Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let's Pray

Lord, I ask You to fill _____________ with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

I pray this in order that ____________may live a life worthy of You Lord and may please You in every way.

That _________ may bear fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of You God.

That ____________ would be strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might.

So that ____________ may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to You Father, who has qualified ____________ to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

For You have rescued ___________ from the dominion of darkness and brought ___________ into the kingdom of the Son You love, in whom ___________ have been redeemed and forgiven!

In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, amen!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wise words : Taken from The pursuit of happyness

"“You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you that you can’t do it. You want something? Go get it. Period.”"

The pursuit of happyness

He who lends to the poor

He who lends to the poor
By Tom Holladay

“Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.”(Proverbs 19:17, Msg)

God cares about the poor. He desires for us to be like him: to develop eyes and heart that have compassion on others. Compassion is simply "wanting to help those in need."

Who are the "poor" in our lives? We don't have to travel far to find those who are living in poverty and are in need of help. I'd encourage you to regularly break out of your "bubble" and join a short-term mission team.

But don't slip into the habit of having compassion only for those who live far away. There are also people we encounter daily who are in desperate need.

What about a grieving friend who has experienced a significant loss?

Or your co-worker who is so spiritually poor they continue to choose the world's way to satisfy their need for God?

Who has God been tugging on your heart about?

All that we have in this moment - our possessions, faith, health, relationships - are gifts from God. This verse reminds us that when we give to those in need we are "lending" back to God what is already his.

And then he rewards us. What a deal!

In God's economy 2 + 2 = more than 4. Remember the story of the widow's mite?

Or the miracle in Mark 6 of the fish and the loaves?

Whatever is offered to God (no matter how small it seems to us), he will multiply it in amazing ways.

Point to ponder: Though we may have little to offer, God can take what we give him and multiply it to bless others.

Verse: “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.” (Proverbs 19:17, Msg)

What will you do about it: Look around and see who needs a touch from you today. Who needs to talk? Who needs a hug? Who needs to hear about Jesus? Let God use you today to bless others.

Prayer: Ask God to multiply your compassion.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Christian Lyric : How great is Our God

The splendor of a King, Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice, All the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light, And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at his voice, And trembles at his voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, How great Is our God

Age to age he stands
And time is in His Hands
Beginning and the End,
Beginning and the End
The Godhead, Three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb,
The Lion and the Lamb

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, all will see
How great, How great Is our God

Name above all names
You are Worthy of all praise
and My heart will sing how great
Is our God

How great is our God, Sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, How great Is our God

How great is our God, Sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, How great Is our God

Radical is as radical does

Radical is as radical does
By Mark Tabb

"Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'" (Matthew 8:21-22, NIV)

When the disciple asked the question that brought this reply he wasn't trying to be cute. "I'll follow you," he said to the teacher, "but first let me go and bury my father." Let the dead bury the dead was all he heard in response, so he left. No sense staying where you aren't wanted.

The teacher was like that. He offended people. To his critics he appeared to go out of his way to question conventional thinking. He was always breaking the rules, doing what people assumed shouldn't be allowed. And he never offered apologies to those who were offended by his message.

"Don't you know you offended the religious leaders with what you said?" his closest friends asked him one day. "Leave them," he replied, "they are blind guides leading their followers into a pit." So much for diplomacy. So much for tact. If you didn't like what he had to say you were cordially invited to leave.

And people did leave, by the droves. They couldn't take his message. The man was a radical. Nothing about him was associated with safety and stability. "I didn't come to bring peace, but conflict. I came to set a man against his family and a brother against a brother." Everyone who came in contact with him faced a choice. They could accept his message and give up their lives to follow him, or they could walk away. Radical. Revolutionary. Dangerous. His life, his words, his demands on those who would be his disciples, all pushed societal norms to the edge.

The question is still the same today, and it’s posed to you: will you accept his message, or walk away?

Point to ponder: Jesus was not safe, tame or diplomatic. He was a radical who changed the world.

Verse: "Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'" (Matthew 8:21, NIV)

What will you do about it: The next time you’re faced with a choice between speaking out for truth or walking away in silent diplomacy, speak out! Let God turn you into a radical.

Prayer: Tell God you’re ready to dig deeper into discipleship, and ask him for both boldness and wisdom.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seven secrets of stress management

Seven secrets of stress management
By Rick Warren

Then Jesus said, ‘Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest.’ There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn't even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31, NLT)

Do you ever feel like your life and schedule is out of control?

You can't eliminate stress, but you can manage it. Jesus Christ experienced enormous stress and pressure, yet it didn't seem to disturb his peace of mind. In spite of opposition, constant demands, and little privacy, his life reflected a calm sense of balance.

What was his secret? A closer look at his lifestyle reveals seven key "stressbusters":

Identification: Know who you are (John 8:12) - Eighteen times Jesus publicly defined himself. There was no doubt in his mind as to who he was. If you’re unsure of your identity, you'll allow others to pressure you into their molds. Trying to be someone you're not causes stress!

Dedication: Know who you want to please (John 5:30) - You can't please everyone. Even God can't! Just about the time you get Crowd A happy, Crowd B will get upset with you. Jesus never let the fear of rejection manipulate him. No one can pressure you without your permission.

Organization: Set clear goals (John 8:14) - Jesus said, "I know where I came from and where I am going." Preparation prevents pressure but procrastination produces it. You work by either priorities or pressures.

Concentration: Focus on one thing at a time (Luke 4:42-44) - You can't chase two rabbits at the same time! Jesus knew how to handle interruptions without being distracted from his primary goal.

Delegation: Don’t try to do everything yourself (Mark 3:14) - We get tense when we feel it all depends on us. Jesus enlisted 12 disciples. Don't allow perfectionism, or the fear that others may do a better job, keep you from involving others in the task.

Meditation: Make a habit of prayer (Mark 1:35) - No matter how busy Jesus got, he found time to get alone to pray everyday. A daily "Quiet Time" is a great stress decompression chamber. Use this time to talk to God about your pressures and problems, evaluate your priorities, and discover the rules for successful living by reading the Bible.

Relaxation: Take time to enjoy life (Mark 6:30-31) - Balance is the key to stress management. Work must be balanced with fun and worship.

Point to ponder: Stress is inevitable – but you can still have peace of mind.

Verse: “Then Jesus said, ‘Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest.’ There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn't even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31, NLT)

What will you do about it: For the next week, concentrate on this list of seven stress-busters. Take one a day, read the corresponding scripture, and start to incorporate those habits into your life.

Prayer: Ask God to strengthen you and teach you to handle the stresses that come your way.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Eager to Do Good

Eager to Do Good
By John Fischer

My neighbor was dying of cancer. He had less than six months to live. What do you do for someone in his situation? What could I possibly give him that would mean anything in light of his terminal state? All I seemed to be able to do was listen to him complain, and when it came to God, he had a lot to complaining to do.

Then I noticed Willie Nelson was doing a concert in my town at a small intimate club. I knew my friend was a big Willie Nelson fan, and it seemed like the perfect thing. I know the Holy Spirit planted the idea in my head but I didn’t act on it in time and the date passed before I had a chance to get tickets. Then, lo and behold, God gave me a second opportunity when Willie returned two months later and my neighbor was still alive. This time I got the tickets immediately and announced we were going. His wife later told me that this concert was such a big deal to him she actually thought he kept himself alive for it. As it turned out, God used the concert to help turn my neighbor back to Christ, spurred on by a gospel set Willie sang that was all about eternity.

1 Peter 3:13 tells us to be eager to do good even when people are hostile towards us or the gospel. It doesn’t say to do good, it specifically says to be eager to do good. That means to always be looking for opportunities to do something nice for someone and when the opportunity presents itself, take it. I almost missed my opportunity with my neighbor. Thank God he brought me another chance.

Be on the lookout for ways you can do something good for others. Doesn’t have to be anything spiritual (what could be spiritual about a Willie Nelson concert?), just something that’s right for the person. Pray: “Father, open my eyes to opportunities to serve those around me in practical and personal ways. Make me in tune with your Spirit so I can hear you when you point something out to me.”

And then take action!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Walking in integrity

Walking in integrity
By Tom Holladay

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9, NIV)

Have you noticed how your stomach turns into knots when you tell a lie?

We are dishonest for a lot of reasons: we fear how we might appear, what others might think, and how it might impact us. But, when it comes right down to it, we usually lie because we think it will make things "better.” We see an advantage in the lie.

But this proverb shows two practical advantages that always come with the truth.

1) Security -- Without integrity we feel like we're walking on Jell-O, never quite sure if it will hold us up or when it will let us down.

But the truth is always rock solid, and that brings us security and peace of mind. When you tell the truth you never have to worry about remembering to whom you told what lie. Just think of how much less complicated life would be!

2) Peace of Mind -- You're going to be found out in the end anyway! So, you may as well tell the truth as soon as possible. Then you’re not always looking over your shoulder.

To paraphrase Rick Warren, "He who lacks integrity in the beginning will eventually be exposed in the end."

There is a tough question in all of this. Is there a lie you’ve been torturing yourself to keep covered? I encourage you to do what may be the bravest thing you've ever done: ask God for the courage and strength to tell the truth.

Point to ponder: Telling the truth brings security and peace of mind.

Verse: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9, NIV)

What will you do about it: Come clean. If you’ve been living a lie, ask God for the courage to start living the truth. Trust him for the outcome and begin living honestly.

Prayer: Ask God to stop you from lying. Ask him to convict you whenever you begin to tell half-truths or outright lies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A safe place to run

A safe place to run
By Tom Holladay

"The Lord is a mighty tower where his people can run for safety."(Proverbs 18:10, CEV)

I'd always heard that the Great Wall of China was an amazing structure. When we visited China to minister to the churches I had an opportunity to see for myself.

It IS amazing! Nothing but walls and gates and towers for as far as the eye can see. Mile after mile after mile of fortification and protection.

Proverbs 18:10 tells us that God is a strong tower! God is our protector! Not mile after mile, but trial after trial. Moment after moment, hour after hour, circumstance after circumstance, surgery after surgery, disappointment after disappointment, God is a strong tower.

He is faithful and trustworthy. If you read through the pages of history recorded in Scripture you see time and time again God's faithful hand in saving his people. Just the very NAME of God emanates strength. It is in his name that we have power, victory, faith, hope and love.

I like that phrase, "The righteous run to it and are safe." (NIV)

Do you run to God to find safety? Often we look instead to things or people to sedate our anxieties.

Today, when you find yourself becoming anxious about the cares of life, run to him.

Don't wait, don't walk, RUN to your Heavenly Father who waits with open arms to give you safety and comfort.

Ready, set, go!

Point to ponder: God is your Protector and your Strong Tower – trial after trial.

Verse: "The Lord is a mighty tower where his people can run for safety." (Proverbs 18:10, CEV)

What will you do about it: The next time you start worrying, don’t run to your friends or some other diversion. Instead, run to God and ask him to help.

Prayer: Thank God that there’s nothing you face without him. Thank him for his love and protection.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Using what God gave you

Using what God gave you
By Rick Warren

Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be.” (Romans 12:4, Msg)

God deserves your best. He shaped you for a purpose, and he expects you to make the most of what you have been given.

Don’t let another day go by. Start finding out and clarifying what God intends for you to be and do.

Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. The best way to discover your gifts and abilities is to experiment with different areas of service.

I could have taken a hundred gifts and ability tests as a young man and would have never discovered that I was gifted at teaching because I had never done it! It was only after I began accepting opportunities to speak that I saw the results, received confirmation from others, and realized, “God has gifted me to do this!”

Consider your heart and your personality. This is simple. Paul advised, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.” (Galatians 6:4, Msg)

Examine your experiences and extract the lessons you have learned. Review your life and think about how it has shaped you.

Moses told the Israelites, “Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him.” (Deut. 11:2, TEV)

Forgotten experiences are worthless; that’s a good reason to keep a spiritual journal.

In heaven we are going to serve God forever. Right now, we can prepare for that eternal service by practicing on earth.

Like athletes preparing for the Olympic, we keep training for that big day: “They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” (1 Cor. 9:25, Msg)

We’re getting ready for eternal responsibilities and rewards.

Point to ponder: The time we’ve been given here on earth is best used to serve God.

Verse: “Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be.” (Romans 12:4, Msg)

What will you do about it: Try serving in a new way. Get involved in a ministry you’ve never been involved with before and see if you’re gifted to serve there.

Prayer: Ask God to show you where to serve, when to serve and how best to serve. Ask him to open up the right doors and give you clear direction about your unique area of ministry.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The anchor of our hope

The anchor of our hope
By Jon Walker

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, NIV)

God tells us in the Book of James that we can count it all joy when we go through trials and tribulations. He isn’t saying we have to be happy when we suffer a loss. Rather, we can have confidence that a just and loving and merciful Father is working everything out for the good of his perfect will – and we can rejoice because God uses moments of crisis to reveal where we have anchored our hope.

Have we anchored our hope in the circumstances that surround us? Or have we anchored our hope on nothing less that Jesus' blood and righteousness?

Several years ago my daughter, Kathryn, died, and my wife and I learned how easy it is - even as Christians - to become angry with God. We'd asked God to save Kathryn, and it seemed he didn’t answer our prayer.

But slowly … very slowly … we began to realize that our perspective was limited, that we'd placed our hope in an answer to prayer that we insisted was best rather than trusting in the character of God to answer the prayer as he saw best (Jer. 29:11).

We'd hung our hopes in the wrong place – until God reminded us that we serve a God of hope, and his hope will not disappoint. That is what we have to cling to no matter our circumstances. If, for a single moment, we think God isn't in control, then we've lost our focus; and we're making judgments without all the facts.

Paul told us that - because we have this tremendous hope inside - we shouldn't grieve our losses like other men. We believe Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe God will resurrect those in Christ who've been taken from us. And we're to encourage one another with these words of hope. After all, if our God is not a God in times of trouble, then he isn't a God at all.

Point to ponder: God is working all things – even the hardest of things – for your good.

Verse: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, NIV)

What will you do about it: Put your hope where it belongs: in Jesus. Don’t hope in circumstances, but in the God who holds your future in his hands.

Prayer: Ask God to pull your eyes from your situation and keep them focused on heaven. Ask him to fill you with hope and faith.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Every move you make

Every move you make
By Tom Holladay

“Mark well that God doesn't miss a move you make; he's aware of every step you take.” (Proverbs 5:21, Msg)

The 21st verse of Proverbs 5 has a chameleon quality to it: the way you see the verse is colored by the circumstances you find yourself in.

The verse is good news to me if I'm where I think God wants me to be; giving me energy to do what God wants me to do.

But for all of us there are times when the words, "He’s aware of every step you take," might make us a bit nervous.

There are times when we think, "Lord, could you look somewhere else right now?" This verse then has the feel of, "He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!"

The truth is – God is always there. He knows everything we've done and everything we're doing and everything we're going to do. On hearing this some feel massive guilt – and spend the rest of their lives trying to escape God's "watchful eye."

Great news today! You don't have to live with that burden!! God is a forgiving and loving God!!!

The fact that he sees everything I do shows me how important my life really is. He does not watch me to condemn me, he watches me to love and strengthen me.

Live your life today with the knowledge that even if no one else notices, God does. Even when no one else understands, God does. Even when no one else cares, God certainly does.

Point to ponder: God is always watching – because he loves you.

Verse: “Mark well that God doesn't miss a move you make; he's aware of every step you take.” (Proverbs 5:21, Msg)

What will you do about it: If you’ve been avoiding “God’s watchful eye” because you’re feeling guilty or ashamed of something, confess that to God right now. Believe that he loves you and forgives you – and move on.

Prayer: Thank God that he loves you so much he can’t take his eyes off you.

If love need a reason.........

Lady : Why do you like me..? Why do you love me?

Man : I can 't tell the reason.. but I really like you..

Lady : You can't even tell me the reason... how can you say you like me? How can you say you love me?
Man : I really don't know the reason, but I can prove that I love you.

Lady :Proof? No! I want you to tell me the reason. My friend's boyfriend can tell her why he loves her but not you!
Man : Ok..ok!!! Erm...

because you are beautiful,
because your voice is sweet,
because you are caring,
because you are loving,
because you are thoughtful,
because of your smile,
because of your every

The lady felt very satisfied with the answer. Unfortunately, a few days later, the Lady met with an accident and became comma. The guy then placed a letter by her side, and here is the content:

Because of your sweet voice that I love you...

Now can you talk? No! Therefore I cannot love you.

Because of your care and concern that I like you..
Now that you cannot show them, therefore I cannot love you.

Because of your smile, because of your every movements that I love you..
Now can you smile? Now can you move? No, therefore I cannot love you...

If love needs a reason, like now,

there is no reason for me to love you anymore.

Does love need a reason? NO! Therefore, I still love you...
And love doesn't need a reason.

"Sometimes the best and the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, cannot be
touched, but can be felt in the heart."

Friday, September 14, 2007

7 UP

1. Wake Up
Decide to have a good day.
"Today is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice & be glad in it" Psalm 118:24.

2. Dress Up
The best way to dress up is to put on a smile. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
"The Lord does not look at the things man look at. Man looks at outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart" 1 Sam 16:7.

3. Shut Up
Say nice things and learn to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.
"He who guards his lips guard his soul." Proverbs 13:3.
"Gossip betrays confidence avoid men who talk too much" Proverbs 20:19.

4. Stand Up
For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.
"Let us not be weary in doing good; for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good ..." Galatians 6:9-10.

5. Look Up
To the Lord.
"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" Philippians 4:13.

6. Reach Up
For something higher.
" . . . press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

7. Lift Up
Your Prayers.
"Do not worry about anything; instead PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING" Philippians 4:6


THE CROSS A young man was at the end of his rope.Seeing no way out he dropped to hisknees in prayer. "Lord,I can't go on," he said. "I havetoo heavy a cross to bear." The Lord replied, "My son, if you can'tbear its weight, just place your crossinside this room. Then open that otherdoor and pick out any cross you wish." The young man was filled with relief."Thank you, Lord," he sighed, and he didwhat he was told. Upon entering the other door, he sawmany other crosses, some so large thetops weren'teven visible. Then he spotted a tinycross leaning against the far wall. "I'd like that one Lord," he whispered. And the Lord replied, "My son, that isthe cross you just brought in." We all have our trials andtribulations, yet sometimes those ofothers seem so much less troubling thanour own. Share this reminder with yourfriends and family of how although timesmay seem to be hard, we have manyblessings to be thankful for.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Christians should be life-long learners

Christians should be life-long learners
By Paul Carlisle

“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. (Matthew 11:29a, Msg)

For years, I struggled to “arrive.” I devoured books and seminars. I was up-to-date on the current thought, recent trends, and the latest authors. Yet none of those pursuits enabled me to graduate from my student status.

As Larry Crabb describes it in his book, The Safest Place on Earth, “… we should expect to grope a bit, to know we’re always wrong about a few things, and to change our minds more than once.”

The truth is that we will never master knowledge. We will never be grown up enough to be considered an expert about life. Instead, God calls us to a lifetime of discipleship.

Discipleship is one of our purposes. And being a life-long learner is not a bad way of living. Instead of seeking to know all about everything, we should seek the One who already knows it all.

God showed me the importance of being teachable through the life of Apollos. We learn in Acts 18 that Apollos was an eloquent speaker and knowledgeable of the Scriptures.

The only problem was that he still needed to be taught. He had many good things going for him, but he was still lacking – he knew only about the baptism of John, not the power of Jesus.

The difficult part? He got his instruction from a couple of tent makers.

If I were Apollos, I would have had a real problem being taught by people that did not seem to be as important or competent as I was. Yet when he was taken aside by Priscilla and Aquilla, he listened humbly.

The results of being teachable were amazing. Verses 27-28 say Apollos “greatly” helped those who had believed, and he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. What a beautiful picture of what can happen if we will but accept the gift of being a perpetual student!

Are you lacking in spiritual knowledge? Take comfort: God invites you to be a life-long learner. There’s no shame in saying, “I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn.”

Point to ponder: You will never stop learning. Life is discipleship.

Verse: “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.” (Matthew 11:29a, Msg)

What will you do about it: If discipleship is one of your purposes, and learning is a life-long pursuit, don’t let today slip away. Pick up your Bible and read a chapter or two. Go to the One with the answers and let him teach you.

Prayer: Tell God you’re ready to surrender your need to know everything. Thank him that he doesn’t expect you to have all the answers.

Life is a test

Life is a test
By Shannon Woodward

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”(1 Chronicles 29:17, NIV)

It’s been a tough week.

Saturday, our goat Jimmy escaped from his barn and ate one of my favorite bushes. 

Sunday, our dog Larry chewed up the cover to one of our Little House in the Prairie DVD collections. Little green bits of season three lay scattered like confetti all over the carpet. All the scotch tape in my junk drawer couldn’t reconstruct the faces of those Ingalls.

And then came Monday morning. Someone left our cat Lucy inside all night. When I emerged from the bedroom she gave me a guilty, I’ve-got-to-get-out-of-here look and swiped a claw across the front door. I lectured her briefly about not sleeping in the house and let her go.

Ten minutes later, while I was busy making breakfast, my husband asked, “What happened to your book?” I walked into the living room and saw him holding my copy of The Purpose-Driven Life. A friend had given me the beautiful, leather-bound copy, and I’d worked hard to keep it pristine. There wasn’t so much as a coffee stain, greasy fingerprint or chocolate smudge on the cover of that book. But now it was covered with cat scratches. And if you squinted just right – with one eye closed just a bit more than the other – those scratches spelled out the words “neener, neener”

“Oh, that is just IT!” All my frustration exploded. “Bushes and DVD covers and books … will it never end? Can nothing we own stay nice? Must everything be destroyed?”

But it’s a funny thing. Right in the middle of my tirade – while I was running my hands over the ruined cover and wondering how to retaliate against my cat – I remembered a single line from chapter five of the very book I was holding: “Life is a test.”

It struck me as so ironic that I had to laugh. Life is a test. God allows altered plans and disappointments and ruined possessions because he wants to see how we’re going to react. He wants to stretch our character and get our attention.

I had a clawed-up book and a chewed-up DVD cover and a naked-branched bush – but I still had my salvation. I still had Jesus. Nothing of true value had been lost.

I failed three tests this week, but in the end I think I won. Because somewhere in the middle of it all, God grabbed my heart again and re-focused my perspective.

Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on our chickens today. It’s probably their turn.

Point to ponder: God allows disappointments to stretch us.

Verse: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17, NIV)

What will you do about it: When disappointments come today – and they will – see them as an opportunity to let go of this world and focus on heaven. Learn to say, “Oh, well.”

Prayer: Ask God to teach you to stop clutching your agenda, your plans and your possessions.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The grace is greater than the fall

The grace is greater than the fall
By Jon Walker

“And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT)

It won’t be long until I celebrate my annual 39th birthday.

As I get older I see life in segments. There’s no longer a rush to do it all – and to do it all now. The good and the bad and everything in between are all just temporary. Maybe that’s what Paul meant when he exhorted us to be content in all circumstances. The goal should be toward that godly contentment, not toward cursing the circumstances.

There were many years when I did curse the circumstances of my life, but that’s because I had my theology wrong. Despite everything I claimed to believe, deep in my heart, I embraced the false notion that there were certain events in my life beyond God’s control and that those events had more power to shape me than God did. That borders on existentialism, certainly not Bible-believing Christianity. Yet, as I meet more and more Christians, I see them embracing the same false belief.

There’s a wonderful song by the musical group Satellite Soul that says, “And if your story doesn’t wind up ending happy after all, there’s a grace that’s there, it’s everywhere, and it’s equal to the fall.”

Frankly, his grace is even greater than the fall. Your story’s not over; and God is more powerful than any event or decision from your past; and his grace is there for it all. That’s a comfortable fact to rest in. Celebrate that knowledge, and live life accordingly.

Point to ponder: God is more powerful than your circumstances, and his forgiveness is bigger than your failure.

Verse: “And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT)

What will you do about it: Stop fretting over past mistakes, stop cursing disappointing circumstances. Accept God’s grace to cover your mistakes and his ability to work all things out for your benefit and his glory.

Prayer: Ask God to make you content and trustful.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Restraining Arm

Restraining Arm
By Shannon Woodward

“He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm. His faithful love endures forever.” (Ps. 136:12, NLT)

I inherited my mother’s arm.

The three of us girls each received unique qualities and character traits from our mother. One sister got her gracefulness. The other inherited her decorating skills. But me? I have her restraining arm.

You know the arm I’m talking about. It’s your right arm – the one that pops out to save your child’s life when you have to brake suddenly. The traffic light turns yellow, or the car in front of you swerves or screeches to a halt. You don’t even think in a situation like that. Your response is automatic: out pops the arm – and, voila! Another life is saved.

My children don’t appreciate the arm.

“You scare me when you do that!’ my 14 year-old son complained one afternoon right after I saved his life.

“Can’t help it,” I responded. “I’m a mom.”

“I’m wearing my seatbelt, you know,” he said.

I glanced at the seatbelt. It did a semi-adequate job, I supposed. But without the added layer of protection afforded by my appendage, who knew what calamity might befall my child?

I didn’t like the arm either, as a child. But now that I’m on the other side of the limb – now that I’m the one actually operating the tool – I understand better what it’s all about.

It’s about loving someone enough that you’ll stop him or her mid-flight. It’s about not wanting to see that loved one go through pain. It’s about protection.

God has a restraining arm, too. And because we’re children, we don’t always appreciate when our Father stops us in our tracks, bars the door, blocks the entrance, or says “no.”

But we should appreciate it. It’s just more proof that he loves and protects his children – whether we’re 4 or 14 or 104.

So the next time you feel that restraining arm of God, don’t complain or argue or pout. Give it a hug instead – and say “thank you.”

Point to ponder: Because your Father loves you and doesn’t want to see you head toward pain or destruction, he will often restrict, restrain or bar you from moving forward.

Verse: He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm. His faithful love endures forever. (Ps. 136:12, NLT)

What will you do about it: The next time a door closes in your face, you find yourself detoured, or you hear a strong “no,” remember that God can and will direct your path for your own good. Instead of resenting his restraining arm, thank him for it.

Prayer: Thank God that he loves you enough to stop you from hurting yourself.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sticking with God's map

Sticking with God's map
By Tom Holladay

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, Msg)

This is one of my favorite passages in the book of Proverbs because it so clearly tells me where the direction that I need for everyday life comes from.

Those words "He will direct your paths" (or, in the translation above, “keep you on track”) are among the most comforting and the most empowering of all the phrases in the Bible.

Most people have a genuine desire to know God's direction. We want to know the path that he wants us to be on.

This verse stands as God's promise that instead of just having to guess at his direction, I can be confident in it. One of the most practical ways that I can trust the Lord instead of my own understanding is to allow the Bible to become the checkpoint for all of my decisions.

I've found again and again that if, when facing an important decision, I'll just pray, "God show me the right way from the truth in the Bible" - he does!

Whenever I do that, it seems that every chapter I read and every teaching or word of advice I hear over the next few days points me in the right direction.

You may be reading this devotional at the very time you are facing an all-important decision. I encourage you to pray this prayer for God's direction, and then to listen.

The answer might not be what you expected – in fact, it probably won't be what you expected! But you will never regret listening for and then trusting in God's direction.

Point to ponder: God wants to lead and direct you – he’s just waiting for you to ask.

Verse: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, Msg)

What will you do about it: The next time you face a decision, include God. Ask him to show you from his Word what you should do. Then open your Bible.

Prayer: Tell God you don’t want to be a lone ranger. Tell him you want to be directed by him, and ask him to make his paths clear.

Balancing your life

Balancing your life
By Rick Warren

"Don't let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance." (2 Peter 3:17, CEV)

Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone.

One of the events in the summer Olympics is the pentathlon. It is composed of five events: pistol shooting, fencing, horseback riding, running, and swimming. The pentathlete's goal is to succeed in all five areas, not just one or two.

Your life is a pentathlon of five purposes, which you must keep in balance. These purposes were practiced by the first Christians in Acts 2, explained by Paul in Ephesians 4, and modeled by Jesus in John 17, but they are summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission of Jesus.

These two statements sum up what this daily devotional is all about - God's five purposes for your life:

1. "Love God with all your heart": You were planned for God's pleasure, so your purpose is to love God through worship.

2. "Love your neighbor as yourself": You were shaped for serving, so your purpose is to show love for others through ministry.

3. "Go and make disciples": You were made for a mission, so your purpose is to share God's message through evangelism.

4. "baptize them into …": You were formed for God's family, so your purpose is to identify with his church through fellowship.

5. "teach them to do all things …": You were created to become like Christ, so your purpose is to grow to maturity through discipleship.

A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will make you a great Christian.

Point to ponder: Balance is critical if you're going to fulfill the five purposes of your life.

Verse: "Don't let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance." (2 Peter 3:17, CEV)

What will you do about it: Take a survey of your life. Are you fulfilling all five of your purposes? What do you need to do to find balance in those five areas?

Prayer: Ask God to balance you. Ask him to shift your priorities and rearrange your life so that you're fulfilling your whole purpose.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What matters most

What matters most
By Rick Warren

“Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love.” (2 John 1:6, NCV)

Life is all about love.

Because God is love, the most important lesson he wants you to learn on earth is how to love. It is in loving that we are most like him, so love is the foundation of every command he has given us: “The whole Law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love others as you love yourself.” (Galatians 5:14, LB)

Learning to love unselfishly is not an easy task. That’s why we’re given a lifetime to learn it.

Of course, God wants us to love everyone, but he is particularly concerned that we learn to love others in his family.

Why does God insist that we give special love and attention to other believers?

Because God wants his family to be known for its love more than anything else. Jesus said our love for each other – not our doctrinal belief – is our greatest witness to the world.

He said, “Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35, LB)

In heaven we will enjoy God’s family forever, but first we have some tough work to do here on earth to prepare ourselves for an eternity of loving. God trains us by giving us “family responsibilities,” and the foremost of these is to practice loving each other.

The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.

Point to ponder: Life is all about love – especially for those in God’s family.

Verse: “Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love.” (2 John 1:6, NCV)

What will you do about it: Practice being loving. Find a way to secretly serve someone in your church today. Don’t tell anyone about it except God.

Prayer: Ask God to help you make relationships your first priority.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Seeing life from God's view

Seeing life from God's view
By Rick Warren

"What is your life?" (James 4:14b, NIV)

How you define life determines your destiny. The way you view life is your life metaphor. It's your description of how life works and what you expect from it.

It influences your life more than you realize and determines your expectations, values, relationships, goals, and priorities.

To fulfill the purposes God has for you, you will have to base your view on the biblical metaphors of life. These are: Life is a test, and life is a trust.

Life is a test - God continually tests people's character, faith, obedience, love, integrity, and loyalty. Character is both developed and revealed, and all of life is a test.

When you understand that life is a test, you realize that every day is important. God wants you to pass the tests of life, so he never allows the tests to be greater than the grace he gives you to handle them.

Life is a trust - We are to be stewards of whatever God gives us. All we enjoy is to be treated as a trust that God has placed in our hands. The more God gives you, the more responsible he expects you to be.

If you treat everything as a trust, God promises three rewards in eternity: affirmation, promotion, and celebration.

If your life metaphor doesn't line up with God's, ask him to give you a new perspective - his.

Point to ponder: Life is a test and a trust.

Verse: "What is your life?" (James 4:14b, NIV)

What will you do about it: No matter what trials or tests face you today, thank God that he is using those things to build your character.

Prayer: Ask God to keep you mindful that every day is significant. Ask him to help you pass each test and be a good steward of what he's entrusted to you.

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