Pursue Your Dream

‘Look, this dreamer is coming!… let us… kill him.’
 Genesis 37:19–20 NKJV

When Joseph dreamed big dreams, how did his brothers respond? ‘Let us… kill him.’Sometimes those closest to you will resent your dream the most, yet with God’s help you can still fulfill it. Andrés Segovia was born in southern Spain and began playing the guitar as a child. In those days, it was considered little more than a folk instrument; serious composers and musicians didn’t respect it. But Segovia saw the potential for classical music on the guitar. He began studying the techniques of classical musicians who played the violin and cello. He then applied those techniques to his guitar playing, and developed other methods on his own. He adapted compositions of the old masters such as Bach, and learned to play them on his instrument. In 1909 Segovia made his debut at age sixteen. In 1919 he toured the world and won over the classical music establishment. For the first time composers started writing classical music for the guitar, and a whole new musical genre was born. Over the course of eighty years, Segovia changed people’s perception of the instrument. And like many big dreams, his dream made an impact far beyond what he imagined. It could be argued that his efforts opened the door to the guitar in concert halls and jazz bands, which in turn led to the electronically amplified guitar. Today if you enjoy the music of the Beatles or Eric Clapton, thank Andrés Segovia. If it wasn’t for his dream, much of the music from the twentieth century may have gone in an entirely different direction. Bottom line: when you pursue your dream, there’s no telling how far you’ll go.

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 (3)

‘The Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.’
 Acts 20:23 NIV

About 75 percent of believers now live in developing countries, often in anti-Christian environments. Xu Yonghai is one of them. He worked to see the legalization of house churches in China. The government responded by locking him up for two years in a cell 2.4 meters square in a Beijing prison. There was no bathroom, only a pipe in a corner from which water flowed onto the concrete. ‘My cell was the last stop for prisoners sentenced to die,’ he said. ‘At times there were as many as three other prisoners in the tiny damp room, awaiting their date with the executioner.’ Yonghai survived through prayer, meditation and writing. Using a bar of soap to write on the walls of his cell, he outlined the major points of a book about God. When he was finished, he committed the thoughts to memory, and upon his release he turned his prison notes into a fifty-thousand-word book entitled God the Creator. More often than not, your difficulties and hardships confirm you’re in the will of God rather than out of it! Paul writes: ‘I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me―the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace.’ (Acts 20:23–24 NIV) Note the word grace. No matter how difficult the will of God may be, you can accomplish it by drawing each day on His limitless supply of grace.

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?