Sparrows (1)

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“Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Lk 12:7 NKJV

In teaching us how to live, Jesus used sparrows to illustrate His point. For the next few days let’s look at them: A worthless sparrow. “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God…Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (vv. 6-7 NKJV). In Christ’s day they didn’t sell hamburgers, they sold sparrows on a stick that had been roasted over a fire. You could buy two of them for one copper coin. But you could get five for two copper coins; the vendor threw in the fifth one free. That meant it was worthless. What was Christ’s point? You are valuable in God’s eyes! Do you feel like if you weren’t around nobody would miss you; like your life means nothing? You’d be surprised how many people, even high-profile ones, struggle with a sense of inferiority and inadequacy. When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, he explained to God that he was afraid of people. So God said, “Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8 NKJV). When you feel worthless you conclude that others feel the same way about you, so you begin to approach them fearfully, or aggressively, or even resentfully. What’s the answer? Remembering your worth in God’s eyes! There is no rejection in His love, only complete acceptance. You’re connected! You have a friend in high places. Jesus said, “I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). Will everybody accept you? No, but when you base your worth on God’s love and acceptance, you’re free to enjoy life.

Walking in Your God-Given Identity

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“What is your name?” Ge 32:27 NIV

As they wrestled together, the angel of the Lord asked Jacob, “What is your name?” He answered, “Jacob.” Then the angel said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, which means deceiver, but Israel, which means ‘a prince with God’, because you have struggled…and have overcome” (See Ge 32:27-28). God forced Jacob to look at his true identity. He wrestled him into a revelation of who he was not who others said he was. His parents gave him his name and others called him by it, so he believed that’s who he’d always be. But God had a different plan for him. Hear this: you are not who others say you are. Why should they name you? Determine who you are before God. Let Him determine the level of your success. Why should others be allowed to live at their highest potential but not you? You are more than your past, more than your education or résumé, more than the color of your skin, more than your bank account, and more than your circumstances. Tell those who talk down to you and devalue you, “You’re confusing me with somebody else. God says I am a prince. And if I’m a prince, then I have the right to be treated like one!” You ask, “But is that true?” Yes, the Bible says that when you walk with God you are part of a royal priesthood (See 1Pe 2:9). You are an overcomer (See 1Jn 2:13-14). You are the head and not the tail, above and not beneath (See Dt 28:13-14). So dry your tears, lift your head, square your shoulders and begin walking in your God-given identity.

Why do I do what I don’t want to do?

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When’s the last time you asked yourself, “Why do I do what I don’t want to do?”  You need to save money, but you spend it instead.  Why?  You want to lose some weight, but you can’t get yourself to exercise.  Why?  You desire to overcome lust, pray more, begin to tithe, but you do just the opposite.  Why?

Paul the Apostle admitted, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7.15).  Many of you reading this can identify with that great man.

No one can deny many of our problems are caused by the lack of self-control.  Do you realize God wants to help you control your desires?  You see, when you accept the Person of Jesus you discover salvation; when you follow the Principles of Jesus you discover success.  What principles of Jesus can you follow which will enable you to develop your self-control?

To begin, Admit Your Problem.  That is step #1.  “I have a problem in this area.  I’m responsible.  It’s no one’s fault but mine.”  The Bible says, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away” (James 1.14).  What’s God saying in that verse?  We do things because we want to, it’s something inside us, and we’re responsible to control ourselves.

Many times people deny or excuse their actions.  “That’s just the way I am.”  Or, “that’s the way I was raised.  It’s my parents’ fault.”  Or, “it’s not that bad.  Other people do worse things.”  You know what?  That’s a cop out!  Now read carefully – Every time You Excuse Your Problem, You Create One More Chain That Will Bind You.  Please learn something:  God does not respond to excuses; He responds to confession.

There is a man in the Bible named Absalom.  He was King David’s son.  He was smart, incredibly handsome, and raised in a rich environment.  But there were two areas of his life he never learned to control—a desire for power and a desire for women.  Although he was a prince in the palace, his lack of control destroyed him and Absalom died a terrible death.

You see, you can have great ability, lots of money, and real charm, but until you let God help you control your desires, you’re in trouble.  What’s out of control in your life today?  Is it food?  Lust?  Temper?  Alcohol?  Laziness?  Your mouth?  Admit it!  That is step #1.

Second, Battle Your Temptation.  The Bible says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires” (Galatians 5.17).  You see, there’s a war going on inside all of us, a real tug-of-war.  Now listen, you’ll never be free from this nor will you ever outgrow it, so learn to fight.

Not long ago I had lunch with a man.  He was capable, bright, and talented, but he fell deep into sin.  I asked him what happened.  He looked at me and said, “I gave up fighting against  temptation.  I didn’t lean on the Holy Spirit.  I didn’t rally my friends to pray for me.”

Today I want to urge you to battle your temptation.  Get rid of some magazines.  Turn off some movies.  Avoid certain people.  Call some Godly friends to support you.  Whatever you need to do, don’t stop fighting!

Next, Develop Your Priorities.  The Bible says, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3.1-2).  Three words sum up those two verses:  Develop Your Priorities.

Have you ever asked yourself why some people get so much done?  They have 7 days a week like everybody else.  They have the same Bible and the same Savior as other believers.  Why do some accomplish so much?  Because they develop their priorities.

Now let’s be clear – it’s more than trying.  A big key is trusting.  You see, Christianity is not you living for Jesus; Christianity is Jesus living in you!  Do you see the difference?

For example, say you’re out of shape physically and you want to get in shape.  Do you watch people exercise?  Do you go buy a box of Total and memorize the nutritional chart on the side of the box?  No, you make exercise a priority and you get the cereal into you.  So it is with developing your priorities.  You make good choices a priority and you get the Lord Jesus inside you.

Last, Picture The Person You Can Become With God’s Help.  The Lord Jesus did this with Peter.  When Jesus met Peter, he was a floundering fisherman.  “Right now you are Peter, but one day you’ll be a rock of a man for God,” Jesus told him.  “I will empower you, Peter.”  He says the same to you today.

The Bible says, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4.18).  There are people reading this who are controlled by their past.

  • You tried to break a habit – you failed.
  • You tried to lose weight – it didn’t happen.
  • You tried to do what’s right – it didn’t turn out.

So now you look back and say, “I guess I’m a failure.”  Wrong!  Past failure does not equal future failure.  Put the Lord Jesus into that equation and you’ll have a different answer.  That answer is victory!

Learn this today:  God won’t transform your life until you transfer your life to Him.  Imagine you have a big pile of heavy bricks in your front yard.  You need to move them to your back yard.  You start working by hand, but the progress is so slow.  Then a neighbor pulls up on a 4-wheeler with a hefty trailer attached.  “Need some help?”  he asks.  My friend, that’s what the Holy Spirit does.  Today, accept God’s help.

Can I pray for you?  “Lord Jesus, help each one reading this today.  Some need their sins forgiven.  Thank you for hearing their call for salvation.  Others need power for living.  Pour your Holy Spirit into them.  All of us need increased joy and greater self-control.  Thank you for helping us and we accept your help.  In Jesus strong name, Amen.”

Start Stirring…and Don’t Stop (1)

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“Stir up the gift of God…in you.” 2Ti 1:6 NKJV

God gave you your talent, but it’s your job to develop it. And it’s not that complicated, because your gift usually relates to something that excites you. Think about it: God made you; He hardwired the desires of your heart. Knowing that, helps you to understand why the things you find rewarding involve your innate talents and abilities. One author says: “It’s natural for a hunting dog to hunt. Coop him up and he’ll lie around with no enthusiasm. But when he realizes he’s going hunting, he comes alive. That’s because God designed hunting dogs that way. They have that passion inside them…They don’t have to get themselves worked up…or say, ‘Let me go listen to a sermon or motivational message so I can work up some zest and zeal.’ No, when those dogs know they’re going hunting they’re naturally excited…And when we’re doing what we know we’re called to do, enthusiasm and excitement exude from us naturally. We may not jump up and down…but deep within, we know ‘This is what I was called to do. This is why I was born.’ On the other hand, if you’re doing something that’s not natural, it’s a struggle. If you try, train, practice and push and you still can’t get a skill down; recognize that it may not be in your nature. Of course we must persevere…push through and learn hard things…but in general, life shouldn’t be a constant struggle.” When you’re fulfilling your purpose, one of the most noticeable results is how rewarding it feels to “stir up the gift of God…in you” by utilizing your natural abilities.

Are You Running on Empty?

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“I will pour out water to quench your thirst.” Isa 44:3 NLT

Julie Coleman writes: “I was headed for a writer’s conference in Philadelphia when I realized I’d better think about stopping for gas…Normally I’m fussy about where I stop…but as I drove the lonely stretch of road, I began to feel desperate…any minute…I’d be stranded in 100-plus degrees and I didn’t even have a water bottle…I drove several long miles till I came to a tiny crossroads. Four houses….and a gas station! It looked like it could be called ‘Joe’s Gas Station and Storm Door Company’…I’d probably have turned up my nose at it in another circumstance. But at that moment [it] was the best thing I’d seen! Funny how our circumstances can dictate how we feel!” Running from his enemies, David prayed, “My soul thirsts for you…in a dry…land where there is no water…Teach me to walk in the way I should” (See Ps 143:6-8). Would his prayer have been different if David had been living in luxury surrounded by servants? Not knowing where his next meal was coming from and sleeping outside every night changed his perspective. When life goes well we become self-sufficient and forget God. Spiritually speaking, we run on empty until a spark ignites an outburst. If your car’s on empty whose fault is it? The gas station hasn’t moved! You chose to drive by without stopping! When you’re running on empty you end up hurting those closest to you, then dealing with the guilt that comes after a flare-up. God said, “I will pour out water to quench your thirst.” So today pick up your Bible and refuel your soul!

How Well Do You Know the Lord?

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“Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Ps 27:8 NKJV

At the end of a play, the leading actor held his audience spellbound as he recited the Twenty-Third Psalm. He did it as an encore, and it brought the house down with applause. Looking across the room, he spotted his old vicar and called on him to say something. To their surprise, he too recited the Twenty-Third Psalm. When he was through, there was silence. The audience dried tears from their eyes. At this point the actor stood beside his old vicar and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the difference is, I know the Twenty-Third Psalm but he knows the Shepherd!” Dr. Alexander Maclaren, the great Scottish preacher, attributed everything he knew to one habit: spending an hour each day alone with God. Sometimes he allowed others into his study, but they were never allowed to speak. Maclaren would sit in a well-worn armchair with his Bible lying across his knees. Sometimes he’d read its pages, but mostly he’d just sit with his hand over his face. During that hour he wouldn’t read the Bible as a student, or study it for sermons. One of his assistants noted, “He read it as a child would read a letter from an absent father, or your heart would drink in the words of a loved one from far away.” How well do you know the Lord? How well do you want to know Him? The answer is not in what you say but in what you do. What you truly desire, you pursue. The Psalmist said, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.’”

He’s a God of Restoration (4)

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“Your God will come with…[restoration].” Isa 35:4 NKJV

What you give up in order to serve God is nothing compared to what you will get back. “Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You’…So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you…you who have followed Me…And…left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life’” (Mt 19:27-29 NKJV). That means God can give you back a hundred times more than what you’ve sacrificed in order to serve Him. Are you feeling weak and ineffective today? Read these words and stand on them: “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense [restoration]…He will come and save you’” (Isa 35:3-4 NKJV). You say, “But I have lost my joy.” God can give it back to you in overflowing measure: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (v. 10 NKJV). You say, “But I have so little to show for my efforts.” Then stand on this promise: “And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly” (vv. 1-2 NKJV). Rejoice; your God is a God of restoration, so your best days are ahead of you!

He’s God of Restoration (3)

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“That you through his poverty might become rich.” 2Co 8:9 NIV

Are you saying, “If only I hadn’t said, or done…”? You’re not unique; we all have our regrets. But God wants us to learn from them, not live in them. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.” Jesus wore the crown of thorns so you could wear the crown of righteousness, and be in right standing with God. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ro 5:1). Being justified gives you the right to stand before God and claim His best. Is your business struggling, or failing? Peter the fisherman experienced that too. So Jesus, the Restorer, said to him: “‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’ And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink” (Lk 5:4-7 NKJV). Just one word from Jesus, and you can go from the threshold of bankruptcy to adding a second boat. Jesus actually gave Peter back more than he lost. So the word for you today is, “Believe for more than you expected, because our God is a God of restoration.”

He’s God of Restoration (2)

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“You shall surely…recover all.” 1Sa 30:8 NKJV

One day the Amalekites swept down on King David’s hometown, burning it to the ground and taking its families captive. In this scene of devastation, David and his men “lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (v. 4 NKJV). Now, God will let you grieve your losses because that’s healthy, but He won’t allow you to stay there too long. So God said to David, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.” Did David and his men get back everything they had lost? Yes, and much more besides, for our God is not only a God of restoration but a God of abundance.

You say, “I feel so ashamed of the years I have wasted.” The God Who created time can give you more of it. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…the consuming locust…You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame” (Joel 2:25-26 NKJV). Notice the word, “plenty.” When God blesses you it will not come from an eyedropper or from a rationed supply. No, you’ll be able to sing, “His love hath no limit; His grace hath no measure, His power no boundary known unto men. For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.” Ever since Adam and Eve “blew it” in Eden, God’s desire and plan has been to restore to us all that we have lost. So come to Him today and let the restoration begin.

He’s a God of Restoration (1)

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“I will restore to you.” Joel 2:25 NKJV

Whatever life has taken from you, God can restore. He may not give you exactly what you want, but He will give you what’s best. And even when you fall under His corrective hand through disobedience, if you repent, He will reinstate you to a place of blessing. You say, “But what about the time I’ve wasted, the opportunities I’ve squandered, and the mess I’ve made of my life? Sometimes I wonder if I’ve fallen so low that even God cannot reach me.” No, there’s hope for you. The Bible says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isa 59:1 NKJV). After wasting all that he’d inherited from his father, the Prodigal Son returned home, broke and embarrassed. All he wanted was three square meals and a job in the servants’ quarters. But the moment he said, “Forgive me,” his father called for the best robe, the fattest cow, the newest shoes, and a ring of son-ship restoring him to his rightful place as a member of the family. Even under the crushing weight of the Old Testament Law, with demands that no one could live up to, God said, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep…he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep” (Ex 22:1 NKJV). Now if God would do that for those who lived under the Law and on the wrong side of the cross, how much more will He do for those He has redeemed? So you can go to Him today with confidence, knowing He’s a God of restoration.