Know Your Calling (1)

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‘What is that in your hand?’ Exodus 4:2 NIV

When God called Moses, one of the first questions He asked him was: ‘What is that in your hand?’ Moses was holding his shepherd’s staff—the one he used each day to lead and protect his sheep. But God had a different plan for it—a greater one! He used it to part the Red Sea and lead Israel into the Promised Land. When God asks you, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He wants you to think about your talents, experiences, relationships, education, resources, your mind and your temperament.

‘Signature strengths’ fall into six categories:

(1) Wisdom and knowledge. These include things like curiosity, love of learning, sound judgment and social intelligence.

(2) Courage. This includes perseverance and integrity.

(3) Humanity. The capacity for kindness, and the ability to express mercy.

(4) Justice. The ability to bring about fairness and leadership.

(5) Temperance. Qualities like self-control, prudence and humility.

(6) Transcendence. An appreciation for beauty, the expression of gratitude, the ability to hope and the capacity for joy. We all have the capacity for each of these strengths, but the ones that resonate most deeply within you are your ‘signature strengths’.

Once you identify these you begin to understand your calling. But be careful; the enemy wants to convince you that God can’t use you because of your weaknesses, when in fact the opposite is true. Who can speak to those who are grieving better than those who’ve suffered loss? Chuck Colson was the chief White House lawyer until Watergate. But only when he became a convict was he equipped to begin his ministry, Prison Fellowship. So, know your calling.

Having The Right Attitude

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‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.’ Philippians 2:5 NLT

How many jobs do people lose every day because of poor attitudes? How many are passed over for promotion because of the way they approach their work and the people around them? How many marriages fall apart? It would be impossible to calculate.

No one should ever lose a job, miss a promotion, or destroy a marriage because of a poor attitude. Why? Because a person’s attitude isn’t set; it’s a choice. Chuck Swindoll writes: ‘Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It’s more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I’m convinced that life is 10 per cent what happens to me and 90 per cent how I react to it. And so it is with you… We are in charge of our attitudes.’

Paul writes, ‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.’ He always approached people with love, grace, acceptance, and a heart to serve rather than be served. So if your attitude hasn’t been as good as it could be, make this your starting point.

Pray: ‘Father, give me a Christlike attitude towards everyone I meet.’

Hold On—Help Is On The Way

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‘The hair of his head began to grow again.’ Judges 16:22 NKJV

When we think of Samson we usually think about his failures—the steamy story of him and Delilah. It’s true that Samson lost everything: his hair, his strength, his sight, his position, his family, and his reputation. The mightiest man Israel had ever seen was now in a Philistine dungeon: blinded, humiliated, grinding corn like an ox—a laughing stock. But it’s not over until God says it’s over! At his lowest point Samson cried out to God for mercy, and got it. ‘The hair of his head began to grow again.’ His hair, which was the secret of his strength, was restored. And as a result his greatest moments in ministry were his last ones!

Today he is mentioned with honor in Hebrews chapter eleven, alongside the other heroes of faith (see Hebrews 11:32). God’s promise is: ‘Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.’ (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV) You may be hurting right now, but be patient, help is on the way. You prayed, ‘Lord, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.’ Hold on, God is coming to your aid. He’s coming to deliver you and set you free. He’s going to bring you out, set you free from captivity, and restore you.

In the Old Testament when Job the patriarch was battling boils, bankruptcy and bereavement, he said, ‘All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes.’ (Job 14:14 NKJV) God restored Job and gave him back twice as much as he lost. And He wants to do the same for you. So hold on—help is on the way!

What’s Slowing You Down?

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‘Let us strip off every weight that slows us down.’ Hebrews 12:1 NLT

The Bible says, ‘Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.’ What’s slowing you down, or tripping you up? In life you only get to run once, so run to win. To avoid stumbling and losing your place in the race, don’t look back. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it.

Don’t be anxious about the next lap, just focus on the next step. If you miss that, you may fall and not get up again. Keep going, and before you know it you’ll have more laps behind you than ahead of you. Make every one count.

Many of us carry the weight and worry of burdens. But older and wiser people have come to understand their burdens are of no real importance. We waste our strength extinguishing fires that, if left alone, would burn out on their own. Time is your most valuable resource. Save it, and you’ve increased your assets and decreased your liabilities. Travel light. Ditch the baggage of self-sabotaging habits and pointless fears.

There are enough painful trials in life; why endure the ones you can ‘strip off’? When blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was within reach, he threw off his coat so it wouldn’t trip him up, and ran towards Him. And his faith paid off: ‘Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus.’ (Mark 10:52 NKJV) You’ll never know how successful you can be until you get rid of the things that slow you down and trip you up.

Shalom

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‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Exodus 33:14 NIV

The Hebrew word for peace is ‘shalom’. And apart from God it will always remain a pipe dream, a philosophical fantasy, or a tantalizing fish that is just beyond your bait and hook. Marriages go awry and fall apart because we look to an imperfect mate to give us the perfect peace we’re searching for, and we discover they can’t.

The story’s told of a woman at a cocktail party who was trying her best to look happy. Noticing the gargantuan sparkling rock on her finger, a guest exclaimed, ‘Wow! What a beautiful stone!’ She replied, ‘Thank you. It’s the Callahaune diamond.’ The onlooker said, ‘I wish I had one!’ The woman replied, ‘No, you don’t.’ ‘Why not?’ he asked. ‘Because it comes with the Callahaune curse,’ she replied. ‘The Callahaune curse—what’s that?’ asked the questioner. She sighed and said, ‘Mr Callahaune!’

Perfect peace can only come from a perfect peace-giver, and the only one who meets that qualification is God. Peace isn’t the absence of problems; it’s the presence of God in the midst of your problems. What’s more, nobody ever finds peace by looking for it. Peace isn’t something you find; it finds you when you surrender your life to the One who said, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Note the words ‘My Presence’.

Only God’s presence can bring peace. The assurance of God’s love, God’s help, and God’s presence is what takes the stress out of living. Are you longing for peace today? When you surrender your life to Christ, you’ll ‘experience… peace… far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.’ (Philippians 4:7 TLB)

Trust In God’s Goodness

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‘The Lord is good.’ Nahum 1:7 NIV

The Bible says, ‘When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come… down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us… gods who can lead us.”’ (Exodus 32:1 NLT) Why did Israel make a golden calf? Because they wanted a god you can see. It’s harder to relate to an invisible God, and Moses, His representative, stayed on Mount Sinai so long they felt helpless and abandoned. So they did what we do when we’re scared—resort to the comfort of the familiar.

Mark D. Roberts writes: ‘How often do we find ourselves in a situation like the Israelites? We hear God’s call to something new, and boldly step out in faith. But when we don’t sense His presence and our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, we feel abandoned, scared, and helpless. We grasp for the familiar.’ The Bible says, ‘The Lord is good… He cares for those who trust in Him.’

Nancy Ortberg says: ‘The difficult parts of change are most often where God lives… All the things I glibly say, in change I have to live out… Most of us go kicking and screaming instead of moving into it with an assuredness that not only is God on the other side, but new facets of Him that we haven’t heretofore understood are also there. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a job loss, a move across the country, becoming an empty nester—if we allow ourselves to push through the difficult parts we’ll discover God is there… and He’s entirely, wonderfully, amazingly, good.’

When God closes one door, He opens another—but you must be willing to walk through it.

Forgive—And Set Yourself Free

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‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.’ Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

Years after her harrowing experience in a Nazi concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom was speaking in a church when she found herself standing face-to-face with a man who had been one of the cruelest guards she had ever met in the camps. This man had humiliated and degraded both her and her sister, jeering at them and visually ‘raping’ them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with an outstretched hand, asking, ‘Will you forgive me?’

Corrie said, ‘I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I knew that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, “Jesus, help me!” Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me, and when I did I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arm, and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother,” I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God as intensely as I did in that moment.’

The Bible says, ‘Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.’ (Ephesians 4:32 NAS) Who are you struggling to forgive today? Rise above your feelings and do it! When you do, you will set yourself free and be able to walk in the peace and joy of the Lord.

Today God Is With You

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‘Although they saw Him, they didn’t recognize Him.’ Luke 24:16 GWT

When you face a crisis it’s easy to lose perspective. It happened to two of Christ’s disciples on the Emmaus Road. Discouraged about His death, they were ‘talking with each other about everything that had happened… Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing Him.’ (Luke 24:14–16 NIV) When you take your eyes off Jesus, you start to feel helpless about your situation.

Dr Michael Youssef says: ‘Facing a major crisis, I tend to be the kind of person whose vision becomes blurred. My perceptions are shot. My contemplations are one-sided. I often shut out the very people who can deliver me, just like those two disciples… Their vision was blurred about the person who was walking with them and talking to them. The one whose death they were mourning was alive… but they didn’t realize it because their focus was on the wrong thing.’

But everything changed the minute they recognized Jesus. ‘Within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There…the two…told…how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along…and how they had recognized Him as He was breaking the bread.’ (Luke 24:33–35 NLT) Note the words ‘within the hour’. In an instant they went from fear to courage, pain to joy, and despair to hope. Paul wrote, ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.’ (Ephesians 1:18 NIV) When you stop focusing on the problem and fix your eyes on Jesus, you get 20/20 vision and you’re filled with hope.

‘Precious Blood—Precious You!’

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‘It was the precious blood of Christ.’ 1 Peter 1:19 NLT

The Bible says, ‘God paid a ransom… it was not paid with mere gold or silver… it was the precious blood of Christ.’ (1 Peter 1:18–19 NLT) You must come to a place in your life where you are secure in who you are ‘in Christ’; where you don’t allow your sense of worth to be based on the opinions or actions of others. Stop trying to find your worth in how you look, or in what you do for a living, or in how people treat you. Your worth in God’s eyes is incalculable because Jesus shed His blood for you.

‘Precious blood, precious you!’ Yes, you have faults. Yes, there are things about you that need to be changed, but God is working on you just as He is on everybody else. Don’t let somebody else dump their issues on you. You’re a blood-bought child of God! Don’t allow them to make you feel worthless or useless because they don’t know how to treat you right, or love you as you deserve to be loved. Don’t spend your life trying to win their acceptance or approval. You’ve already been accepted and approved by God, so make sure your validation and sense of worth come from Him.

You’re redeemed by Christ’s blood, covered by Christ’s blood, and accepted through Christ’s blood. And since His blood is ‘precious’, that makes you precious too!

Satan, who’s called ‘the accuser’, would like you to forget that and see yourself only in the light of your flaws and failures. Instead, get up every morning, look in the mirror, and announce, ‘I am precious, because I have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus!’

The Beauty of the Breastplate (3)

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‘Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious.’ 1 Peter 2:7 NKJV

We learn from looking at the breastplate worn by Israel’s high priest that:

(a) we are precious to God; (b) we are close to His heart;

(b) we are close to His heart;

(c) He will never turn His back on us.

You say, ‘If God will never turn His back on us, does that mean we can live any way we please?’ No, and here’s why. As a redeemed child of God, not only are you precious in His eyes, He is also precious in your eyes. So you will value your relationship with Him above all else and protect it from anything that threatens it. Question: When you realize how valuable and precious you are in God’s eyes, does that make you want to go out and sin, or continue living in sin? Of course not! On the contrary, your thoughts will run more along the lines of: ‘This is not how a believer who is precious to the Lord behaves.’ A precious diamond doesn’t belong in the mud, grime, and filth of sin. Its rightful place is close to the heart of God where it sparkles and shines. Knowing your true, righteous, and precious-to-God identity in Christ elevates you above the desire to give in to sin. It makes you want to walk and live as a child of the King. Indeed, holy living is the result of seeing yourself as God sees you—‘in Christ’. Instead of giving in to temptation, you’ll ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus do in this situation?’ Then you’ll draw on His strength and do the right thing. A true understanding of God’s grace doesn’t prevent holiness, it produces it.