is not just about getting where God wants you to go, it’s about who you become in the process. It’s crossing the finish line the way the apostle Paul did: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.’ (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT) So, do what God has told you.

Do What God Has Told You (5)

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‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.’ 1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV

As long as you need man’s approval, God is limited in what He can do through you. Faith is the willingness to look foolish. That’s why faith and humility go hand in hand. Noah looked foolish building an ark in the desert. Moses looked foolish asking Pharaoh to let his slaves go. The Israelite army looked foolish marching ’round Jericho blowing trumpets. David looked foolish attacking Goliath with a slingshot. The wise men looked foolish following a star. Peter looked foolish stepping out of the boat in the middle of a storm. And Jesus looked foolhardy hanging on the cross.

But the results speak for themselves, don’t they? Noah stayed afloat during the flood. Moses delivered Israel out of Egypt. The walls of Jericho came tumbling down. David defeated Goliath. The wise men found the Messiah. Peter walked on water. And Jesus rose from the dead.

There comes a moment when you must quit hedging your bets, quit playing it safe and doing what you’ve always done. You need to build the ark, or at least plant some trees or saw some planks! Faith is acting as if God has already answered our prayers, and acting as if God has answered means acting on our prayers even if, as in the case of Noah, it takes over a century. Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’ (Mark 11:24 NIV) What has God told you to do? Start doing it!

Do What God Has Told You (4)

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‘Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.’ Genesis 6:8 NIV

You ask, ‘What is the favor of God?’ It’s God doing for you what you cannot do for yourself. It opens doors of opportunity. It turns opposition into support. It can help you land a promotion, make the list, or seal the deal. The Bible says, ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.’ (Luke 2:52 NIV)

Note, just as you can grow in wisdom and stature, you can also grow in favor with God and men. So instead of being content with the level of favor you enjoy, ask God for an increase. You ask, ‘How do I find favor?’ Obedience! It begins by surrendering your life to Christ. ‘No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.’ (Psalm 84:11 NASB) And God’s favor is not limited to the spiritual realm; it extends to the material realm as well. In Noah’s life, it translated into ingenious inventions. He didn’t just build the first boat and pioneer the shipbuilding industry, he also made many technical discoveries. According to Jewish tradition, Noah invented the plow, the scythe, the hoe, and a number of other implements used for cultivating the ground. The favor of God translated into good ideas.

It doesn’t matter what you do, God wants to help you do it. He wants to favor your business plan, your manuscript, your lesson plan, your legal brief, your sales pitch, etc. But you’ve got to position yourself for that favor by acting in obedience and walking uprightly. If you are willing to give God the glory, He will bless you beyond your ability and beyond your resources.

Do What God Has Told You (3)

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‘Noah walked with God.’ Genesis 6:9 NKJV

What went through Noah’s mind when God told him to build a boat in the middle of dry land? Nobody had ever done it before. Yet the Bible says, ‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him.’ (Genesis 6:22 NIV) How did he do it? Answer: ‘Noah walked with God.’ Walking takes place step by step. The trouble is, we want God to reveal the second step before we take the first step of faith. But until we take the first step, He won’t reveal the next step. We’ve got to be obedient to the measure of revelation He has given us, if we want more of it. That’s why we get stuck spiritually. We only want to follow Christ to the point of precedence—the place where we have been before—but no farther. We’re afraid of doing what we’ve never done before because it’s unfamiliar territory.

So we leave unclaimed the new gifts, new anointings, and new dreams God wants to give us. You’ve got to push past the fear of the unknown. You’ve got to do something different. The African impala can jump three meters high and ten meters long, yet it can be contained in a small enclosure with 1.2 meter high walls. Why? Because it will not jump if it cannot see where it’s going to land. We have the same problem, don’t we? We want a money-back guarantee before we take a leap of faith, but that eliminates faith from the equation. We are called to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV) So the word for you today is: do what God has told you.

Do What God Has Told You (2)

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‘By faith Noah… built an ark.’ Hebrews 11:7 NIV

Noah built the ark because God commanded it. It’s what he was called to do in life. Sawing planks and hammering nails for him was an act of obedience. And when everything was said and done, it was the longest act of obedience recorded in Scripture. From start to finish, Noah’s one act of obedience took tens of thousands of days! And with each daily act of obedience, he glorified God. No matter what tool you use in your trade—a hammer, a keyboard, a mop, a football, a spreadsheet, a microphone, an espresso machine—using it is an act of obedience. It’s the mechanism whereby you worship God. It’s the way you do what you’re supposed to do. The Bible says, ‘Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.’(Colossians 3:17 NIV) Stop putting yourself down and thinking what you do is not important.

Remember the old proverb, ‘For want of a nail’? It goes like this: ‘For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.’ In God’s eyes, small acts of obedience are big things. When you joyfully do little things like they are big things, then God will do big things like they are little things. That’s how His Kingdom advances. So the word for you today is: do what God has told you.

Do What God Has Told You (1)

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‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him.’ Genesis 6:22 NIV

Noah’s ark measured 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in width, and 30 cubits in height. A cubit is thought to be the equivalent of 44.4 cm. That means the ark was the length of one and a half football fields. The internal volume of the ark was 43,000 cubic metres—the equivalent of around 350 buses. If the average animal was the size of a sheep, it had capacity for 125,000 animals. To put that into perspective, there are 4,000 animals from 350 different species at Taronga Park Zoo. That means you could fit over 31 Taronga Zoos on board Noah’s ark. And since it was the first boat ever built, it’s not like it came with an instruction manual. It was back-breaking work that required blood, sweat, and tears. And it took an incredible amount of faith to build the ark. Who builds a boat in the desert? Who hammers away for over 100 years on something they might not even need? Who banks their entire future on something that has never happened before? According to Jewish tradition, Noah didn’t just start building the ark. He planted trees first. After they were fully grown, he cut down the trees, sawed them into planks, and built the boat. And here’s an interesting piece of information: not until the late nineteenth century did a ship that size get constructed again. Yet that design ratio is still considered the golden mean for stability during storms at sea. Noah’s act of obedience literally changed the world—and obedience will change your world too. So do what God has told you to do.

Don’t ‘Go It Alone’

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‘“It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord.’ Zechariah 4:6 NLT

Zerubbabel was called to rebuild the temple. It was a huge undertaking, so God told him, ‘“It is not by force nor by strength, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord… “Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way.”’ (Zechariah 4:6–7 NLT) When God calls you, you need to know:

(1) You may have to walk alone. When God uses you, people often assume you’re strong and don’t need anything. They don’t realize you’re just a regular person who’s half scared to death at times, and who’s more amazed by your success than they are. And when nobody stands with you or ministers to you, you become vulnerable to discouragement.

(2) You need God’s help or you’re in trouble. Samson discovered this: ‘He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. Then the Philistines seized him.’ (Judges 16:20–21 NIV) God stepped back and let Samson see that it was the Lord doing it, and not himself. So you must live with a sense of dependence on God.

(3) It’s God’s power, not yours, that makes the difference. If you’re waiting for God to give you exceptional equipment before you decide to get into the fight, you’re not going to experience victory. God’s ‘strength is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV) The way you know you’re truly anointed is when God takes substandard equipment and performs supernatural feats. And that only happens when you say, ‘Lord, I don’t see how You could do this through me, but I’m trusting You to.’ That’s when He gets involved!

Don’t Be A Hypocrite

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‘All their works they do to be seen by men.’ Matthew 23:5 NKJV

Here’s a working definition of the word hypocrisy: ‘to be seen by men’. Jesus had a no-tolerance policy when it came to hypocrisy. Why? Because He knew it turns people against God. Instead, He taught:

(1) Expect no credit for your good deeds. None. If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God. Stop and ask yourself this question: ‘If no one knew of the good I do, would I still do it?’ If not, you’re doing it ‘to be seen’ by people.

(2) Give your financial gifts in secret. Money stirs the phony within us. We like to be seen earning it. And we like to be seen giving it. So Jesus said, ‘When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’ (Matthew 6:3 NLT)

(3) Don’t fake your spirituality. When you go to church, don’t select a seat just to be seen, or sing just to be heard. If you raise your hands in worship, raise holy ones, not showy ones. When you talk, don’t doctor your vocabulary with trendy religious terms. Nothing nauseates more than a fake ‘Praise the Lord’, or a shallow ‘Hallelujah’, or an insincere ‘Glory be to God!’

Ever watch children in a playground shouting, ‘Watch me!’ That’s acceptable because they’re still immature, but it’s not acceptable in God’s kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite!

Labor and Laziness

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‘Hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.’ Proverbs 14:23 NIV

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon uses the word sluggard no less than seventeen times. A sluggard isn’t a person who would work but can’t find a job; a sluggard is a person who could work but won’t. The story is told of a man who applied for assistance at the welfare office. The official asked, ‘Why do you need financial aid?’ He replied, ‘Because I’m having trouble with my eyes.’ The official asked, ‘What’s the nature of your eye trouble?’ The man replied, ‘I just can’t see myself going to work every day.’ And every sluggard has eye trouble. Or it doesn’t bother him as long as somebody else is doing the work.

President Theodore Roosevelt was right when he said: ‘Extend pity to no man because he has to work. If he’s worth his salt, he’ll work. I envy the man who has work worth doing, and does it well… far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ Somehow we’ve lost the spirit, if not the letter, of President Roosevelt’s thinking. Ask any employer and they will tell you that someone who’ll work, work hard, do the job right, and finish the task, is getting harder to find. God’s not against leisure. A worker who’s rested and refreshed will be a better worker. Solomon’s contrast in the book of Proverbs is between labor and laziness. Parent, one of the best things you can do for your children is to pass a strong work ethic on to them, and set them up to succeed in life.

Seven Scriptural Steps To Success

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‘He was… successful… because he obeyed the Lord.’ 2 Chronicles 31:21 CEV

Here are seven Scriptural steps to success in life:

(1) Put God first. He wants you to succeed; what good parent wouldn’t? So work on your relationship with Him. ‘Now acquaint yourself with Him… thereby good will come to You.’ (Job 22:21 NKJV)

(2) Help others to become successful. ‘Whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6:8 NKJV) Don’t just be interested in yourself, become interested in others too.

(3) Create a climate of confidence around you. As long as you keep speaking words of doubt, you’ll never experience victory. Remind yourself that your ‘sufficiency is of God.’ (2 Corinthians 3:5 KJV)

(4) Stay informed. ‘A wise man will hear and increase in learning.’ (Proverbs 1:5 NASB) Observe, read, and grow. If you’re willing to pay money for a good meal but not for a good book, perhaps you value your appetite more than your intellect.

(5) Picture yourself attaining your goal. Think and talk success. Moses did that: ‘Moses didn’t give up but continued as if he could actually see the invisible God.’ (Hebrews 11:27 GWT)

(6) Write down your plan and establish deadlines. Make a detailed list of required activities, and set checkpoints. Guard your mind and prioritize your time. Make ‘the very most of the time [and] opportunity.’ (Ephesians 5:16 AMPC)

(7) Set a realistic goal. And work towards it one priority at a time. Many things in life fail for one reason—broken focus. So avoid distractions: ‘A double-minded man is unstable.’ (James 1:8 KJV) If you do these seven things, you’ll succeed in life.

‘Lord, what should I do?’ (4)

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‘Along unfamiliar paths I will guide them.’ Isaiah 42:16 NIV

Another way God will lead you is: through confronting your fear and taking a step of faith. Are you feeling uncertain or afraid as to God’s will in the situation? His promise to you is: ‘I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.’ (Isaiah 42:16 NIV) Pay particular attention to the words: ‘unfamiliar paths’… ‘darkness’… ‘rough places’. When you’ve sought God’s guidance through the Scriptures, when you’ve tried to listen to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, and when you’ve reached for the wisdom of trustworthy people, then you must step out in faith and do what you believe God is calling you to do.

It’s one thing to ask, ‘Lord, what should I do?’ It’s entirely another thing to ask, ‘Am I willing to do it once You make it clear?’ Try to answer these two questions:

(a) What makes risk so difficult for you? Be honest. For most of us risk and change are uncomfortable, challenging, and even threatening. That’s why the Bible says,  ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding.’ (Proverbs 3:5 NKJV) If you’ve been in the habit of leaning on your own understanding, it’s a hard habit to break. Now, God doesn’t say, ‘Don’t use your understanding’; He says, ‘Don’t lean on it—lean on Me.’

(b) Are you willing to make a major change in your life—assuming that it’s the Lord’s will? You must answer these two questions. And not until they are answered correctly are you ready to move ahead.

‘Lord, what should I do?’ (3)

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‘The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.’ Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Another way God will lead you is: through Godly advice. Moses experienced this. Instead of getting help, he tried to do it all himself. At that point his father-in-law, Jethro, said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good.’(Exodus 18:17 NIV) Then he told Moses to delegate responsibility to capable leaders who could share the load with him. ‘Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.’ (Exodus 18:24 NIV) As a result, Moses’ problem was solved, and Israel made it successfully to the Promised Land.

Some of the time God will speak to you directly and reveal what you should do, but much of the time He will speak to you through relationships. He will bring wise and seasoned people alongside you. At that point you need to be humble enough to heed their advice. You may be good; indeed, you may be better than most. But you’ll never be as good as you could be, without the help of others. But you must be careful who you listen to—trustworthy counselors and persons who want only what God wants. Such persons will stay objective, listen carefully, and answer slowly. Often they won’t give you an answer at the time you ask for it. They want to sleep on it; they want to pray about it; they want to think about it. Such a person is like having an extra set of eyes and ears. Why would you want to live without them? So today be open to those God sends into your life to help guide you.

‘Lord, what should I do?’ (2)

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‘God is working in you.’ Philippians 2:13 NLT

Another way in which God will lead you is: through the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. As a parent, you wouldn’t allow your children to get into trouble if you could stop them—and neither would God. ‘For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.’

God will give you a desire to do His will, plus the power to carry it out. You ask, ‘But how can I know God’s voice?’ Through time, through testing, through experience, and most of all through intimacy with Him. When a loved one calls you on the phone, they don’t have to say, ‘Hello, this is your husband or your wife calling.’ You know their voice! And learning to recognize the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit is crucial.

‘The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?’ (Proverbs 20:24 NLT) When all is said and done, you will say, ‘Honestly, I didn’t figure this thing out. It must have been God.’ The longer you walk with God the less you’ll know about why He leads as He does, but you’ll know with assurance that He does lead you. Knowing that is what will draw you back to Him time and time again to seek His guidance. The apostle Jude said,  ‘I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith.’(Jude 1:3 NIV) Those words— ‘I felt I had to’—are nothing less than the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.

‘Lord, what should I do?’ (1)

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‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’ Psalm 119:105 NIV

When you pray, ‘Lord, what should I do?’ He can respond to you in several ways. Let’s look at some over the next few days. He will answer you through His written Word. Instead of turning to ‘Tom, Dick, and Harry’ for guidance, go to God. Make His Word your first option rather than your last resort.

The psalmist wrote, ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’Without a regular daily intake of God’s Word, you’ll be ‘in the dark’ as to what’s best for you and the direction your life should go. ‘I, the Lord, will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled.’ (Ezekiel 12:25 NIV) If God says it in His Word, you can count on it. There are precepts in Scripture, but mainly God has given us principles to follow. These principles require wisdom and discernment.

The psalmist said, ‘I believe in Your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge.’ (Psalm 119:66 NLT) This doesn’t mean you must have a particular verse for every decision or move you make. That’s not how it works. Most times when you ask God for guidance, He will give you ‘good judgment and knowledge’, and that’s enough to get you moving in the right direction. Will you sometimes experience fear? Yes, but that’s when you must use your faith! Your greatest clarity as to God’s will often comes from hindsight, not foresight. It’s in looking back on how God has led you that you say, ‘Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave.’ (1 Kings 8:56 NIV)

Pass It On

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‘Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.’ Matthew 7:12 ESV

The Bible says, ‘There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves …of money… abusive… slanderous, without self-control, brutal… treacherous…’ (2 Timothy 3:1–6 NIV) If you don’t believe that, try sliding into a parking space another motorist wants. Or watch shoppers in a checkout line elbowing one another to save thirty seconds. And how about ‘your seat’ in church; you know, the one you’ve been warming for thirty years? The Bible says, ‘Be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves.’ (Philippians 2:3–4 CEV) Jesus said, ‘Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.’ In other words, practice putting others first.

Nobel Prize-winning medical missionary Albert Schweitzer said, ‘The only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.’ If you need motivation, start looking for the good qualities in people instead of the bad ones. And remember, they have to do the same in your case. Do something to help them. If you really want to get ahead in life, love others a little bit more than they deserve, just like God loves you. Too often we expect everyone else to practice the Golden Rule. Hymnist Henry Burton wrote: ‘Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on. ’Twas not given for thee alone, pass it on. Let it travel down the years, let it wipe another’s tears, till in Heaven the deed appears—pass it on.’

Be A Peacemaker

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‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ Matthew 5:9 NIV

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar told of a little guy who was confronted by three big bullies, any one of whom could have flattened him. And clearly, that’s what they had in mind. But the little guy was very bright. He backed away, drew a line in the dirt, backed up a few more steps, looked into the eyes of the biggest bully and said, ‘I dare you to step across that line!’ The guy did. Then the little boy grinned and said, ‘Good, now we’re both on the same side!’

When you find yourself in the midst of conflict, you can decide to do one of two things: become a troublemaker or a peacemaker. You can add to the stress or try to bring a solution. Peacemakers look for common ground and try to get everyone onto it. Their goal is to find a win-win solution. Barnabas, whose name means ‘Son of Consolation’ or ‘Son of Encouragement’, stood up for the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus. The leaders of the church felt threatened by him, and you could hardly blame them. But Barnabas wasn’t thinking about Paul’s violent background; he was considering his value to God. In essence, he was thinking, ‘If we can harness and direct this guy, he can win the race for us.’ And he was proved right. Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle. But not until Barnabas put his credibility on the line (see Acts 9:26–30).

Peacemaking calls for taking risks. It means evaluating people by their best moments and qualities. Peacemakers are ‘big picture’ thinkers who are governed by grace, not petty opinions and temporary conditions. So be a peacemaker.

The Answer’s On The Way!

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‘Shunem, where there was a great woman.’ 2 Kings 4:8 KJV

The Bible refers to this woman as ‘a great woman’. That’s because she had a ‘great’ strategy for her life! She prepared a bedroom in her house for Elisha the prophet to use when he passed through town. As a result she got her heart’s desire: a baby boy. And later when her son died suddenly, God used Elisha to raise him from the dead. Notice three things in this woman’s story:

(1) She made room for God.

(2) Her dream came to pass.

(3) When her dream died, God brought it back to life (2 Kings 4:36–37). When her son died, the neighbors probably told her, ‘It’s over. Go ahead and bury him.’ But she refused to accept the opinions of unbelieving people or discuss her situation with those who were unqualified to help.

Be careful who you open up to in a crisis! Make sure they know God, and that their words line up with His. This woman believed that if God started it, He could finish it. If He made it, He could fix it. The Bible tells us Elisha stretched out his body on top of the dead boy, and he got warm. But this boy needed more than warmth—he needed life. So Elisha stretched out on top of him again, and he became fully alive. There’s a lesson here for you. No matter how bad things look, stay on top of the situation by believing God. Walk the floor and pray all night if you have to, but keep standing on His Word. Your dream may not yet be fully alive, but it’s getting warm. Things are improving… God is moving… the answer’s on the way!

Learn To Live Within Your Means

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‘The borrower is servant to the lender.’ Proverbs 22:7 NKJV

Here’s an idea for getting out of debt, and staying out. Instead of referring to it as your ‘credit card’, start seeing it as your ‘debt card’. Next time you have an ‘itch’ to purchase something you don’t need or can’t pay for, that may just stop you from ‘scratching’ it. People generally fall into three categories:

(1) the haves

(2) the have-nots

(3) the have-not-paid-for-what-they-haves.

The story is told of a handyman who’d been called out to a millionaire’s mansion to refinish the floors. The rich man’s wife said, ‘Be especially careful with this dining room table. It goes back to Louis XVI.’ The handyman said, ‘That’s nothing. If I don’t make a payment by next Friday, my whole living room set goes back to the furniture store!’

They say the average person today drives a bank-financed car, with petrol they bought on a credit card, to a department store to open another store account, so they can fill their house that’s mortgaged for thirty years to the bank, with furniture that’s been purchased on an installment plan. Now, the Bible doesn’t condemn credit, but it cautions us about the use of it. ‘The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. ’

It’s ok to borrow for necessities, but you should always pay for luxuries. So if at all possible, pay cash or don’t buy it. ‘The wicked borrows and does not repay.’ (Psalm 37:21 NKJV) It’s not wrong to borrow money, it’s just wrong to borrow money and not repay it. So the word for you today is: learn to live within your means.

Spiritual Growth (3)

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‘The Word of God, which effectively works in you who believe.’ 1 Thessalonians 2:13 NKJV

Spiritually speaking, you may not be as far along as you’d like to be, but thank God you’re still on the road. At one time you were a stranger to God’s grace, but now you belong to ‘the household of God.’ (Ephesians 2:19 NKJV) Paul writes, ‘You received the Word…which…effectively works in you who believe.’ As long as you keep reading and believing God’s Word, it will keep working in you. Plus, you mature a lot faster when you learn to relax and start living by what God’s Word says about you, not how you feel. How you see yourself affects your spiritual progress profoundly. Until your self-concept lines up with what God says about you in Scripture, you’ll keep seeing yourself as unqualified and unworthy—and that will hinder your spiritual growth.

When God told Jeremiah He’d called him as a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah informed God he was too young, wasn’t a good speaker, and didn’t have enough experience. How did God respond? ‘Before I formed you…I knew [and] approved of you.’ (Jeremiah 1:5 AMPC) So stop worrying about being rejected when you don’t perform perfectly. The world operates like that, but not God. Plus, if you were as perfect as you’d like to be, you wouldn’t need His grace. Like Jacob’s limp, sometimes God leaves things in us to remind us how much we need Him each day. So enjoy where you are right now and stop comparing yourself with other people. Don’t worry if they are farther along than you. They went through exactly the same places to get to where they are today.

Spiritual Growth (2)

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‘When we grew up, we quit our childish ways.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11 CEV

People with strong faith can make you feel ‘less than’, when you compare yourself to them. We can so admire people of faith who testify to amazing changes in their lives—and exude confidence and stability in their relationship with God—that we feel inadequate in comparison. In our heart of hearts, many of us wonder if God doles out His favor according to a merit system. Big tick or gold star for perfect obedience, big strike-out for anything less. But, truth is, faith is a growing thing. It doesn’t burst into life, fully mature, instantly perfect.

Do you feel that way, as if there is something wrong with you because you never seem to measure up? If so, read this: ‘When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do. But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways.’ You start as a spiritual infant, then you become a spiritual child, then you become a spiritual adolescent, and eventually you become a spiritual adult. But you never ‘arrive’. And quick-fix, do-it-yourself righteousness will just make you try to impress others with a false sense of holiness. It will stop you from being honest before God and make you think you should be farther along than you are for your spiritual age. Do you remember when you were a child and you dressed up in your mum’s high heels or your dad’s work boots? No matter how much you wanted to fit into them, you couldn’t. That didn’t mean there was something wrong with you; it just meant you were exactly where you should have been for your age.

Spiritual Growth (1)

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‘In due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.’ Galatians 6:9 NKJV

A high-rise construction worker slipped and fell from a scaffold forty floors up. As he was plummeting past the twentieth-floor window, a woman in an office shouted out, ‘How are you doing?’ The man replied, ‘So far, so good!’

Seriously, some days spiritual growth feels like two steps forward and three steps back. It doesn’t come easily; that’s why Paul encourages us not to lose heart. Generally speaking, you don’t notice yourself getting older physically until you see an earlier photo, then it hits you. And it’s the same with spiritual growth; it’s often hard to gauge how far you’ve come until you look back and see where you were before Jesus turned your life around. The Bible says, ‘As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB) But growing up involves growing pains! So when you get discouraged, remind yourself that you’re on a spiritual journey, you’re making progress in spite of your problems, and that the devil will always look for ways to remind you how far you still have to go. Don’t listen to him! Jesus said, ‘Everything he says is a lie.’(John 8:44 CEV) If you get discouraged and give up, Satan wins.

The Bible says, ‘Capture… rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT) Learn to live beyond your feelings, to dig down inside to where God’s Spirit lives. And take heart: it may not always look like it, but each day you’re maturing and growing stronger in Christ. So don’t even think about quitting.

God Loves Them—You Must Too

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‘You know that we Jews are not allowed to have anything to do with other people. But God has shown me that He doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit.’ Acts 10:28 CEV

From a Jewish point of view Cornelius, a Gentile, was a bad guy. He ate the wrong food, hung out with the wrong crowd, and swore allegiance to the wrong leader: Caesar. He didn’t quote the Torah or descend from Abraham. He was uncircumcised, unkosher, and unclean. Yet he did two things that got God’s attention. He prayed for spiritual enlightenment, and he was generous to the poor and needy. The Bible says he was ‘one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.’ (Acts 10:2 NKJV) Up until this point the Gospel had been preached only to the Jews. But God was about to change that.

And to do it He used Peter, one of the most religiously biased people you’d ever meet. In a vision, God showed Peter a sheet being let down from Heaven; it was filled with all kinds of food Jews are forbidden to eat. Peter protested, ‘Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’ (Acts 10:14 NKJV) And since Peter was slow to understand, the sheet was let down three times. Finally a voice from Heaven said, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ (Acts 10:15 NKJV) As a result, Peter went to Cornelius’ house and preached the Gospel. And before he could issue an invitation, the Holy Spirit fell on all who were present, confirming that this was God’s will. At that point Peter declared, ‘God has shown me that He doesn’t think anyone is unclean or unfit.’ Let God show you that too!

Practice Humility

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‘Clothe yourselves with humility.’ 1 Peter 5:5 NASB

The Bible says: ‘Clothe yourselves with humility… for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble… humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:5–7 NASB) Let’s break this Scripture down into four parts:

(1) ‘Clothe yourselves with humility.’ In this context the word clothe refers to a white scarf or apron that was typically worn by servants. Does that mean you have to conform to everybody’s wishes? No; if you do that everybody else may like you but you won’t like yourself. Just be who God called you to be, and be willing to serve others as the opportunity arises.

(2) ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less and putting others first.

(3) ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.’ Throughout Scripture ‘the mighty hand of God’ symbolizes two things: God’s hand of discipline and His hand of deliverance, and you need both. So submit to His discipline and you’ll experience His deliverance.

(4) ‘Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’ Here Peter addresses one of our core human concerns: that if we don’t look out for ourselves nobody else will. But if we really believe God ‘cares’ for us we needn’t worry about serving our own interest. We’re free to focus on the needs of others, confident that God will spare nothing when it comes to meeting our needs.

Small Things Matter

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‘Who has despised the day of small things?’ Zechariah 4:10 NKJV

When God gave Gideon victory over the Midianites, He used an army of just three hundred to defeat an enemy that swarmed like an uncountable cloud of locusts (see Judges 7). That wasn’t because there weren’t more soldiers available; it was because God wanted to demonstrate His power in ‘the day of small things’.

Jesus could have chosen any number of followers, but He handpicked twelve to reach the world with the Gospel. One day He fed five thousand people with five bread rolls and two small fish from a child’s lunchbox. He compared God’s kingdom to a mustard seed—a tiny speck, yet it grows into a sprawling bush. He also likened His Kingdom to yeast that’s barely discernible, yet it can raise an entire batch of dough. Then He went on to say, ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.’(Luke 16:10 NIV)

So if you’re asking God to make you bigger instead of better, you may be disappointed. All the prayers in the world won’t pressure Him into giving you what you are not ready to handle. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, ‘Most people would succeed in small things if they weren’t troubled with blind ambition.’ Your drive to be bigger can give you ulcers, keep you awake at night, and stop you from enjoying the blessings God has already given you. Better may be harder to measure and not as glamorous, but the inner stability that comes from gradual success is more valuable and lasting. So if you’re in ‘the day of small things’, rejoice and be confident that God has bigger and better things in mind for you.

Use Your Common Sense

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‘God blesses everyone who has wisdom and common sense.’ Proverbs 3:13 CEV

The key to success lies in doing the right thing at the right time. Theologian Tryon Edwards said, ‘Have a time and place for everything, and do everything in its time and place… you’ll not only accomplish more, but have far more leisure than those who are always hurrying.’ If you’re tired of living with constant stress, theology professor Dr Howard Hendricks draws our attention to four major sources:

(1) Saying yes to far too many things. Dr Lewis Sperry Chafer once said, ‘Much of our spiritual activity is little more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.’ All our ‘going and doing’ fails to address our core emptiness.

(2) Not stopping to recharge our batteries. We dutifully pull out our day planner and fill the spaces between activities. But let’s not fool ourselves; avoiding overlapping activities isn’t planning. As a result, we’re a stressed-out, short-tempered crowd, commuting between poorly planned activities that add little to our spiritual well-being.

(3) Failure to enjoy what we accomplish. ‘A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.’ (Proverbs 13:19 NKJV) With always too much to do, we dash off to the next obligation, often without finishing the previous one or taking time to stand back and savor a job well done. No wonder we worry that our existence seems meaningless.

(4) Owing more than we can repay. Next time you’re faced with a credit card purchase—wait! Don’t necessarily say no. Just present your so-called ‘need’ to God and see what He says about it. If you’re serious about developing your spiritual life, use your common sense and put these four principles to work.

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (5)

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‘The Lord looks at the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

Pastor and author John MacArthur says: ‘Jesus’ exposition of the law is a devastating blow against the lie that image is everything. Secret sin is especially abhorrent because:

(1) God sees the heart. In fact, if we realized He’s the only audience we’d be less inclined to write it off. It’s folly to mitigate sin by keeping it private… it’s double-folly to think you’re better than others because you sin privately… and it’s the height of folly to conceal it. “He who covers his sins will not prosper.” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV)

(2) Sinful thoughts originate from the same source as sinful deeds. When Jesus said hatred carries the same guilt as murder, and that lust is essentially adultery, He wasn’t saying there’s no difference in degree… He was saying that a lustful person has no right to feel superior to a fornicator. The fact that somebody thinks such thoughts proves they’re capable of immoral acts, and someone who hates his brother already has murder lurking in his heart.

(3) Hypocrisy compounds hidden sin. Why? Because it means covering it up. Jesus called hypocrisy “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1 NKJV) because it compounds itself like leaven. It sears your conscience and paves the way for other character-damaging sins… When somebody tries to tell you appearances are everything—don’t buy it! Your secret life is a litmus test of your character: “As he thinks within himself, so he is.” (Proverbs 23:7 NASB) If you want to know who you really are, look at your private life. Then gaze into the mirror of God’s Word and let Him disclose and correct the thoughts and intents of your heart.’

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (4)

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‘You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ Psalm 32:5 NLT

David said, ‘I confessed all my sins to You… And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.’ Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘If you’re tired of pretending you have it all together, it’s time to act. For too long Christian women in particular have believed they’re the only ones dealing with shameful issues, agonizing regrets, and skeletons in their closet. Once we open up to God, ourselves, and others, we experience exhilarating freedom and peace. A woman wrote to me: “I had an abortion when I was eighteen. Nobody knows. For years I marked the date on my calendar and grieved for the child nobody knew about, and the young woman who bore the guilt alone. No more! Now I know I’m not alone, and for the first time in my life I truly believe God is bigger than my secret—and He’s willing to forgive.” Secrets only hold power when they’re hidden. Once they’re revealed in the light of God’s love they lose their control. However, there are some things to consider before opening up to someone:

(1) If that person repeats things others have shared in confidence, guess who’s up next for discussion?

(2) Beware of someone who’s apt to offer unsolicited advice, then take offense when it’s ignored.

(3) Stay away from somebody who tries to “fix” you, and tells you not to worry about your secrets.

Instead, look for someone who:

(a) has good sense and knows when to “back off” and/or move forward when you’re upset;

(b) is up-front about their own struggles; (c) is quick to listen and slow to speak; (d) undergirds their words and counsel with Scriptural truths.’

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (3)

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‘You will rebuild those houses left in ruins for years.’ Isaiah 58:12 CEV

Lie number two: God won’t use you now. Julie Ann Barnhill continues: ‘Women long to have their lives count for something more eternal than their jean size, or updated qualifications on a CV. Yet many times we judge ourselves by these superficial standards. Think of all the times you’ve gazed in a mirror and despised the woman staring back at you; times you’ve bought into the lie that because of your failures God can’t use you. I’m living proof that He can and does use us despite our past mistakes. David said when “I confessed my sins… You forgave my guilt.” (Psalm 32:5 NCV) The worst sins in Scripture can never drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love, if you confess them and seek forgiveness. God’s truths can dispel the enemy’s deceit.’

Take hold of His promise that you will rebuild the ruins of your life. (Isaiah 58:11–12) ‘Lie number three: When people find out what you’ve done, they’ll never love, understand, or forgive you. Some you considered friends may leave… It happened to me… Friends dropped me when they learned the depth of my messes. And I once dropped a friend after learning some uncomfortable details about her life. Friends come and go, but a true friend sticks by you like family (see Proverbs 17:17). I wasn’t faithful to my friend, but Jesus always is. Time and again He promised never to leave us.’

Even ‘if we are not faithful, He remains faithful, because He cannot be false to Himself.’ (2 Timothy 2:13 GNT)

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (2)

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‘You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.’ Proverbs 28:13 GNT

Julie Ann Barnhill continues: ‘The “father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV) wants us to believe there are things we’ve done that can make God’s love for us end. And on occasion I’ve swallowed three of his favorite lies. Lie number one: You’re the only person who ever did that. Few things can send me down the road of condemnation and guilt like anger issues… While outwardly I came across as “together”, I knew the verbal and physical boundaries I crossed behind closed doors. I confessed to friends, hoping to hear I wasn’t alone. But there was dead silence, and the enemy whispered, “I told you nobody else had done those things. You’re beyond help.” I believed this until God drew me back to Bible truths I learned and believed since childhood. (a) If I confess my wrongs, He’ll forgive me time after time. (b) If I allow Him, He’ll change my thought patterns and strengthen me to do what’s right. (c) And even if I fail, Jesus remains faithful; it’s impossible for Him not to… Three years later… before a packed audience, I told hundreds of mothers where I’d been, and assured them they weren’t the only ones who’d said, done, and thought whatever they were currently beating themselves up about. Women lined up to speak to me. Some stood quietly with their heads bowed. Others fought to maintain their composure as the enemy’s lies were exposed and defeated… I never grow tired of hearing another person say, “Thanks for being honest!” The Lord has shown me I’m not the only one who’s done the things I’ve done.’ Now that’s real freedom!

Confessions of a Secret Sinner (1)

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‘There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.’ Luke 12:2 NKJV

Inspirational speaker Julie Ann Barnhill writes: ‘I tend to be a stealthy sinner—a cloistered screw-up. Most of my life I’ve managed to fly under the radar… to keep 99.9 per cent of such things hidden. As someone who attended church and appeared to manage a happy family, I avoided glaring attention to the shadow-side of my life—but at great cost. Lying about my spending led to financial problems in my marriage. Covetousness robbed me of friendships and contentment. The teenage anger that sent me reeling in fits of self-mutilation, exploded years later in outbursts of abusive anger towards my children. And when alcohol beckoned during periods of loneliness and depression, I heeded its call. Maybe you’re thinking, “So, you’ve told us a few secrets from your life—they don’t compare to mine.” Seeing who has the most horrifying secret isn’t the point; we need to embrace the truth that we aren’t alone in our secret places… Confession for confession’s sake easily turns into tabloid moments like daytime talk shows. It’s not enough to spill the beans. Genuine confession leads to radical forgiveness that’s only available through Christ. It covers whatever we’ve done, no matter how bad it is. Jesus knows our secrets and they can never stop Him from loving us. They can, however, create a barrier between us and the shame-free life He desires for us. We confess our sins so we can find redemption, rescue, and eternal life. We share our secret places with trusted friends so we might know the reality of divine healing through flesh-and-blood relationships with those we love.’

Nurture Your Children

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‘Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ Ephesians 6:4 KJV

We keep being shocked by stories of children killing teachers and other children in school, and then turning the gun on themselves. Two boys, aged twelve and thirteen, beat a man to death outside a convenience store just for the pleasure of watching him die. Another boy shot a man sitting in a car at a stop sign. When asked why, he replied, ‘Because he looked at me.’

What is causing this? Easy access to guns? Hours spent watching violent videos? Those may be factors. But after extensive research, scientists are concluding that violent behavior is often related to early childhood abuse and neglect. When a baby spends three days or more in dirty nappies, or when children are burned, beaten, or ignored, their blood is filled with stress hormones—cortisol and adrenaline among others. These hormones bombard and affect the brains of those children. So for the rest of their lives they will not think and feel what others do. They actually lose the capacity to empathize with those who suffer. The same research has concluded that babies and young children are incredibly vulnerable between birth and three years of age. If their families don’t protect them, love and care for them, society will pay a terrible price for it in years to come. The Bible uses the word ‘nurture’. It means to love, protect, encourage, compliment, and try to bring out the best in your child.

Why Go To Church?

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‘Christ loved the church.’ Ephesians 5:25 NIV

The story’s told of a mother, who woke her son one Sunday morning and said, ‘Get up—you’re late for church!’

He replied, ‘I don’t want to go. I’ve no friends there, the music’s awful, and the sermons are boring!’

The woman replied, ‘You’ve got to go—you’re the pastor!’

Seriously, why should you go to church? Because ‘Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.’ (Ephesians 5:25–27 NIV)

Pastor and President Emeritus of Taylor University Dr Jay Kesler gives us five reasons for going to church:

(1) It’s the only organization that still deals with issues like salvation, death, judgment, grace, purpose, Heaven and hell.

(2) It adds value and dignity to human life. We live in a secular culture that contributes to our sense of inner worthlessness. The church counteracts this negative message by preaching God’s love and acceptance. (3) It provides a moral and spiritual compass.Society has revised, resisted, and rejected absolutes, embracing relativism, but the church stands on the timeless bedrock of God’s Word. (4) It’s where you find compassion, healing, and community. There—we’re all on par. There—God’s Spirit is working to knit us together as believers, guaranteeing us all ‘access… to the Father.’(Ephesians 2:18 ESV) (5) Unlike other institutions, it has motivated the most lasting, unselfish, essential, courageous endeavors on earth. Things like missions, schools, hospitals, food pantries, rehab centers, and orphanages. Why go to church? Because Jesus loves the church—and so should you.

Learning From The Prodigal Son

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‘Father, I have sinned.’ Luke 15:18 NIV

The prodigal son didn’t get into trouble until he left the safety of his father’s house. Jesus pointed out four things about him:

(1) ‘He wasted his substance.’ Satan is a fraudster. If you heed his call to come out and play, you’ll end up losing the very substance of who you are and what God’s called you to be.

(2) ‘He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country.’ Want to know where you are spiritually? Look at who you hang out with and take advice from. Who do you call; who calls you? Solomon writes, ‘My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.’ (Proverbs 1:10 NIV)

(3) ’He began to be in want.’ Something’s wrong! In his father’s house he never missed a meal, now he’s eating what pigs eat. He’s trying to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Are you doing that? David said, ’The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.’ (Psalm 23:1 NAS) Who’s that promise for? Those who live in the safety of the sheepfold and stay close to the Shepherd.

(4) ‘He came to himself.’ When his elevator could not go any lower he decided to get off. Mercifully, he still could. Some never can.

The Bible says: ‘Today, [not tomorrow] if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’(Hebrews 3:15 NIV) It wasn’t too late for the prodigal—and it’s not too late for you. The moment he changed his prayer from ‘give me’ to ‘forgive me,’ His father opened His arms, welcomed him home and restored him to son-ship. And God will do the same for you, if you let Him.

Overcoming Your Fears (3)

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‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’ Hebrews 13:6 NIV

Let’s look at two more common fears:

(1) Fear of not being good enough. It’s not about being as good as others; it’s about being yourself! Stop comparing yourself to other people and instead spend your time discovering your God-given strengths. You were born for a purpose, and that purpose may be unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.

(2) Fear of not being accepted. This is one of the greatest sources of loneliness in society today. And the internet hasn’t solved the problem because deep down we all long for intimacy, not information. You’d be surprised at how many people go home to an empty house, eat dinner for one, watch television, and climb into bed alone. Even when we’re surrounded by a crowd we still feel isolated—like an island in the middle of the sea. But, in truth, it doesn’t have to be that way—particularly if you’re a member of God’s redeemed family. The key to being accepted is to reach out and accept other members of your spiritual family. When you allow them into your private world, you’ll find they welcome you into theirs. Take a look at your life today. Nobody’s looking, and the person who’ll benefit most from it is you! Insecure people can be the most difficult to reach because they’re desperate to hide what they perceive as inadequacies and failures. If you need the help of a professional counselor, doctor, or pastor, reach out and get it! You owe it to yourself! Rise up today and say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid of rejection, or of not being good enough.’

Overcoming Your Fears (2)

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‘They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.’ Psalm 112:7 NIV

Let’s take a look at some of our most common fears and how we can overcome them.

Fear of failure. This is the most common fear of all, and it keeps us from fulfilling any vision God may give us. If you look closely at the actual consequences of failure, chances are you’ll laugh at the power it wields. Not only are your mistakes survivable, they’re teaching tools that sharpen and make you a better person. So what if you make a mistake during your presentation? Nobody’s going to shoot you, right? So what if you miss the mark on the project, or make a mistake in your calculations? We all want to be perfect, but the fact is we’re all flawed. In reality, your irrational fear of failure and your refusal to embrace mistakes create far more errors in the long run. When people refuse to accept the possibility of making a mistake, often they’re reluctant to have someone else check their work or review the project they’re working on. Consequently they end up making more poor choices and mistakes, which in turn feeds their existing insecurities.

The path to success is through multiple failures. Failing doesn’t make you a failure, quitting does; not learning from it does; refusing to get back up when you fall does. The psalmist says,  ‘They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.’ Using the gifts God has given you, step out and take a risk based on faith, trusting Him for success. If you do, ‘You will have good success.’ (Joshua 1:8 NKJV)

Overcoming Your Fears (1)

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‘You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.’ Job 11:18 NIV

Famous people throughout history have suffered from phobias. Napoleon III was crippled by ailurophobia, an irrational fear of cats. Queen Elizabeth I was allegedly terrorized by anthophobia, an abnormal fear of flowers. Billionaire Howard Hughes was practically incapacitated by mysophobia, a pathological fear of germs. Both Edgar Allen Poe and Harry Houdini are believed to have suffered from claustrophobia. Even the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, is said to have wrestled with agoraphobia, a fear of crowds and public places.

The trouble is that many of us deny dealing with any kind of overwhelming fear, and rarely consider it a serious problem. But the fact remains that our fears hinder us on our journey towards change, and unless we face them we’ll never reach our God-given potential. Maybe you don’t view the thing that’s bothering you as a fear at all. It could be a feeling or situation you habitually avoid, or leave to others to handle. Whatever it is, the only way to overcome it is to call it what it is, confront it, draw on God’s strength, and make a decision to change. And today He offers you His strength to do it.

Here’s a promise you can stand on: ‘You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and… rest in safety.’ (Job 11:18 NIV) Where does that promise originate? The Bible—God’s infallible Word! And here’s another ‘fear not’ promise: ‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)

Teach Your Child God’s Word

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‘From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.’ 2 Timothy 3:15 NIV

There’s a story about a woman who came to her pastor and said, ‘How early should I start the spiritual training of my child?’

The pastor asked, ‘How old is the child?’

She answered, ‘Five.’

He replied, ‘Lady, get busy—you’re already five years late!’

Psychologists confirm that your child’s capacity and hunger for knowledge begins at infancy. So while they are in the listening stage, you should be in the teaching stage. Take every opportunity to read the Bible to them. Use everyday experiences to teach them what God’s Word has to say about the Golden Rule, how to be polite, how to forgive, and how to confess and repent of sin.

Never underestimate God’s ability to develop spiritual character and teach spiritual truths to your children, even at a very early age. While their heart is still young and tender, introduce them to Jesus. Some of the greatest Christians in history were saved at an early age. Jonathan Edwards, whose ministry shook New England for God, was saved at an early age. Charles Spurgeon, ‘the prince of preachers’, was saved at the age of fifteen. Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator, was saved at the age of eleven. Timothy was an apostle, it is believed, by the time he was seventeen. Paul writes, ‘From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ Yes, your child can understand the basic truths about salvation. And they can come to know Christ at an early age.

Righteous Anger (2)

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‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.’ Isaiah 5:20 NKJV

Did you know that God Himself gets angry? The Bible says, ‘The Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.’ (1 Kings 11:9 NKJV) Often change begins with righteous anger. Aristotle once said: ‘Anybody can become angry; that’s easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose, and in the right way that’s not easy.’ But it is possible!

A person who always gets angry is foolish, but a person who never gets angry is lacking in moral courage. Henry Ward Beecher said: ‘A man who doesn’t know how to be angry, doesn’t know how to be good. A man who doesn’t know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil, is either a fungus or a wicked man.’

Here are four things that we ought to get angry over:

(1) A sex-crazed, profanity-filled movie and television industry that’s polluting the minds of young and old alike.

(2) Cowardly politicians who do what’s politically expedient instead of what’s morally right.

(3) Injustice done to others because of the color of their skin or their economic status.

(4) Your children when they openly defy you. However, a word of warning:  ‘Don’t go to bed angry.’ (Ephesians 4:26 CEV) So, clearly explain the rules of the house, consistently enforce those rules, but make sure that your child knows you love them and have only their best interest at heart. They may not understand it at the time, but they will appreciate it later.

Righteous Anger (1)

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‘Be angry, and do not sin.’ Ephesians 4:26 NKJV

There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle your anger. Moses handled his anger the wrong way and it cost him the Promised Land. Jesus handled His anger the right way, and those who took advantage of the poor were exposed and thrown out of the temple. The Scripture, ‘Be angry, and do not sin,’ means instead of just complaining about the problem, you’re supposed to do something about it. Instead of walking around on a slow burn and keeping those around you on pins and needles, get to the core of your anger and express it the right way. Pastor and author Dr Jack Hyles wrote about how his child was assigned to read a book in school—one that was filled with foul language and questionable situations. The more Dr Hyles perused the book, the angrier he got.

Eventually he marched up to the principal’s office and politely but firmly said, ‘My son is not going to read this book: he’ll be assigned a different book to read, and he will not be marked down because of it.’

The principal, taken aback and attempting to argue with Dr Hyles, said, ‘But…’

Dr Hyles interrupted and said softly but sternly, ‘No ifs, ands, or buts about it. He will not be forced to read this book, and he will be assigned another one. Is that clear?’

The principal replied, ‘All right, Dr Hyles, but I don’t understand the fuss. After all, the language in that book is no worse than what’s written on the bathroom walls.’

Dr Hyles smiled and said, ‘Yes, and when that becomes required reading—I’ll be back!’

Learn to Meditate

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‘On His law he meditates day and night.’ Psalm 1:2 NIV

Butterflies cover more ground, but bees gather more honey. That’s because the butterfly just flies over the flowers, whereas the bee lands on each one and stays there long enough to extract the nectar. That’s the difference between merely reading your Bible for a few hurried minutes, and taking time to meditate on what you’re reading.

Meditation isn’t something difficult and mysterious that only scholars and ‘spiritual’ people do. It’s just thinking deeply and continuously about a passage of Scripture, memorizing it, letting it take root, and ‘owning it’ until it becomes a life force operating within you each day. The point isn’t how much Scripture you memorize, it’s what happens to you in the process. Meditating on God’s Word clarifies your understanding and corrects your conduct. It enriches your thinking and equips you by making you think different thoughts than if you were watching TV, for example, or texting, or talking on your mobile phone, or shopping.

The psalmist writes: ‘The Law of the Lord makes them happy, and they think about it day and night. They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves. Those people succeed in everything they do.’ (Psalm 1:2–3 CEV) Meditating on God’s Word is the cure for moral and spiritual weakness; for a life with no focus; for a lack of intimacy with God; for chronically-weak faith that causes you to fail and keep missing God’s best. So open your Bible, read it, and pray, ‘Lord, what are You saying to me?’ Then meditate on His answer.

The Rewards of Generosity

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‘Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded.’ Ecclesiastes 11:1 CEV

The Dead Sea has such high mineral concentrations that even non-swimmers can stay afloat in it. The only problem is the smell. Because it has no outlets, any fresh water that comes in quickly becomes contaminated. There’s an important Biblical principle at work here: ‘The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.’ (Proverbs 11:25 NLT) God never intended you to be a reservoir that just takes in, but a river of blessing that flows out to others.

The Bible says: ‘A farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.’ (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NLT) So if you need a job, volunteer at a soup kitchen while you’re looking for work. If you’re praying for an increase in your business, pour your best into someone else’s business and ask God to prosper them.

Solomon writes, ‘Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later. Divide your gifts among many, for in the days ahead you yourself may need much help.’ (Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 TLB) Even if you don’t have a specific need right now, sow a seed of kindness anyway. God knows what the future holds, and one day when you need it most, it will come back to you as a harvest.

A Prayer For Self-Control

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‘God wants you to be holy, so don’t be immoral in matters of sex.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:3 CEV

When God created Adam and Eve, He told them to ‘multiply and replenish the earth.’(Genesis 1:28 KJV) That helps explain why sex is one of our strongest drives. But it can also propel you into making decisions that mess up your life and destroy your relationships. The Bible says: ‘It is God’s will that you should… avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5 NIV)

Why did God say this? Because when there’s physical intimacy without true commitment, somebody’s going to get hurt. You need to heed what God says on this issue. And you need to do it now, before you get into situations where you’re tempted to compromise your character, because by then it’s too late. We all struggle with our sexuality, particularly in a culture where ‘sex sells’.

Sex is such an integral part of us, and guilt about it has a way of making us feel separated from God like nothing else can. In order to determine your values and establish some ground rules, you need to pray: ‘Lord, I’m not going to allow my impulses to dictate to me, or sin to separate me from You. I choose to keep Your standards, to rely on Your Spirit to give me strength day by day. And if I do sin, to seek Your forgiveness, get back up, and move closer to You.’ That’s a prayer God will answer!

Be a Shamgar (3)

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‘After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. He too saved Israel.’ Judges 3:31 NIV

If Shamgar had focused on the fact that he was going up against six hundred Philistines, he would probably have given up before he even started. Understand this: Satan will try to discourage and defeat you by making you feel overwhelmed by the problem. That’s when you need to counterpunch, by breaking down your goals into smaller steps. You may not be able to overcome your addiction, anxiety, or anorexia for the rest of your life, but with God’s help you can win the battle today.

Don’t worry about next week or next year. Live one day at a time. Can you resist temptation for twenty-four hours? Can you win the battle for one day? You know you can. And so does the enemy. So take it one day at a time. We spend far too much energy focusing on the very thing we can’t control—the outcome. You say, ‘What if I fall back into my bad habit? What if my romantic efforts aren’t reciprocated? What if I don’t hit my target weight or get my dream job?’ Jesus said, ‘Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.’ (Matthew 6:34 TLB)

The manna the Israelites received in the wilderness arrived daily, not weekly or monthly. Why? Because God wanted them to live in total dependence on Him. God’s grace, not your own works, is the key to victory. The word for you today is: ‘His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His loving-kindness begins afresh each day… therefore I will hope in Him.’ (Lamentations 3:21–24 TLB)

Be a Shamgar (2)

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‘In the days of Shamgar.’ Judges 5:6 NIV

When Shamgar picked up his ox-goad and slew six hundred Philistines, he made a decision that, if he was going to go down, he was going to go down fighting (see Judges 3:31). And that’s the key to deliverance, whether it’s from the Philistines, or pride, or prejudice, or pornography, or any other stubborn problem in your life. You’ve got to go on the offensive. There comes a point when you say, ‘Enough is enough.’ You know you cannot continue down the path you are on because it’s a dead end relationally, physically or spiritually. It may not kill you, but it will eat you alive. You know you cannot keep doing what you’ve always done. Not if you want to get into shape, or get out of debt. Not if you want to recapture the romance, or reach the goal. Not if you want to leave a legacy worth living up to. And the good news is this: you are only one decision away from a totally different life.

But you’ve got to grab your ox-goad and go for it. Cut up that credit card. Apply for the graduate programme. Take the mission trip. Set up the counseling appointment. William A. Lawrence wrote, ‘On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to wait, and waiting—died!’ Stop being a procrastinator. Stop being a perfectionist. Spiritual growth is about progress, not perfection. When it comes to going after your goals, your greatest adversary is inertia. We have a tendency to keep doing what we’ve always done, hoping that somehow things will change. They won’t, so be a Shamgar and take action!

Be a Shamgar (1)

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‘After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.’ Judges 3:31 NIV

Shamgar is mentioned only twice in Scripture, and his story takes up three lines and two verses. But his impact was amazing. And it’s a challenge to all those who think, ‘God would never use someone like me.’ He may have been the least qualified person to deliver Israel from the Philistines. For starters, it’s likely he wasn’t even an Israelite. His name seems to come from the Hurrian language.

He could have rationalized inaction in a dozen different ways. ‘I don’t have the right weapon. I can’t do this by myself. These aren’t even my people.’ If you look for an excuse, you will always find one. If you don’t, you won’t. When it comes to making excuses, we are infinitely creative. What if we channeled that creativity into finding solutions instead of finding excuses? If we did, God could use us as an instrument to fulfill His purposes just as He used Shamgar. When God stirs your spirit or moves your heart, you cannot sit back, you’ve got to step up and step in. And when you do, it can become a defining moment in your life. Don’t worry about the results. If it’s the right thing, the results are God’s responsibility. Focus on doing right things for the right reason, and don’t buy into the lie that it can’t be done! Yes, it will take all-out effort, but you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (see Philippians 4:13). A failed attempt is not failing. Failing is not trying. If you are trying, in God’s eyes you are succeeding. So grab your ox-goad—and go for it.

Once And For All

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‘He offered Himself once and for all.’ Hebrews 9:26 CEV

There were many pieces of furniture in the tabernacle, and each served a different purpose. But there wasn’t a single seat. Do you know why? Because the priest’s work was never finished! The people sinned constantly, so lambs had to be constantly sacrificed to atone for their sins. However, when Jesus died, rose again and went back to Heaven, the first thing He did was sit down (see  Hebrews 10:12). That’s because the work of salvation was finished!

The Bible says: ‘Christ did not have to offer Himself many times. He wasn’t like a high priest who goes into the most-holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal …instead…He offered Himself once and for all, so that He could be a sacrifice that does away with sin.’ (Hebrews 9:25–26 CEV) And because of Christ’s ‘once and for all’sacrifice on the cross, you have direct access to God at any time. The moment you say, ‘Father, I come in the name of Jesus,’ you’re made welcome and all your needs are met.

There’s a story from American Civil War days about a soldier sitting on a bench outside the White House looking depressed. A little boy passing by stopped and asked what was wrong. The soldier told him he needed to see President Lincoln but the guards wouldn’t let him in. Hearing this, the boy took him by the hand and led him directly into the President’s office. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘this man really needs to speak with you.’ That boy was the President’s son; he had direct and continuous access to his father. And because you belong to Jesus, you do too!

Words to Live By in Troubled Times (3)

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‘The Word of our God stands forever.’
 Isaiah 40:8 NKJV

Here are some more wonderful promises from the Bible that you can rely on when trouble comes:

(1) ‘Because you have made the Lord… your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.’ (Psalm 91:9–11 NKJV)

(2) ‘The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.’(Psalm 34:7 NIV)

(3) ‘I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.’ (Psalm 57:1 NIV)

(4) ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’(Psalm 34:18 NIV)

(5) ‘The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer.’ 
(1 Peter 3:12 NIV)

(6) ‘He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me… He rescued me because He delighted in me.’ (Psalm 18:16–19 NIV) 
(7) ‘Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.’ (Micah 7:8 NIV) (8) ‘You will have courage because you will have hope. You will take your time and rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help.’ (Job 11:18–19 TLB) 
(9) ‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.’ (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

Words to Live By in Troubled Times (2)

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‘The Word of our God stands forever.’
 Isaiah 40:8 NKJV

Are you ready for more of God’s wonderful promises?

(1) ‘Let all those who…put their trust in You rejoice…because You…defend them; let those also who love Your name…be in high spirits.’ (Psalm 5:11 AMPC)

(2) ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you.’ (Deuteronomy 33:27 NKJV)

(3) ‘The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.’ (Nahum 1:7 NKJV)

(4) ‘Fear not… for I am with you… I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you… I will hold you up… with My [victorious] right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10 AMPC)

(5) ‘You protect them by Your presence from what people plan against them. You shelter them from evil words.’ (Psalm 31:20 NCV)

(6) ‘Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.’ 
(Psalm 23:6 NLT) (7) ‘The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength… The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.’ 
(2 Timothy 4:17–18 NIV) (8) ‘Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.’ 
(Psalm 9:10 NIV) (9) ‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:21–23 NKJV) (10) ‘In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.’ (Psalm 4:8 NIV)

Words to Live By in Troubled Times (1)

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‘The Word of our God stands forever.’
 Isaiah 40:8 NKJV

For the next few days let’s renew our minds with some of the wonderful promises God has given to us through His Word. Let’s not just read them casually, but process them slowly, deeply, prayerfully and repeatedly, letting the truth of them change our thinking and strengthen our faith.

(1) ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.’(Isaiah 54:17 NKJV)

(2) ‘The Lord… is with you; never again will you fear any harm… He is mighty to save. He will…deal with all who oppressed you.’ (Zephaniah 3:15–19 NIV)

(3) ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king… With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us… fight our battles.’ (2 Chronicles 32:7–8 NIV)

(4) ‘My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my… fortress, I shall never be shaken.’ (Psalm 62:1–2 NIV)

(5) ‘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)

(6) ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38–39 NKJV)

Keep Your Spiritual Glasses Clean

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‘Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.’
 Isaiah 52:11 NKJV

One day a man was getting his windscreen washed at a petrol station. When the attendant finished, the man said, ‘That’s a terrible job. Re-do my windscreen―it’s as dirty as when you started.’ So, the attendant wiped it again. The man looked it over and in frustration said, ‘That window hasn’t changed a bit.’ The man’s wife was sitting next to him in the car. She reached over, pulled off his glasses, wiped them, and gave them back to him. The attendant had been doing his job correctly. The man himself was the problem all along.

Spiritually speaking, the glasses you’re looking through determine what you see, and how you see it. When you look through the lens of jealousy and envy, you become resentful of the blessings of others. When you look through the lens of judgmentalism, you speak and act without mercy and grace. When you look through the lens of fear and unbelief, you limit God and forfeit what He can do for you. When you look through the lens of selfishness, you put yourself first and your loved ones suffer. When you look through the lens of negativity and cynicism, people begin to avoid you because you’re not enjoyable to be around. ‘Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.’ Just as your glasses need to be wiped clean from the contamination around you, so do your heart and mind. How does this happen? Jesus said, ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’ (John 15:3 NIV) Through prayer and daily Bible reading, your perspective on life is kept right.

Who’s Your Saul?

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‘Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name.’
 Acts 9:15 NIV

Saul of Tarsus was the last person on earth you’d ever have expected to become a Christian, much less the author of half the New Testament. Describing his life before he met Christ, he wrote, ‘I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.’ (Galatians 1:13 NKJV) So, during this persecution, when God called Ananias to go and pray for Saul, Ananias wasn’t too keen on the idea: ‘“I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”’ (Acts 9:13–15 NIV)

Ananias knew what Saul had done to the church. What he was about to learn, however, is that God was at work in Saul’s heart. Within a few short years God would use Paul to touch the world, but first He used Ananias to touch Paul. Has God given you a similar assignment? Has He given you a Saul? If so, don’t give up on him or her. When other people write them off, give them another chance. Ananias didn’t know about Paul’s encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road. God can go where you can’t, and get through to a person when you’re unable to reach them. Always remember: God never sends you where He hasn’t already been. So, by the time you reach your Saul, who knows what you’ll find?

Forgiveness and Inner Healing

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‘Who forgives all your iniquities.’
 Psalm 103:3 NKJV

The psalmist wrote, ‘Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.’Notice which comes first: the consciousness that all your sins are forgiven precedes the healing of all your diseases. Note also the words ‘all your iniquities’. Some of us are comfortable with receiving partial forgiveness, but we refuse to allow God’s forgiveness to touch some dark areas we can’t let go of, and that we refuse to forgive ourselves for. Whatever those mistakes may be, allow God to forgive all your sins, and receive healing for all your diseases. Let the past go. Let the mistakes go. Allow yourself to be free, and learn to forgive yourself by receiving with an open heart God’s total and complete forgiveness. Stop hurting yourself, because Jesus was hurt for all your sins. Stop beating yourself up, because Jesus took all your beatings at the cross. Stop punishing yourself, because Jesus has received all the punishment due on your behalf. It’s time to stop asking yourself if you’ve done enough to earn God’s forgiveness and acceptance. They are undeserved―they cannot be achieved by struggle and self-effort; they can only be received by faith. If you gave someone you loved a birthday gift and they insisted on paying for it, how would you feel? Hurt? Upset? That’s how God feels when you try to ‘earn’ His forgiveness, healing, and righteousness. The more you let the waterfall of God’s grace and forgiveness wash over you every day, the more you’ll receive His health for your body and His soundness for your mind.

‘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 jewelry. 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 around with a smile on your face and see what happens.

Respect, Don’t Reject

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‘I try to find common ground with everyone.’
 1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT

For any relationship to work, we must accept each other’s differences. Within our family we must respect each other’s unique perspectives. We don’t need to agree on every issue, but we must always honor where the other person is coming from. Paul did that: ‘I try to find common ground with everyone.’

Some of us who claim to follow Christ have a hard time with views and values that differ from our own. We think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word. Some of us have turned from the most immoral lives to faith in Christ, yet after our conversion we won’t associate with anyone who doesn’t agree with us and adopt our newfound values. Sometimes our families fall apart because we try to force our opinions on the people we love, and set boundaries to keep nonconformists out. What a terrible misuse of Christianity!

Jesus didn’t condemn the people who crucified Him; He prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:34 NKJV) He didn’t view them as morally bad, but spiritually blind. He told His disciples, ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father… draws him.’ 
(John 6:44 NKJV) It’s your job to love people, and it’s God’s job to change them! So, stop trying to do what only God can do! If you invest patiently in your relationships, respect other people’s perspectives, and sow good seed, you’ll reap a pleasant harvest in the long term. Your love, not the force of your argument, can give hope to the most severely damaged among us that there’s healing for the broken places of the human soul.

Learning To Lead (4)

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‘If it is leadership, let him govern diligently.’
 Romans 12:8 NIV

How will you know you have the gift of ‘leadership’? Because you’ll know where God wants you to go, and be able to show others the value of going with you. There are many talented people who never become effective leaders. Why? Because they’re more interested in themselves than in those they lead. What’s interesting, however, is once they go through the school of hard knocks, they become sensitized to other people’s needs. But good leaders don’t wait for that to happen. They realize that ideas are a dime a dozen, but people who can implement them are priceless. Legendary American football coach Bear Bryant used to say, ‘I’m just a plough-hand from Arkansas, but I’ve learned to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together. There are just three things I’d ever say: If something goes bad, I did it. If it goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it.’

When you have the gift of leadership, you’ll also be approachable. You won’t fly off the handle, you won’t let minor problems poison your outlook, and you’ll sandwich every slice of criticism between two layers of praise. Robert Louis Stevenson said, ‘Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others.’ There are people who knock the heart out of you, and people who put it back in. Paul was such a leader: ‘Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God… for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News.’ (Philippians 1:3–5 NLT) That’s the kind of leader you should aspire to be.

Learning To Lead (3)

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‘Correct, rebuke and encourage.’
 2 Timothy 4:2 NIV

When you crave acceptance and approval, you end up being controlled by those you’re supposed to lead. Paul recognized this. That’s why he instructed Titus: ‘Teach… and encourage your people… correcting them when necessary as one who has every right to do so. Don’t let anyone think that what you say is not important.’ (Titus 2:15 TLB) Afraid of causing upheaval in the ranks, insecure leaders agonize over decisions and assume responsibility for other people’s emotional reactions. They don’t realize that when you’re doing what you should be doing and others don’t agree, that’s their problem, unless you make it yours. A mature leader deals with disappointment and keeps a good attitude; they’re willing to face the music even when they don’t like the tune. Think: when you warn your children about putting their hand on a hot stove, it’s not your responsibility to make them enjoy hearing it, right? Hopefully, as they mature they’ll understand. But the truth is, some people won’t like hearing the word ‘no’ regardless of how old they get! But we all need to hear it from time to time; otherwise, we’ll never be happy with anything other than getting our own way―and that means getting nowhere, or getting into trouble. Paul, who was training Timothy for leadership, told him, ‘Correct, rebuke and encourage―with great patience and careful instruction.’Correct people when they’re wrong, rebuke them when they’re stubborn, encourage them when they struggle, be patient as they learn and grow, and make sure your instructions are clear and understandable. That’s what good leaders do―and the only way you learn it is by doing it.

Learning To Lead (2)

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‘I have great confidence in you.’
 2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV

When people feel ‘used’ they begin to drop out, but when they feel appreciated they’ll follow you anywhere. Paul, one of the finest leaders of all time, told the Corinthian believers, ‘I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged… my joy knows no bounds.’ (2 Corinthians 7:3–4 NIV) He was their biggest cheerleader. He didn’t just correct, he comforted. He didn’t just sharpen, he strengthened―all hallmarks of great leadership.

Good leaders:

(1) Are consistent. They set an example by walking the walk so everyone knows that what’s heard at the bottom is practiced at the top.

(2) Voice their appreciation, realizing that people need to know they’re an important part of the team and the vision.

(3) Always listen to suggestions, opinions, concerns and ideas. They don’t pre-judge, and they’re not dismissive. Author Betty Bender said: ‘It’s a mistake to surround yourself only with people just like you. Throw off that warm comforter and replace it with a crazy quilt of different and imaginative people. Then watch the ideas erupt!’

(4) Don’t see people as statistics. Businesswoman Mary Kay Ash said, ‘P&L doesn’t mean “profit and loss”―it means “people and love.”’

(5) Explain why they like things done a specific way. It lessens mistakes, and the resentment that can stem from feeling ‘ordered around’. Statesman Clarence Francis said, ‘You can buy a man’s time and physical presence at a certain place… But you can’t buy enthusiasm, initiative, loyalty, and the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things.’

Learning To Lead (1)

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‘You cannot handle it alone.’
 Exodus 18:18 NIV

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.’ Bottom line: unless you learn to delegate, your leadership will deteriorate and your vision will stagnate.

In Exodus, Moses was wearing himself out physically, emotionally, and spiritually trying to keep up with the demands of two million Israelites and be ‘the answer man’ for every problem. That’s when his father-in-law told him, ‘You cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice.’ 
(Exodus 18:18–19 NIV) It takes wisdom, maturity, and humility to ask for help. And it’s a sign of strength, not weakness. That’s hard to come to terms with, for those of us who take pride in our ability to ‘do it all’. The truth is, what Moses was doing was neither good for him nor the people depending on him. As a leader, it’s easy to overestimate your own importance and competence. That’s why Paul cautions, ‘[Don’t] think you are better than you really are. Use good sense.’(Romans 12:3 CEV) God has placed people around you who have certain gifts and talents. When you recognize and involve these people, they’re fulfilled and the job gets done right. God created us to be interdependent, not independent. Delegating authority to the right people strengthened Moses for the task of leading as God intended. When you try to be ‘all things to all people’, you end up frustrated. You’re not called to do it all, but to get it done through others. That’s what leadership is about.

Confessing Our Sins

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‘I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And You forgave me!’
 Psalm 32:5 NLT

When you deliberately sin, you’re rebelling against God’s rule in your life―and you’ll feel bad about it. And feeling bad is evidence that you truly are a redeemed child of God; otherwise your sin wouldn’t bother you. Picture a teenager saying to his dad, ‘I’m truly sorry, but I took your credit card and bought beer for my mates with it.’ Now, the chances are his father may never have discovered it, especially if he wasn’t a good bookkeeper. But his son’s troubled conscience brought it to the surface and he said, ‘Dad, I shouldn’t have bought the beer; I shouldn’t have lied about my age; I shouldn’t have used your credit card to do it. You trusted me and I let you down. I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again.’ That’s confession. That’s what we must do in our prayers.

The Greek word translated as confession means ‘to agree with God’. When we confess our sins, we are agreeing with God concerning the sin in our lives as revealed through His Word and by the Holy Spirit. When we confess, we verbalise our sin and receive cleansing and forgiveness. Yes, confession is often painful, but it keeps our fellowship with our Heavenly Father clear, open, and close. It’s not that God stops loving us, but that we no longer feel we can approach Him with confidence. Do you have a sin to confess? ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 
(1 John 1:9 NKJV)

Has Your Love Grown Cold?

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‘You don’t love Me… as you did at first!’
 Revelation 2:4 NLT

Love is like a fire; when it’s not fuelled, it goes out. That’s what happened to the Christians in the church at Ephesus. In earlier years Paul wrote these words to them: ‘Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.’(Ephesians 6:24 NASB) Their love for the Lord was so strong and so evident to all, that Paul commended them for it. But by the time Christ speaks to the same church in the book of Revelation, their love for Him had waned: ‘I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for Me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to Me.’ (Ephesians 6:2–5 NLT)

Evangelical leader John Stott wrote: ‘They’d fallen from the early heights of devotion to Christ which they’d climbed. They’d descended to the plains of mediocrity. In a word… the hearts of the Ephesian Christians had chilled. Their first flush of ecstasy had passed. Their early devotion to Christ had cooled. They’d been in love with Him, but… had fallen out of love.’

You can go to church, read your Bible, and pray every day, yet not love God as you should. Loving God is a commitment and a heart attitude that results in obedience. It’s a focus: a daily decision to honor Him in all you say and do. So, has your love grown cold?

If It’s God’s Will―You Can Have It

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‘If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.’
 1 John 5:14 NIV

Once upon a time three men were marooned on a desert island with little hope of being rescued. One day they were walking around the island when one of them picked up an old, tarnished lamp. When he rubbed it, a genie appeared and offered to grant each man one wish. The first man said, ‘I wish I was back in my office in Boston.’ Puff!He was there. The second said, ‘I wish I was home with my family in London.’ Puff! He was there. The third man looked around and said, ‘It’s so lonely here, I wish my friends were back with me.’

The problem with wishing is that genies and magic lamps don’t exist. But God does! And since He is in control of your life and He’s more powerful than any genie, when your wishes become prayers that line up with His will, they can become a reality. ‘Does the Bible teach that?’ you ask. Yes; it says: ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God… if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us―whatever we ask―we know that we have what we asked of Him.’ (1 John 5:14–15 NIV) But even when your wish is in line with God’s will, you need one more thing―faith. Faith does two things:

(a) It opens your eyes to see that God’s promises are for you personally.

(b) It acts like a magnet, drawing the fulfillment of His promise into your life. So, what are you wishing for? If it’s God’s will―you can have it.

Passing The Fear Test

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‘God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid.’
 Isaiah 12:2 NKJV

How much of a factor is fear in your life? Go ahead, take the fear test. Circle the number that best corresponds to how you feel.

(1) I don’t remember the last time I was really afraid.

(2) I am afraid rarely, and only when I or someone close to me is in physical danger.

(3) I am a little more fearful than I’d like to be.

(4) Fear is a significant factor in my everyday life. I avoid anything risky or dangerous.

(5) I’m afraid of many things on a daily basis, and it changes the way I live my life.

If you circled number one you’re an unusual individual who doesn’t experience normal fear. You may have to temper your actions with greater discernment and wisdom. If you circled number two, you have a healthy attitude towards fear and you’ve got a handle on it. You should try to encourage others who have a more difficult time with fear than you do. If you circled number three or four, you’re in an excellent position to improve your life by changing your attitude. Begin by identifying the source of your fears, and determining to turn your fear into faith in God 
(see Romans 10:17). For each area of fear, figure out a positive opposite, and create a plan of action to cultivate that quality. Then focus on what you can control today. If you circled number five, chances are fear is getting the better of you and you’ll have a difficult time overcoming it on your own. So, pray and reprogram your mind with God’s Word 
(see 2 Timothy 1:7). And don’t be afraid to seek help from a trusted friend or counselor.

Keep Growing

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

In order to keep growing, you must understand three principles:

(1) You grow to the extent you give. By giving out, you create more room to grow on the inside. So, give until it hurts, and keep giving until it feels good. Always endeavor to leave people better off than you found them, and you’ll be better off too. Solomon said, ‘The liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.’ (Proverbs 11:25TLB) This epitaph on a tombstone says it all: ‘What I gave, I have. What I spent, I had. What I kept, I lost.’

 

(2) To accomplish more, you’ve got to grow more. Do you feel stuck spiritually, relationally, career-wise, or at home? You won’t get unstuck by making external changes, like pursuing a new career, leaving your family, or changing churches. Nobody’s keeping you down but yourself. The lid on your life is—you. So, if you’re serious about getting unstuck, instead of looking for quick fixes take a long hard look at yourself, accept responsibility for what you see, pray, and decide to do something about it.

(3) It’s not enough to dream; you must do. The Tartar tribes of Central Asia are reputed to have used a particular curse against their enemies. They didn’t call for their swords to rust or their people to die of disease. They simply said, ‘May you stay in one place forever.’ If you don’t work daily to improve yourself, that will be your fate too. You’ll end up stuck in the same place, doing the same things, dreaming the same dreams, and never getting anywhere. So, keep growing!

Put On Your New Clothes

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‘Put on the new self.’
 Ephesians 4:24 NIV

When you entertain wrong thoughts in the privacy of your mind, you may be tempted to excuse yourself by saying, ‘What harm will it do?’ More harm than you know! You become what you dwell on. The Bible says, ‘Put off your old self… put on the new self.’(Ephesians 4:22–24 NIV) You may not want to admit you’re still wearing some of those ‘old’ clothes (attitudes, pastimes and practices), but the truth is you can’t put on your new ones until you take off the old ones. Furthermore, you can’t hang your old clothes in the wardrobe for a rainy day, or leave them on the floor to be tripped over. You’ve got to get rid of them.

‘Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires… put on the new self, created to be like God… Put off falsehood and speak truthfully… Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up… Do not grieve the Holy Spirit… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:22–32 NIV) The word for you today is: it’s time to take off your old clothes and put on your new ones.

Don’t Be So Easily Upset

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‘Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.’
 Psalm 119:165 ESV

Are you easily upset? Even over little things? Spend more time praying and reading your Bible. The following article turned up in a newspaper: ‘A lady took my seat in church. She’s very nice… a good friend, in fact. I can sit anyplace; no big deal. My seat’s on the right as you enter the sanctuary. I can rest my arm on the end. It’s a good seat, but I wouldn’t raise a fuss about a seat… never hold a grudge. Actually, it was three months ago she took it and I really don’t know why. I’ve never done anything to her… never taken her seat. I suppose I’ll have to come an hour early to get my seat. She took it because it’s one of the best seats in the house. She’d no business taking it… and I’m not going to church two hours early to get what’s rightfully mine. This is the way social injustices begin: abusive people taking other people’s seats. It’s the way seeds of revolution are sown. A person can only stand so much. Where’s it all going to end? If somebody doesn’t stand up and be counted, nobody’s seat will be safe. People will sit anywhere they please, and next time they’ll take my parking place. World order will be in a shambles!’

We smile, but it’s amazing how quickly we get bent out of shape when our little routine is disrupted. Do you know why the Christian life is described as ‘the high calling’(Philippians 3:14 KJV)? Because it means taking the high road and serving others, rather than taking the low road and putting ourselves first.

An Appetite for God’s Word

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‘His Word can cut through our spirits.’
 Hebrews 4:12 CEV

As you read the Bible, God will give you strength and guidance for your life that you simply can’t get any other way. Eliphaz said to Job the patriarch: ‘He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.’ (Job 5:18 NKJV) That’s what God does to you as you read the Scriptures. ‘His Word can cut through our spirits.’ Others see what we do, but when we get alone with God and open the Scriptures, He reveals to us what we are. He brings to the surface long-standing and unresolved issues, and helps us to deal with them. He confronts us over our stubborn habits and shows us how to conquer them. He pinpoints our selfish and unloving attitudes, giving us a chance to repent and change our ways. The old Quakers had a saying: ‘Sin will keep you from your Bible, and your Bible will keep you from sin.’ You say, ‘But when I get up in the morning, I’m so busy that I don’t have time to read the Bible.’ Then read it when you come home at night! You say, ‘By the time I get home from work at night, I’m exhausted and can’t concentrate on anything!’ You must rearrange your priorities. If you spend hours watching television, surely you can spend some time each day reading your Bible. The truth is that we make time for the things that we want, that we value, and that we enjoy. So, ask God to give you a greater appetite for His Word. Then read your Bible, and watch your appetite for it grow!

Change Your Thinking

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‘Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’
 Philippians 4:8 NLT

In order to change your life, you must first change your thinking. And that’s not easy when you’ve spent your life thinking a certain way. Minister and columnist Dr Frank Crane said, ‘Our best friends and our worst enemies are our thoughts.’ King Solomon put it this way: ‘As [someone] thinks within himself, so he is.’ (Proverbs 23:7 NASB) To change your thinking, you must do it—one thought at a time. That calls for discipline and determination. But it’s worth it. If you wanted to compete in a marathon you wouldn’t go on an all-sugar diet, would you? The fuel you put into something determines its performance. Yet we disregard this basic piece of wisdom: what you feed everything else is nothing compared to what you feed your mind! Here’s a truth that will transform you: think excellent thoughts! What enters your mind repeatedly, occupies it, shapes it, controls it and in the end expresses itself in what you do and who you become. Your mind will absorb and reflect whatever it’s exposed to. The events you attend, the relationships you build, the materials you read or don’t read, the music you listen to, the media images you’re exposed to, the conversations you engage in, and the thoughts you entertain all shape your mind, and eventually your character and your destiny. So, what should you do? Start each day by praying: ‘Lord, I want the kind of mind Your Word describes. One that’s filled with excellent, admirable, honorable, praiseworthy thoughts’ (see Philippians 4:8). Can you imagine what your life would be like if you constantly prayed that way and programmed your thinking accordingly?

Stop Being Intimidated

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‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity.’
 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

The Bible says, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God.’ (Hebrews 11:6 NIV) So, don’t get involved in anything that doesn’t require you to use your faith. The key to momentum is always having something to look forward to and believe God for. You either venture, or you vegetate. Jesus deliberately sent His disciples into a storm. Why? To develop their faith, and show them that with Him on board you can get through anything! God will keep exposing you to difficult situations because He knows it’s the only way your faith will grow. Nineteenth-century American preacher and abolitionist Phillips Brooks wrote, ‘Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your power, pray for power equal to your tasks.’ You don’t tap into God’s resources until you attempt something that seems humanly impossible. That’s when you discover: ‘I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.’ (Philippians 4:13 TLB) All progress involves risk. In tennis, you can’t return every ball while your foot’s still behind the service line. And progress involves overcoming fear. One day, when David was tending his sheep, ‘there came a lion.’ (1 Samuel 17:34 KJV) But in God’s strength he defeated it—plus a bear, and later a giant called Goliath. That lion was just an opportunity in disguise. If David had wavered or run away, he’d have missed his chance to become king of Israel. So, when a lion of fear comes into your life, recognize it for what it is: an opportunity from God to rise up in faith and conquer it.

Friendship (4)

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‘You can trust a friend who corrects you.’
 Proverbs 27:6 CEV

Here are two ‘superglue’ qualities that can permanently cement any friendship: honesty and loyalty. The Bible says, ‘You can trust a friend who corrects you, but kisses from an enemy are nothing but lies.’ A real friend may upset you by telling you the truth, but he or she will tell you the truth nonetheless. They may not always tell you what you want to hear, but if they truly love you, they’ll tell you what you need to hear. In the short run it may hurt, but in the long run it will help you. When you want to measure a relationship to determine whether it qualifies as a genuine friendship, here are two questions you should ask the other person:

(1) Can I trust you enough to be totally honest with me?

(2) Can I trust you enough to be totally honest with you?

Only a true friendship expects and can survive such mutual honesty. The other quality involved in keeping a friend is loyalty. ‘There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ 
(Proverbs 18:24 NKJV) The word stick refers to how fabric is sewn and embroidered together. It’s a picture of just how closely knit one friend should be to another. Loyalty is the one thing a person should never have to question about his or her friend. A true friend will always be your defense lawyer before he or she becomes your judge. There’s no such thing as a ‘fair-weather friend’. You don’t need friends in fair weather; you need them when the weather gets nasty. A ‘fair-weather friend’ is no friend at all.

Friendship (3)

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‘He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.’
 Proverbs 13:20 NIV

The story’s told of a farmer who was being pestered every day by a flock of crows in his cornfield. Deciding he’d had enough, he loaded his shotgun and crawled unseen along the fencerow, determined to blow those pesky crows out of the sky. Turns out this farmer had a very sociable parrot that indiscriminately made friends with everybody, and seeing the flock of crows he flew over and joined them in an effort to be friendly. The farmer saw the crows but didn’t see his parrot, so he took careful aim, fired, then jumped up and ran over to see how many crows he had shot. Lo and behold, there was his parrot lying on the ground with a broken wing and a chipped beak, but still alive. The farmer tenderly picked him up and brought him home, where his children ran out to meet him. Seeing the injured parrot, they tearfully asked, ‘Daddy, what happened?’ But before he could answer, the parrot spoke up: ‘That’s what you get for hanging out with the wrong crowd.’

You can never be at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, if you’re with the wrong crowd. And as a parent, you need to teach this to your children. Monitor their Internet use, and warn them about predators who deliberately prowl online looking for ‘friends’. Web-based horror stories of children being hurt and led astray are multiplying daily. If this sounds strong and urgent—that’s because it is!

Friendship (2)

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‘A man who has friends must himself be friendly.’
 Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

In order to have a good friend, you must first try to be a good friend. An unknown poet wrote, ‘I went out to find a friend, but could not find one there; I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.’ Friendship doesn’t require having a dynamic personality. Even shy, quiet, and reserved individuals can learn to be friendly. It’s next to impossible to have no friends, if you yourself are friendly. And the opposite is also true. Psychologists asked a group of college students to jot down the initials of the people they disliked most. Some of the students could think of only one person, while others listed as many as fourteen. But an interesting fact that came out of the research was that those who disliked the largest number of people, were themselves the most widely disliked. You’ll find that the more likeable you are, the more likely you are to like other people and be liked by them. So here are five ways to make friends:

(1) Maintain eye contact. When you talk to people, look them in the eye.

(2) Smile! It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile—and a smile warms hearts and encourages conversation.

(3) Call people by their names. Strangers are just that, strange, but a friend is known.

(4) Talk to others about their favorite topic—themselves.

(5) Find an occasion to give a word of encouragement, a compliment or show an act of kindness.

When you find a person with these five traits, you’ve found someone who has a reputation for being friendly.

Friendship (1)

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‘A man of too many friends comes to ruin.’
 Proverbs 18:24 NASB

With few exceptions, your success in life depends on your ability to establish and maintain relationships with the right people. According to a report by the American Management Association the overwhelming consensus of two hundred managers who participated in a survey, was that the most important skill of an executive is his or her ability to get along with people. They rated this ability as more vital than intelligence, decisiveness, knowledge or job skills. Quite frankly, none of us makes very many true friends in life—at least, we better not! Solomon warns, ‘A man of too many friends comes to ruin.’

Friendship requires time, energy, sacrifice and investing yourself. And not every so-called friend will prove to be one, as Jeremiah warned King Zedekiah: ‘They misled you and overcame you—those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you.’ (Jeremiah 38:22 NIV) The wrong friend will betray you, as Judas proved with Jesus. So, here’s a good rule of thumb: ‘Be friendly to everyone, but don’t have everyone as a friend.’ Solomon said, ‘The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.’ (Proverbs 12:26 NLT) Charles Spurgeon said, ‘A man is known by the company he shuns, as well as the company he keeps.’

One Hebrew word for ‘choose’ is tuwr, and in the Old Testament it refers to a man like a surveyor who searches out land. So, if you’re wise, you’ll explore and evaluate your friendships before you enter into them. You say, ‘But I’m lonely.’ As George Washington said, ‘It is better to be alone than in bad company.’

What To Do While You’re Waiting

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‘I waited patiently for the Lord; He… heard my cry.’
 Psalm 40:1 NIV

Anything that’s built well is put together slowly and carefully. Impatience is a sign of immaturity; children can’t wait for anything. Try to understand this: your impatience won’t move God faster. He works according to His own timetable. Paul writes, ‘We know that all things work… according to His purpose.’ (Romans 8:28 KJV) Just because the door hasn’t yet opened doesn’t mean that God has changed His mind. The timing may not be right for Him to get maximum glory, and you to get maximum benefit. So, what should you do while you’re waiting? Two things:

(1) Pray for God’s will. And don’t permit things to come into your life that are contrary to it, especially hurry and worry. Know how to allocate your time, your energy, and your money, including whom you should and shouldn’t spend time with. God says, 
‘I make known the end from the beginning.’ 
(Isaiah 46:10 NIV) Before God starts anything, He has a clear picture of the end goal, and He ordains the steps that lead you to it.

(2) While you’re waiting—rejoice. ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’ (Habakkuk 3:17–18 NIV) Start thanking God today for what He’s already done, and for what He’s going to do in the future on your behalf. Because He will—He absolutely will come through for you.

Celebrate Yourself—God Does!

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‘He celebrates and sings because of you.’
 Zephaniah 3:17 CEV

Some of us think so little of ourselves that we’d rather be in a bad relationship than none at all. Being around people doesn’t guarantee you won’t feel lonely. Actually, being with the wrong people guarantees you’ll end up feeling empty and used. Until you overcome your fear of being alone and wait for God to give you the right relationships, you’ll continue to feel lonely. Sometimes loneliness is more about not liking yourself than about not having people around who like you. Otherwise, why would you spend so much energy avoiding rejection instead of building healthy relationships? Perhaps you think if you don’t get involved you won’t get hurt. Or you’re afraid to open up in case people criticize you for sharing anything personal. Such anxieties just contribute to your sense of isolation. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, ‘What you picture in your mind, your mind will go to work to accomplish.’ 
So:

(1) You need a true picture of how God sees you. Paul says, ‘Because of what Christ has done we have become gifts…God…delights in.’ 
(Ephesians 1:11 TLB) Zephaniah writes, 
‘He celebrates and sings because of you, and He will refresh your life with His love.’

(2) You need a true picture of yourself. David said, ‘You… put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise You because of the wonderful way You created me. Everything You do is marvelous!’ 
(Psalm 139:13–14 CEV) Having these two pictures clearly in mind stops you from operating with a devalued self-image, and enables you to ask for what you need in 
a relationship.

Stop Worrying About It

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‘Let him have all your worries and cares.’
 1 Peter 5:7 TLB

Author John Mason writes: ‘I couldn’t feel at peace. Unless I had everything figured out, I became anxious, restless, nervous, worried, and grouchy… similar to a drug addict who needs a fix. The severity wasn’t the same but the symptoms were. I was a Christian and supposedly walked by faith. I trusted Jesus for salvation, but in other areas I trusted myself.’ Are you living that way?

Inspirational author William Ward wrote: ‘Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster, and belief in defeat. It’s a magnet that attracts negative conditions. Faith is a more powerful force that creates positive circumstances. Worry is wasting today’s time, and cluttering up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.’

When an old man was asked what had robbed him of joy in his life, he replied, ‘Things that never happened.’ Do you remember the things you worried about a year ago? Didn’t you expend a lot of energy on them? And didn’t most of them turn out to be fine after all? Almost 99 percent of the things we worry about don’t happen.

Did you know that a dense fog covering seven city blocks thirty meters deep, is composed of less than one glass of water? Just one glass! But it can blot out practically all vision. And a cupful of worry can do the same thing. The Bible says, ‘People’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.’ 
(Jeremiah 10:23 NIV) Stop trying to control every possible outcome. Life goes better when you decide to stand on God’s Word and trust Him to take care of you.

Treat Your Enemy With Kindness

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‘You will heap coals of fire on his head.’
 Proverbs 25:22 NKJV

It’s not enough to simply leave your enemies alone; you must demonstrate God’s love towards them. ‘If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.’ (Proverbs 25:21–22 NKJV) What does it mean to ‘heap coals of fire on his head’?

Charles Swindoll explains that in ancient days, homes were heated and meals were fixed on a small portable stove, somewhat like our outside barbecue grills. Frequently, a person would run low on hot coals and need to replenish his or her supply. The container was commonly carried on the head. So, as the individual passed beneath second-story windows, thoughtful people who had extra hot coals in their possession would reach out the window and place them in the container atop their head. Thanks to the thoughtful generosity of a few folks, they would arrive at the site with a pile of burning coals on their head, and a ready-made fire for cooking and keeping warm. ‘Heaping burning coals on someone’s head’ came to be a popular expression for a spontaneous and courteous act one person would voluntarily do for another. When you treat an enemy this way, the Bible promises, ‘The Lord will reward you.’ You have a choice. You can experience the short-term satisfaction of retaliating and get into trouble with God for doing it, or show mercy and kindness and be rewarded by God for doing it. So, the word for you today is—treat your enemy with kindness.

Listen Carefully Without Interrupting!

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‘Look with your eyes… hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you.’ Ezekiel 40:4 NKJV

If you train yourself to listen carefully to what someone is saying, they will generally tell you who and what they are before you get into a relationship with them. Prevention is better than cure! But more times than not, when someone begins to warn us of their weaknesses and what to expect, we jump in with our motivational ‘Oh no, that can’t be true’ thoughts, and encourage them to move forward with us. We need to learn the priceless art of listening without interrupting. If you do, you’ll save yourself years of tears, secret disappointments and negative experiences. Rather than using your optimism and persuasive style to coerce somebody into accepting your goals and objectives, you need to know when a person can’t become something just because you want them to or believe they can. They can’t run on your fuel! Your character and maturity won’t make up for their lack of it. Without your awareness of this principle, these high-maintenance relationships can weary you and drain your strength for years. In private or professional relationships, if you have to keep motivating to get started, you’ll have to keep motivating to maintain. On the other hand, if you look, listen, pray and observe, you can decide whether it’s worth the effort to engage in the relationship in the first place. And if you ask God, He will guide you in this: His Word says, ‘Look with your eyes… hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here… that I might show them to you.’

Things Cut Off, Things Cut Back

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‘So [you] will produce even more.’ John 15:2 NLT

Jesus said the vine dresser: ‘cuts off every branch… that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes [cuts back] the branches that do bear fruit so they… produce even more.’Notice two things:

(1) God cuts some things off. ‘What kind of things?’ Things you’re comfortable with but that stand in the way of your progress. Things He hasn’t chosen for you. Things that will bring you trouble. Things that refuse to change. Things that have served their purpose.

(2) God cuts some things back. A fruit tree that’s just been pruned certainly doesn’t look its best. And when God starts cutting back certain things in your life in order to redirect your energies, for a while you may not look so good either. Sometimes this means letting go of things you thought would always be there, or reprioritizing your life, or making do with less for a while, or not being able to explain to your loved ones why you’re going through the pruning process. But life-giving sap flowing into a barren branch with no potential for fruitfulness is a waste! And so is time, attention, and energy taken from first things and given to second and third things.

Understand this: God knows what needs to be cut off in your life, and He knows what needs to be cut back. And although you may not understand what He’s doing, pray: ‘Send whoever You will and take away whoever You will. I’ll praise You when they come and I’ll praise You when they go, because Your approval is my reward and Your purpose is my reason to live.’

God Is Real!

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‘The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?’
 Psalm 27:1 NIV

What hope or help does the atheist or agnostic have? None! Writer and editorialist WO Saunders said in American Magazine: ‘I’d like to introduce you to one of the loneliest and unhappiest individuals on earth… the man who doesn’t believe in God. I can introduce you to such a man because I myself am one, and in introducing myself you shall have an introduction to the agnostic or skeptic in your own neighborhood, for he is everywhere in the land. You’ll be surprised to know that the agnostic envies your faith in God, your settled belief in a Heaven after-life, and your blessed assurance that you’ll meet with your loved ones in an afterlife where there’ll be neither sadness nor pain. He’d give anything to be able to embrace that faith and be comforted by it, but for him there is only the grave and the persistence of matter. After the grave all he can see is the disintegration of the protoplasm and psychoplasm of which my body and personality are composed, but in this materialist view, I find neither ecstasy nor happiness… He may put on a brave front but he isn’t happy… He sometimes yearns for a staff on which to lean. He, too, carries a cross. For him, this earth is but a tricky raft adrift in the unfathomable waters of eternity with no horizon in sight. His heart aches for every precious life upon the raft—drifting, drifting, drifting, whither no one knows.’

But when you put your trust in Christ, you can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?’

You Can Change

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‘We are the clay, and You are the potter.’
 Isaiah 64:8 NLT

Ever watch a lump of clay being transformed into something beautiful? The clay can’t change itself; the power to do that lies in the hands of the potter. Isaiah says, ‘We are the clay, and You are the potter. We are all formed by Your hand.’ That means you don’t have to live the rest of your life with your phobias and hang-ups; God can change you. Even if you’ve been a worrier all your life, you don’t have to worry for the rest of your life. So, what if you were born in poverty or prejudice? You don’t have to die that way. Where did you get the idea that you can’t change? What’s the source of comments such as ‘It’s just my nature to worry,’ or ‘I’ll always be pessimistic; I’m just that way,’ or ‘I come from a family of alcoholics and addicts so I’ll never be free’? Would you make the same statement about your physical body? ‘It’s just my nature to have a broken leg. I can’t do anything about it.’ Of course not. If your body malfunctions, you seek help. Shouldn’t you do the same with your sinful appetites, sour attitudes, and selfish tirades? What the world sees as rubbish, God sees as treasure. And like the potter, He can take you, mold you, and make you into a vessel of honor (see 2 Timothy 2:21). All you have to do is place your life in His hands. We sing, ‘Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay.’ When you stop trying to change yourself and surrender to God, true and lasting change takes place.

Be Passionate, Proactive and Persistent

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‘Do not merely listen to the Word… Do what it says.’
 James 1:22 NIV

When Nehemiah first saw the ruins of Jerusalem, he wept. Then he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. In the face of overwhelming odds and relentless opposition, he rebuilt the walls in just 52 days. How? Because it was his vision and his passion! Question: Are you afraid to say, ‘Lord, I’ll do anything You want me to do,’ in case He sends you somewhere you don’t want to go, or asks you to do something you don’t feel ready or qualified to do? You’ve got it wrong! The Bible says God’s will is ‘good, and acceptable, and perfect.’ (Romans 12:2 KJV) Now, while God’s will is ‘good’, it’s not necessarily easy. But He will give you a passion for it. When Jeremiah tried to stop speaking about the Lord, he said God’s Word became ‘like a burning fire shut up in my bones.’ (Jeremiah 20:9 NASB) 
A God-given vision sets your heart on fire. You begin to see things you never saw before and get excited about them. You may have failed in the past, but God can take your chapters of failure and write a story of success. But it won’t happen if you’re just sitting on the side-lines. The Bible says, ‘Do not merely listen to the Word… Do what it says.’ You’ll get a passion for God’s will once you start doing it! And when it happens, you will say, ‘This is what I was made for.’ When you have a compelling reason for doing something, and you know God is watching and smiling on you, it makes all the difference in the world. So, the word for you today is: be passionate, proactive and persistent!

A Prayer For Peace

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‘You will keep him in perfect peace.’
 Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

Here is a prayer for peace: ‘Lord, Your Word says, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV) Your Word says, “The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11 NIV) Your Word says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) Your Word says, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV) Today I need this peace which transcends understanding to settle my nerves and calm my mind. Instead of thinking about my fears and worries, help me to focus on Your goodness, Your faithfulness, Your healing power, Your overflowing resources, and Your forgiving heart. Take up residence within me and fill me with Your peace. Show me what’s robbing me of it. I really want to know, Father, so I can be specific in what I need to confess, what I need to commit to, and what I need to change. I open myself to You now. Teach me the secret of lasting peace. I thank You now for whatever it will take to help me receive the peace You have so generously offered to me. Your Word says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”(Colossians 3:15 NIV) Today I want to be ruled by Your peace instead of my fears and worries. So, I give all my concerns to You, trusting You to work them out for my good and Your glory. In Jesus’ Name I 
pray: Amen.’

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 counseling. 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 honorable, and if you honor 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.’

Learn To Be Content

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‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’
 Philippians 4:11 NIV

Discontentment is a trap that can ensnare you and rob you of joy and fulfillment. That’s why the Bible says you must learn to be content ‘whatever the circumstances’. The notion that a bigger car or a bigger house or a bigger salary will bring you contentment is a myth. There will always be something ‘bigger and better’ out there. There will always be people who have more than you, so you’ll never be able to get off the treadmill. That’s not to imply you should be satisfied with being enslaved to debt or destructive habits, or settle for complacency and mediocrity and not fulfill the call of God on your life. Not at all! You must keep working to improve yourself, while remaining totally dependent on God to bless you, promote you and meet your needs. Contentment means not coveting another person’s position, possessions or personality. Your security and self-worth should be based on who you are in Christ, not what you have in material assets. What a great way to live! Paul lived like that. He said, ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:11–13 NIV) Each day you have a choice to make regarding your attitude. So, the word for you today is: learn to be content.

Understanding Satan’s Role (5)

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‘Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you.’
 Luke 22:31 CEV

Luke writes: ‘Jesus said, “Simon, listen to me! Satan has demanded the right to test each one of you, as a farmer does when he separates wheat from the husks. But Simon, I have prayed that your faith will be strong. And when you have come back to Me, help the others.”’ (Luke 22:31–32 CEV) Satan’s attack proves you have an important part to play in the plan of God. That’s why he’s trying so hard to defeat you. The truth is, the intensity and duration of his attack is an indication of your value to God and the level of blessing that God has planned for you on the other side of the attack. So, if you belong to Christ, view the attack as a sign of respect. And remember Who is in control. Satan needed God’s permission to attack Job.

Jesus said, ‘All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.’ 
(Matthew 28:18 NIV) And this is proof. The purpose of this test is to provide you with a testimony to God’s goodness. Jesus was allowing Peter to experience a trial so that he could encourage his brothers. Perhaps God is doing the same with you. He knows that the church, and the world, need living testimonies of His power. So, your difficulty may be preparing you to be a voice of encouragement to others who are struggling. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers: ‘You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ (Genesis 50:20 NASB) Since God loves you and is in control of your life, good things will come from the difficulties you are going through right now.

Understanding Satan’s Role (4)

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‘Hand that man over to Satan.’
 1 Corinthians 5:5 CEV

Satan’s attack can be a wake-up call. Do you know that when you refuse to acknowledge your sin and repent of it, the wall of protection around you is breached and Satan is free to come in and attack you? Paul writes to the Corinthian church: ‘I have heard terrible things about some of you. In fact, you are behaving worse than the Gentiles. A man is even sleeping with his own stepmother. You are proud, when you ought to feel bad enough to chase away anyone who acts like that.’ (1 Corinthians 5:1–2 CEV) Then Paul instructs the leaders of the church, ‘You must then hand that man over to Satan. His body will be destroyed, but his spirit will be saved when the Lord Jesus returns.’ Later the man repented of his sin and Paul said he should be restored to fellowship in the church. So, what Paul was saying, in essence, was: ‘Let him be driven to despair that he might be driven back into the arms of God.’

Again, Paul writes: ‘Some people have made a mess of their faith because they didn’t listen to their consciences. Two of them are Hymenaeus and Alexander. I have given these men over to the power of Satan, so they will learn not to oppose God.’ (1 Timothy 1:19–20 CEV) Does God enjoy seeing us suffer? No more than a parent enjoys disciplining a child. But holy love makes tough choices. (Remember, discipline should result in mercy, not misery.) Some of us are awakened by a tap on the shoulder, while others need a two-by-four on the head. And whenever God needs a two-by-four, Satan gets the call.

Understanding Satan’s Role (3)

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‘The trouble the Lord had brought on him.’
 Job 42:11 NCV

Satan’s attack can strengthen your faith. The devil dared to question the stability of Job’s faith, so God gave him permission to test Job. ‘The Lord said to Satan, “All right then. Everything Job has is in your power, but you must not touch Job himself.”’ (Job 1:12 NCV) Notice, God set both the permission and the parameters of the struggle. Job passes the test and Satan complains that Job would have fallen had he been forced to face pain. Again, God gives permission, and again He sets the parameters: ‘Job is in your power, but you may not take his life.’ (Job 2:6 NCV) Though the pain and the questions are abundant, in the end Job’s faith and health are greater than ever. Again, we may not understand the reason for the test, but we know its source.

Read this verse from the last chapter of the book of Job. The family of Job ‘comforted him and made him feel better about the trouble the Lord had brought on him.’ Satan has no power except that which God gives him. Even when Satan appears to win, he loses. Martin Luther was right on target when he described the devil as God’s tool, a hoe He uses to care for His garden. The hoe never cuts what the Gardener intends to save, and never saves what the Gardener intends to weed. Surely a part of Satan’s punishment is the frustration he feels in unwillingly serving as a tool to create a garden for God. So be encouraged today: Satan’s attack will strengthen your faith, refine it, and take it to greater heights.

Understanding Satan’s Role (2)

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‘A messenger of Satan, to torment me.’
 2 Corinthians 12:7 NIV

Satan’s attack can drive you closer to God. That was true in Paul’s life. Think of Paul’s CV: a personal audience with the resurrected Christ, a participant in heavenly visions, an apostle chosen by God, an author of the Bible. He healed the sick, traveled the world, and penned some of history’s greatest documents. Few could rival his achievements. And maybe he knew it. But God loved Paul too much to allow pride to destroy him.

‘To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.’ We aren’t told the nature of the thorn, but we’re told its purpose—to keep Paul humble. We are also told its origin—a messenger of Satan. The messenger could have been a pain, a problem, or a person who was a pain. We don’t know. But we do know that the messenger was under God’s control. Note what Paul says next: ‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ 
(2 Corinthians 12:8–10 NIV) Here’s a truth that can transform every test into a potential triumph: Satan and his forces are simply a tool in the hand of God to strengthen you.

Understanding Satan’s Role (1)

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‘God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world.’
 1 John 4:4 NCV

Satan is a fallen angel who wasn’t satisfied to worship God; he wanted to occupy His throne. Angels, like humans, were made to serve and worship God. And they were given free will; otherwise, how could they worship? But Satan said, ‘I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:14 NIV) That got him evicted from Heaven: ‘You are brought down… to the depths of the pit.’ (Isaiah 14:15 NIV) And Satan hasn’t changed. He’s as self-centered now as he was then, and he’s just as limited now as he was then. Even when his heart was good, he was inferior to God. God knows everything; angels only know what He reveals. God is everywhere; angels can only be in one place. God is all-powerful; angels are only as powerful as God allows them to be. So, Satan is still subservient to God. And every time he tries to advance his cause, he ends up advancing God’s cause. In The Serpent of Paradise, pastor and author Erwin Lutzer writes: ‘Satan has different roles to play, depending on God’s counsel and purposes… We must bear in mind that he does have frightful powers, but knowing that those can only be exercised under God’s discretion and pleasure, gives us hope. Satan is simply not free to wreak havoc on people at will.’ Satan doesn’t want you to know that; he’d rather you be deceived into thinking of him as an independent force with unlimited power. But he’s not. And he’d rather you’d never read these words: ‘God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil.’

Knowing Who You Are In Christ

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‘You are Mine.’
 Isaiah 43:1 NIV

We hear about people being released from prison after serving time for a crime they didn’t commit. It was a case of mistaken identity. Identifying someone means having the ability to recognize and say exactly who they are. Satan wants you to identify with who people say you are, versus who God says you are. And unless you know who you are in God’s eyes, Satan will hammer you with feelings of condemnation and unworthiness. God’s grace and unconditional love for you is the only secure foundation on which to base your salvation and self-worth.

Today He says to you: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.’ Jesus identified with God’s opinion only: ‘I know where I came from and where I am going.’ (John 8:14 AMP) People said terrible things about Jesus, yet here’s what God said about Him: ‘The stone… the builders rejected has become the… cornerstone.’ (Psalm 118:22 NKJV)

Sometimes we’re so busy telling people what to do that we neglect to tell them who they are. Knowing who you are in Christ gives you confidence to hold your head high. You are ‘complete’ because of your relationship to Christ (see Colossians 2:10). God sees you clothed in Christ’s righteousness (see 
2 Corinthians 5:21). Once you accept that, you stop feeling like you constantly fall short. When you have money in the bank and you need to withdraw it, you don’t feel pressured because you know it’s in an account with your name on it. Likewise, you don’t have to struggle for other people’s approval when you know you’re loved and accepted by God.

Free from People’s Approval

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‘We are not trying to please people but God.’
 1 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV

There’s a world of difference between performing for people’s approval, and being free to minister to their needs because you know you already have God’s approval. Striving for approval is like any other drug; you can never get enough of it. And like all drug addicts you go crazy when it’s withheld. It places you at the mercy of other people’s opinions, and as a result you live on an emotional roller coaster. That’s not how God wants you to live!

Paul was free to speak the truth in love: to confront people or to be gentle with them. When someone told Paul they didn’t like him, he didn’t lose sleep over it because his security and self-worth weren’t built on their acceptance. ‘We speak as those approved by God.’ (1 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV) Paul didn’t go around comparing himself with others, demonstrating his superiority by trying to be top dog or the one who’s always in charge. Knowing he already had God’s approval set him free from such anxiety and meant he could enjoy the life God called him to. When we’re immature, we worry about what others think of us. But as we become more mature, we realise that most of the time they aren’t thinking about us at all. They’re too busy thinking about themselves—or worrying about what we think of them! Knowing you have God’s approval gives you the strength to deal with criticism and conflict because you’re secure in your identity. And your identity is this: you’re redeemed, called and approved by God.

Remember to Forget

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‘If you have anything against anyone, forgive him.’
 Mark 11:25 NKJV

No matter how much two people love each other, conflicts are sure to arise that call for extending grace and showing forgiveness. Do you know that couples who are happy and stay married have the same number of disagreements and conflicts as couples who are unhappy and get divorced? Statistically, that is true! It’s not the absence of conflict that preserves marriage, but the ability to manage conflict when it happens. So how do you ‘manage’ conflict? By practicing the kind of self-control that keeps conflicts from mushrooming into hurtful and divisive stand-offs. It also means knowing what to do with hurt feelings like anger, disappointment and dashed expectations. In other words, it means knowing how to forgive it and forget it. But emotional hurt and tension are almost impossible to forget; the harder we try, the more we remember. So, what’s the answer? Remember to forget! Try to act like God, who chooses not to hold against us what He knows about us. He says in His Word: ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.’ (Isaiah 43:25 NKJV) That means if you are holding something against your spouse, there’s only one solution: forgive it and forget it. You may never forget how you’ve been hurt, but you can choose to forgive it and move on. No, it’s not easy, but you can do it. How? By remembering the things, known or unknown to others, that God has forgiven you for and extending that same grace to your spouse.

Are You Being Stretched?

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‘All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize.’
 1 Corinthians 9:25 NLT

When you’re being stretched spiritually, your faith in God grows. When you’re being stretched mentally, your old ideas are challenged and replaced with new ones. When you’re being stretched relationally, selfishness dies and love grows. So, are you being stretched right now? God allows us to have stretching experiences that prepare us for the race He has called us to run in life—and every so often your soul will ‘hit the wall’. No amount of strength and no amount of pressing will move the problem. This is soul stretch!

Often, these moments aren’t the real test; they are just warm-ups that prepare us for future challenges. They are points of reference designed to keep us from panicking when we’re in the midst of the real race. Remember that God never allows a person to run for Him, or with Him, who hasn’t been stretched in their thinking, their faith, and their ability to live and love. So, when you face a problem that just won’t move, remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that God is stretching you. It’s the stretching of the soul that enables us to face situations we think will kill us, but don’t; to endure times when we think we won’t make it, but do. Sooner or later we will all face difficult times and relationships, but they are just the deep knee bends of life. So, when it feels like you’re being stretched to breaking point, don’t quit. See it for what it is—preparation for running and winning your God-assigned race in life.

Become a Good Thinker

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‘As he thinks within himself, so he is.’
 Proverbs 23:7 NASB

With practice, you can become a good thinker. Observe two things:

(1) Good thinkers have foresight. ‘The plans of the diligent lead to profit.’ (Proverbs 21:5 NIV) The word diligent means ‘to work, study, and plan’. You don’t stumble into success and figure it out afterwards. Whether you’re in business or ministry, your level of success will increase dramatically if you place a high value on good thinking. Novelist Victor Hugo wrote, ‘A small man is made up of small thoughts.’ People who don’t practice good thinking usually find themselves at the mercy of circumstances—or other people’s thoughts. Unable to solve problems, they find themselves facing the same obstacles over and over. And because they don’t think ahead they’re habitually in reaction mode. An old German proverb says, ‘Better an empty purse than an empty head.’ Good thinkers overcome difficulties, including lack of resources, that often leave poor thinkers at the mercy of good thinkers. 
In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen says, ‘All that a man achieves or fails to achieve, is a direct result of his thoughts.’ Do you believe that? If you do, you’ll place a high value on good thinking and make it a priority in your life.

(2) Good thinkers look for the best, not the worst. They live by this Scriptural principle: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

You are Redeemed by the Blood of Jesus

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‘The blood of Jesus Christ… cleanses us from all sin.’
 1 John 1:7 NKJV

Going to church, doing your best, and subscribing to fuzzy notions about God won’t get you into Heaven. Here’s the testimony of those already in Heaven: ‘To Him who loves us… freed us from our sins by His blood, and… made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father… be glory and power for ever and ever!’ (Revelation 1:5–6 NIV) There’s an interesting story behind a broken rope on display at the Matterhorn Museum in Zermatt, Switzerland. Some climbers who scaled the Matterhorn used it to rope themselves together for the return descent. But one climber slipped. The other team members braced for the shock on the rope linking them all together, expecting it to halt their companion’s fall. But the tug came, and to everyone’s horror the rope snapped, dragging the others with him into the abyss and plunging them to their deaths. Nobody knows why an inferior rope was used. But they do know it wasn’t genuine Alpine rope, which is guaranteed and distinguished by a red strand running through it. There’s a lesson here. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible has a red strand running through it, and it represents the only thing that can save you—the blood of Jesus. Old Testament believers looked forward to the Cross, and New Testament believers looked back to it. By trusting in Christ’s finished work, you’re accepted by God, and one day the door of Heaven will open and you’ll live with Him forever. And it’s all based on this truth: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ… cleanses us from all sin.’ No more is required, and nothing less will get you through the door!

Husbands and Wives (6)

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‘Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house.’
 Psalm 128:3 NIV

The psalmist writes: ‘Blessed are all who fear [respect, honor and obey] the Lord, who walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit [rewards] of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.’ (Psalm 128:1–4 NIV) In a favorable climate, grapevines need no coaxing to grow. They’ll produce grapes in abundance, from which comes wine. And wine in the Bible speaks of joy and celebration. It’s the same in your home. As a husband, God holds you responsible for creating a climate in which your wife and family can experience ‘blessings and prosperity’. That means you must spend enough time at home to create and maintain an ideal temperature. When you’re seldom present you can’t do that, because your absence just frustrates your wife and diminishes her sense of worth and self-confidence. When she has to take second place to your career, your sports activities, and your friends—not to mention your television watching—you’ll never build a great relationship with her. To know what your wife’s needs are, you must spend quality time with her. If you want to discover her true potential and know just how wonderful a person she is, create the right climate in your home. One woman joked, ‘I never knew what real happiness was until I married my husband—now it’s too late!’ That doesn’t have to be your story. You can create a climate in which you both thrive and enjoy life.

Husbands and Wives (5)

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‘Husbands… live with your wives, and treat them with respect.’
 1 Peter 3:7 NIV

You must get to know your wife and respect her needs. When God made woman, He made her to be a receiver and responder. He made her a little softer, a little warmer, a little more emotional in order to respond to you. 
A woman responds to a man in such a way that the very thing he wants, he will receive by giving instead of demanding. When your wife feels truly loved and secure you won’t have to worry about her fulfilling her responsibility in the home. You won’t have to wonder if you’ll have an active, intimate, physical relationship. She’ll be right there responding to your needs. But that means you must put your wife and family first. Sometimes that means saying, ‘Sorry, guys, I can’t go out with you tonight because I’m taking my wife on a date.’ When you’re that kind of husband, you’ll get the kind of response you want without demanding it.

But be prepared; there may be issues festering under the surface that need to be dealt with before you can move forward as a couple. If so, be humble enough to say, ‘I’m sorry I’ve failed you. I haven’t loved you the way I was supposed to and I know it has affected our relationship. I haven’t given you the time and attention you need. But starting today I’m going to change. With God’s help, I’m going to try to love you the way you deserve to be loved.’ Now, sir, your wife may faint when she first hears it, but if you follow through, you can have the marriage you always dreamed of.

Husbands and Wives (4)

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‘In Adam all die.’
 1 Corinthians 15:22 NIV

The Bible says, ‘In Adam all die.’ Why Adam? He was called to be the head of the first family, therefore he was responsible for what happened in the home. As people, husbands and wives are equal under God. But in marriage each has a different role. What happened in the first home was the result of two people wanting to live independently of God. That’s the way many relationships function today. One or both partners choose to live their lives separately from God’s rule and authority. It shows up in the 36 percent divorce rate we’re experiencing. And that doesn’t take into consideration that many who remain married say they’re not happy and wouldn’t marry the same person again. Conflict arises when you and your spouse have different histories, learning styles, personalities, and backgrounds. One spouse might say, ‘My father raised me like this,’ or ‘My mother always did that.’

We all have our own idea of what makes up ‘the knowledge of good and evil’―what’s right and what’s wrong for a marriage. Everyone has an opinion. The problem is, you can spend your life arguing over opinions and get nowhere. As followers of Christ, we’re called to live our lives and build our marriages on Biblical revelation, not personal intuition. Adam’s job was to get God’s viewpoint on issues pertaining to life and family, then share it with the other members of the family. How? By being a loving husband and modeling godly leadership. When a home functions this way, God’s blessing will be present.

Husbands and Wives (3)

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‘All your males are to appear before the Lord.’
 Exodus 34:23 NASB

God said, ‘Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord… For I will drive out nations before you…enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land.’ 
(Exodus 34:23–24 NASB) Three times a year the men of Israel were to go on a spiritual retreat and seek God’s guidance. And God promised to protect their families and their possessions while they were gone, and even to ‘enlarge [their] borders’. So, if you’re a husband who wants God to protect your family and bless your endeavors, you must take the time to submit your thoughts, actions, and decisions to His leadership. You’ll never function successfully as the head of your family until you’re under the headship of Christ. The best thing you can do in leading your home and building a great marriage is to ask the question, ‘What is the mind of Christ in this matter?’ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16) And then follow it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have your wife’s full attention and cooperation. Why? Because she’s no longer arguing with you and your opinions. Now you’ve brought Christ and His Word into the equation. It may take time for your wife to trust your leadership and respect your thinking, but as she sees you walk with God and practice His principles, she’ll come to trust you and feel secure. When a woman says to her husband, ‘I need you to hold me,’ she’s not necessarily talking about physical intimacy. She’s talking about her God-given need for security. She needs a husband she can love and trust. And God can make you such a husband.

Husbands and Wives (2)

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‘Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman.’
 1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB

Paul writes, ‘I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.’ There is an order to how God operates. Just as Christ was submitted to God, husbands are supposed to be submitted to Christ, and wives are supposed to be submitted to godly husbands. Note the words, ‘the man is the head of the woman’―not all women. This arrangement doesn’t apply in the workplace or in other relationships. When we fail to honor God’s structure, Satan can enter our homes just as he entered the first home in Eden. ‘Submission’ is an unpopular word today. But when we understand it from a Biblical perspective, we see that it’s a positive force to accomplish good, not a negative force to subject women to an inferior status. The Greek word for submission, ‘hupotasso’, means to willingly place oneself under the authority of another. It doesn’t involve coercion, but rather a willingness to take who and what God made you, and submit it to the authority of another. In the husband’s case, to God, and in the wife’s case, to God and to her husband. Paul writes, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.’ (Ephesians 5:25 NIV) When a husband loves his wife that way, and gives himself to her, she will gladly submit to his leadership in the home. It’s her husband’s love and protection that releases her into the fullness of her God-given potential.

Husbands and Wives (1)

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‘She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.’
 Genesis 3:6 NKJV

In Genesis, before Eve was created God warned Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit, and it was his responsibility to communicate that to his wife. Clearly, he didn’t do a very good job. As a result, he lost his job and they ended up losing their home. Notice, the devil first approached Eve with the idea of disobeying God. ‘When the woman saw that the tree was good… She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.’ Question: where was Adam when Eve was being deceived? ‘With her.’ So, here’s an important lesson: when a man fails to listen to God and obey Him, he can’t be the leader his wife and family need. He literally opens the door to Satan and allows him to come in and cause chaos in the family. When Satan was trying to sell Eve a bill of goods, Adam stood silently by instead of speaking up and saying, ‘That’s not right. Unless we follow the path God has laid out for us, we’ll lose everything.’ The issue in marriage isn’t about who’s the boss; it’s about honoring the structure God created so everyone in the family can walk in His blessing. The Bible says Satan comes to ‘steal, kill and destroy’(see John 10:10). But when a husband is truly submitted to Christ, he can protect his family. So, if you’re a husband, you need to step up to the plate. And if you’re a wife, you need to encourage your husband to walk with God and let him know that it’s an honor and privilege to follow such a man.

God Has A Plan ― Trust Him

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‘He makes everything work out according to His plan.’
 Ephesians 1:11 NLT

The Bible says, ‘The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.’ 
(Psalm 84:11 NLT) Sometimes we pray for a certain thing, believing it’s good for us. But God, who has a plan for your life, knows what would be ‘good’ and what wouldn’t be. Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, said if God had answered all her prayers when she was young, she’d have married the wrong man―several times.

Two teardrops were floating down the river of life. One asked the other, ‘Who are you?’ The second replied, ‘I’m the teardrop from the girl who loved a man and lost him. Who are you?’ The first teardrop replied, 
‘I am the teardrop from the girl who got him.’

That’s the way life goes, isn’t it? We cry over what we don’t have, not realizing we might have cried twice as hard if God had given it to us. The expression ‘walking by faith’ means trusting the plan God has already worked out, and will reveal to you on a need-to-know basis. Paul said, ‘I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.’(Philippians 4:11 NKJV) Clearly his contentment didn’t come from his surroundings, since he spent many years of his ministry in prison. So, where did it come from? The knowledge that God ‘makes everything work out according to His plan.’ Does that mean Paul understood every detail of God’s plan? No, but when he didn’t understand the plan, he trusted the Planner! And that’s where Paul’s peace, joy, and contentment came from. The same goes 
for you.

Discover Who You Are Called To Reach

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‘How is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?’
 Acts 2:8 NIV

On the day the church was birthed, we read: ‘All of [the apostles] were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under Heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”…Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”’ (Acts 2:4–12 NIV) The question ‘What does this mean?’ indicates that God loves and uses all kinds of people―gypsies and cowboys, bikers and academics, single parents and well-heeled executives. It also tells us that when we’re filled with God’s Spirit, He has equipped each of us to reach a specific kind of person.

So: (1) Who do you find it easy to talk to? Teenagers? Drug addicts? The elderly? You may be tongue-tied around children but eloquent with executives. No problem; that’s how God designed you.

(2) Who do you feel the most compassion for? God doesn’t burden each of us equally. ‘He fashions [our] hearts individually.’ (Psalm 33:15 NKJV) What makes your heart break and your pulse race? When you see the homeless, or victims of the sex trade? The newly-bereaved or the divorced? Paul says, ‘[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.’ (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT) So, discover who you are called to reach.

Be Open To Advice

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‘The wise listen to advice.’
 Proverbs 12:15 NIV

When you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’, you’re vulnerable to making mistakes. You may know a lot, but you don’t know all there is to know. So, you should always seek and be open to good input. Professional golfers play with a caddy. And the caddy is more than just a carrier of clubs; he or she is there for support and valuable advice. Tommy Bolt was one of the greatest golfers of all time. But he had a major flaw: a terrible temper. One year when he was playing in a tournament in Southern California, he was still angry because of a bad round he’d had the day before. So, he told his caddy only to say, ‘Yes, Mr Bolt,’ or ‘No, Mr Bolt,’ if he was asked a question. Otherwise he was to keep quiet. Bolt hit his first tee shot and it appeared to come to rest behind a tree. When he reached the spot, he asked his caddy, ‘Do you think I should hit a five-iron?’ The caddy, obeying orders, simply replied, ‘No, Mr Bolt.’ Bolt hit the five-iron anyway, and made an unbelievable shot that landed on the green a few feet from the hole. He turned to his caddy and proudly said, ‘What do you think about that shot?’ As the caddy picked up the bag and headed towards the green, he simply said, ‘That wasn’t your ball, Mr Bolt.’ If you don’t want to finish up making mistakes you will regret, be open to advice―and follow it. The Bible says, ‘The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.’

Bless Future Generations

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‘I will pour out My Spirit… and My blessing on your children..’
 Isaiah 44:3 NLT

Parent, here’s a Bible promise you can stand on: ‘I will pour out My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your children.’ Your kids should be able to take up where you left off! Your ceiling should be their floor. They shouldn’t merely follow you; they should use the foundation you laid to build something greater. Don’t use the comfort of the status quo as an excuse for not challenging old thinking. To get beyond your mental barriers, you need to stop saying things like: ‘That’s just the way I am,’ or ‘My family never amounted to much, so I won’t either.’ When you say that, you’re contradicting God! When God delivered the Israelites from slavery, they started out for the Promised Land. The journey should have taken only eleven days but it ended up taking forty years.

What happened? They complained endlessly, and as a result kept going around the same mountain again and again. Why? Because they’d been in slavery for four hundred years, and they thought and talked like slaves! They couldn’t grasp what God had promised them. Finally, He told them, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore He would give your descendants’(see Deuteronomy 2:3). If your past has been one of failure, draw a line in the sand today and declare, ‘Enough is enough. I’m going to trust God for bigger and better things!’ It’s in such moments that destinies are changed.

Bottom line: the decisions you make today will affect not only you, but your children―so ask God to help you make the right ones.

Dad, Bless Your Children!

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‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Mark 2:5 NKJV

Old Testament fathers placed their hands on their children’s heads and spoke certain promises over them, believing the blessing of God can be passed from one generation to another. It’s why ‘Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him.’ (Genesis 28:1 KJV) It’s why Jacob refused to die before blessing his grandchildren (see Genesis 48:14).

Children without caring, involved fathers often spend their whole lives searching for a sense of identity and self-worth. Increasingly they’re finding them in the company of rebellious peer groups, street gangs, drug dealers, and on social media and the Internet. And we see the results of it all around us. Instead of fulfilling their God-given destiny, these kids become defined and labeled by a lifestyle such as ‘runaway’, ‘convict’, ‘troublemaker’, ‘addict’. Before Tupac Shakur, the rap artist known for his violent song lyrics, was gunned down in 1996, he said, ‘I never knew my real father. I know for a fact that if I’d had a father, I’d have some discipline [and] more confidence. Your mother can calm you down, reassure you, show you where your manhood is. But you need a man to teach you how to be a man.’

When a man was brought to Him for healing, before Jesus forgave and healed him, He called him ‘son’. He didn’t say, ‘You’ve got to clean up your act,’ or ‘You must do things My way.’ No, He established a relationship with the man by showing him love and acceptance. And as a father you need to do the same. Loving and accepting your kids as they are, without conditions and condemnation, is the greatest gift you can give them.

God’s Undeserved Kindness To You

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‘I will surely show you kindness.’
 2 Samuel 9:7 NIV

In Bible times, when a new king ascended the throne, he usually killed or banished every member of the old king’s family. So, here’s the story. Jonathan, King Saul’s son, and David, whom Saul hated, were close friends. So close, they made a covenant to protect one another with their lives. After Jonathan and Saul died in battle, Jonathan had one remaining son called Mephibosheth. So, David had him brought to the palace, saying, ‘I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.’ Mephibosheth was living in Lo Debar, which means ‘the land of nothing… the place of no bread.’ (see 
2 Samuel 9:4–5). That’s significant, because when your self-esteem is non-existent, your surroundings usually reflect it. You either give up completely, or go to the other extreme by striving to be perfect. But you don’t have to do either. The Bible says, ‘God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you’ (see Ephesians 4:32). Your acceptance with God isn’t based on who you are, but Whose you are! Mephibosheth was lame in both feet and couldn’t walk properly. And spiritually speaking, you couldn’t either! Yet Mephibosheth ‘ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet.’ (2 Samuel 9:13 NIV) His lame feet couldn’t be seen because they were hidden under the king’s table. And God does the same for you too! He wraps you in the righteousness of Christ and puts all your sins under the blood. That means you’re always acceptable in His sight―including this very moment.

Growing Through Life’s Tests

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‘So that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything.’
 James 1:4 CEV

James writes: ‘Be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything. If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given you… But when you ask…you must have faith… Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm. If you are that kind of person, you can’t make up your mind, and you surely can’t be trusted. So don’t expect the Lord to give you anything at all.’ (James 1:2–8 CEV)

Note three things in this Scripture:

(1) Your faith grows when it’s tested. You’ll never know the strength of your anchor until you feel the blast of the storm.

(2) God will give you wisdom to handle the test. Now, He won’t answer all your ‘whys’. So instead of questioning Him, you need to pray, ‘Lord, how do You want to use this trial to develop me spiritually? How can I co-operate with You to reap the maximum benefit? What changes do You desire to bring about in my life?’ Those are questions God will answer.

(3) You must be willing to obey. It’s possible to ask God for wisdom, then debate, stall, or mess around trying to decide whether or not to obey Him. ‘If you’re that kind of person… don’t expect the Lord to give you anything at all.’ When God gives you His wisdom, your first response should be: ‘Speak, for Your servant is listening.’ (1 Samuel 3:10 NIV)

Has Someone Hurt You?

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‘Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall.’
 Proverbs 24:17 NLT

In life, you’ll make foes as well as friends. It can’t be avoided; it just comes with the territory. The issue isn’t will you make enemies, the issue is how will you treat them? Our friends bring out the best in us, and oh, how our foes bring out the worst in us! But if you are a follower of Christ, there are three things you can’t do: resent your enemies, retaliate against them, or rejoice when they seem to get their comeuppance. The Bible says: ‘Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn His anger away from them. Don’t fret because of evildoers; don’t envy the wicked. For evil people have no future; the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.’ (Proverbs 24:17–20 NLT) Don’t allow bitterness and resentment to destroy you. It’s better to take your medicine now than to agonize later. Never wish ill on your enemy. Leave revenge to God. Revenge is God’s business, not ours. You may know what the person did to you, but God alone knows why they did it. Paul put the matter succinctly yet firmly when he said: ‘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. Dear friends, 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) Has someone hurt you? Forgive them!

Living in God’s Love

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‘Live in My love.’
 John 15:9 GWT

When someone says, ‘Make yourself at home,’ it means you’re welcome and accepted. And that’s what Jesus means when He says, ‘Live in My love.’ You never have been and never will be loved by anyone as much as God loves you. The reason you have such a hard time grasping that concept is that you have nothing to compare His love to. Nothing could make God love you more than He does right now, and nothing could make Him love you less. The great irony is that we spend our lives trying to earn His love, when it can only be received by faith. John says: 
‘See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him. …We are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears.’ (1 John 3:1–2 NLT) You may have grown up with parents who withheld their love, or weren’t capable of expressing it. God doesn’t do that. Throughout Scripture He keeps saying, ‘I love you. I love you. I love you!’ CS Lewis wrote: ‘God created us to be the objects of His love! Sometimes our actions make us unlovely, but we’re never unloved. And because God loves us―we have value. And nobody can take that value away. God’s love revealed at Calvary fastens itself onto flawed creatures like us, and for reasons none of us can ever quite figure out, makes us precious and valued beyond calculation. This is love beyond reason. And this is the love with which God loves us.’

Stick With It

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‘We praise the ones who endured the most.’
 James 5:11 CEV

Observe these six things about persistence:

(1) You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.

(2) The first two letters in the word goal are ‘go’.

(3) Some people dream of doing great things; others wake up and actually do them.

(4) Anybody who brags about what they’re going to do tomorrow, probably did the same thing yesterday.

(5) You’ll never be what you ought to be, until you’re doing what you ought to be doing.

(6) If you’re having trouble thinking outside the box, it’s time to get out of the box. When Lester Wunderman was fired from his advertising job, he felt he still had a lot to learn from the head of the agency, Max Sackheim. So, the next morning he went back to his office and continued working as he always had, talking to co-workers and clients, and sitting in on meetings―all without pay. Sackheim ignored him for a month. Finally, he walked up to Wunderman and said, ‘Ok, you win. I never saw a man who wanted a job more than he wanted money.’ Well, guess what? Wunderman went on to be one of the most successful advertising men of the century. He’s credited with having invented pre-printed newspaper inserts, plus subscription cards like those used by Time-Life Books and the Columbia Record Club―ideas that produced millions of dollars in profit. Now, advertising may not be your thing, but action must be. What are you willing to do to achieve your dream? Work without pay? Refuse to quit? Success belongs to those who trust God―and stick with it.

Understanding God’s Will (2)

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‘Teach me to do Your will.’
 Psalm 143:10 NIV

As you look back on your life, the thing that will bring you the greatest joy is knowing you’ve done the will of God. But in order for that to happen, you must really want to do God’s will. Jesus said, ‘If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.’ (John 7:17 NAS) Note the words ‘willing to do His will’. More than completing your education, or getting married, or getting your house paid off, or anything else in life, you must want to do God’s will. Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘There have been times when I said I wanted to do His will but I really didn’t. That’s a tough thing to confess, but looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I realize that at times I resisted His will. And I’ve learned that serious consequences follow selfish resistance.’ Paul writes telling believers to do ‘the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does.’ 
(Ephesians 6:6–8 NIV). Note the phrase about doing ‘the will of God from your heart.’ That’s about as deep as it gets. More than pleasing people, more than acquiring creature comforts and status, more than staying safe, your greatest desire should be to please God. The psalmist prayed, ‘I desire to do Your will, my God; Your law is within my heart.’ 
(Psalm 40:8 NIV) Your prayer should be: ‘In all I do this day, Lord, my desire is to please You and do Your will.’

Understanding God’s Will (1)

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‘Understand what the Lord’s will is.’
 Ephesians 5:17 NIV

When you know you’re in the center of God’s will for your life, you have peace in spite of adverse circumstances. You have confidence to go to God at any time, knowing that He’ll provide what you need. You ask, ‘But how can I tell if I’m in the will of God?’ By knowing these two things, which are clearly laid out in the Bible:

(1) You must be a Christian. Paul tells us, ‘For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.’ 
(Romans 8:14 NAS) Only as a believer do you have the Spirit’s presence within you. And you must have this inside help if you’re going to follow the will of God and enjoy the blessing it brings.

(2) You must exercise wisdom. ‘Be very careful, then, how you live―not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.’ (Ephesians 5:15–17 NIV) The famous theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards entered Yale University in 1716 at age thirteen, and at seventeen he graduated at the head of his class. By age twenty he ‘resolved never to lose one moment of time; but to improve it the most profitable way I can.’ At twenty-six he pastored one of the largest Congregational churches in Massachusetts. And when God decided to visit New England in the ‘Great Awakening’, He chose to use Jonathan Edwards because he was prepared and ready. Doing the will of God calls for staying sensitive to the Holy Spirit and living in a state of perpetual readiness. So, how are you doing with that?

Be Wise and Winsome

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‘He who wins souls is wise.’
 Proverbs 11:30 NIV

The Bible says, ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.’ 
(1 John 2:15 NIV) But some of us act like loving the Lord more requires loving those around us less. We may feel awkward around them, or lose touch with them, or not know how to communicate with them, or give off signals that we are spiritually superior to them. The Contemporary English Bible puts it this way: ‘If you act wisely, others will follow.’ (Proverbs 11:30 CEV) You are called to bring joy to people, not judge them. God has already established a time and a place for judging, and you won’t be on the throne when He does it! Jesus is called ‘the Good Shepherd’ (John 10:11), and the Greek word for good literally means ‘engaging, attractive, fetching’. Christ was so magnetic that people were automatically drawn to Him. Are they drawn to you? Jesus said we are called to be salt and light. Salt makes the taste of food more enjoyable, and light shed on their path shows people the right way to go. Because they were wise and winsome, the three Hebrew children changed the politics of Babylon, Isaiah the prophet spoke into the lives of kings and Joseph the economist saved Egypt from famine. Yes, Satan is at work taking Christ out of Christmas, prayer out of schools, and God out of government. But he won’t win, and he knows it (see Revelation 12:12). His strategy, however, is to convince us that he can. So today endeavor to be wise and winsome so you can lead people to Christ.

Build a Solid Foundation

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‘It had its foundation on the rock.’
 Matthew 7:25 NIV

Jesus said, ‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock… The winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.’ (Matthew 7:24–25 NIV) When the storms of life come―and they will―it’s too late to lay a solid foundation. That’s when you discover what kind of foundation your life is built on, so don’t short-change yourself by using shoddy materials or taking short-cuts. Be willing to acknowledge your weaknesses and work on them. Some of the strongest people you know needed help overcoming weaknesses at one time. The pastor of a megachurch recalls his early days, when he prayed that God would increase the size of his ministry. He writes: ‘After days of silence the Lord answered by saying, “You’re concerned with building the ministry but I’m concerned with building the man. Woe to the man whose ministry becomes bigger than he is!” Since then I’ve concerned myself more with praying for the minister than the ministry. I’m still amazed at who I’m becoming as I put my life daily into His hands. He’s changing me―and He’s not finished yet. There’s so much more that needs to be done. Every day I see more immaturity in me. But what a sharp contrast I am to what I was… and I trust God more than ever.’ So, work on your relationship with God. Build the truths of His Word into your life’s foundation, and when the storms come you’ll be able to stand.

Patience, Love and Encouragement

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‘I came so close to the edge.’
 Psalm 73:2 TLB

If you’d met Asaph, who wrote some of the psalms, you’d probably have thought he hadn’t a care in the world. But you’d have been wrong: ‘I came so close to the edge of the cliff! My feet were slipping and I was almost gone.’ Then at the end of the psalm he does a 180, and writes, ‘My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.’ (Psalm 73:26 NLT) Despite his problems, he chose to speak words of courage. When you have an opportunity to encourage someone, do it. You never know what a person is going through―that’s true whether they live in a mansion or a mud hut.

Here’s an important principle to keep in mind: people tend to become what the most important people in their lives think of them! So, think the best, believe the best, and express the best towards them. You say, ‘But they need to stop making the same stupid mistakes!’ Change happens by centimeters, not kilometers. Even when it seems simple, it’s rarely easy. The only way we can break old habits is to form new ones, and that takes time and practice―lots of it. You can’t tell people something once and expect them to get it; they need to hear it over and over before they can make the adjustment. And how you tell them can determine whether they freeze in fear or soar above the obstacles. Be persistent. Never give up trying to help them improve. Acknowledge every step of progress they make. The way to get lasting results is through patience, love and encouragement.

Your Life’s Assignment

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‘My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by 
the Lord.’ Acts 20:24 NLT

To miss out on your assignment in life is to miss out on why God put you on earth. You’re gifted and called by God, and you need to take it seriously. The question is not what are you running from, but what are you moving towards? To succeed you must know God’s will and concentrate on fulfilling it. Having a powerful ‘why’ will provide you with the necessary ‘how’. Purpose, not money and talent, is your greatest asset. To help you discover your life’s assignment, answer these questions:

(1) What’s your temperament and what’s your talent? Passionate commitment to a significant mission will enable you to focus your talent and find a new level of ability to achieve. When you care deeply about your God-given mission and direct your energies and enthusiasm towards it, He’ll direct you in the right paths.

(2) Why do you do what you do? There’s a big difference between doing something because you believe God’s called you to do it, and doing what your parents, friends, or ego wants you to do.

(3) What do you not do well? Knowing what you’re called to do often starts with discovering what you’re not called to do. When you can accept your limitations, you’re on the road to understanding your life’s assignment. When you pretend to be something you’re not, you live with a chronic sense of inadequacy and set yourself up for frustration. Don’t do that. Be open to the truth about yourself. Discover your God-given assignment, then give yourself to it.

Stop Beating Yourself Up

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‘We all stumble in many ways.’
 James 3:2 NIV

When you sin, God’s Spirit will convict you of your need to repent and change your ways. But until you get your glorified body in Heaven, you’re always going to deal with sin. The apostle James wrote, ‘We all stumble in many ways.’ But falling down isn’t what makes you a failure―it’s staying down! Get back up, dust yourself off, receive God’s grace, learn from the experience, and move on. The Bible says, ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 8:1 NIV) God is not condemning you, so stop condemning yourself. A few decades ago, people used to wear a little badge with the letters GNFWMY. It meant, ‘God’s not finished with me yet.’ And He’s not finished with you either. Sometimes we’re guilty of doing the wrong thing with the right motive. For example, in 1957 Ford Motors described the new Edsel as ‘the car of the decade’. Try telling that to all those drivers whose doors wouldn’t close, whose horns stuck, and whose transmissions failed! And remember the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, where the architect designed a 3-metre-deep foundation for a 54-metre-tall building? How’d you like to have that on your CV? The fact is, the most talented people often make the biggest mistakes. Solomon wrote, ‘There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV) And Paul added, ‘I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize.’ (Philippians 3:12 CEV) So, stop beating yourself up.

Practice Humility

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‘They had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest.’ 
Mark 9:34 CEV

When Jesus asked His disciples, ‘“What were you arguing about along the way?” They had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest, and so they did not answer… He said, “If you want the place of honor, you must…serve others!”’ (Mark 9:33–35 CEV) If, after living with Jesus day and night for three years, His own disciples struggled with the concept of humility, none of us is exempt. Then Jesus taught them a lesson they’d never forget. ‘Jesus knew… He had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given Him complete power. So, during the meal Jesus got up, removed His outer garment, and wrapped a towel around His waist. He put some water into a large bowl. Then He began washing His disciples’ feet and drying them with the towel He was wearing.’ (John 13:3–5 CEV) Then He blew their minds by saying, ‘If your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you.’ (John 13:14–15 CEV)

Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘Bending the knee to help others, or to admit weakness, is considered making yourself vulnerable to those who might take advantage of you. Too many leaders view themselves as being there to be served, except for short periods when it’s advantageous to be seen serving others―but not for too long… Not so for the followers of Christ. For them humility isn’t a religious concept, it’s a way of life.’ So today practice humility!

Understanding How God Works

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‘Because You say so, I will.’
 Luke 5:5 NIV

The Bible says: ‘When He [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will”… When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break… When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees… For he and all his companions were astonished…Then Jesus said…“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they…left everything and followed Him.’ 
(Luke 5:4–11 NIV) The real test of your faith comes when nothing you’ve tried has worked, and God tells you to do something that stretches your faith to its limit. At that point you have the choice: give in to your doubts, or say with Peter, ‘Because You say so, I will.’ This story teaches us God works in three ways:

(1) He uses the common to do the uncommon. In their workplace where nothing special ever seemed to happen, Jesus showed up, called them, and changed their lives. So, look for God in your daily routine, and don’t be surprised when He surprises you.

(2) He moves you out from the security of the shallow to the risks of the deep. The great catches and the great storms are both in the same sea. If you want one, you have to contend with the other. No risk, no reward.

(3) He involves you in one thing to teach you another. Christ’s plan for these men was to involve them in an even greater miracle: fishing for souls. Today that’s His plan for you too. And it begins when you say, ‘Lord, because You say so, I will.’

‘Lord, Where Are You?’ (2)

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‘He will bring justice if you will only wait.’
 Job 35:14 NLT

Have you ever tried to sit and watch a seed sprout? You can’t, can you? It stays in the ground until the time is right for it to emerge. There’s a lesson here. God has planted certain things within you, and you must wait for them to take root and grow. And the unresolved issues of your past can undermine this process. Often it takes prayer and counseling to bring these issues to the surface so that you can effectively deal with them. With God, a delay is not a denial. When speaking to Job, his friend Elihu said, ‘It is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned. You say you can’t see Him, but He will bring justice if you will only wait.’ (Job 35:13–14 NLT) What great advice!

Charles Trumbull said, ‘God knows when to withhold or grant visible signs of encouragement. It’s good when He sends confirmation, but we grow faster when we’ve trusted Him without it. Those who do, always receive the greatest visible evidence of His love.’ God answers every prayer; it’s just that across some He writes, ‘The time is not right yet.’ Job basically asks, ‘How long will this trial last? Why doesn’t God answer?’ Because it takes as long as it takes―and usually feels uncomfortable the whole time. But there’s good news. Eventually your prayers become less about getting answers and more about connecting with God. By letting Him work:

(1) you begin to realize that He is with you;

(2) you develop a deeper level of intimacy with Him;

(3) you discover you can trust Him for the entire trip.

‘Lord, Where Are You?’ (1)

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‘I cry out to You, O God, but You do not answer.’
 Job 30:20 NIV

Do you feel like God isn’t answering your prayers? Job the patriarch felt the same way: ‘I cry out to You, O God, but You do not answer; I stand up, but You merely look at me… When I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness.’ (Job 30:2026 NIV) All of us go through times when it feels like God has moved and left no forwarding address. What’s He up to? Why doesn’t He respond? There are some lessons you only learn when God is silent:

(1) Silence isn’t absence. An old proverb says, ‘Speech is silver, silence is gold!’ Sometimes God says to you, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ 
(Psalm 46:10 NIV) You have to be really secure with somebody to just sit quietly with them. Silence takes the emphasis off words and builds a level of intimacy where they’re no longer necessary. If you want to be comfortable with God, learn to enter into meditation and silence with Him.

(2) Silence tests your faith. How much faith is actually involved when somebody’s coaching your every step? It’s like a parent running alongside a child who’s learning to ride a bike. Right now, the child lacks confidence, but they’re going to look strange at age twenty if that parent is still trotting along beside them! At some point God takes His hands off the wheel to see how far you’ve progressed. And for a while it can be a wobbly ride. That’s when you demonstrate how far you’ve come, and where you’re placing your trust.

Relationship and Fellowship

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‘If we say that we have fellowship with Him.’
 1 John 1:6 NKJV

God is responsible for your relationship with Him. The moment you put your trust in Jesus Christ His Son, you are a fully accepted family member. But you are responsible for your fellowship with God. The Bible says, 
‘If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.’ Stop and think about the last time you experienced tension with one of your family members. You were still members of the same family, but your conversation became superficial and you found that you were more comfortable apart than together. When something happens between two people who are normally close, the first thing to vanish is the evidence of fellowship.

And it’s the same in our walk with God. Suddenly our prayers become surface and shallow: ‘Lord, please bless this food.’ And we begin to avoid spending time with that Person: ‘I just don’t have time for devotions.’ The main prerequisite for experiencing fellowship with Jesus is following Him each day and obeying His commands. When Peter and the disciples were fishing, the Lord told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. When they obeyed Him, they caught a boatload of fish. But something even greater happened that day. As Jesus drew closer, John said, ‘It is the Lord.’ (John 21:7 NIV) What followed was an intimate meal and a sweet time of fellowship with Jesus. So if you are feeling out of fellowship with Jesus today, the chances are that you’ve either stopped fellowshipping with Him or started disobeying Him. If that’s so, do something about it.

The Three Ts

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‘Do good to each other.’
 1 Thessalonians 5:15 NLT

It’s said that when the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Let’s face it, because of our strong personalities some of us are inclined to use a hammer when a gentler approach would do the job better. If that’s your problem, remember the three Ts:

(1) Temper. When you’re upset you’re more likely to make a big deal out of a little one. So, when it comes to your response and decibel level, use this rule of thumb: when the reaction is worse than the action, the problem generally increases. But when the reaction is less than the action, the problem usually decreases.

(2) Timing. 
If you don’t get an injured person to the hospital quickly enough, their life can be lost. And if you don’t apologize when you’ve wronged someone, the relationship can be lost. Knowing when to act―and when not to―is every bit as important as taking the right action. Lady Dorothy Nevill said, ‘The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.’

(3) Total picture. A man walked into a restaurant and asked the waiter, ‘Do you have anything to cure hiccups?’ The waiter slapped him across the face. ‘Hey! What’s going on?’ the man exclaimed. The waiter smiled: ‘Well, you don’t have hiccups anymore, do you?’ The man said, ‘I never did. I wanted something to cure my wife. She’s out in the car!’ Are you inclined to jump to conclusions? Slow yourself down and you’ll be more likely to respond appropriately.

Start Praying For God’s Favor

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‘I entreated Your favor.’
 Psalm 119:58 NKJV

One moment of God’s favor will do more for you than a lifetime of striving. Through the favor of God, Ruth went from being a penniless widow to becoming the wife of Boaz, a wealthy man. It’s what made Esther a queen and positioned her to save the Jewish nation. As you begin to walk in God’s favor, doors of opportunity open, the right people are drawn to you, and you discover ideas, strategies and resources in the most unexpected places. Does that mean you won’t experience opposition? No; when you’re doing anything worthwhile you must expect flak from those who aren’t privy to God’s plan for your life. It goes with the turf. But the Bible says even ‘the king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases.’(Proverbs 21:1 NLT) Like changing the direction of a moving stream, God can change people’s hearts and give you favour with those who might otherwise reject or overlook you.

Solomon writes, ‘When a person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ (Proverbs 16:7 GWT) So, when people oppose or disagree with you, just concentrate on pleasing God and let Him deal with the fallout. Remember, God takes up where you leave off. He can give you blessings that, humanly speaking, you don’t deserve and qualify for. Just as the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to fulfill His life’s mission, He will equip and enable you to fulfill His plan for your life (see Luke 4:18–19). So, stop trying so hard to make things happen on your own terms, and start praying for God’s favor. He has promised it to you and He keeps His promises.

God Still Has A Plan For You

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‘I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.’
 Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

The people of Israel ended up living as slaves in Babylon because they disobeyed God and decided to do their own thing. And they paid a high price for it. They lost their homes, their jobs, their freedom and their self-respect. Has that happened to you? Well, there’s good news. God says: ‘The plans I have for you… are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me… I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.’ (Jeremiah 29:11–14 NLT) That means God still has a plan for your life and your family. And if you seek Him ‘wholeheartedly’, He will reveal it to you. You ask, ‘How do you know God still has a plan for me?’ Because you’re still breathing! He has a plan for every single person He ever created, and it never goes out of date. Unlike the milk in your supermarket that has an expiration date after which it can’t be used, God’s plans don’t have expiration dates. Even if you’ve gone astray and missed His plan for years, that plan can still swing into operation the moment you turn your life over to Him and fall into line with His will. Now the plan may be somewhat modified from what it would have been twenty years ago if you’d paid attention, but that doesn’t stop God. He can adapt to fit anything that comes up in any life that’s ever lived, including yours.

Do You Love God’s Word?

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‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.’
 Matthew 24:35 NIV

One of the first books to come off the printing press when it was invented was the Bible. And it’s still the world’s best-selling book. An anonymous author has written: ‘It contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the fate of sinners, and the happiness of believers. It is a light to direct you, food to nourish you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s road map, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s weapon, and the player’s game plan. It’s a mine of incredible wealth, and a river of genuine joy. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Christ is its grand subject, your good its design, and the glory of God its end. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be spiritually healthy. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. Let it fill your memory, rule your heart, and guide your steps. It is given to you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and judge those who trifle with its sacred contents.’

The Bible is ‘the word of our God [which] endures forever.’ 
(Isaiah 40:8 NIV) Most of us respect the Bible; the trouble is we don’t read it daily and put it into practice. After hearing a discussion on various translations of the Bible, one man said: ‘I prefer my mother’s translation, because she translated it into everyday life.’

Is your belief translated into action? ‘You believe…? Good! Even the demons believe that―and shudder.’ (James 2:19 NIV) Godly belief requires action, not just mental assent.

Science and the Bible (6)

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‘Build a large boat…450 feet [140 m] long, 75 feet [23 m] wide, and 45 feet [14 m] high.’ Genesis 6:14–15 NLT

The Bible detailed the original blueprint for shipbuilding. In Genesis, God told Noah to build a 42000-cubic-metre ship and fill it with enough people and animals to repopulate the earth. And the specific dimensions God gave Noah turned out to be significant. In 1609 in Hoorn, Holland, a ship was built in the same proportions and it revolutionized shipbuilding. According to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (see The World Almanac), by 1900 every large ship on the high seas was inclined towards the proportions of Noah’s Ark. And, by the way, if you think it’s not sophisticated or educated to believe that the world was once destroyed by a universal flood, think again. About 85 percent of the rock surfaces around the world are composed of sedimentary rock, indicating that at some time in the past the world was covered by water.

Consider also the Bible and meteorology. Solomon wrote, ‘The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.’(Ecclesiastes 1:6 NIV) The air around the earth turns in huge circles, anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. As a result, your local meteorologist can tell you with a high degree of accuracy what the weather will be like so you can dress accordingly. The Bible―there’s simply no other book like it! When you believe its central message of salvation through Christ you have peace and joy now, plus you get to live in Heaven with God for eternity when you die. It doesn’t get better than that!

Science and the Bible (5)

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‘The earth will grow old like a garment.’
 Isaiah 51:6 NKJV

The Bible addresses the first law of thermodynamics (known as the Law of Conservation of Energy), which states that, while energy can be changed from one form to another, it can’t be created or destroyed. This law disproves Sir Fred Hoyle’s ‘steady state’ or ‘continuous creation’ theory, which has been discarded by scientists. Hoyle theorized that at points in the universe called ‘Irtrons’, matter (or energy) was constantly being created. But the first law of thermodynamics states the opposite: there is no ‘creation’ ongoing today. The Bible says, ‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.’ (Genesis 2:1 KJV) The word finished in the original Hebrew indicates an action completed in the past, never to occur again. The second law of thermodynamics says that in all physical processes, every ordered system over time tends to become more disordered. In other words, everything is running down and wearing out as energy is becoming less and less available for use. The psalmist wrote: ‘You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure… they will all grow old like a garment… But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.’ (Psalm 102:25–27 NKJV) The more scientists learn about life on earth, the more they discover the truth of what the Bible has clearly taught for centuries. No matter how sincere you may be or how hard you try, in order to open a locked door, you must use the right key. Your Bible is the key that unlocks the door to understanding all of life, and God’s plan for you.

Science and the Bible (4)

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‘To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.’
 Ecclesiastes 1:7 NKJV

The Bible talks about the water cycle. 
‘All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.’ Every second the Mississippi River dumps approximately 18.5 million liters of water into the Gulf of Mexico. And when you think about the Thames, the Nile and the Amazon, every day the same thing is happening in rivers all around the world. So, where does all that water go? The answer lies in the hydrologic cycle, which the Bible introduced almost three millennia ago. The wise King Solomon wrote, ‘If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth.’ (Ecclesiastes 11:3 KJV) Amos the prophet said, ‘He… calls the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the face of the earth.’ (Amos 9:6 NKJV) And Job’s friend Elihu said, ‘Behold, God is great… He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man.’ (Job 36:26–28 NKJV) The idea of a complete water cycle was not fully understood by science until the seventeenth century. Yet more than two thousand years prior to the discoveries of brilliant minds like Pierre Perrault, Edme Mariotte, Edmond Halley and others, the Bible clearly explained the water cycle. The truth is, your Bible is inspired, inerrant, reliable and more up-to-date than tomorrow morning’s newspaper. Every newspaper has a correction column acknowledging its printed errors. Not the Bible! You can trust it to guide you right in every area of your life.

Science and the Bible (3)

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‘Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, “Here we are!”?’
 Job 38:35 NKJV

The Bible predicted modern telecommunications. Does that sound incredible to you? If so, consider this verse: ‘Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, “Here we are!”?’ Fifteen hundred years before Christ, in the book of Job, God said light could be sent, and manifest itself in speech. And along those same lines, did you know that all electromagnetic radiation—from radio waves to X-rays―travels at the speed of light (about 300,000 km per second)? That’s what gives us instant wireless communication with someone on the other side of the world. The fact that light can be sent and translated into speech wasn’t discovered by science until 1864—nearly 3,300 years later—when British scientist James Clerk Maxwell suggested that electricity and light waves were two forms of the same thing. Samuel Morse, who invented the first telegraph and forever changed the world of communication, was a Bible-believing Christian. A few years before he died, he said, ‘The nearer I approach the end of my pilgrimage, the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible. The grandeur and sublimity of God’s remedy for fallen man are more appreciated, and the future is illuminated with hope and joy.’ In life you’ll meet ‘doubting Thomases’, and God loves them. In fact, Jesus made a special appearance after His resurrection just to resolve Thomas’s doubts. And He still does that today! So, get acquainted with your Bible, then let every sincere, questioning heart know that true science never disproves the Bible.

Science and the Bible (2)

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‘He… sits above the circle of the earth.’
 Isaiah 40:22 NKJV

The Bible tells us the earth is round. ‘It is He who sits above the circle of the earth.’ The word circle comes from a Hebrew word which can also be translated as ‘circuit’. The book of Isaiah was written about seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. That’s at least three hundred years before Aristotle suggested in his book On the Heavens that the earth might be a sphere. Another two thousand years later, at a time when ordinary people believed the earth was flat, Christopher Columbus was inspired by Scripture sail around the world. He wrote: ‘It was the Lord who put it into my mind… I could feel His hand upon me… There is no question the inspiration came from the Holy Spirit because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures’ (from the diary of Christopher Columbus, in reference to his discovery of the New World).

The Bible teaches oceanography. In the nineteenth century, Matthew Fontaine Maury, who is called the ‘Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology’, read the words of David describing ‘paths of the sea’ (Psalm 8:8). 
He said, ‘If God said there are paths in the sea, I am going to find them.’ Today we’re indebted to his discovery of the warm and cold ocean currents. His book on oceanography remains a basic text on the subject and is still used in universities. So next time you meet someone who questions the accuracy of the Scriptures, smile graciously and tell them how the Bible has been the basis of historical exploration and scientific discovery.

Science and the Bible (1)

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‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’
 Genesis 1:1 NKJV

To say that true science and the Bible are contradictory is simply not so. If there’s even one chance in a million that God, Heaven and hell are true, wouldn’t you want to know? After all, one day you’re going to die. What then? And furthermore, since our children and grandchildren are increasingly exposed to secular teaching, don’t you want to be able to answer their questions when they come home from school or college, and steer them in the right direction? Well, guess what? The more science advances, the more it’s evident the Bible has been true all along! For the next few days let’s talk about it:

(1) The Bible tells us the earth floats in space. There was a time when people believed it sat on a large animal or giant. Seriously! But fifteen hundred years before Christ, the patriarch Job said, ‘He… hangs the earth on nothing.’ (Job 26:7 ESV) Think about that: you can’t even hang your hat on nothing! The fact is, science didn’t discover that the earth hangs upon nothing until AD 1650.

(2) The Bible tells us the earth is composed of atoms. ‘By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen are not made of things which are visible.’ (Hebrews 11:3 NKJV) Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of things we can’t see—namely, invisible atoms. Yet the Bible, written more than two thousand years ago, said it was so. Now, the Bible doesn’t need science to prove that it’s true—it just so happens that it does.

God’s Remedy for Stress

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‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’
 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Are you feeling stressed? Is your mind besieged with worries? If so, God wants to relieve your stress. Read the following Scriptures slowly and prayerfully: ‘I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.’ (Psalm 57:1 NIV) ‘You have been a refuge for the poor… for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm.’ (Isaiah 25:4 NIV) ‘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) ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV) ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ 
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV) ‘Even to your old age… I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.’(Isaiah 46:4 NIV)

So here’s God’s prescription for stress relief:

(1) Believe God truly ‘cares for you’.

(2) Make a conscious decision to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him’.

If you’re on overload, ask God for wisdom to change your schedule. When the problem you’re facing is too big for you to handle, give it to Him—and don’t take it back. Let Him think His thoughts through you, and allow His peace, power and patience to take charge of your mind. Practice doing this at the beginning of each day, and as often as you need to throughout the day. It’s God’s remedy for stress!

Shame-Based Thinking (2)

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‘Do not merely listen to the Word… Do what it says.’
 James 1:22 NIV

Shame grows in the dark, but once you expose it to the light of God’s Word, it loses its grip on you. Feelings can be so fickle. And often they’re triggered by everyday things like a familiar song, the mention of someone who hurt you, an anniversary, a birthday, a holiday such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day. That’s why James tells us, ‘Do not merely listen to the Word… Do what it says.’ Melody Beattie, co-dependency counselor, writes: ‘Shame can hold us back, hold us down, and keep us staring at our feet… Many systems and people are controlled by it and want us to play their game… Compulsive behaviors, sexually addictive behaviors, overeating, chemical abuse, and addictive gambling are all shame-based behaviors… Our past experiences, and the brainwashing we may have had, put shame on us. “Don’t think… don’t feel… don’t grow or change… don’t feel alive… be ashamed!” Be done with shame! Attack it. Go to war with it. Learn to recognize and avoid it like the plague.’ The Bible says, ‘Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?’ (Romans 8:33 AMP) Whether you committed the offense or the offense was committed against you, ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.’ 
(1 John 1:7 NKJV) Note the word ‘all’. Instead of talking about how you feel, start talking about what you know! God’s Word, which is God’s opinion of you, is the greatest healing force on earth. So read it, believe it, speak it, and stand on it. As you do, you’ll begin to rise above your shame-based thinking.

Be Careful Whom You Confide In

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

If you need help with a problem in your personal life, your family, or your career, keep the following things in mind:

(1) Bad news is often remembered longer than good news. Long after you have resolved the issue and moved on with your life, the wrong people will continue to focus on it and talk about it. That’s why God’s Word says, ‘Those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.’

(2) Be careful who advises you. ‘The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.’ 
(Proverbs 12:5 NKJV) Be sure you reach for the right person. There are many sources of wisdom in this world, ‘but the wisdom that is from above is…pure… peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and… hypocrisy.’ (James 3:17 NKJV) 
Note the words, ‘the wisdom that is from above’. Confide only in a counselor who walks according to the principles of God’s Word.

(3) Make sure the person you trust isn’t confiding in others you wouldn’t trust. They say you can tell a man by the company he keeps. And it’s true! The Bible says, ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.’ (Psalm 1:1 NKJV)

(4) ‘Problem talk’ can portray you as a victim instead of an overcomer. Nobody wants to back a loser. When Job lost everything, almost everybody avoided him. It was only after God doubled Job’s blessings that they returned to participate in his life and bring him gifts. It’s always wise to control your mouth, your thoughts, and your focus. Remember, silence can never be misquoted.

Shame-Based Thinking (1)

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‘Let God change the way you think.’
 Romans 12:2 CEV

When you’ve been physically, emotionally or sexually abused, it undermines your self-worth. You think, ‘If someone did that to me, there must be something wrong with me.’ You feel like your soul is soiled; like you’re ‘damaged goods’. But you’re not! These two Scriptures are from God’s lips to your heart:

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again and you… will be rebuilt.’ (Jeremiah 31:3–4 NIV)

‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past… 
I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’ (Isaiah 43:18–19 NIV)

What happened to you was bad, but you are not bad! Today God says: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. 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 43:1–3 NIV) Shame and depression go hand in hand. And while doctors can prescribe medication for depression, there’s no remedy for shame—except the medicine of God’s Word. So instead of believing your thoughts and emotions, stand on God’s Word regardless of how you feel. Being ashamed of who you are is like being perpetually punished—except you’re doing it to yourself. What’s the solution? ‘Let God change the way you think.’

Protect Your Home

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‘The Lord… took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to… keep it.’
 Genesis 2:15 NKJV

The Bible says God put Adam into the garden ‘to work it and take care of it.’ (Genesis 2:15 NIV) So even when you have a great home environment, you’ve still got to ‘work it and take care of it’. Left unattended, the best garden in the world will eventually turn into a weed patch. Similarly, if you devote all your time and energy to your career and none to your marriage and family, your home life will become a trouble zone. The Hebrew word for keep is the same as our English word meaning ‘to guard’ or ‘protect’. Adam’s job was to guard and protect his home. 
‘From what?’ you ask. ‘After all, didn’t he live in a perfect environment?’ Yes, but Satan was about to show up and wreak havoc! It’s been said that ‘the devil is in the details’. Look closely, and chances are you’ll see him at work in your family in certain areas of dysfunction and stress. As couples, we fuss and fight, convinced that the other person is the problem. And that’s what the devil wants us to think! He knows you’ll never solve the real problem when the person you’re fighting isn’t the real problem. You have a spiritual problem brought on by your selfish nature, which gives Satan an entry point into your home. Marriage was instituted by God. So when you see things from His viewpoint and start operating according to His rules, you’ll have the productive, purposeful and peaceful relationship He wants you to have.

Not Out, But Through

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‘When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.’ Isaiah 43:2 NKJV

Before God changes our circumstances, He often uses our circumstances to change us. Yes, He has promised to deliver us from our troubles, but not necessarily on our schedule or in the way we think. God wants to do more than just deliver us; He wants to develop us into the likeness of His Son and into the fullness of our God-given potential.

Notice how often the word ‘through’ is used in Scripture. To get to the Promised Land, Israel had to go through the Red Sea, through the wilderness, and through the Jordan River.

Think about these two Scriptures: ‘As they pass through the Valley of Baca [brokenness, loss, grief, and weeping] they make it a spring…they go from strength to strength.’ (Psalm 84:5–7 NKJV) ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.’ (Isaiah 43:2 NKJV)

God doesn’t work in minutes, hours, and days; He works in seasons. The refiner knows how long the ore must stay in the fire to produce gold. The potter knows how long the clay must stay on the wheel to become a thing of value, beauty, and usefulness.

Trust God; He knows what He’s doing. Be patient; while God is working for you, He’s working in you. When you get through this experience, you’ll look back and thank Him for the things He has taught you.

Sharing Your Life With Someone

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‘A married man has to think about… how to please his wife.’ 1 Corinthians 7:33 NLT

When four-year-old Sarah attended her first wedding in America, she had lots of questions. At the reception her mum explained there were two cakes—a groom’s cake and a bride’s cake. ‘What’s the matter, Mum?’ Sarah asked. ‘Haven’t they learned to share yet?’

Seriously, the Bible says, ‘A married man has to think about his…wife… a married woman has to think about…her husband.’ (1 Corinthians 7:33–4 NLT) If you devote more time to your career than your relationship, there’s a good chance it won’t last. That’s why about 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.

Understand this: when you marry someone, you marry everything they are and everything they’ve been through. It’s a package deal! And if you ask God, He will give you the wisdom and grace to enable both you and your spouse to ‘grow in grace’. It may not happen right away. As Shakespeare said, ‘What wound did ever heal but by degrees?’ It takes time for even a small cut to heal. But if you let Him, God will give you the oil of compassion and the wine of love to pour into your spouse’s wounds. Never become so available at work that you’re unavailable at home.

Your first calling is to your family. Your priorities should start there, then spread to your vocation and other pursuits. In effect, Paul is saying, ‘I release those who are married from the level of consecration I expect from those who are single, so they’ll be able to spend time working on their relationship.’ (1 Corinthians 7:32–35 paraphrase). You say, ‘But I need to spend time with God.’ You’re called to love the Lord—and your spouse!

Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul

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‘Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.’ John 4:14 NKJV

The line from an old hit song goes, ‘Looking for love in all the wrong places.’ That was true of a woman Jesus met at a well in Samaria. Here’s her story:

(1) She tried religion but it didn’t satisfy her. She told Jesus, ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ (John 4:20 NKJV) So she had religious head knowledge but it didn’t satisfy the longings of her heart. Has that been your experience too?

(2) She tried human relationships and they failed her. Jesus told her, ‘You have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband.’ (John 4:18 NKJV) Has that happened to you too? The relationship you need most—is with Jesus.

(3) She tried Jesus and He satisfied her soul. When Jesus told her, ‘Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst,’ she replied, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst.’ (John 4:14–15 NKJV)

Religion without a personal relationship with God will leave you unsatisfied and unfulfilled. It’s like drinking saltwater—the more you drink, the thirstier you get. Religion devoid of a relationship with Christ is like a pacifier that a baby works hard to suck on, but from which no real nutrition flows. Perhaps you’ve been disappointed by Christians and hurt by the church. If so, the word for you today is: don’t give up religion until you’ve tried Jesus, for only He can satisfy your soul.

You’ve Been Called By God

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‘I knew you… I sanctified you… I ordained you.’ Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV

God told Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…sanctified you [set you apart]… I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Observe:

(1) God knew you. The word knew means ‘to have intimate knowledge of’. When your delicate fingers were just a web, before your heartbeat registered on the monitor or the doctor could predict your gender, God knew all about you. ‘You… scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.’ (Psalm 139:16 TLB) God knew what you were born to be, and provided everything you’d need to fulfill your life’s purpose.

(2) God sanctified you [set you apart]. He fixed it so you wouldn’t fit in, and designed you so you couldn’t rest any place He didn’t want you to be. He intended you to wander and feel lost until you found Him. That’s why you’re uncomfortable in certain places and around certain people. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you won’t fit in because God has set you apart for Himself.

(3) God ordained you.

Men may ordain, but only God can foreordain. Stop worrying about who does or doesn’t recognize your gifts. John Mason says, ‘Each person has been custom-made by God the Creator. Each of us has a unique and personal call on our lives… to be our own selves and not copies of other people.’

God told Jeremiah, ‘Go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you.’ (Jeremiah 1:7–8 NLT) So the word for you today is: you’ve been called by God.

You Can Change

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‘Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.’ Isaiah 54:2 NKJV

The desire to change is the key to growth in any area of life. Most of us desire improvement, yet at the same time we resist change. But you can’t have one without the other! Change is possible only if you want it badly enough.

As Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, observed: ‘You are the way you are, because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you’d be in the process of changing right now.’ Change is never easy. It takes lots of time, tremendous amounts of energy, perseverance, and—of course—desire. But the desire to change must translate into a decision to change. And you must make that decision day after day.

It’s said that Earl Weaver, manager of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, was unhappy with a decision by the umpire so he charged out of the dugout and yelled at him, ‘Are you gonna get any better, or is this it?’

If you want to change, you must ask yourself a similar question. Are you going to keep working and trying to get better, or is this as good as it gets? The Bible puts it like this: ‘Enlarge the place of your tent; and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.’ Pay close attention to the words enlarge, stretch, lengthen and strengthen. What do they have in common? They all require commitment and persistence.

That’s what it takes to change your life. And the good news is that with God’s help, you can do it—starting today.

When God Calls You

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‘I have called him… and he will succeed in his mission.’ Isaiah 48:15 NIV

God told Jeremiah, ‘Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.’ (Jeremiah 1:5 NCV) When God decides to use you, five things happen:

First, there is a call. God asks common people to do uncommon things, like Peter getting out of a boat and walking on water.

Second, there is fear. When God called Moses to stand before Pharaoh, he basically said, ‘I’m not a good enough speaker; use somebody else.’

Third, there is reassurance. The thought of filling Moses’ shoes must have shaken Joshua to the core, so God told him, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’ (Joshua 1:5 NKJV)

Fourth, there is a decision. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to God and sometimes we say ‘no’. When we say ‘yes’ we live with joy; when we say ‘no’ we forfeit that joy. But there’s always a decision.

Fifth, there is a changed life. Those who say ‘yes’ to God’s call don’t walk perfectly, not by a long shot. But because they say ‘yes’, they learn and grow even from their failures. Indeed, their failures often become part of their ability to minister to others. And those who say ‘no’ to God are changed too; they become a little harder, a little more resistant to His calling, and a little more likely to say ‘no’ next time. Is God calling you? Maybe it has to do with your work, or your relationships, or your money, or facing your biggest fear. God’s call will go to the core of who you are and what you do. Saying ‘yes’ to Him is the best decision you’ll ever make.

Lessons from the Life of David (5)

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons from the Life of David (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons from the Life of David (3)

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

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

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

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

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

Today move forward knowing that God is with you.

Lessons from the Life of David (2)

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

Here are three lessons from David’s life:

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

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

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

Lessons from the Life of David (1)

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

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

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

There are two important lessons here:

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

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

Put Your Heart And Soul Into It

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

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

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

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

Choose Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for the Best in Others

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

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

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

There are three important lessons here:

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

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

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

At Home in God’s Presence

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

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

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

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

Find The ‘Key Log’

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

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

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

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

Which ‘Law’ Are You Operating Under?

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

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

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

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

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

Guard Against Intolerance

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

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

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

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

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

Develop Your Child’s Potential

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid Strife

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

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

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

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

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

Pursue Change

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

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

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

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

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

Keys to Spiritual Growth

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Try To Please Everybody

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

We tend to fall into one of two traps:

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

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

God Wants to Set You Free

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

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

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

What’s the answer?

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

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

Don’t Let Jealousy Destroy Your Marriage

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

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

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

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

Recognize When Satan Is At Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live A Balanced Life

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

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

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

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

(1) Brief intervals experienced daily.

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

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

You Can Start Again

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

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

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

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

Get Rid of the Mental Baggage!

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

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

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

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

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

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

You’re Called to a ‘Special Work’

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

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

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

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

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

When Jesus Prayed (5)

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

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

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

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

When Jesus Prayed (4)

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

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

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

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

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

When Jesus Prayed (3)

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

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

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

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

When Jesus Prayed (2)

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

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

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

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

When Jesus Prayed (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Will You Be Remembered For?

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

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

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

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

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

Complaining Doesn’t Help

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

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

Here’s why:

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

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

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

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

Break Out Of The Box!

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

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

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

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

Rock Your Box

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

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

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

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

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

Know Your Calling (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know Your Calling (1)

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

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

‘Signature strengths’ fall into six categories:

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

(2) Courage. This includes perseverance and integrity.

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

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

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

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

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

Having The Right Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

Hold On—Help Is On The Way

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

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

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

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

What’s Slowing You Down?

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

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

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

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

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

Shalom

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

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

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