Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Let Your Life Begin Again

Behold, now is the day of salvation. – 2 Corinthians 6:2

Did you know that Jesus has unlocked the prison doors of guilt that have kept you captive? It doesn't matter who you are or what you've been. I don't care if you've been a prostitute, a murderer, a thief, a drug dealer, or a churchgoer who's never made Jesus Christ Lord of your life. The Bible says that today is the day of salvation.

A new life is only a prayer away.

Gloria and I discovered that for ourselves more than 25 years ago. Actually, it was Gloria who took the first step. She found out that the Bible said that not even a sparrow falls without God's knowledge. "Well," she thought, "if God knows and cares when the sparrows fall, He must know what terrible shape my life is in right now. And if He cares, maybe He can do something with it."

Gloria didn't know anything about the Bible. She didn't even know for sure that God would let her start over. But when she told Him she wanted Him to take over her life, something supernatural happened on the inside of her. She was born again.

"But what about my past?" you may say. "I feel so guilty about it!"

When you've been born again and made a new creature in Christ--that past doesn't belong to you anymore. And it would be ridiculous to walk around feeling guilty about someone else's past, wouldn't it?

What would you think if I took a little baby on my lap, a pretty little thing just a few months old, and said, "Oh, isn't she precious? But just think about her past."

You'd think I was crazy! "What past?" you'd say. "She doesn't have any past!"

Well, it's the same way with you once you've been born again. You don't have any past. Your life begins again the day you make Jesus Lord of your life. Then, when Satan comes around trying to remind you of what a worm you were before, just tell him he's knocking on the wrong door.

You've been kicked around long enough. There's no need to wait any longer. The prison door is open. Walk through to Jesus and let your life begin again today.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:29-33:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Care for those Jesus cares about

The Lord replied, "Don't say, 'I'm too young,' for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you." Jeremiah 1:7 (NLT)

"Maybe you've been waiting for some supernatural feeling or experience, but God has already stated his call for you. The Great Commission is your commission, and doing your part is the secret to living a life of significance."

Whether it was Sarah claiming she was too old to be used by God or Jeremiah claiming he was too young, God rejected their excuses. "Don't say that," the Lord replied, "for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don't be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you." (Jeremiah 1:7-8 NLT)

Maybe you've believed that you needed a special "call" from God, and you've been waiting for some supernatural feeling or experience, but God has already stated his call for you. He doesn't want to use just some of his people; he wants to use all of his people. We're all called to be on-mission for God. He wants his whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.

If you want to be like Jesus, you must care about what he cares about most; you must have a heart for the whole world! You can't be satisfied with just your family and friends coming to Christ. There are over six billion people on earth, and Jesus wants all his lost children found.
The Great Commission is your commission, and doing your part is the secret to living a life of significance. Jesus said, "Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live." (Mark 8:35 LB)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dead end? Expect God to act

"What do you mean, 'If I can'?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes" (Mark 9:23 NLT).

"God can even turn a crucifixion into resurrection, and that means he has the power to transform your dead ends into deliverance."

God will build your faith by planting a dream within you. But that dream will require a decision of faith, and then God will stretch your faith as you face delays, difficulties, and dead ends.

It is then that God comes in and delivers. God does a miracle. God provides a solution. For instance:

* In Moses' case, God parts the Red Sea.
* In Abraham's case, he and Sarah miraculously conceive a child.
* In Joseph's case, all of a sudden his dream comes true and he finds himself no longer imprisoned in a dungeon; instead, he is the second in command in Egypt.

And Jesus was resurrected! God can even turn a crucifixion into resurrection, and that means he has the power to transform your dead ends into deliverance. He builds your faith through delays, difficulties, and dead ends, so that when he delivers you—God gets all the credit!

When faced with a dead end, the best response is to expect God to act. What are you expecting God to do in your life? Jesus says, "According to your faith will it be done to you" (Matthew 9:29 NIV).

When you wait for deliverance, then God gets the credit. And you can look back to see how God led you through a path of faith, expanding and increasing your trust of him with every step. Your faith is stronger and now you can say with confidence: "I am expecting the Lord to rescue me again, so that once again I will see his goodness to me . . ." (Psalm 27:13 LB).

All Things Are Possible

"What is impossible with men is possible with God" (Luke 18:27).

Today's Word from Joel and Victoria

Is there a situation in your life today that seems impossible? As a child of the Most High God, you are not limited by what you see. You are not limited by your circumstances, the economy, or what others say because with God all things are possible! It doesn't matter how it may look in the natural, when you see things through your eyes of faith, you will see new possibilities. You will see the answer that is on its way! It all starts by having a grateful attitude: an attitude of faith and expectancy. When you declare the promises of God over your life and meditate on His Word, it activates faith in your heart. Faith draws the good things of God into your life. When you wake up every morning, declare that with God all things are possible. Declare that you are blessed and you cannot be cursed. Declare that you are above only and not beneath. Expect God's favor and blessing in your life every day. As you do, you will see Him move on your behalf, and you'll see new levels of possibility in every area of your life!

A Prayer for Today

Father in heaven, thank You for making a way where there seems to be no way. I choose an attitude of faith and expectancy today. Work in my heart and life that I may be a living testimony of Your goodness to those around me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thriving Every Day

"...I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows" (John 10:10 AMP).

Today's Word from Joel and Victoria

God doesn't want you to live with a "barely-get-by" attitude. He has new seasons of increase in front of you. He wants you to thrive, to live an abundant, overflowing life. Sometimes when things seem difficult, it's easy to slip into a "survival mode." When times get tough, it's tempting to just hunker down and settle where you are. If you're not careful, you'll develop a survival mentality that will keep you from growing and releasing your faith. You'll be happy just to "break even." But as God's children, we're not supposed to just break even; we're supposed to break through to a new level! We're supposed to believe for more of God's favor, increase, and promotion no matter what is happening in the world around us. Make up your mind today that no matter how difficult things seem, you are going to thrive every day! Take hold of God's promises and declare that you are rising higher. As you continue to expect His favor and increase, you'll see His hand of blessing in your life, and you will thrive and live in victory all the days of your life.

A Prayer for Today

Father in heaven, thank You for giving me life. I choose today to agree with Your Word which says I can thrive and enjoy my life to the full. Help me see Your hand at work more and more each day. I bless You and give You praise. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

God pushes you toward a deeper faith

"This means tremendous joy to you, I know, even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold . . ." (1 Peter 1:6-7 PH).

"When we finally come to a place where the difficulties become so bad, where we've reached our limit, where we've tried everything and exhausted all our options, it is then that God begins a mighty work through us."

In order to build your faith, God will give you a dream; then he'll urge you to make a decision; but then he'll allow a delay, because in the delay he matures you and prepares you for what is to come.

The truth is you'll have difficulties while God delays. This isn't because he doesn't care about you or that he's forgotten your circumstances; rather, it's one of the ways he pushes you toward the deep end of faith.

As God delays, you'll face two types of difficulties: Circumstances and Critics. This is a natural part of life. God designed it this way because he knows we grow stronger when facing adversity and opposition.

When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the desert toward the Promised Land, he had one problem after another. First there was no water. Then there was no food. Then there were a bunch of complainers. Then there were poisonous snakes. Moses was doing what God wanted him to do, but he still had problems.

David was anointed king, and then for the next several years he was hunted down by Saul. Joseph had a dream of becoming a ruler, yet he was sold into slavery and thrown into prison on a false charge where he languished, forgotten. Imagine the difficulties Noah had building a floating zoo!

The Bible says that when Moses died, Joshua was appointed the new leader. Moses led the people across the desert and then Joshua led them into the Promised Land. Did he get the easy part? The Bible says that when the Israelites entered the Promised Land there were giants in the land. Even in the Promised Land there were problems!

God does this because he is building our faith and character. When we finally come to a place where the difficulties become so bad, where we've reached our limit, where we've tried everything and exhausted all our options, it is then that God begins a mighty work through us: ". . . I know, even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable, than gold . . . ." (1 Peter 1:6-7 PH)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Place of Blessing

“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there” (I Kings 17:2-4).

As a child of the Most High God, your steps are ordered by Him. He has a specific place of blessing prepared for you. When you live a life of obedience to the Word of God, He promises to supply every one of your needs. Just as God directed Elijah to his place of blessing, God is directing you, too. He’s aligning the right opportunities for you and causing the right people to come along your path to help you get ahead. He’s constantly working behind the scenes on your behalf. But you have to do your part to keep your heart open by following His Word and keeping an attitude of faith and expectancy. A major key to keeping your heart in the right place is choosing peace and unity. The Bible says that when we live in unity, there He has commanded the blessing. And when your heart is in the place of blessing, the rest of your life will be in the place of blessing, too!

A Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, I come to You with a grateful heart. Thank You for leading me and directing my steps. Help me to see others the way You see them so I can honor You and live in unity all the days of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Declare Your Freedom

"You have been set free from sin..." (Romans 6:18).

Today we celebrate Independence Day in America. July 4, 1776 was the day America declared independence from Britain, but the battle for freedom went on until 1783—seven years later. Even though they declared their freedom in 1776, they had to stand and fight for many years before the British would accept and recognize the United States of America. In the same way, we have to be determined to stand against the opposing forces in our lives. We have to declare our freedom from addiction, poverty, sickness and lack. We have to stand and fight until we fully experience that freedom and peace that God has promised. I love what the early colonists did once they signed the Declaration of Independence. They read it out loud in public. They published it in the newspaper. They spread the word. They continued to declare and celebrate even though they were in the midst of the battle. Whatever battle you may be facing today, declare that you are free. Declare that you are an overcomer. Celebrate the victory that is on its way! As you stand strong and declare your freedom, you will experience His victory and you will live in true freedom all the days of your life!

A Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank You for setting me free in every area of my life. I declare today that nothing can hold me back. I declare that I am free from sickness, poverty, lack and addiction. I declare that You have set me free and thank You for freedom in every area of my life. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

God's Spirit Is Working in You

God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

"You cannot reproduce the character of Jesus on your own strength. New Year's resolutions, willpower, and best intentions are not enough. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to make the changes God wants to make in our lives."

It is the Holy Spirit's job to produce Christlike character in you.

The Bible says, "As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more." (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT) This process of changing us to be more like Jesus is called sanctification.

You cannot reproduce the character of Jesus on your own strength. New Year's resolutions, willpower, and best intentions are not enough. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to make the changes God wants to make in our lives. The Bible says, "God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him." (Philippians 2:13 NLT)

Mention the "power of the Holy Spirit," and many people think of miraculous demonstrations and intense emotions. But most of the time the Holy Spirit's power is released in your life in quiet, unassuming ways that you aren't even aware of or feel. He often nudges us with "a gentle whisper." (1 Kings 19:12 NIV)

Christlikeness is not produced by imitation, but by inhabitation. We allow Christ to live through us. "For this is the secret: Christ lives in you." (Colossians 1:27 NLT)

How does this happen in real life? Through the choices we make. We choose to do the right thing in situations and then trust God's Spirit to give us his power, love, faith, and wisdom to do it. Since God's Spirit lives inside of us, these things are always available for the asking.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cooperating with the Holy Spirit

Let the Spirit change your way of thinking. Ephesians 4:23 (CEV)

"God waits for you to act first. Don't wait to feel powerful or confident. Move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings."

Throughout the Bible we see an important truth illustrated over and over: the Holy Spirit releases his power the moment you take a step of faith.

When Joshua was faced with an impassible barrier, the floodwaters of the Jordan River receded only after the leaders stepped into the rushing current in obedience and faith. Obedience unlocks God's power.

God waits for you to act first. Don't wait to feel powerful or confident. Move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings. This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and it is how your character develops.

The Bible compares spiritual growth to a seed, a building, and a child growing up. Each metaphor requires active participation: seeds must be planted and cultivated, buildings must be built - they don't just appear - and children must eat and exercise to grow.

While effort has nothing to do with your salvation, it has much to do with your spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to "make every effort" in our growth toward becoming like Jesus. (Luke 13:24 NIV; Romans 14:19 NIV; Ephesians 4:3 NIV; 2 Timothy 2:15 NCV; Hebrews 4:11 NIV; Hebrews 12:14 NIV; 2 Peter 3:14 NIV)

You don't just sit around and wait for it to happen.

Paul explains in Ephesians 4:22-24 our three responsibilities in becoming like Christ.

* First, we must choose to let go of old ways of acting. "Everything . . . connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it!" (Ephesians 4:22 MSG)

* Second, we must change the way we think. "Let the Spirit change your way of thinking." (Ephesians 4:23 CEV) The Bible says we are "transformed" by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2) The Greek word for transformed, metamorphosis (used in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18), is used today to describe the amazing change a caterpillar goes through in becoming a butterfly. It is a beautiful picture of what happens to us spiritually when we allow God to direct our thoughts: we are changed from the inside out, we become more beautiful, and we are set free to soar to new heights.

* Third, we must put on the character of Christ by developing new, godly habits. Your character is essentially the sum of your habits; it is how you habitually act. The Bible says, "Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24 NIV)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Molded into Godly Character

Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:24 (NIV)

"Many people assume all that is needed for spiritual growth is Bible study and prayer. But some issues in life will never be changed by Bible study or prayer alone. God uses people. He wants us to grow together."

As I mentioned yesterday, your character is essentially the sum of your habits; it is how you habitually act. The Bible says, "Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24 NIV)

God uses his Word, people, and circumstances to mold us. All three are indispensable for character development. God's Word provides the truth we need to grow, God's people provide the support we need to grow, and circumstances provide the environment to practice Christlikeness.

If you study and apply God's Word, connect regularly with other believers, and learn to trust God in difficult circumstances, I guarantee you will become more like Jesus.

Many people assume all that is needed for spiritual growth is Bible study and prayer. But some issues in life will never be changed by Bible study or prayer alone. God uses people. He usually prefers to work through people rather than perform miracles, so that we will depend on each other for fellowship. He wants us to grow together.

In many religions, the people considered to be the most spiritually mature and holy are those who isolate themselves from others in mountaintop monasteries, uninfected by contact with other people.

But this is a gross misunderstanding. Spiritual maturity is not a solitary, individual pursuit!

You cannot grow to Christlikeness in isolation. You must be around other people and interact with them. You need to be a part of a church and community.

Why? Because true spiritual maturity is all about learning to love like Jesus, and you can't practice being like Jesus without being in relationship with other people.

Remember, it's all about love - loving God and loving others.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Becoming Like Jesus Is a Slow Process

This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. Ephesians 4:13 (CEV)

"You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won't be completed here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns. "

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.

Referring to this process, Paul said, "This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him." (Ephesians 4:13 CEV)

You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won't be completed here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.

At that point, whatever unfinished work on your character is left will be wrapped up. The Bible says that when we are finally able to see Jesus perfectly, we will become perfectly like him: "We can't even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is." (1 John 3:2 NLT)

Much confusion in the Christian life comes from ignoring the simple truth that God is far more interested in building your character than he is anything else. We worry when God seems silent on specific issues such as "What career should I choose?"

The truth is, there are many different careers that could be in God's will for your life. What God cares about most is that whatever you do, you do in a Christlike manner. (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Corinthians 16:14; Colossians 3:17, 23)

God is far more interested in who you are than in what you do. We are human beings, not human doings. God is much more concerned about your character than your career, because you will take your character into eternity, but not your career.

The Bible warns, "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. . . . Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." (Romans 12:2 MSG)

You must make a counterculture decision to focus on becoming more like Jesus. Otherwise, other forces like peers, parents, co-workers, and culture will try to mold you into their image.

Sadly, a quick review of many popular Christian books reveals that many believers have abandoned living for God's great purposes and settled for personal fulfillment and emotional stability. That is narcissism, not discipleship.

Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: he wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility, and our ultimate destiny.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jesus Prays for You

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message . . .” John 17:20 (NIV)

Today’s guest devotional is provided by Jon Walker –

During the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for himself and then he prayed for the disciples. And then, with the hour of his death approaching, he took time to pray for you. He prayed for all those who would believe through the ministry of the disciples, and that means you.

This is what he told God:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:20-24 NIV).

Jesus prays for you still. “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25 NIV).

Jesus wants you with him. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory . . .” (John 17:24 NIV).

Friday, June 18, 2010

David’s Questions

What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? —Psalm 8:4
Bible in a year:
2 Chronicles 15-16; John 12:27-50

An African proverb states, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way.” That concept can be helpful as we consider David’s questions in the Psalms. He was clearly seeking God’s guidance for the way he should go.

Look, for example, at some of the questions he asked:

“O Lord—how long?” (6:3). A question of eagerness to see God’s plan accomplished.

“What is man that You are mindful of him?” (8:4). A question of awe that God even cares about sinful man.

“Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (10:1). A question that reveals a longing for God’s presence.

“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” (15:1). The ultimate question of who may live with God.

David had some tough questions for God. He had discovered what it was like to lose his way when he excluded God and followed his own sinful path. But as he penned the Psalms, he was a man in search of godliness, which meant he probed God’s mind about difficult subjects.

Questions. Like David, you have them. Keep asking. Then, through faith in God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, listen as He leads you in His way.

My mind cries its questions,
My longing heart, joining:
O Father, please hear me!
O Spirit, keep teaching! —Verway
It’s good to have questions, but it’s even better to search for God’s answers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

God Smiles When We Obey

Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him. Genesis 6:22 (NLT)

Noah obeyed completely (no instruction was overlooked) and he obeyed exactly (in the way and time God wanted it done). That is wholeheartedness. It is no wonder God smiled on Noah.

If God asked you to build a giant boat, don't you think you might have a few questions, objections, and reservations? Noah didn't. He obeyed God wholeheartedly. That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation. You don't procrastinate and say, "I'll pray about it." You do it without delay. Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.

God doesn't owe you an explanation or reason for everything he asks you to do. Understanding can wait, but obedience can't. Instant obedience will teach you more about God than a lifetime of Bible discussions. In fact, you will never understand some commands until you obey them first. Obedience unlocks understanding.

Often we try to offer God partial obedience. We want to pick and choose the commands we obey. We make a list of the commands we like and obey those while ignoring the ones we think are unreasonable, difficult, expensive, or unpopular. I'll attend church but I won't tithe. I'll read my Bible but I won't forgive the person who hurt me. Yet partial obedience is disobedience.

Wholehearted obedience is done joyfully with enthusiasm. The Bible says, "Obey him gladly" (Psalm 100:2 LB). This is the attitude of David: "Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I'll wholeheartedly obey" (Psalm 119:33 LB).

James, speaking to Christians, said, "We please God by what we do and not only by what we believe" (James 2:24 CEV). God's Word is clear that you can't earn your salvation. It comes only by grace, not your effort. But as a child of God you can bring pleasure to your heavenly Father through obedience.

Any act of obedience is also an act of worship. Why is obedience so pleasing to God? Because it proves you really love him. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey my commandments" (John 14:15 TEV).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

God Smiles When We Trust

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn't see, and acted on what he was told. . . . As a result, Noah became intimate with God. Hebrews 11:7 (MSG)

Imagine this scene: One day God comes to Noah and says, "I'm disappointed in human beings. In the entire world, no one but you thinks about me. But Noah, when I look at you, I start smiling. I'm pleased with your life, so I'm going to flood the world and start over with you and your family. I want you to build a giant ship that will save you and the animals."

There were three problems that could have caused Noah to doubt:

1. Noah had never seen rain because prior to the flood God irrigated the earth from the ground up (Genesis 2:5-6).
2. Noah lived hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. Even if he could learn to build a ship, how would he get it to water?
3. There was the problem of rounding up all the animals and then caring for them.

But Noah didn't complain or make excuses. He trusted God completely, and that made God smile.

Trusting God completely means having faith that God knows what is best for your life. You expect him to keep his promises, help you with problems, and do the impossible when necessary.

The Bible says, "He takes pleasure in those who honor him, in those who trust in his constant love" (Psalm 147:11 TEV).

It took Noah 120 years to build the ark. I imagine he faced many discouraging days. With no sign of rain year after year, he was probably criticized as a "crazy man who thinks God speaks to him." I imagine Noah's children were often embarrassed by the giant ship being built in their front yard.

Yet Noah kept on trusting God.

In what areas of your life do you need to trust God completely?

Trusting is an act of worship. Just as parents are pleased when children trust them, your faith makes God happy. The Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God Smiles When We Praise

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)

Few things feel better than receiving heartfelt praise and appreciation from someone else. God loves it too. He smiles when we express our adoration and gratitude to him.

Noah's life brought pleasure to God because he lived with a heart of praise and thanksgiving. Noah's first act after surviving the flood was to express his thanks to God by offering a sacrifice (Genesis 8:20).

We praise God for who he is and we thank God for what he has done (Hebrews 13:15; Psalm 116:17). David said, "I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord" (Psalm 69:30-31 NIV).

An amazing thing happens when we offer praise and thanksgiving to God. When we give God enjoyment, our own hearts are filled with joy!

My mother loved to cook for me. Even after I married Kay, when we would visit my parents, Mom prepared incredible home-cooked feasts. One of her great pleasures in life was watching us kids eat and enjoy what she prepared. The more we enjoyed eating it, the more enjoyment it gave her.

But we also enjoyed pleasing Mom by expressing our enjoyment of her meal. It worked both ways. As I would eat the great meal, I would rave about it and praise my mother. I intended not only to enjoy the food but to please my mother. Everyone was happy.

Worship works both ways too. We enjoy what God has done for us, and when we express that enjoyment to God, it brings him joy—but it also increases our joy. The book of Psalms says, "The righteous are glad and rejoice in his presence; they are happy and shout for joy" (Psalm 68:3 TEV).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

God Smiles When We Use Our Abilities

He has shaped each person in turn; now he watches everything we do. Psalm 33:15 (MSG)

After the flood, God gave Noah these simple instructions: ''Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything" (Genesis 9:1, 3 NIV).

God said, "It's time to get on with your life! Do the things I designed humans to do. Make love to your spouse. Have babies. Raise families. Plant crops and eat meals. Be humans! This is what I made you to be!"

You may feel that the only time God is pleased with you is when you're doing "spiritual" activities like reading the Bible, attending church, praying, or sharing your faith. And you may think God is unconcerned about the other parts of your life. Actually, God enjoys watching every detail of your life, whether you are working, playing, resting, or eating. He doesn't miss a single move you make. The Bible tells us, "The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives" (Psalm 37:23 NLT).

Every human activity, except sin, can be done for God's pleasure if you do it with the attitude of praise. You can wash dishes, repair a machine, sell a product, write a computer program, grow a crop, and raise a family for the glory of God. Like a proud parent, God especially enjoys watching you use the talents and abilities he has given you. God intentionally gifted us differently for his enjoyment. He has made some to be athletic and some to be analytical. You may be gifted at mechanics or mathematics or music or a thousand other skills. All of these activities can bring a smile to God's face.

You don't bring glory or pleasure to God by hiding your abilities or by trying to be someone else. You only bring him enjoyment by being you. Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God's wisdom and sovereignty in creating you. God says, "You have no right to argue with your Creator. You are merely a clay pot shaped by a potter. The clay doesn't ask, 'Why did you make me this way?'" (Isaiah 45:9 CEV).

In the film Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell says, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God's pleasure." Later he says, "To give up running would be to hold him in contempt." There are no unspiritual abilities, just misused ones. Start using yours for God's pleasure.

God also gains pleasure in watching you enjoy his creation. He gave you eyes to enjoy beauty, ears to enjoy sounds and music, your nose and taste buds to enjoy smells and tastes, and the nerves under your skin to enjoy touch. Every act of enjoyment becomes an act of worship when you thank God for it. In fact, the Bible says, "God generously gives us everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17 TEV).

Parents do not require their children to be perfect, or even mature, in order to enjoy them. They enjoy them at every stage of development. In the same way, God doesn't wait for you to reach maturity before he starts liking you. He loves and enjoys you at every stage of your spiritual development.

You may have had unpleasable teachers or parents as you were growing up. Please don't assume God feels that way about you. He knows you are incapable of being perfect or sinless (1 John 1:8). The Bible says, "He certainly knows what we are made of. He bears in mind that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14 GW).

What God looks at is the attitude of your heart: Is pleasing him your deepest desire? This was Paul's life goal: "More than anything else, however, we want to please him, whether in our home here or there" (2 Corinthians 5:9 TEV).

When you live in light of eternity, your focus changes from "How much pleasure am I getting out of life?" to "How much pleasure is God getting out of my life?"

God is looking for people like Noah in the 21st century - people willing to live for the pleasure of God. The Bible says, "The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who are wise, who want to please God" (Psalm 14:2 LB).

Will you make pleasing God the goal of your life? There is nothing that God won't do for the person totally absorbed with this goal.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

May God Smile on You

May the Lord smile on you. Numbers 6:25 (NLT)

Since pleasing God is the first purpose of your life, your most important task is to discover how to do that. The Bible says, "Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it" (Ephesians 5:10 MSG).

Fortunately, the Bible gives us a clear example of a life that gives pleasure to God. The man's name was Noah.

In Noah's day, the entire world had become morally bankrupt. Everyone lived for their own pleasure, not God's. God couldn't find anyone on earth interested in pleasing him, so he was grieved and regretted making man. God became so disgusted with the human race that he considered wiping it out.

But there was one man who made God smile. The Bible says, "Noah was a pleasure to the Lord" (Genesis 6:8 LB).

God said, "This guy brings me pleasure. He makes me smile. I'll start over with his family." Because Noah brought pleasure to God, you and I are alive today.

Over the next few days, we will learn from Noah's life the five acts of worship that make God smile.

God smiles when we love him supremely. Noah loved God more than anything else in the world, even when no one else did! The Bible tells us Noah "consistently followed God's will and enjoyed a close relationship with him" (Genesis 6:9 NLT).

This is what God wants most from you: a relationship! It's the most astounding truth in the universe: our Creator wants to fellowship with us. God made you to love you, and he longs for you to love him back. He says, "I don't want your sacrifices - I want your love; I don't want your offerings - I want you to know me" (Hosea 6:6 LB).

Can you sense God's passion for you in this verse? God deeply loves you and desires your love in return. He longs for you to know him and spend time with him. This is why learning to love God and to be loved by him should be the greatest objective of your life.

Nothing else comes close in importance. Jesus called it the greatest commandment. He said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38 NIV).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Barriers to Knowing God's Will

Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:17 (NLT)

"Here's the key: God's will for your life begins with a friendship. "

Every day I talk to people who say, "If there is a God and he allowed me to be born and I'm still alive, what is his plan for me?"

"Why am I here and what am I supposed to be doing? How do I find out God's will for me so I don't waste my life?"

The Bible says this: "So be careful how you live. Don't live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Don't be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do." (Ephesians 5:15-17 TEV)

It's wise to figure out why I was put on earth. It's foolish to go through life without a clue. Fortunately, God doesn't play games with us. He wants us to understand his will for our lives. When we look toward the wrong things, we create barriers to discovering God's will. For instance:

* God's will is not about a feeling. God's plan for your life is not discovered through some emotional sensation. His plan for your life is practical, not mystical.

* God's will is not about a formula. God's will is not some step-by-step procedure that you rigidly follow through life. Life just isn't that simple! You need more than a formula.

Here's the key: God's will for your life begins with a friendship. God is far more interested in having you establish a relationship with him than he is interested in having you follow a set of rules.
First and foremost, God wants you to get to know him, like he already knows you. Once this relationship is established everything else—career, family, goals, recreation, ambitions, finances, health and friendships—will begin to fall into their proper place.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Refuel your love tank

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

"How do you refuel your love tank? You start by letting God love you."

Love can be absolutely exhausting. Don't let anyone fool you. The kind of love that really makes a difference in this world will zap everything out of you.

Sometimes you just don't feel like you have any more love to give. Maybe you're in a people-intensive job - such as teacher, salesman, or waitress - and you come home and think, "I just can't face another need, another problem, or another heartache." So you just shut down.

Or you need to show love to a particular person who is demanding, selfish, and never returns your love. And you just think to yourself, "I'm done. No more."

While that's perfectly natural and perfectly human, it's not the standard of love God calls us to in the Bible. The Bible says, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT) Love NEVER gives up.

How can you have that kind of persistent love for another person? You get refueled.

When my kids were young, I remember taking the family to a nearby air show. It was so impressive to see how they would hook up a tanker to a jet in flight to refuel. I'll never forget that.

But, can you imagine someone flying a jet saying, "I don't need to refuel?" The jet would crash and burn. In a long distance flight, a jet has to refuel.

To give the kind of persistent love that God wants you to give, you have to refuel your love tank. Look around at society, and you'll see it's littered with debris from relationships that have crashed and burned because people didn't refuel their love.

How do you refuel your love tank? You start by letting God love you. "We love because he first loved us." (I John 4:19 NIV) When you're worn out, tired, and can't imagine showing love to anyone else, remember that God loved you so much that he sent his son to die for you.

Now that's real fuel. That's what keeps you going when you want to quit.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It Is............

It's so good to know that you have someone who'll be willing to help you cope up in every frustrations you're having. Every depressing moments, every down moments, every self-worthless-realization moments, he'd be there, not because you want someone to be with you, but because he wants to be with you.

It's great to know when a person appreciates every little thing you do. Even a smile would mean a lot to him, just because you own that smile. And that even if no words are expressed as long as the eyes understand, you'd be able to communicate, just like that.

It's overwhelming when a person tells you that he loves you for who you are. He may not have an answer when you ask him why, but really, he doesn't have to have reasons for loving you.

It's more grateful to know that someone is grateful to have you. We don't choose the people who enter our lives, so it must be luck that you have that person, then you have to be thankful. It may just be coincidence or fate, but whatever the reason is, you have to be thankful in having him the same way he is thankful for having you.

It's a wonderful feeling when you're on the verge of giving up the things you've worked hard for, someone isn't just helping you carry the weight on your shoulders, but he carries it on his own because he'd also be in pain when you are in pain. And then you'll realize, trials would all be worth it as long as you have him, not because he would do things for you, but because you gather all the strength you need, in him and his love.

It's a superb feeling when one is willing to take the risks just so you'll be happy. Unselfishness rule in him just so happiness would take over you.

It's a nice feeling that when you're apart, and days seem to be long, that person misses you. Yes, you might feel bad about not being with each other, but knowing that you feel the same way would drive those blues away, thinking, you'd fight over that feeling because you're looking forward to seeing each other, and that's something to be happy about.

It's a great feeling when he wants to be with you because of the happiness you have when you're together. That even if corny jokes and senseless stories are told, it won't matter as long as you're together.

It's a lovely feeling when someone thinks about your future, with or without him. He cares and he cares enough to think of you and what you'll be someday. But of course, he also wants to be in it someday.

It's a nice feeling when you can be who you really are with that person. No pretentions, no lies, no hypocrisy, because he accepts you for who you are. You can be funny, you can be embarrased, but it won't matter coz it doesn't matter to him. Trust and faith in each other keeps you alive. And it will always do.

It's good to know that you have someone who'll not have the intentions of breaking your heart. Instead, he would be willing to mend it, picking up the broken pieces of your heart that your past love have scattered in the ground. He may not be able to put the pieces back to where they really belong, but you shouldn't mind, because he had repaired that heart of yours, and he fixed it in his own way. He loves you in his own way, not the way your past did. He fixed your heart in a different way, to keep you from feeling the pains of your past heartache and to make you feel, the love, that he's unselfishly giving.

It's a great feeling when that person has every effort to let you feel what he feels for you. Because of the distractions, you may not hear him shout it to the world, but as long as you feel it, his efforts has paid off, big time. And when you feel the same way too... He'd feel as if he's the luckiest person alive.

... when in fact, you're more blessed to have him.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Forgive again?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

Just because someone sins again, doesn't mean you can revoke, in a sense, the forgiveness you've already given. Forgiveness is a choice, so you don't take it back so much as you choose to be offended again.

Peter struggled with this dilemma and thought he was being generous, under Jewish law, when he suggested to Jesus that he should forgive someone up to seven times.

But Jesus emphasized the unlimited generosity of forgiveness by expanding beyond the limits of Peter's capacity to forgive; not seven times, said Jesus, but seventy-seven times.

God's forgiveness is ever-expanding; we can't run beyond its borders; we can't bankrupt the account. In God's refrigerator of grace, the container filled with forgiveness never goes stale and always has a current freshness date.

I'd hate to think my conversion to Christianity is dependent upon being perfect after my conversion instead of being dependent upon God's infinite, indestructible, and immovable grace. If it is dependent upon my perfection, then I fell from the race long ago.

And perhaps you did, too?

There's always a flip side to our conflicts with other people. When we're hesitant to give grace, we forget that we, too, need grace.

Jesus says we will be judged by the standard by which we judge. Is it seven? Seventy-seven? Or, unlimited?

Didn't Jesus say it only had to be seventy-seven? Yes, but he didn't say you couldn't go higher, and he wasn't speaking about his own unlimited capacity to forgive. If each of us only had seventy-seven forgiveness tickets per person per lifetime, then I ran out many, many, many years ago. Thank God that he is faithful to forgive and actively seeking to restore each of us into the family of God.

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