Roll with the Punches!

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‘I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me.’ Philippians 4:13 ESV

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 setting yourself up for failure! 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…’ (Philippians 4:12 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 and prison, never abdicating, while demonstrating how to ‘rejoice in the Lord always…’ (Philippians 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!’ (Philippians 4:12–14 PHPS) So learn to roll with the punches!

Taking Your Place in God’s Family

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‘God places the lonely in families…’ Psalm 68:6 NLT

Life in God’s family can be challenging. To enjoy and fulfil your role as a family member you must understand three things: (1) Your rights. When you trusted Christ as your Saviour you became a member of God’s redeemed family (John 3:3–6). That means you have the right to be accepted, loved, protected, respected, provided for, trained, equipped, and rewarded. Regardless of your past mistakes, God guarantees you these rights, so embrace and enjoy them. (2) The rules of the house. Without the rule of law, you end up with anarchy. And it’s the same in a family. Can you imagine what would happen if the kids ran the house? Well, God’s family isn’t a democracy. You don’t get to vote on the rules. God has established unchanging principles in His Word that guarantee His blessing. ‘If you are…obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.’ (Isaiah 1:19 NKJV) (3) Our responsibilities to one another. You’re called to accept, love and help your brothers and sisters even when they’re selfish, immature, critical and irresponsible. Remember that God’s family is still ‘under construction’, but it’s much better than any other alternative! You need to participate in regular family life and activities. Early church believers met together ‘daily’ (Acts 2:46); as a result they survived all Satan’s attempts to destroy them. So support the life and mission of your church family with your tithes, talent and time. Don’t just be a taker; ‘…God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)

Do It Now!

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‘…Don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”‘ Proverbs 3:28 NLT

The Bible says: ‘Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. If you can help your neighbour now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”‘ (Proverbs 3:27–28 NLT) Procrastination is deceptive. You don’t think of it as disobedience because you intend to obey God. It’s just that you’re going to do it…when you have more money, when you’re not so busy, when the holidays are over, when the kids go back to school etc. Before God gives you an increase, He observes you with what you’ve already got. For example, there’s no point asking Him to give you more money so you can bless others, if you’re not blessing people with what He’s already given you. You say, ‘But I don’t have much at the moment.’ It’s not just about money. Are you capable of speaking a word of encouragement, or giving an hour of time, or helping someone in need? When God tells you to do something, He wants you to do it on His schedule, not yours. ‘He told another man, “Follow me!” But the man said, “Sir, first let me go to bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You must go everywhere and tell about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “I’ll follow you, sir, but first let me tell my family goodbye.” Jesus said… “Whoever starts…and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”‘ (Luke 9:59–62 GWT) The result of delayed obedience is lost opportunity. So do it now!

Making a Difference

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‘By faith Noah…built an ark to save his family…’ Hebrews 11:7 NIV

The story of Noah teaches us: (1) You can make a difference in your family. ‘By faith Noah…built an ark to save his family.’ Noah’s decision didn’t just benefit him personally, it saved his entire household. It took many years, but he did it. And by God’s grace you can win your family to Christ too. (2) You can make a difference for future generations. Noah not only survived the flood, but God used him to start the world all over again. What a calling! What an impact! What a legacy! ‘The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…’ (2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT) God is looking for people who will partner with Him in fulfilling His purposes on earth. But to qualify: (a) You must be willing to stand out from the crowd. Noah believed God’s Word when nobody else did. Difference–makers are different. Don’t let that bother you. (b) You must not be afraid to do something for the first time. Don’t let the words, ‘It’s never been done before’ keep you from obeying God. People probably told Noah, ‘It’s not raining. Who needs a boat?’ But they were wrong and Noah was right. (c) You must endure the rain in order to see the rainbow. So take your stand and believe God, for what He’s promised He will perform (Jeremiah 1:12). (3) You can make a difference at any age. Stop putting yourself down because of your age. Noah was five hundred years old when he started preaching and building the ark. It’s not over ’til God says it’s over!

Thriving in the Combat Zone (3)

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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

The third attack: the attack from Satan. We either trivialise or exaggerate Satan’s power and each spells trouble! The first makes you feel vulnerable; the second creates in you an unfounded fear. Understanding Satan’s ways—and your weapons—equips you to handle his attacks and resist him. How can you do that? (1) By understanding that God effectively destroyed Satan’s power through Christ’s victory at the cross. ‘He stripped the rulers and authorities of their power and made a public spectacle of them as He celebrated His victory in Christ.’ (Colossians 2:15 GWT) Satan’s attempt to destroy Jesus backfired in a glorious defeat that allows you to celebrate your victory in Christ! (2) By understanding that ‘…God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world.’ (1 John 4:4 NCV) No power is greater than the Spirit of God who lives within you. If you abide in Christ, Satan can’t control or conquer you. Why? Because he would have to overcome Jesus to do it! (3) By understanding that, you can defeat Satan because Jesus has ‘…given you authority over all the power of the enemy…’ (Luke 10:19 NLT) The criminal must submit to the police officer because the officer is vested with and backed up by the full authority of the government. So when you draw on the authority God has given you in Christ, Satan has no choice; he must observe the limits God places on him. He can do nothing without God’s permission and God empowers us to resist him. Job is a perfect example and Satan hopes you never discover that!

Thriving in the Combat Zone (2)

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‘…Make no provision for the flesh…’ Romans 13:14 NAS

The second attack: the attack from the flesh. Your most vulnerable point is your ‘flesh’, which drives you to do your own thing. Its motto is ‘It’s all about me!’ From start to finish it ‘looks out for number one’, always wanting to be ‘first in line’. That’s the genetic make–up of our flesh. And it can’t be saved, sanctified, or spiritualised because ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh…’ (John 3:6 NKJV) and nothing else. ‘The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.’ (Galatians 5:17 CEV) So how do you control your ‘flesh’? (1) Make a choice. ‘…Choose today whom you will serve…’ (Joshua 24:15 GWT) During the American Civil War thousands of Yankee and Confederate soldiers were killed by ‘friendly fire’. Why? Because they lacked uniforms that identified the side to which they belonged. Be clear about which side you’re on, and let those around you know it. (2) Cut the supply lines to the flesh. In wartime, generals devote a lot of attention to blowing up bridges, highways and railroads to deprive the enemy of the vital supplies they need to win. Your flesh can’t control you if you cut off its supply line. ‘…Don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.’ (Romans 13:14 NLT) (3) Maintain regular communication with base command. Even well–trained soldiers with the finest equipment and best officers can’t win when they’re cut off from base command. So stay in touch: ‘Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion…’ (Ephesians 6:18 NLT)

Thriving in the Combat Zone (1)

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‘Share in the troubles we have like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’ 2 Timothy 2:3 NCV

Salvation enlists you into the service of Jesus, the King of Kings. His battles become your battles, and His strategies your strategies. There are no exemptions; you’re ‘in for the long haul’. Satan has declared war on you, and it’s ‘conquer or be conquered’. He will attack you on three fronts. Let’s look at each: First, the attack from the world. Do you ever feel like you don’t ‘fit in’? You’re not supposed to! ‘…Don’t you realise that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.’ (James 4:4 NLT) The line has been drawn; there’s no peaceful coexistence in this war. What is ‘worldliness’? It’s not being in the world, but being like it. It’s not mixing with the world, but blending in with its self–centred values, its ‘relative’ morality and its attitudes toward God, His cause, His Word, and His people. The world’s hunger for power, popularity and self–promotion contradicts the principles of Scripture. ‘…Genuine religion in the sight of God [is]…refusing to let the world corrupt you.’ (James 1:27 NLT) Jesus told us to avoid becoming swept up in the world’s obsession with material things, or its fear of not having enough to meet our needs (Matthew 6:25–34). You are called to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matthew 5:13–14). You are to be the influencer, not the influenced. When the world can’t tell you apart from them, your light has gone out and your salt has lost its flavour.

Prepare Yourself

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‘Wise people are rewarded…’ Proverbs 14:24 GNT

The Bible says, ‘Wise people are rewarded.’ So keep learning. Knowledge in most major fields is exploding, and if you don’t stay up to date you’ll be left behind. Repeating the same lessons over and over means you’re not learning enough. Study those who’ve succeeded where you want to succeed, in order to know what to do and what not to do. U.S. Admiral Hyman Rickover said, ‘You have to learn from the mistakes of others; you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.’ So: (1) Respect those with experience and expertise greater than your own. Instead of shrinking away from them, reach for them. The Bible says, ‘God has given each of you some special abilities…use them to help each other…’ (1 Peter 4:10 TLB) We all struggle in certain areas; be careful lest your insecurity be misinterpreted as arrogance. (2) Become a good listener. Don’t try to impress people by seeking to be their intellectual equal. If you find yourself in a discussion that intimidates you, ask questions, talk only about what you know, listen attentively, and the next time you meet you’ll be that much further ahead. (3) The more you prepare yourself, the more opportunities you’ll get. Don’t go to a lesson unless you’ve done your homework. When God starts taking you higher, prepare your speech, your wardrobe, and your mind. Consult a trusted friend who understands where you are, and where you need to go. If you can’t find one, read up until you grasp the basics. ‘A king rejoices in servants who know what they are doing…’ (Proverbs 14:35 TLB) The more prepared you are, the more God will open doors of opportunity for you.

It’s All About Attitude

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‘Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not wholeheartedly.’ 2 Chronicles 25:2 NLT

King Amaziah did all the right things, but he wasn’t ‘wholehearted’ about it. You can do the right thing and still not be blessed. Why? Because you did it with the wrong attitude. Take, for example, the subject of giving. The apostle Paul writes: ‘Let everyone give as his heart tells him, neither grudgingly nor under compulsion, for God loves the man who gives cheerfully. After all, God can give you everything that you need, so that you may always have sufficient both for yourselves and for giving away to other people… The more you are enriched by God the more scope there will be for generous giving, and your gifts, administered through us, will mean… an overflowing tide of thanksgiving to God. Moreover, your very giving proves the reality of your faith, and that means that men thank God that you practise the Gospel that you profess to believe in, as well as for the actual gifts you make to them and to others. And yet further, men will pray for you and feel drawn to you because you have obviously received a generous measure of the grace of God.’ (2 Corinthians 9:6–11 PHPS) Note two things: (1) Your level of giving determines the level at which you receive. (2) Your attitude in giving determines your abundance in receiving. So when you ‘make up your…mind what you will give’, consider God’s goodness to you, decide what you should give, and do it with a heart of joy. It’s all about attitude!

How to Accomplish Great Things (5)

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‘…Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other.’ Nehemiah 4:17 NIV

Do you know how Nehemiah’s team rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem? With a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. Why is that significant? Because even though God gives you the plan, the chances are you’ll have to fight for it. Not everyone wants you to succeed. In fact, some will do everything they can to stop you. That’s when you must constantly remind yourself that God gave you the plan, that He’s on your side, and that if you’re willing to persevere, you’ll win. God guarantees it! Listen to what Nehemiah’s enemies said about him: ‘It is reported…you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: “There is a king in Judah!” Now this report will get back to the king…’ (Nehemiah 6:6–7 NIV) Nehemiah had to overcome threats and intimidation. He wrote: ‘…They were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to go down to you?”’ (Nehemiah 6:2–3 NIV) Every minute devoted to your critics is time stolen from your God–given assignment. Don’t step down to their level! It’s not what your enemies say that matters; it’s what what God’s Word says to you when your enemies have finished talking that matters. ‘[Nehemiah] answered them by saying, “The God of Heaven will give us success…but as for you, you will have no share in Jerusalem or any claim…to it.”’ (Nehemiah 2:20 NIV) Now that’s the winning attitude.