★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? – ¡Parte Dos! ★

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

 

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? ★ , I shared about the resent Missions Trip to Zaragoza, Mexico I went on with my church to  partner with a local church called Ranchos Dos Countries.  Today I want to build upon that and tell you about an amazing God story that happened while I was there.  Before I do that, I want to give a little context about the trip because I was not even supposed to go.  Our church had a meeting several months earlier in which they talked about all the different opportunities available for the year.  My daughter heard about the student trip to Mexico and wanted to go with the other teenagers. But at the time of signups there was not a lot of information and I was uncomfortable to send her out of the country for the first time.  So we decided to go on the family Missions trip instead.  Though it was not my plan to go, it was without a doubt the plan of God that I’d be there as I would find out just two days after getting there.  But to get there I had to go through much spiritual warfare. I have been on a high pressure project and the timing of the trip could not have been worse in regards to executing the work but it was exactly what I needed!!

My part on the mission trip was to share my testimony of how God has changed my life with the men of Zaragoza.  If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know full well that I have made many mistakes and had a very dark life before accepting Jesus as my savior in 1998.  So when I was asked to share my testimony, I accepted the responsibility without hesitation because I love to share how God used my wife to lead me out the life I was enslaved in. But unbeknownst to me, this time God wanted me to share an unabridged testimony.  I have shared openly about the past problems with drugs, alcoholism, partying, depression, pornography and the night I almost committed suicide.  This time however, God placed on my heart to share about the abuse that happened in my teenage years , which up until this point I had only shared with a handful of people.  Though I believe I had been healed from the abuse, the stigma and shame kept me from being 100% open and transparent with others about this trauma.  Now people who know me personally would not agree with that assessment probably, but for me I want my life to serve as a warning to others, and that cannot be fully realized if I hold back any part of the story that God has carried me through.  And let me tell you, I am so thankful I did, because I believe that there was still some amount of healing that needed to be done which happened that week in Mexico!

So…back to the God story I want to share with you.  I was ready to air all the dirty laundry and leave the “baggage” back in Texas, those thoughts of condemnation and shame which have weighed me down, and go full throttle to minister to the men in Mexico.  I was warned that because Zaragoza is a small community where everyone knows everyone, it will be a challenge to get the men to share.  In addition to that, inside my head there was spiritual warfare right before I started to speak because of the age gap between most of the men and me, most being 20 years older than me, God showed up in a powerful way and cut right through all the blockades!  As I sat in a small one room schoolhouse

with (16) leather-faced men who had been hardened by the sun and by life, God worked through me to reach these men.  Strongholds were broken and breakthroughs were made that I have never seen before!!   The truth of James 5:16 (ESV) was realized in a mighty way…

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

As I shared my story and confessed my sins and opened up about the abuse, God softened the hearts of these men. They saw that regardless of what has happened in the past, He can heal and deliver anyone from any bondage of sin, shame or guilt.  Tears flowed in that small schoolhouse as man after man confessed sins and regrets of past mistakes.  The greatest moment for me though was when the last man to speak shared that he was sexually abused too!!  It was incredible to see the raw honesty and deliverance from the enemy that happened!!!  And all I had to do was be a conduit for God’s love,  grace and forgiveness to flow.  Charles Stanley has this great life lesson on the verse from James we just read, he said…

“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith.  We cannot obey God without being in regular, close fellowship with other believers.  He has designed us so that many of our needs can only be met through mutual interdependence.”

Jesus Himself needed fellowship with others.  Almost immediately He started His ministry, Jesus invited men to follow Him and become His disciples, see Luke Chapter 5.  So if Jesus saw the value in surrounding Himself with others shouldn’t we??  This is something that in the past two years I have been doing and I have seen such tremendous growth and strengthening in my faith walk.  And it is that sharpening that enabled me to finally break free to share what I did.  I just finished a Bible reading plan called “Play The Man” from Mark Batterson and he made this powerful point:

“A man of conscience is a change agent—a force to be reckoned with.  As Andrew Jackson observed, “One man with courage makes a majority.”  He’s not blown here and there by trending winds.  He’s anchored to the Word of God, and that anchor holds him through ups and downs, through thick and thin.”

When you’re a man (or woman) of conscience you can overcome sin and adversity in life but you must be dialed in to God!  To be a change agent, a force to be reckoned with, you must study God’s Word because that is where true freedom will come!  I will close with this truth from John 8:31-32 (NLT)…

“Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

The truth will set you free!!  What I experienced in Mexico with those men you can experience too IF you are willing to be a conduit for God to speak through.  You don’t need to a seminary degree or to know the Bible cover to cover, it’s just about being willing to be transparent with your struggles and available to share the truth of God’s Word that will encourage and transform people’s lives!!

 

If you would like to read more on this topic check out: 

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ 

★ Thought for the Day – Be the MAN to Carry the Light ★

★ Thought for the Day – Chain Reaction Catalyst ★

 

 

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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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★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? ★

I am excited to announce that today is our 200th post!!

It is also the 3 year anniversary since the Daily Dependence blog was born!  And the first post that will also include an audio recording if you prefer to listen instead of reading, just click here to listen.

 

Today I want to ask you this question…

What’s Your Story?

We all have one.  It could be that you were adopted, or grew up in a single parent home, or maybe you had both parents under one roof.  Perhaps your family was rich or poor or somewhere in the middle.  You may have grown up believing in God, or never have darkened a church door in your life, or you could have come to faith later in life.  Whatever your family of origin, socioeconomic circumstances and religious background may be, we all have a story which has helped shape and define the way we behave and interact with others.

For me, I grew up in a one stoplight town in Pennsylvania with my mom, brother and sister.  As a divorced woman with 3 kids to support, my mom worked herself to the bone as a maid in a local resort destination but unfortunately God really did not have any real part of our lives.  I have been thinking a lot about my story lately since my oldest and daughter got back from a trip to Zaragoza, Mexico.  If you are thinking “I have never heard of a vacation destination with that name,” well that’s because no one would ever pick there to spend a week unless they had family there or as a result of their car breaking down while driving through to somewhere else.  Zaragoza is a dirt poor town near the Mexico–US border with Texas, 1 hour southwest of the Del Rio border crossing.  With a population of approximately 12,000, Zaragoza is far from any resort area; in fact, it is 1,000 miles to the north of Acapulco, Mexico.

The reason we were there was to share the love of Jesus through acts of service…from passing out food in the neighboring homes, to putting on Vacation Bible School for the children, to facilitating men’s and women’s bible studies.  The video below was produced by a friend of mine on the trip that captures the incredible week of ministry that our church experienced as we partnered with the local church called “Rancho Dos Countries” (www.ranchodoscountries.com) in Zaragoza, Mexico.

It was my first mission trip and was absolutely amazing!  I shared the video with a buddy of mine and he had this to say…

“Looks like you helped bring a bunch of joy to some folks man!”

My response to him and what I want to share with you today is that it was just the opposite!  I have spent over a year going out of my mind as a result of a project I am on and all the stress it has caused, but one week in Mexico has change my attitude and outlook on life!  While he was correct that I did help some people, they helped me far more!  I learned three major things while in Mexico:

1.  Service.

I’ve always been a person who would pitch-in with whatever is needed.  On the missions trip I learned very quickly that you will do a variety of jobs and there is absolutely no room for ego.  From the Team Leaders to the Pastor to the youngest child on the trip, everybody was expected to shoulder their fair share and do whatever was asked of them without complaint and with joy.  And that is exactly what happened!  It was truly incredible to see Psalm 133:1 (NIV) in action!!  

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

We left from Mansfield, Texas as acquaintances but have come back as a family!

The second thing I learned was:

2.  Gratitude.

Many times I have acknowledged that God has blessed me with a beautiful family, a wonderful house, and a great job but until this trip I never truly understood how much I really am! The abject poverty that I saw on this trip was heart wrenching and quite honestly difficult for me to believe that in the 21st-century there still exists!

The people of Zaragoza have so little and yet when you talk with them, there is a deep joy and appreciation of what God has done in their lives.  It was inspiring and convicting at the same time.

The final lesson I learned was:

3.  Perspective.

I realized that the things that I worry about are so meaningless.  Yes I may have a bad day at work or having issues on a tough project, but there are people not only in Mexico but all over the world who spend their days just fighting to survive.  While there to encourage the people, I found myself being far more encouraged by them.  I met a man there named Francisco.  I first saw him riding up a hill towards me on the makeshift bicycle you see on bottom right of the photo.  When he reached me and of the other guys from our team, we greeted with the biggest smile.  You may not have noticed it at first but there is a crank shaft that goes from the handle bars to the front wheels and that is because Francisco has no legs.  He is known all around the town I would suspect because of the bicycle and his physical limitations but after talking with him for a half hour or so through a translator I believe it’s because of his joyful attitude and fun loving spirit.  He also does an incredible job of shining shoes which is how he supports his wife and two daughters.  We were blessed to hear his testimony of how 20 years ago he tried to jump on a moving train and lost his grip resulting in the dual amputation.  If that were not traumatic enough, Francisco was also dragged by the train for a while before he got free.  When he was found, Francisco was assumed dead and sent to the morgue.  For 12 hours he laid there until the medical examiner discovered he was alive!!  As I listened to this miraculous story, it is undeniable that the hand of God was o on him that night and has been for the past 2 decades because there has never been a day in my life that I have ever gone to work with an ounce of his joy half it is without a doubt embodies what the Apostle Paul commanded in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV):

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

I have quoted this scripture many times believing in my heart that I was fulfilling the charge, only to see from the life of a humble shoeshine man that I have far to go. Because of Francisco my perspective has been forever changed.  Boy I tell you nothing helps you more to forget about your problems like going on a mission trip to serve and help others because you never know how God will not work through you BUT to you!!

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Back Into the Fire ★ I shared this verse from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

God comforts us so that we will turn around and comfort those in need.  That is why Missions Trips are so wonderful, because you get to partner with God, to be His hands and feet in the fulfillment of the Great Commission that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV):

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”

Everyone has a story.  Everyone has gone through hardships and adversity, some much more than others.  The key though is what to you do with it??  My wife  put it perfectly when we were talking about this Thought,

I love that!  We all have story. How can you use your story to glorify God?  Bill Hybels nailed it when he said:

“It’s incredible to realize that what we do each day has meaning in the big picture of God’s plan.”

Like Francisco, as we share our story of what God has carried us through, we can encourage and inspire others in His masterplan!  I leave you with the same command to Go Make Disciples of all Nations, not just in another country but in your neighborhood, school or workplace!  There are needs everywhere and I pray that you will move you into action!

 

If you would like to read Part 2, click here.

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Compromise (Part 5) ★

Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the Consequences of Compromise.  If you have missed the previous posts we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (click here).  We then studied about alcohol and drugs (click here), pornography and promiscuity (click here), adultery (click here), and most recently gluttony (click here).

Last Sunday the pastor at my church said that Satan wants us to bail out or compromise which got me thinking about this Thought for the Day because you can see this happening constantly in our cultureToday we will delve into the pitfall of compromise.  If you have been following our blog, you know that this is a topic that we have explored quite a bit in the past; and that is because if this area is out of line, then every other part of your life will be affected.  If we say we are a Christian then we must be very careful not to allow things “to slip” in this department.  Now I am not living in a fantasy-land, I would love to say that all temptations goes away once you accept Christ as your savior but that would be denying what 1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV) warns.

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Temptation is real and will never go away while we are on this side of heaven. And compromise is a slow fade…What we say, the jokes we laugh at, how act should align with the faith we profess.  I truly feel that how we handle ourselves should be the same regardless of who we are with.  What do you think about that?  Is that possible?  I can honestly say that I try to be the same person whether it is with my daughters, my wife, a co-worker, my pastor or a stranger.  Something that I have always tried to keep in mind is what I once heard motivational speaker, author and former pastor John Maxwell say:

“I am always one step away from stupid.”

What a humble statement and great wisdom too!  No matter how far along you are in your journey, you are always one bad decision away from blowing it!  In an instant we could ruin our legacy and reputation that we have built over a lifetime of good choices.  Peer pressure from friends, or demands from employers/clients, or one’s own ambition to climb the corporate ladder can exert a huge gravitational pull towards compromising our moral or ethical beliefs.  That is why we must heed the warning of 1 Corinthians and be mindful not to give into the enticements that satan dangles in front of us, whether it be cheating on an exam or our spouse, turning a blind eye to corruption or willingly partaking in it.  This may be cliché but you will never regret doing the right thing and not going along with what people are doing.  2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT) instructs…

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.  How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness?  How can light live with darkness?  What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil?  How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?  And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.  Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.  And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.””

When we allow ourselves to be influenced by how we will be perceived or to make choices that we know are not God honoring, we open ourselves to some devastating consequences.

Today’s case study fell victim to the trap of yielding to the court of public opinion.  Saul was the first king of the Israelites and was anointed by the prophet Samuel to lead.  On the outside, he appeared to be quite “kingly,” but on the inside he desired only to garner the people’s approval and would do anything for that affirmation.  For those not familiar with King Saul here’s the cliff notes version about this man.

We are first introduced to the man in 1 Samuel 9:1-2:

“There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin.  He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin.  His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.”

So Saul came from a wealthy family and looked the part as well.  In verse 17, he received a great endorsement from the prophet Samuel…

“When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said, ‘That’s the man I told you about!  He will rule my people.’”

So he came from the right family, he looked the part and had the right supports.  Saul had everyone hoodwinked including the prophet of God.  It’s interesting though, when it came time to appoint Saul as King of Israel, he was nowhere to be found.  1 Samuel 10:21b-24 says:

“And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them.  But when they looked for him, he had disappeared!  So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”

And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”  So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else.

Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!”

And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

“Long live the king!?”  The people cheered to receive a king that was “hiding among the baggage” at the time of appointment!  From the onset, Saul proved he did not have what it takes; you can read all about his reign in 1 Samuel 11-13.  As war continued with the Philistines, and hopelessness was spreading amongst the ranks, Saul’s true colors came out as he waited for Samuel.  1 Samuel 13:8-14 (NLT) recalls:

“Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn’t come.  Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away.  So he demanded, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!”  And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself.

Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived.  Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?”

Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle.  So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’  So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”

“How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you.  Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart.  The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

As a result of not trusting in God and his desire to keep his men in line, Saul violated God’s command that only his prophet could present the offering so he lost the kingdom as a result of giving into compromise!  The same can happen to us in our jobs, our marriages or our friendships if we too follow in the way of Saul.  I got this fortune cookie once that I thought was priceless…

“Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.”

We need to practice discernment and realize that it is our choice as to what we give into.  Now I don’t subscribe to fortune cookie wisdom, so let’s see what the Bible says…

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13

Satan doesn’t make us do anything; we make the decision whether or not to compromise.  This is something that I am hoping has come through loud and clear that yielding to temptation is on us but if we trust God He will help us through it!  Living a life of truth is everything!  In the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we discussed all about the attacks of satan, spiritual warfare and the importance of putting on the Armor of God.  In Ephesians 6:14 (NLT) it says:

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.”

The Belt of Truth is intended to hold everything together.  The Apostle Paul gave this advice because without living a life of integrity everything will fall apart.  Proverbs 21:21 (ESV) has this promise for everyone who will choose a different path:

“Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.”

But will we choose to pursue the tough road, the road to righteousness?  Or will go the much simpler, more traveled road of compromise?  I will close this with this thought from Jimmy Evans:

“There’s a difference between committing a sin and practicing a sin.”  

We all make mistakes; the key is what you do once you have made it.  Will you continue in that compromise or sin, or will you come clean with God and set things straight.  The starting point goes back to trusting God.  We need to daily renew our mind and our relationship with our heavenly Father in order to serve God in our school, friendships, vocations and our families!  That is why this site is called “Daily Dependence,” because we all need to keep Christ at the center of our lives!  What will you choose to do?

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Got Values? ★

★ Thought for the Day – How Important is Integrity? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course…Part 2 ★

★ Thought for the Day – Talent vs. Integrity ★  

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★ Thought for the Day – Fair-Weather Faith ★

I hope you have been enjoying our Temptation Series and though I had planned to be writing about “Avoiding the Consequences of Gluttony,” the Lord redirected me to write about today’s topic.  I have never heard of the expression of “Fair Weather Faith,” but the title came to me in perfect clarity.  I have heard of Fair-Weather Friends and Fair-Weather Fans.  Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “fair-weather” as being:

“loyal or helpful only during times of success and happiness.”

We all have had people in our lives that seemed like they would be there through thick and thin but only to disappear once you needed them the most.  Proverbs 17:17 (ESV) describes the type of friends we believed those people to have been:

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ we talked a lot about the importance of fostering Biblical Community through “Fight Clubs” and how true friends are developed as a result.  If you missed it, I highly recommended catching up.

As for the second “Fair-Weather” term’…In 2010 the Texas Rangers broke an 11 year playoff drought when they made it to the coveted series; it was amazing how all of a sudden there was a huge outpouring of fandom with the ‘claw’ and ‘antlers,’ along with Josh Hamilton jerseys that popped up everywhere you looked.  To me, it was the truest example of Fair-Weather Fans because before that season I lived in Texas for 3 years with virtually no mention of the Arlington based team.  Based on those two examples you could see where this post will be going.  When I googled “Fair-Weather Faith” I discovered that there is a song with the exact title from the rock band Extreme and then I also this comic that really makes the point perfectly!

“Fair-Weather Faith” exists only during times of success and happiness.  People with this milquetoast approach to faith will serve God when life is good, but once times get tough, it dissipates as quickly as the morning dew.  In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus warned about those who had faith like this (see Luke 8:4-15).

We also get some insight from the Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT) in which Jesus said this in The Message to the Church in Laodicea:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish that you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

That is some strong words from Jesus but remember that He is the savior of the world so we best heed His advice.

As I was talking about this Thought with my family, my 16-year-old daughter made this great statement which I will pose to you:

“Do you have fair-weather faith or faith that can weather, when life isn’t fair?”

This is a question we all must ask ourselves and come to terms with BEFORE the Storms of Life roll in…The muse for this Thought came last Saturday when I was texting a friend of mine to try to encourage him because he was over a 1,000 miles away from home at the Cancer Center of America.  And His response rocked me to the core!

“I’m just getting out of bed.  It’s 8:30 here.  I’m in either day 3 or 4 of my first cycle.  I think it’s the 3rd, but today’s nurses are saying 4th.  I mean what do I know – except the one who’s been getting to actually see the changeover from one bag to another  

But throughout the round of chemo, I’ve felt incredibly well.  God’s grace has been amazing.  He really is a good, good Father. 

Day by day, His grace sustains me and He continuously shows me that He is still God and that He still heals. 

I’ve committed to live out this journey in stewardship of whatever He desires.  There will be a story to tell that I believe will touch lives. 

I’ve been walking everyday around the hallways and just praying for everyone I see in a room.”  

WOW!  As I read these texts from my friend Avito I was absolutely blown away from his extreme faith.  He is battling a rare type of cancer: a primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma.  I am no doctor, but once you hear the word ‘cancer,’ fear and trepidation grips your heart and once you add “rare” on top of that, I would imagine that an emotional paralysis of sort would follow.  I am uncertain how I would react to such a diagnosis.  When you read those words above, it is clear that Avito has truly leaned on his faith in God almighty, the creator of Heaven and Earth.  He’s fought a brave fight against the cancer and recently decided to pursue an integrative cancer treatment that incorporates a naturopathic element with the conventional methods to treating the lymphoma.  If you were to ask him why he can stare at this challenge with such a sense of peace, Avito would calmly but with much faith tell you,

“How can you not when you get a diagnosis, and immediately then be assured with a Holy Spirit whisper that says more loudly, ‘This sickness is not onto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified in it.’” 

Absolutely incredible…talk about the fulfillment of Hebrews 10:23 (NLT):

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.”

Will you trust God when a diagnosis of cancer is pronounced, or the loss of a child unexpectantly happens?  Or if you are laid off from your job or bankruptcy is filled.  Where will your faith be at those times?  When the rubber meets the road, you (and me too) need to:

“Let Your Faith Speak so loud your heart can’t hear what doubt is saying.” 

Doubt is a powerful force, one that Satan continually uses against us.  Since the beginning of time, he has been filling our minds with thoughts that God has failed or abandoned us, that the circumstance or diagnosis we are facing is impossible but that just is not so!

“Faith is not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who holds the future.”

God is sovereign and in control and it is precisely at those moments of greatest trial that we need to hold fast to the Lord.  In the post ★ Thought for the Day – What Does God’s Love Mean? ★ I shared about my wife contracting Lyme’s Disease in the summer of 2013.  For those of you who don’t know about this often misdiagnosed illness, Lyme’s Disease is a debilitating disease that affects the neurological system when a bacterium enters the body from a deer tick bite.  As a result of this contagion, the body is devastated and if it is left untreated it can cause paralysis and in some cases even death.  As the darkness surrounded my wife and our family, we grabbed hold of God like never before and searched through the Bible for encouragement.  My old Pastor from NJ gave this advice long ago to pray the scriptures back to God.  So that is exactly what we did, we prayed and prayed for healing and deliverance.

One verse that brought us great comfort was James 5:13-16 (NLT) which describes the “The Power of Prayer”

 “Are any of you suffering hardships?  You should pray.  Are any of you happy?  You should sing praises.  Are any of you sick?  You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.  And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

My wife suffered many days as we prayed and waited for the medication to take effect.  For three days I prayed and fasted for her to come out of the fog and for the debilitating fatigue that was wreaking havoc on her body to pass.  On the darkest night, we called on our Pastor for prayer and I anointed my wife with oil as James instructed and through God’s mercy and the medication finally taking effect she took a turn for the better.  As I think back on that summer and how my wife’s sickness affected our family, if our faith was not rock solid before we went into that storm I don’t know what would have happened.  We grew closer to God in that season than in any other time of our life.  God was there with us, I know that with every fiber of my being!  Every step of the way, our Heavenly Father providing everything we needed but we would never have experienced it if our faith was Fair-weathered.  I was reading Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV) the other day and was reminded about His provision and the many, many benefits of serving Him…

“Bless the Lord, O My Soul Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Charles Stanley had this great life lesson…

“God wants every part of us – body, soul, and spirit – to grow closer to Him and to enter into a joyful relationship with Him.  He seeks worshipers who will gladly give everything they are to Him.” 

Like a good father, God wants to be a part of every moment of our lives if we will invite Him in.  The question is will you worship God even in the darkest hour?  In Christ we can find strength for the struggle and faith for the fight, we just need to make the decision to trust in Him.  What will you choose?

I am going to close this Thought a little different than I normally do.  Since the muse for this post was my friend’s unshakeable faith I wanted to tell you a little more about him and his lovely family.  Avito and his wife, Shelly, met in Bible college in 1997.  They married in 1999 and 10 years later decided that adoption would be the means through which they would build their family.  Avito and Shelly adopted (3) brothers in 2009 and then again in 2016 they felt the strong desire to yet again expand their family through adoption; a process that started in July of 2016 when (3) new siblings were placed in their home while waiting for the final adoption to come.

Joy did come that morning, but it was rather short-lived, or so it seemed.  Just weeks after having placement of these recent three new kids, Avito started experiencing things that just didn’t feel right in his body.  After weeks and many doctor visits and follow ups, he was finally admitted to Baylor Grapevine where he was subsequently diagnosed with a somewhat rare type of cancer: a primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma.  The tumor is near the thymus gland in his chest, close to his heart.  Avito is now having Chemotherapy done at the Cancer Center of America in Phoenix, Arizona.  Last Saturday was the first of a minimum of (6) rounds.  The rounds are 3 weeks apart so he will get one week of treatment, go home for two weeks, and then go back to Phoenix for the next 18 months.  Unbeknownst to me, when God placed Avito on my heart to reach out last Saturday, he was just beginning the arduous journey.  Here is a picture of this beautiful family

Why am I sharing all of this?  Well I am glad you asked…I wanted to invite you into my brother in Christ’s story so that you could prayer for God’s healing and provision for Avito, Shelly and their (6) adopted children.  Also I wanted to see if you would like to come alongside of this wonderful family who are going through a frightening and expensive storm of life.  If you would like to help them financially you can got to their “Let’s Beat Lymphoma Together | Medical Expenses – YouCaring” page here:

https://www.youcaring.com/avitozaldivar-807100

Thank you for your prayers and consideration of financial support!  God Bless!

If you’re interested in digging deeper on developing your faith, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – STRENGTH FOR THE STRUGGLE ★

★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★

★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★ 

Also if you are going through a storm right now, here are some Scripture Verses to Stand On.  (Just right click on the verses to download.)

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3a) ★

Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the Consequences of Lust.  If you have missed the previous posts, we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (you can click here to catch up).  We then studied Noah and the trap of alcohol and drugs (click here.)  This Thought will delve into an equally harmful pitfall which you may initially think is harmless but can easily go terribly wrong.  Initially I thought we would be able to cover the temptation of Lust in this post but since it is such a broad topic, we will split this one in to a Part A and B.  We will touch upon (3) areas which are interconnected as each enticement results in a subsequent escalating behavior that can destroy lives whether it is one’s reputation, relationships, and even employment.  Three outlets of Lust that can result are…Pornography, Promiscuity and Adultery.  There definitely are many other deviant behaviors that can be unleashed if Lust is unfettered but we will not venture into that darkness.

The Barna Research Group published an article called “New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation” on January 25, 2013 and here is some of their findings from a study they conducted:

“Though sexual sins are nothing new, viewing pornography online continues to escalate and take on new forms as the Internet and social media evolve.  Nearly one in five Americans (18%) say they are tempted to view pornography or sexually inappropriate content online.”

Now before we get started, I just want to make sure we are all on the same page…Pornography can be movies, pictures, magazines, books, etc. that show or describe naked people or sex for arousal.  It used to be that you had to go to newsstand to buy a pornographic magazine or go into a seedy X-rated store to purchase videos but the dawn of the internet changed everything.  Now pornographic content is available to anyone who has access to a computer, tablet or cell phone.  My prayer for today is that if the area of Sexual Integrity has been compromised in your life, that God would open your eyes to the dangers of giving into lustful or fleshly desires.  I pray that because you may be reading this post and not even think that Lust or viewing pornography as something to be avoided.  Here are two shocking statistics from another article published from the Barna Research study called the “The Porn Phenomenon”:

Source: “Teens & Young Adults Use Porn More Than Anyone Else,” January 28, 2016

Not recycling is more immoral than viewing porn!!!!  How far down has our world degraded too??!!  But even though the culture may view it as not a big deal, the Word of God has a much different viewpoint… 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV) commands:

In our last post ★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★, we discussed that in the End Times there will be Godlessness and rampant immorality, but that God sent Jesus to rescue us from Satan’s stranglehold in every area of life including Lust.  We are to glorify God with our body and when we go down the dark road of pornography, promiscuity is a natural result.  A simple way of defining promiscuity is having sex before marriage and potentially with multiple partners.  Maybe you’re reading this and thinking: “What’s wrong with that?  Shouldn’t we experiment before marriage to know what we like?”  I know that is how I felt and that is exactly the trap that Satan sets through pornography and he will use any medium available.  I read this quote from Jimmy Evans who nailed it when he said:

“Movies, television, magazines, and the Internet all display glamorized views of sexual immorality.  They don’t show the disease.  They don’t show the heartache that always results.  They just show the fun—and it makes us feel like we’re missing out.”  Source: “The Secrets of Lifelong Passion and Intimacy”

Everywhere we look sexual immorality is celebrated with no consequences or repercussions.  “If it makes you feel good, go ahead and try it,” or “click here to see what everyone’s talking about…”  FOMO reigns supreme!  “Fear Of Missing Out” is not a new idea, it started back in Garden of Eden when Satan first planted the seed of doubt (see Genesis 3:1,) and it is alive and well today!  The antidote to Satan’s venom is the truth that is found in the Word of God.  Romans 13:13-14 (NLT) offers this for those who believe in Jesus:

“Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.  Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

It always comes back to a choice.  We have to choose not to place ourselves in a vulnerable position by engaging in wild parties with alcohol and drugs because our inhibitions are greatly diminished.  Many use Satan as a scapegoat, saying “The Devil made me do it.”  And while it is true that he uses pornography to entrap people, James 1:14-15 (NLT) clearly shows that:

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”

James was Jesus’ little brother so who better to instruct us right?  It is our decision to whether we yield to what the Devil puts in front of us and when we do the consequences can be life changing.  That is why understanding the destructive nature of pornography is key to have victory in the area of sexual integrity.  But that will never happen if we don’t at first understand that pornography is just a worthless counterfeit of what God’s plan for Marriage which inevitably will lead to promiscuity.  Sex is intended to be the glue to unite a man and woman in a covenantal relationship.  Unfortunately long before they say “I do,” pornography distorts and pollutes the intimacy that was to be enjoyed between a husband and wife.  When we give into the temptation of lust, we are trading beauty for filth which I know all too well.  Like that statistic above, I was exposed to pornography around 12 years old and I was hooked.  Long before I accepted Jesus and way too young to really process just what I was seeing, Satan was like a boa constrictor that just squeezing and squeezing the life from me.  It repulses me to think of all garbage I allowed before my eyes and I wish I had never seen it.  But there is hope!  Regardless of what culture may say, people can and do change if they are willing to put the work.

Psalms 119:9-11 (NLT) says:

“How can a young person stay pure?  By obeying your word.  I have tried hard to find you — don’t let me wander from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Too easy?  Perhaps but I truly believe that reading God’s Word, the Bible is the way to overcome Satan’s plans of corruption. You cannot just right over and over “I will not sin” on a chalkboard like in school or “will yourself” not to give into temptation thinking that your strong enough to resist.  I cannot tell you how many times I thought that but ended up failing.  1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) warns…

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.  The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

And Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) says:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The first step is recognizing that there is a problem and then establishing the proper boundaries.  Tomorrow we will look into the “man after God’s own heart” who allowed the lust in his heart to go unabated.  I will close with this advice from Woodrow Kroll of how to gain victory in life…

“Like our cell phone, Satan has an app for everything. He specializes in getting us off focus.  Now the way to refocus is to set everything else aside, shut everything else out of our life.  Sit done, sit still, open our Bible, and begin to absorb what God has for us.  This doesn’t have to take hours but the more we focus on God and His Word the more we lose focus on the things that Satan tempts us with.”  

Here is part B of this post which is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3b) ★

 

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course ★

★ Act Like Men – “Before the Fall” ★

Resources for those struggling with Sexual Integrity

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★

Today is Part 2 in Our Temptation Series.  If you have missed the previous post, we first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study called ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a Whole “LOT” of Trouble ★.  As we develop each temptation trap or “pitfall,” we will use a biblical case study as well as someone who I know or myself to make it current.  I have combined these two “pitfalls” that we can fall victim to into one post since they typically go hand in hand.  At least they did for me.  I learned this lesson the hard way as I failed in both areas and was trapped in a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior involving alcohol and drugs.

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★, I shared about how my family of origin was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, verbal attacks, physical abuse, and adultery all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Not surprisingly, that was the year that my parents divorced.  My teenage years and early twenties were characterized with drugs and alcohol, living life far from God and doing whatever felt good and benefited me.  I used the excuse that I came from a broken home to self-medicate my problems away instead of facing them head long.  I hated the face I saw in the mirror and so I surrounded myself with people who would no challenge me to change but instead accepted me because they were involved in the same self-destructive behaviors.  The people I associated with liked to party and drink excessively and I had no problem joining in and that has not changed 27 years later.

“According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” 

“According to the 2015 NSDUH, an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had AUD.” Source: NSDUH Alcohol Facts and Statistics

What these statistics don’t comment on is the problem that abusing alcohol can escalate to more serious narcotics.  I remember my first time that I experimented with marijuana (or pot) like it was yesterday.  I was 15 years old at a party and had consumed so much alcohol that when the joint went around the circle I was too intoxicated to say no.  It is hard enough to resist temptation but when you surround yourself with the wrong people, compromise will always follow.  My drinking problem placed me in no position to make the right choice, and was the gateway to a life of illegal drugs that lasted almost 10 years before God used my girlfriend (now wife,) to lead me out of that dark life.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that I don’t remember reading anything in the Bible that directly says do not do drugs, but I think we can all agree that the effects of prolonged drug use can have devastating effects.  In a great article call “Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot” John Piper made this great parallel:

“In regard to drunkenness — and a marijuana high is a kind of drunkenness — the Bible says,

‘In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder [or viper].  Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.’  (Proverbs 23:32-33). 

In other words, it leads away from the kind of sober-mindedness and self-control that is essential in using the mind for the glory of God.”

Amen!!  John Piper also said:

“In everything you do, ask yourself: Is this making Jesus look like the treasure He is?”  

So if you are rationalizing that marijuana or other drugs are not mentioned in the Bible, ask yourself, is hitting the bong or snorting that line of cocaine making Jesus look like the treasure He is supposed to be in your life?  Whether it be the temptation of drugs or alcohol, yielding to either only feeds your sinful nature and the Bible has much to say about that!  Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT) says:

“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. 

Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

What a list!  We will unpack much of these pitfalls in the next 5 posts.  Verse 21 is also quite sobering (no pun intended)…“anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God!” 

Our case study today from the Old Testament that best exemplifies yielding to the temptation and its disastrous consequences is the man Noah.  You may be thinking to yourself, wait a second, “wasn’t he the man God used to build an ark to save two of every kind of animal from the flood that God was sending to punish the world because of the increasing immorality?”  The answer is yes!  Genesis 6:9-19 says:

“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.  And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

As a result of his righteousness, God saved Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives from destruction.  The whole epic story can be found in Genesis Chapters 6-9 but what is not really ever discussed is what happens after the flood recedes and God makes His covenant with Noah and all his descendents to never flood the Earth again.  We remember the rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant but what happens after that?

Genesis 9:18-28 recalls how after the flood had receded Noah planted a vineyard and one night he got drunk and was found inside his tent naked by his youngest son Ham who shamed his father by telling his two brothers about being passed out drunk.  But instead of joining in their brother’s disrespect, Shem and Japheth covered their father’s nakedness.  Verses 24-27 recounts:

“When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done.  Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham:

‘May Canaan be cursed!
May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.’

Then Noah said,

‘May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant!
May God expand the territory of Japheth!
May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.’”

Wow that seems extreme doesn’t it?  But that is exactly what happens when we allow alcohol (and drugs) to have priority in our lives.  It will result in us doing and saying things that we would not normally do, and ultimately will wreak havoc in our lives and the one’s we love.  Noah was 601 years old when he left the ark (Genesis 8:13) and lived until he was 950 (Genesis 9:29).  It’s sad to me that after that night of drunkenness there is nothing more to report about this righteous man who was the only person in God’s eyes worthy to be saved in all the earth.  There is nothing to support this, but could it be that his vineyard became an idol and his yielding to the temptation of alcohol rendered Noah ineffectual or useless to expand the Kingdom of God?   

I have been doing a bible study with my neighbor on the Book of Genesis and God showed me something that I never saw before.  When you look at the dependents of Noah’s three sons:

You can see that the blessing on Shem’s descendants and the Curse on Canaan and his descendants came to pass.  We discussed Abram (also known as Abraham) and Lot in the previous post about how God blessed them both who were in the lineage of Shem.  Abraham was the patriarch of the Israelite’s who were constantly plagued by the highlighted names above who were not only the descendants of Canaan but also from Ham’s other sons as well.  When you think of it, centuries of wars and death can be traced back to one night of drunkenness!

Proverbs 20:1 (NLT) says:

“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.
     Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.”

And that is certainly the case for Noah.  Perhaps the reason why we read nothing more about Noah’s subsequent 349 years after the miraculous survival from the flood is because he was led astray and spent those years in conflict with his son and grandchildren as a result of Noah’s pride being hurt.  I read a great article called “Wise Up About Alcohol” by James MacDonald in which he advocated complete abstinence from alcohol which was quite compelling.  In his conclusion, he said:

“The Bible does not require abstinence, but I believe it recommends it as the wiser choice.

‘Abstain from all appearance of evil.’  1 Thessalonians 5:22
‘I will not be brought under the power of anything.’  1 Corinthians 6:12
‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ John 8:32

You say, ‘Free from what?’ — free from addictive patterns of sinfulness that don’t lead to the righteousness which can be found in Christ alone.”

Now whether you agree with complete abstinence from alcohol or not, don’t miss the point that we need to be to be aware of the hold that it has on us.  In 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT), the Apostle Paul says:

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ — but not everything is good for you.  And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.”

Now 1 Corinthians 6:12 is a warning about “Avoiding Sexual Sin” which will unpack in the next post but I wanted to highlight the last part of the verse which says:

“I must not become a slave to anything.”

The ESV translation says “I will not be dominated by anything.”  When we cannot say no to another drink or another hit, snort or pill of __________ (fill in the blank) then that is exactly what is happening!  We are a slave to alcohol and drugs and have allowed our lives to be dominated!  I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the most quoted verses on temptation from 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)…

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Charles Stanley has this life lesson:

“We will face temptation just as the Old Testament saints did, but we do not have to choose disobedience to God.  Why?  Because the power of sin over us was defeated at the Cross.  If we’ve trusted Christ as our savior, His Spirit lives in us – giving us the power and wisdom to overcome our sinful impulses so we can obey Him.  So whenever you are tempted, ask God to remind you of the terrible consequences that would follow the transgression and to fill your heart with love and obedience for Him – because that is a sure way of escape.”

I love, love, love that advice to that “whenever you are tempted, ask God to remind you of the terrible consequences that would follow the transgression.”  How much different would our lives be if we were to pray this?  And if we would, I believe that we would see the fruition of Galatians 5:22-25 (NLT) manifested!

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!  Those who belong to Christ 

 Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

You know the expression, ‘save the best for last?’  When you look at the ninth “Fruit of the Spirit,” it is self-control.  I think mastery of this area can unlock the key to overcoming temptation and avoiding the consequences that will result if we fail to.  I will close with this from John MacArthur about what it means to live in the Spirit:

“The Spirit-filled life is overflowing with gratitude, joy, right relationships, and good behavior — quite a contrast to those enslaved by alcohol.  You may not be seeking your joy in drugs or alcohol, but are you seeking to be filled with the Spirit?”  From Living Under The Influence

Are you seeking to be filled with the Spirit?  The answer to that question will speak volumes to whether you will continue to yield to alcohol and drugs and whether the truth of God is in us!

“Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.”  1 John 3:19 (NLT)

Here is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3a) ★

If you’re interested in digging deeper, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★

Here are some great articles called:

“Wise Up About Alcohol” by James MacDonald

“Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot by John Piper

Living “Under the Influence” by John MacArthur 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Chain Reaction Catalyst ★

Weird title for a Thought for the Day huh?  Well I hope it was interesting enough to get you to click on the link.  Today I want to unpack the idea of being a “Chain Reaction Catalyst!”  Now the term chain reaction may not be foreign but just so we are all on the same page, I will share the definition in the context of this post from what Dictionary.com defines a Chain Reaction as.  It is:

“a series of events in which each event is the result of the one preceding and the cause of the one following.”

Some examples of chain reactions, is what happens after the first stick is set ablaze in a book of matches or after the initial domino is pushed.

Now you probably have heard of a catalyst in relation to a chemical reaction.  In preparation for this Thought, I googled “what are examples of a catalyst,” and this is one result I found:

“The catalytic converter in a car contains platinum, which serves as a catalyst to change carbon monoxide, which is toxic, into carbon dioxide.”

Why am I sharing this?  Well it is because the dreaded “check engine light” is currently on in my car.  The error code that I was told suggests I have a problem with my catalytic converter.  And in the movie, Rachel’s step father also had an issue with his catalytic converter also.  I found the coincidence too funny not to share.  Okay “squirrel moment” is over…

Dictionary.com defines a Catalyst as:

a person or thing that precipitates an event or change

a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.

So a Chain Reaction Catalyst is someone who causes a series of positive events to happen as a result of their influence.  I believe that God desires every person who calls themselves a believer in Jesus to be bold in sharing their faith and being a world changer!

Last night I was watching the movie “I’m Not Ashamed” with my family about a girl who embodied what it means to be a Chain Reaction Catalyst. The movie came out last Fall (10/21/16) but unfortunately we missed seeing it in the Theaters.

For those who are not familiar, it is based on the inspiring and powerful true story of Rachel Joy Scott who was the first student killed in the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999.  It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on the 18 year anniversary of that horrific day when 2 students went on a shooting spree.  At the time, it was one of the nation’s most deadly mass shootings.  This movie was incredible, not because of the acting, though it was good, or because of the screenplay, in which the way the story unfolded was exceptional.  No, what made the film extraordinary for me was the fact that it was drawn from the actual journal writings of Rachel Joy Scott.  A lot of the dialogue and scenes came straight from Rachel’s own words and were also influenced by her mother Beth.  In the movie we catch a glimpse of her mother’s faith in action.  Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) instructs us that we should:

“Train up a child in the way he [she] should go; even when he [she] is old he [she] will not depart from it.”

There is no doubt that Rachael’s mom had a significant influence on the fine young woman she became and clearly trained her up in the way she should go.  Rachel was just 17 years old when one of the shooters asked her “Do you believe in God?”  She answered yes to the question even though she knew it would end her life.  I was thankful that the movie handled this in a very sensitive way.  I can remember that heart wrenching day like it was yesterday, and to this day I cannot hear the name “Columbine” without horror and sorrow welling up inside.  As a new Christian, having only just given my heart to Jesus in August of 1998, Rachel being a devout believer, or “Christ Follower” resonated with me.  What would I do if I was confronted with that question?  The movie title was based on Romans 1:16  (ESV):

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

It is undeniable that Rachel was not ashamed to the point of giving her life up for her faith.

As I sat on the couch with my 16 year old daughter watching the movie, there was a beautiful moment as a young Rachel traced her hands and wrote these prophetic worlds:

“These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people’s hearts.”

I found this on the memorial website for the Columbine High School shootings.   What is unbelievably miraculous is that through her witness and death, Rachel’s story of compassion and love for her fellow students and desire to be a world changer has done just that.  She reminded me a lot of my daughter who is just one year younger, who also was part of the school outreach program called “Rachel’s Challenge” which is an anti-bullying program that promotes Rachel’s belief that she wrote in an essay just a month before her murder:

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.  People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

That is so powerful!!  We will never know how far a little kindness can go!  It’s hard to believe this was penned by a 17 year old!  The intent of Rachel’s Challenge is to start a chain reaction of the same kind of compassion in school’s everywhere!

The question I want to pose to you is…Do you want to be a world changer?  Do you want to make a difference?  Than we need to follow Rachel’s example and stand up for what we believe in, for what is right!  Romans 12:2 (ESV) says:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We are instructed by the apostle Paul to be in the world but not of it!  To be a catalyst of change, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and allow Him to use us and guide us, even if others don’t understand or persecute us for our faith.  We need to be unashamedly proud to be a Christ Follower.  But that does not happen without work.  Much like as an athlete has to train and discipline themselves to improve; we have to put in the work to grow in our faith.  I shared in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ about Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT) which says:

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him.  Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. 

As our roots grow in Christ, our faith will be strengthened and we will be equipped to help others.  Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on these 2 powerful verses from Colossians and the life we can have in Christ…

“How did you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  By faith.  And that is exactly how you grow in maturity – by faith.  The ability to accomplish all God has planned for you is within you through the presence, power, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  So if you wish to develop your relationship with Him and become all you were created to be, you must willingly surrender yourself to His promptings and trust Him, no matter what He commands you to do.”

You might not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the lives you come in contact with.  Just like Rachel Scott, you never know how many lives you can change and what ripple effect will start but your single act of compassion.  Whether it would be that person sitting alone at the lunch table at school or the person in the next cubicle that you know is going through a tough time or maybe a neighbor who does not know God well and needs to develop a relationship with Jesus.  It all comes down to whether you be that match or that single domino that will be the Chain Reaction Catalyst that will make a difference not matter what the cost!

God has given everyone us talents, skills and gifts to impact this world.  The question is…Are you using them for His glory?  Or do you use then for your advantage or personal gain?  I don’t mean that you take advantage of people or scam people but that you’re missing the opportunities God has provided to use your gifts to spur others on to deepen their faith!  I will close with this quote from Rachel Joy Scott’s persona journal…

“I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus.”

Our lives are in God’s hands, we can make a world of difference if we are willing, and if we are not ashamed of our faith!

Go out today and be a Chain Reaction Catalyst!

 

If you would like to read more on this topic check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Stand Up for What is Right ★

★ Thought for the Day – Talent vs. Integrity ★

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★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

115-daily-dependence-community-that-mattersIn the last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★, we talked about the importance of going to church because God’s plan is to use the body of believers to display His character and to meet the needs of those who are hurting and under resources.  We also talked about how in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are instructed to motivate one another and not neglect meeting together, as some people do.  I had some good discussions with people since that post asking, “What about meeting in small groups or one on one with other believers?”  So I thought I would explore that in today’s Thought.  The timing was impeccable, as I was asked to share at a Men’s Breakfast yesterday about my experience with meeting in small group settings.  So part of this post will be the testimony of how God has worked in and through me as I have focused on building community that matters.  I am not sharing this so that you would think highly of me but rather to show how awesome God in how He is using this broken man to reach as many people as I possibly can.

First and foremost though, I believe that a time of corporate worship (i.e. Church) is essential for us to grow in the Lord as Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs.  (If you want to learn more check out ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★).  But just like you don’t eat once a week, we do need additional opportunities to gather with other believers to be nourished in our faith to grow and be “sharpened” as Proverbs 27:17 instructs…

115-daily-dependnece-proverbs-27-17-as-iron-sharpens-iron-so-a-friend-sharpens-a-friend

On Wednesday nights my wife and I are part of a Lifegroup from church which is a meeting with 10 other people that we “do life together” and study God’s Word.  The purpose is to build biblical community so that when the storms of life hit (and they will,) there is a group of people who are “waiting in the wings” to come alongside and help you.

Another opportunity to build community is to have a small group bible study or what my church has called a “Fight Club”.

115-daily-dependence-fight-club-card

The purpose of a Fight Club is for 2 to 3 people of the same gender to meet and talk about the Bible, share about issues they’re having in their life and pray for one another.  It is based on this prayer that my Pastor challenged the church to pray to daily that we would have:

"A HUNGER for God's Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And a BURDEN for people."  Marty Collier
“A HUNGER for God’s Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And a BURDEN for people.”  Marty Collier

Unbeknownst to me, this would radically change me, and awaken a fire in me for biblical community.  And I would encourage you to pray it daily too!

Fight Clubs can be or Women or Men who want to deepen their relationship with God and with other believers.  For me it obviously revolved building a biblical community with other men, something that I always wanted but had escaped me until June 6, 2015 was when I was first introduced to the idea of a Fight Club.  We formed the first Fight Club I was a part of from the guys in our Lifegroup since we knew each other already.  It was great gathering with these men because it was the beginning of something that I always wanted in my life…to be part of a brotherhood!  We met through the summer until our schedules changed.  Then our group multiplied from 1 to 3 groups as we disbanded and formed new ones.  Since then I’ve been meeting with 1 to 2 other guys on Thursday mornings for breakfast as schedules have permitted.  As we have built biblical community together, I realized the need to reach out to as many men as possible but just did not know how to accomplish within an already busy schedule of balancing my work and home life.

THE UNLIKELY SOLUTION

In the post, ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, we delved into the importance of developing a quiet time with God each day.  For the past 6 years I have made a practice of starting my quiet time at 4:30 am before my wife and kids get up.  You may be thinking, “4:30 in the morning that is crazy!”  But I have found in my life, unless I prioritize reading and studying the Bible in my day it won’t get done.  As I have prayed for God to give me “a burden for people” several of my good friends in my neighborhood came to mind so I offered to do a Fight Club with my neighbor at 5 am since he was only two doors down and shockingly he agreed.  We have been meeting since August 2016.  When we started, he was in a good place in regards to already attending church services and a part of a lifegroup but like me, he didn’t have a close connection with another guy either.  We had a good friendship but through the Fight Club it has reached a deeper level as we have shared our lives and struggles together.  Last November he received the terrible news that the cancer he thought he had beaten was back.  The Fight Club created the opportunity for me to support him as he is now battling Stage 4 liver cancer.  I am thankful that God has given me the privilege to walk alongside of him during this dark time.  That would not have happened if I had not invited him in the first place to study the Bible with me.

But the testimony doesn’t end there.  My oldest daughter has a friend who needed help with some issues he was going through. We met at Starbucks back in September 2016 and I shared my testimony with him of how God delivered me out of the same darkness he was in.  God used my past mistakes to open the door to connect with this 15-year-old.  Since then we have been meeting after school on Fridays for a Bible study which has included my daughter and another neighbor’s son as well.  I know by the rules of the Fight Club, she should not be a part of so we will just call this a Bible Study…hahaha!  On November 6, 2016, my daughter’s friend attended Sunday morning service for the first time.  When the Pastor opened up the altar for prayer, he went down and accepted Jesus as his Savior!  He now attends the student services every Wednesday night, Sunday morning services and volunteers in the children’s ministry.  He is in fire for God and has been inviting his friends from his former lifestyle to church and our Friday afternoon Bible study including his former drug dealer!  That would not have happened if I had not invited him in the first place to study the Bible with me.

But the testimony doesn’t end there.  This past December, I started meeting with a friend from church at 5 am on Friday mornings to study the Bible.  As I mentioned earlier, we all need “sharpening” in our walk with God (Proverbs 27:17).  Sometimes you are doing the sharpening (as a mentor) and sometimes you are sharpened (as a mentee or with someone who is a peer.)  In this case it is the latter and it has been amazing to see how he has strengthened me and our friendship has grown.  And then just two weeks ago, two more guys started coming over my house before the sun rises as well…Another friend from church that will certainly be sharpening me and another neighbor of mine who is just engaging with the Bible for the first time! 

My hope and prayer is that every single morning I will have another man across the dining room table from me studying God’s Word!  You never know what God can, and will do through you when you participate in a Fight Club!   That is of course; if you are open to being used by Him.  If you are reading this today and feeling insecure about sharing your life with other people, I want to encourage you with one of my favorite quotes that is so true!

115-daily-dependence-god-doesnt-call-the-qualified-he-qualifies-the-called
“God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED,  He qualifies the CALLED!”

There is nothing special about me, but God is clearly doing something through me as a result of being open to be used by Him.  How else can you explain 4 guys being willing to meet at 5 am to study the Bible?  You never know the ripple effect that can happen in the life of that person you reach out to.  God can exponentially multiply your impact for generations if you will trust Him today, and take a step of faith to start a Fight Club on your own!  And just to calm your nerves it doesn’t have to be at 5 am, that’s just when I have decided to have mine.  Hahaha!

115-daily-dependence-colossians-2-6-7I will close with this final Word of encouragement from Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT):

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him.  Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

As you let your roots grow down into Jesus and you come closer to Him through the reading of His, God to change your heart and you will have “A HUNGER for God’s Word.  A BROKENNESS over sin.  And A BURDEN for people.”  The Bible is the Path to Life!   

 

If you want to delve deeper on this topic, check out the posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Are You Qualified? ★

★ Act Like Men – “Strength To Love” ★

 

Also here is an incredible message that talks about how critical it is to build biblical community!

“Are you to afraid to Go There?” – Preston Morrison and Tim Ross

 

 

 

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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 – The Mission of Christmas ★

The other day I heard this incredible song “Noel” written by Chris Tomlin and featuring Lauren Daigle with these beautiful lyrics…

Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel

Son of God and Son of man
There before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save
Born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord 
He shall
reign forevermore

It says it all!  Jesus was “Born to suffer, born to save” and is the “Christ the everlasting Lord” who will “reign forevermore.”  I have been listening to this song over and over, just enjoying the truth behind these lyrics!  But it did get me thinking…What does Noel even mean?  Have you ever thought of that?  Each year we sing the lyric in The Christmas Song and The First Noël, but until this year I never looked what the meaning was.  It’s interesting when I did a google search; I found several different definitions and variations which surprised me.  In an article, Chris Tomlin explained it this way:

“The word ‘Noel’ is derived from the French phrase ‘Les bonnes nouvelles’ meaning ‘the good news.’”

When I looked it up in my grandfather’s 1966 Edition of Webster’s Dictionary and found this definition:

113-daily-dependnece-noel-definition

So between the two, one could say that Noel is an expression of joy as a result of the “Good News” that the savior of the world was born!  In the post, ★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★ we discussed Luke 2:10-11 when the Angels made the proclamation to the Shepherds about the birth of Jesus:

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”

You can read the full account in Luke 2:8-15.  The birth of Jesus is “Good News” and for those who believe in God’s Son, there should be great expressions of joy on our part!    The other night the temperature dropped below freezing, which for113-daily-dependence-elf-movie-poster Texas is quote unusual. We had a beautiful fire roaring and so we cuddled 113-daily-dependence-fireplaceup on the couch to watch the modern day Christmas classic…”Elf” starring Will Ferrell.  I am not a big fan of his movies but I never get tired of this slapstick comedy!  As the 5th highest grossing Christmas movie of all-time (according to Box Office Mojo,) the 2003 blockbuster hit that follows the lovable, exuberant elf named Buddy (played by Will Ferrell,) who left the North Pole to meet his real father in NYC after finding out he’s really not an elf.  The movie is full of great lines but one of my favorites is the after Buddy inadvertently insults a  writer and gets beat up for his naivety.

113-daily-dependnece-hes-an-angry-elf-scene

Okay that had no relevance to my point, I just loved that scene.  But the point that I did want to make is that the joyful outlook that Buddy had towards Santa and Christmas is how I believe should be towards Jesus!  Wouldn’t have been awesome to have heard this in the movie!113-daily-dependnece-jesus-i-know-him

Could you imagine if that much joy could be channeled in service of Jesus?  How different would this world be?  Elf also inspired to share this in the Shepherd’s View of Christmas post which Buddy also said:

113-daily-dependence-bring-christmas-cheer-by-singingNow I am not saying that singing loudly will change the world’s problems, but rather when we embrace the “Good News” of Jesus will spur us on.  As we discussed in the last post, “feelings are not faith.”  If we wait to help people when we “feel” like it, it may not happen; but when we have the love of Jesus in our hearts we will be motivated to action by something far greater than feelings…MISSION!  What is the mission?  Isaiah 61:1-2 (NLT) says:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”

This may sound familiar to you that you heard that somewhere else stated in the Bible, well that is from Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 in which he read those verse from Isaiah. In Luke 4:20-21 (NLT) it says,

“He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down.  All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently.  Then he began to speak to them.  ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’”

Isaiah prophesied over 700 years before Jesus came to earth about what the mission was going to be.  To bring good news to the poor, to comfort the brokenhearted, and to bring hope!  This is the mission not just at Christmas but the other 364 days as well!  We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus building the kingdom of God here on Earth by following Jesus’ mission!  John Piper said in the ‘Good News of Great Joy’ reading plan (http://bible.com/r/C7) on day 18,

“Christmas is a model for missions.  Missions is a mirror of Christmas.  [The] mission means danger. And that the greatest danger is distrusting God’s mercy.  Succumb to this and all is lost.  Conquer here and nothing can harm you for a million ages.”  ”  

In the devotion he made the point that Jesus came into the world and faced great peril both as a child and adult (especially in the last three years of His life) until His death on the cross faced.  Regardless of the dangers He experienced, Jesus said in John 17:18 (ESV) speaking to His Father:

“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

Christmas is the model for us to live on mission to reach the overwhelmed, under resourced and far away.  I pray that as you read this you are not facing true danger like Jesus did but this year you may have strife in your home, conflict at work, or suffering the loss of a love one; but regardless of how you “feel,” I want to encourage you to stay on mission.  I read this in the “The Magic Of Christmas” reading plan the other morning from Durwood Snead who said:

“I am part of a kingdom—the greatest kingdom on earth led by an all-powerful King who has very specific things for me to do…The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me.  The magic of Christmas is that my King has chosen me to be an active part of proclaiming good news to the poor by my actions.”  

As a blood bought child of the living God, I am so thankful that “that my King has chosen me to be an active part of proclaiming good news” to anyone that He brings into my life.  One of my favorite quotes that describe me to a T is from Zig Ziglar…

"True joy comes when you inspire, encourage and guide someone else on a path that benefits him or her." 
“True joy comes when you inspire, encourage and guide someone else on a path that benefits him or her.”

This truly is my heart’s desire…to inspire, encourage and guide someone along the path to grow closer to Jesus!  And when you realize how incredible it is that God sent His Son to be the bridge so that we can have a relationship with Him, your whole perspective changes!  “Christmas is a model for missions,” this Christmas open your heart to what God’s purpose is for you.  Jesus is looking to us to be the guide or the light to bring the lost to Him.  Will you accept the mission?

113-daily-dependence-merry-christmas-scabbleIf you are interested to read more on this, check out:

★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

★ Thought for the Day – Let Your Light Shine ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Let Your Light Shine ★

In our last post, ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★, we dug into how our family of origin can influence the trajectory of our lives and that we need to follow in how Jesus did not allow the doubts of his juggernaut derail His mission on this earth.  Today I want to build upon that foundation to help us move to the next level.  With my Mom’s passing being so recent, I can’t help but think about the past and the fact that I am the last in my family line.  My mother, my father, my grandparents are all gone which lands the responsibility solely on my shoulders.  I was going through old photos and stumbled upon this one from 1996 when my Mom and I went on a vacation to Washington D.C.  109-daily-dependence-olympic-torch-relayMy Mom (in the pink) got a rare opportunity to touch the Olympic Torch that was part of the historic relay that marked the hundredth anniversary of the Modern Games which started in Olympia Greece and ended in Atlanta, Georgia.  109-daily-dependence-1996-atlanta-olympic-torchIt’s interesting that the Torch is a symbol of the Olympic Games commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, but now it is a wonderful memory of a time that my Mom and I shared today.  At the end of the relay, the fire is used to lite the cauldron which is kept burning throughout the celebration of the Olympics for all to see.  I did a little research and found out that Muhammad Ali was the one who lit the 1996 Olympic cauldron in Atlanta at the opening ceremony.  Now 20 years later both Ali and my mother are gone but their memory lives on.

Light has so much significance from providing heat to driving out the darkness and that is what has been on my heart of late.  As I was writing this Thought, I just saw an All Laundry Detergent advertisement for their All PowerCore Pacs Oxi product using the classic gospel song called “This Little Light of Mine.”  Now my past did not include singing it myself but its meaning is far more valuable to be used to sell laundry detergent!  Today’s Thought will unpack its significance.

There is such darkness in the world…You don’t have to look to far to see the pervasive atmosphere of hopelessness, pessimism and skepticism abounds and I believe that is a result of a lack of people who genuinely care for anyone other than themselves.  And that lack of empathy is the perfect breeding ground for hate to well up.  Martin Luther King, Jr. made this powerful statement that:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

In a time of such great turmoil in our country, I think it’s high time we start heeding Dr. King’s words and be the light that drives out the darkness!  As believers in Jesus, it falls upon each of us to be that light that drives out the darkness.  Jesus was the ultimate example.  In John 8:12 (NLT) it records that:

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’”

Dr. King was a great man of God who believed in that mission and followed in Jesus’ example.  Jesus offers another way to live.  His mission on earth was to lead all people to His Father so that we could have eternal life in Heaven.  In Matthew 5:14, 16 (NKJV), Jesus said,

“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The song that All Detergent is currently using to sell their product is based on Jesus’ command to “Let it shine!”  But what does it mean to “let your light shine?”  Is it for cleaner clothes?  I think not!  Charles Stanley has this great life lesson on this verse…

“Does anyone know that you are a light burning with the fire of heaven?  What “good works” do they see you doing that reflect well on your heavenly Father?  How does your faith cause you to behave differently from anyone else?”   

Great questions right?  In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★ we looked at the need to always make sure we are maturing in our walks with God and understanding what God’s heart is!  Charles Stanley’s questions are critical for us to answer.  So let me ask you, when was the last time you said an encouraging word to a person hurting or helped someone in need or went out of your way to do for anyone beside yourself?  John 1:5 (ESV) made this declaration about Jesus that:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

We need to overcome the darkness but shining our light.  I love this quote from Marvin J. Ashton that I believe this captures beautifully of what it means to let it shine!

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”

The light burning in our heart as a result of chasing after Jesus should result in our behaviors and actions being different from others.  Our concern for others should spur us on to make an impact and leave people better than you found them!  I will close with a reminder of the mission from Luke 19:10 (ESV):

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus came to save the lost and we called to do the same!  Here is a prayer from Louie Giglio to help us do that very thing…

“God today, open one door for me to be salt and light for someone in my city to either lift somebody up, to share my faith, to invite along or just meet one need.  In Jesus name!” 

This prayer is from the message called “Jesus is the Lead Story” from Louie Giglio, Passion City Church.

Let your light shine today!

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Here’s the latest design from Share IT! Christian Clothing as a great reminder of the mission!

 

If you want to learn more about making a difference, check out:

 ★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★

God has been speaking into my heart about the importance of family and being the husband and father that He’s called me to be.  We’ve talked about living a lasting legacy earlier this year but today I wanted to look back and see how our family of origin can affect whom we become.  In his famous book, “The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are,” Christian Psychologist and Author Kevin Leman made this powerful statement:

“How parents interact with each child as he or she enters the family circle determines in great part that child’s final destiny.”

As a parent of two daughters, I think about that all the time.  Leman outlined some common characteristics of how depending on whether you were born first, in the middle or the last child, aka “the baby,” that placement in the family tree had a huge impact on the trajectory and development of your personality DNA.  The first-born commonly is known to be driven and very responsible in all they do…The middle child often feels overlooked and desires peace so they play the role of the negotiator in the family…And the “Baby” gets away with murder, and tends to be the comedian of the family…Now of course there are exceptions to the rule, these are just generalities, other factors can plat a part. (If you would like a great summary of the book I saw this article called 10 Ways That Birth Order Affects Your Children.)

108-daily-dependence-x-men-juggernaut-comic-bookSuffice to say, the Family Juggernaut plays a significant role in our development.  Now depending on your sex, and/or if you were a comic book reader as a child, right now images from X-Men stories of “The Unstoppable Juggernaut” are coming up in the rolodex of memories.  Supervillain, Cain Marko who was the stepbrother of Charles Xavier, also known as Professor X, was abused by his father as Charles became the favored “son.”  Resentment and animosity festered in Cain’s heart.  One day he received superhuman strength that literally made him unstoppable and gave him the power to destroy the one who replaced Cain in his father’s heart.

The biblical comparison of Cain and Abel is hard to miss, (see Genesis Chapter 4).  108-daily-dependence-juggernaut-professor-x-standoffNow though this may be a bit of a rabbit trail, I think it’s apropos to show how family dynamics can shape you.  Cain’s hatred and jealousy both in the comic book and the Biblical account led to a murderous rage.  It is also where I first learned the word juggernaut which means:

“A huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution.”

And that is what the family is!  An overwhelming force in our life that has a huge and powerful influence on us.  Jane Isay, the author of “Secrets and Lies, Mom Still Likes You Best, and Walking on Eggshells” had this to say about Families that was quite interesting:

“Families are the survival mechanism of the human race.  They all are complicated, even though many people think that theirs is the most difficult one.  Behind the closed door of every home is a group of people who love each other, who disappoint each other, who come into conflict, and who are deeply connected.”

Amen?  Now I don’t know much about her, nor have I read the book, but I am sure familiar with competing with my brother and sister for the love of my mom and consequently walking on eggshells as to not break the delicate peace and harmony in the home.  I love how she described the family unit, as the “survival mechanism of the human race” and that families are all “complicated.”  Truer words have never been spoken!  Statistics show that many people would probably answer the question, “What’s your family like?” with the curt response of…

108-daily-dependence-its-complicated

I know I would have to say that of my family of origin.  My family was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, verbal attacks, physical abuse, and adultery all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Not surprisingly, that was the year that my parents divorced.  I shared in the ★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 1 ★ post how my childhood felt more like a chess match where I was a pawn pinned between the King and Queen who were battling one another, using me to hurt the other.  I know that the conflict I witnessed and was a part of shaped my desire for peace in my home today.  I also know that at times when I lose my temper that is also a result of seeing how both my parents handled (or didn’t) conflict resolution.  But here’s the beauty of walking with God, my legacy can be changed through the power from above.  But it is a choice.  Romans 12:2 (ESV) says:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Great advice right, but how do you renew your mind?  And how do you know the will of God?  Glad you asked, through a quiet time with God.  Praying, reading the bible, journaling are all ways that you can be transformed.  Recently during my quiet time, I have been reading the gospel of Mark which was the muse for this Thought for the Day…Have you ever thought about Jesus’ Family Situation?  What it was like growing up as the Messiah, the Savior of the World?  How was it to have half brothers and sisters who grew up and knew Jesus for 30 years before His ministry started?  Unfortunately the Bible does not give much background other than that Jesus followed in the path of Joseph, (the man who raised him as his own Son) and became a carpenter.  Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) recounts the start of His Ministry:

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”  

The Gospel of Mark moves at a rather brisk pace recounting the ministry of Jesus over the next two chapters with people being healed who were lepers, disfigured, paralyzed and set free demonic possession.  It’s interesting to note that after some time had passed, Mark 3:20-21 (ESV) we see what happens when Jesus goes to visit His family.  I wonder how many people will relate to this experience.

“Then He [Jesus] went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.  And when His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

Did you catch that?  Jesus’ ministry is exploding and lives are being changed as a result of incredible miracles but “His family heard it, they went out to seize Him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”  How sad that Jesus’ own family did not believe He was the Christ!  A friend of mine and me were talking about this point and he made an interesting point…

“Makes me wonder what was it like for Jesus’ family while he was growing up?  If his own family couldn’t see Him for who He is, maybe it shouldn’t surprise us when folks don’t get it.”

Seems INCREDIBLY HARD TO BELIEVE, but just 10 verses later, you can see Jesus definitely had doubters in the family…Mark 3:31-35 (ESV) records:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.”

And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said,

“Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.””

These verses always confounded me because why would Jesus not want to go see His mother and brothers?  Could it be that they did not support His ministry?  It seems that would be the case as He makes the declaration that “my family” are those who do the will of God.  The passage does not mention Joseph so the assumption is that he’s not alive at the time of Jesus’ ministry, especially when you consider John 19:26-27 when Jesus is dying on the cross and arranges for His disciple John to take care of His Mother when He’s gone.  I can understand Jesus’ brothers doubting, but Mary?  Did she miss the point?  Did she forget all the miracles that happened in order for Jesus to even be born?  We did a 25 day series of posts called #Reason For The Season last December#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1where we looked at the extraordinary events leading up to, and including Jesus’ birth and why we should be thankful during the Advent Season.  (If you have not read the posts I highly recommend you click the link and spend some time experiencing the familiar Nativity Story from a fresh perspective.)  Personally, God opened my eyes and heart in a new way to His indescribable love for me.  As I meditated on the events that happened over 2,000 years ago, I was astounded by how He moved heaven and earth for the possibility of having a relationship with me through sacrifice of His Son Jesus!  I just heard John Gray preach at Elevation Church’s Code Orange Revival and he made this profound statement:

“Do you understand how valuable you are?  That an eternal God gave up His most prized possession just in case you wanted to have relationship with Him.  He didn’t even let His Son die for an ‘absolute.’  He let Him die for a ‘just in case.'”

God gave up His most prized possession just in case we wanted the relationship with Him!!!  Wow!

Okay back to Mary and Joseph… I have to wonder though did they not share with Jesus’ siblings growing up with something like, “Oh by the way kids, your older brother Jesus, well He is the savior of the world.”  I mean I know it would be awkward at first but it was truth.  We can see that it was not only His family who doubted but also those in the His community as well.  Mark 6:1-6 (ESV) tells what happened when Jesus returned to His home again:

“He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him.  And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying,

“Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to Him?  How are such mighty works done by His hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not His sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at Him.

And Jesus said to them,

“A prophet is not without honor, except in His hometown and among His relatives and in His own household.”

And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He marveled because of their unbelief.  And He went about among the villages teaching.”

They took offense at Him!”  30 years of living among these people and they take offense at the wisdom God gave Jesus!  It is clear that Jesus’ family of origin and community had an effect on Him to the point that it thwarted His ability to do a “mighty work there.”  One could argue that healing anyone is a mighty work, but how much more would Jesus have done if there was not so much opposition and unbelief.  If Jesus was not understood by His Family and hometown it should not surprise you when you are.

108-daily-dependence-keep-rejoicing

The key is what will you do when not if you face opposition?  Will you let fear, doubt and criticism stop you?  Without a doubt, our birth order and associations will influence and impact us but will we make the choice to rise above the past and move forward to become the man or woman who God created us to be?  Jeremiah 29:11 says:

108-daily-dependence-jeremiah-29-11Remember you are so valuable that God gave up His Son just in case you want to have a relationship with Him!  And it is through that relationship that His plan and purpose for your life will be revealed!

And for the believer let’s continue in what the author of Hebrews commanded in chapter 3, verse 13:

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  Hebrews 3:13 (NASB)

Walk today with new purpose today because you are part of a NEW Family Juggernaut as a child of God!

If you want to learn more about developing a quiet time, check out:

★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★

 

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – How Many Licks to Forgiveness ★

106 - Daily Dependence - Candy SocksMonday was the first day of school for my daughters – My eldest is now a sophomore in High School and my baby is in her last year of middle school.  It is hard to believe how fast time has gone by!  It seems like just yesterday my wife and I were bringing them home from the hospital.  First day of school is always tough…Well that afternoon my mother-in-law gave them this little gift of vintage candy themed socks.  This pair was especially interesting to me…

106 - Daily Dependence - Mr. Owl Socks

Do you remember Mr. Owl?  I may be dating myself but I grew up with this question:

“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?”

It seemed like this commercial stayed on the air forever.

I discovered that it is actually the longest running commercial in American television history.  It first appeared in 1970 and depicted a boy on a quest to find the answer to that famous question.  Believing that Mr. Owl was the smartest of all, he handed over his Tootsie Pop expecting to get the definitive answer on how many licks it takes to get to the center; but instead the temptation was too great and after just three licks Mr. Owl bites to get to that gooey goodness.  I thought this quote was the perfect way to open this “Thought for the Day.”

106 - Daily Dependence - Forgiveness Is Not A Tootsie Pop
“Forgiveness is not a Tootsie Pop so stop counting.”

This reminds me of a conversation that is recorded between Jesus and His disciple Peter in Matthew 18:21-22:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,  

‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?’  

 Jesus answered,

 ‘I tell you not seven times but seventy times seven.’”

Jesus’s response was probably not what Peter was expecting…”seventy times seven” is a whole lot of forgiving!  But that was not what He really meant; Jesus’ point really was signaling that there should be no limit to how many times we offer our forgiveness.  And just like it’s hard to keep track of the number of licks, it would be very difficult for us to keep up with that many offenses against us.  Instead of tallying each offense, we must follow what Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV) says,

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in  Christ God forgave you.”

I would like to unpack these truths of “What Forgiveness Is and Is Not…”

But first, I would like to share something that God showed me the other morning in my quiet time about his character.  Genesis Chapter 3 records the fall of man, when the Serpent (AKA Satan) deceived the Woman to eat the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” and how she then gave it to her husband Adam who ate it too.  A familiar tale that has been captured in numerous artistic depictions and shared during Sunday Schools everywhere as a cautionary tale of not allowing the enemy to twist God’s Words which will lead to sinning.  In Genesis 3:13-20 God rendered the consequences to Adam and Eve’s rebellion, (because there are always consequences to sin – See Galatians 6:7).  He first cursed the Serpent, then the Woman and finally Adam.  But what amazed me this week was what the next verse says…

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”  Genesis 3:21 (ESV)

Now I can’t tell you how many times I have read this story and flew right past this verse but tell me something, have you ever been betrayed and instantly responded by taking care of their needs?  But that is exactly what God did, which leads us into our first reality…

I read this quote from Ken Sande that I thought was great!

“Overlook an Offense—Many disputes are so insignificant that they should be resolved by quietly overlooking an offense.  Overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness, and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger.”  From “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict,”

And Proverbs 19:11 (NIV1984) says:

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense”

If you wait until you “feel like” forgiving, then it will probably never happen.  In His historic Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us a new model for living in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)…

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The sun rising on both the evil and the good, and God sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  That is an important truth to put on the sticky side of your brain.  And we need to be ready to not only forgive but to love and pray for those who hurt us.  No doubt this is a hard command to swallow, which segways us to point #2…

Essential?  Does that seem extreme?  Not so much when you look at what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT):

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Forgive or else you will not be forgiven.  Pretty cut and dry…It does not get any simpler than that.  2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) gives this promise:

“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.”

Truth # 3…

Forgiving someone is not intended about allow yourself to be a doormat to be walked all over but rather it is intended to set you free from bitterness. Unforgiveness can birth bitterness but we don’t have to swallow it.  Robert Morris had this to say about

“We’re all going to taste bitterness in our life, but you have the choice whether you’re going to drink it.”

See Hebrews 12:14-15 also.  All of us will experience pain in this life, and if we don’t master bitterness, depression can result.  I once heard this great quote that

“Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

And even though I know this is true, I fall victim to this over and over.  Growing up, the way I handled being hurt by people was to completely write them off.  If you betrayed me, you were dead to me.  Holding a grudge was my modus operandi and I am sad to say that I did not just drink bitterness but gulped it in huge amounts.  Since 1998 when I gave my heart to Jesus, He has been redeeming my broken and unforgiving heart.  I have experience Truth #4 is in my life…

Many people believe just the opposite.  They think that forgiveness is for those who inflict pain but it really is for the one who has been crushed.  Max Lucado said it best when he penned these poignant words!

“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner!”
“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner!”

 What an image and truth!  When we refuse to forgive, we are effectively slamming the cell door shut, and locking ourselves in a prison of our own making.  Jesus again said in Luke 6:35-36 (ESV):106 - Daily Dependence - Luke 6-36

“But love your enemies, and do good, andlend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” which leads us into our fifth and final truth…  

Dictionary.com has this definition of Act: “a deed; performance,” whereas an Attitude is a…

“manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation, especially of the mind.”

Forgiveness is not “a one and done.”  It is a continual, purposeful mindset that is a choice which is essential and a gift for the offended.  I love what Martin Luther King Jr. said that makes this point perfectly!

Jesus modeled this in his final moments as recorded in Luke 23:34  (ESV),

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

After being disrespected, spat upon, slapped, beaten, flogged and nailed to a Roman Cross, Jesus looks up to heaven to intercede on our behalf!  What an attitude of forgiveness!  William Blake said:106 - Daily Dependence - The Glory of Christianity is to Conquer By Forgiveness (3)

“The Glory of Christianity is to Conquer By Forgiveness,”

So the question is will you “Conquer By Forgiveness”…will you forgive others as God has forgiven and loved you?  Think about it, Adam rebelled against God, sin entered the world and we were separated from Him forever.  To resolve this, God sent His Son Jesus as the payment for my sin so that all we need to do is accept the sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sin that came into the world.  Romans 5:18-19 (NLT) says,

“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.  Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners.  But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.”

One man ushered sin into the world but what is more important is that one man, Jesus Christ has destroyed the power of sin over our lives if we make the right choice.  One of my favorite quotes from John Wooden is:

“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.”

Remember, forgiveness is not a Tootsie Pop.  Don’t even try to count the number of times you have forgiven someone.  In God’s reality, there is no number of licks you will take that you will ever be justified to stop forgiving.  So now the choice is yours.  What will you do with this information?  You know what God would do, He will always forgive a repent person.  And in return, He expects us to show others the same mercy you have received.  Will you do the same?  Because in the end, the choice you make, makes you!

If you are interested to read more about Forgiveness, check out this two part series of posts called:

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness In Action ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – The Pitfalls of Money ★

105 - Daily Dependence - Pitfalls of Money Banner

In t105 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Nighthe post, ★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★, we spent a lot of time talking about games and the importance of “Family Game Nights.”  Today’s Thought for the Day will build upon that and contrast the “Pitfalls of Money” with one of our family’s favorite games to play…Monopoly!  105 - Daily Dependence - Monopoly LogoMy prayer is that as we look at this classic board game and some of the mistakes we can make in our finances, God will move in your heart as you see what His Word has to say on the topic.  In the last post we did on finances called ★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course…Part 2 ★ I shared that my passion for handling finances God’s has been fueled by Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway Church and from Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University (FPU) Class.  Between them, I have grown in leaps and bounds in my understanding of what the Bible has to say about money and possessions, and if we are not careful, the monopoly it can have on our hearts…pun intended.  Dictionary.com had this definition for:

Mo·nop·o·ly
[muh-nop-uh-lee]
Noun

  1. The exclusive possession or control of something.
  2. A board game in which a player attempts to gain a monopoly of real estate by advancing around the board and purchasing property, acquiring capital by collecting rent from other players whose pieces land on that property.

It’s interesting that the board game that our family loves to play made it in the very definition of the word.  As I went through our game cabinet I was shocked to see how many versions we have:

105 - Daily Dependence - Monopoly Editions

And most recently we purchased the Electronic Edition of Monopoly.  105 - Daily Dependence - Monopoly - Electronic BankingWe have made the most of the summer playing one version or another almost daily.  I think that it is one of the best board games because of the “real world” exposure that children get to learn that will equip them for life, if they’re paying attention that is.

105 - Daily Dependence - Cliff Notes on MonopolyFor those who have not played the game or haven’t played it in a while, I will give you a quick refresher.  Here are the cliff notes on the game.  Everyone starts off on “Go” with the same amount of money and no properties.  Players get to be the Banker, learning how to “make change” and give payments to others, (I am constantly amazed at how fast my youngest daughter can do the math on what is owed.)  They understand the value of “passing Go” a.k.a. getting paid a salary and how you need to wait to “earn” additional money by going around the board.  The biggest aspect of course is buying property and trying to get a monopoly (owning all real estate associated with that color); once accomplished Houses and Hotels can be purchased which is key to get more rent when an opponent lands on the space.  The realities of Paying Rent, Income Tax, landing on “Chance” and going to Jail are also experienced throughout the game which are great lessons as well.  And if you are unsuccessful, you could end up in Bankruptcy, thus forcing you out of the game which is an important experience to have that in life you will endure failure and losses.  The last player left in the game wins.

According to the official rules:

105 - Daily Dependence - The Games of Life“The object of the game is to become the wealthiest player,” which introduces our first pitfall to learn from…

105 - Daily Dependence - 1 Timothy 6-10 - The Love of MoneyGREED – The quest to be rich has brought many people pain.  1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV) warns

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Now that does not say money is evil, but “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  Many have misunderstood that verse and had a skewed view of what the Bible says.  That last part is quite alarming to me that because of the misplaced love, people “have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  The Love of Money is a huge pitfall in life which left unchecked can result in leaving the path that God desires for us to pursue earthly riches.  

Our second pitfall is the cousin to Greed and that is…

105 - Daily Dependence - Pitfalls of Money - Discontentment

DISCONTENTMENT.  If there is one thing that the game of Monopoly breeds is discontentment but Hebrews 13:5 (NLT) offers an alternative with a promise:

“Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.  For God has said,

‘I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.’

It all boils down to contentment and whether you can be satisfied with what God has provided.  This is an area that I struggle in myself.  Not so much because I need the latest and greatest gadget but more because I would like to see more traction or faster results in debt payment and the “emergency fund” growth.  How about you?  Are you content in what God has provided?  Many struggle in this area, striving tirelessly to acquire more and more which leads to excessive hours spent in the office and time away from home.  And just like we all compete to have the most monopolies and end the game with the most money, we need to be watchful in this area that discontentment does not grow in our hearts.  Proverbs 23:4-5 (NLT) gives this counsel…

“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
    Be wise enough to know when to quit.

In the blink of an eye wealth disappears,
    for it will sprout wings
    and fly away like an eagle.”

Two-thirds of the parables that Jesus taught about were on money and possessions, because GREED and DISCONTENTMENT can pitfalls for you and me if we are not careful.  Jesus taught about the stewardship or management of our finances not for personal gain but to be a blessing to others and that is through our …

105 - Daily Dependence - Giving

105 - Daily Dependence - 2 Corinthians 9-7 - Cheerful GiverGIVING!  2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) says:

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on this verse:

“In giving, as in all areas of Christian living, God wants our hearts to respond to Him in obedience.  He wants willing, joyful, eager participation in His work, not grumbling or halfhearted compliance.”

It’s all about the heart.  Are you cheerful when the plate or basket comes around during the offering or do you begrudgingly put the money or check in?  In Luke 21:1-4 (ESV) it records how God views our giving…

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””

It’s not about giving everything but the heart of the giver.  Do you give because you love God and want to see His Kingdom advanced here on Earth or out of compulsion?  There’s a big difference.  God does not need our money (see Psalms 24:1,) but He does want our heart to love what He loves and that is people!  The antidote to greed and discontentment is…

105 - Daily Dependence - GenerosityGENEROSITY!  Proverbs 11:24-25 (NLT) says…

“Give freely and become more wealthy;
    be stingy and lose everything.

The generous will prosper;
    those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

This is not the normal thinking though is it?  “Give freely and become more wealthy?”  That makes no sense in the natural, but in God’s economy, “the generous will prosper!”  I have seen time and time again how God have blessed me when I was not tight-fisted with my money but rather when I stayed the course in my tithing and offerings I saw how God threw open the floodgates of heaven and provided for all my needs, (Malachi 3:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 for more.)  God promises to refresh those who refresh others.  The question presented before you today is…Will you allow money to be a pitfall or to be a blessing to others?

I will close with this final thought from Charles Stanley:

“God is not after our time, talents, or bank accounts.  He already owns the world and everything in it (Exodus 19:5).  His greatest desire is to have a personal and intimate relationship with you for all eternity.”

Today I pray you will be challenged to see you finances in a new light that will unlock a new level of faith and trust in God because “His greatest desire is to have a personal and intimate relationship with you for all eternity!”

If you are interested in reading more about how about the Biblical Worldview of Money (How our Finances and Possessions should be handled from God’s Perspective), check out other posts in our collection of posts called:

$ Building Your Money Muscle $

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★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

What do you think of this title for the Thought for the Day?  Hopefully it has peaked your interest to find out.  Today I pray that God would open up your mind to the possibilities of being able to share your faith in an easy and ingenious way.  But before I reveal that to you, let me ask you a question…How are you at sharing your faith?  Many people have emotions ranging from uncomfortable to pure terror when it comes to expressing why they believe in Jesus Christ to others.  Reasons can be because of a lack of knowledge of the bible or timidity to talk about it or the spiritual warfare from the Devil.  But the Apostle Paul offers this truth from 2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NLT)…

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for Him.  With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.”

I remember once, hearing Robert Morris of Gateway Church talk about how easy it is to share your faith.  It seemed so elementary but so many people miss it…“Just share your story.”  You don’t have to be a theologian to “share the Good News of Jesus Christ,” all you need is to just tell people what God has done in your life.  Our job is to point people to Jesus, just like Jesus came to point people to God.  As Jesus was comforting His disciples in John 14:1-6 about having to go away to prepare a place in “His Father’s House,” Thomas asked a very direct question asking where He was going and in verse 6 Jesus gave this reply:

104 - Daily Dependence - John 14-6 - One Way“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6 (NKJV)

Jesus is the Way to the Father and to eternal life in Heaven.  Hebrews 10:19-20 (NLT) gives is this confidence…

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.”

104 - Daily Dependence - TetelestaiWhen Jesus died on the cross He said “Tetelestai” which means “It Is Finished!” which is recorded in John 19:30…

104 - Daily Dependence - John 19-30 - IIF - It Is Finished!
Jesus said, “it is finished.” Then He bowed His head and released His Spirit.”

“IT IS FINISHED” – These were the last words He spoke before dying on the cross. Jesus said this because He knew His mission was done…Everything necessary for His people to have a relationship with God WAS ACCOMPLISHED!  Not only are our sins paid for, but also salvation, forgiveness, and grace is offered to all.  Because it is finished, all who trust and believe in Jesus can have a relationship with their heavenly Father.  If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, check out this post called ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ that will lead you in making that decision.

For those who know this truth today, then I urge you to follow the advice from the Apostle Peter…

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”  1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

The time is now!  Don’t wait to share your faith with your children and other young people who are in your sphere of influence.  According to a study that the Barna Research Group conducted, they found

“…that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.” 

What this tells me is that we have a very short window to reach people for the Kingdom of God, and once a person passes the age of 21, the percentage drops considerably.  Such a sad reality!  But at the same time, what an opportunity to share our faith easily with these shirts!  Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 (NLT)

“The harvest is great, but the workers are few."
“The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”

And finally in Philemon 1:6 (ESV), the Apostle Paul gives this encouragement…

“and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”

So the question is…Will you Share It?  I pray that you will activate your faith starting today with everyone you come into contact!

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★

Today’s Thought for the Day will tie together (2) Fortune 500 Companies that have helped influenced the culture we live in and how people view Christianity.  At the time of post, according to the Fortune 500 List, the first company Hasbro just missed the top by ranking at 550 but their impact on our families is significant.

103 - Daily Dependence - Fortune 500 - Hasbro

103 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Night InfographicI am not sure if they coined the phrase “Family Game Night,” but clearly Hasbro has done very well capitalizing on their products.  I found this Infographic on The Board Game Family website that is from a study conducted in 2013 by Wakefield Research Group for the Hasbro Gaming Company.  They found that:

“91% of those polled said playing games gives their family’s mood a positive boost.  And 96% of families who play games together say that they feel close!”

103 - Daily Dependence - Family Game Night Statistics

In a world in love with their smart phones, iPads and Tablets, I bet in the past 3 years that statistic above is probably much higher than 61% of families having a hard time disconnecting from their devices.  There is so much competing for our attention these days.  Now I know it is self-serving that Hasbro sponsored this survey and that they found that families playing games = happiness, but as a participant in our own Family Game Nights, I can testify that is definitely true!  There are so many great memories just from these few games that I pulled out of our game cabinet…

103 - Daily Dependence - Game Night

And there definitely are members who have dominated…For instance, my youngest is the master of monopoly, my oldest daughter rules in Rummikub, my wife baffles us with the number of words she finds in Boggle, and I have a lot of success in Scrabble.  Hours upon hours of great family bonding have been spent competing with each other.  It’s interesting though as I dug through the cabinet, I was surprised to find that we no longer had Candy Land.  103 - Daily Dependence - Candyland Game BoardI remember racing to arrive at “Candy Castle” first with both of my girls but I guess we gave it away at some point.  I googled Candy Land and found this on Wikipedia that jogged my memory of why we no longer have the game:

“Candy Land…requires no reading and minimal counting skills, making it suitable for young children. Due to the design of the game, there is no strategy involved: players are never required to make choices, just follow directions.  The winner is predetermined by the shuffle of the cards.”

Besides the fact that the game is rated for ages 3 and up, (and I now have two teenagers), the underlined sentence above is why we don’t have the game any longer.  Now in our family everyone is extremely competitive so a game that has no challenge, no strategy or choices really has no place in the game cabinet…hahaha!  But I think that people view Christianity in the same way sometimes; if you were to become a Christian your choices are limited and you have to follow a bunch of rules…But that is a lie from the enemy!  It reminds me a powerful scene from 2014 God’s Not Dead movie in which Mina’s mother who is suffering from Demetria has a moment of lucidity and compares a life outside of God as a Comfortable Prison Cell, (click here to watch). 103 - Daily Dependence - God's Not Dead - Comfy Jail Cell Quote

The devil wants you to believe that life is more fun without God and that if you become a Christian you will be controlled and have no options just like if you were playing Candy Land.  Jesus said in John 10:10 (ESV) that:

103 - Daily Dependence - John 10-10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

The thief, aka the Devil or Satan wants to ruin your life, whereas God sent Jesus to rescue us.  His offer is far greater than any counterfeit that the Devil tempt us with, but unfortunately many fall into the trap that life outside God’s involvement is better, and instead of landing on “Candy Castle,” you will end up in “Molasses Swamp”…okay no more Candy Land references… Jesus is extending a life line to every one of us if we will grab hold of it.  He is our lifesaver!  Acts 13:38-39 (NIV) instructs us…

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”

And in John 8:36 (NIV) Jesus said,

“So if the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Here are some additional Bible Verses about the Freedom we have over sin and darkness when we follow Jesus that would be good to memorize if you struggle to remember the truth.  How are you with memorizing scripture?  If you are like me, it’s a struggle to remember where key verses are located but I believe it is okay if you can’t recall the exact “chapter and verse” in the Bible so long as you get the truth in your heart…THAT IS WHAT MATTERS!  A trick I have that may help you is to google the part of the verse I remember and 9 out of 10 times I find what I am looking for.

But there is someone, or some fish who does not have that luxury…Dory.

103 - Daily Dependence - Finding Dory

Were you wondering when I was going to get to the second Fortune 500 Company?  Well just to be consistent, here is the ranking and stats of Disney in the prestigious list…

103 - Daily Dependence - Fortune 500 - Disney

103 - Daily Dependence - Walt Disney

Walt Disney was a master at creating a fantasy world that everyone wanted to be a part of.  This castle for instance at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida is an icon of his legacy.  Every child knows the Magic Kingdom as being “The Most Magical Place On Earth” (and the parents agree, all their money “magically” disappears!)  In the much-anticipated sequel to the 2003 blockbuster hit Finding Nemo, 103 - Daily Dependence - Finding NemoDisney has landed gold with the reprisal of the forgetful Blue Tang Fish. In Finding Dory, which has quickly become the #1 U.S. hit of 2016, grossing $437.8 million (according to Box Office Mojo.), we learn all about Dory’s past and how she was separated from her parents, as well as the background on her unusual introductory statement…

“Hi I’m Dory and I suffer from short-term memory loss.”

I was amazed at how good the sequel was, and the issues that were tackled like raising special needs children, being orphaned, friendship and the importance of family!  The movie is also unique in that it is the most “family friendly” offering from Disney in years, which as avid movie buff and a discerning parent of what I expose my children to, I appreciate the good lessons without the questionable content to worry about.  103 - Daily Dependence - Family VacationI was thinking about the movie last week when our family went on vacation to North Carolina for a family reunion, (which was so special since it has been 3 months ago that we lost my mom.)  To get there, we decided to do a cross-country drive from Texas which was a first for us.  We also added a stop at Destin and Pensacola to hit the beach which was amazing!  All in all we logged 2,740 miles and had an amazing family time as we sang, played games and talked.  But for those who have driven hundreds of miles you know how wearisome it can get…As we were driving my wife made pun off of Dory’s other catch phase…“Just Keep Swimming…”

103 - Daily Dependence - Just Keep Swimming Alt 1

As the miles rolled on, she said, “Just keep diving…driving…driving…” Hahaha!  But I think there is a great life principle to gain from Dory’s optimistic outlook.  She had to overcome a disability, being separated from her parents and being alone, and yet she had an incredible perspective: “Just Keep Swimming!”  Or another way to say it is you keep going when you face adversities in life.  I think too often people have an unrealistic view of the Christian Faith.  They think just because you are a Christian that they should never have any problems.  But that simply is not the case because when you become a Christian you become an enemy to the little god of this world, the Devil.  I shared about how opposition will always come when we serve God in a post called ★ Thought for the Day – Opposition Will Come ★, (which would be good for you to read also.)  Ultimately opposition is a good thing.  Strange statement?  Not really when you are looking through the correct lens.  I love how Jack Graham said it:

“Perhaps today you’d admit that you’re a little discouraged by how difficult the Christian life can be.  If so, I want to offer you a word of encouragement: The opposition you face is actually a sure sign that you’re doing something right!  Because if the devil leaves you alone, that means you must not be worth trying to discourage!”

Easier said than done right?  But I think with the right perspective, we can persevere and flourish.  How do I know this?  John Chapter 17 reveals the heart of Jesus with an incredible prayer for you and me.  We don’t have time to unpack the whole prayer but in verses 13-14 he prayed to God…

“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.  I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”

Now you may say this does not cover me but in just four verses later Jesus prayed…

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.   I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”  (John 17:20-21)

I know I talk often about spiritual warfare, that we have a very real enemy who wants to steal and kill and destroy” you and I as we covered already.  And now we see Jesus praying for our protection.  You see people have a skewed perspective of Christianity because Satan is always on the prowl (see 1 Peter 1:8).  But I encourage you to persevere and just keep chasing after God like Dory example has shown us.  I will close with this final though from Susie Larson:
103 - Daily Dependence - Susie Larson - Your Beautiful Purpose - Potential

Embrace that truth today!

If you are interested in reading more, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Anxious to Do the Will of God? ★ 

★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

My pastor shared this quote fro102 - Daily Dependence - Billy Graham - A Good Fatherm Billy Graham last Sunday for his Father’s Day message…

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

It was a great introductory quote to engage all the Fathers in the room for sure, (I know I was…)  He went on to say that we need to be intentional in our own spiritual growth, intentional in our instruction/discipline, and intentional in our affection towards our children.  He also said that we need to be “Marked by God’s Word!”  Now if you’ve been following our blog, you know we’ve been talking a lot about reading the Bible and pursuing God so it should not be a surprise to any of you that this resonated with me; but it also got me thinking about that statement…“Am I really marked?'”  I think that it’s a good thing to step back and do an honest self-evaluation when you are given a challenge like that.  I love what our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt said in regards to honest self-evaluation…

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.”
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Amen?  I love that so much!!  Not only for the sarcasm but also the truth!! How would things be different if we would stop and take a moment to “think” before we “put our f102 - Daily Dependence - Self-Evaluationoot in our mouths” and make a mess of things?

In two months I will be required by my company to do a task that I absolutely hate…the dreaded self-evaluation.  I know that the purpose is to give my supervisor an understanding of what I believe I have accomplished in the past year but it feels so much like “tooting my own horn.”  Now don’t get me wrong, I do avail myself of the opportunity but I attempt to be honest in the evaluation which leads me to the muse for this Thought for the Day”…

Romans 12:3 (NLT) says…

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

102 - Daily Dependence - X_ (1)It’s time to get honest…so what do you think of that?  Be careful how quickly you answer…Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT) sheds some light on how good we are at evaluating ourselves…

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is?”

When I think over my life and of all the mistakes I’ve made, the careless words and foolish choices that could have gotten me in much more than some hot water, it’s hard to believe that I am the same person.  There is so much I regret, but that makes me also so grateful for the life that I have as a born again believer in Jesus.  I truly am a changed man as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

102 - Daily Dependence - New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5-17 - New Creation - Copy

But even after walking with the Lord for the past 18 years, I still find myself saying and doing things I wish I wouldn’t.  It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15 (ESV)

“For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

That unfortunately is the human condition…we are all sinners and fall short of what God desires for our life, (see Romans 3:23).  The key is not to give up chasing after God, even after we fail to the right thing.  My wife an expression she always says that we need to 102 - Daily Dependence - Strive for Progress Not Perfection“strive for progress, not perfection.”  The reality is we can never achieve perfection this side of heaven but if we are always striving for progress, our life will be in an upward curve.  Even if we stumble, as long as we pick ourselves up and get back on track pursuing God’s desire for us, we will always be improving.  And we need to be very careful not to allow the enemy to get a foothold in our minds that we will never change.  Romans 3:24 (ESV) piggybacks on the fact that though we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” with this beautiful truth that we…

102 - Daily Dependence - License to Sin“are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”

Of course this is not a license to sin!  Too often people try to play the “Grace card” as a way to justify continuing to sin.  That is not what Grace is about!  Grace is a gift to overcome sin not to justify it!

102 - Daily Dependence - Grace is Not A License to Sin

Going back to my Pastor’s statement about being “Marked by God’s Word,” I was reading Romans 12:9-21 the other morning from the English Stand Version (ESV) Translation and it had this heading…“Marks of the True Christian.”  Check it out, it is a powerful list!  To paraphrase, a “True Christian” should be genuine in their love for others…Should hate evil and be on fire to serve the Lord even though they may go through trouble.  A “Marked Christian’s” mission should be to live in harmony with everyone regardless of what they may do to us!  Verse 21 wraps up “The Mark of a True Christian” with this…

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Not what the typical human response is though huh?  I know it’s certainly was not mine until I started walking with God in 1998.  Before that, I can testify that was not my attitude at all…I was self-centered, egotistical and lived my life with one objective…it was all about me!  If you hurt me that was it, I would cut you out of my life, regardless of your attempts to seek forgiveness…you were dead to me.  I never thought about helping others, I just wanted my needs met.  But everything has changed since accepting Jesus as my savior.  Now I look for opportunities to help others, to be an encouragement and look out for those God brings into my life.

There was a man in the early church that I endeavor to be like which Acts 4:36 (NLT) introduces us to…

“For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).  He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.”

What a name!  “A Son of Encouragement!”  He is described in greater detail in Acts 11:24 (NLT)…

“Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.  And many people were brought to the Lord.”

That is my prayer, to be “A Son of Encouragement and to be a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith,” that many people will come to the Lord as a result!”  You see after all the “evaluation” is done and I realize I can never meet God’s standard of Holiness, I step back and realize despite all my shortcomings and failings, God loves me nonetheless!!!!

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible, he had this life lesson on this verse …

“Despite the Corinthian’s problems, Paul could see their genuine spiritual gifts, their repentance, and their love for God, and he wanted these things to encourage them to further growth. Likewise, we must always make sure we are maturing in our walks with Him by examining whether or not we are expressing His likeness and character in increasing measure (see also 2 Peter 1:3-8).

“We must always make sure we are maturing in our walks with Him!”  It’s a command!  But something I have  realize and I hope you gleam this as well, I can never meet God’s standard of Holiness, I just need to step back and acknowledge that despite all my shortcomings and failings, God loves me nonetheless!!!!  I will close with Acts 15:11 (NLT)…

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

You see there is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore or any less!  Matt Redman has this beautiful song called “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” that is a beautiful reminder of how important and loved we are regardless of what we do, nothing is beyond God’s ability to forgive, no matter “how unforgivable” we may feel that it is…It is by the undeserved grace of God that we are saved!

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Leaving It All On The Field ★

We just wrapped up a series on 3 pursuits of God that will change your life…Through PrayerReading the Bible…and Living a Life of Worship.  I thought it only fitting to build upon that foundation and talk about being a person who can have the maximum impact for the Kingdom of God!  In his book “Becoming a Person of Influence,” John Maxwell gave this practical advice, which also serves as the perfect introduction for this post….he said:

“Not everyone you influence will think the same way you do.  You have to help them not only believe that they can succeed, but also show them that you want them to succeed.  How do you do that?

Expect it: People can sense your underlying attitude no matter what you say or do.  If you have an expectation for your people to be successful, they will know it.

Verbalize itPeople need to hear you tell themthat you believe in them and want them to succeed.  Become a positive prophet of their success.

Reinforce it: You can never do too much when it comes to believing in people.

Once people recognize and understand that you genuinely want to see them succeed and are committed to helping them, they will begin to believe they can accomplish what you give them to do.”

Now this was written from a business world perspective but I think that we can easily see how the same advice could be applied to helping us make an impact on those around us.  You may ask why is it important th101 - Daily Dependence - Proverbs 27-17 - Iron Sharpens Ironat we leverage our influence for the kingdom of God?  The answer can found in Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)…

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Whether male or female, God will use you to help others grow in their walk with Him.  After all we all need encouragement, whether we are willing to admit it or not, everyone needs a mentor…People who are living their life for God and pursuing Him in the areas that we just concluded in our Back to the Basics series.  And just like John Maxwell said…

“Not everyone you influence will think the same way you do.  You have to help them not only believe that they can succeed, but also show them that you want them to succeed.

This101 - Daily Dependence - Romans 15-13 is the whole reason why “I Do What I Do!”  My hope and prayer is that in some way I can have some positive influence and to help you succeed in your walk in God.  Here is a great verse to motivate you…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

The key though is to trust in God…boy that sure is hard sometimes when you are in the middle of a storm!  But look at the rewards if we do…”joy and peace and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!”  That is some good stuff!  My brother in-law posted this the other day which I loved…

“Faith…Is see101 - Daily Dependence - Faithing LIGHT with your HEART…When all your EYES see is DARKNESS.”  Unknown 

I believe it was Vince Lombardi who made this famous statement to “leave it all on the field.”  The idea that when the game is over, there should be nothing left…All our strength and energy should be completely depleted.  Well just like in football, I believe that God is asking each one of us to do the same.  The goal of our life, each and every day should be completed absolutely spent…physically, emotionally and spiritually for the enlargement of God’s Kingdom!  “Leave it all on the field” so that you will never think back to a day and say “I wish I would have told them this,” or “if only I had done _____ (fill in the blank)…to encourage them, then it might have been different.  John Greenleaf Whittier once said:

“For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’”

I think that the apostle Paul was the truest example of “leaving it all on the field.”  In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (ESV) we get a little insight into what Pail went through to expand the kingdom of God.

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

Impressive list huh?  I think if any one of us experienced even one of these persecutions it would probably crush us, but I think verse 28 is the most intriguing part. Look at it again…

“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

Apart from the other things, Paul finishes with this unbelievable statement that he feels a “daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”  Talk about living a life of sacrifice!  In wrapping up his list, I find it remarkable that his anxiety for all the churches is what he would finish on. You would think the 39 lashes or being beaten with rods or the stoning would be the closing statement but it’s not…it’s all about reaching the lost!!  Talk about leaving it all on the field!!!  Paul authored most of the New Testament and had a huge influence in the early church.  He was also a mentor to many.  One such person was Timothy who he referred to as “my child in the faith” (see 1 Timothy 1:2) and “my beloved child” (see 2 Timothy 1:2).  In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul wrote to Timothy a final word of encouragement…

“As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.  The time of my death is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.  And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”  

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Let this be your rallying cry to give everything you have!  The choice is yours, what will you do?  I pray you will choose to leave it all out on the field for the Lord!

 

If you would like to read more on perseverance check out these 2 posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming ★

★ Thought for the Day – The Storms of 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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★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Parasite? ★

In our last post called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we discussed the importance of reading the bible if we want to grow in our walk with God.  And that what you feed your mind is what you will become.  My daughter reminded me of the movie we saw a year ago called “Tomorrowland” (which was really awesome and is on Redbox now.)  In the movie they had a quote about an Old Cherokee Proverb that within everyone is two wolves fighting a battle…I looked up the background and thought it was a great illustration of what we all face…

A99 - Daily Dependence - Tomorrowland - 2 Wolves Quoten old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. 

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.  

One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”  

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. 

The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

WHICH WOLF ARE YOU FEEDING?  

I love that answer to the question “Which wolf will win?”…“The one you feed.”  There is such truth in that statement that if we could grasp it today, our lives could be forever changed!  In the Bible, Romans 8:5-6 (NLT) supports this truth:

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature [or ‘flesh’ as other Bible translations call it,] think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature [flesh] control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

We always have a choice about what we will feed, our flesh or our spirit…Today I would like springboard off of our last post and speak to those who have been walking with God and reading the Bible to pose the question, are you a parasite?  Strange question huh?  When you hear the word parasite a few nasty examples come to my mind like tapeworms, fleas, and barnacles.  I read somewhere that Tapeworms attach themselves to the insides of the intestines of animals such as cows, pigs, and humans.  They get food by eating the host’s partly digested food, depriving the host of nutrients.  Gross huh?  Vocabulary.com had this definition for what a PARASITE is:

“A creature that lives off another organism is a parasite. The parasite might not hurt the host, but it doesn’t do anything to help it, either.”

Can you think of an example of a creature that feeds off of another but doesn’t hurt the host?  I will give you a hint…you may have some living in your home…babies of course!  But we hardly would consider them a parasite right…right?  Hahaha!  There is nothing more beautiful than a nursing baby.  After all it was God’s design that a woman’s body would transform to be able to provide nourishment for her child BUT as the baby gets older, it is time to transition to solid food.

The question…Are You a Parasite? Was intended to get your attention but maybe a less graphic way to start the dialogue would be to say, are you doing anything with what you are reading in the Bible or are you in a perpetual feeding mode?  I heard a quote from a country preacher named Vance Havner who said:

99 - Daily Dependence - Vance Havner - How Far You've Come
“How long you’ve been a Christian only tells how long you’ve been on the road.  It doesn’t tell how far you’ve come.” Vance Havner

When I first heard of this quote I thought of it in comparison to 1 Timothy 4:12 about not letting anyone “think less of you because you are young.”  But recently I have thought it more along the lines of not believing you’re mature just because of how long you’ve been calling yourself a Christian.  Do you consider yourself mature?  Or should I say are you continuing to mature in your faith?  I an article from Albert Mohler he quoted researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli who said:

“Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it.  And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”  How bad is it?  Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments.  “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time.  They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm.  The bottom line?  “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”

And from another article I saw these statistics…

99 - Daily Dependence - The State of the Bible - 6 Trends for 2014 - Barna Reserach
“The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014” – Barna Research

What a sad reality!  Would you consider yourself illiterate when it comes to your knowledge of the Bible?  Just like you cannot become mature just by the number of years you are a Christian, just owning a Bible is not enough, we need to read and know it!  This lack of maturity is not a new phenomenon.  In approximately 55 AD, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 to encourage the Corinthian Church to grow in their faith.  They were not ready for the deeper truths that he wanted to share with them…In verse 2, Paul said:

“I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.  And you still aren’t ready,”

For the purpose of this Thought for the Day, I am going to assume that we are all “within the 37% who read the Bible more than once a week” that the Barna Research Group found.  And with that baseline, I want to challenge you to look within and ask yourself…Does that 1 Corinthians 3:2 statement describe you?  Have you been on the path for decades, reading God’s Word, going to church, attending Bible Studies and yet you still are not ready to move on to solid food?  Hebrews 5:12 (NLT) gives this stark wake up call!

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“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.”

Convicting huh?  It was definitely true of me!  I accepted Jesus as my savior in August of 1998 and though I would describe myself as “being on fire for God,” my development was far from that.  I attended church yes but did not read the Bible.  It was not until 12 years later that one conversation with Todd McIntyre, the Men’s Pastor at Gateway Church changed everything!  In the post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, I shared how he helped me see the need to reconcile my relationship with my estranged father and also opened my eyes to the need to develop the spiritual discipline of reading the bible daily which has paid dividends!  I have grown more in the last six years then I did in the preceding 12!  It is interesting to think how one conversation changed the whole trajectory of my life!  But that would not have happened unless I actually listened to Pastor Todd’s counsel and put it into practice!  James 1:22-25 (NLT) says:

99 - Daily Dependence - James 1-22 - Be Doers of the Word“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

In our Wednesday night Lifegroup, we have been going through a Bible Study by Francis Chan on RightNowMedia from the Book of James.  In the third lesson (which was based on James 1:19-27,) Francis Chan nailed it as he pounds on the truth of this passage…He said,

“Satan is thrilled when believers pack out churches to hear the Word of God and then they walk away and do nothing and yet feel like they’ve accomplished something.  Their deceiving [themselves], they’re doing Satan’s job for Him!”

Amen?  We need to be DOERS of the Word not just HEARERS.  Too often that people say “I am not being fed,” so they move on to another church, never realizing that maybe it has nothing to with the Pastor or the church but with them.  You cannot grow without putting in the work yourself.  Being a parasite can also be by living your life only on the basis of someone else’s faith.  Maybe it’s someone who brought you to Christ in the first place, like a parent who dragged you to church every Sunday, or a friend who made you feel obligated to accept Christ.  You never really developed a personal relationship with Christ but rather you are going with the flow of someone else’s faith.  

99 - Daily Dependence - Milk to Meat - MaturingSo then how do we go from MILK to MEAT, and mature as a believer?  I am glad you asked…Stop being a parasite.  Stop leeching onto others for your growth.  Stop depending on others or the Pastor/Church for your spiritual development.  You have to take responsibility for your own development.  Just like you cannot survive on one meal a week, you cannot depend on 1 hour on a Sunday morning to be the only source of nourishment that you give your Spirit!  It must happen daily.  If you don’t apply the knowledge that you hear than you will never grow and you will remain stagnant.  I say this all the time but it’s so true…Nothing changes if nothing changes!  Today decide to…Feed Yourself!

99 - Daily Dependence - Feed Yourself

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Tribute to My Mom ★

Let me start off by wishing all the Moms a Happy Mother’s Day!!  

As part of the “25 Days of Thankfulness” series I shared with you about my Mom’s stroke in 2010 called ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★, and what a walking miracle she was.  100 - Daily Dependence - Mom's High SchoolOn April 18, 2016 my Mom was found on the floor by the nursing staff at the assisted living facility she was at and rushed to the hospital.  Within an hour of being admitted of the hospital, the CT scan determined that she had an even larger stroke the second time around. This time though it was on the other side of the brain which left no possibility of recovery, and 24 hours after being admitted to the emergency room my Mom lost her battle and passed away at 8 am on Tuesday morning. On Thursday night after the wake, my wife and I went back to my sister’s house.  As I sat down at my mom’s desk in my sister’s house, (a desk that has been around longer than I have been alive,) I thought to myself, what is the one thing that I would want to share with you about this incredible woman?  Would it be her work ethic?  Her money management skills?  Or her amazing ability to make anyone feel at home?  All of which were true, but I think what I learned most from my mom is about living out a lasting legacy (click here to read more.)  She taught us the value of family and about being a person of integrity; two values that I strive to embody myself and pass-on to my daughters.  I would not be the man I am without her tireless efforts to model the right way to live.

I also gleamed the importance of perseverance.  The stroke that happened in 2010 was a catastrophic event that had forever changed ALL our lives.  But long before that fateful December 23rd, my mom endured many other hardships.  She did not have an easy life to say the least.  From the time I was 5 years old, she was a divorcee, raising 3 children at a time when that was such a stigma.  It was like wearing a scarlet letter.  In spite of it, she taught us that regardless of circumstances to always be generous, loving and self-sacrificial.  One of the most tangible ways she expressed this was at Christmastime, which was always magical, and done on a single parent’s income!  Thinking back on it now, as a father myself, it is amazing how she was able to rub 2 nickels together to create a quarter.  Though we struggled financially, somehow she was able to give us the perfect Christmas year after year.  We had great traditions from the Advent calendar to the prime rib dinner to the eggnog toast…and always with Christmas music playing in the background, from Bing Crosby to Johnny Mathis to Brenda Lee.  Just thinking of it I am catapulted back in time…Music has a funny way of doing that.

As my sister and I went through our Mom’s room at the assisted living facility, many emotions were stirred up.  Here is a picture that my daughter made for her Grandma years ago to encourage her along the path of recovery from the first stroke from Psalm 23:1-6:

100 - Daily Dependence - Psalm 23

This verse is very dear to me.  I read this the day I was baptized (April 11, 1999) which I was reminded of when I sat in the very church in which I had made my profession of faith 17 years early watching others commit their lives to Jesus.  Finding this picture with that verse was a tangible expression of God’s presence amidst the pain and sorrow of the moment which made our task of gathering pictures and an outfit for the wake bearable.  I also saw a ton of music there including that John Mathis Christmas CD that we would listen to every year.  I realized that my love of music also stems from Mom.  For those who know me well, I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone.  And I have a song for any occasion…Including the last weekend I spent with my Mom starting when I flew in on Friday April 15, 2016.  Many people know that date because it is the filing deadline for U.S. federal income tax returns for individuals but it was also the 9 year anniversary of my family and I moving to Texas, a coincidence that was not lost on me when I realized it on the plane.  I went back to NJ to try and help out because over these past few weeks Mom’s health had diminished considerably.  Friday was a great day because it was a long 2 months of going from the hospital to the rehab facility my Mom was overjoyed to be moving back to familiar surroundings at the assisted living facility.

Over the next two days my sister, brother and I spent precious moments sitting in the courtyard as God blessed us with two glorious days of sunshine and the opportunity to express our love to her.  As we sat there, I of course had worship music playing for her.  One song that she really liked was called “Abba,” which in Aramaic is a word derived from baby-language and is translated to mean “Daddy.”  I often shared things with Mom from what I was reading in the Bible or what I learned from the sermon on the previous Sunday when we had our weekly phone calls.  As we sat in that courtyard and the sun warmed our faces, there was a gentle breeze as this lyric of the song played,

          “Abba, I belong to you.” 

I told Mom that God is her Daddy and He cares for her so deeply that He sent Jesus to die for her so that she could spend all eternity with Him.  And just as the song said, she belonged to Him.  Little did I know just a few days later she would be with her Daddy in heaven!  Romans 8:18-21 (NLT) speaks about “The Future Glory” we have to look forward to:

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

What a beautiful promise!  Something to know about our family is that if one of us is hurt we all rally together at the hospital.  It was not any different on Monday night (4/18/16), after a long day of waiting for the inevitable; my Mom had 12 people in her room at 10 pm sharing stories about the impact she had on them.  It was brought up how I was visiting for Christmas in 2010 when she had the first stroke and how fortunate that was.  And now 5-1/2 years later I am here for the second stroke…the room was silent for a half a second then all of sudden someone said that maybe we shouldn’t invite me here anymore…hahaha!  But my being in NJ both times has nothing to do with coincidence, but rather a loving father in heaven!  Our Daddy cares so deeply for each and every one of us.  I love what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:28:  100 - Daily Dependence - Romans 8-28God orchestrated that in the two darkest moments in our family’s life, I was not 1,500 miles away in Texas, but just minutes away in NJ.  Words cannot express how thankful I am, that if this had to happen, I was here to be a support to the family.  Romans 8:38-39 (NLT),

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love!”  I mentioned that I learned all about perseverance from Mom and that was because she was a fighter!  Not only for her family to stay close or for her kids to grow up to be people of integrity, but also how she fought after having a massive stroke.  She defied the doctors back in 2010 who said she may not live, or that she may not speak again, or that she many never use the right side of her body.  Adversity after adversity she overcame and persevered!  My Mom was a living testimony of the faithfulness of God, a walking miracle!  I am so proud of her and was thankful that though her life was changed after the stroke, I had my Mom for another 5-1/2 years in which our relationship deepened far greater than it ever would have because we talked about matters of faith and the importance of standing on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.  97 - Daily Dependence - Footprints PoemDuring this time period I saw how God was her hope and anchor amidst the storms and how He carried her through the many hardships.  My Mom had this plague hanging on the wall called “Footprints,” which we had on the memorial card given out at the wake.  I shared this quote with Mom a while ago from a good friend of mine which I will close with:

“We don’t know very much about eternity, but we do know that for the Christian, whatever our emotional and physical struggles are now, they will cease then.  Heaven’s delights will far outweigh earth’s distresses.”  Leo Primero    

As Romans 8:38 said, “Nothing can ever separate us from the love” of our Daddy in heaven.  And I will add to that with Revelation 21:4 (ESV) which says,

“He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I take great comfort that my Mom is enjoying Heaven’s delights and is now free from the pain and suffering that she endured in this life.  Our loss is Heaven’s gain!  100 - Daily Dependence - Our Loss is Heaven's GainIn my Mom’s final moments, she had here 3 children at her bedside and we sang along with a favorite song of her’s from John Denver called “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”  As the conclusion of the song, my Mom took her final breath and Jesus took her home to heaven. She is finally at rest with her Heavenly Father after having that fateful second and fatal stroke.  Mom, thank for showing me how to live a lasting legacy and for making me the man who I am.  I owe everything to you and you will be dearly missed.  Know that your efforts were not in vain and generations to come will benefit from your love, dedication and faith in Jesus.  Rest in peace Mom.  I love you!

Happy Mother’s Day!!

 

If you would like to hear that “Take Me Home Country Roads.”

 

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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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★ Re|Engage – Diligence ★

ReEngage - Lesson 16

Here is the 16th and final lesson on Diligence.  The main idea was:

“This is a way to live, not a program that you go through. You don’t graduate from this. Success in marriage is not just avoiding divorce, but always moving toward oneness. You will have to fight for everything you have gained.”

Though this is the last post, you should not look at this as the end of journey but rather the beginning of one.  As we talked about in the last post ★ Re|Engage – Completion ★, it is important you and your spouse keep on going over these posts to keep it fresh.  If you want to attend re|engage, you can find a class in your area by going here http://marriagehelp.org/churches and entering in your zip code.  Don’t finish reading these 16 posts and never thing about how to improve your marriage again.  The lesson started off with this great advice…

“Be sure to celebrate what God has done in your marriage, but also start to take the next steps in pursuing oneness “more and more” with your spouse.”

Success is not linear…it is a series of peaks and valleys.

In the reading they had six ideas that could be next steps for you:

1.  Continue investing.ReEngage - Lesson 16 - Footprints

One class, one time, will not make your marriage great.  Love is not a noun but a verb.  You need to continually be pouring into each other.

“Be sure you are doing things to spend time together, have fun and keep investing in your marriage. Don’t fall back into patterns of neglecting your marriage.”

If you thought you were “done” working on your marriage, this is not the finish line; it’s the beginning of the rest of your journey together implementing what you learned in these posts.  Galatians 6:9 (NLT) encourages us…

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

And let 2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV) spur you on!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

2.  Work on you.

If you recall I read this quote the first night that we were together as a preview that I will repeat once again…

“Remember that you are the only person you can change in your marriage. Developing your personal relationship with Christ through prayer, study of Scripture and asking him to continue to change you is the best single thing you can do for your marriage.”

We all want better marriages, so to achieve that result, its paramount work on whatever struggles and issues that we’re going through personally. I love what James 4:7-8 (NLT) says,

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” 

Everything always comes back to humility, and when we draw close to God, we will become more like Him which ultimately will improve our marriage!

Remember the triangle imagery that I shared in the ★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★ that was from Ecclesiastes 4:12 that your marriage is a team of three – there You, Your Spouse and God.

ReEngage - Lesson 05 - Ecc 4-12

3.  Become Known.    

In the reading they said,

“Couples that isolate often struggle in the marriage. If you’re not a member of the church, join a place that will faithfully teach scripture and call you to live out your faith. And don’t just simply show up. Join a life group where you can be honest, known, challenged and encouraged in your faith.”

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) says,

“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.”

I once heard a sermon that James MacDonald put it this way…Satan has 3 strategies:

“Disguise, Divide and Destroy.  He comes to us as an angel of light.  He gets us isolated by ourselves, and then he takes us down.”

Isolating yourself from other people it’s a very dangerous thing!  And that is why being part of a church and life group is so important.

4.  Share your story.

“You can never force someone toward oneness with their spouse, but you can definitely nudge them.  Humbly sharing what you learned – as well as your failures – is a great help to others and often your marriage.”

10 - Daily Dependence - Qualify the CalledHere is one of my favorite quotes if you’re feeling like you don’t know the material well enough or insecure about sharing with other people…

“God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED, He qualifies the CALLED!” 

All you really need to do is share your story, what has God done for you and your spouse.  Okay let’s look at the final 2 Next Steps…

5.  Address your home life.

“Money and parenting are two of the biggest argument-starters for couples. If financial issues or disagreements aren’t addressed, this area will act as a wedge between you and your spouse. Don’t ignore debt, differences about spending or lack of giving. In the same way, not being on the same page about your children is incredibly frustrating, but being unified in the way you raise, discipline and disciple your kids can be a big win for your marriage.”

6.  Serve Others.

“Serving is a great way to get the focus off of yourself, and serving with your spouse is a great way to promote oneness in your marriage.” 

“Your marriage and the way you love your spouse is about so much more than your happiness. The way you love your spouse should be a way that people will know you are a Christian and a way that helps them understand God’s love better.”

Jesus gave to his disciples, in John 13:34–35…

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I like what they said in the book…

“We live in a culture where many come into marriage to get something and leave as soon as they don’t get it.  Christians have an opportunity to be known for the profoundly different way they love each other.  Imagine what could happen if you begin began to love your spouse the way Christ loves you.  Imagine what could happen if everyone in your church and churches around the world did the same!”

Don’t stop trying to improve yourself and your marriage, the pursuit is worth it!

If you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here…

https://dailydependence.wordpress.com/category/reengage-class/?order=asc

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★ Re|Engage – Completion ★

ReEngage - Lesson 15Well we are in the final stretch!  The last two lessons are on Completion and Diligence.  Throughout the series of posts we have been talking about the importance of applying everything we are learning.  My daughter has this quote on the lock screen of her iPad and I thought about what a profound statement it is…

“God’s Word is like a can of paint…it’s value is in its application.”  Steven Furtick

It reminds me of James 1:22-25:

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

If you don’t apply the knowledge that you hear than you will never grow and your marriage will become stagnant.  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

The reading focused on this Principle:  Embrace Oneness.

The main idea of Lesson 15 was:

“Part of God’s design in marriage is to use your spouse to conform you into His image. You need to allow your spouse to partner with you in spiritual growth.”

Have you ever thought of marriage from that perspective?  That your spouse is there to help you become more like God?  I love how lesson 15 started off with this quote,

“Reformer Martin Luther once said that he learned more about what it means to be a follower of Christ in a marriage then he did in a monastery. In a monastery, one can isolate. But in marriage, there is no place to hide.”

Amen??  “There is no place to hide.”  Sooner or later the ugly sides of us are going to come out.  But as they said in the reading…

“Your spouse is to complete you in a way that no one else can and encourage your spiritual growth through their unique role in your life.”

“Previous lessons have pointed out that the goal of marriage is oneness, discussing both physical and emotional intimacy. Oneness is also to include spiritual intimacy, and one of the primary ways to promote spiritual oneness is to partner with your spouse in their spiritual growth.”

They asked this question in the reading, How do you help your spouse become more like Christ?  When I first read that question, it took me by surprise because I don’t know if I ever really thought about helping my spouse become more like Christ consciously. But I like what, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV) says…

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

“This passage is talking about how to help four different groups of people, but both you and your spouse often will need the same four things.”

Admonish the Idle.

“There are times when the most loving thing you can do is to help your spouse see their own sin.

Another way to say it is to help them see the blind spots that they have…Those areas that they are not realizing they have a problem…could be working too much, drinking too much or not making your marriage a priority.  This me seem like “Circle infringement,” but keep in mind the council that they offered in the book,

“Admonishing always needs to be done in love and humility.”

I know that we have really emphasized the need for you to “draw the circle around yourself and work on everyone inside,” but this is the point in your journey that you and your spouse start to have overlapping circles…And if you allow the overlap, then God can really use them to help mold you into the person that He intended you to be.

Encourage the Fainthearted.

There will be times when they are fully aware of their shortcomings and are trying to work on issues. Praise your spouse for their efforts, regardless of how small they may seem to you.  Praise them for successes!  Try to overlook the small offenses.

“Pointing out small ways they are changing and growing is motivating and is a great way to help your spouse become who God intended them to be.”

Help the Weak.

“Sometimes your spouse will need more than truth and encouragement; they will also need your tangible expression of support.”

Be Patient with Them All.

“Change in people generally occurs over time. If you are being honest with your spouse, encouraging and helping them along the way, then continue to do so as you pray and wait to let God bring about the change.”

Did you catch that last part?  “Then continue to do so as you pray and wait to let God bring about the change.”  We MUST pray for our spouse and be patient as God moves in their hearts.  Patience one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that can be really challenging sometimes but I think it is one that if we master it, we will reap the rewards in our marriages!

“Helping someone grow will always be difficult, but there is no greater joy than having a front-row seat to life-change.”

This is so true!!  It may be difficult but oh so rewarding!  One of my favorite quotes was,

“Authors Gary and Betsy Ricucci said, ‘One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!”

I never thought of my spouse that way before this class, but that description is dead on!

“The 24/7 spotlight that marriage puts on your life will fully expose who you really are.  You can pretend at work and with your friends, but your quirks, sin patterns and selfishness will become fully exposed to your spouse overtime.”

We heard this quote in Lesson 8 but it is worth repeating… Author Gary Thomas asked this interesting question that I will pose to you…“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”What do you think of that?

“The challenge is to see marriage primarily as a way to become more like Christ by helping you to become a serving, forgiving and more patient person.”

You could look at it this way, Marriage is the vehicle to humbleness.

If you would like to read the next installment to the re|engage class, click here…★ Re|Engage – Diligence ★

Or if you want to read previous re|engage lessons click here . . .

https://dailydependence.wordpress.com/category/reengage-class/?order=asc

 

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

93 - Daily Dependence - Super TuesdayIt is hard to believe that it has already been four nights since Super Tuesday…and once again I was astonished at the results.  I will not name names, but one candidate “trumped” the others, and one was “feeling the burn” of defeat from their rival.  Before you get too nervous, this is not going to be all about politics because I think we all have had our fill over the past nine months as each presidential hopeful has made their case why they are the answer to America’s problems.  I don’t consider myself extremely political, but I do value my freedom to vote and have done my part to cast my vote this past Tuesday…And highly encourage you to be a part of the process (if you are not already) in November because if you live in the United States, you are blessed to be able to have you voice heard!  I am amazed at how hard these men and women 93 - Daily Dependence - Super Tuesday Canidateshave worked to achieve the honor to live in that big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue…enduring the time away from family, endless speeches and handshakes at town hall meetings, the character attacks and the incessant criticism from anyone and everyone with a microphone or computer.  I don’t think that I could handle that kind of life, but the never-ending pursuit for power and prestige is somehow worth the pain and public scrutiny that they will endure not only after November 8, 2016 passes and the job has been won; but for the next 4 to 8 years as every action they do, or don’t do is dissected under a microscope.

Today we will dig into this idea of the “Never-Ending Pursuit,” but unlike Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton, we will unpack what really matters in this life and what should consume our time through the life of a well-known Old Testament prophet named Jonah.  You may think to yourself, Jonah?  Isn’t that a children’s story?  Yes…while it is without a doubt a common Sunday school story, the life of Jonah has many life lessons to learn from.  My wife and I have been reading the story in our quiet time and were astonished by the lengths that God went to in order to not only redirect His prophet, but also a to save a morally bankrupt people but wait, I am getting ahead of the story.  Let’s pump the brakes and start from the beginning…

93 - Daily Dependence - Cliff Notes on JonahAs a messenger of God, Jonah delivered the Word of the LORD to the Israelites during the reign of King Jeroboam II “who did evil in the sight of the LORD” and lead the northern Kingdom to commit great acts of evil.  (See 2 Kings 14:23-25 for more on him…)  Jonah was God’s man, a light to His chosen people.  In Jonah 1:1-3 it says:

Jonah Runs from the Lord

“The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh.  Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish.  He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.”

Nineveh was an Assyrian city that was renowned for their brutality, but instead of heeding God’s direction, Jonah got onto a ship bound for the city of Tarshish, which you can see by the map was in the complete opposite direction from Nineveh.  93 - Daily Dependence - Map of Tarshish NinevehBut what Jonah did not expect, and what we can learn is that God will never give up on us.  As the story unfolds, God sent a mighty storm in verse 4 which threatened the ship and the lives of sailors.  The sailors went down below and woke up Jonah and casted lots to see who was the cause for this sudden tempest on the sea that was about to destroy them.  After discovering that Jonah was the reason because he was running away from God, they asked him what they should do…His response in verse 12 has always surprised me…

“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again.  I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”   

I don’t know if I would have the courage to say that but it shows what a connection Jonah had with God to know that He would calm the waters if Jonah would surrender.  Surprisingly, the sailors tried to fight against the waves but to no avail.  In the end, Verses 15-16 tells us…

“Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!  The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him.”

Could you imagine what that scene must have been like?  To see a raging squall become still in an instant.  I love the next verse, “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him.”  Isn’t God amazing?  The storm that was intended to re-direct Jonah back to the mission he was given, in the end touched the lives of these sailors who in return vowed to serve God!  Verse 17 however is what we all remember, and is probably one of the greatest cliffhangers in the bible to end a chapter!

 “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”

Three days and three nights in the belly of a fish!  What must have that been like?   Complete darkness, extreme cold and probably rancid odors.  But worse than being swallowed whole by some monstrous fish, I believe is surviving the trauma knowing that you are there because of your own disobedience!  Chapter 2 recounts the amazing prayer that Jonah pours out his heart to God.  Within those 9 verses, he recognizes his mistake and repents of his disobedience.  And…in another phenomenal ending to a chapter, verse 10 gives us God’s response from Jonah’s prayer:

“Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”

The New American Standard Bible translation gives a little more description…

 “Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto dry land.”

Jonah repented and God instantly released him to return to the mission he was called to do initially.  We will not go through the rest of the story but I encourage you to go read the whole story of Jonah by clicking here…(it’s only 47 verses so no excuses…hahaha!)  There are two things that we need to put on the sticky side of our brains…First and foremost