Do you find yourself butting heads with someone? Maybe it’s with your husband, your wife, or your boss. You have a conversation … but it feels more like a tug-of-war. One person says something, then the other … and before you know it both of you feel frustrated. You both want to get your point across … you both want the other to understand … your view … you both want something … and neither one wants to give in to the other … neither one wants to be the one to concede the underlying fight … the underlying battle. However, unless one person chooses to become willing to yield … willing to submit… willing to surrender their need to be right … their need to have the last word … their need to have the final say … the end result will be like locking horns … with no way in sight of how to get untangled. You see, there can’t simultaneously be two heads … it will just lead to chaos, confusion, and catastrophe. That’s why there is usually a chain of command or an order to how things are run. Perhaps this is why the Bible says in Ephesians 5 that we need to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. When we are revering Christ we show that we are respecting His way of doing things … and His way of doing things is always rooted in love … the kind of love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 … love that is not rude or self-seeking but, rather, love that is patient and kind. In any relationship both individuals need to be willing to submit … willing to yield to the other as necessary. This doesn’t make one person better than the other. This doesn’t make one person a doormat and the other person dominant. This makes both people responsible to care enough about the other person that they are willing to show true love … they are willing to let it go when a conversation becomes heated and it is clear it’s better to drop it rather than insist on being the one to be right … the one to win. In reality, the only way to win is to surrender. In that regard you are winning the war against animosity, anger, and anguish … you are winning by showing true love … you are winning by keeping your relationship with the other person intact … knowing that your relationship is worth far more than being right … far more than being the one to dominate. So, how in the world can you do this? How in the world can you find the strength of character to actually submit to one another and show that you are revering Christ’s way of doing things? Only through a personal relationship with Christ Himself. Only by allowing yourself to submit to Him so that His unconditional love will be able to flow through you to other people. You see, we can’t do it on our own … in our own strength and in our own power. Galatians 5:16 lets us know that when we yield our lives to the Holy Spirit we will not gratify the desires of our sinful nature … desires that include selfishness and bickering … desires that may make us feel good but are harmful to ourselves and others. So, the timeless truth for today is this: If you don’t want to butt heads with those you care about, lock horns with Jesus … connect yourself to Him in such a close and personal way that His love flows through you to other people … then you will truly be able to submit yourselves one to another and enjoy peace.
Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Perhaps you didn’t want to get up at all … with all the stress going on in your life right now. It may have seemed much more appealing to just bury yourself underneath the covers and hide from the world … forever. Then, whether you liked it or not, your bladder had other plans … and you were forced to face the day … ready or not. Having taken care of business, you start wandering around the house with a million thoughts in your head … all of them vying for attention … all at the same time. Realizing it would be best to at least try to focus on one thing at a time, you remember some flowers you had seen just beginning to come up on the other side of the house … so you go to look to see what progress had been made. It was then that you saw how the buds had developed into beautiful yellow tulips. It was then that your spirits were lifted … and it was then that you realized you had a choice. You could choose to be thankful. You could choose to be grateful … and, in so doing, you could choose to appreciate the fact that you, in reality, really were blessed (and not just by the appearance of flowers). That one, seemingly inconsequential act of choosing to look for the good in the development of flowers became the start – became the inspiration you needed – to choose to look for the good in other areas of your life. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much effort to see all the obviously bad things all around us in our lives. To actually see the good takes effort … to see the good takes practice … to see the good takes an intentional choice on our part to actually look for it … to actually search for it … even when it may appear (on the surface) to be nowhere around. Philippians 4:8,9 The Message (MSG) tells us, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” So, the timeless truth for today is to LOOK. Look for the good. Look for the beautiful. Look for every opportunity (even in the small things) to see and comprehend all the ways God shows his love towards you … and that (in and of itself) will yield the positive results of you actually becoming genuinely thankful, grateful, and blessed.
When Jesus came to town riding on the colt of a donkey large crowds surrounded him joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. Luke 19:38-40 (NIV) tells us what they were saying and how the Pharisees responded to such an exuberant expression of praise, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” So, in essence, what Jesus was saying was, “don’t rain on my parade,” don’t tell people who are joyfully praising me to be quiet … don’t diminish how they choose to express their heartfelt praise and gratitude for all they are thankful for. In other words, Jesus Himself was giving the “go-ahead” for people to be themselves and to express themselves fully … not holding anything back. In other areas of scripture, the principle remains. Consider Romans 12:11 (NIV) which says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Also, Jeremiah, (the prophet) said in Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV), “But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” In another scripture we read, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV). And again in Acts 1:8 (NIV) we read, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So, since 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NIV) tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” I believe all of scripture applies to us today as well (that is, all of the principles that were taught can be principles we can use and practice in our lives today as well). So, the timeless truth for today is to not allow anyone to “rain on your parade.” That means, if you, from a humble heart of gratitude, wish to praise the Lord in an exuberant way as His followers did in the past, feel free. Don’t let anyone stop you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18-20 The Message (MSG) even tells us, “Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master.” As Easter approaches, and with it a special opportunity to give thanks to God for all He has done through giving us Jesus to be our Savior and King, I invite you to fully express yourself from your heart and soul … holding nothing back … for everything God gave to His early church and His early followers He makes available to us today as well … remember, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever; God doesn’t show favoritism; God’s gifts are irrevocable; His gifts are for us and our children and our children’s children. Since God knew His disciples (past, present, and future) would need power to be His witnesses (wherever they went), He provided the baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Acts chapter 2). Now, we have the opportunity to trust and believe His provision is for us today as well (after all, we never cease needing His power to live out our lives for Him and He knows that). That being said, I invite you to pray and ask God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit from a humble and grateful heart … and then, by God’s power and through a gentle and loving attitude, be courageous enough to not let anyone rain on your parade as you worship God with all your heart, in spirit and in truth.
Imagine witnessing a crime so horrific it leaves you running to the authorities in a panic, desperate for their protection. You know, deep down, that if the truth comes to light about what really happened and who was really involved the perpetrator would blame you … and you alone for being the one who ratted on them. Then, without a shadow of a doubt, you know you would be their next target. In order to escape that scenario from becoming a reality you take refuge in a witness protection program. You choose to listen to the people who tell you that you will be safe … as soon as you move out of the area, change your name, change your habits … change your very identity. Because of fear, you listen to them and you do as they say … and you gain the illusion that you are safe (at least from the original perpetrator). However, you find that you have a hard time letting go of the fear. Wherever you turn, you find yourself suspicious … and you ask yourself, “Can these people really be trusted? If I let my guard down and show them who I really am … on the inside (as well as the outside) … can I trust that they would really accept me for me?” And so you hold people at arms length … wary of gaining meaningful true friendships with people … always afraid of what they’ll think … if only they knew … Perhaps you aren’t in the witness protection program yourself but you can still relate. You can still identify with the fear of being accepted … if only the people around you knew the real you … on the inside … the part of you that you’ve been reluctant to share … because of allowing that fear to cripple you. Proverbs 29:25 The Message (MSG) declares, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” So, the timeless truth for today is that we need to run to our authority whenever we feel afraid … we need to run to God. We need to receive safety from other’s opinions of us (real or imagined) by resting in God’s opinion of us. We need to remind ourselves that God accepts us, approves of us, and loves us unconditionally … no matter what we look like (on the inside or on the outside). As we trust in God (who gave us the ability to have a personal relationship with Jesus … the only one who could ever make us holy, acceptable, and pleasing to God through His death on the cross) we can have confidence. We can come into agreement with God rather than with the opinions of man (or even with any negative opinion of ourselves). Because God accepts us (flaws and all) we can accept ourselves … and learn to open ourselves up around other people by making the choice to just be ourselves … by making the choice to allow others to get to know who we really are (flaws and all). We can have confidence in who we are, personally … a unique creation created by the Creator of all. When we allow ourselves to be who we really are rooted and grounded with our true identity being “in Christ” as God’s child since we’ve received His gift of salvation, we will actually be allowing others to see not only who we really are, but also who Christ really is, in us.
Are you frustrated? Do you feel like everything is coming against you all at once? Do you feel helpless to change your situation? Do you have faith to believe there are things going on behind-the-scenes that you can’t see? Things having to do with the unseen war between good and evil; between light and darkness? If so, as a child of God, you can have confidence that you don’t have to fight the battle alone. You have the God of Angel Armies on your side … and you can trust that He will fight for you! Want an example? Consider 2 Kings 6:14-17 (ICB), “Then the king sent horses, chariots and a large army to Dothan. They arrived at night and surrounded the city. The servant of Elisha got up early. When he went out, he saw an army with horses and chariots all around the city. The servant said to Elisha, “Oh, my master, what can we do?” Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid. The army that fights for us is larger than the one against us.” Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, open my servant’s eyes. Let him see.” The Lord opened the eyes of the young man. And he saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” So, who was leading the horses and chariots? Bible scholars believe it was angels … angels directed by God ready to protect Elisha and his servant. Through faith and through the power of Elisha’s prayer, the servant was able to see not only physically what was surrounding him (the earthly army), but also spiritually what was surrounding him (the angelic army). And, since the angelic army was being directed by God (the Creator and Master of the Universe), the servant had every reason to be confident that the earthly army was no match for God’s angelic army … especially since the Creator is always greater than the creation. 1 John 4:4 (ICB) puts it another way: “My dear children, you belong to God … God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world.” So, with that in mind, the timeless truth to remember today is this: no matter what you are facing, if you are God’s child than you can have confidence to trust and believe it will all work out according to God’s plan … everything will be okay because God is in control … sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning! So, take heart, it’s not over until it’s over! Pray and ask God to open your eyes today so that you, too, may see for yourself (through faith believing) that there really are more on your side than you could ever imagine; God is fighting for you, pushing back the darkness! Believe it, then see it!
Have you ever looked directly into the sun? Knowing it was a bad idea perhaps you looked away quickly only to see spots before your eyes from where the brightness temporarily blinded you. Trying to get your bearings, you blinked several times, shook your head and tried to refocus so you could see clearly again. It probably only took a minute, but in that time, if you had stopped to think about it, it wasn’t any fun to be blind. Not being able to see – even temporarily – is a challenge to say the least. The people who have to deal with it everyday may learn to cope with it – because they have to – but I’m sure they wouldn’t wish it on anyone. In our everyday lives, we often have blind spots (areas in our lives that we are blind to). Perhaps we have had others try to tell us about issues that we need to deal with so we can overcome them and live a more balanced life. Perhaps others have even repeatedly pointed out things in our lives that really and truly needed to be worked on so everyone involved would get along better and be more productive. Or perhaps no one has said anything because they are afraid – afraid the other person would only take it the wrong way and lash out at them in anger (thinking the person speaking was only trying to control them when, in reality, they really did have only the best of intentions to help). So, the question today is, do you have blind spots in your life? (Or do you know someone who does?) If so, what is something that can be done to help the person involved “see the light”? Consider these verses found in Ephesians 4:15,16 (NIV), “ … speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” So, did you catch that? Love … that is the answer. Speaking the truth in love to someone who has a blind spot will help them to grow and mature. It is beneficial to everyone involved. As each person does their part – one person humbly and lovingly talking, encouraging, and being honest with the person who has a blind spot (in a sincere effort to “build up” the other person so they can grow and mature and have a better, more positive life) – and the other person humbly and lovingly receiving the first person’s words of wisdom (being open to change and open to instruction) … when that happens, it’s a win-win for all involved – everyone grows and matures in the process. So, today, remember the timeless truth of speaking in love … there’s nothing like it to shine light on the blind spots of someone’s life!
Have you ever been driving on a snowy, slippery back road out in the middle of nowhere when … all of a sudden … you felt the tires start to slide? Then, before you knew it, your whole vehicle started to head in a direction you weren’t planning on … right into the ditch. At the same time … at that precise moment … you realized you were out of control. You knew that, no matter what you did to try and steer away from danger, it would be pointless. The best you could hope for was to send up a prayer heavenward saying, “Jesus take the wheel,” realizing only He could protect you and only He could get you out of the mess you found yourself in. Spiritually speaking, we have a choice when we realize that we are out of control, but God is not. We can either be frustrated or we can be flexible … letting the Holy Spirit bend us towards God’s perfect will; towards His perfect plan (and towards His perfect peace). You see, God is in control. Everything happens “according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (as Ephesians 1:11 NIV tells us). We may think we are in control … we may do our best to plan, prepare, and figure things out on our own (using our own understanding oftentimes). However, the reality is only God is sovereign, only God is really in control. So, today, if you find yourself realizing you’re in a situation in which you have no control I have good news for you. Being out of control but trusting the One who is in control is the safest place you can be. When we entrust our hopes, dreams, plans … our very lives to the Master of the Universe; to the King of Kings; to the Lord of Heaven and Earth; to our faithful Father and best Friend … we can trust and believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (as Romans 8:28 NIV tells us). Therefore, be encouraged – God isn’t done yet! The best is yet to come!
Do you want to trust in someone but fear being put to shame? Do you avoid putting yourself out there for all to see because you’re worried you’ll be embarrassed? Do you dread others finding out your secret hopes and dreams since you’re afraid of what they’ll think if none of them come to pass? If so, you’re not alone. Probably everyone in this world has undergone these same feelings; these same emotions. When we feel like we need to step out and take a risk, worry and anxiety are right there beside us trying to stop us from moving forward. They are right there to tell us all kinds of lies that would stop us and cause us to doubt what we really should be doing … if we listen. Problem is, those voices in our head tend to be a lot louder than the whispers of assurance we would hear if only we would choose to listen to them instead. Consider this “whisper” found in Psalm 22:4-5 (NIV) : “In You our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were saved; in You they trusted and were not put to shame.” The truth is, God is faithful. God is loving and kind. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When we look at how God interacted with the people in the Bible, with the people we know today, and even with our own personal relationship history with Him we can see proof for ourselves that God’s character has always been consistently trustworthy. No, we (and others) may not have always gotten what we wanted the way (and timing) we wanted it but that’s because God always knows, wants, and does what is ultimately best for us (and others). His ways are always higher and greater than anything we could ever come up with on our own. When we don’t get what we want when we want it (right that minute) it’s usually because God wants something even better for us … something that we would receive if only we would choose to be patient and would choose to trust in Him and His ways (and in His timing) believing that we will not be put to shame as His Word declares. So, today, the timeless truth to remember is that we need to intently listen to the “whispers” of God’s Word and God’s Spirit that speaks to our soul (and choose to ignore all the loudly spoken lies). We need to trust and believe His voice that would never lead us astray. We need to trust His voice that would only lead us into the good plans and purposes that He has for us. As we follow His leading we can be assured that when we are faithful to obey, He is faithful to bless (not shame us).
Did you ever have to wait for something that you wanted really, really bad? Did you get impatient, frustrated (and maybe even a little irritated to be honest)? Did you have such a great anticipation leading up to actually receiving what you had hoped for that you almost literally got sick over it? Well, if so, you’re not alone. Every kid probably goes through the same thing every Christmas Eve … and the anticipation of receiving the gifts they’ve hoped (and dreamed for) probably leaves them feeling so excited they have a hard time sleeping and waiting for an “acceptable” time to get up in the morning to finally dig in to their presents! For us, as believers, we too live in anticipation. Whether it be the anticipation of receiving some type of gift or the anticipation of getting an answer to prayer or some other thing we may have been hoping for, we too have to deal with anticipation … and we can have an expectation that everything will work out for the best as we trust in the Lord because, fortunately, our expectation to receive something good isn’t only dependent upon favorable circumstances … it’s dependent upon God and His power. It’s dependent upon the fact that – no matter what the circumstances may appear to be – God is still in control; God is still on the throne and is still working all things out for our good. No matter what things may appear on the surface, there are many other things hidden under the surface in the spiritual realm that God is working together for our good. Because of that, no matter what things may appear to be, we can trust that God’s plan will always prevail – always. Romans 15:13 (NIV) says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” So, the timeless truth for today is that we can hold onto our hope; our anticipation; our expectation … knowing that it comes from God Himself. We can have joy and peace … knowing that God is in control. We can trust in God and in the plans and purposes He has for our lives … because God’s ways are always far better than anything we could ever think, ask, or imagine (just read Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV): “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
When you were a kid, did you ever play the game tug of war? Perhaps you were on the end that pulled that rope across to the winning side and you enjoyed the excitement of having won a victory! Or perhaps you were on the other side … the side that suffered the agony of defeat … only to be taunted by your peers and having to deal with it until the time finally came when you could be the one to overcome and win the war. In any case, you can probably relate to how it feels to be tugged in two different directions. First one side gets pulled one way, then the other until finally one side prevails. In the spiritual realm we (perhaps unknowingly) go through the same thing in the battle that we go through in our minds. We may know God wants us to “move out” in one direction, but our flesh is resistant and wants to go in the other direction. That tug of war that goes on in our minds can be just as brutal as any real-life tug of war on the playing field. The question is, who will win? Isaiah 43:16 (NIV) tells us, “This is what the Lord says – he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Here, scripture is talking about something the Lord did for his people in the past … a time they could look back on and see how faithful he had been to bring them through their trials and challenges … however, it encourages them not to (just) dwell on that but, instead, to look forward – to look ahead to what God was getting ready for them to experience next. God’s people (including us today) need to continually move forward into the plans and purposes he has for our lives. God doesn’t want us to live in yesterday’s victories, he wants us to experience new victories today as he leads and guides us in the choices and decisions we make today. Yes, it is good to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past and how he brought us through all the trials and challenges from the past … but the past is just that … the past. So, the timeless truth for today is to allow Jesus to “pull you” to his side in that tug of war in your mind. Allow him to win, and, in so doing you will be on the winning side … you will gain the victory … for it is only as we come into agreement with God’s plans and purposes for our lives do we truly win … it is only as we continually move forward that we win the battle that brings all honor and glory to the Lord. Remember, as others see how faithful God really is to bring us through (not only in the past, but in the present as well) will others be inspired to trust in him themselves … and that will be where the real victory is won!
Have you ever gone into a room, intending to get something only to forget what you were in there for? Perhaps it had only taken a few seconds, but from the time you had thought of the thing you wanted to get to the time you were in the area to get it, the object seemed to have slipped your mind. What happened? Most likely, you got distracted. On your way – going from here to there – something inadvertently entered your mind that you unknowingly chose to focus on instead, and in the process, you forgot what was originally so important. Frustrated, you probably left the area to go do something else, hoping that whatever it was that had been so important for you to get would come back to your memory so you could remember it because, at the time, you knew it really was something important, something of significance. In our Christian walk, we can get distracted as well. We may be “on our way” to go do something special for the Lord … and, before we know it, that special thing inadvertently slips our mind. We know it was something important, we really do, but for the life of us we can’t remember what it was. Our lives can get so busy … with so many distractions … we oftentimes forget what is really important … what really matters in the long run. The things we see on the surface can distract us to the “unseen” realities of what’s going on behind the scenes in someone’s heart. Only when we make a concentrated effort to be aware and pay attention can we overcome the distractions that would otherwise sideline us from fulfilling our intended purpose. Did you know that distractions are one of Satan’s schemes? He may know that he can’t openly drag you away from whatever it is God has put on your heart to do … that would be too obvious … you would surely notice that and put up a defense. However, if he can distract you … if he can waylay you … if he can get your mind focused on something else … something seemingly more important on the surface … he will surely do whatever he can so that your intended purpose does not get fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV) says, “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” So, today, the timeless truth is that we need to be aware … aware of Satan’s schemes … so that we don’t get waylayed by all the seemingly important distractions he throws into our paths. Only when we are aware and pay attention can we overcome and have the victory in fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives!
Do you like to play cards? Do you like the excitement of being dealt a good hand … a hand you just know you can win with? Do you feel the frustration when it seems there’s nothing in your hand you could possibly use … nothing worth anything? If so, you can relate. In life, sometimes it seems like we’ve been dealt a good hand … everything seems to be going well … everything seems to be going according to plan … everything seems like it has value … like it’s something we can use to navigate the waters as we sail across the ocean of life until we get to the other side. Other times, however, it may seem like we’ve been dealt a bad hand … a hand where nothing seems to have any value … any purpose … where there’s nothing helpful about whatever hardship it is we’re going through … where we really wish things were easier … where we really hope and pray God would deal us new cards to replace the current cards we already have in our hand. In that scenario, if someone were to ask us “deal or no deal” we’d most likely be tempted to say “no deal” (I don’t want to play this game … I don’t want to deal with these issues … I don’t want to work things through … I just want it to be easier … I just want to have a better hand so it doesn’t have to be so hard). Is that the case? Is that how you feel? Do you just wish everything were better? Well, unfortunately, we can’t always have everything we think is best. However, the good news is that God is still in control … and He always desires His best for us. He always knows, wants, and does what is best … according to His version of what truly is best (not our version). And since God is God (the Creator of all things) He definitely knows better than we do (after all, He is the Source of all wisdom, not us). 1 Thessalonians 5:18 The Message (MSG) says, “thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” Therefore, whenever we don’t particularly feel like dealing with the hand we’ve been dealt, we need to remember the importance of making a choice. We, as God’s children, have the ability to choose to take things that come to us (even difficult things) as an opportunity to give thanks. We have an opportunity to learn and grow and change as we go through whatever experience we may need to go through. We may feel like something we’re going through doesn’t have any value whatsoever. However, from God’s perspective, it may have all the value in the world. Remember, God knows what’s coming next … He knows that what we’re going through now has the potential to help us in the future (if we let it)… and all because we went through what we’re going through now (rather than trying to get out of it). So, today, the timeless truth to remember is to choose to give thanks … no matter what you may be going through, no matter what hand you may have been dealt. You can choose to say, “deal” to God’s plan for your life (even if you don’t understand what’s going on) because you know in the bottom of your heart that you can trust God and that He’ll always help you through whatever it is you’re going through. So, don’t try to make everything easier or more perfect just to avoid going through things (that will only cause more problems). Instead, deal with the hand you’ve been dealt by leaning on the grace of God that will give you all you need to overcome and win this hand of life!
Are you the type of person who has to have a plan before venturing out into the unknown? Do you try to figure everything out down to the last detail to avoid any potential problem from occurring and catching you off guard? If so, it may take not only a step of faith but, rather, a leap of faith to go forward into uncharted territory … the area where you don’t know exactly what is going to happen or how things are going to turn out. You may feel like it’s safer to just keep things the way they are … perhaps, even, the way they’ve always been. However, the danger in doing that is that you aren’t really living life to the full, and, in fact, if you never dare to take any risks you are, in reality, in danger of hurting yourself … hurting yourself by not living up to your full potential, not “getting out there” to interact with others God may want you to interact with to share the gospel message, and, actually, in danger of hurting your own spiritual walk with God if you’re not daring to trust Him to lead you and guide you in the way He, alone, knows is best for you. According to dictionary.com “uncharted territory” literally refers to anything that isn’t plotted or planned and is often figuratively used to express a wider unknown. So in both the physical and nonphysical senses, it can mean “not yet mapped, surveyed, or investigated.” Most likely, Abram (later renamed Abraham) felt a little nervous (to say the least) when God directed him to leave his familiar world and travel to an unknown land (an unknown territory, if you will). So, too, with us. If we feel God directing us to “get out of our comfort zone” into the realm of the unknown, we, too, may feel a little nervous (or a lot!) However, it’s always better to face our fears than run and hide from them (think of Jonah and the whale!) We need to trust that – with God on our side – nothing we face is too hard, too difficult, or too unbelievable for us to overcome … as long as it really is God directing our path and not us directing our own path. Proverbs 3:5-8 The Message (MSG) says, “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. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!” So, the timeless truth for today is this – whether you are facing the everyday, mundane events of life or whether you are facing uncharted territory – about to take a leap of faith – in either case, remember that you can trust God in any and every situation. He already knows the end from the beginning. He already knows what’s going to happen next. He has proven Himself faithful time and time again (not only to you, but also to all the people in the Bible who have lived before you). He is absolutely trustworthy, faithful, and true. He will never let you down. And, to top it all off, we have this promise we can hold on to from Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Have you ever heard the words, “Close that door, you weren’t brought up in a barn you know!” If so, most likely it was from a parent wanting to keep the heat in during the dead of winter to save on heating costs. (Actually, that is a good practice … after all, who wants to pay more than necessary for fuel to heat their home?) In the summer, when someone is in a room that’s stuffy, the words you’re more likely to hear are, “Open that door and let the fresh air in!” So, depending upon the circumstances, sometimes it’s good for the door to be open and sometimes it’s good for it to be closed. Spiritually speaking, when God offers us an “open door” that we need to make a decision as to whether or not to “walk” through it, we have the option of either exercising faith or entertaining doubt. If we truly feel like we are being led by the Holy Spirit to go forward into the plans God has for us, hopefully we will choose to keep the door open rather than close it through unbelief. The choice is ours … are we going to open or close the door of our faith? We may feel nervous … we may feel scared … we may even feel fear trying to grip at us when we’re in the process of making a decision of what to do next in the choices we need to make in our lives (even when we believe we’re doing the right thing by going forward through an open door the Lord provides for us). Feelings, however, cannot be trusted. They change depending upon what we are thinking about the most. If we are entertaining doubt, for example, we will be feeling that doubt and we will be feeling that nervousness more so than if we are exercising faith and trust and hope (which would lead to us feeling more confident, more optimistic, and more positive about the situation or circumstance). 2 Timothy 1:7 (ICB) tell us, “God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid. He gave us a spirit of power and love and self-control.” So, the timeless truth for today is this: In order for us to walk in victory over fear, we need to truly believe that fear is not from God, but, rather, from the enemy (Satan). Therefore, we should choose to confidently walk through the open doors God has for us as He leads and guides us in our journey of life … trusting that He will be with us every step of the way. To build up our faith even more we can keep in mind the words of Joshua 1:9 (ICB) that says, “Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. So don’t be afraid. The Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”
When you think of the word “defense” what comes to mind? Perhaps you’re a sports fan and you think of your favorite football team … or perhaps you’re working at a government agency that deals with defending the rights of others. Maybe you’re in an abusive relationship that you’ve been trying to get out of for quite some time and, to you, defending yourself has become a way of life. Whatever the case, there will always – somehow – be a need for defense. With both good and evil in the world, someone, somewhere will always need to be defended against the “bad guys.” Fortunately, for someone who is a Christian, we don’t have to go it alone. We can fully rely on Jesus to be our Defense. Psalm 118:14 (NIV) says, “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Also, Romans 8:31-34 (NIV) tells us, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” So, here we can see that we only need to look to Jesus to help us and defend us in our time of need – in whatever it is we may be going through. Practically speaking, maybe you were talking to someone in your household and you were (innocently) making a request for them to help you with housework. All of a sudden – seemingly out of nowhere – they get all bent out of shape and get irritated at you. Wanting to “defend” yourself against their anger, you start to explain why you need the help. However, you quickly realize they aren’t open to listening to your explanation. Instead of continuing to try to defend yourself, you leave the area and go to a private place to pray. You lift up the situation to the Lord. You ask Him to defend you against the other person taking your request the wrong way. You know in your heart, your attitude was not one of trying to control them, but, rather, was simply a humble request for help. You also remember that (according to Ephesians 6:12 (NIV), “… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”) Because of that, you are aware that it is actually a spiritual battle and it must be fought with spiritual weapons. These “weapons” are listed in Ephesians 6:13-18 (NIV) as we read, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Therefore, when you are in the midst of the battle, you can be praying and asking the Lord to help you and defend you, but you also must be “in agreement” with Him (meaning that you also need to be exercising faith that He will defend you… you also need to be holding up the “shield” of faith so that the other person’s implied accusation doesn’t penetrate your heart, but, rather, is deflected off (since you know that it’s not really the other person you have an issue with, instead, it’s really the “spiritual forces of evil” that are trying to pit you and the other person against each other.) When you let your own “defensiveness” go and give it to the Lord and allow Him to defend you and you remember His faithfulness in the past as well as a way to exercise your faith now, you can expect Him to work it all out for you – on your behalf – as you do your part in trusting and believing in Him and His power to come to your defense. So, the timeless truth for today is to allow the Lord to come to your defense – no matter what you may be facing. All you need to do is take your situation, your issue with someone else, or whatever it may be to Him and trust and believe He will come to your defense!
After a rough week, what do you most likely crave? More stress, more judgment, or more compassion? The answer is obvious – more compassion. After all, what could be better than talking to a friend who understands what you’re going through? Just having the opportunity to share with someone else what’s on your mind (and heart) can lift the heavy burden you may have been carrying. To know someone else cares about you enough to show you compassion can make all the difference in the world. Your circumstances may not have changed – but since you realize there’s someone else out there who can relate to you and who cares enough to actually show it somehow seems to make the struggles of life just a little bit easier to bear. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 (NIV) says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
So, the timeless truth we would do well to remember is that – as children of God – we have something the world needs – compassion – and we would do well to show it to those around us – especially to those who are hurting. Since God has given us comfort (and compassion) when we’ve needed it, we have it available inside our hearts. We only need to let it flow through us and into the lives of others. In so doing, we will be touching other people’s lives with the very love and compassion of God – and that, in and of itself, will make all the difference!
(To read more about God’s love and how He shows it, check out a book I’ve written called “My Journey with God” available here: https://www.amazon.com/My-Journey-God-Ann-Marshall-ebook/dp/B00IKTUFW6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 )
Do you feel dry? Do you feel like you need a drink of something … but whatever you drink it just doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy your thirst? Maybe you’ve tried everything you can think of … everything that makes sense to you … and it’s still not enough. Are you ready? Are you ready to try something new? Are you ready to try something that may not make any sense at all to you, but works? Isaiah 55:1-3; 6-9 (ICB) reads, “The Lord says, “All you who are thirsty, come and drink. Those of you who do not have money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk (symbols of abundance, enjoyment and nourishment). You don’t need money; it will cost you nothing. Why spend your money on something that is not real food? Why work for something that doesn’t really satisfy you? Listen closely to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the food that satisfies your soul. Come to me and listen. Listen to me so you may live … Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So, here we see that when we go to God (rather than to the temporary things of this world), our souls will be satisfied. We will be refreshed as if we had drank gallons and gallons of water that re-hydrated us after we had been dehydrated. We will be “eating” what is good … we will be partaking of God’s goodness and love …we will be enjoying all the qualities of God … qualities he wants to give us like love, joy, and peace … and, in so doing, we will get spiritually “fed” … and our dryness will have turned into streams of refreshment … and that refreshment won’t run out since we can make the choice to continually go to God to get more whenever we need it. In fact, John 4:10–15 (NIV) says, “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Therefore, we can have confidence in the timeless truth that whenever we go to God to be filled up with refreshment, He will never disappoint us … whenever we “drink” from Him we will be satisfied continuously. So, if you’re tired and worn out and feel like you’re too tired even to go to church (or even to watch it online) remember – it doesn’t have to make sense. Make the choice to go anyway (or to watch it online anyway) … and, in so doing, (with an open heart), you can expect God’s streams of refreshing to revive, restore, and renew your tired, worn out soul … and that, in itself, will give you more energy to “get up and go again” than even the most powerful energy drink out there!
Have you had enough? Are you ready for the struggle you’ve been in to be over with … like, yesterday? Do you wish you could see (and truly believe) there really is a light at the end of the tunnel … for you (not just for everyone else, but for you, too)? Well, I’ve got good news … there is! According to God’s Word, there will come an end to our suffering. In fact, 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV) tells us, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” Therefore, we can take comfort that, whatever we may be going through now, it will NOT last forever! There IS coming a time when the suffering will be over and we will be restored and not only restored, but also made strong, firm, and steadfast! No more wishy-washy … no more indecisiveness … no more being controlled by endless doubts and nagging concerns … but STRONG, FIRM, AND STEADFAST! After having suffered for a little while – in whatever trial we may have had to go through and endure – in the end, we will come to see a purpose in it … we will come to see, probably in hindsight, that the suffering actually produced a “harvest” of something good … something that we would not have received if we had not gone through the trial. Maybe you’ve heard the story about the butterfly and how, as it’s breaking free of its cocoon, it’s important for it to struggle, for, without the struggle, it’s wings would never be strong enough to endure the coming days when their purpose is to soar! If someone tried to cut that cocoon to “help” the butterfly, they, in reality, wouldn’t be helping at all. Rather, they would be preventing it from attaining it’s true strength! So, whatever you’re going through today … big or little … just remember these timeless truths … there is a light at the end of the tunnel! There will be a day when your pain gives way to victory! There is a purpose in the suffering! You will be restored and made strong, firm, and steadfast! Then, and only then, will you be fully equipped to soar … and not only to soar, but also to bring God glory!
Do your thoughts tend to run away from you? Do you find yourself thinking about one thing, then another thing comes to mind, then another, then another, then another … and before you know it you’re stressed out and overwhelmed trying to think of everything all at once? Well, the mind is like that … it wants to have a “mind of it’s own” and dictate what you do or do not think about. Fortunately, as children of God, we have power over our minds, over our thoughts … we don’t have to allow them to control us, but, rather, we can “take authority” and “take charge” and actually choose what we are thinking about (or not thinking about). It’s a little known fact … we do have that power. When Jesus died and then rose again, He gave us that power … power over sin, power over negative thinking, power over worry, power over anything that would try to control us. Is it easy? Of course not! But it is possible! Remember, with God all things are possible … including getting a handle on our thoughts. After all, our thoughts determine our actions. Most often, we first think about something before we actually do it. If we’re careful, we will pay attention and choose those things that are beneficial to both us and others. Want more proof that we can actually choose “right” thinking? Philippians 4:8 (NIV) says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Now, if scripture instructs us to do something, we can trust that God will enable us to do it. He won’t ever ask us to do something that He wouldn’t also give us the ability – the power – to do. 2 Peter 1:3 (ICB) tells us, “Jesus has the power of God. His power has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him …” So, the timeless truth for today is that we have the ability – the power – to choose our thoughts. With that knowledge, we can make choices that will help, rather than hinder, our walk with the Lord as well as our relationships with people, and, last but not least, our relationship with ourselves (the things we tell ourselves in our own minds that no one else is aware of). As we do this, we will notice our lives improving. After all, as we focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (all positive things, by the way), we will be focusing our thoughts on things that will build ourselves (and others) up, we will be combating all the negativity in the world, and, most importantly, we will be coming into agreement with what God has to say in his Word … a sure-fire way to be blessed, not stressed!
Do you put off until tomorrow what can, and should, be done today? Do you find yourself dragging your feet whenever there is something you know you need to do that you just don’t want to do? Do you procrastinate? If so, you’re not alone. Everyone has things that they don’t like to do. Perhaps it’s cleaning the bathroom … or the garage … or the junk drawer. Whatever it may be, “tomorrow” seems to always be better. Unfortunately, “tomorrow” can drag on and on and on … until what once may have been a manageable task becomes harder than it originally needed to be. Then, hopefully, we learn our lesson, grit our teeth, get the job done, and resolve to keep up with it so it doesn’t have to be so hard the next time around. Usually, procrastination, if we’re honest, can be overcome. Usually, it just takes a change in our mindset. We can just choose to think differently. We can choose to see something from a different perspective. We can look at it from a different angle. What may have previously seemed like a chore (something undesirable) can turn into a learning experience. Then, once we’ve gained that knowledge, the same task can actually become something we now desire to do. (For example, have you ever thought of cleaning the bathroom as a good cardiovascular workout? Not only does the bathroom get cleaned, but you get in shape in the process!) It’s the same with spiritual matters. Maybe you’ve been procrastinating when it comes to your relationship with God. Maybe you have known for quite some time that you needed to “get right” with Him. Maybe you’ve known in your heart it really was time you got serious about accepting Jesus’ gift of salvation and making a commitment to living your life in a way that the Bible says is pleasing to Him. But maybe you’ve been procrastinating. Maybe you’ve been putting it off, thinking it was a “chore” that you didn’t really want to deal with right now so you’ve kept telling yourself, “tomorrow” I’ll do it … then “tomorrow” never comes. Well, if that’s the case, let me encourage you to rethink your perspective on what it means to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation and live for Him. Perhaps you have the mindset that it’s all about a bunch of rules and regulations that you can never measure up to. Some people really believe that’s true … however, in reality, according to the Bible, there could be nothing further from the truth. The truth is, accepting the gift of salvation Jesus offers is just that … accepting a GIFT. A free gift that you don’t have to earn, you don’t have to work for, you don’t have to deserve. It’s all about receiving what Jesus has already done for you … on your behalf … when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins. You don’t have to “do” anything other than receive it by faith. Then, out of gratitude, you can make the choice to live in a way that’s pleasing to Him (with the help of the Holy Spirit that you also receive when you receive the gift of salvation). So, the timeless truth for today is that none of us should procrastinate when it comes to receiving all that God wants us to have. Salvation, freedom from the controlling power of sin, love, joy, peace, an ever-present help in times of trouble, someone who understands you completely, the hope of heaven … all this and more can be yours once you make a decision to receive Jesus’ gift of salvation. In fact, Hebrews 3:15 (NIV) tells us, “… today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts …” So, don’t procrastinate! Today is the day of salvation! Receive Jesus’ gift today!
Have you ever been at a loss for words? Perhaps something happened that left you utterly speechless … something so shocking, so bizarre, so devastating … or, even, so amazing. Whatever the case may be, when you are at a loss for words, what do you do? Well, if you’re like most people, you still feel a need to express yourself … somehow. You still feel like you need to somehow convey your feelings in some type of manner … even if it’s to just “get it off your chest” … somehow. Spiritually speaking, when something happens that you know you need to pray about … but can’t find the words to pray … there is an alternative. There is a way you can express exactly how you’re feeling, exactly what’s in your heart, and exactly the right words to say … even when you don’t know what to pray. Romans 8:22-28 The Message (MSG) tells us, “All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” So, the timeless truth we can take away from these verses is that all we need to do is make an attempt to pray … and the Holy Spirit will make it into an effective prayer to God since the Holy Spirit knows exactly what we are trying to say … even when we don’t know what to pray.
Do you like to take tests? Most likely, the answer is no. It’s not the most enjoyable activity in the world. After all, being under pressure to remember all the answers to all the questions puts a strain on your mind … and your body. However, if there were never tests, there would never be new things to learn, new things to study, and new ways to grow … and growing is an essential part of being a Christian. It’s not good to stay the same forever; it’s important to be open to change and open to new challenges. As we do, we find we have more opportunities to live for Jesus. We find we have more people to witness to. We discover both the gifts we have to pass on to others as well as the gifts other people have that get passed on to us. Therefore, tests become a part of our everyday lives whether we realize it or not. James 1:2-4 The Message (MSG) says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” And James 1:12 The Message (MSG) goes on to say, “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” So, these timeless truths further enlighten us to the importance of not only tests, but also of passing the tests; that is, passing therm to the extent that we “stuck it out” until the end … we didn’t give up half way through … we didn’t try to get out of anything prematurely, but, rather, we allowed the test to do its work so we could become mature; so we could become all God wanted us to become … for His glory alone. So, today, if you are facing a test – of any kind – keep in mind that it does, indeed, have a greater purpose … probably greater than you could ever imagine! That will help you endure to the end … and one day, when you see Jesus face to face you can have the expectation to hear the words of Matthew 25:21 (NIV) that tells us, “…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Losing a loved one is never easy … especially when it is unexpected. Having no hope that you’ll ever see them again is even worse. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The Message (MSG) tells us, “And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus. And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” Yes, we can have hope … if our loved ones died “in Christ” we can have the assurance that their death does not mean good-bye forever … it only means good-bye until we meet again … if we are “in Christ” as well. What does it mean to be “in Christ” you may ask? To be “in Christ” means to be in a relationship with Christ … it means someone has accepted the gift of salvation Jesus offered when he died on the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins. It means we are trusting Jesus alone to make us right with God (not our own “good works”). To be in Christ means to be “born again” … it means to be “born” into the family of God … where old things have passed away and all things become new. It means someone is no longer living their lives just for themselves to satisfy their own desires, but, instead, out of thankfulness for everything Jesus has already done for them, they are choosing – as an act of their free will – to live in the way the Bible teaches … for the new desires God puts in their hearts … the new desires that involve loving others as God has loved them … the new desire to live in a way that is pleasing to God and is beneficial in how they treat others as well. To be “in Christ” simply put, means to be saved. So, if your loved one who has died was “in Christ” when they died and you, now, (or before you die) are also “in Christ” you can have the hope and confidence that you will, indeed, one day meet your loved one again and it will be like one huge family reunion with the Master! Therefore, look to the timeless truths in these scriptures to give yourself and others the hope and comfort you need in your time of loss. And if you haven’t accepted the gift of salvation Jesus offers to everyone (yes everyone!) … or if you’ve backslidden away from him … don’t worry, you can trust in Jesus even now to make you right with God and can receive the gift he offers by praying a prayer for salvation such as this sample prayer:
Dear God, I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe Jesus died on the cross in my place. I believe He alone gave His life as the perfect sacrifice for my sin. I believe Jesus not only died for my sins, but was also raised again and is now living in heaven. I believe only Jesus can make me righteous before You. There’s nothing I could ever do to earn Your free gift. I repent of all my sins and ask You to make me new as I accept Your gift of salvation now. I ask Jesus to be both the Lord and Savior of my life. Come into my heart, fill me with Your Spirit, and help me to live for You. Thank You for saving my soul. In Jesus’ name, amen.
How do you know what to keep and what to throw away? Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times it can be harder to discern. Most likely, if you have a scheduled trash pick up day, you prepare for it by taking out the trash and putting it at the designated pick-up spot – usually at the curb. Then, just like clockwork, the person comes and does the dirty work for you – often just leaving behind an empty trash can. But what happens if you accidentally threw something away that was never intended to be trash? How would you get it back? Would you even want to try? Spiritually speaking, Hebrews 10:35 (ESV) says, “do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” What confidence you may ask. The confidence you had when you first understood what it meant to be saved. The confidence that enabled you to endure a great struggle with suffering – knowing that you had a better and enduring possession for yourselves in heaven (see Hebrews 10:32-34). So, the timeless truth in this scripture reminds us that keeping our confidence (rather than accidentally or purposefully allowing it to be taken out with other trash) has an eternal value. In fact, there is a great reward coming. Hebrews 10:36-39 (ESV) says, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” So, today, if you have unwittingly put the confidence you had in Jesus in the trash, know that all you need to do to get it back is to make a choice. Yes, simply make the choice to believe that all of God’s Word is true and all of God’s Word applies to you – yes, even to you who may have backslidden away from a close, personal relationship with Jesus. God is not as far away as you may think. He is right here, right now waiting for you to pick up the confidence you may have lost somewhere along the way. Just pick it back up, put it back in your heart, and recommit your life to Him so He becomes first in your life once again. In so doing, you can be assured, with confidence, your reward will be great for all of eternity.
Have you ever been asked to do a job no one else wanted to do? Did you feel like you were stuck because the person asking you was your boss and you knew you couldn’t just say no … so you grudgingly, painstakingly, slowly performed the job all the while grumbling under your breath … and then you didn’t even get so much as a thank you? Well, if that has happened to you, you’re not alone. Work, of any kind, is just that – work. Perhaps what is needed is a change in perspective. Colossians 3:23, 24 (NIV) says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” So, this timeless truth gives us insight into the type of perspective that can help change our whole outlook on work … of any kind. When we come to realize that we are actually working for the Lord (not men) we can do that work “as unto Him” … as if we were doing it directly for Him … as if He were our boss. And since we know that God is for us and not against us, anything He (as our boss, so to speak) asks us to do is for some good purpose … even if we don’t know what that purpose is at the time … or ever. We can trust that God is working it all out for good since Romans 8:28 (NIV) tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him …” So, even if we are cleaning toilets, we can choose to have the perspective that we are actually working for the Lord and we can find a purpose in our work … perhaps we are keeping the toilet sanitized so that when the next person who comes in to use it (who may have a compromised immune system) doesn’t have a bad reaction to the germs that otherwise would’ve been on the seat … if you really want to use your imagination, perhaps those germs would’ve caused a nasty rash that got infected and caused further problems for the person … including having to go to the hospital to be treated and having to be subjected to even more germs … which could’ve made even more problems develop … BUT … BECAUSE you chose to work “as unto the Lord” and BECAUSE you chose to do a good job cleaning that toilet seat, NONE of those things happened! The person with the compromised immune system NEVER had any problems whatsoever … and all because you did your job with the right perspective! So, the next time your boss asks you to do a job no one else wants to do, remember to take it in stride and have the attitude of Christ who did not think it was beneath him to wash his disciples feet but, instead, did so with love.
What does the word multiplication make you think of? Perhaps you’re reminded of the days you went to school and your teacher had you practice your times tables … multiple times. Or, maybe the word makes you think of something different. Maybe you’re the mother of twins … and when you found out you were expecting not one, but two babies you knew your life was about to change forever … times two. In any case, the word multiplication usually refers to more than just one. Spiritually speaking, when one person accepts Jesus into their heart to be their Lord and Savior the positive changes that occur don’t usually affect just that one person … it usually has an impact on everyone that person comes in contact with … or at least it should. Matthew 5:16 (ICB) says, “ … you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do. Live so that they will praise your Father in heaven.” So, the timeless truth in this verse lets us know that our lives are meant to be lived intentionally and with a purpose. We need to live our lives in such a way that others around us are impacted in a positive way … and the result will be that they will actually praise God. For example, let’s say that someone you know who is not a Christian is going through a rough time. Perhaps they have just undergone a serious surgery and are in the hospital. Then let’s say the Holy Spirit puts it in your heart to go visit them and you chose to obey. At the hospital you walk up to the nurses station and ask what room the person is in. The nurse looks at you incredulously while giving you the information and you go on your way, not realizing why they had looked at you so strangely. Once in the person’s room you greet them and ask how they are doing. With tears in their eyes, they admit how low they had been feeling since no one has bothered to stop by to visit them … no one until you (even though their own family lives only a short distance down the road). They also admit that they were just hoping someone … anyone … would come by to see them that particular day so they would know God had heard their silent prayer … and then you showed up … and they were infinitely grateful and thankful to God and praised God in their heart … for you. Without realizing it, you became part of the multiplication process. Without realizing it, you were being a light for another person. Without realizing it they were seeing the good thing you were doing … and without realizing it, God was praised … and not one, not two, but three people’s lives were impacted … the person in the hospital, the nurse who you had spoken to whose faith unwittingly was restored in the goodness of mankind when you – the first visitor – showed up … and your life was impacted as well – because you were blessed when you saw others being blessed. So, today, will you allow yourself to be part of God’s equation? Will you allow His light to shine through you so it is multiplied? Say yes and be assured that God will be praised!
Have you ever tried to juggle? Perhaps you went to a circus and were amazed at the objects the performer could juggle seemingly effortlessly and you went home and tried to recreate the performance yourself only to discover it wasn’t as easy as it looked. You may have been motivated to keep trying and eventually discovered that with a lot of practice you got better … not perfect, but certainly better than your initial attempt. As in all of life, it takes time to get good at something worthwhile. Oftentimes, we get discouraged too soon. However, if we continue to make an effort, most likely we will improve. Has your life gotten really busy? Have you felt like you were trying to perform a juggling act? Have you made an attempt to prioritize what’s most important so that particular ball doesn’t get dropped accidentally? Matthew 6:33 (ICB) says, “The thing you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants …” So, this timeless truth reveals what our number one priority should be in our lives … putting God first … putting our personal relationship with Him first, making an effort to juggle our lives in such a way that this most important relationship is prioritized, nurtured, and protected from all of the other events going on that would try to distract and detract from what should be the foundation of our lives. When we choose to put God first we are acknowledging His place in our lives; we are acknowledging He is most important; we are acknowledging our need and our desire for Him to be involved in every area of our lives. But how do I do that? you may ask. I work nights, or, I have to sleep when I can … I have a new baby, or, my family responsibilities make it hard if not impossible to put God ahead of everything else. The answer lies in your heart, not the particular time of day or particular location you choose to spend time alone with God one-on-one in a personal relationship with Him. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Very busy people can learn the act of juggling if they put their mind to it, and, perhaps, get creative. For example, don’t worry about the amount of time as much as the quality of time you spend with God in your personal relationship with Him. This may mean you only have a few minutes at the beginning of the day (or ending if you so choose) to intently focus on God in prayer and tell Him whatever is on your heart as you simply talk to Him about whatever may be in your heart to say. It could be just talking to Him about your day and getting his feedback as you stay quiet for a few minutes to listen to hear the Holy Spirit respond … perhaps by giving you the idea of what to do in that situation, perhaps by giving you a sense that He has heard you and He cares about whatever it is you’re going through (good or bad) and He’s just glad you took the time to share it with Him and get His direction of what He would like you to do in that situation. As your life gets pulled in many different directions, and as you practice your juggling act, don’t worry if you drop the ball now and then … just keep practicing until it gets easier and easier and before you know it you will improve until you don’t even have to think about it … God will naturally be first in your life!
Have you ever had a car that you thought would be a reliable, dependable vehicle only to discover later it was actually a lemon? You had invested so much money, so much time, and so much effort into trying to do the best you could into getting the best you could afford only to have your hopes crushed. What a disappointment. How about if you’re a business owner? Have you been diligent in carefully screening all prospective employees to find the right match for your company, thinking you’ve done all you could to ensure you would be hiring a dependable worker only to discover later they had lied on their resume and had actually convinced other people to lie just so they would get a positive reference when you called to check out the person’s character. Wouldn’t you be disappointed? Wouldn’t you wish there was some foolproof way to be sure the next time you hired someone you wouldn’t have to go through the same thing again? Don’t we all wish that there could be something or someone that we could trust to be absolutely, completely dependable? Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV) says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Did you catch that? The Lord’s compassions are new EVERY MORNING … every.morning. … Every Morning … every single morning. This timeless truth assures us that every day we can trust that the Lord is absolutely, completely dependable to be compassionate towards us. We can be absolutely sure He will be faithful. We can know, without a shadow of a doubt that He will always be there for us in whatever challenges we face … good or bad. Webster’s defines compassion as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” So, when we comprehend that God Himself is compassionate towards us and that His compassion is new every single morning … no matter what we are going through, no matter what we are facing, no matter whether we bought a lemon for a car, whether we hired an undependable employee, whether we ourselves need to learn how to be more dependable ourselves … no matter what we face in life, we can trust that God will ALWAYS be there for us in a dependable, compassionate way that desires to alleviate whatever distress we may be in. So, if you need anything … anything at all: strength, help, hope, encouragement, love, peace, joy, wisdom, enablement to keep on keeping on … whatever it may be, you can trust that God will be absolutely, completely 100% dependable every single morning to compassionately be there for you to meet your need. He is faithful. He will never let you down. His desire is always for your ultimate good. His ways are higher than our ways, so sometimes His ultimate good may look different than what you may consider to be good … meaning you will most likely still have to go through some hard stuff in life … but our ultimate good always comes whenever we trust the Lord to give us the strength to get through whatever we may need to go through and when we learn whatever valuable lesson we may need to learn in the process. So, today, whatever you are facing, know that God wants to compassionately be involved in it. He compassionately wants to help you in more ways than you could ever imagine. He wants you to trust that He, alone, is absolutely, completely dependable … through it all.
Are you the stubborn type? Do you like to have everything go a certain way (your way) and do you easily get upset when your plans get changed? Well, there’s good news … you’re not alone! It’s quite common for people to think their way is the best way (perhaps the only way) to get things done, and get them done efficiently! The up side of that mentality is that you generally have a good work ethic; the down side is that you may not realize there’s a problem until someone else points it out (hopefully gently) … and that’s when humility needs to come into play. You need to be willing to accept there really are other ways of doing things … and some ways just could be better than what you imagined. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So, this timeless truth lets us know that God’s plan for our lives is good (period). Even when it may not look that way on the surface, God’s plan is always good … the problem often comes when we may not see things the way God sees them. We may have a vision of how our lives ought to go … how one thing will lead to another, and another, and another so that eventually our vision comes to pass. However, as we quickly learn (as in all of life) our plans often undergo several “revisions” before the “final draft” is completed … and even then, it’s still not over until it’s over (meaning even more revisions will most likely be needed before all is said and done). The key is being open and willing to allow Jesus to be Lord (not just Savior) of our lives. Think of the word revisions as re-visions … being willing to change and get a new vision … being willing to change course (as the Lord leads). Suppose you had gone through the process of applying for several new jobs and had started to think maybe there was one other job you might be willing to apply for as well and you had started to open yourself up to that possibility but had not yet actually gone and done it. Then suppose you get a phone call out of the blue from a company in the same business as the one you had been thinking about (but had not applied to yet). This company got your resume online when you filled out all the information for the job bank and you had no clue until you got that phone call that you “just so happened” to answer without knowing who it was. What would you do? Would you be open and willing to at least talk to the person on the other end … even though it wasn’t in your plan? Would you be willing to “change course” and see what they had to say/what they had to offer you? Would you realize perhaps this was a blessing from God you hadn’t fully considered receiving yet? Would you revise your own plan and be open to a new plan – a new vision? Hopefully (and prayerfully) you would … otherwise, it’s possible you may miss making the change that could be needed … the change that could lead to a new destiny for you … a new blessing for you to grow in the grace and knowledge of God … into the knowledge of how much of a loving and gracious God we have the privilege of knowing personally. Remember, when God tells us a revision is needed to our original plan, we can trust that His plans are always good and always better than anything we could have dreamed up ourselves!
Have you gotten comfortable? Maybe with this whole pandemic you’ve been enjoying having time off from work or school and you’ve fallen into a routine of getting up when you’ve wanted to, going to bed when you’ve wanted to, and wearing whatever you’ve wanted to … after all, without ever having to leave the house, who is going to see you wearing your bunny slippers all day? Problem is, it has been all too easy to get complacent … and when it’s time to actually get back into the habit of going to work or school (or just getting out of the house more frequently in general) it may not be so easy to get back into the swing of things. Taking a break is fine … and needed … from time to time. However, when that break becomes your “new normal” and the break turns into complacency into not just your outward appearance but your inward character as well, then there could be an issue that needs to be dealt with and dealt with decisively. Scripture warns against complacency. Proverbs 1:32,33 (NIV) declares, “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” So, this is a timeless truth we would all do well to remember … complacency isn’t something to be treated lightly. It’s one thing to let your appearance go when no one else can see you; it’s another thing entirely if you’ve let your inward character go … you may think nobody else sees … but God always sees … and He always loves us so much He doesn’t want our hearts to get complacent; He doesn’t want us to have a self-satisfied, smug, unbothered attitude that thinks no changes need to be made even if a situation is dangerous or harmful (the definition of a complacent person). We are always supposed to be growing, learning, and changing throughout all of our lives … no matter how old we are. Philippians 1:6 (NIV) tells us “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” So, we should come into agreement with God’s plan and open ourselves up to change – trusting it’s actually good for us – and will actually help us to have the kind of life Jesus tells us He wants us to have when He says in John 10:10 (NIV), “… I have come that they (you) may have life, and have it to the full.” Therefore, be aware of complacency … it can be even more dangerous than the pandemic!
Cities are beginning to open up … quarantines are beginning to be lifted … restrictions are beginning to ease up … and people are beginning to venture back out into the “real world” … and into what is being considered the “new normal”. You would think everyone would be super excited … you would think everyone would be saying, “it’s about time”! You would think the overall reaction of society as a whole would be a collective sigh of relief … you would think. However, for some people who deal with anxiety … or even just a resistance to change, it may not be so easy. It may be hard for them to adapt … hard for them to leave what had become their comfort zone during a time of upheaval. And, really, even for the people who don’t usually have a problem with just “going with the flow” and “winging it” … these people may still face challenges as well … just because things are different now. It’s almost as if the world went into a collective ark like Noah and his family did in the time of the flood (see Genesis 6-9) and now it’s time to get out of the boat … if we dare. Now it’s time to start exploring the whole “new world” around us … with fresh eyes and fresh insight that we may not have otherwise gained had we not been “stuck” inside. Now we have an opportunity … an opportunity to live our lives in a whole new way … in a way different than before; different, perhaps, than we’ve ever dared to live them … ever. Maybe during this whole pandemic you’ve realized that time is short and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Maybe you have been procrastinating … putting off ’till tomorrow what you’ve known in your heart for a long time needs to be done … now. Maybe the recent turn of events has left you with an urgency in your spirit that you shouldn’t wait any longer … now is the time to get out of your boat … now is the time to get out of your comfort zone … now is the time to go forward into the plans and purposes God has for your life. Maybe you agree with everything I’m saying … but you’re still scared; you’re still nervous … well, that’s okay … Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples was nervous too. Matthew 14 tells the story of how Peter had to choose to exercise faith when he was in a boat a considerable distance from land that was being hit by waves because the wind was against it. At that time, he saw Jesus walking on the water towards him and he and the other disciples were afraid. Matthew 14:27-31 (NIV) says, “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” So, here we see a timeless truth. When the Lord calls us to get out of our boat, we need to obey and we need to keep our eyes on Him. At the same time, since we are human, we can also take comfort in the fact that Jesus is merciful to us and will catch us if we start to waver in our faith. He never condemns us … He simply encourages us to exercise faith rather than listen to doubt. So, today, if you hear the Lord telling you it’s time to get out of your boat, take courage and boldly obey His instruction, trusting, as always, He knows best.
How many of you would like to be free just about now? With all the regulations in place it seems that rebellion against authority is a given (regardless of whether or not that rebellion is actually carried out). We were not meant to live under the tyranny of rules and regulations that cause us to forfeit our freedom. We were not meant to live without a means to express ourselves in an appropriate way … that’s why so many people have fought for so long and for so hard so that we could enjoy the freedom that is meant to be ours. Did you know that Jesus was one of those people? Did you know that Jesus came to set you and me free? For too long religious leaders would have you believe otherwise. For too long people have been led to believe they had to follow a long list of do’s and don’ts in order to receive favor with God … but that’s not true. The truth is found in scripture. The truth says in Galatians 2:15,16 (NIV) “We … know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” This is good news for you and for me. It means we don’t have to be perfect. It means we can choose to trust in Jesus’ perfection that is credited to us on our behalf when we accept his free gift of salvation. It means we can enjoy freedom in a personal relationship with God knowing, by faith, He accepts us, approves us, and loves us unconditionally … all because of what Jesus did for each and every one of us when he died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to justify us before God as we put our faith and trust in him alone to make us righteousness. Galatians 5:1 (NIV) is also an encouragement to us as it says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Of course this doesn’t mean we should just go out and commit every kind of sin imaginable though because we’re trusting in Jesus. No, on the contrary, because of what Jesus has already done for us we should have an attitude of gratitude … and that gratitude should motivate us to want to live in a way that is honoring to him. So, as you ponder the timeless truth of the freedom Christ has already made available to you, check yourself to see if you’re actually living in that freedom. See if you are trusting in Jesus alone to make you right with God. And don’t be afraid to exercise that freedom as you allow the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you in how you live your life because the Holy Spirit will never lead you in a way that is contrary to scripture and to honoring God. Be thankful, therefore, for the freedom you can enjoy today … no matter where you live … for John 8:31, 32 (NIV) says, “ … Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Also, 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV) tells us, “ … where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Letting go is never easy. Perhaps it’s even harder than keeping things the way they are. We get in our comfort zone … and then, when the time comes for us to leave, we find ourselves procrastinating and finding all kinds of good-sounding excuses why it’s better for us to stay than to leave. Unfortunately, this type of thinking just leaves us stuck … and stagnant. Too afraid to move forward and do something positive with our lives we end up staying where we are … and end up missing the growth and full potential our heavenly father would have us reach … for His glory. Ecclesiastes 3:1,6 (NIV) says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens … a time to keep and a time to throw away.” This timeless truth is easy to apply to certain areas of our lives … when it comes to making relatively easy decisions about what to keep and what to throw away for food in our refrigerators, for example, all we really need to do is look at the expiration date or (if we’re really brave) just smell that gallon of milk to see if it’s gone sour yet, or look at that piece of cheese to see if there’s any mold on it yet. Other decisions may be a little harder … such as what to keep and what to put in the yard sale your spouse insists on having … knowing that the time has come. How about even harder decisions … like making the choice to let go of a grudge and forgive the person who hurt you? Or making the choice to take a step of faith and follow the path God is leading you on … even when that path involves letting go of your own plans, your own dreams, and your own way of accomplishing things … trusting that God’s way is far better. Like I said, letting go is never easy … in Matthew 26:39 (NIV) we can see that even Jesus had to deal with this issue as we read, “he (Jesus) fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup (of having to go to the cross to be crucified) be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.’” So, today, whatever God may be laying on your heart to let go of … whatever it may be … follow Jesus’ example and come into agreement with the One who knows what’s best for you, personally, and say, “not my will, but yours be done … I let it go!”
The law of love supersedes the law of man. Jesus himself showed this to be true when a leper came to him for healing in Mark chapter 1 verses 40-41. The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) reads, “Then a man with leprosy came to him and, on his knees, begged him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he told him. “Be made clean.” In those days, people with leprosy were considered “unclean” and usually quarantined themselves away from others due to the law of Moses. This man, however, knew that Jesus could heal him and had no qualms about asking to be healed. In turn, Jesus responded to this man’s faith with love … effectively breaking through the barriers of society … miraculously healing the man, and showing us that nothing is greater … or more important … than love. Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NIV) says, “ … love is as strong as death … many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” So, with all the “laws of man” out there, don’t forget an even more important law – the law of love. Even Jesus, when asked what the greatest commandment was replied, “’Love the Lord your God … and the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37, 39 NIV). This timeless truth involves obeying the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides you in your interactions with others … even in a pandemic. It may mean you obey the “laws of man” by keeping social distance and wearing a face mask in public to protect others from potential harm … or it may mean something even more radical. It may mean heeding the Holy Spirit’s whisper to your heart if He’s prompting you to approach someone others may consider “unapproachable” … such as a broken person you may “happen” to see crying off to the side … away from others … crying because they feel discouraged by the many rules and regulations out there that have turned them into a virtual hermit feeling like nobody cares how alone they feel … until you courageously approach them with the healing words of encouragement they so desperately need to hear to keep pressing on for yet one more day. If you’ve truly heard from God and truly obeyed His direction, you may just find yourself in the middle of God performing a miracle through you … perhaps even saving someone’s life … simply because you chose to obey the law of love above all else … believing nothing is more important.
Resistance … not the most “feel good” word out there is it? I’m sure all sorts of pictures could come to mind. A child disobeying a parent in public, refusing to cooperate; a fierce wind blowing across an open field… the same field that was calm only moments before as you had been enjoying a leisurely stroll to get out of the house and get some fresh air … and now, as you strain to walk against the wind you suddenly find yourself getting the cardio you hadn’t realized you’d been needing; an argument with a friend when one of you disagrees about the lifestyle choices of the other; vandalism of a church building when the vandal opposes the religious teachings of the pastor … because his words hit a little too close to home. Resistance … it’s a common, everyday issue we all need to face … in one way or another. The question is, how will we deal with it (in regards to our faith) when we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of it? Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV) says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” So, how does this play out in reality? Well, let’s suppose you had a friend who disagreed with your Christian lifestyle choices because they thought your choices were harmful, even radical. And let’s suppose when you courageously, lovingly, and gently tried to explain things to reassure them (with humble confidence) let’s say you faced resistance. Let’s say they became angry with you because they didn’t understand, they couldn’t comprehend your faith, and they just thought you were being stubborn and didn’t want to change. What would you do? Would you cave in and come into agreement with them … compromising your true beliefs and convictions … in effect, “watering down” the fire of the way the Holy Spirit had led you to live your life for Him … would you do that just so that your friend would get off your back and continue to like you … or would you come into agreement with God and His Word and realize that your friend wasn’t, in reality, the one angry with you … in reality, it was the “resistance” inside them … it was anything that was opposed to God and His loving ways … as Ephesians mentioned, it was things like the spiritual forces of evil … the forces that actually want to keep you down and defeated rather than up and victorious … would you realize this timeless truth and would you understand the need to fight the battle spiritually by using the spiritual weapons of the full armor of God (such as the shield of faith – see Ephesians 6:14-18 for the complete list). Would you make the choice to honor God above all? If you answered yes then you can be assured He will give you the strength you need to deal with any resistance His way. This means you can choose to not take your friend’s anger personally, but, instead, can choose to love them unconditionally even as you continue to stand your ground, keeping true to your convictions, believing that their resistance will eventually be dissolved … and when that happens, you will find that your faith has been strengthened as well. You will realize that it was only when you had been put to the test that you were able to find out how to lean on God’s power within you, then, from first-hand experience you will have realized how great and mighty His power really is … so great that whatever resistance you need to face in the future you can believe and have confidence that God will enable you to stand your ground!
Fear is becoming more and more widespread as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Everywhere you turn, it seems, someone or something is trying to influence you to fear. Safety has become our #1 concern. What can we do to protect ourselves? What can we do to be safe? The answers are varied … wearing masks, washing our hands, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces … the list could go on and on. In this day and age, it’s important to know how to be safe … not just physically, but mentally as well. Our minds can play tricks with us … fear of the unknown can cause our mental state to spiral out of control … and fear of other people’s opinions can be just as damaging. When we let others opinions of us dictate how we live our lives we are, in reality, giving in to fear … we are, in reality, allowing it to be a “snare” that ends up controlling us. Proverbs 29:25 (NIV) says, “ Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” This means if someone gives you a hard time for obeying what the Lord has put on your heart to do, you will need to exercise faith and humbly trust that the Lord knows what’s best for you, personally … even if it means you’re “different” than those around you. For example, say you’re in your living room watching a church service live stream on YouTube and the worship team is singing and you feel the urge to raise your hands in praise to the Lord … right there in your living room with your husband or wife who is not a Christian in the adjacent room where they can see you and you know they may not “approve” of your behavior … right at that moment, you have a choice to make … are you going to allow that other person (as much as you love them) to be a “snare” to you … are you going to allow the fear of their opinion control your actions? Or are you going to humbly trust that you will be “safe” as you trust the Lord that everything really will be okay as you go ahead and raise your hands in praise to Him … trusting that, perhaps, your unsaved spouse may just be watching you to see how serious you really are about your faith and about expressing your love and praise to God … no matter who is watching. Perhaps, as you take that step of faith, they may even choose to come into the room and see what all the fuss is about … and they may even get encouraged to begin their own relationship with the Lord that night as well … and all it may have taken was for you to not allow fear to win. I could give many more examples, but you get the idea. When you allow God to direct your path (rather than people’s opinions) you will always be kept safe spiritually. But what if I still feel afraid you may ask? Well, 1 John 4:18 (NIV) is your solution. It says, “ … perfect love drives out fear …” When you stay close to God, you stay close to His love … and His love will drive out any fear you may feel as you trust in Him and keep your eyes on Him rather than on other people’s (real or imagined) opinions of you. Psalm 25:3 (NIV) gives even further encouragement as it declares, “No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame.” So, today, don’t allow fear of man to be a snare, instead, trust in the Lord and you will be kept safe.
Life happens. In all of it’s craziness … in all of its ups and downs … life happens. Because of this, many people know it’s wise to be prepared. Whether it’s packing extra diapers and clothes in the diaper bag before leaving the house to go on a trip, getting gas for a snowblower before a predicted major snowstorm, stocking up on toilet paper when there’s word it may be in short supply, or making sure your first aid kit is ready to go in case of a medical emergency, wisdom tells us we need to do these things so we will be prepared … whatever may come our way. What some people may not have thought of, however, is the importance of being prepared in a less obvious, less visible, less tangible way … being prepared to give an answer for the hope they have found in a relationship with Christ.
1 Peter 3:15, 16 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…” (NIV) The truth is, we always need to be ready … we always need to be prepared … in every season of our lives. As we go about “life” we will undoubtedly find ourselves in situations we didn’t plan … situations that are actually opportunities given to us to see what we will do with them. Will we be ready to share our hope with others? Will we be willing to do so? Will we be willing to be honest and transparent so that we can relate to others on whatever level they are currently at? Will we make the most of every opportunity, knowing in our hearts that we may only get “one shot” at speaking God’s love, truth, and encouragement into someone else’s life? If we want to share with others we first need to make sure we’re prepared. How do I do that? you may ask. Well, how do you prepare for other things? You anticipate what may be needed and you use wisdom to gather those things together so you’ll have them on hand when the predicted need arises. In the same way, if you anticipate coming into contact with someone who may be hurting and who may need a word of encouragement, a good way to prepare for that anticipated need would be to “fill yourself up” with encouragement in your own heart. Whether it be reading the Bible, listening to praise and worship music, listening to a sermon, praying and getting into God’s presence as you seek Him with all your heart, or any number of other things that may help you, personally, to get “filled up” yourself, in so doing you’ll have what is needed when the opportunity comes to let yourself be “squeezed out” and share what’s already in your heart. So, the next time you find yourself in the grocery store, the hardware store, or any other place we’re “allowed” to go nowadays (with social distancing of course), make sure you’re prepared. It may take a little ingenuity to speak to someone from 6 feet away, but it can be done. If God opens the door of opportunity for you to share the hope He’s given you, being prepared ahead of time ensures you’ll be able to make the most of that opportunity. Remember, you may only get that one shot to make an eternal impact on another person’s soul … so be ready.
I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe Jesus died on the cross in my place. I believe He alone gave His life as the perfect sacrifice for my sin. I believe Jesus not only died for my sins, but was also raised again and is now living in heaven. I believe only Jesus can make me righteous before You. There’s nothing I could ever do to earn Your free gift. I repent of all my sins and ask You to make me new as I accept Your gift of salvation now. I ask Jesus to be both the Lord and Savior of my life. Come into my heart, fill me with Your Spirit, and help me to live for You. Thank You for saving my soul. In Jesus’ name, amen.
So much destruction after the latest snowstorm. So many branches broken off the trees… having fallen to the ground … only good for firewood now. Even the branches that had started to bud with the promise of spring just around the corner are now lying … useless … on the ground after the storm ripped them away from the tree. And, as such, the branches are no longer able to bear fruit … for their “life” was in the nourishment of the tree … on their own, the branches lying on the ground can do nothing. In the same way, we, as humans have been going through various storms of life … some little and some big … most recently with COVID-19… a storm that is beyond our control … a storm that we all need to wait out … whether we like it or not. In this storm we are all like the branches – each one of us. Some of us are connected to the “tree” and some of us are not. Some of us are firm in our position in our relationship with Jesus Christ, some of us are “hanging” off like a branch ready to snap off the tree if yet another stormy wind blows through, and some of us have already fallen away and are lying on the ground feeling useless without any nourishment feeding our souls. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (NIV) The “timeless truth” of this verse lets us know that we need a relationship with Jesus Christ … for He, alone, gives us the “sap” we need to be nourished so we can live. John 10:10 tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they (you) may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV) So, if you recognize you are feeling like a “lifeless branch” today, know that there is HOPE. No matter what storm you find yourself in, no matter what your current position is in a relationship with Jesus Christ, know that He desires to give you life … in a greater measure than ever before… and that life begins now… even in the middle of the storm… as you call out to Him in prayer and simply ask Him to provide you with whatever it is you need. Whether you’ve drifted away from the close relationship you once had, whether you’re really, really far away or just a little bit “away” – or even if you know, in your heart of hearts you could be closer but the storms of life have distracted you from being as “connected” to the “vine” as you know you could be… today’s your day to come back to Jesus and get reconnected to the only One who can give you LIFE to the full… even in the middle of the storm. So call on Jesus today … be honest and simply tell Him what’s in your heart … simply tell Him of your desire to be connected to Him …tell Him your need for strength to withstand the storms of life … no matter how long they last … tell Him whatever it is you need … whatever it is you know only He can give you … and, as you believe and exercise faith, watch and see God provide whatever it is you need in the way He knows is best.
Technology is constantly changing. Just when you think you’ve finally upgraded to the latest app, the latest edition, the latest version of the newest and the best technological advance on the market … just when you think you can breathe a sigh of relief that you’re finally finished and you can close your laptop – satisfied that you aren’t missing any important security features that might possibly crash your whole system … and your whole world … just when you think you’re finally done and you start to turn away, what do you see out of the corner of your eye? A pop-up notifying you there’s just one more thing to be updated! You groan inwardly, wondering when enough will finally be enough … wondering when it will finally be finished, wondering when there will finally be something you can count on to stay the same … wondering when there will finally be something that is timeless and true … something that you can depend on that will never change. The good news is that Jesus has already declared, “it is finished” when He hung on the cross, having been crucified to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Jesus alone is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus alone is timeless and true. Technology and the times may constantly be changing … but Jesus never changes and never needs to be upgraded. He alone is the one constant you can depend on that will never change. In fact, God’s Word, the Bible, is the absolute truth and Malachi 3:6 (NIV) declares, “I the Lord do not change.” With this in mind, I’ll be sharing a once-a-week blog post entitled, “Timeless Truths.” It will be similar to a devotion in that it’s purpose is to get you thinking about applying God’s Word to your everyday situations and circumstances, and my goal is to offer you hope and encouragement through whatever you’re facing. I welcome feedback and would like to hear if this new blog feature is helping you in some way. In the meantime … the next time you start up your computer, only to discover yet another security message in need of your attention, take a deep breath and let it out slowly, thankfully remembering your eternal security has already been taken care of through Jesus. Your part is simply to accept and receive the timeless gift of salvation He has freely offered on the cross … you don’t have to upgrade any further as you already possess the best of the best – for all eternity!