Don’t Look Back

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‘Remember Lot’s wife.’ Luke 17:32 KJV

Before God destroyed the city of Sodom, He sent two angels to rescue Lot and his family from it. Their instructions were clear: ‘Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed…’ (Genesis 19:17 NKJV) But: ‘…his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.’ (Genesis 19:26 NKJV) Jesus recalled this story in a simple statement: ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’ Here are two lessons you should learn and remember: (1) Don’t look back with longing to your old sinful pleasures and pursuits. The promise sin made was false then, and it’s still false now. ‘Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.’ (James 1:14–16 NKJV) (2) Don’t look back with regret on the mistakes you’ve made. Lot’s two sons-in-law wouldn’t heed the message of the angels or the pleading of their father-in-law, so they stayed behind. Perhaps that’s why his wife looked back. But it was fatal then, and it’s fatal now. Don’t wallow in the regrets of your past. Stop dwelling on the injuries inflicted on you by others. Get your eyes off the rear-view mirror and onto the road ahead. God has great things in store for you; that’s what the battle in your life is about. Jesus referred to Satan as a ‘thief’ (See John 10:10). He has already stolen too much from you; don’t let him steal any more. Today commit your life to Christ, and watch His blessing begin.

Be Grateful for What You Have

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‘In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God…for you.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has a brilliant mind. He has been compared by some to Albert Einstein. But he has a rare degenerative disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS syndrome or motor neurone disease). And it has left him virtually paralysed. He learned to use a computer with the tips of his fingers and was able to communicate his calculations and thoughts. Before he became ill, he described his life as a ‘pointless existence’. He drank too much and did very little work. But after discovering that he perhaps had only a few years to live, life suddenly took on an urgency and a new meaning. And he was actually happier than he was before. He explained the paradox this way: ‘When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything that one does have.’ When you’re told that you only have a limited time left to live, it transforms your whole perspective on living. Things you overlook suddenly become meaningful: the laughter of children, a sunrise or sunset, the love of friends and family, or just a walk in the park. The most miserable people in the world are those who believe that life ‘owes them’. They’re never happy, because they never believe they get what they deserve. The apostle Paul was in prison with no hope of getting out when he wrote, ‘In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ What was he saying? Simply this: Instead of competing, comparing and complaining, focus on the good things God has given you, enjoy them and develop an attitude of gratitude (Philippians 4:8).

Seeing Your Work as God’s Will (3)

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‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.’ Psalm 127:1 NRS

When your skill level is high but the challenge of the task is too low, you experience boredom. When your skill level is low and the challenge of the task is too high, you experience frustration and anxiety. But when the level of the challenge matches the level of your skills—then you’re ‘in the flow’. We don’t work mainly for money, recognition, promotion, applause or fame. We work for the flow that comes from a partnership with God. We hunger for flow, and when it’s present, something happens in our spirit as we connect with a reality beyond ourselves and become a co-worker with God. This is why the psalmist says, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.’ Flow is part of what we experience in that partnership and, in that, God in turn uses flow to shape us. Bezalel experienced flow when he carved wood, David when he played the harp, Samson when he used his strength, Paul when he wrote a brilliant letter, Daniel when he ran a government, and Adam when he gardened. If other people report to you, one of the great spiritual acts of service you can perform is to ask whether they’re experiencing flow in their work, and help them experience it even more. When you’re working in the flow of service to God, when you’re experiencing flow in activities that enhance and bless the lives of others—you’re working ‘in the Spirit’. Paul was in the flow when he described himself as ‘poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.’ (2 Corinthians 6:10 NIV)

Seeing Your Work as God’s Will (2)

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‘Do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ Colossians 3:17 NIV

Research shows that the best moments of our lives don’t come from leisure or pleasure. They come when you’re immersed in a significant task that’s challenging, yet matches up well to your highest abilities. In those moments, you’re so caught up in an activity that time somehow seems to be altered; your attention is fully focused without your having to work at it. You’re deeply aware, without being self-conscious; you’re being stretched and challenged, but without a sense of stress or worry. You have a sense of engagement or oneness with what you are doing. This condition is called ‘flow’, because people experiencing it often use the metaphor of feeling swept up by something outside themselves. Studies have been done over the past thirty years with hundreds of thousands of subjects to explore this phenomenon of flow. Ironically, you experience it more in your work than you do in your leisure time. In fact, your flow is at its lowest ebb when you’ve nothing to do. Sitting around doesn’t produce flow. This picture of flow is actually a description of what the exercise of dominion was intended to look like. God says in Genesis that we’re to ‘rule’ over the earth, or exercise ‘dominion’ (See Genesis 1:2628). We often think of these words in terms of ‘dominating’ or ‘bossing around’. But the true idea behind them is that you’re to invest your abilities to create value on the earth, to plant and build and write and organise and heal and invent ways that bless people and cause God’s Kingdom on earth to flourish.

Seeing Your Work as God’s Will (1)

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‘I must work the works of Him who sent Me.’ John 9:4 NKJV

You’ll experience a new level of fulfilment when you begin to see what you do for a living as an important part of God’s will for your life. Jesus preached and healed, but He saw it all as ‘work’ given to Him by His Father. You must too. Instead of seeing church as a place where you meet with God on Sunday morning, see it as a place where you’re fed and strengthened so that you can carry the presence of God with you into the workplace. ‘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) Notice two words here: (1) ‘Word.’ That covers skills of communication and information. (2) ‘Deed.’ That covers skills such as creativity and building. Whatever you do, you’re supposed to do it with a thankful heart, as though the Lord were your boss—because He is. When you work with that attitude, you come alive. One person comes alive when they pick up a musical instrument, another when they lead a team, another when they counsel someone who’s hurting, and another when they’re looking at a financial spreadsheet. When each of us is doing what God designed and called us to do, the world around us is enriched. All skill is God-given, and we’re invited to live in conscious interaction with the Holy Spirit as we work, so that we can develop the skills He gives us. Work is a form of love. We cannot be fully human without creating value.

Stop Putting Yourself Down

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‘Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”‘ Luke 8:30 NAS

Remember the man in Scripture who was possessed by demons? ‘Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many devils had entered him.’ (A legion in the Roman army comprised some six thousand troops.) ‘Legion’ wasn’t this man’s real name; it represented his demonic oppression. He’d suffered with this oppression so long that perhaps he’d come to accept it as the new norm. Perhaps you’re struggling along a similar vein, naming yourself ‘Fatso’ because you’ve battled weight for so long with no apparent victory in sight. Or you define yourself as a ‘victim’ because you were abused or taken advantage of by others. Maybe you see yourself as a ‘failure’ because you’re divorced, or your kids have gone off the tracks. If so, it’s time to lose the negative labels and start seeing yourself the way God sees you. Jesus set this tormented man free, gave him his right-mind back, and restored him to his family. And He wants to do the same for you! Satan will take you from one extreme to the other. He’ll make you either boastful or bashful; make you think you’re ‘hot stuff’, or convince you that you’re worthless. Don’t buy it! Self-deprecation is often disguised as humility, when in reality it’s a rejection of God’s Word, which assures you that you ‘can do all things through Christ who strengthens [you].’ (Philippians 4:13 NKJV) What others call you doesn’t matter; what you call yourself does! The bottom line is: ‘God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’ (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

Don’t Boast

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‘God was kind! He made me what I am, and His wonderful kindness wasn’t wasted.’ 1 Corinthians 15:10 CEV

If you’ve been blessed with success, read these words from Paul and take them to heart: ‘God was kind! He made me what I am, and His wonderful kindness wasn’t wasted.’ Every good thing you have right now, plus every good thing you’ll enjoy in the future, comes from God. Try never to forget that! You say, ‘Wait a minute, I worked hard for this. Don’t I deserve a little credit?’ Yes, you do; the Bible says, ‘Give honour and respect to all those to whom it is due.’ (Romans 13:7 TLB) But praise by its very nature can be intoxicating. The human body is a remarkable piece of chemistry; pat a man or woman on the back—and their head starts to swell! Someone said ‘Praise is like perfume; if you consume it, it’ll kill you!’ That’s why Paul gives us this timely reminder: ‘What are you so puffed up about? …if all you have is from God, why act as though you are so great?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7 TLB) One day King Nebuchadnezzar’s head got too big for his hat, and he boasted, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built…’ (Daniel 4:30 NLT) But God interrupted his proud moment and stripped him of his kingdom, and he ended up losing his mind and living like a wild beast. Only when he repented and acknowledged that God was the ruler over everything, did God restore his sanity and his kingdom. Corrected, humbled and enlightened, he knelt down and prayed, ‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards Heaven, and my sanity was restored.’ (Daniel 4:34 NIV) Boasting is a form of insanity—don’t do it!

Godly Parents, Godly Children

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‘He will direct his children.’ Genesis 18:19 NIV

Speaking about Abraham, God said, ‘He will direct his children… to keep the way of the Lord.’ Can God say that about you? When you get serious about raising godly children, God puts the focus where it belongs—on you! If you want to see important truths sail right over your children’s heads, try teaching them something you’re not personally committed to. Do you think your children are just being difficult? No, they’re watching you like a hawk! If your actions demonstrate that what you’re teaching them isn’t important to you, it’ll never be important to them either. And can you blame them? If you’re devoted to chasing material things, they will be too. But if you devote yourself to serving the Lord, they’ll be drawn to Him as well. Do you want to enjoy a long, happy life? Pass God’s teaching on to your children, and to their children after them (See Deuteronomy 6:2). Notice, your love for the Lord comes first: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5 NKJV) Surprised? You shouldn’t be. When your lifestyle demonstrates your love for Christ, He’ll attract your children like nothing else on earth. Do your children see you reading the Bible? Do you discuss its truths with them in an engaging way? When behaviours and values come into question, do you lead them to the Scripture for answers? Why is this so important? Because the Bible says, ‘Another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord.’ (Judges 2:10 NKJV) In order to raise godly children you must teach them God’s principles, and practise them yourself.

How Are You Doing? (3)

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‘Come aside by yourselves…and rest a while.’ Mark 6:31 NKJV

There are two kinds of ‘tired’. And the dissimilarity is like the difference between puffy spring rain clouds and the clouds that precede a tornado. One is temporary and normal. It comes from a job well done, and after a period of rest you bounce back. The other is a chronic inner fatigue that accumulates over months, and doesn’t always manifest itself in physical exhaustion. In fact, it’s often masked by frenetic activity and impulsive behaviours such as: (1) You can’t relax over a meal or coffee. (2) You keep checking and rechecking your voice messages and emails. (3) Your bedside table is piled high with publications designed to keep you ‘ahead of the game’. (4) Taking a day off seems impossible. (5) You don’t take breaks and you work every holiday. (6) You can’t sleep. (7) Any free time you have is spent in ‘escapist’ behaviour like eating, drinking, spending and mindlessly watching TV. When we don’t rest, we lose direction. We’re lured away from God by the mistaken belief that determination and effort will allow us to achieve our dreams. So, the truth is: while you’re busy working hard, you can lose your ability to hear the voice of the One who called you initially. Yes, God expects you to work hard, but not by endangering your health, your family or your time with Him. If that’s the shape you’re in right now, Jesus is saying, ‘Come aside…and rest a while.’ If you’re wise and you want to go the distance—you’ll pay attention and do what He says.

How Are You Doing? (2)

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‘Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved.’ Isaiah 30:15 NLT

God said, ‘Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.’ When you’re emotionally and spiritually drained by people’s expectations, it’s easy to grow numb to the full range of human emotions. And while it may seem like a relief to be free from negative emotions, the positive ones also become elusive because you don’t feel much of anything—good or bad. When that happens you’re likely to end up being directed by things like: (1) over-scheduling; (2) poor time management; (3) performance anxiety; (4) having few boundaries; (5) tolerating toxic relationships and bad habits; (6) unresolved grief or pain; (7) wrong goals. So what’s the answer? ‘Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved.’ Instead of pushing on and struggling to keep going, stop and talk to God about what’s happening in your life. Rather than feeling isolated and weighed down by the impossibility of your situation, include Him in the equation by praying: ‘Lord, help me to keep my mind stayed on You. During this time of busyness and stress help me to reorder my priorities according to Your will, to think Your thoughts, and to let the mind of Christ have its rightful authority in my life. Your Word says You’ve ordained peace for me. Because You are my fortress and my deliverer, I will not allow myself to be troubled or afraid. Thank You for keeping my heart and mind at rest through Christ Jesus. Amen.’