You’re Named in God’s Will (2)

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“The word…which can…give you an inheritance.” Ac 20:32 NIV

Someone’s last will and testament lets you know what you have inherited. In the Old Testament the benefits were rich, but the conditions proved too restrictive. So God gave us a New Testament. But instead of laws that are virtually impossible to keep, this “testament” is based on grace: favor you don’t deserve, can’t earn, and don’t have to work for because it’s given freely. And when you discover you are personally named in this “testament,” reading the Bible becomes a real source of joy. You start asking, “What’s in God’s will for me? What’s my rightful inheritance?” You realize your salvation, as glorious as it is, is just the starting point. Suddenly the idea of searching the Scriptures, standing on the Scriptures, and speaking the Scriptures in every situation no longer feels like a duty, but a delight. When you pray according to Scripture, it’s like going to the bank of heaven and saying, “This check is made out to me. It’s issued and endorsed by Christ, and I’d like to cash it.” You have two options: You can live a Christian life and die without ever having accessed your account because you never discovered your inheritance and the benefits of God’s will for you. Or you can pray: “Father, Christ’s last will and testament names me personally. It says that all my needs will be met, my steps will be directed, my sicknesses will be healed, and that I don’t have to fear Satan because You gave me power over him” (See Lk 10:19). Now can you see why Satan doesn’t want you reading your Bible?

Roll with the Punches!

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“I am ready for anything.” Php 4:13 PHPS

There’s a spiritual disease you need to be inoculated against—hardening of the attitudes. It’s a disease that makes you think your opinion is the only right one. And as long as life cooperates with you, you’re fine. But when it doesn’t, you charge ahead from one brick wall into another, bruised and bloodied, until you quit in frustration. Then you start blaming others, life, the Devil, or God. Your faith may be well-intentioned, but faith without flexibility is just failure looming! Experienced kayakers know how to perform the “Eskimo roll.” It’s a technique that enables you to roll 360 degrees under the water and up again without drowning. It’s the strategy Paul used to overcome the challenges he faced in life. “I have learned the secret of living in every situation” (v. 12 NLT). He didn’t acquire it naturally, or learn it at a “flexibility seminar,” or get it from a guru. He learned it in the rough-and-tumble school of patience, persistence, humility, self-denial, dedication, and confidence in God. As a result he rolled with the punches of persecution, hunger, poverty, prison, and execution, never abdicating, while demonstrating how to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Php 4:4 NIV). When faith collides with reality, it flexes and holds on until victory emerges. It’s like a tree that bends in the storm, then bounces back. “I have learned…I am ready for anything through…the One who lives within me!” (Php 4:12-14 PHPS). So learn to roll with the punches!

You’re Named in God’s Will (1)

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“The word…which can…give you an inheritance.” Ac 20:32 NIV

Linda Knox was in her eighties when she died of malnutrition in her Chicago apartment. Apparently she’d lost her sight, and her mind had failed. Among her belongings they found $171,000 in uncashed checks, $189,000 in works of art, $400,000 in jewels, and $52,000 in antiques. In all, she had an estate worth $822,000—yet she died alone in poverty. And what’s worse, she’d drawn up a will leaving these things to friends and family members. But she never filed it with the courts and it was never executed, so her beneficiaries were unaware of their inheritance. There’s a lesson here for you. When Christ died and went back to heaven, He left a will. And you are named in it! You say, “Where can I find a copy?” In His Word! You’re an “[heir] of God and a [co-heir] with Christ” (Ro 8:17 NKJV). Once that truth gets down into your soul, your attitude toward reading the Bible will be revolutionized. Instead of spending mindless hours watching TV or surfing the Internet, you’ll start meditating “day and night” in the Scriptures. As a result, you’ll start to “prosper in all that you do” (See Jos 1:8; Ps 1:2-3). Now you can understand why David said, “I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love…The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Ps 119:47, 72 NKJV). Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life…he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature” (2Pe 1:3-4 NIV). What more could you ask for?

Accepting Others

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“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.”Ro 15:7 NIV

Sometimes people don’t make it easy to accept them. They can be cranky, selfish, critical, irritating, dismissive, aggressive, and pompous. Sometimes you want to give them a piece of your mind; give them what they deserve—anything but acceptance. The command, “accept one another,” is inconvenient. And if Paul had stopped there we might dodge the directive by saying he obviously meant good, reasonable, acceptable people. Alas, he goes on, “just as Christ accepted you.” Were you good, reasonable, and acceptable? No, but He accepted you—flaws and all—and He still does! You say, “Somebody has to straighten these people out and require them to act right!” You mean like what Jesus required before He accepted you? Roman Christians had difficulty accepting their less experienced brothers, and Paul corrected them: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment…for God has accepted him” (Ro 14:1-3 NIV). Straightening people out isn’t our department; accepting them is. God calls us to accept messed-up, unspiritual, carnal, obnoxious, doctrinally misled, “just plain wrong” people. You don’t have to approve of, like, or agree with them, but accepting them isn’t optional. There’s no elite, privileged, insider class. We occupy level ground because of two realities: our sin and the cross! Jews and Gentiles despised each other, even after salvation. Each wanted the other to change and become like them. But Paul laid the axe to the root of that tree: “For Christ himself …reconciled both groups…by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph 2:14,16 NLT). Our job is to accept people—and let God adjust them.

God Can Lift You Up (2)

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“All things are possible to him who believes.” Mk 9:23 NKJV

In order to access power, you have to go to the outlet and plug in to the source of it. That’s what happens when you pray in faith; you plug in to God’s power. Picture a boat trapped in mud and stuck on the bottom. If you can get it to the dock, you can repair it and send it back out to sea. The trouble is, you can’t move it. So what’s the answer? Bring in high-powered tugboats, connect steel cables to the sunken craft, and wait for the tide to rise. Are you getting the idea? When you feel so low that you can’t lift yourself up, tap into God’s power and let Him lift you up to the place where He can repair, restore, and recommission you. If you keep that picture in mind, you’ll never think about prayer the same way again. Instead of seeing it as an obligation, you’ll start seeing it as an awesome power that works for you in all circumstances of life. And you’ll see reading the Bible in a different light as well. Paul says, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (Ac 20:32 NKJV). Your problems may be great, but the tide of God’s Spirit is greater, and if you let it, it’ll lift you out of your troubles. Will they suddenly vanish overnight? No, but you’ll be above them looking down instead of underneath them looking up. At that point you’ll be operating from a position of faith instead of a position of fear. It can happen for you. God can lift you up: “All things are possible to him who believes.”

God Can Lift You Up (1)

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“He will lift you up.” Jas 4:10 NKJV

The Bible says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” It works this way: when you try to exalt yourself God brings you down, but when you humble yourself in His sight He lifts you up. He does it because you’re His child and He loves you. You may feel like a nobody right now, but in God’s eyes you’re a somebody. Who but God could reach behind a hedge, find a Gypsy Smith and use him to win multitudes to Christ? Who but God could go to Old Comiskey Park in Chicago, find a baseball player called Billy Sunday and use him to impact the world? Who but God could look in a Galilean fishing boat and find Peter, call him, transform him, and use him to build the church? God loves to do things like that. And since He “does not show favoritism” (Ro 2:11 NIV) you’ve every right to believe He will do it for you too. The Bible says, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Pr 23:7). When that little voice inside you whispers, “You’ve no talent and you’ll never amount to anything in life,” that’s not God. It’s Satan—and the Bible says he’s a liar (Jn 8:44)! That’s why you need to tell him, “I don’t believe a word you’re saying. You can’t put me down because God is raising me up.” God’s plan for you was established long before you were born, and He hasn’t changed His mind. So you need to discover His plan, then make sure your feelings, thoughts, actions, and words line up with it.

Accepting Yourself

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“Predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” Ro 8:29 NIV

Studies show that many of us don’t like ourselves. A poll of college students confirmed that over 50 percent suffered from low self-esteem, with the majority citing their looks as the source of their unhappiness. “My nose is too long. My eyes are too small. I’m too fat here—too thin there. I’m too short—too tall. I’ve got freckles.” And the beauty industry is more than willing to darken it, lighten it, accentuate it, lift it, tuck it, and cover it up in an attempt to sell us a self-image we can accept. A little improvement might indeed be beneficial, but not as a basis for self-worth. Here’s how God sees the issue: “Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’” (Isa 45:9 NLT). You are God’s personal creation. And He makes no mistakes, overlooks no details, and leaves nothing unfinished. You need to accept yourself because He created, redeemed, and accepts you. In an age of media run amok we’re bombarded by images of perfect-looking people, with the inference that we need to look like them if we hope to amount to anything. But Paul says: “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2Co 10:12 NIV). The God Who made you who you are has a plan for perfecting you. You’re perfectly acceptable, if not yet acceptably perfect. You’re “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” So you’re a work in progress!

Accepted by God!

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“He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Eph 1:6 NKJV

There’s no pain worse than rejection and no pleasure greater than acceptance, which helps explain the length some people go to in order to avoid rejection and earn acceptance. But the good news is, with God you’re already accepted. J. B. Phillips translates Ephesians 1:6 like this: “He…has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the son.” And that’s not limited to those who appear worthy because of their good deeds and a flawless moral record; it’s for every believing child of God, lock, stock, and barrel! Cromwell once commissioned a self-portrait. The artist, courting Cromwell’s favor, portrayed him without his obvious imperfections. Cromwell was livid. “I said paint me, man —me, warts and all!” You’re accepted by God, “warts and all.” But note: (1) God’s acceptance doesn’t equal His approval.He accepts sinners, but He can never accept our sin. Indeed, His free gift of acceptance is our greatest motivator to renounce our sin and live to please Him (Tit 2:11, 12). (2) God’s acceptance is unconditional. He doesn’t say, “You’re accepted if you clean up your act.” In the words of Jeremiah, “Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil” (Jer 13:23 NLT). God’s acceptance has to be unconditional, because it’s impossible for us to merit it. (3) God’s acceptance is because of Jesus. You’re “accepted in the Beloved.” The doomed Mephibosheth was accepted because of David’s relationship to his beloved friend Jonathan (See 2Sa 9). And as long as God accepts Jesus, and you trust in Jesus, you’re accepted as well.

Brokenness

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“Not my will, but yours be done.” Lk 22:42 NIV

If your goal is to be used by God, don’t be surprised when He permits seasons of adversity and brokenness. Jesus experienced it, and He said, “A servant is not greater than his master” (Jn 15:20 NKJV). One Bible teacher points out: “God’s intent isn’t to hurt us, but to expand our capacity to carry His love to a world in need of compassion…Sorrow clarifies our thinking. In the school of Christ, brokenness is a good thing. It’s impossible to become intimate with God unless we’re broken of independence, pride, and our insistence that our way is better than God’s. Brokenness is the last stop before we finally confess, ‘I can’t; God can.’ It’s Paul confessing, ‘What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ (Ro 7:24 NIV). It’s the Prodigal fighting with the pigs over food (Lk 15:11-32). It’s Joseph, still in prison, forgotten by the cupbearer (Ge 40:23). It’s Jonah in the whale’s belly confessing the consequences of running from God (Jnh 2:1-9). It’s Peter weeping bitterly outside Jesus’ trial (Lk 22:62). It’s Jesus abandoning everything to God, praying, ‘Father…not my will but yours be done’ (Lk 22:42 NIV)…God in His ruthless, loving pursuit will break us of pride, sin, folly, and independence (Mt 21:44). Like Jesus serving bread at the Last Supper, God takes us, breaks us, blesses us, and uses us.” Are you going through a season of brokenness? Be encouraged; in God’s kingdom brokenness is the path to blessing. Watchman Nee put it this way: “To have God do His own work through us, even once, is better than a lifetime of human striving.”

Friendship (2)

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“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Pr 17:17 NKJV

In life you’ll have many acquaintances, but few friends. And that’s okay, especially if you value quality over quantity. Just because you have good social skills doesn’t mean you’ll have good friends. Sometimes people who are “the life of the party” are the loneliest because they live with a core fear that says, “If you really knew me you wouldn’t want me.” Sadly, they’re often the ones who become workaholics and try to lose themselves in achievement. Or their unmet needs drive them into multiple affairs. Or they get into mood-altering substances that lead to addiction. In the parable of the prodigal son we read these words: “When he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want…and no one gave him anything” (Lk 15:14-16 NKJV). It’s time you reconsidered what true friendship is. It’s not what some of your business buddies spout when they vent their ego concerning their latest success. If you read between the lines, chances are what they’re really saying is, “See how wonderful I am. And as long as you’re in my league you can be my friend.” That’s fickle! “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” In Old Testament times friends entered into a covenant by exchanging a shoe and a sword. The shoe meant, “I’ll go to wherever you are and I’ll stand with you.” The sword meant, “I’ll fight for you and lay down my life for you.” The question is: Are you willing to become that kind of friend?