★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★   

Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post.

 

Does the title of today’s Thought surprise you?  One day in the office, a co-worker said to me, “I hate religion.”  He was surprised by my response when I said “so do I.”  Knowing that I am a Christian, he naturally assumed I was “Religious.”  I told him that “Religion” is just “Man’s” way of understanding or attempting to connect with God.  Unfortunately though people are hurt and oppressed by “Man-made” rules and then they blame God for what people say or do to them.  Mark Twain once said:

That is so true!  He gets blamed all the time for what people do in “His name,” but what God really desires is to have a personal relationship with us, through His Son Jesus, where we include Him in all aspects of our life.  I truly believe that you can “Hate Religion” and be a Christian too!  Or maybe a better way to describe myself would be a “Christ Follower.”  I may say that I am a Christian, but above all else, I desire to be more and more like Jesus and that only happens through me pursuing a relationship with Him and God daily.  Hence the name of this blog…“Daily Dependence.”  I read somewhere this amazing quote that expresses how I feel perfectly…

So the question I have for you is…

Do you have a “RELIGION” or do you have a “RELATIONSHIP?”  There is a huge difference!

This contrast between religion vs. relationship is critical to understand.  In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT) of the Bible, The Apostle Paul talks about what Jesus did to have a relationship with us, he said,

“For I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed to me.  Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

God’s rescue plan for you and I was to send Jesus, His One and Son just in case we would decide to have a relationship with Him.  Imagine getting this text from God?

It would be pretty great huh?  But I would submit to you that we have that in the form of the Bible which is God’s love letter to you and I.  He desires a relationship with us not empty religious rituals or just following some “made man” rules.  When you have a relationship with someone it is out of love not coercion or obligation.  And to prove how serious God was to have that relationship with us, He sacrificed His Son as payment for our sins, who He then rose from the dead 3 days later (which is commemorated on Easter Sunday,) so that IF ANYONE believes in JESUS they will be saved from the consequences of their sins and will have eternal life in heaven, (see John 3:16).

Romans 10:9-10 (NLT) says:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

The relationship I have can be yours too, all you need is to pray a simple prayer and ask for forgiveness and acknowledged that you are a broken sinful person (which we all are, especially me,) and tell God that you accept Jesus as the payment for your sins; or another way of saying it, that you accept Him as your savior.  If you are ready to start a relationship with the God, our Heavenly Father and His Son, below is a prayer you can pray to start you on the journey.  The words you say really don’t matter, there is nothing special about them, but the emotion and belief in your heart does.  Make this your prayer today:

God take this broken, sinful person and change my life.  I confess I have made mistakes and acknowledge that I am in need of a Savior.  I want a relationship with you.  Please forgive me.  I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Today I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you earnestly prayed that prayer you are a new creation, (see 2 Corinthians 5:17!)  God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life! 

Please contact me DailyDependence@gmail.com if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ, I would love to discuss your decision more.  God Bless!

 

If you are interested, here is another post that further develops this Thought called: 

★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★ 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

Your skin isn't paper, don't cut it. Your face isn't a mask, don't cover it. Your size isn't a book, don't judge it. Your life isn't a film, don't end it. You are beautiful.
Your skin isn’t paper, don’t cut it.
Your face isn’t a mask, don’t cover it.
Your size isn’t a book, don’t judge it.
Your life isn’t a film, don’t end it.
You are beautiful.

This quote is so powerful and critical for people to not only know these truths but to believe them!  I recently read an article that stated…

“An estimated 13 million students are bullied annually, according to government statistics.”

Let that set in…13 million!  Bullying is a major issue that does not end once a student gets home, but continues on through social media, long after the final school bell rings.  Any type of bullying, whether verbal, physical or in cyberspace should never be tolerated and needs to end!  October is “National Bullying Prevention Month.”  I want to encourage everyone to Speak Up and Stop Bullying if you see it going on because the ramifications can be enormous!  At a minimum, feelings of inadequacy because of a lack of friends will result, but more than likely, depression will set in.

Just look at the what happened the other day when an incoming high-school freshman named Hannah reached out to Taylor Swift on Instagram, (Sunday – 9/7/14) to share her heartbreaking fears of being bullied in the new school year.  The 24-year-old singer responded so compassionately to her High School fan that it made headlines.  You can read the article here that shares the exchange.

Taylor Swift has a new single called “Shake it Off” which the main chorus makes this declaration:

‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

It is a catchy song but the message is that bullying IS going to happen and we need to take hold of our feelings and “shake it off.”  I agree to a point but there is more that we need to do but let me know get ahead of myself…

Depression and hopelessness are real, and if you are suffering from this, know you are NOT alone!  Beside millions of other people who are experiencing some form of depression, God is with you always, even if you do not have a relationship with Him, God is just one prayer away…All you need to do is take one step in the His direction and just like a Daddy running to His child that is hurt, so your Heavenly Father will come running to you!  God is just waiting for you to make a move in His direction.  But sometimes that is so hard to conceive of a loving father in heaven right?  Do you know why that is?  Because of the war that we are in.  What war you ask?  The war for our mind, for our life, for our eternal soul…we are in a spiritual battle with a very real enemy…the Devil tries very hard to cause doubt, confusion, and disillusionment about God’s character and about our identity as a “Child of God.”  That is why allowing depression to continue is so dangerous.  So many people suffer from it but never talk about it because of the stigma that society places on it.  Whether it is from fear of people minimizing your feelings or not wanting to appear weak or ________ (you fill in the blank)…The silent killer of souls continues to rage on.

DO NOT ALLOW the depression you feel to keep you isolated, because this is the Devil’s greatest tactics…He works hard to isolate us from God, from other people and ultimately destroy us with our own negative thoughts of hopelessness.  This is called Spiritual Warfare (see Ephesians 6:11-17 for more detail)…It is real and depression is a bi-product of the battle.  So how do you overcome depression…easier said than done right?  In His mercy and love, God gave us His Word (the Bible) to be a road map that can help you navigate out of your depression.  You have heard the saying…“You are what you eat,” well the same is true for your mind and emotions, they will be focused on whatever you feed them, (or don’t feed it.)  Reading the Bible is not something for religious fanatics or weirdo’s, it is for anyone who wants to live a life of peace and joy, which only will come when you understand your Identity in God.  You can choose to remain angry and rebellious, refusing to trust God, but I guarantee you that you are not going to achieve peace or joy trying to handle your problems on your own…We were never created to do that.  We were created to having fellowship with God and Jesus and they will carry the burden…see Matthew 11:28-30 for proof.  One verse that has given me comfort in times of trouble is Psalm 27:13–14 (NLT) which says…

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.  Wait patiently for the Lord.  Be brave and courageous.  Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

Wait patiently, be brave and courageous through this season and know that regardless of anything you have done, God will always love you and be with you.  You are His child and He Chose you from before time existed!  You may be thinking, how do I know that, well I am glad you asked…

46 - Daily Dependence - Ephesians 1 - 3-4 - Blessded by AdoptionEphesians 1:3-6 (NIV) says…

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship [daughtership] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One He loves.”

God says we are CHOSEN!  You are an adopted child though Jesus Christ!  All you need to do is make the decision to release the guilt, the shame, the hurt, whatever it is, and accept the free gift of Grace and Salvation through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the payment of ANY past, present and future sins!  (See Romans 10:8-13 to read more).

Maybe you are a Christian already, but still struggle with depression or insecurities or guilt, James MacDonald made this profound statement during his “I AM: Finding your Identity in God” series that I pray will wash over your spirit and that you will receive the grace of God.

"There's no reason in the universe for a follower of Jesus to be living under Behavior Insecurity.  That's what the cross is all about, that's what the empty tomb is all about...You're forgiven!  You're forgiven!  Stop letting the enemy drag you through the mud of your past!"
“There’s no reason in the universe for a follower of Jesus to be living under Behavior Insecurity.  That’s what the cross is all about, that’s what the empty tomb is all about…You’re forgiven!  You’re forgiven!  Stop letting the enemy drag you through the mud of your past!”

Kick the negative thoughts and the enemy to the curb!!  You are loved and forgiven!  God is just one prayer away.  What will you do?

 

If you are interested in reading more on this topic check out this post called:

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★

In the 1960’s and 70’s there was the Classic TV game show ‘Let’s Make A Deal’ with host Monty Hall where audience members would try to win cash and prizes by making wacky deals. 47 - Daily Dependence -Let,s Make A Deal CBS has since revived the show in 2009 with host Wayne Brady.  I have not seen the new version but as a child, I remember my parents watching the original in syndication.  What was so much fun about the show was that audience contestants were picked at random, dressed in ridiculous costumes, trying to win cash or prizes by choosing between curtain number 1, 2 or 3.  Before the contestant could decide, Monty would tempt them with something from within a small box, or flash cash in front of them and then they chose between what they knew or what was behind the curtain which could be a new car or a farm animal.  The interesting part was always…will they take what they know or risk losing it for the chance for something better?  The success of the original and the subsequent sequel, is that at the core of every person is the desire to get a deal!
47 - Daily Dependence -Deals

Whether it is BOGO, clearance sale, or straight out free gift, ever single person wants to stretch their dollar a little farther and maximize their buying power.  And if we are honest with one another, what we really want is to get something for nothing!  But there’s no such thing as a “free lunch” or is there?

There is one thing that is absolutely free…and that is GRACE!  The definition of Grace as it pertains to Christian belief is:

“the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”

Let that sink in….“the free and unmerited favor of God.”  It is so hard to comprehend the true meaning of this reality.  For hundreds of years, people have tried to express the truth of God’s Grace in songs, poems, and sermons.  But the Bible describes it best…One of the most incredible verses on Grace is from Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) which proclaims…

“God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible, he made this commentary on these powerful verses:

“If our salvation were dependent upon our actions – if we could be redeemed by doing good works, keeping the commandments, and refraining from sin – we would always be in danger of losing it whenever we stumbled.  However, because salvation is a gift given to us freely – and not in exchange for anything we can do – it is completely secure.  Our salvation therefore magnifies the awesome love and grace of God alonesince He blesses us not because of our merit but because of His goodness.”  

I love that, God “blesses us not because of our merit but because of His goodness.”  This is especially important because our sin separates us from God.  Here is a incredible picture of what Grace means.

47 - Daily Dependence - Grace is the BridgeThe old testament prophet Isaiah said to the people:

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.”  Isaiah 59:2 (NKJV)

This true for us today, our inequities or inward bent toward sin has separated us from God.  Isaiah said because of our sins, God is hidden from us, or another way to say it, our sin pushes God away from us.  BUT Grace, changes everything because it bridges the gap between our sin and God.  Many people have a hard time believing that God’s grace, His favor and His love is free to anyone through belief in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection for all of our sins over 2,000 years…You cannot earn your salvation, or do enough “good deeds” to make it to heaven but it is a free gift, as Acts 15:11 (NLT) says:

"We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

The grace we receive is undeserved and is solely based on “who God is” and not on anything we do.

One of my all time favorite hymns is from John Newton called “Amazing Grace.”  Hillsong Worship just released their 23rd album called “No Other Name” which I have been listening to it over and over…just absolutely incredible!  The stand out song for me off the new album is a revitalized version of my favorite hymn called “Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)“.

How beautiful is that picture?  God takes our failures, our weaknesses and forms something beautiful out of the broken mess that each of us are.  So back to the question at hand, is there such a thing as a free lunch?  NO, THERE IS NOT…because even though Grace is free to us through faith in Jesus, it came at a heavy price for God.  So how will you respond?  Will you accept God’s Grace?  Will you accept Jesus as your savior?

Make this your prayer today:

God take this broken vessel and forgive my sins.
I am wretched and in need of a Savior.  I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Please forgive all my sins.  I accept the free gift of salvation and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  So take this heart Lord, I’ll be your vessel so that the world can see Your life in me!  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you earnestly prayed that prayer, you are a new creation (see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17)!  God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life!  Please contact me if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ, I would love to discuss your decision more.  God Bless!

 

To finish this Thought for Today, check out this incredible short film about the life, death and love of what OUR savior Jesus Christ did for EVERY PERSON!

 

★ Thought for the Day – All About The Big Ten ★

45 - Daily Dependence - About the Big 10

What do you know about the Ten Commandments?  Is this what you think of when you hear these two words?45 - Daily Dependence - Charlton Heston with Ten Commandments  Moses with the Stone Tablets as played by Charlton Heston in the movie the “Ten Commandments?” Or do you think of them as an antiquated list of rules of everything that you should not do from your childhood Sunday School Lesson?  Do you know any of them…Can you list all 10 Commandments?  When was the last time you read the “Big 10”…Bigger question, how often (if at all), do you read the Bible?  I just read an article that stated:

“The number of people in America who do not identify with any religion may be at an all-time high, but the Bible still holds an important place in the lives of many Americans, a new report suggests.

According to a study, “The Bible in American Life,” conducted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, 50% of Americans read some form of scripture in the past year, and 48% of those read the Bible.  Four in 5 read it at least once a month, and 9% of Americans say they read the Bible daily.”

Source: “American Bible Reading Statistics Reveal Who Is Studying The Good Book And Why,” Posted: 03/14/2014

This is a sad statistic when you think that only 9% of Americans read the Bible daily, it is no wonder that people don’t have a knowledge of the bible.  The purpose of the study was to understand better how Americans use the Bible in their personal daily lives and how other influences, including religious communities and the Internet, shape individuals’ use of scripture. You can download the report here.

Are you part of the 9%?  This “Thought for the Day” is not intended to condemn you for not reading the Bible, rather it is intended to emphasis the importance of knowing the Bible for yourself and not relying on passed down information from your parents or forgotten Sunday School lessons or just flat-out misinformation to stop you from reading the Bible for yourself.  I know that the thought of reading the Bible at all, let alone everyday can ne intimating but it is so worth it for it is the blueprint for life!  There is incredible wisdom the pages that can help you in your marriage, connecting with your children, your finances…you name it, it’s in there!  I am not going to lie to you, some weeks are better than others but I try read hard to read some amount of scripture each day.  Just recently, I read about the Ten Commandments which is outlined in Exodus 20:3-17 which are listed below from the New Living Translation (NLT).

Big 10 - #1Big 10 - #2Big 10 - #3
Big 10 - #4Big 10 - #5Big 10 - #6
Big 10 - #7Big 10 - #8Big 10 - #9
Big 10 - #10

#1   “You must not have any other god but me.” Exodus 20:3

#2   “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  Exodus 20:4-6

#3   “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” Exodus 20:7

#4   “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”  Exodus 20:8-11

#5   “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

#6   “You must not murder.” Exodus 20:13

#7   “You must not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

#8   “You must not steal.” Exodus 20:15

#9   “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16

#10  “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

Many people view God as some sort of “cosmic killjoy,” and believe that Christianity is all about what you cannot do…but if people only knew what the bible says, that is the farthest thing from the truth.  Yes we study and learn what the Old Testament says, like the Ten Commandments, but when Jesus came to earth to restore the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father, everything changed!

Big 10 - SummarizedIn the New Testament Book of Matthew, it recounts when an expert in religious law, tried to trap Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT)

You see the Ten Commandments can be summarized with these two mandates which all centered on love.  If you love God with everything you have within you, and you love your neighbor as yourself, then the “Big 10” will be fulfilled automatically!  When you believe in Jesus and have a relationship with Him everything changes.  How do you develop a relationship with Him you may ask?  Well just like making friend on the playground or when you started dating, you get to know to know them.  The same is true here, by reading God’s Word (the Bible), you will get to know your heavenly father, all that Jesus did when He came to earth and so much more!

Do you see how different the Bible can be when you know it?  I highly recommend that you get yourself a Bible and start reading today.  You can even get it electronically.  I use the “YouVersion” App (www.youversion.com) which is a free Bible on your phone, tablet, and/or computer.  YouVersion is a simple, ad-free Bible that brings God’s Word into your daily life anywhere you go.              45 - Daily Dependence - YouVersion App 45 - Daily Dependence - YouVersion App - Screen
You can jump to anywhere in the bible, highlight passages that are important to you, and start Bible Reading Plans.  My 10-year-old daughter has discovered that she can actually listen to it being read to her as she reads along…It has made reading the Bible so easy.

45 - Daily Dependence - Dusty BibleHow are you on your Bible Reading?  It doesn’t matter how much or how often you read, just start today and earnestly seek to know God and His Word better.

So dust off your Bible and get reading…you will never regret the time investment, it will pay dividends for generations to come!

If you would like to read more on the significance of reading the bible check out:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are a You Feeding On? ★

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

66 - Jeremy Riddle - Sweetly BrokenThis post was inspired by a reader who requested this topic on the “►► You Opinion Matters…” page to see a blog on what if…

“People turned their lives over to Christ daily!”

Well that topic is what we are all about here, so here goes….

Turning your life over to Jesus is the best decision anyone could make!  Another way to say it is surrender…not something that many people like to talk about or do.  When you think about the word “surrender,” images of criminals with the arms raised to the police come to mind don’t they?  Surrender is giving up, or yielding control to another, and accepting the outcome. In the case of police, turning oneself over is accepting the consequences of criminal behavior and inevitable punishment for the crime…but surrendering or turning your life to Jesus, it is just the opposite…in that transference, we accept His grace and forgiveness in place of punishment for our criminal behavior (sin).  Quite a difference!

So before we start to discuss the surrendering daily, the first question to ask…have you surrender to Jesus at all?  You may be reading this and wondering what is this person even talking about…let me just run through a couple scriptural truths…

You have seen “John 3:16” I am sure all over the place, whether held by a fan in the stands, or on a t-shirt, or spray painted along the road or maybe even seen it on Tim Tebow’s face.

66 - John 3-16 Appearances

John 3:16 (NLT) proclaims…

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

And verse 17 goes on to say,

“God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT), the Apostle Paul said,

 “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

God sent His son to save you and me!  He loves you more than you can ever imagine and sent Jesus to establish a “relationship” with us… You can read more on this in previous blogs called ★ Thought for the Day – What Does The Love of God Mean? ★  All this was done so that we could have eternal life with God and Jesus in heaven; but as you well know, there are consequences to sin and Jesus was the payment for those sins, as Isaiah 53:5 (NLT) prophesied over 700 years earlier about the death of Jesus…

“But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed.”

So with all that said, what is the hold up to turning to Jesus?

Here are some common Excuses for not surrendering…

Don’t know You Are Chosen!  

Some people will not surrender to Jesus because they think of our Heavenly Father as a “Cosmic Killjoy” or as an angry God just waiting for us to mess up so that He can punish us; but as you read those verses above look at the lengths that He went to establish a relationship with us!  He truly loves you and I…we are CHOSEN, not because of anything we have done but simply because God loves us…You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

Don’t know that there is a difference between Religion Vs. Relationship!

66 - Robert Morris - SurrenderI have shared in the past about how growing up I had virtually no connection to God and quite honestly wanted nothing to do with Him as a result of the words and actions of “religious” people.  I struggles hearing one thing from the pulpit and then seeing another thing outside the four walls of the church.  Hypocrisy was my excuse for not surrendering to God.  Robert Morris made this point,

“Sometimes our religion gets in the way of our relationship with God…you have to make a choice to follow Jesus and to submit your will to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and that’s when salvation occurs.”

You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★

Don’t know that there is Value in Weakness!  

Many people struggle with viewing Christianity as a crutch, believing that if they surrender to Jesus, they are weak, but that is the farthest thing from the truth!!  It takes a strong person to admit when they are wrong…You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – Value in Weakness? ★

Don’t know you don’t have All the Time in the World!  

And finally the biggest excuse of all, is to toy with the idea of accepting Jesus as Lord and savior but to put off the decision for whatever reason.  Maybe because of the feeling that God is a “cosmic killjoy” and so you want to keep having fun so you will make that decision to turn your life over to later.  Or maybe it is a feeling of unworthiness that you need to “clean yourself up” before coming to Jesus, not realizing that you are “chosen.”  Or maybe your pride is getting in the way because you don’t want to admit that the way you are running your life (or not running it,) is not working.  Whatever the reason, Matthew 24:36 (NLT) is clear about the end times:

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen [when Jesus will come back to judge the world], not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.  Only the Father knows.”

So don’t wait, make the decision today, you will never regret it!!…You can read more on this in a previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – All the Time in the World ★

Okay, so now that we have covered the critical first surrender, let’s talk about surrendering daily.  My pastor has been talking for the past few weeks about “living on mission” where you live, work and play, having an eternal perspective in all that you do.  When we talk about surrendering our lives daily to Jesus, it will result with us living on mission for the kingdom of God.  Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT) has some insight for us…

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

So the first step of surrendering daily to Jesus is humility.  Everything that Jesus did illustrated His humility and was done for our benefit to know how we ought to live.  Now as you live out life in humility, does that mean you will get it right every time?  Absolutely now!  My mother was named after the late country music legend, Loretta Lynn who made this astute statement,

“Nobody’s perfect. The only one that ever was, was crucified.” 

I like that so much!!  So often the enemy screams lies at us that as followers of Jesus we should be perfect and when we don’t measure up that must mean that we are no good or don’t have enough faith.  But that is just a lie because he knows that if we truly surrendered to Jesus we would be unstoppable, see James 4:7-8.

“I Surrender” is one of my favorite songs off the “Cornerstone” album from Hillsong Live.  As you continue to read, let this song play in the background and wash over your spirit. 

Here are a couple of verses from this great example of what turning our lives over to Jesus daily looks like…

Here I am
Down on my knees again
Surrendering all

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way

Lord have Your way in me
I surrender
I wanna know You more

As we surrender, we are putting aside our desires, our agendas and our thoughts and placing it all on God’s capable shoulders.  ‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭1-3‬ (NLT) gives great advice.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. 

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. 

Because of the joy awaiting him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”

Jesus “endured the cross, disregarding its shame”…why, because of the “joy awaiting Him.”  So if you want to me more like Jesus and serve Him daily, realize you will face opposition and harsh words from non-believers because of what it says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 (HCSB),

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.”

But don’t let naysayers stop you from reaching out to them because that is What Jesus Would Do.

“Every decision we make will ultimately result in regret or reward for all eternity.”  Marty Collier

While here on earth Jesus dealt with His fair share of scoffers and cynics but with humility and He lived a life that was without a doubt “mission minded,” doing His father’s will.  But following Jesus will not only bring insults but will also cost you as he warned in Matthew 16:24-27 (NLT)…

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of His Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.”

Now surrendering to Jesus daily may not actually cost you your life but it may cost you friends who don’t want to be around you because the light you emit will shine a spotlight of their sin.  I love what Lara Casey said…

66 - Daily Dependence - Lara Casey - Made New In Christ“Every day we are given the opportunity to be made new in Christ, not by our might but by our surrender.”  

It really is about Surrender vs. Self-Reliance.  Are you strong enough to admit that you need Jesus and surrender daily to Him or will you pride get in the that like a strong-willed 2-year-old, you say “I can do it on my own?”

The key to happiness is full surrender to God.  I know I have already shared a song in this post but I would be remiss to neglect to share Jeremy Riddle’s song Sweetly Broken” that displays the heart of a person who is “Sold-Out” for Christ, daily surrendering their lives to Him…

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled

In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

My favorite part by far…

“And I was under Your wrath / Now through the cross I’m reconciled”

Wow!!  Because of Jesus, we are a “new creation,” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB) and have eternal life through faith in Him, so there should be nothing stopping you from surrendering daily and serving Him with everything in you!

★ Thought for the Day – Five Truths That Will Change Your Life! ★

69 - Daily Dependence - 5 TruthsI know this is a bold claim but I believe it is true if you will have an open mind to what you are about to read. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines truths as:

1. Sincerity in action, character, and utterance
2. The state of being the case :  fact
3. A transcendent fundamental : spiritual reality

Truths are indisputable facts that transcend what the latest thought that is trending on Twitter. They are black and white, that are constant and do not change as a passing fad. In this fast pace, pleasure driven, my way or the highway world we live in, beliefs in absolute truths have become the exception, rather than the norm, but if you accept these 5 Spiritual Truths, I promise your life will be forever changed!
I have shared in previous posts how remote God was in my life, not because of Him but as a result of being hurt by people in the church.  As I think of my self absorbed teenage years and early twenties, God was way, way down on the list…if He even was on there.  Except for the obligatory Easter and Christmas Mass, I never was present in church.  But Jesus gives us our first truth in Matthew 6:33 (NLT) of what will happen if we do place a priority on God…

God and what He cares about should be ahead of everything else, if we do, everything else will be added to us.  Too often we have it backwards, we chase after everything and God comes last, if at all.  Part of Jesus’ famous sermon on the mount, Matthew 6:33 is a great scripture to stand on.  I have always loved this verse, but the Message translation of this passage has opened my eyes to see this bit different…

“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” 
 

When God is first, He promises to meet our needs!  Where else do you get that kind of guarantee??
69 - Daily Dependence - Truth #2 - Realize that You are NOT a Good Person????
Ouch, that ones hurts doesn’t it??  But it’s true, (that includes me also.)  John 3:16-17 (NLT) says,

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
 

Until you realize that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness, and accept Jesus, as payment for your sins, your life will remain in brokenness and you will be separated from God.

If you want to learn more about this and how to have a relationship with Jesus, check out the post called,  ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★

Francis Chan breaks down our second truth why “being good” just doesn’t cut it…Watch it!

 

69 - Daily Dependence - Truth #3 - Life is Not Always Going to Be Easy
Amen??  I don’t have to say much to convince you of that right?  Even if you have accepted truth #1 and #2, that does not make you immune from trouble or pain. Are you suffering today?  Aching from being hurt by someone’s betrayal or persecuted for something you did not do?  You are not alone, the Bible recounts in Genesis how Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, only to then be wrongly accused of attempted rape and thrown into prison…BUT God used these horrible betrayals that people inflicted, and elevated Joseph to second-in-command of all of Egypt.  Our #3 Truth comes from Genesis 50:20 (NLT),

69 - Daily Dependence - Genesis 50-20 - God Intended it for GoodI love that, what was “intended to harm me,” was used by God to “save the lives of many people.”  We cannot see the whole picture, God is always working and you never know how God will turn a bad situation around.  What is interesting is that early on in Joseph’s teenage years, he was given incredible dreams of what God’s plan for his future was going to be, but he had to go through a season of struggle first before he was able to step into his destiny that God had planned for him.  Psalms 105:19 (NLT) gives us insight into Joseph’s life.

“Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the lord tested Joseph’s character.”

Genesis 50:20 is one of my favorite verses that illustrates that even in the worst circumstances God can use the pain to produce something great!  It is the Old Testament parallel verse to the often quoted passage from Romans 8:28 (NLT),

69 - Daily Dependence - Romans 8-28“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

God can bring something good out of any situation.  He causes everything to work together for the good.  Trust Him to use your current situation to mold you into something beautiful!  God can and will turn any trial into a triumph!!!

69 - Daily Dependence - Truth #4 - Put on Your Armor
Wars are won or lost based on your defensive capabilities, so we need to make sure we are equipped for the battle.  Spiritual warfare is very real! You don’t have to live too long on this earth before you’ll find out that there will be trouble from those around you.  People will hurt you, betray you, cheat on you…you name it.  There is evil in this world and we need to be aware of it.  (You can read more about this in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – All the Time in the World ★.)  There is a war is occurring in the “unseen” realms as our #4 Truth warns us that we need to put on “The Whole Armor of God.”  Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) says, 

There is a battle raging on the enemy of our souls, the Devil will use every weapon in his arsenal to take us out.  The challenging part is to realize the attack as it is happening.  The Devil is a deceiver and master of lies, so often the attack will come in the form of voices in our own mind, that will lead us to believe the wrong thing.  Bob Hamp said made this powerful statement,

“Spiritual Warfare is the battle in which you choose which voice to listen to in the midst of your experiences.”

So what voice will you believe?  The lies screamed by Satan or the still small voice of God?  I encourage you to continue to read Ephesians 6:13-17 that goes into all the Armor of God (which one day I will write a Thought for the Day on.)

69 - Daily Dependence - Truth #5 - There is hope!
The things we go through in this life are temporary, but Jesus promises us that we can have peace because of what He did for us on the cross.  John 16:33 (NLT) says,
69 - Daily Dependence - John 16-33 - Oval Alt

We all go through different storms in this life, whether relational, financial or physical health, but no matter the storm, the answer, and the solution are the SAME… Lean into God and rely on His strength.  Arm yourself with Bible verses that you can speak out loud and pray, when doubts and worries creep in.  If you want to read more about God’s presence in the midst of the storm, check out this post called ★ Thought for the Day – The Storms of Life ★.

Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.  I promise you will never be disappointed that you did! 

Continue reading

★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★

74 - Daily Dependence - Religion Vs RelationshipThis is the first installment of our new segment called “Back to the Basics,” where we are looking into the fundamentals of Christianity, and getting back to the roots of our faith.  Though this is titled “Part 2,” you are not crazy, you have missed the one that was specifically titled “Part 1.”  Rather this is an extenuation and building upon of our very first blog post which is called ★Thought for the Day – Religion vs. Relationship ★ that really captures what “Daily Dependence” is all about!!

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods.

“What majestic trees!  What powerful rivers!  What beautiful animals!” he said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him.  He turned to look. He saw a 7 foot grizzly charging towards him.  He ran as fast as he could up the path.  He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him.  He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer.

He tripped and fell on the ground.  He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out: “Oh my God!”

Time stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky:

“You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don’t exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident.  Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?  Am I to count you as a believer?”

The atheist looked directly into the light and said, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps could you make the BEAR a Christian?”

“Very well,” said the voice.

The light went out.
The sounds of the forest resumed.
And then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together and bowed his head and spoke: 

“Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord Amen.”

74 - Daily Dependence - Lord Bless This Food

I love that joke for two reasons.  The first, for the zinger of a punch line.  The second reason is for how telling it is of human nature.  Just like that atheist, aren’t we the same way?  It’s only when were in trouble that we call on God.  Well this post is  going to dig into the roots of our faith.  Religion vs. Relationship…This is very personal for me because there is so much ambiguity between these too seemingly opposing words which has wreaked havoc in my life.  I would like to break them apart and talk about one at a time.  Religion is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a…

“Belief in and worship of God or gods. A specific system of belief or worship, etc., built around a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, etc.”

Let’s define Religious as well.  Religious is defined by the same dictionary as:

  1. Devout; pious,
  2. Of or concerned with religion,
  3. Conscientiously exact; scrupulous.

So religion can be a belief system based on a code of ethics or a philosophy.  It can also be the catalyst for wars, such as the Crusades, (in the Middle Ages) which were expeditions undertaken, to “deliver” the Holy Places from Mohammedan (or Islamic) tyranny.  Or it can be the fuel for hatred and the cause of much pain when misused.  Jonathan Swift once said,

Processed with Moldiv

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

“Religion” often times is a big turn off to the “unchurched” or non-church attendees.  Now when I am talking about religion here, I am referring to the system; the organization, and policies that have been established by human beings.  Adjectives such as “Holy Rollers”, “Hypocrites” and “Gossips” are often used to describe churchgoers.  Why is that?

James 1:26-27 gives us God’s reasoning…

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Religion has a way of altering people’s way of thinking and how they interact with unchurched people.  And whether an unchurched person misinterprets it or not, “religion” can turn someone off from getting to know the “reason” for the “religion” or should I say the source of the religion.  I know this well because I used to be one of them.  I grew up going to church and saw people not living the way they pretended to be, acting all high and mighty, gossiping about other people, when in reality they were far worse than those they spoke about.  I also had bad experiences with the church leaders being greedy for money.  So I decided religion is nothing that I wanted to be a part if it means that you turn into a hypocrite or become “money hungry.”  I blamed God and I walked out on Him and didn’t look back for many years.  See at that time I didn’t have a “relationship” with God, I only had “religion” and didn’t understand things as I do now.  I went to church on Sundays and attended a parochial school, but that was it.  I had set those church leaders on a pedestal, holding them to a higher standard, and let me tell you whenever you do that, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment because they are just human, just like I am, and just like you are; and humans make mistakes.  Do you know what is the saddest thing about being hurt by some form of religion?  The ultimate loser in the deal is God.  He is the one who is hurt the most.  You may not believe that but it is true.  Not only does God feel our pain but also the hurt that comes from our blaming Him for what man does to us.  Mark Twain said it perfectly,

          “God:  The most popular scapegoat for our sins.”

Isn’t that the truth?  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that religion is bad.  I am not putting down any religion in particular.  Religion is good, but in it’s the proper context.  There is a huge difference between having religion (or beliefs) and being religious (or self-righteous).  I firmly believe that you must have a set of beliefs or doctrine that is Christ centered and that you should belong to a church that you regularly attend for accountability sake, because it is nearly impossible to live righteously on your own, without some form of support and teaching.  What is critical to realize is that “religion” is there to facilitate our relationship with God, not to be ritualistic or for appearances.

In Mark 2:27-28, the Pharisees were accusing Jesus’ disciples of breaking the law by picking grain on the Sabbath.  Jesus replied and said to them,

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” 

In other words, don’t get hung up on technicalities, man was not created to serve the day, but the day was made for man to honor God.  Or another way to look at it, don’t focus on the day, focus on the “One,” who the day was created for to honor!

Religion can come in many different forms and deep down, whether people want to admit to it or not, everyone has a need to believe in something…And the reason why is because we were all created with a “God-sized hole in our heart,” that only God can fill.  Here is the point; all people have a need to believe, not in a “religion” but in a relationship, a relationship with God, our creator and father in heaven.  Take a look at the definition of relationship.

Noun: Relationship

– A state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection).

Now let’s insert “God” into that definition.

Relationship: A state of connectedness between people “and God” (especially an emotional connection).

God desperately wants to be connected with you and me.  He wants it so bad that He sent His son to Earth to show us the way.  (See John 3:16). When Jesus walked on this earth He spent all His time preaching about love, not about religion.  He talked about the love that God has for His children and what we need to do to see the father in heaven.  One day, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus responded in Matthew 22:37-40 saying,

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Notice He did not say to keep the Sabbath holy or not to commit adultery or not to commit murder.  You see if you love God with all your heart, soul and mind you will honor His day.  And if you love you neighbor as yourself, there is no need to say do not commit adultery or murder because it naturally would not happen.  Jesus had an uncanny way of cutting through all the bureaucracy, all the ritualism, all the hypocrisy, to get to the heart of the matter.  Essentially, He said to stop thinking so provincially…just keep these two commandments and you will keep all the rest.  Obviously with a radical teaching like this, Jesus faced a lot of opposition.  He continually had problems with the Pharisees trying to thwart His ministry.

The name Pharisee in Hebrew means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were also known as Chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God, which is extremely ironic in view of the fact that during this time, the Pharisees were the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus Christ and His message.

In chapter 23 of the book of Matthew, Jesus made it very clear what his feelings were about the Pharisees.  Starting in verse 6-7, He said that the Pharisees:

“Love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them `Rabbi.’”

In verse 27-28:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”    

Now those are some harsh words and these are just the tip of the iceberg; within the same chapter and in other parts of the bible Jesus has much more to say.  I have one more definition for you…Webster’s dictionary defines the word Pharisee as:

\Phar”i*see\ (f[a^]r”[i^]*s[=e]), n.

One of a sect or party among the Jews, noted for a strict and formal observance of rites and ceremonies and of the traditions of the elders, and whose pretensions to superior sanctity led them to separate themselves from the other Jews.          

A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.

Note the last part of that definition…“A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.”  It is clear that Jesus’ statements and their frequent citations through the bible have resulted, in the word “Pharisee” becoming a synonym in the English language for “hypocrite.”

Jesus, himself, hated “Religion” when it was twisted and misused as in the case of the Pharisees.  The lesson to learn from the Pharisees’ example is that self-righteousness is not righteousness, and that God’s true people are to live according to all of God’s Word, not just certain parts that are most convenient or to one’s liking.  Jesus preached about having a relationship with the God, the father in heaven, not about lifeless rules or empty religious traditions.  But rather a relationship whereby we can pray to God saying Abba, Father which loosely translated means daddy.  God is our daddy in heaven with outstretched arms just waiting for us to take one step in His direction.       

In his book Reading between the Lines, Gene Edward Veith explains:

“That the heart of our religion is a relationship with God – and relationships thrive on communication.  We can’t know people intimately by merely being in their presence.  It takes conversation to share thoughts and personalities.”

We need to work, to cultivate our relationship with God.  It is not something that just suddenly happens.  Just like our earthly relationships, we need to put in the time and effort.  If we don’t we could fall away from the faith.

Christianity is real; it’s alive and anything but boring.  A relationship with Jesus is personal.  He’s there for you and me, just waiting to hear from us.  He is the forgiver of sins and our deliverer.  God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life.  Jesus was the sacrificial lamb for our sins.

There is a bridge in Portland, Oregon that spans the wide Willamette River, called the Marquam Bridge.  It was built-in the mid-1960s; and was designed to accommodate a freeway that was still on the drawing boards at that time, which was to be called the Mount Hood Freeway.  But the freeway was never built.  Oregon voters opted for a light rail line instead, and plans for the highway were scrapped.  If you drive to the east side of Portland over the Marquam Bridge on the upper deck of that two-decker freeway, you can catch a 74 - Daily Dependence - Marquam Bridgeglimpse of the exit that drops off into empty space.  It juts out just a bit from the bridge structure, and then it is cut off as though sliced by a giant knife.  The “exit,” permanently blocked, now goes nowhere, except into the waters of the Willamette far below.  You can see Mount Hood in the distance…but you can never reach the high slopes via the Mount Hood Freeway, because the freeway doesn’t exist.  That’s the picture of man’s relationship with God ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.  We might understand that there is a God and even yearn to reach Him but that is impossible because of the distance between Him and us due to Sin.  That separation between man and God is too great to make it across by ourselves.  But God provided a way to bridge the gap over 2,000 years ago, through the death of Jesus on the cross.  He came to show us the way to heaven and only through Jesus Christ can we cross that gulf to God the Father.

74 - Daily Dependence - The Importance of Jesus

All you need to do is…

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  James 4:10

Today is the day is to establish or reestablish the relationship that all of us need with our creator.  Open the eyes of your heart and see what God is offering.  Maybe you have lost your way or maybe you are like me and have been hurt by “religion” and you are far from God right now  or maybe you are like that atheist walking in the woods never having sought God before.  Well today can change all of that.  If you are backsliding, you can rededicate your life to Christ.  There is nothing that could stop God from forgiving you and taking you back.  If you fall into the “damaged goods” category from being hurt by religion, I pray that your heart would be opened and that you would break the cycle of blaming God for the sins of man.   And finally, if you are sitting here tonight and you do not have a relationship with God listen to that voice you head, that tugging on your heart by the Holy Spirit and enter into the greatest relationship you could ever have by dedicating your life to Jesus.  Regardless of where you stood with your relationship with God when you started reading this post, you don’t have to stay the same way.  Humble yourself and give up the control of your life to the Lord so He can lift you up!

I want to extend the offer to anyone who does not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  If you don’t know what I mean it’s easy.  Give up the control and give your heart to Him.  All you need to do is accept the forgiveness that is available through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

All you need to do is acknowledge that you are sinner and in need of a savior and truly sorry for your sins.  Today start anew and trust in Jesus who was the payment for our sins.  Just pray this simple prayer…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.
I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart.
I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins.
Please take my life I freely give it to you.

If you earnestly prayed that prayer, you are a new creation
(see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17)!
God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life! 

74 - Daily Dependence - New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5-17 - New Creation

Here is the next installment of the “Back to the Basics” series, called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, I pray you will be blessed!

★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

In our second installment of the “Back to the Basics” series we are going to answer the question…

If you missed our first post in this series, you can got back and read it here ★ “Back to the Basics” – Religion vs. Relationship – Part 2 ★.  This juxtaposition between “practicing a Religion” or “having a Relationship with God” is the starting point of everything!  I believe that for you to move forward in your faith you have to get this straight in your mind, it is the core of what God desires for all of us.

So let me ask you this question…Do you consider yourself a Glass “Half Empty” or “Half Full” Type of Person?  Or another way to look at it is…76 - Daily Dependence - How do you view life

It really makes a difference, because your response to this question can really influence your answer to the one posed in this Thought for the Day.  If you tend to view life through a “half empty,” or pessimistic lens, than you many think that people can never change so how could 1 conversation make that big of a difference.  But if on the other hand, you have a “half full” or optimistic viewpoint, than you may approach this with a more open mind…which I pray you will!

Contrary to how these Thoughts for the Day are usually developed, I will ask you a series of additional questions to get to our answer.  The conversation we will be looking at is recorded in Chapter 3 of the Book of John between Jesus and a religious leader of that time named Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.  At the risk of going down a rabbit trail…I want to give a little background.  As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was part of a group of Jews who thought that they kept all God’s rules perfectly and were above reproach.  What made this conversation unusual was that the Pharisees were stanch opponents to the teachings of Jesus and were so self-righteous that they believed they were incapable of being wrong.  Interestingly if you look up the word Pharisee in the dictionary, you will see one definition as being “a hypocrite,” which Jesus continually called them.Okay, let’s get back on track…The text that we will start at is from John 3:2-7 (NLT),

After dark one evening, he [Nicodemus] came to speak with Jesus. 
 
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
 

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’”

STOP…now let’s start with the questions….
When you hear that phrase “born again,” what comes to mind?  It can be confusing if you have never heard accurate teaching on what it means.  Here is a link newspring.cc/watch/stepup/born-again to one of the best on messages I have ever heard on what it means to be “Born Again” from Clayton King (NewSpring Church) if you want to learn more on this.

Some people have the impression that being “born again” is some sort of brainwashing or that people who call themselves “born again Christians” are crazy because they have seen some eccentric preacher on TV in the middle of the night or knew some person who spoke about it in “Christianese” terms that unless you knew the context you will never understand the meaning and it just sounds like nonsense.  Well lets look back in our text because Nicodemus had questions too…

In John 3:8-12 (NLT) Jesus finishes His thought with…

76 - Daily Dependence - John 3-3 - Born Again“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?  I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony.  But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

I love what Jesus said in verse 8…“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”   You can’t see the wind and yet you know it exists because you feel its effect, it is the same way with the move of the Holy Spirit.  You see, when you ask Jesus to be your Lord and savior then the Holy Spirit comes into your life that will transform you into a new person and making you “born again.”  You may have heard it as “being saved” or “salvation” or “as You are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  Max Lucado nailed it when he said, “Christianity, in its purest form, is nothing more than seeing Jesus.”  So…
76 - Daily Dependence - How much evidence do you need to believe in Jesus
76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”  John 3:13-15 (NLT) 

In the brief time Jesus was on earth He did incredible miracles from healing the sick, making the blind see, the lame walk and even raising a man from the dead!  The author of the text we are looking at was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and was there to record this conversation which does not show up anywhere else in the Bible.  He also state stated in the very last verse of this book that…

“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”  John 21:25 (NLT)

So that leads us to our next question…

76 - Daily Dependence - Do you know why Jesus came to earth76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”  John 3:16-17 (NLT)

I am sure that you have seen “John 3:16” written somewhere whether held by a fan in the stands, or on a t-shirt, or spray painted along the road.  It is a foundation verse and probably the most quoted verse about how much God loves us and why Jesus came to earth.  God sent His son to die so that we could have eternal life with Him!  You can read more on this in previous blog called ★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★.

76 - Daily Dependence - What happens if you don't believe76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.  And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  John 3:18-21 (NLT)

This reminds me of one of my favorites quotes from John Wooden which I have shared before but it fits so perfectly…

“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do.  So keep in the mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

So the choice is yours, but know what you decide about Jesus will have eternal consequences!

76 - Daily Dependence - Answer

Myrrh…You may remember hearing about the Three Wisemen from the east who followed a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus.  Part 1 of the answer is found in Matthew 2:11 (NLT):

“They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Part 2 of the answer is found in John 19:38-40 (NLT)…

“Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body.  When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away.  With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night.  He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes.  Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.

You are probably wondering why this question is in here…Besides being a fun bible trivia question, the answer is found in Verse 39…Look who is mentioned there…Nicodemus!!  Even though he was a Pharisee and had a lot to lose by assisting Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’ body for burial, it is clear that he made the decision to follow Jesus and accept the salvation that is available to everyone!!! So can 1 Conversation Change a Life?  I think it is clear!!  Yes, if you will open your mind and heart to Jesus!!

I will close with this quote from Clayton King’s message on be “Born Again,” (that I posted the link to above.)

“Salvation cannot be achieved.  It can only be received and it’s received when you believe.  You can’t achieve your salvation, you can’t earn it.  You can’t work for God’s love, it’s already there, it was they before you were born.

Jesus is willing to save you, but He’s also able to save you.  It’s one thing to be willing, it’s another thing to be able.  He’s the only one who is able to save you…”

 

If you would like to like to pray to accept Jesus, go to this blog post…

★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ 

It has a simple prayer that you can lead you in making the best decision of your life!!  Please message me if you would like to learn more!  I pray that you will make the decision to trust Jesus, I promise you will never be disappointed!!

If you are interested there is a follow-up to this post called:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Whose Body Are You A Part Of ? ★

Continuing in our “Back to the Basics” segment,  we are looking at the foundations of the Christian faith.  We live in a broken world that is plagued with sin.  Our adversary, the devil will use anything or anyone to inflict pain and lead you astray from the truth that he is dreadfully afraid of.  If you are a Christian, that is, you believe Jesus was sent by God to die on a Roman cross to be the payment for your sins, was raised three days later and now sits on a throne in Heaven…You are an heir to the riches of heaven and also get enjoy all that Jesus came to make a reality including the gifts of the Holy Spirit…but wait, I am getting ahead of myself.  For those reading this blog who do not know Jesus as your Lord and savior I encourage you to go back to our very first post called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★.  Is not until we reach the end of our pride and self-dependence and acknowledge our sin and brokenness, we will never find true joy and freedom.  I once read somewhere:

“The Bible says that the church is one body.  The Spirit-filled life, according to the Scriptures, is one of interdependency just as the members of a physical body work together interdependently, so you and I, as individual members of the body of Christ are to work together to accomplish God’s will.”    

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 says:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body… and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

“We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.”  The Holy Spirit is part of the Triune or Trinity.  The Trinity, composed of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who are omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (ever-present at all times).  Before I was saved, I knew about some of the bible stories, but I never really knew much about the Holy Spirit.  All I really knew was that He was third in the lineup of the trinity.
83 - Daily Dependence - The Trinity Lineup

  1. First up you have God, the creator of the Universe.
  2. Second you have Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God made flesh to be the atonement for our sins.
  3. And rounding out the order the Holy Spirit.

Yes as you all see God’s baseball team is indeed the Texas Rangers.  With the end of the 2015 MLB season just a little less than 2 weeks away (at the time of this posting,) the Texas Rangers against all odds are in first place in the American League West.  It is hard to believe where they are now considering where they started but as you look at the Trinity, it is clear what God and Jesus are all about, but the function of the Holy Spirit is a bit of an enigma to most people as it was for me.  Who is this Holy Spirit?  What is the Holy Spirit all about?  The very name could lead one to think of some mystical essence but Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as a person.  He said In John 14:26:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

He is our intercessor, comforter, and counselor.  The Holy Spirit is God’s presence and activity among us.  He is not a force or mysterious power, but is a person who is the mover and shaker behind the scenes, taking the weak and building them up.  The Holy Spirit strengthens the body of Christ, which we all belong to.  He works in each of us anointing, empowering and directing us to carry out God’s work. Let’s compare for a moment the Body of Christ with the Texas Rangers; I think you will see what I mean.

Imagine if a line drive shot is hit to Elvis Andrus at shortstop.  As usual he makes a great scoop and fires it off to Mitch Mooreland at first base.  But as the ball reaches the target it continues past first base into the dugout because Mitch Mooreland didn’t want to fight the traffic that day on Route 360.  Now this is a ridiculous scenario, especially since Mooreland is up for an Esurance MLB Award for coming back after surgery, would be a huge loss to the team if he played hooky because he was feeling lazy.  But that isn’t any different to God when we decide not to use the gifts that we have been given because it will be too difficult or too much work.

What if Cole Hamels fired a 100-mile an hour fastball towards home plate but instead of hurling into Robinson Chirinos’ mitt, the ball flies into the stands because Chirinos didn’t feel like catching the ball.  Something like that probably would never happen but I am sure there are many things we have the talent to do but we make excuses why we can’t, simply because we don’t feel like it.

How about a shot to Shin-Soo Choo in right field?  As he attempts to nail the runner going to second base, Rougned Odor is missing from his position because he felt unworthy to be playing for the Rangers.  Now that may sound unrealistic but how many times have you felt unworthy of God’s gifts because of what you’ve done in the past?

These comparisons might be a bit far-fetched but it illustrates how critical each player is to make the Rangers the successful team they are.  You need Mooreland to make the out at first.  Without Chirinos, Hamels pitches would be wild every time.  And Choo is needed to tag the runner out.  Just like on the baseball field, each person in the Body of Christ is as crucial as any player.  When one person is missing or hurt the whole body feels it and is weakened.

How many people have sat before a test in school and said something like this?83 - Daily Dependence - Math Test

This Comic strip, though silly, illustrates the reliance that we should have in the Holy Spirit.  And that reliance is well founded for the He is an ever-present guide in this dark word.  His power is manifested through the Gifts of the Spirit.  God designed each believer in such a way that we all have a significant role in the body of Christ, and when we work together, we can accomplish great things according to His providence.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 gives us they listing of what the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are:

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”

Through the Gifts of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit enables us to do things far beyond our natural abilities regardless of what gift we possess.  The nine Gifts of the Spirit are directed towards the needs of the church rather than the needs of the individual that the Spirit uses to minister the gift.

Now please bear with me this is the technical part of the blog but also is the most important part.  As I am talking and describing each gift I want you to be prayerfully considering which gift God has equipped you with.  The New Testament has divided the Gifts into three groups.  

The message of Wisdom and Knowledge are useful in teaching and preaching.

  • Wisdom is a gift that gives supernatural insight into some particular need or problem and brings a practical application of God’s Word.
  • Knowledge gives insight into the truth of the gospel and its application to Christian living.

The second grouping of Faith, Gifts of Healing, Miraculous Powers, Prophecy, and Distinguishing between Spirits are useful in ministering to the church and to the world.

  • The Gift of Faith is not the faith that we are saved by. It is the one that miraculously meets unusual opportunities.
  • The Gifts of Healing are the ability to heal those plagued with sickness and disease.
  • Miraculous Powers are the ability to do supernatural deeds such as casting out demons.
  • The Gift of Prophecy has a threefold purpose, to speak to men and women to build them up spiritually, for encouragement, and comfort.
  • Distinguishing Between Spirits may be given in a variety of ways. It may be used to “judge” or “weigh” prophecies.  Or it could be to protect us from satanic deceptions.

The last group, Speaking in Different Kinds of Tongues, and The Interpretation of Tongues are useful in worship.

  • Speaking in Different Kinds of Tongues is when the Holy Spirit anoints someone to speak in a language they don’t know. Tongues are the Spirit – directed language from heaven.
  • The Interpretation of Tongues is when the Spirit directs another person to speak in the language of the congregation to translate what the Spirit was saying through the one speaking in tongues.

Regardless of what order the gift appears in the scriptures, all gifts are equal in importance, as are the individuals who minister with the gifts.  God has specifically picked each person and equipped them with the gift that would best fit his plan.  1 Corinthians 12:5-6 says:

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

I belong to Generation X which has been labeled as lazy, useless and shallow.  The ‘X’ as the rest of the world views it, symbolizes that we stand for nothing.  All through my teenage years I heard how uneducated and immature my generation was.  Similar to the way I had viewed the Holy Spirit in my ignorance, so does this world view Generation X.  I remember hearing once, that if you call someone something over and over whether it’s true or not eventually they start to believe it.  I believe that the stigma of the ‘X’ on our Generation has produced the very thing that this world has claimed that we are.  But if you step out of the box and look at things in a different way you will see that because we are different that makes us unique.  To build on the comic, in algebra, the “X” in the 83 - Daily Dependence - Quadratic Equationquadratic formula is the most important value to determine.  The same is true for Generation X.  Charles Stanley said, “Everybody is somebody in the body.”  We need to fill in what the “X” stands for in our life and what our God-given talents are.  Many people feel that they are insignificant members of the body of Christ.  We are all essential in the body of Christ regardless of your past, God can use you no matter what.  Each person here is special and has a unique gift that God has given them.  Think of it this way, if you lose one piece of a puzzle, you almost have a beautiful picture.  But, what is your eye focused on?  The missing piece because83 - Daily Dependence - Missing Puzzle the picture is incomplete.  So it is true of us.  Each person, and each gift is equally important in carrying out God’s master plan.  He is the artist and we are His tools.  Together we can do great things through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.  Our gifts are God’s way of administering His grace to others.  We become channels through which Christ’s ministry flows.  We do not get to choose our gifts, the Holy Spirit gives them as He wills but we are obligated to use them for the benefit of the body of Christ.  We need to be vigilant in seeking opportunities to use those gifts.  If we do not, other members of the body of Christ will have to work harder to carry our weight.  Or worse yet, people could be discouraged and drift away from the body.  And that loss could mean eternal darkness for that person.

The power of the Holy Spirit is available for all believers in Jesus Christ.  But you must first believe before you can tap into the limitless resources of God.  So whose body are you a part of?  In John 3:5-8 Jesus told Nicodemus:

"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.'  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8

When you are born again you are a new creation.  It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are or what you have done in the past.  God’s grace is boundless and He is just waiting to bestow on you all the riches of heaven.  All you need to do is ask.  In a minute we are going to open the altars for prayer.  I want to encourage you to ask Jesus into your life.  It is a simple prayer but the results are endless.  If you want to give your heart to Jesus come up and someone will pray with you.  If you just need prayer for something you can come up as well.  For those who have already given your heart to Christ, I want to challenge you to ask God to release the gifts of the spirit in your life and to provide opportunities for you to minister those gifts.  Don’t click on the “X” on the web browser without first seeking the power that is available to everyone!

If you would like to learn more about making the decision to accept Christ, please read ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★  God Bless!!

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Silencing the Noise ★

A little over a year ago I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – Why to Love Mornings ★ about how each day is a clean slate to start over and move on from past mistakes.  Today I want to explore why else mornings are important.  As you might expect, it has to do with God.  Our church has been going through a devotional call “Pathways” by Russ Barksdale, (click here to download the first 2 chapters,) in it he said,

“The God of the universe called me into a love relationship with Him and He is not satisfied with surface stuff.”

When you think of a relationship, what is the foundation?  You may say getting to know the person, or spending time with them, or having shared interests in common.  And I would agree with you that all are critically important, but I think that communication is the most important aspect of a healthy relationship…not just for information exchange but as a vehicle to grow closer to one another.  The same is true with a relationship with God.  Some of you reading this may know exactly where this is going, but the answer for others may seem unnatural or unknown…the answer is a quiet time with God in which you read the Bible, pray, journal and listen for God to speak to you.  God is “not satisfied with surface stuff.”  That statement led the men in our lifegroup to discuss this issue…the this question was asked and I want to pose it to you…

If time spent pursuing God = time spent loving God, how much do you love God?”

He responded that “apparently not very much”…Knowing him as I do, that response is him being way too hard on himself.  The question is one, I think we don’t just answer once, but should respond to daily because I think if we are honest; every one of us could answer the same as my good friend.  Another member of our group responded that you need to look at the definition of pursue, which is…

To follow; to go or proceed after or in a like direction. 

He continued on saying that the,

“Bible says if you Love Me you will keep my commandments.  

Everything we do and say, or don’t do, and don’t say, throughout the day shows God, and the World that we are pursuing God and that we Love God.  

Keeping commandments = Love for God….this is the pursuit!!!  

I love that so much, a quiet time with God is a pivotal component of pursuing God.  Back in 2010, I had a conversation with the Men’s pastor at Gateway Church, Todd McIntyre that changed my life.  Besides helping me to see the need to reconcile my relationship with my estranged father, who later accepted Jesus as his savior as a result of our conversations, (you can read more about this from the ★ Thought for the Day – Never Fatherless ★,) Pastor Todd also opened my eyes to the need for a quiet time and to develop a spiritual discipline of a daily time with God.  Within the 3 part series that he preached where he said:

86 - Daily Dependence - Todd McIntyre - Spiritual Maturity
“You cannot have maturity unless you have perseverance in your life and you’ve gone through some pain.  God cares more about our maturity then He does about your happiness.”  Todd McIntyre

86 - Daily Dependence - ClockFor me I have found that starting my day pursuing God is.  I am not naturally an early riser, but I found that unless I set that time with him the start of the day, something else always would get in the way.  There’s so much in life that will keep us too busy to read the Bible.  So much in life that will distract us from praying.  So much in life that will push aside the time to journal.  So much in life that will drown out the voice of God!

The purpose of the quiet time is to silence the noise and center your life God and getting to know who His Son Jesus Christ!

Rising early to spend time with God has always been influenced by what Mark 1:35 (NASB) describes of Jesus’ own disciplines.

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” 

Mark 1:35 has always been a rallying call to me to push through the fatigue of getting up early.  As I wrote about in the previous post (★ Thought for the Day – Confidence IN WHOSE You Are ★), King David was a man after “God’s own heart,” in Psalms 5:2-3 (NLT) he said,

“Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you.  Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD.  Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.”

Jesus rose early and King David met with God in the morning, so I too choose that time of day as well and wait expectantly for Him to speak with me.  I don’t tell you this to impress you or show off but to motivate you to carve away a piece of the day for God, away from the hustle and bustle and noise.  It does not matter what time of day that you spend time with Him, just that you do.  Oftentimes people find it hard to put aside the time to do it and so when they don’t, Satan comes in to condemn us.  Part of the exchange with the men, was this quote from Rick Warren,

“Jesus doesn’t want to condemn you; He wants to change you.  He wants you to know him and he wants you to love him as much as he loves you.”

What a powerful statement and truth which reminds me of a Sonicflood song that was popular when I first was saved, called “I want to know You”…

“I am reaching for the highest goal86 - Daily Dependence - sonicflood - I Want to Know You
That I might receive the prize
Pressing onward, pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
Cause, I want to know You more

I want to know You
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more”

The key for me, is to push through the fatigue when the alarm clock goes off, I need to get up and start the day off with God (and a BIG cup of Joe…aka as coffee for my southern brothers…Hahaha!)  I love this quote from Russ Barksdale,

“Jesus doesn’t want to condemn you; He wants to transform you.”

Our quiet time with God, getting to know Him, getting to know Jesus and what He taught in the Bible is intended to transform us.  We need to not allow Satan to get us down if one day or one week is not as good of a pursuit as the previous one, but just keep chasing after God.  (See Romans 8:1-2 as well.)  As I was reading Deuteronomy 17 that same morning as our group text occurred, I saw a parallel to what God commanded the king to do (see 17:18-20) and what our quiet time should be.  Reading the bible daily is not supposed to be drudgery, and certainly not intended to be out of compulsion, “oh I have to get up early and spend time with God,” rather it should be out of love with an attitude that “I want to get up early to make sure I spend time with God,” like the Sonicflood song so proudly declares.  So how about you?  Are you spending time chasing after God?  Are you building your life on Him?  If you are reading the bible, are you changing any behaviors?  Knowledge without application is pointless.  In the last exchange with my brothers in the lifegroup, this great point was made,

“I think what you get back in terms of revelation is the time you put in communion with Him whether early or late in the day.  Knowledge must transfer from the head to the heart, from belief to faith.”

“Knowledge must transfer from the head to the heart,” and a consistent quiet time every day, regardless of time of day, is the process by which that happens!  Martin Luther said,

86 - Daily Dependence - Martin Luther - What Prayer Is “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”

That really captures the heart of God, as we seek God with all our heart, He will willingly open up the treasures of heaven and meet us there!  As I was discussing this Thought of the Day with my 14-year-old daughter, God spoke so clearly to me through our conversation.  She said,

“In order to silence the noise, you need to know ‘whose you are.’   And in order to know whose you are, you need to ‘silence the noise.'”

It is the great paradox, one which if we could grasp, our lives would be forever changed!!

If you want to read more about discipline, check out this ★ Thought for the Day – The Benefit of Discipline ★

Maybe you are reading this and not only have a quiet time, but you have never made the decision to follow Jesus, today you can change that today!  Check out our next post called ★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★ and if you are ready to make a decision today…

Below is a prayer you can pray to start your relationship, the words you say really don’t matter, there is nothing special about them, but the emotion and belief in your heart does.  Make this your prayer today:

God take this broken, sinful person and forgive my sins.  I want a relationship with you I am in need of a Savior.  I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Please forgive all my sins.  I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you earnestly prayed that prayer, you are a new creation (see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17!)  God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life! 

Please contact me if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ, I would love to discuss your decision more.  God Bless!

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★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

In yesterday’s post, ★ Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★ we looked at Luke 2:8-14 (KJV) which was the proclamation of Jesus’ birth from the Angel of the Lord to The Shepherds who were nearby in the fields.  The Angels not only proclaimed the Good News but verses 13-14 tells us…“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  So not only was the night sky set ablaze from the glory of the Angels’ radiance but they also worshiped the Savior of the World in song from a “multitude of the heavenly host!”  And I think that they give us a great example that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!  15 - Daily Dependence - Bring Christmas Cheer By SingingWe discussed yesterday about placing ourselves within the story and imagining what that must have been like to see brilliance of the Glory of the Lord and be told the news that everyone in Israel was longing to hear for hundreds of years.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will look at Christmas through the Shepherd’s eyes.  Angels from heaven visited Shepherds in the field to proclaim that the Savior of the world has been born in the City of David.  That is pretty incredible news but as we have been discussing over the past 2 weeks, all too often we can miss the significance, miss the whole “Reason” for the “Season” by being a Bible reader but not a Bible absorber, and never find Jesus in a meaningful way within these passages.

The light and beauty of the Angel’s praises filled the night as they announced the greatest event in history to lowly Shepherds.  What an honor the Shepherds were given, not only to be visited by Angels but also to be the first to hear of Jesus’ birth.  Have you ever wondered why the Shepherds were honored?  What made them so special?  If you look at the Shepherds, 15 - Daily Dependence - Shepherd in Fieldthey were just average men, living amongst animals.  By the measure of this world, you would think a King or rich man would be the first to hear the news, someone of “significance.”  We give such reverence to people who have acquired great wealth or power.  But God doesn’t work that way.  He seeks out the most unlikely of people to use them in His master plan.  My pastor, whom I was saved under his teaching back in NJ in 1998, said it perfectly in one of his messages…

“The people that men consider to be NOBODIES, God considered them to be SOMEBODYS.”  Kevin Brennan

In those days the Shepherds were part of the lowest class in society, likened to thieves and scoundrels, yet God sent His angels to proclaim the birth of His Son to the most undesirable of all people!  I like how Matt Chandler put it in his sermon called Advent (Part 2) – Tell of His Coming: The Shepherds and Angels,.”

“God brings glory to Himself, by being the power, the authority, and the presence by which all things happen.  So when God calls, rescues, redeems, calls to Himself…He calls among the weak, and broken so that He is most glorified…

God often times, if not always, calls people to Himself that are undesirable, they are unlikely, they are unhealthy, they are the last person you would ever think…In fact if you pay attention throughout the Bible, this is almost His M.O., in fact being super strong might disqualify you.”

Now if this visitation and heavenly announcement was not amazing enough we will pick up the story with what the Shepherds’ response was which to me is what I find almost just as amazing…Luke 2:15-20 says,

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the Shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the Shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

So it was the Shepherds who were first to know and spread the word, not rich men or kings.  Incredible!  Look at the response from these lowly recipients of God’s message to the world…After the Angels went back to heaven; the Shepherds left the fields and their flocks and went out in faith to see what the Angels announced to them.  To me this is amazing because the Shepherds could have stayed with their flocks and just discussed what happened.  They could have waited until daylight to go.  But to them everything else was secondary to going to see the fulfillment of prophecy.  Instead they set out immediately, leaving behind what was the source of their livelihood, and even though it was dangerous to travel at night, the Shepherds did not let Christmas pass them by and so the last became first to proclaim the good news that Christ had come, See Matthew 19:29-30 (NIV1984).  God never does anything as we expect Him to…Amen?  That is what I love about Him…He is the God of the miraculous and unexpected.  The Hope and Salvation of the World was not trumpeted in Jerusalem to Kings of men, but to Shepherds in an obsolete part of the countryside to the lowly and insignificant (in the world’s eyes,) in order to show us that God works in small, unnoticed places like a manger in a Palestinian stable. 15 - Daily Dependence - Silent NightAnd that is what we need to understand this Christmas…That night in the stable our hope and our salvation was born and we CANNOT let this Christmas season pass us by without accepting the free gift that God gave us through the birth of His Son!  Philippians 2:6-8 says,

“Though He [Jesus] was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“What defines Jesus’s humility is the fact that it is mainly a conscious act of putting Himself in a lowly, servant role for the good of others.”

Unfortunately that realization has been lost in the commercialism and materialism in the current state of this world.  This “Reason for the Season” started out about looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of the Shepherds, but there is more that the Holy Spirit wants to say.  We need to look deeper than the Shepherds and the Angels.  We need to look to the “babe in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.”  Since the start of this blog, we have been posting in a series called “Back to the Basics” in order to understand our faith and set our minds and hearts on Jesus, focusing on what is really important.  We have talked about the “Gifts of the Spirit” and using them to help minister to people.  And we talked about being radical for Jesus that “1 Conversation Change a Life.”  Today as you read this blog, I pray a conversation is happening within your Spirit between you and God.  I pray that you will really examine what this season means and strip away any preconceived notions you have about Jesus, push out the noise of the obligations of the “things to do” and take captive your thoughts to ignore the lies of Satan as he attempts to discourage you through circumstances.  It’s not about Christmas trees, or presents or anything else that some a marketing department tells you.  Christmas is about Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and was born into a dark, damp, dirty place.  He came not to be served but to serve to give us an example for us on how we should treat one another with humility and love…Not for 25 days in December, but for 365 days!  He is the bridge and our access to heaven.  1 Timothy 2:3-6 says that we should make prayers and requests for everyone that:

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.”

Don’t let the significance of Christmas pass you by.  The advent calendar, though I didn’t realize it when I was growing up is a tool for us to get out hearts and minds in the right place for the birthday of our savior.  But you don’t need a calendar to do this – just talk to Him.  I challenge all of you to spend each day this month and consider the love and grace of God in sending His son.  Pray, read the Bible and thank God for the Gift of His Son to a world lost in sin and hopelessness.  Start this month and continue each and every month…Get to know Jesus.  Will you be like the Shepherds and step out in faith, trusting in a higher power?  Ron Hutchcraft once said that there are (5) things that you can do with Jesus.  You can:

1.  Reject Him,
2.  Ignore Him,
3.  Postpone Him,
4.  Agree with Him or
5.  Commit your life to Him.

You can flat-out say ‘I want nothing to do with Him.’  Or you can take the apathetic approach and ‘decide to do nothing.’  You could postpone Him, that is say ‘yes I’m interested but I want to live life my own way, I will get to accepting Him as my savior eventually.’  You could agree with Him, believing in the parables and bible stories but decide that ‘you still want to do things your own way.’  And then there’s the last thing you could do and that is to accept the sacrifice he made on the cross and ‘commit your life to Him.’  Today I want to ask you, will you reject Jesus or Commit your life to Him.  Will you continue to run your life on your own terms or will you stop and accept what that baby in the manger did for you and me?

If you are ready to accept Jesus, here is a simple payer to pray, the words that you use are not important but it is your act of submission and humility to accept God’s Son that does…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.  I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart.  I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins.  Please take my life I freely give it to you.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!

If you prayed that in faith and truly believe this, then I have Great News!  You are a new creation and will be spending eternity in Heaven!  I urge you to tell people about your decision and to find a Bible teaching church and get yourself a Bible.  I have been reading this year the New Living Translation (NLT) and highly recommend it as a good place to start!  Humility is the key!  Let us not forget the Glory of our Lord that was presented to lowly Shepherds this Christmas.  For those who seek Him will surely find Him.  Yet, not as a babe, but as a King, who one day will reign over all.

Here is a great follow up to today’s “Reason for the Season” from Ron Hutchcraft who explains more about how Jesus is the “THE BRIDGE TO GOD”…★ Just Click Here ★

 

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Shepherds – The Voice of Declaration.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Shepherd’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

In our last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ we dug into the life of Jonah and saw through his life how God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  We also introduced that we would be doing a 3 part series of how if we would respond to God’s “Never-Ending Pursuit” of us that would result in a victorious life for us.  As a refresher the trilogy of posts will delve into these 3 Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer Word Worship BannerSimple enough right?  But I know myself; in the busyness of life establishing (and maintaining) a consistent “quiet time” can be a challenge.  Not familiar with that term?  You can check out this post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★ that goes in-depth about it but in a nut shell, it is simply being intentional about having a conversation with God through prayer, reading the Bible (Word) and for me I enjoy having worship music on.  This could be at night or in the early morning, or any time in between that does not really matter, what matters is spending time with God.  The pursuit of our Father in Heaven is all He desires!  God wants a relationship with us.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer EmojiSo in our inaugural post of this series let’s talk about “opening the pipeline” aka – Prayer.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) we get a very clear picture of what God is desiring:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 Chronicles 7-14 - If My People Would Pray“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

“If my people” would “humble themselves and pray and seek” Him and turn away from sinning, God will hear us and forgive us!  Wow!  This is not an obligatory prayer before your meal, or a lukewarm petition.  God’s desire is for us to truly want to pray, to be passionate in our time with Him.  And it is not intended to be a monologue…that you tell Him all that you need and then say Amen…It should be a dialogue where you listen for a response which could be an impression you feel or something that you comes to mind.  And this is something that is developed over time.

Before I accepted Jesus as my savior and pursued a relationship with God I know I prayed many milquetoast and meaningless prayers where I bargained with Him like God let me pass this test and I’ll go to church this week, or God get me through this hangover and I will never drink again.  The problem with these prayers is that they were not sincere and were just attempts to bribe God to get me out of trouble.  Too often we pray when things are terrible for God to help us out but once that is done God gets nothing…no thanks, no gratitude even if He did everything we prayed.

There is a song by the late great country singer Johnny Cash called a “Boy named Sue.”  He tells the story about how his father named him Sue and that he spent his life fighting everyone as a result of it.  The song most certainly is fictitious but in the Bible there is a man who was the equivalent to Sue.  His name was Jabez.  In 1 Chronicles 4:9 it says that:

“His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’”

The name his mother gave Jabez literally means…“he causes or will cause great pain.”  Now that may not seem like a big deal, but in Old Testament times, a person’s name was an indication of his future.  And a name like Jabez was like a curse that would predestine a person to a life of ridicule and grief just like the “boy named Sue.”  However, Jabez rose above the curse with a very simple prayer.

In 1 Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to God saying:

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
And enlarge my territory,
That your hand would be with me,
And that you would keep me from evil,
That I may not cause pain!
So, God granted what he requested.”

Jabez was a man who knew the power of prayer and is a great example of how to open the pipeline to God.  First and foremost we can learn that just like Jabez, we need to believe with all our heart that God will honor our prayer.  Now Jabez’s prayer may seem to be common sense but how many of you have ever prayed so boldly?  Most people feel that they should be grateful for whatever they have and it’s better not to press your luck by asking for more since there is so much suffering in the world.  That is completely opposite from the truth.  If you look at the first part of his prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 1 - Oh, that you would bless me indeed

Jabez is asking God to provide him with resources.  Now don’t misunderstand me, that does not mean that you can ask God for a Rolls Royce or a mansion in Beverly Hills.  As we discussed in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★, “God is not a vending machine!  Too many pastors and churches have sown into the “prosperity gospel” where you “give to get,” or in this case that you are praying for God to give you with lots of stuff!   That is not what blessing means.  The kind of blessing Jabez is talking about in a biblical sense is to ask God for “supernatural favor.”  It is asking God to bless us not with more of what we can do for ourselves, but for Him to do the miraculous through us to glorify the kingdom of God.  What a different perspective then the conventional though of our culture.  God has so many blessings for us and is just waiting for us to ask for them.  In Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV1984) it says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jabez asked and he received.  The prayer of Jabez is a special prayer asking for God’s blessings.  But something you have to realize is that God’s blessings are not always the blessings that we think that they ought to be.  The blessings that He will bestow upon us are so much more abundant than we could even imagine.  When Jabez asked God to “bless him indeed” he didn’t say “God I could use a new car, or a million dollars”; rather he left it up to God to decide how, when and where to bless him.  He prayed that God would give him nothing more and nothing less than what God had planned for his life.  The blessing can come in many different forms and for reasons that you would never expect.  In the second part of Jabez’s Prayer he asked for God to:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 - Enlarge my territory

Now when I first read that I immediately thought of real estate.  That Jabez wanted more land but what he was really asking for was more influence, more responsibility and more opportunity to make a difference for God in his life.  Asking your territory to be enlarged is a very dangerous request though.  You are saying to God give me a greater sphere of influence and more opportunities to impact people for Christ.  It is being totally open for God to use you as a tool for His purpose.  That means stepping out of your comfortable schedules and routines and being ready at any moment to fulfill God’s master plan.  It means seeing “interruptions” as “opportunities!”  This was true for me on Thursday on my flight home from a business trip in Indiana.  My plan was to plug-in my ear buds to relax with some music and write this post!  But as a man sat down next to me and proceeded to talk with me, God opened an incredible door to speak life into his situation.  Though I was exhausted from 2 days of meetings, and had other plans for the 2 hour flight, I was thrilled to be able to partner with God to share the truth from His Word to help encourage him.  It truly was the highlight of my day!

When you ask for your territory to be enlarged, it is an awesome responsibility but the rewards are immeasurable.  More than any other part of the prayer of Jabez, this concept of “enlarging my territory” has to be the most bizarre and unexpected request.  How many people do you know go up to their boss and say “would you give me more work and responsibility?”  Most people feel that whatever they are currently doing is enough and that they do not have the skills to handle anything more.

Through the Holy Spirit, He will speak the words of encouragement or healing or compassion that the person needs to hear.  That is what happened to me on Thursday!  The man in seat 16A asked me if I was a pastor but I am not, I’m an architect, and he kept saying “how is it that you know all of this?”  The answer unequivocally is God!  That is the point of this part of Jabez’s prayer, by asking for “the expansion” you are taking a huge leap of faith and trusting that when you are reaching out to people who God will give the words to speak when you are open to be used, He will break all the boundaries and restraints holding you back.  The third part of Jabez’s prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 3 - That your hand would be with meIs the equivalent of the Star Wars catch-phrase…“May the Force Be With You.”  Jabez realized that once God started to bless him with resources and expanded his territory that he was going to need help.  It is all too common for people to ask for more responsibility and once it has been given they feel overwhelmed and begin to doubt themselves.  It is at this point that we need the hand of God to carry us and work the impossible through us.  In his book “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life,” Bruce Wilkinson said that:

“The Hand of God is a biblical term for God’s power and presence in the lives of His people…As God’s chosen, we are expected to attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed…unless God Steps in.”

I shared some of this in the ★ Why I Do What I do ★ section of the blog, starting this blog was a huge step of faith because of the commitment level.  It takes much more effort than just throwing up a status update.  But God certainly expanded my territory through this blog and without a doubt has had his hand on my preventing epic failure.  He has equipped me with a boldness to share things from my heart and do things that I never imagined possible.  It has been an amazing experience!  The fourth part of the Prayer of Jabez states:

94 - Daily Dependence - 4 - And that you would keep me from evilThis is critical to pray.  As God blesses us, and our territory is expanded and the supernatural power is surging through us, we are most vulnerable to stumble and fail.  When you are enjoying spiritual victories and seeing God’s unbelievable plan unfolding it is easy to feel invincible and impervious to the attacks of the devil.  But, Jabez knew that once you start treading on the devil’s territory, a giant target would be placed on you.  You become public enemy #1 in his eyes.  I can attest to that fact.  With the devil’s attention focused on you like this, it’s best if you don’t try to play with temptation.  Don’t fall into the devil’s trap by testing your strength to resist from sinning because that is the quickest way to fail.  Bruce Wilkinson made this point in the book that:

“It is better to stay out of the arena than to challenge the lion.”

What is the best offense?  A good defense!  And that of course as you can already guess, is prayer!  In the book of Matthew, Jesus told the apostles how to pray, “The Model Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 is often referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer,” or as I knew it growing up, “The Our Father.”  The final verse shows how important to pray to God for deliverance:

“And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”  Matthew 6:13

In regard to temptation it is best not to press your luck.  If there is no temptation we will not sin; so stay clear of situations that will lead you to sin or cause harm to you or someone else.

There is such a tremendous power in prayer.  When Jesus was on the earth He was always praying to the Father.  In fact the only thing that the apostles ever asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray.  Jesus’ ministry was not just about healing and preaching but about praying.  He lived a life of Prayer.  It was through His prayers that God worked all the miracles and wonders.  In the life of Jabez, here was a man who started off badly but ended victorious from a simple prayer.  And let’s not miss the final part of that prayer…

94 - Daily Dependence - 5 - That I may not cause painI love the self-realization of Jabez, to know that he is fallible and in need of God to protect him from hurting other people.

And God’s response…“So, God granted what he requested.”  I heard a missionary say once:

“That when we work, we work.  But when we pray, God works.

God will work in your life through your prayers.  When you pray, you are opening up a pipeline to the creator of heaven and earth and the possibilities are endless!!  Your pray doesn’t have to be a formal, rehearsed prayer but rather God desires it to be one from the heart.  You don’t have to have your eyes closed or be in church.  Sometimes the most powerful prayers can be in the car as you’re driving to work or school.  Regardless of what you are doing, or who you are with, God will honor your prayers and welcome the fellowship time between you and Him.  Talk to God like a friend and open your heart to Him.  The miraculous can be done with a prayer!

If you are interested, you can check out the second installment called

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are a You Feeding On? ★

that covers the Pursuit of Feeding on God’s Word!

or

If you the introductory post, you can go here:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★

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★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★

Last year I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – What is the X-Factor of Leadership? ★, which examined how the X-Factor of Leadership is humble service to others through the example that Jesus gave to His 12 disciples.  On the eve of Jesus’ brutal death on the cross, He celebrated one last Passover meal together with His disciples, the people closest to Him.  Referred oftentimes as “The Last Super,” Jesus gave us a powerful demonstration and pattern to follow of what servant leadership is all about when He, the Son of God took on the role of a slave/servant and took hold of a jar of water and basin and washed His disciples’ feet.  One by one, foot by foot, Jesus humbled Himself and cleaned the day’s grime from their sandal-wearing feet…POWERFUL!  If you missed it, I encourage you to check it out because it will give you some needed background to this post.

Yesterday was “Good Friday,” which for Jesus was anything but that.  For us though, it changed everything!  By dying on the cross, Jesus stole the power of death and provided a pathway for you and me to overcome the Devil and have eternal life!!  But before we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ Resurrection, I thought we could look at the events leading up to Sunday.  Last week, my Pastor gave a great overview of Holy Week which I was very familiar with having grown up Catholic.  His sermon encouraged me to spend some time just reading and meditating on the events of this week through the Gospel of Luke.  If you are interested in reading what happened, they are recorded in Luke 19:28 – 24:12.  For those not familiar, Holy Week is the time period from Palm Sunday when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem to Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter).  As I studied the story of Easter in Luke, I discovered some interesting things.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was heralded as a King riding in on the back of a Donkey and though we all know what happens just 5 days later on Friday, I was amazed about how Jesus made the most of every opportunity.  In Luke 21:37-38 it says that:

“Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening He returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives.  The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear Him.” 

Even though He knew what awaited Him, Jesus spent each day teaching the very people who later would call for His crucifixion!  Michelle Myers made this astute observation:

“The crowd shouted “Hosanna” on Sunday…and shouted “Crucify Him!” on Friday.

Good Friday was a horrible day but I think that Saturday was probably the saddest day because all the hopes and expectations that Jesus’ followers had were crushed, and crucified on that cross along with Him.  Today’s “Thought,” is all about the transition period between the death of expectations and the resurrection of the dead.  And how, if you find yourself in that circumstance today, whether you are a believer in Jesus or not, there is hope in these two powerful words…BUT GOD!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God

Before that though, I would like to give a little context.  Luke 22:1-6 offers the background…As the Festival of Unleavened Bread (also called the Passover) was approaching, the leading priests were looking for a way to kill Jesus.  In verses 3-5 it says:

“Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.  They were delighted, and they promised to give him money.”

One man from among the inner circle accepted a bribe to betray His master.  As Judas waited for his opportunity, Jesus continued to show love to him even to the point of washing his feet!!  And the amazing thing, Jesus knew as he was washing Judas’ feet, see Luke 22:21-22 and John 13:18-30 which recalls when Jesus made the announcement that one of them would betray Him!  In the late 15th-century, Leonardo da Vinci captured that moment in his famous painting called “The Last Supper” 95 - Daily Dependence - Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Supperas each disciple, including Judas asked Jesus if it was them.  Shortly after, Judas left to put his plan in action.  Unaffected by his departure, Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples that Satan was going to “sift each of them like wheat” and that the spiritual warfare was going to be intense.  He also prepared them for what their life was going to be like after He was gone, see Luke 22:31-38What love!  Just hours before He would be viciously tortured and nailed to a Roman Cross, 95 - Daily Dependence - Crown and NailsJesus cared so much for these men that He would wash their feet, celebrate with them and offer counsel for the future!  After the Passover meal, Jesus did what He had been doing all week, and went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray for strength for what Friday was going to bring.  In Luke 22:47-48 it recalls how Jesus was betrayed and arrested.  As He pleaded for His disciples to pray that they will not fall into temptation, the passage says:

But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss.  But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 

When I read these words, God spoke so clearly into my spirit that “WE ARE ALL JUDAS!” 

WE ALL HAVE betrayed Jesus in our disobedience and choices that we have made.

WE ALL HAVE sinned and fallen short of what God desires for our life and…

WE ALL HAVE NO POWER to overcome sin without Jesus.

BUT GOD can change us if we will open our hearts!  Look at this amazing truth from Ephesians 2:1-9!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God - Ephesians 2 - 1-9

BUT GOD!  Two little words but when they are combined the impossible is possible!  When we say yes to Jesus, “we are made alive with Christ,” it’s like hitting the “reset button.”  95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System - ResetThe “reset button” is probably one of the greatest inventions on video game systems.  Do you remember what game system this is from?  Long before Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, or Sony PlayStation there was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  For those who remember this, you are old like me.  Hahaha!  This classic 80’s game system 95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System 2was a major pastime of my childhood.  Hours upon hours were spent playing games like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Donkey Kong Jr. and The Legend of Zelda to name a few.  The reset button was a constant go to when I was “knocked out” by Tyson or killed by a barrel or failed to rescue Princess Zelda, I would immediately jump up and hit the button which was like a do-over or clean slate.  95 - Daily Dependence - Martin Parker Street Art - Reset Your LifeI saw this sign creation from street artist Martin Parker that so perfectly illustrates what the purpose of the Cross and the reality of Easter!  We all get the opportunity to “reset our life” when we recognize that we are in need of a savior and surrender our will to God.  When we come to the end of ourselves and see that we cannot be “good enough” or “do enough” to earn our way to heaven.  When we see the cross for what it truly is, the ransom payment for our past, present and future mistakes!  God wants a relationship with you and me and so He provided a way though the death and resurrection of His Son.  In the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★, we looked at the life of Jonah and saw an example of how God will move heaven and earth in order to pursue you and me!  God did the same thing when He sent Jesus to Earth.  1 John 4:9 (NLT) says:

“God showed how much he loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.”  

As I have been studying the book of Jonah recently, it is amazing the jewels that are contained in this well-known story.  Jonah and the Fish is not just a children’s story made up to teach a life lesson about the price of disobedience but was a true story.  Jesus validated Jonah’s miraculous experience in Matthew 12:40 (NLT), Jesus said:

“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”

Yesterday was the remembrance of how Jesus was crucified over 2,000+ years ago and the payment for the sins of the world.  He died on Friday BUT GOD raised Him from the dead 3 days later!  Today as we wait for Resurrection Sunday, I want to put these two powerful words on the sticky side of your brain…“BUT GOD!”  You may feel like things will never change…that your circumstance is hopeless…that things are hopeless.  But that is simply not true!  I am living proof that nothing is impossible for God.  All you need to do is open your heart!  Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT) is an amazing verse to show that when you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you can be alive and free!!

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.

For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.

Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

Jesus came to set you and I free, will you accept Him?  Revelation 1:18 (NKJV) says,

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

Jesus left the majesty of heaven and became flesh and blood to deliver a message of hope to a world desperately in need of a Savior.  He is ready to extend grace and mercy to you today.  So what should our response be?  Will you surrender your life to Him?  If you are ready to make a decision that will change your life, here is a simple prayer you can pray:

God take this broken, sinful person and forgive my sins.  I want a relationship with you I am in need of a Savior.  I believe that Jesus came to die on the cross for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Please forgive all my sins.  I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you prayed that in earnest, welcome to the Kingdom of God!  I encourage you to find a bible teaching church and pursue your new relationship with Jesus!  If you want to read more about developing your faith, check out our segment on the blog called “Back to the Basics”

Now for the believer who may be struggling today or perhaps your walk with God has been in a lull…I want to challenge you to make a change today!  Worship Pastor Wade Joye made this statement that resonated in me!

“Easter is not an event we celebrate; it’s a reality we live in.”   

Just like Christmas, Easter should not be a “one and done” event.  It should be part of our DNA.  Don’t be a “Chreaster”… (a person who calls themselves a Christian but only attends church on Christmas and Easter.)  If you want to have a vibrant faith, then you need to put in the work.  We are doing a series right now about three worthy pursuits of God that will change the trajectory of our life with God.  Through Prayer, Reading God’s Word (the Bible) and Worship (both in song and church attendance) we can live a victorious life!  Paul instructs us in Romans 8:11 (NIV)

“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

As a believer in Jesus Christ, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead is in you!  If you are in need of refreshment of your Spirit today, ask and you will receive that!  Jesus is the Resurrected King who is ready to resurrect you and me.  If you want to grow you need to make steps to do things differently.  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

In anticipation of Easter tomorrow, I will close with this…“He is Risen!”

I pray that this year, you will experience Christ in a new way!  Happy Easter!

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

96 - Daily Dependence - Follow Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life 3About a year ago we posted ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, in which we looked at how one conversation between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus changed his life and how if we will be open to listening to the call of God, we could be used to change the life of others.  I shared in ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ about how I had a fantastic conversation with a man in the next seat on the flight home from Indiana which has continued with us texting back and forth about God and matters of faith.  I have also been trading emails with a member of my project team about life.  We went from discussing the Presidential Election to Trump’s Wall to handle immigration to what he thought about God which opened the door to the subject of today’s post.  I would like to use his 6 questions to delve into the hot-button topic of “How God could send someone to Hell that never heard the gospel?”  At the end of this post I will give you two messages from Pastors that I greatly respect and have sat under the teaching of for years (one in person and one through Podcast.)  But I digress…I will paste my answer to each question in order of how he asked them…

1.  Why is there not a Gospel of Jesus?  So much was written by flawed men. 

Though man is certainly flawed, the Bible was written by the direction of God.  Part of my faith is that the Bible is the inherent Word of God.  The first thing to understand is that though Jesus’ name is not on the top of any book, every word in the bible is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

“All Scripture is breathed out by God” and was intended to be a road map or instruction manual for how to live.

2.  How can Christianity which is all about Christ claim that all people who don’t accept Jesus go to hell and suffer for all eternity?

Regardless of the racial, social or economic background, every single person has been told of the existence of God…By God Himself.  God has placed a God-shaped hole in everyone one of us.  Every person has questioned where they came from, how they came about and ultimately what will happen after we breathe our last breath.  The question is, do you look up or do you rebel against the truth?  Also any sentient being cannot look at the magnificence of a sunrise, or the gentle breeze across halcyon wheat fields or the giggle of a child’s laughter and not wonder if there is not something greater than themselves.  Again the question is, do you open your mind up to the possibility or repress the stirring?  Pastor Robert Morris made statement:

“The Bible says that since the beginning of time, God has revealed Himself to every person both internally and externally.  Every person is born with a conscience, given to them by God, that gives them guidance about right and wrong.  Scripture says that creation itself is proof of His existence, and promises that every person who makes an effort to seek God will find Him.  Therefore, no one has an excuse.  We can see God if we’ll only look.”

Ultimately you have to understand that

“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

Because God is just and holy many people see these 2 attributes as negatives, but there has to be consequences for Sin.  But what many people struggle is that:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

3.  Could you believe that a person like the Dali Lama who is kind and completely about peace in the world would go to Hell?

This question is a difficult one to answer.  I cannot truly answer that question because God is the who judges and will decide who is destined to go to Hell or not.  Jesus did say in John 14:6 (NLT),

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father [God] except through me.

The question though is from the presupposition that there are actually kind and good people.  Romans 3:10-12 (NLT) says,

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless.  No one does good, not a single one.”” 

And Romans 3:23 (NLT) says:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Sin is very real and though people may strive to be kind and peaceful; there is no one who is perfect.  See Romans 3:24-26 and Romans 5:12-17.  To make matters worse, 2 Corinthians 4:4 which talks about how “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.”  It is interesting to note that people were never intended to go to Hell.  God created Man to have a relationship with Him and set Him in the Garden of Eden which was paradise on earth.  Robert Morris made this point:

“Hell was created for Satan and his angels, (see Matthew 25:41) when they inexcusably and rebelliously rejected God without cause.  God sent His Son so that no one else would ever have to go there.  God gave every person a free will.  We can choose to love Him or to reject Him.  The people in heaven are those who have chosen Him.  Many others reject Him, in spite of His unlimited goodness.  Our eternal destiny is not His choice, but ours.  Hell wasn’t created for people, but according to Isaiah 5:14, it was enlarged because people inexcusably reject God.  So, the question is, ‘How could anyone reject a loving God?’”

Isn’t that a fascinating thought?  Instead of viewing it from the perspective that God is sending people to Hell, the truth is that People are choosing to go to Hell because of their blatant rejection of the free gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross!  You can read more on this in the post ★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★.

4.  How do I have faith when Christianity and all other religions say we go to hell if we don’t believe?  Christianity is all about Jesus and Christianity says we go to hell when for many life is stacked against them even to the point they may not have even heard of him?

In addition to what I stated above, in a message that I just heard, Steven Furtick made this profound faith…

“The Opposite of Faith is not doubt.  The Opposite of Faith is certainty.

Faith is meant to be more than a formality.

Faith was meant to be more than a feeling.

Faith was meant to be more than a formula.

In fact if you can reduce it to a formula and make sense out of it, it ain’t faith.”

It’s normal to have doubts and to question but in the end, there will be some things we just will never know this side of heaven.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) says,

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

God is the only one who knows whose heart belongs to Him and whose has rebelled.

5.  Is the simple answer that parts of the bible while true there maybe parts that are not because they were not written by Christ?

As I mentioned above, The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the entire Bible is true.  Charles Stanley made this statement.

“The truth of God’s Word applies to all men and women in every culture, in every age, in every walk of life…Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; the Bible enlightens each individual to recognize personal sin, the need for salvation, and the best possible life course.”

For me the Bible is my anchor of my life.  I believe if people truly want to grow in their faith and live a victorious in life than dusting off the Bible on the nightstand and opening it up is a necessity!  In an older post called ★ Thought for the Day – All About the Big Ten ★, I wrote about the importance of knowing the whole Bible because of its relevance to our life.  Check it out; it looks through the lens of the Ten Commandments.

6.  What do you think is the greatest sin with respect to sins against others? 

There are definitely sins that I believe are worse than others, rape, murder, child abuse to name a few but the Bible has something very different to say.  In asking this question I asked if he were referring to the Ten Commandments or perhaps “The seven deadly sins” – Pride, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Greed but regardless of what he was asking, there is a really easy answer that comes from Jesus’ little brother James where he said;

“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”  James 2:10-13 (NLT)

We as humans are broken, sinful people in need of Savior to rescue us from ourselves, see Psalms 14:1-3, Romans 3:23-26 and Romans 5:8-9.

I will tell you what I told him, that I am truly honored that you have opened your heart for us to dialogue about God and to share with you what I have learned through the study of His Word.  I will close with this final truth of Who is God and what do we mean to Him…James 1:16-18 (NLT)

“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

We are His prized possession and all God wants from us is a relationship with Him!  Here is a blog I wrote that expands much deeper called…★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★, would love to hear your thoughts!

Here are so follow-up resources…

★  “Tough question…How can a loving God send people to Hell” – Robert Morris

http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/life/events/the-end-what-happens-next/session/2011/08/13/a-tough-question#.TkvLcu7ZdUB.gmail

★  “Functional Faith” – Steven Furtick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=935vFzx722c&sns=em

Check back soon as we will be posting ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★  that will continue our series of the 3 Pursuits that will lead to a successful life!

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★

Today is the final segment in our series of the 3 Worthy Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.  We first introduced these pursuits in the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ in which we saw through the life of Jonah that God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  The first Pursuit of our series was called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ in which we saw how critical prayer is through the Prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10.  In the second post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we covered the importance of reading God’s Word, the Holy Bible.  In today’s post we will unpack the final Pursuit…Worship.

100 - Daily Dependence - Worship EmojiWhat is worship?  It is a noun?  Is it a verb?  Yes…It’s actually both. 

Let’s start off with what Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary had this simple definition of worship as:

  • the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god
  • the act of worshipping God or a god
  • excessive admiration for someone

Before we get too deep, too fast, I wanted to look at that last meaning…excessive admiration for someone.”  Another word for admiration is adoration which means 100 - Daily Dependence - Five Below Storedeep love.  My youngest daughter without a doubt has a deep love for Five Below. Any time she gets some money she wants to go shopping.  I have to say I am a fan of the store myself because you can some pretty cool stuff for $5 or less.  One visit, as we went through the aisles, I saw this mug which blew me away!

100 - Daily Dependence - I love Me Mug

What a sign of the times!  We live in such a self-indulgent culture that screams look at me, listen to what I have to say, it’s all about me.  You don’t have to go too far down on your Twitter or Instagram feed before you see an example of person making that proclamation of “I love me” through their excessive selfies!  I saw these alarming statistics on infogr.am site:

100 - Daily Dependence - Selfie Statistics

“1 million ‘Selfies’ taken globally each day!!!”  Not that is a “whole lotta lovin” of oneself!!  The Apostle Paul talked in 2 Timothy about the coming “Godlessness in the Last Days.”  In verses 1-2 he said:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,”

And the list goes on, you can read the rest in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.  Doesn’t that sound very familiar to today’s culture?  Now am I saying that taking a selfie = Godlessness?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I have taken my fair share with the people in my life to capture a moment.  But what I am saying is that we need to be very careful that being a “lover of self” is a slippery slope!  We need to renew our mind each day and not follow whatever is trending on Twitter!  See Romans 12:2.

In our last post called ★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Parasite? ★ we talked about how reading God’s Word, and “doing” what it says will move us from being babies in the faith to mature in our walk with God.  The same is true for our worship.  We need to not be so self-centered that everything has to be all about us and follow what 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT) says:

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

When we were babies it was true that the world did revolve around us but that was due to our helpless state but just like as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, we need to put away childish behaviors and start adoring the One who truly matters!  1 Chronicles 29:11 (NLT) gives us another way to live…

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the one who is over all things.”

Going back to Merriam-Webster’s definition…Worship is “the act of worshiping God or a god.”  The strikethrough is based on what the Jesus said in Luke 4:8:

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’”

Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 from the Old Testament.  So how do you Worship God?  In how you treat others (see Luke 6:31-35, Mark 12:29-33), how we take care of people in need (see Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27), and even how generous we are (see Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Timothy 5:8).  Another way to Worship God is through music.  David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, played the harp and loved to worship God through music.  He wrote in Psalms 150:1-6 (NASB)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

I love that declaration…”Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”  What a call to action!  This should be freeing to all of us because David said “Let everything,” not the talented or gifted, so if you are shy or feel like you do not have a good enough voice, memorize Psalms 150:6 and Worship the Lord whether in your home, car or church!  We live in such an incredible time period where there are some many different genres and styles of worship, from classic hymns to modern praise and worship.  How doesn’t matter as long as you do!

100 - Daily Dependence - Worshippers

I love what worship leader John David Hessler said…

“Songs become like a diving board to get us back in to the deep water of the Lord’s heart.  I love how a song can somehow contain an eternal moment inside of it.”

I cannot agree more with that!  I love music of all kinds but especially worship music.  I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone.  But I think that my favorite times of listening to worship music is when I am in church because as I am experiencing “an eternal moment” along with others which users in Holy Spirit’s presence because God inhabits the praises of his people, see Psalms 22:3-4.  Referred to as “Worship Service” or “Corporate Worship,” the gathering together of other believers in Christ to sing praises to God leads us into the final definition that I would like to delve into…Worship is…“the act of showing respect and love for  a  God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God.” The strikethrough and capitalization of “God” is based on 1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) says:

“yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

God is worthy of our worship and is just waiting for us to turn from our wicked ways, see 2 Chronicles 7:14…The question is will you worship Him?  Will you give up on focusing just on what you want and what make you happy?  Will you look for opportunities to help others, to look out for the overwhelmed, under resourced and people far away?

Though we examined each PURSUIT separately, they are intrinsically linked…at some point you need to realize your brokenness and need of a change in your life, resulting in a PRAYER to God to accept Jesus as your Savior.  In response to that prayer, you start developing a relationship with God through reading His WORD.  And the outcome of gaining knowledge of God and His Son, your love and adoration deepens which leads to WORSHIP.  This is a picture of what happens during a church service, whether you attend on Saturday or Sunday.  Regardless of what denomination or congregation you belong to, if it is a Bible preaching church, each PURSUIT is represented during the corporate time of honoring God.

I will close with this last thought that I think encapsulates the truest sense of Worship…

“Worship is so much more than the songs we sing on Sunday morning.  It is the life that we live the rest of the week.”  Unknown

And how could I talk about worship and not give you a song too?  Here is an incredible song called “Simplicity” by Rend Collective.  Let this just fill your spirit!

Here are a couple of lyrics…

I come with my broken soul
To you the perfect one
To worship you in spirit and truth
Only you 

Give me a childlike heart
Lead me to where you are
Cause I’m coming back to my first love
Only you

You’re the reason I sing
The reason I sing

I pray that today you would focus on Adoration That Matters and live your life worshiping the One true God and give your heart to His Son Jesus Christ!

If you would like to read more on this, check out the post ★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

 

 

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★

Well 23 days have passed since we rung in 2017.  We have a new President of the United States and there has been a little over 3 weeks to work on our New Year’s Resolutions that we promised that we would do…so how are you doing with those resolutions?  Have you kicked the mistakes and habits of 2016 yet?  In the post114-daily-dependence-kicking-the-habits-of-2016-away ★ Thought for the Day – Unstoppable Determination for God’s Holiness ★, I shared that I don’t believe in resolutions because they are pretty much worthless and that I was challenged to think of them more as “Commitments” instead because you either change or you don’t.  We all have choices before us on whether we want to continue in the same old habits or not.  Today if you are reading this and you don’t know the plan of God for your life, I want you to encourage you to open your mind and heart to what He wants to do in your life as you read this post.

God said through the prophet Jeremiah: 114-daily-dependence-jeremiah-29-11

Jeremiah 29:11 is a famous Bible verse that you see all the time adorned on T-shirts and displayed on plaques and coffee mugs…(I even have one myself.)  It is a verse that I have been encouraged by and have shared with others to help comfort them in their time of need.  But have you even wondered what God’s plan is for you specifically?  The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:6 (NLT)…

“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children.  Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

If the term Gentile is an unfamiliar to you, it simply means a person who is not Jewish.  When the Jews rejected Jesus, the door was opened for everyone who is not a direct descendant of Abraham, the father of the Jews.  John 1:10-12 (NLT) says:

“He [Jesus] came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

You can also read more about it in Jesus’ “Parable of the Evil Farmers.”  Until this point there was a huge chasm between the Gentiles and Jews.  Jesus paved the way to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to Himself.  Psalms 133:1 says:

“How Good and Pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.”
“How Good and Pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

Regardless if you are a Jew or a Gentile, if you believe in Jesus, you are God’s people and He desires there to be unity in His Church.  Paul went on to say in Ephesians 3:10-11:

“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

People who are skeptical of church, or perhaps were hurt in the past by hypocrisy, or “holier than thou” attitudes question “why do I need to go to church?”  They justify it by saying “I can have a relationship with God on my own.”  Now while that is true that we can have a one on one with our Heavenly Father, the verse we just read is clear that the plan of God was “to use the church to display His wisdom.”  It is through gathering with other believers that our faith is strengthened and will grow exponentially faster than if we try to go it alone.  Charles Stanley said,

“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith.” 

And Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) furthers that point with this:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

As the “church,” God wants us to leverage our relationship with those that are in our sphere of influence.  To encourage and build others up in the faith, which cannot be done in isolation.

Last weekend I was at my church’s retreat for the Junior High and High School students.  The keynote speaker was David Marvin from the “Porch” at Watermark Church who spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.  He made this statement that has resounded ever since in my spirit,

“Every person you have ever looked at will live somewhere for eternity…either with God or without God.”

If you are a Christian, that is a haunting reality that should motivate us to want to reach those who are lost and far away from God.  For those of you reading this today who do not call yourself a Christian or maybe a better way to say it, a “Christ Follower,” I want you to know that God loves you so much.

114-daily-dependence-ephesians-3-you-area-loved-by-jesusAnd when you place your faith in Jesus, you will experience freedom like you never dreamed possible.  The Apostle Paul continues in Ephesians 3:12 with this truth:

“Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.  So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here.  I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.

When you believe in Jesus, you have access to God like never before because until you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior the SIN in your life will keep you away from Him.  You may say “I am a good person,” but that just is not enough.  We are all sinners and have fallen short of what God desires for our life (see Romans 3:23.)  And with that access comes the unfolding of His plan in your life!

I love what Sandi Krakowski once said:

“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”
“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”

God is just waiting for you to take a step in His direction.  The invitation is open to you but you need to make the choice to follow Jesus.  If you want to start your relationship with Him today just go to this post, ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ and can read more about what this means and as well as a simple prayer that you can say to God that can start you down the path.  Just like a loving father, God is willing, ready and able to help us out whatever mess we have made of our lives.  (If you want to read more on the Father Heart of God just check out the “Parable of the Prodigal (or lost) Son” from Luke 15:11-32.)

Maybe you have made the commitment to Christ and have started on the journey to develop your relationship; I wanted to remind you of the truth of what Tim Keller said that:

“God invites us to come as we are, not to stay as we are.”

The amazing thing about God is that He will take us back regardless of the filth that we find ourselves in but the expectation is that once we have made the choice, we must continue to grow in our faith so that we can enjoy that new life!  Colossians 1:23 (NLT) says:

“But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.  Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.  The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”

The Good News is this…God sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice and payment for our sins.  Through Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection, a bridge has been created to restore the relationship with God WHEN we believe in Jesus.  (See also 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 6:6-7)  And so like Paul, we need to be standing firmly in our faith and actively pressing on to learn and grow.  If we are not advancing in our walk with God, we are regressing or drifting away…One of my favorite John Wooden quotes which I will close this Thought for Today is….

114-daily-dependence-john-wooden-choices“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.” 

So the choice is yours today…Do you start a relationship with Jesus and be a part of God’s Mysterious Plan that will forever change your legacy and family tree?  Or if you are a believer already will you start today to pursue your relationship more fervently?  I want to challenge you to throw out the useless “resolutions” and “choose to commit” to a new trajectory so that you’re not repeating the same old habits from 2016 and regretting 12 months from now that your life is different from it was today!  Because “in the end, the choice you make, makes you!”

If you are interested in learning more on the Grace of God, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★

 

Or if you want to deepen your relationship check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★   

Here is the very first Daily Dependence post which has been updated with an audio podcast called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★

Click Here

Daily Dependence

Click hereif you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post.

Does the title of today’s Thought surprise you?  One day in the office, a co-worker said to me, “I hate religion.”  He was surprised by my response when I said “so do I.”  Knowing that I am a Christian, he naturally assumed I was “Religious.”  I told him that “Religion” is just “Man’s” way of understanding or attempting to connect with God.  Unfortunately though people are hurt and oppressed by “Man-made” rules and then they blame God for what people say or do to them.  Mark Twain once said:

That is so true!  He gets blamed all the time for what people do in “His name,” but what God really desires is to have a personal relationship with us, through His Son Jesus, where we include Him in all aspects of our life.  I truly believe that you can “Hate Religion” and…

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