You can start again

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‘Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago.’ Isaiah 43:18 GWT

Although it’s true that we all fail, here’s something worth remembering: you can fail successfully. How? By learning from your failures and growing stronger and wiser through them. Surrendering your future to your past just means you drown in remorse and hopelessness. But if you practice ‘failing forward’, you can experience future success. So acknowledge your failings, see yourself cleansed by the blood of Jesus, let go of your disappointment in yourself, and get up and try again. At one point in Elijah’s life, he got so depressed that he prayed he might die: ‘“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”’ (1 Kings 19:4 NIV) Later when he was strengthened by God’s grace, he emerged from his depression a new man with a new mission in life (see 1 Kings 19:15–16). After he’d denied Christ openly, Peter was forgiven. Despite his weakness, he was restored and became the apostle who would ‘strengthen his fellow apostles’ and build the New Testament Church (see Luke 22:31–32). It’s not a matter of how badly or how often you’ve failed—it’s a matter of what God can make you when you accept His grace, get up again, and allow Him to empower you to do better. Peter is proof that God takes us when we are weak, and speaks and acts through us in ways that bring glory to Him alone! (See 1 Corinthians 1:28.) Will God sometimes correct you? Yes, He’s a good parent, but He won’t discard you. So the word for you today is—you can start again.

Handling those who hurt you

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‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.’ Genesis 50:20 NLT

At seventeen, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. At thirty, Pharaoh made him ruler of Egypt. During those thirteen years, Joseph suffered terribly at the hands of his brothers. Now he held the power of life and death over them. Yet he chose not only to forgive them but to feed them in the time of famine. It’s one of the greatest examples of forgiveness in history. As they stand trembling before him, Joseph says: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children. So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.’ (Genesis 50:20–21 NLT)

Notice four things:

(1) Only God understands people’s hearts, therefore only He is qualified to judge them.

(2) As you become more mature, you’ll be able to see the hand of God at work in some of the situations you’ve been through; you’ll see the ‘good’ in them rather than the evil.

(3) Because you have grown spiritually, you’ll acknowledge that others are capable of growing and changing too.

(4) Because of the favor and blessing that God has given you, you’ll not only speak kindly to your offender but be generous towards them. Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’ (Matthew 5:44 NKJV) Are you willing to do that? Are you at least willing to pray, ‘Lord, make me willing?’

 

Fourteen Questions about Your Assignment

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‘For this reason, I was born.’ John 18:37 NIV

When you know what your God-given assignment in life is, and that God is on your side, you become virtually unstoppable. Will you make mistakes? Of course, but God loves you enough to correct you, redirect you, and get you back on track. ‘How do I go about discovering my assignment?’ you ask.

Here are fourteen helpful questions to ask yourself:

(1) What desires have been living in me most of my life?

(2) What motivates me to work hard and be productive?

(3) What keeps me going forward when I’m worn out?

(4) What makes me refuse to quit when I meet with resistance?

(5) What do I do that doesn’t seem like work?

(6) What do I do that brings a positive response and support from people?

(7) What am I doing or what’s happening in my life when doors seem to open automatically and effortlessly?

(8) What do wise leaders and godly counselors think about my work?

(9) What makes me feel good about being who I am?

(10) What makes my creative juices flow? (11) What am I willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish it? (12) What am I doing that I’d be proud to offer for God’s approval? (13) What would I do without being paid for it if I could afford to? (14) What would I be willing to withstand Satan on, in order to accomplish? Prayerfully consider these fourteen questions, and they will shed light on your God-given assignment in life.

 

Keys To Bible Study (3)

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‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine.’ Matthew 7:24 NIV

Certain products carry a label that says: ‘Warning! This can be hazardous to your health.’ Instead of helping you, certain kinds of Bible study can actually hurt you. The Bible says, ‘Knowledge puffs up.’ (1 Corinthians 8:1 NIV) The Greek word for puffs contains the idea of being inflated, like a hot air balloon. By the time a Pharisee completed his training, he could quote hours and hours of Old Testament law. Yet Jesus said the Pharisees were like beautifully painted gravestones: filled with dead men’s bones. Satan knows the Scriptures so well that he was able to quote them to Jesus in the wilderness temptation. And what is Satan’s chief quality? Pride. It’s the sin that got him thrown out of Heaven. The whole point in studying the Scriptures is to make you more dependent on God and give you the right approach to life.

People mainly read the Scriptures for three reasons:

(1) To find proof texts that support their views.

(2) To find promises that apply to their particular needs.

(3) To discover principles to live by.

If you’re wise you’ll be a member of this third group. Jesus said, ‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ When the storms of life came, the wise man’s house stood firm while the foolish man’s—the one who didn’t practice what he knew—came crashing down. Added knowledge brings added responsibility. ‘Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge and to your knowledge self-control…’ (2 Peter 1:5–6 NIV) So in addition to acquiring knowledge through regular study, plan to apply that knowledge towards self-control.

Why Go To Church?

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‘Christ loved the church.’ Ephesians 5:25 NIV

The story’s told of a mother, who woke her son one Sunday morning and said, ‘Get up—you’re late for church!’

He replied, ‘I don’t want to go. I’ve no friends there, the music’s awful, and the sermons are boring!’

The woman replied, ‘You’ve got to go—you’re the pastor!’

Seriously, why should you go to church? Because ‘Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.’ (Ephesians 5:25–27 NIV)

Pastor and President Emeritus of Taylor University Dr Jay Kesler gives us five reasons for going to church:

(1) It’s the only organization that still deals with issues like salvation, death, judgment, grace, purpose, Heaven and hell.

(2) It adds value and dignity to human life. We live in a secular culture that contributes to our sense of inner worthlessness. The church counteracts this negative message by preaching God’s love and acceptance. (3) It provides a moral and spiritual compass.Society has revised, resisted, and rejected absolutes, embracing relativism, but the church stands on the timeless bedrock of God’s Word. (4) It’s where you find compassion, healing, and community. There—we’re all on par. There—God’s Spirit is working to knit us together as believers, guaranteeing us all ‘access… to the Father.’(Ephesians 2:18 ESV) (5) Unlike other institutions, it has motivated the most lasting, unselfish, essential, courageous endeavors on earth. Things like missions, schools, hospitals, food pantries, rehab centers, and orphanages. Why go to church? Because Jesus loves the church—and so should you.

When Jesus Prayed (3)

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‘He departed to the mountain to pray.’ Mark 6:46 NKJV

Let’s look at another point at which Jesus prayed: when the pressures and expectations of others threatened to derail God’s plan for His life.

The Bible says: ‘While it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for You!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching.’ (Mark 1:35–39 NIV) The lesson here is this: unless you get God’s plan and stick with it, others will try to plan your life for you. Given the success Jesus enjoyed in every town He visited, many preachers would have stayed and built a church and enjoyed the accolades and rewards of their ministry. Not Jesus; He marched to the beat of a different drum.

As you look back on some of your mistakes, you find decisions made in response to pressure instead of prayer. When you’re prayerless, you get careless. God has a plan for your life, and a schedule. To stay in sync with both you must pray regularly. Jesus realized He had only enough time to do what His Father wanted done, and that gave Him the ability to say no to other things. You’ve been called to love people—but please God. And your confidence in prayer comes from knowing you’re operating within His will (see 1 John 3:21–22).

God Knows ‘The Purpose’ Of Your Life

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‘The Lord rewarded me because I did what was right.’ 2 Samuel 22:25 NCV

You can be successful yet still feel empty inside. Solomon’s life proves that. He was the world’s wealthiest man, as well as one of the most famous. Yet amazingly he begins the book of Ecclesiastes with these words: ‘Everything is meaningless.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NLT)

Solomon discovered that a fulfilling life can only be built on two things: relationships and purpose. And the first and foremost relationship you must establish is with God. Once that happens you discover your life’s purpose. And as you start walking in it your joy and fulfilment knows no bounds. Self-help gurus tell us, ‘Look inside yourself and you’ll find the key!’ But how can you uncover the plot for your life by simply examining your life? You’ll have more luck following ‘the yellow brick road’! No, ‘All things are done according to God’s plan and decision; and God chose us to be His own people in union with Christ because of His own purpose, based on what He had decided from the very beginning. Let us, then, who were the first to hope in Christ, praise God’s glory!’ (Ephesians 1:11–12 GNT)

Your life’s purpose has already been determined by the greatest mind and the kindest heart in the universe: the mind and heart of God. You say, ‘But things aren’t working out too well for me right now.’ We all have times like that. But here’s a promise you can stand on: ‘He makes everything work out according to His plan.’ (Ephesians 1:11 NLT) God knows the purpose of your life. Pray and He will reveal it to you.

Be Gentle

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‘I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matthew 11:29 NLT

Jesus said, ‘I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ We’d all be a lot better off if people like Jesus ran the world, because those who aren’t gentle are making a real mess of things! Francis de Sales said, ‘Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing so gentle as real strength.’ Just as you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, people respond more readily to gentleness than aggressiveness. The famous football coach, John Wooden, told the following story: ‘My dad, Joshua Wooden, was a strong man in one sense, but a gentle man. He could lift heavy things men half his age couldn’t, but he would also read poetry to us each night after a day working in the fields raising corn, hay, wheat, tomatoes, and watermelons. We had a team of mules named Jack and Kate on our farm. Kate would often get stubborn and lie down on me when I was ploughing. I couldn’t get her up no matter how roughly I treated her. Dad would see my predicament and walk across the field until he got close enough to say, “Kate.” Then she would get up and start working again. He never touched her in anger. It took me a long time to understand that even a stubborn mule responds to gentleness.’ When the Bible speaks of humility and meekness, it’s not speaking of weakness. Meekness means ‘power under control’. An unbroken horse is useless; an overdose of medicine kills rather than cures; wind out of control destroys everything in its path. Jesus was powerful but He was gentle. And you are called to follow in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21).

Your Quiet Time with God (4)

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‘I have…treasured His words more than daily food.’ Job 23:12 NLT

Your quiet time with God is more than just a good idea, it’s vital to your spiritual survival. It’s also essential to your spiritual growth and maturity. You say, ‘But I go to church every week.’ Can you imagine what would happen if you ate only once a week? The patriarch Job said, ‘I have…treasured His words more than daily food.’ Peter described the Scriptures as nourishing milk (1 Peter 2:2), and the writer to the Hebrews called the Word of God solid food (Hebrews 5:14). Your quiet time is also like a spiritual bath. Jesus said, ‘You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you.’ (John 15:3 NKJV) You shower every day to stay clean and avoid body odours. It’s not easy to be around someone who smells badly, and you run the risk of offending them by telling them so. But if you love them you’ll do it. Paul describes the Christian as: ‘…the aroma of Christ to God.’ (2 Corinthians 2:15 ESV) Here’s the bottom line. Unless you protect your quiet time with God: (1) you’ll be cut off from your source of strength, guidance, and wisdom; (2) your usefulness to God will be limited; (3) you’ll be inconsistent in your Christian life. You say, ‘But I don’t have time!’ You have the same 168 hours each week that everybody else has! And how you spend them is determined by what you think is most important. So if you think being in fellowship with God is important, begin to make time for it.

Your Quiet Time with God (3)

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‘He went out into the mountains to pray, and prayed all night.’ Luke 6:12 TLB

Why do you need a quiet time with God each day? Because Jesus did, and He’s your example: ‘He was up long before daybreak and went…to pray.’ (Mark 1:35 TLB) The truth is, we make time for what we value most, for the people we love most, for our highest priorities, and what we find most rewarding. Notice, Jesus seldom prayed for anybody in public. Why? Because He’d already done His praying before He got there! He made deposits each morning so that He could make withdrawals all day long. And the busier He got, the more He prayed. Did He know something we don’t? Jesus had no difficulty choosing between the crowd’s agenda and His Father’s will. ‘I can do nothing on My own. I judge as God tells Me. Therefore, My judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the One who sent Me.’ (John 5:30 NLT) Why do spiritual leaders sometimes fall? Because they get caught up in the work of the Lord and neglect their relationship with Him. Throughout history, anyone who has been greatly used by God was a person of prayer. Martin Luther said, ‘I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours each day in prayer.’ Ceaseless activity will drain you and leave you vulnerable to Satan’s attack. The sign on a church bulletin board says it all: ‘Seven prayerless days make one weak Christian.’ So the busier you become, the more time you need to spend with God. Simply stated: if you’re too busy to have a quiet time with God, you’re too busy!