★ Back to the Basics – Validity of God’s Word ★

Have you ever questioned the validity or truth of God’s Word?  Now don’t be hasty and give the “Christianese” answer, be honest.  We all have at one time or another questioned the goodness of God, and whether the Bible is true or not.  Many people find the Old Testament confusing, and question how can the God who seems to be doling out vengeance left and right, be the same God who is all about love in the New Testament.  Truth be told, though it may appear that the two don’t align, I assure you that God is the same in first book of the Bible (Genesis) as He is in the last one (Revelation).  The problem is a lack of understanding and knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments.  You may be wondering what does this matter?  I saw this graphic that was illuminating…

Only 9% surveyed actually read all of the Bible, and the bulk of those (30%) who do read it only read several passages or stories.  As I have read the Bible over and over, I see the love of God all over the pages of the Old Testament, but I also see how stubbornly God’s people rejected Him and refused to keep the covenant that God made with them thousands of years ago.  As a result of that willful disobedience, the people suffered the consequences.  You see unless you have studied the whole Bible, the casual reader or Sunday morning attendee will misunderstand and judge God for punishing the Israelites for their sin. That is why you will see on this website, the importance of reading and studying the entire Bible, not just the coffee cup or bumper sticker verses that make you feel good.  But unfortunately, many people just hear the passages of God’s wrath and write off the possibility that God could be good.  But first and foremost, it is important that we establish that the Bible is the Word of God.  The Apostle Paul, arguably one of the most influential writers of the New Testament penned these words in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) which I would like to start off with:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do 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.  In the post called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, I shared this passage and this life lesson from Charles Stanley on how the entire Bible is true, he said:

“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 the anchor of my life.  I believe that every person has the potential to live a victorious life where you can annihilate anxiety and fear, overcome the past and move ahead in a completely new trajectory of freedom if that Bible on the nightstand or bookshelf would just be opened!  Proverbs 1:7 (NLT) says:

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

I read a commentary on this passage that explained…

This fear of the LORD is not a cowering, begging fear.  It is the proper reverence that the creature owes to the Creator and that the redeemed owes to the Redeemer.  It is the proper respect and honoring of God.”

So honoring God is the foundation, or the starting point of true knowledge, how do we follow this command without honor reading His Word in totality?  Last week, I was reading Jeremiah 14:19-22 (NLT), in which the prophet Jeremiah is beseeching the Creator of Heaven and Earth to relent from giving the people exactly what they deserved.  It is such a powerful prayer that I believe we would do well to keep in mind for ourselves today.  Jeremiah does something pretty amazing, he appeals to the very character of God…Not that God needs to be reminded of His faithfulness, but Jeremiah asks some silly questions that he knows the answers to starting in verse 19:

“Lord, have you completely rejected Judah?  Do you really hate Jerusalem?  Why have you wounded us past all hope of healing?”

Let’s stop for a second so I can give you some background on the previous chapters.  God has been telling Jeremiah how far the people have gone away from Him, and what He was planning to do in response.  Perhaps these questions were in earnest, but I believe that Jeremiah knew something that we need to understand today, that God is good and He loves His people.  Jeremiah then flips the prayer to one of repentance, but not just for Judah and Jerusalem but he includes himself as well, although I doubt that the Lord’s prophet would have been considered wicked.  He prayed:

“We hoped for peace, but no peace came.  We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror.  Lord, we confess our wickedness and that of our ancestors, too.  We all have sinned against you.”

If you read Jeremiah 15:6-8 and Jeremiah 16:10-13, you will find a very clear justification of the wickedness that God spoke to Jeremiah.  The truth is, we ALL have sinned against God!  It does not matter your sex, race, political affiliation, economic or socio-cultural background, EVERYONE has fallen short of God’s glorious standard!  (See Romans 3:23).  But my favorite part of this prayer is the argument Jeremiah gives of “why” God should heal the land!  He prayed:

“For the sake of your reputation, Lord, do not abandon us.  Do not disgrace your own glorious throne.  Please remember us, and do not break your covenant with us.”

Why should God intercede for His people?  Because not healing them would ruin His reputation of being a God who is faithful.  He made a covenant with the People of Judah and so Jeremiah is praying to God to not break it because of the evil His people had done.  The final part of Jeremiah’s prayer that is a great model for us, is to just exalt God for how majestic and powerful He is!

“Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain?  Does it fall from the sky by itself?  No, you are the one, O Lord our God!  Only you can do such things.  So we will wait for you to help us.”

That final sentence is just perfect!  Jeremiah is just trusting that God will indeed do what he just asked for!  What boldness and faith!  As you read the Bible in totality, you see the faithfulness of God on every page.

Robert Morris preached an incredible series called “God is…” in which he went through some of the major attributes of God.  The one that hit me particularly hard was called “Beyond You”, in which he talked about how God is faithful and worthy of our trust.  He said:

“Faithful means “full of faith.”  The root of faith is “trust,” and the root of trust is “true.”  The reason we can trust God is because He is full of truth.  The more we know God, the more we can trust Him.  Even when we don’t think He’s being faithful, He is, because He doesn’t lie.”

“The more we know God, the more we can trust Him!”  And the only way to get to know Him is through the reaching His Word.  Jesus made this profound statement in Luke 21:33 (NLT)…

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”

The Bible has been an anchor not only for individuals, but for our country as a whole.  I just read The American Bible Society’s STATE OF THE BIBLE 2019,” which was conducted by Barna Group.  They found:

“Four out of five adults (80%) agree that the values and morals of America are declining…As a follow-up question, adults who said they believe morality is on the decline were asked to determine what they thought was most responsible for declining values from a list of three options…26% attribute the decline to a lack of Bible reading.”

You can see that the percentage among those who believe morality is declining has spiked in regards to Bible reading as opposed to other secular aspects which has dropped since last year’s survey.  I know I don’t have to tell you that morality is on the decline, but to see the correlation with bible reading was an eye opener.  So how do we stem the tide?  The answer can be found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) says:

“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.”

How different would the world be if everyone humbled themselves, prayed, sought God and stopped sinning?  The key is to…

  • Humble Yourself
  • Pray for guidance
  • Seek God’s face
  • Turn from your wicked ways

I truly feel that we can shed the baggage of the past if we would open God’s Word.  But it comes back to the initial question…Do you believe in the validity of the Word of God?  I pray that you would trust in the faithfulness of God as Jeremiah did and believe completely in the WHOLE Bible. Don’t let the lies of the enemy influence the present which WILL rob the future.

To dig in more on this topic check out: 

★ Thought for the Day – Turn the Other Cheek ★ 

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

You can watch all the sermons from the “God is…” series by Robert Morris here:

In the series you “will learn the attributes of God, which will give you fresh perspective into His character and heart. You’ll be encouraged as you learn more about your heavenly Father who never changes and loves you more than you’ll ever know.”

And finally, here is a great song called “Hear Us From Heaven” by New Life Worship which ties beautifully into this.

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★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Be Weak Like Samson – Part 1 ★

So what did you think of the movie Samson that was released on last month ago today?  Unfortunately, I did not get to see it in time before it left the theaters.  It is so sad how fast a faith-based movie debuts and then is pulled from the big screen.  Guess I will have to catch it on Redbox.  I was really looking forward to it too because I have been doing a lot of study recently on the well-known Bible character.  In our Lifegroup we covered the life of this Samson who very well could be considered a superhero which from the previews of the movie, the film makers sure played up the superhuman strength.  In the book of Judges, Chapters 13 through 16 tells the story of what is known about Samson who has been featured in many a Sunday School Lesson and Children’s Book.  But let me ask you, what do you know about this epic Old Testament Hero?  For me, I thought I knew about Samson, but after studying these (4) short chapters I was shocked to see that there was much more to him.  Sure everyone knows about the supernatural strength, the long hair, and the overactive libido that led to the haircut, capture and death, but what else do you know?

As I studied, I learned that Samson was called for a very special purpose…to deliver the nation of Israel from the oppression of the Philistines, an enemy that they continually battled.  He was also a Judge over the Nation of Israel for (20) years.  Now if you are wondering what that means, Judges 2:18 (NLT) defines the role:

“Whenever the Lord raised up a judge over Israel, He was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime.  For the Lord took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.”

In addition to that, as I read Judges 13:3-5 I found out that there was an angelic proclamation of Samson’s birth.  That was a surprise to me.  I did not recall that so I did some research and found that Samson was (1) of only (6) people to have an angel announce their birth.  The others were:

  • Ishmael, whose parents were Hagar and Abraham – See Genesis 16:11
  • Isaac, whose parents were Abraham and Sarah – See Genesis 17:19
  • Solomon, whose parents were David and Bathsheba – See 1 Chronicles 22:6-9
  • John the Baptist, whose parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth – See Luke 1:13-15
  • And of course Jesus, whose parents were Mary and Joseph – See Luke 1:30-33

In Samson’s case, the Angel proclaimed to Manoah and his wife that their son was destined to be a Nazarite.  Now if you are not familiar with what that is…A Nazarite is defined in Numbers 6:1-21, in which a person vows for a certain length of time that they will:

  • Avoid contact with the dead.
  • Abstain from wine and strong drink.
  • Refrain from cutting their hair.

The difference in Samson’s case was that this vow would be for a lifetime.  And so he made it onto another list.  In the Bible there are only (3) people mentioned that took the Nazarite vow for life:

Fun fact, the only one of these men actually called a “Nazarite” was Samson.  So why am I sharing all of this?  Because NO ONE IN ALL of the Bible had SO MUCH STACKED IN HIS FAVOR and yet when you read WHAT Samson did and WHY he did it, all I can say is WHAT WASTED POTENTIAL!  I asked the people in my Lifegroup to come up with some Life Lessons about the hero who is so widely taught about on Sunday mornings. Overwhelmingly, no one could come up with any positive actions that Samson did.  So here are some thoughts I had of what I have learned of “what not to do” from the Life of Samson.

Lessons from the Life of Samson:

  1. Don’t break your vows/promises to God. Samson continually gave into his emotions of selfishness, anger and lust.  And ultimately broke all (3) of the Nazarite vows – he ate honey out of a dead lion’s carcass (see Judges 14:8-9), he threw a feast which customarily included alcohol (see Judges 14:10), and told the secret to his strength which lead to the history making haircut (see Judges 16:17-19).  What Samson desired ultimately was more important than the destiny that God blessed him with!  
  1. Guard your eyes and heart from desiring what it is not good or safe for you. Samson chased after every detestable thing which had disastrous results.  Samson allowed his selfishness, anger and lust to run amuck that caused an enormous amount of suffering for those closest to him, and led to his death.
  1. Don’t include others in your sin. Samson involved his mother and father in his sin of eating the honey from the dead carcass of the lion he killed unbeknownst to them.  If we call ourselves a child of God or a Christian or a Christ Follower, we must be very careful that we don’t cause others to sin as a result of example or in Samson’s case through deception. And that leads to life lesson #4…
  1. Listen to your parents/Godly counsel. Samson could be the poster child for not being “unequally yoked.”  (See 2 Corinthians 6:14-16).  In Judges 14:2 (ESV) we first see Samson’s inability to control himself…

“Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah.  Now get her for me as my wife.””

And that refusal to submit to authority set the tone for how he would live his life!  Samson wanted what he wanted and chased after it regardless of the consequences.  His parents objected to the wedding but he forward with the planning anyway.  And the sad part, in the end he did not even get the woman because of Samson’s anger over the betrayal of her giving away the answer to his riddle.  See Judges 14:10-20 which leads us to our next life lesson… 

  1. Guard your anger. Samson allowed his rage to dominate his life and in the end, he lost everything.  Instead of caring for God’s people and fighting for Israel, Samson time and time again allowed his anger to rule his emotions resulting in much pain.

As part of the engagement, Samson threw a week-long party leading up to the wedding. During the feasting, Samson lost a bet over a riddle and ended up killing (30) innocent Philistines to settle then wager.  He went back home to mommy and daddy and so his finance was given away in marriage to Samson’s best man.

When Samson found this out, he tied up (300) foxes and set their tails on fire and burned up all the grain fields of the Philistines. But that overreaction resulted his ex-fiancé and her father being burned alive and eventually severe consequences on the Nation of Israel.

  1. As you grow in the Lord, stay humble and watch out for the sin of pride creeping in. Samson completely lost sight of his purpose as he believed more in himself than in the God who gave him the great calling to be Israel’s deliver!    Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (ESV) warns…

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

He trusted on his own strength to solve all problems and thus took God for granted which is ironic because it was God who gave Samson the supernatural strength to do everything he did. 

  1. Keep an attitude of gratitude. In Judges 15:16-17 Samson boasted and took credit initially for killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.  Then in Judges 15:18 (NLT) it says:

“Samson was now very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, ‘You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant.  Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagans?’” 

His response was more like a spoiled brat than a great mighty man of valor.

  1. If you play with fire you’re going to get burned! (See Proverbs 6:23-29).  Samson consistently made the wrong choice when it came to the women he got involved with. 

We already discussed the Philistine woman at Timnah and the consequences that ensued.    

When Samson was with the prostitute in Judges 16:1, it says in verse 2 that the Gazites:

“surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city.”

Then of course there is Delilah. Which leads us to the last life lesson…

  1. Lust is not Love. Samson attached himself to the wrong people.  In Judges chapter 16 it talks about how Samson “feel in love” with Delilah and how she kept trying to determine the source of Samson’s strength because the Philistines promised to pay here 1,100 pieces of silver to betray him!  Judges 16:18-19 (NLT) recalls…

“Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in their hands. Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him.”

Steven Furtick made this powerful point about how Samson traded his purpose for passionate encounters with the very enemy he was supposed to be delivering His people from…

“Samson took his passion and spent it on his preference instead of applying it to his purpose.  So instead of delivering his people from the Philistines, he reacted out of rage and married the Philistines.  Are you stable in your emotions?”

I love that question…”Are you stable in your emotions?”  Samson clearly wasn’t as he played with fire sleeping with the enemy, fully knowing that Delilah was going to betray him and yet he gave away the secret to his strength!

  1. God can use your disobedience for good. Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on Judges 14:4…
“Samson’s desire for a Philistine wife clearly transgressed God’s law (See Deuteronomy 7:3-4), yet God used even his disobedience for the good of His people.  Note, however that Samson himself never received a blessing for his rebellious choice and regretted it (See also Judges 14:20).”

And to add to Charles Stanley point, at the end of Samson’s life that, Judges 16:28-30 (ESV) tells us:

“Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.”

Now every Sunday School class heralds the epic death of Samson but look at the underlined words.  Samson did not say strengthen men to strike a heavy blow on the enemy of your people, he said strengthen that “I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”  But nonetheless God used Samson’s “disobedience for the good of His people!”

As I complied this list, and saw how Samson threw away a great legacy to indulge his carnal desires and unleash revenge; the one word to that came to mind to describe Samson was not the typical Sunday School adjective like cunning, unique or strong…But rather UNSTABLE!  He was controlled by his flesh and as a result many people were hurt by his childish and selfish decisions.  That was the muse for this Thought, the reality that Samson was not strong at all, but weak!  Instead of walking with God, he followed his flesh!  I will close with this great summation of Samson’s life in a sentence…

“Samson was an incredibly strong man, with a dangerously weak will.”  Craig Groeschel

OUCH!  That hurts but is also so true!  I want to leave you with this question to ruminate over…”

 

Click Here for Part 2 that unpacks how to be a stable follower of Christ!

 

For further study, check out this blog post called:

★ Act Like Men – “The Sampson Syndrome” ★

 

Here is a great sermon on Samson called “Brace Yourself” by Steven Furtick

 

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

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!

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

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 – Be the MAN to Carry the Light ★

Happy Father’s Day!  Today’s post is not just for men, but for everyone who has a man in their life, whether it be their father, husband, son, uncle, nephew or friend.  The third Sunday of June has a different impact on you depending on what your relationship is  with the man you call Father, Dad or Daddy.  I shared about my Father  in the post called ★ Thought for the Day – Never Fatherless ★, about my parents divorcing when I was 5 years old and how my relationship with my father was nonexistent from the age 12 until we reconnected at the 36.  There was hole in my heart for many years that drove me to need approval from others.  The muse for this Thought came shortly after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro had finished and I saw this interview that Michael Phelps did for ESPN called “The Evolution of Michael Phelps” that blew me away!

Okay if you did not play the video, STOP READING AND WATCH THE INTERVIEW, it’s worth it and it is the backbone for this post.  I have always been a fan of Michael Phelps even after the infamous “bong photo” hit the front page of the newspaper six months after the Beijing Olympics in 2014.  Retirement it seems, gave the Olympian way too much time on his hands.  As I watched the video, I was reminded of what Proverbs 16:27a (TLB) warns:

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

Boredom opened the door for the enemy to attack and much like we have been talking about in our Temptation Series, Michael yielded to many self-destructive behaviors.  When the photo of Phelps using marijuana was released, it was incredible how the world turned on him.  Parodies and jokes were everywhere and of course shock that he blew it.  It’s interesting that the world we live in is always looking to find someone to idolize but it seems that they love it even better when someone crash and burns!  The media news outlets love the “fall from grace” stories – “If it bleeds, it leads” unfortunately.

In addition to addressing the photo, the interview gave insight into the swimmer’s life about his complicated relationship with his father, Fred, his second DUI arrest in 2014 and the time that he spent in a Behavioral Rehab Facility in which he contemplated suicide after the second DUI arrest in 10 years!  As I watched the brokenness of Michael Phelps over the void that his father’s absence created, I could not help but compare how not having my father in my life not only influenced, but shaped my life to continually strive for the approval of others.

Though to the rest of the world saw Michael Phelps as an unstoppable machine in the water and a picture of perfection and excellence, Michael was silently dying inside and had reached the point of no return in September of 2014.  It is hard to believe that the man who “is the greatest Olympian of all time,” winning (23) medals, (19) – being gold winning at the point in 2014 would make this statement:

“I was a train wreck; I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth.  There were times where I didn’t want to be here.  It was not good, I felt lost.” 

BUT that is how the enemy works!  You can have the adulation of the world, be on the top of your profession or head of the class and still end up feeling worthless and alone.  That was my story too, though I was far from an Olympian, I had success in my life and still felt empty inside as well.  If the most decorated Olympian in history could feel this way at the age of 31, how many other people are struggling with the same insecurities, the same father wounds and the same addictions that threaten to take them out?  My prayer is that God would use me to take back territory that the enemy has stolen and to be a friend like Ray Lewis was to Michael Phelps to help lead people out of the darkness.  The video revealed how Michael’s friend and former linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens, came alongside of him.  Ray gave him the book called “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?” by Rick Warren which helped Phelps to come out of the darkness his was in.  I love what Rick Warren said in the book:

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”

Boy if we could grasp this, how different would this world be?  Like me, Michael Phelps parents divorced when he was young (age 9) and he too had his own “father wound” that scarred and imprisoned the Olympian to also strive to be better than everyone else to achieve the acceptance from his father that alluded him.  BUT that does not have to be how the story ends!  You may be reading this today with a similar story of not having the greatest earthly father, but I want you to know there is a Heavenly Father who can be all that you never had and more.  God is in the business of changing lives and rewriting even the most tragic story.  We all love a comeback story and that is what can happen to you if you just trust that God is a good, good Father!  It doesn’t matter what you did, how badly you sinned, it only matters what you do next!  Will you continue in the downward spiral or will you turn things around and repent.  That is what God did for me and for Michael Phelps.  As a result of Michael embracing “a higher power” as he referred to God in the interview, and working through his broken relationship with his father, Phelps came back and won another (4) gold medals and (1) silver in Brazil just 2 years after his life hit rock bottom!

Shortly after the 2016 Rio Olympic, I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – Let Your Light Shine ★ in which I shared about a wonderful moment that I had with my mom when went to Washington DC in 1996 and she to was able to touch the Olympic Torch as the relay went through the Nation’s Capitol on the way to the Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Historic Relay with the Torch has been a huge part of opening ceremonies and for the past 10 months I have been mulling over this Thought for the Day about what exactly does it mean to “Be the MAN to Carry the Light?” I saw this image

and the powerful symbolism that the Torch is for the Olympic games and realized that it also has a spiritual connection to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)…

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

We are to Be The Light!  To let it shine as we carry it wherever we go, sharing it with everyone we come into contact with.  As a husband and father I realize the immense responsibility that I have as to constantly be checking where I am at in my personal walk with God in order to be an effective leader in my home.  As a man, this is a God-given role that we must take very serious.  I read this from Charles Stanley that I thought was really good…

“Sometimes we mistakenly think that Grace excuses us from the hard work of growing spiritually.  It doesn’t.  The Bible says that “because of practice” we have our “senses trained to discern good and evil” (see Hebrews 5:14).  That means we grow by allowing the Holy Spirit to direct us, by obeying God, and by making godly decisions.”

Grace is at the heart of the Christian faith.  God is always one prayer away, ready to forgive and restore us just as He did for Michael Phelps, BUT we still have to put in Olympian-like effort to stay the course and live out our lives to make impact on the world.  We all what to make a difference in this life to be remembered by those in our life, I know I do.  My heart’s desire is to be a world changer, first to my wife and daughters and then to anyone God would send my way in order to break through the darkness and the hold that the enemy had on this world!  John 1:5 (ESV) says::

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

My constant prayer is that God would help me to overcome the attacks of the enemy in both my life and in the lives of others!  That I would be of value for the building of His kingdom here on earth!  John 8:12 (NLT) says:

“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.’”

Jesus gave us the model to emulate.  I want to be more like Jesus in every way!  Something that I often pray is for Him to direct me, to mold me and use me for HIS glory!  To be the man to carry the light for the building of His kingdom!  I will close with this thought from John Eldredge that he wrote in the pocket booklet called “You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know”:

“You, Dad, are the most powerful man in the world…At least in their world…Never forget that no one is as powerful as you are in the lives of your sons and daughters.

Mother is love and tenderness and mercy.  She is a picture of the heart of God.

But identity – especially gender identity – is bestowed by the father.  A boy learns if he is a man, if he has what it takes, from his dad.  A girl learns if she is worth pursuing, if she is lovely, from her dad.  That’s just the way God set this whole thing up.  This power He has given to you.”

On this Father’s Day, I want to leave you with this challenge to impart to your son that he has what it takes, and/or if you have a daughter make sure she know that she is lovely and worthy to be pursued!  Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV) instructs:

 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

That is what a man who is worthy to carry the light does!

 

If you want to learn more about healing Father Wounds, check out John Eldredge book called “Wild At Heart – Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.”

Or you can watch the weekend retreat event call “Wild At Heart Boot Camp” on RightNow Media.

 

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

★ Thought for the Day – What Does It Mean To Be A Man? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

★ Thought for the Day – What Difference Does a Daddy Make? ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Gluttony (Part 4) ★

Our Temptation Series continues today with us unpacking how to avoid the trap of Gluttony.  If you have missed the previous posts, here’s a quick recap:

  • We first introduced the series using Abraham’s Nephew “Lot” as a case study (click here).
  • We then studied about alcohol and drugs by focusing on Noah (click here),
  • Next was about Lust and exploring the connection between Pornography and Promiscuity (click here).
  • Most recently was the pitfall of adultery through the life of King David (click here).

Today’s topic is not one that I see discussed too often but one that I felt led to share because of a brother in my Lifegroup who has shared about the temptation to medicate his problems through food.  I would like to start off with this question…When you hear the word “gluttony” or someone who is a “glutton,” what comes to mind?  Food, overeating for sure, but how about someone who is obese or grossly overweight?  Now I am not being rude or unkind, that is what I thought a glutton was but that is not the case.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as:

“One given habitually to greedy and voracious eating and drinking.”  

And Dictionary.com defines it as:

“A person who eats and drinks excessively or voraciously.” 

Nothing in those definitions state that someone yielding to gluttony is overweight as I had initially thought.  For this Thought we will focus on the excessive indulgence of food.  I would dare say that most Americans could fit that description.  In our “SUPER-SIZED” Society we are prone to gorging ourselves way past what our bodies require for fuel.  In a Barna Research Group study, the #3 top self-reported temptations that Americas owned up to has to do with today’s pitfall!  According to survey:

“Fifty-five percent are often or sometimes overwhelmed by the temptation to eat too much.”  Source: New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation

55% of Americans are overwhelmed by the temptation to eat too much!!  I stumbled across this graphic and found it quite interesting as to one reason that I never considered being a factor.  It got my head scratching that I need to reevaluate which plate that I grab out of the cupboard because I know myself; I am not disciplined in portion control and will just fill up every inch with food.  Therein lies the problem, Gluttony is a serious failure in self-discipline.  Todd Hunter made this great point in his book “Our Favorite Sins”

“Most of the time temptation begins with something good: food, rest, God-approved sex, the need to be loved and accepted.”

The problem is when we allow Satan to take something good and twist it around and pervert it to something evil.  That is how I see gluttony now.  As I prepared for this post, I started to search the Bible.  Surprisingly there is not much on the subject but what I did find was quite severe.  The first reference I found was Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (ESV).

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’  Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.  So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” 

Harsh!  Stone the drunkard and glutton to death??  Boy I am glad this is not how they are treated today since I have fallen victim to both snares in my life!   Another reference is Proverbs 28:7 (ESV) which says:

“The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.” 

And Proverbs 23:20-21 (ESV) warns:

“Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” 

When I read this passage I felt convicted big time because of a recent trip to Texas de Brazil.  My project manager took the Architectural Team out for lunch as a thank you for all our hard work.  This is a picture of my plate which I am embarrassed to confess was just the beginning of all the meat I devoured.

The more I pondered on this and looked at the definition of a glutton, I realized that I am ensnared by the temptation of consuming way too much, way too often.  Our case study today also succumbed to his voracious appetite with disastrous consequences.  The man I am referring to is Esau.  For those not familiar with this Old Testament character here’s the cliff notes breakdown of this man of great potential whose undoing was a bowl of stew!

Esau was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, (the patriarch of the Israelites).  He was the first-born son and had a twin brother named Jacob.  In Genesis 25:27-28 we are given some valuable insight to the man:

“When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.  Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

Just like in any family, siblings tend to be complete opposites.  I know that is the case for my daughters but one of the most disturbing differences between these twin brothers was the partiality from their parents.  If you were to contemporize the difference, Esau was a “man’s man,” who was a tough outdoors-man and Daddy’s favorite!  In that time period being the first-born son Esau was entitled for a double inheritance as well as the “blessing” from his father.  Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth had this description of Esau:

“As a young man he was not accustomed to holding anything back.  He may have lived on the edge of danger, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification.  Having his father’s favor did nothing to inhibit this behavior.  But Esau had a serious problem—his brother Jacob.”  Source: From Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture

Esau’s younger brother Jacob was indeed a problem but we have to keep in mind that he was without a doubt the underdog, the forgotten son by his father and worse yet, he did not live up to what Dad was looking for in a son.  Effectively Jacob was “a momma’s boy” who was excessively influenced by and attached to his mother Rebekah (see Genesis 27 which tells of how she helped Jacob steal the blessing from Esau.)  But before Jacob stole the blessing, he was able to steal something just as valuable from Esau as a result of his lack of will power and gluttonous ways!  Genesis 25:29-34 (ESV) says:

“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted.  

And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)

Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.”

Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”

Jacob said, “Swear to me now.”

So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.  

Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way.  

Thus Esau despised his birthright.” 

A little dramatic no?  He gives up a double inheritance for some red stew!  On the surface you would think it was because of hunger, but I see it more about the failure to resist giving into instant gratification.  Charles Stanley had this great insight on Genesis 25:34…

“In ‘despising’ his birthright, Esau proved himself ‘godless’ (see Hebrews 12:16) because he considered filling his empty stomach more important than the spiritual promises of God to Abraham.  To avoid making Esau’s grave mistake, always remember the H. A. L. T. principle.  Whenever you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, be very careful because you are especially vulnerable to sin.  Before making a decision, stop and see God.  The more you give into your feelings of weakness and look for ways to fill your needs apart from God, the more you’ll reap the terrible consequences of it.”

Esau took his birthright for granted and threw it away just for a momentary fulfillment.  We need to be very careful when we are in these valley moments and remember the H. A. L. T. principle as it is applicable for all temptations we face.  Hebrews 12:16-17 (NLT) has this startling reference to Esau:

“Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.”  

How sad that Esau lost everything to Jacob, in part because of gluttony.  That is why I love the Bible; God never hides the mistakes His people made in order that we could learn from it.

We talked in previous posts about the Fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23:

The last fruit being “self-control.”  That is exactly what Esau was lacking.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives within us, (see Romans 8:11.)  The closer we get to Jesus, the more we should embody the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.  The temptation of Gluttony is all about excess and when we give into it we are going down a road like Esau.  John Piper had this to say:

“Gluttony is having a craving for food that conquers you.  The text of Scripture that holds out the challenge to me on this issue is 1 Corinthians 6:12where Paul says — specifically in regard to food and drink — that he will not be enslaved by anything.  He is saying, ‘I have one master, Jesus Christ, and I don’t want any other master.’”

If that verse sounds familiar, it is because we have discussed this in several posts already but it warrants review one more time.  1 Corinthians 6:12-14, 19-20 (ESV) says:

“‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.  ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’ — and God will destroy both one and the other.  The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” 

“The Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” is something I have heard pastors and others use in regards to weight control but in reality the context is about sexual immorality, (see the verses in between 6:15-18.)  But I do think it is applicable nonetheless as we should honor God with every aspect of our lives.  To that end, as I mentioned earlier, I asked the guys in my lifegroup for their perspective of what they had learned about temptation and addictions.  Here is what one had to say…

“Addiction is really a lot of the same chemical process.  The only real difference is the flavor of medication.

Temptation itself is not bad or sin.  Jesus was tempted in every way we are.  Sin happens when you give in to it.  Deep down turning from it involves seeking God…daily, and doing deep introspection to the root cause.  Why am I wanting to stuff my face what emotion is driving it?

Like sex addiction, food addiction is driven by emotion… specifically trying to medicate some deep wound.  A person needs to start asking themselves the question why!  Why do I want to eat?  What am I feeling?”

I love the honesty and truth in that statement!  It was only until recently that my friend shared about his struggles with overeating.  What a great warning to watch out if you are using food to medicate for deeper issues.  Be careful that you are not ignoring the red flags or trying to repress your emotions.  The key comes back to self-control!  Though this may seem like a lesser temptation, and not that big of a deal, Esau shows how when left unchecked, gluttony can result in some pretty significant consequences.  The other key is to realize that you did not get entangled in this particular sin overnight so it will take hard work and some time to break the sin habit.  I read this in ‘The Art Of Celebration’ Bible Reading Plan which I thought nailed it on the head:

“We may be frustrated with patterns of sin that repeat in our lives, our niggling character flaws and lack of discipline.  We may want “one-click” holiness.  But Jesus doesn’t wave a magic wand of saintly character over us. 

Don’t lose heart – He’s not finished with us yet.  He promises to finish what he started in us.  We can change.  He will change us.”

Don’t lose heart and trust God that He can and will help you in this area of temptation.  I will close with this final word from Psalm 34:8:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man [or woman] who takes refuge in Him.”

If we want to break the cycle of sin-repent, sin-repent, we must take refuge in God!

Check back soon for the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

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

 

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

 

 

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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 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 a buddy of mine on the Book of Genesis and God showed me something that I never saw before.  When you look at the descendents 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. Another passage that we don;t have time to unpack is Proverbs 23:29-35 which I would highly recommend you read on the effects alcohol can have on your life.  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:

“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 – Avoiding a whole “LOT” of trouble ★

In our last post called ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★, we explored the importance of what my church calls “Fight Clubs,” which are bible studies with 2-3 people of the same gender who gather together to:

1.  Fight for Truth
2.  Fight Your Sin and
3.  Fight for Others

Today we are going to focus on the aspect of “fighting our sin.”  We all have to deal with some form of temptation. It may be obvious like alcohol or drug addiction. It could be with what the Bible calls “the lust of the flesh,” which essentially is what is allowed to be looked at on the internet, TV or even magazines in the grocery store that feeds inappropriate sexual behavior like pornography, promiscuity or adultery.  Or it could be saying no to the second helping of food, or not continually gorging on snacks and desserts (something that is hard to do especially right now with Girls Scout Cookies being sold everywhere you go…hahaha!)  But there may be some less obvious temptations to be aware of.  Perhaps it’s a preferred college that is a known “party school,” or a job offer that would be great for “career advancement,” but the company conducts business with questionable ethics.  Or if I haven’t gotten you yet, (which I doubt if you’re being honest,) it could be that you need to avoid the temptation to get the latest gossip, aka the “dirt” or juicy morsel about a friend’s break up or what mistake someone has made.  Or here’s a temptation you may not have thought of…Anger – giving into the rage that you have allowed to build up within you.  So whether it is alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuity / adultery, gluttony, moral / ethical compromise, gossiping, or anger, the Word of God has much to say on the subject.  As a result this post will only scratch the surface and will serve as an introduction to a series of posts that will delve much deeper into each of these temptations.

There are two parts to temptation: the Spiritual and Physical.  If you have been around our blog you have heard me talk about spiritual warfare often because we need to be aware of the war that is raging.  Now this is not a license to sin, allowing us to “cop-out” of taking responsibility for our actions by saying “the Devil made me do it.”  But there is without a doubt a really battle going on between good and evil in the unseen world, see Ephesians 6:10-17.  The war is for our soul, which Satan will use temptation to draw us away from God which started at the beginning of time with a simple question that is recorded in Genesis 3:1 (NLT)…

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“Did God really say…?” is a question we have all heard in some form or another to get us to doubt the truth of God’s Word or to rationalize a sin that we are flirting with.  Just like any good prosecuting attorney, Satan screams lies into our mind to establish “reasonable doubt.”  Charles Stanley has this life lesson on Genesis 3:1…

“Satan often begins his temptations by questioning God’s commands and suggesting that obedience is not really necessary.  Don’t fall for his trap!  We do ourselves great harm when we believe that we will find greater blessing in doing our own thing than in obeying God.  Obedience is necessary and always results in blessings.”

I especially like that last part, “Obedience is necessary and always results in blessings.”  But too often we want the blessing of God WITHOUT obeying His commands.  What we fail to realize, is that God’s commands are there not to keep us from what is fun and fulfilling, but to keep us safe from what will destroy our soul and body so we don’t become like some sad country song.  Have you ever heard this joke?

“What do you get when you play a country song backwards?”

Answer:  “You get your house back, your wife back, your dog back, your truck back.”

As an avid fan of the genre, I can tell you that there tons of stories set to music about heartbreak and loss as a result of bad choices.  Today we are going to look at the saddest man in the entire Bible and how his life really could be the subject of a country song!  We will unpack how he started out on top of the world but went horribly wrong by giving into the second part of temptation – the Physical.  Do you know who that is?  If you answered Job, I would say good guess but you would be incorrect. Though he went through unbelievable trials of losing all he had monetarily (property and livestock), his children and also his health, in the end he was blessed abundantly by God.  If you read Job 42:10, 12a, 17 it shows how in the end Job came out all right. No, the person I am referring to is Lot, Abram’s nephew.  What makes his life so sad is his failure to avoid temptation and fight his sin.

Lot is a great case study to serve as a cautionary tale to illustrate how critical it is for us to battle against those weaknesses that can wreak havoc in our lives.  In full disclosure, I do want to mention that a lot of what I will talk about was influenced by a sermon I heard back in 2013 called The Devil Made Me Do It! by Perry Noble (who is the former Pastor of NewSpring Church.)  Perry Noble called Lot “the saddest story in the Bible” because as a result from failing to “just say no” to temptation, he went from “riches to rags.”  In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NLT) the Apostle Paul gives us this warning…

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people — none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Ouch!!  Strong words for sure but I think in this instant gratification generation of “I want what I want and I want it now,” it is sorely needed.  Perry Noble made this simple but profound statement in his message that:

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Boy is that true not only today, but for Lot as well.  For those who may not remember the story of Lot I will give you the cliff notes version of his decline in the Book of Genesis.  I pray you would be open to what God wants to speak into your life about temptation and allow Lot’s “hindsight” to be our “foresight.”  We can learn a lot from Lot!  (Pun intended…Hahaha!  Sorry I couldn’t help myself.)

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  • Genesis 12:1-5 is where we first meet Lot. He was the nephew of Abram (also known as Abraham) the patriarch of Israelites who was instructed to leave everything behind and go to the land God was giving him.  Abram brought with him, his wife and nephew Lot.  Here we learn that when we surround ourselves with Godly people, we will be brought to places we never could have gotten to without them!
  • Genesis 13:5-17 records how Lot had become very wealthy as he traveled with his uncle and how trouble broke out between their herdsmen because the land could not support all the livestock that the two of them had…#FirstWorldProblems!!  Here is a great truth, when we associate with people who are pursuing God, their blessings will overflow onto us. So to save the relationship, Abram suggested that they separate and offered Lot “first dibs” on where he wanted to settle.  Lot chose the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley near Sodom.  If you don’t recognize that name, Sodom was the city that God destroyed because of the rampant immorality!  (See verse 13.)  Regardless of this, Lot chose to move his Tents near there.  How often do we make decisions based on “what looks good” rather than “what is good?” 
  • You’ve heard the expression “guilt by association” right? I don’t know the etymology of that expression but it definitely could have roots in Genesis 14:10-17 which shows the consequences of associating with evil.  War came upon the city of Sodom and Gomorrah resulting in Lot being taken captive with the rest of the citizens.  As a result of living near Sodom, Lot was swept away.  We all have those people in our lives that continually seem to make the wrong choice and find themselves in need of rescuing.  Ultimately Lot was “bailed out” by his uncle Abram who mobilized 318 men to go rescue him and the other prisoners.  The trouble is that you never know when one bad decision will cost you everything.  That is the danger of flirting with temptation by associating with corrupt and immoral people as Lot did!  I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 15:33…

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  • There is a break in the action with Lot for five chapters and then Genesis 19:1-26 picks us with two angels entering into Sodom looking for Lot and found him sitting at the entrance of the city (which in that time was reserved for leaders of the city!)  Lot went from pitching his tents on the outskirts of the city to becoming a prominent member of the morally corrupt community.  Talk about the fulfillment of 1 Corinthians 15:33!  The angels were there to warn Lot and his family that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah as a result of his uncle once again bailing him out; (see Genesis 18:22-33 which tells us how Abraham Interceded for Sodom to try to stop God’s wrath from being unleashed.)  These 26 verses in Chapter 19 are jammed pack with drama and some pretty disturbing truths about Lot and the men of Sodom who came knocking on Lot’s door, (after he convinced the two angels to stay at his home,) in Genesis 9:5-8 the men of Sodom were looking to rape the angels:

“They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you?  Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him.  “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing.  Look, I have two virgin daughters.  Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish.  But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection.”

“Please, my brothers?”  Ugh!  How far Lot fell!!!  He went from being blessed by his proximity to Abraham to now calling these wicked men “brothers!”  And if that was not awful enough, he offered his daughters to be raped by the men of the city in their place!  How would you like a father like that?  The story spirals further out of control as the angels plead with Lot to gather his wife, daughters and future sons-in-law as the time was close that God was going to reign down judgement on the city.  Lot was only able to convince his wife and daughters to flee the city but as they hurried out of the city, the angels warned them not to look back at the destruction.  In verse 26 it records the consequence of disobedience…

“But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.116-daily-dependence-remember-lots-wifeSo now because Lot went towards “what looked good,” instead of “what was good,” all he had was gone including his wife!  Flirting with Temptation will never end well…eventually you will give in to it and will have to reap the consequences!

  • But the story doesn’t end there.  Genesis 19:30-38 offers the final proof that Lot is the saddest man in the Bible.  Fearing for his life, Lot and his two daughters ended up living in a cave in the mountains isolated from all other people.  Since there were no other men around, Lot’s daughters conspired together to get him drunk and have sex with their father in order to have children to “continue the family line.”  And that is exactly what they did in two consecutive nights.  The Bible records that Lot was so drunk “he was unaware of her lying down or getting up again.”  Both conceived, the older daughter’s son “became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Moabites,” and the younger daughter’s son the “became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Ammonites.”  How unbelievably pathetic Lot had become that he would get so drunk that he was unaware of having sex with each daughter!  And for those who know your Old Testament, the Moabites and Ammonites were constant thorns in the side of the nation of Israel (who are he descendants of Abraham.)      

Lot went from being blessed abundantly because of his proximity to Abraham, to ending up living in a cave with his daughters who got him drunk so he could impregnate them.  I am sure if you could ask Lot, “Where do you see your life ending up?”  He never would have dreamed that moving his tents to a place near Sodom would have landed him in a cave without his wife, broke and two grandchildren that he would play a part in conceiving!

The key to Avoiding a whole “Lot” of trouble is to fight against the Temptations that come before each of us.  Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) says:

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Our heart is the starting for all of our problems if we fail to guard it!  I asked the guys in my lifegroup for their perspective of what they have learned about temptation and here is what one had to say which was quite profound!

“The biggest way to help overcome temptation is through connection with others.  Having relationships with people who are real and well-grounded spiritually.  You need authentic people who will truly hold you accountable.  The opposite of addiction is not sobriety… it is connection.  So much of the time temptation and desire to sin happens in the absence of others.  Having connection to people helps fight against that.”  Tom Duarte

Amen!!!  Accountability is critical!  God never intended for us to live life isolated from others.  When we and connected to other Godly people we can overcome!    Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:

116-daily-dependence-ecclesiastes-4-12“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

We are stronger together!  And look at what Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT) shows the benefits of avoiding temptation:

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.  These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

We need to be led by the Spirit!  And when we are then our lives with show the evidence of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” (See Galatians 5:22-23.)

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If you notice the last fruit, it is “self-control” which I dare say may be the most important one!  It is a lack of self-control that will lead to succumbing to the temptation resulting in sin.  Jesus’ little brother offers this truth in James 1:15 (NLT)…

“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.”

Just like Lot, we must protect ourselves from “our own desires” that will give way to sinful actions because in the end it will result in death!  Here is my prayer for you!!

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.”  Philippians 1:9-10 (NLT)

In the upcoming posts, I hope God will speak through you as we study about pitfalls of yielding to various temptations.  If we bury our head in the sand like Lot, we WILL suffer the consequences!

116-daily-dependence-burying-your-head-in-the-sand

Here is the next installment of the Temptation Series called:

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

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

★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

★ Act Like Men – “The Sampson Syndrome” ★

And as mentioned earlier, here is an incredible “The Devil Made Me Do It!” on the life of Lot by Perry Noble.

 

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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 – Turn the Other Cheek ★

110-daily-dependence-turn-the-other-cheekHave you ever heard of this expression?  For some, it may be for the first time or maybe you have heard of it but not really are not sure of its meaning.  In the simplest of terms, it’s to

“Refrain from retaliating when one has been attacked or insulted.”

If you have grown-up in church, you probably remember that it is from Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” as recorded in Matthew 5:38-39 (ESV)…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

When first spoken, those words were unbelievable and they are still seemingly impossible today.  My prayer is that God would speak through me and to me as I attempt to share what’s on my heart today.  The muse for this Thought is from a conversation that started three weeks ago in a group text message with three teenagers in which one of them sent this out of the blue:

“The high road sucks sometimes feels easier to hit someone and get ur point across but I told myself I was gonna become a better person so I’m gonna give it my best shot and see where I end up How do u turn the other cheek so easily

(That is a direct quote for those wondering about the spelling and lack of punctuation hahaha!)  We traded texts that day and then picked up the discussion in our weekly Bible Study the following Friday, in which we discussed the truth of what Jesus was saying…That we should not look to take revenge even though it may be justified.  Jesus came to the Earth to show us another way to live and if we want to become more like Him and make a difference in people’s life, we must learn to change the way we react, or sometimes, the way we DO NOT REACT to an offense.  That is without a doubt a difficult command for me.  Everything in my being wants to defend myself and to retaliate when I have been insulted or hurt.  It’s human nature that when someone hurts us that our first thought would be, “how do I get even with them?”  In the past, if I did not get revenge on the person for the offense, I would at the very least cut that person out of my life.  But again if we want to be a difference maker in this world then we need to follow what Jesus said just 4 verses later in Matthew 5:43-45…We need LOVE OUR ENEMIES!

110-daily-dependence-matthew-5-43-45-love-your-enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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.”

 Jesus’ teachings always turned what is natural or the common way of thinking upside down.  Think about what we tell our children…“Be kind to everyone” and “treat others the same way you want them to treat you,” aka as the “Golden Rule,” (which if you didn’t know, that was from Jesus, see Luke 6:31.)  The world certainly totes the ideal of “tolerance,” (albeit when it’s in the majority’s best interest,) and “inclusivity” (though it may step on other’s beliefs); but what Jesus was saying is much more than platitudes of tolerance or inclusivity, it was revolutionary!  It was a complete paradigm shift of thinking and contrary to the “law of the land” which was barbaric and severe to say the least.  Someone hurts you; the same would be done in return.  In the second half of verse 45, Jesus exposed a reality that many of us do not realize today:

“For He [your Father in heaven] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Many question why?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Have you ever questioned God’s justice system?  Stupid question right?  Well you’re not alone, the prophet Jeremiah did just that in Jeremiah 12:1b:

110-daily-dependence-jeremiah-12-1b-why

You can read the conversation between Jeremiah and God here in Jeremiah 12:1-13.  They are great questions, ones that I have wrestled with as well…which makes “turning the cheek” all that much more difficult right?  After all, no one wants evil people to get ahead right?  So why turn the other check?  Well the answer comes if you continue to read what Jesus had to say.  Too often we read the Bible like we get our news in “30 second soundbites,” or in small chunks, a verse or two here or there.  If you stopped at verse 39 and never read verse 45 you will never get the truth that “GOOD” things (the sunrise,) happen to BOTH, “GOOD” and “BAD” people; and “BAD” things happen to BOTH, “GOOD” and “BAD” people.  We live in a fallen, broken world in which Sin exists and people have free will to choose what they will do to their fellow-man.

We discussed this during the Bible Study that Friday afternoon because as a 14 year freshmen, the originator of the text was struggling with people disrespecting him and conversely trying to follow what God wants for his life.  I am sure everyone reading this can commiserate with him.  I know I do as I too have been wrestling with this command of Jesus’.  This past week has been especially hard for me as someone lied about me on the project I am working on and even though I had proof that I did nothing wrong, no one stood up to clear my name.  What my 14 year old friend did not realize, is that even a 42 year husband, and father of two daughters, it is still hard to “turn the other cheek” when people disrespect you.  What I tried to convey though is that if we do, we will become more like Jesus!

As I have been processing what happened I have to admit that I was not as successful in turning the other cheek…although I did not confront my slanderer, I did not handle myself as professionally as I should have to those who could have vindicated my name.  I was reminded of Proverbs 29:11 (NIV1984) which says:

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”

I definitely way a fool and had to apologize for my venting which felt good at the time but ultimately tarnished my witness.  SO, I thought the best thing I could do was share how I fell short in checking my anger over the situation to encourage you to turn the other cheek.

If you think about all that Jesus went through for us it should motivate us to follow His example!  Mark 14:60-65 recalls how Jesus reacted when He was falsely accused of blasphemy and on trial.  Verse 65 breaks my heart:

“Then some of them began to spit at Him, and they blindfolded Him and beat Him with their fists.  ‘Prophesy to us,’ they jeered.  And the guards slapped Him as they took him away.”

People spat on Jesus, beat Him and then mocked Him.  And Jesus just took it so that He could die in our place so that we could have eternal life with Him and God.  Gut-wrenching!!  After that, Jesus was mocked by the soldiers in Mark 15:16-20 before he was led to be crucified.  Complete and utter disrespect for King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and if that were not enough, Mark 15:29-32 (ESV) recounts:

“And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying,

‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’  

So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying,

‘He saved others; he cannot save Himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.’  

Those who were crucified with Him also reviled Him.”

If Jesus could endure such ridicule and torment, how can I not take someone lying about me and my name not being cleared?  I mentioned earlier about not just reading small bits and pieces of the Bible, well when you read all of scripture and allow it to penetrate your heart, God can then help you in times of trouble.  I will close with this final thought from Romans 12:17-21 (ESV) which God reminded me of to help me to process my anger:

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,

‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’

To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’

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

Vengeance is the Lord’s is what I felt God impress upon me so clearly.  It’s easy to take matters in your own hands but what a missed opportunity for God to move in the situation both in you and the offender!  Let that last verse permeate your spirit, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Charles Stanley had this life lesson on verse 21…

“When someone wrongs us and we retaliate, we position ourselves on the same level with the person who acted against us. We do not have a right to avenge ourselves – that is God’s duty (Romans 12:19). Instead, our goal is to be like Christ, who as they were crucifying Him sad, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In that way, the Lord is glorified and those who see our example may turn to Him and be saved (see Luke 23:40, 47; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:12, 3:15-16).”

If today you consider yourself a Christ-follower, I urge you to heed these words from Romans and choose not to retaliate so that you can shine the light of Christ into this dark world!

If you’re interested, here are two related posts called:

★ Thought for the Day – Let Your Light Shine ★

★ Thought for the Day – Who’s Chasing You? ★

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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!

109-daily-dependence-lotw-light-of-the-world

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 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 – 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 – 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!

99 - Daily Dependence - Hebrews 5-12 - Milk to Meat
“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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★ “Back to the Basics” – Follow-Up to Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimately you have to understand that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Romans 3:23 (NLT) says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith is meant to be more than a formality.

Faith was meant to be more than a feeling.

Faith was meant to be more than a formula.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are so follow-up resources…

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

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

★  “Functional Faith” – Steven Furtick

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

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

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★ “Back to the Basics” – 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 foremost93 - Daily Dependence - God is the God of Second ChancesGod is the God of Second Chances!  Nineveh was a wicked city, worthy of destruction…but God sent Jonah to preach to them about their coming destruction instead of just wiping them from the earth.  As a result of Jonah’s preaching, the Ninevites fasted and repented and God spared the city.  He forgave Jonah in the belly of the great fish…He extended mercy to the Ninevites…And He is ready to extend grace to you and I regardless of whatever we have done in the past…There is nothing that God cannot, or will not forgive!  All God wants is a relationship with you and I.  In Titus 3:3-5 (NLT), the Apostle Paul gives us this powerful truth!!

“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient.  We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures.  Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.  But — When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”

The second truth to gleam from the life of Jonah is that God will move heaven and earth in order to pursue you and me!  You see the “Never-Ending Pursuit” has nothing to do with us but rather how God is always coming after us.  There is a song we have been singing on Sunday mornings in Church by John Mark McMillan called “Heart Won’t Stop,” which so beautifully captures God’s pursuit of us…

There is not a man or a beast, nothing on the land or underneath, Oh nothing that could ever come between, the love you have for me

I could lay my head in Sheol, I could make my bed at the bottom of the darkness deep, Oh but there is not a place I could escape you

Your heart won’t stop coming after me, Your heart won’t stop coming after me, Your heart won’t stop coming after me

Nothing will stop God from pursuing us…so what should our response be?  1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) says:

93 - Daily Dependence - 1 Corinthians 9-24“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.”

Charles Stanley had this commentary on this verse…

“We must not stop pursuing and obeying God.  We will not accomplish much if we do not embrace the Lord’s purpose for our lives and carry this purpose out with consistency, dedication, and discipline.”

Our purpose in life should be to live a life of dedication and discipline in response to God’s “Never-ending pursuit!”  We should pursue and obey God and attempt to reach as many people as we possibly can for His kingdom!  To run the race or live the life impacting those God has placed in our lives!

Before we did the 25 Days of Thankfulness in December, our longest stretch was a four part series called “Marriage & Money” which if you are interested you can check out the first installment by clicking Here.  In the final post called ★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Bonus ★, we shared about the secret to success, which are three simple actions that have tremendous power…Prayer – Word – Worship.

93 - Daily Dependence - Prayer Word WorshipIn the coming weeks we will have an emphasis on each one of these worthy pursuits that we help us understand that we need to keep Praying, keep reading the Bible and keep Worshiping that will help us to run the race!  I will close with this beautiful promise from Lamentations 3:22-25 (NLT) that God is faithful if we will pursue Him…93 - Daily Dependence - Lamentations 3-23

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in Him!”
The Lord is good to those who depend on Him,
to those who search for Him.

 

 

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

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

that covers the Pursuit of Prayer!

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – What’s Rubbing Off On You? ★

Yesterday was the 4 year anniversary of my father’s death.  We never had a good relationship until a year and half before his death when we reconnected and I was privileged to partner with God to lead him to accept Jesus as his savior before he passed.  There was a father wound that lasted fo92 - Daily Dependence -Family at the Crossr good chunk of my life as a result which I believe is what motivated me to be the best father that I could be to my two daughters.  If you are just tuning into our blog in the new year, we have delving into the idea of Leaving a Lasting Legacy…how to become the man or woman that will not only have a positive influence on those around us but have an impact on future generations that will be directed towards God as a result of what you are investing in today.  Today I want to piggyback on a “Thought” that we posted last year called ★ Thought for the Day – Who Are You Imitating? ★ which is based on Ephesians 5:1-2 that we should “be imitators of God,” and that we need to be leaders, not followers…to be the one influencing others, not allowing ourselves to be negatively influenced by today’s culture.  1 Corinthians 15:33 says:

            “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad Company corrupts good morals.’”

92 - 1 Corinthians 15-33 - Bad Company Corrupts

This is something that my wife and I have tirelessly tried to pass on to our daughters.  As one is now a freshman in high school and the other in middle school, we see how very, very important this really is; and how critical it is to be praying for our children’s protection.  Every day we pray that they will be a light in this dark world…to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Just like 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, we need to be very careful about who we associate with.  In a message called They Had Been with Jesus Marty Collier preached on Acts 4:13 (ESV) which says,

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

In the sermon, he made these four observations…

“When we’ve been WITH Jesus…

  1. Others will NOTICE
  2. Our confidence will be in Christ, not CREDENTIALS
  3. We will have BOLDNESS like never before
  4. We will be unable to stop SPEAKING about the power of Jesus”

Peter and John, two men who walked alongside Jesus, who spent day and night with Him, who were uneducated fishermen, spoke with such authority and boldness that “astonished” everyone.  What is amazing is that if you read the previous 12 verses, you will see that the events of verse 13 were preceded with Peter and John being imprisoned for preaching the truth of Jesus Christ and after a night in jail, they were brought in front of all the rulers, elders and scribes with so much boldness that people took notice.  Peter and John are great examples for us that when we stand with Jesus we will have confidence to stand up for what is right.  They did not allow the circumstance of being imprisoned to deter them from their mission.  I love that last part, “they recognized that they [Peter and John] had been with Jesus.”  Charles Spurgeon made this great statement which as follower of Jesus we should consider our rally cry… 

92 - Daily Dependence - Charles Spurgeon - Recognize That You Have Been With Jesus“Live in such a way that men may recognize that you have been with Jesus.”  

This got me thinking…What characteristics do we need to embody in order that people would “recognize that you had been with Jesus?”  The answer can be found in Colossians 3:12-13 (NKJV) which outlines the “Character of the New Man”…and I believe you could extend that to cover women as well…

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

We started off with this question…what’s rubbing off on you?  Well here are some Characteristics of Jesus that I believe we need to have rubbed off on us if we want to be men and women who will be world changers for the Kingdom of God!

  • Holy (see 2 Corinthians 5:21)
    • The New Living Translation says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
  • Humble (see Matthew 11:29 and Matthew 20:26-28)
    • The New Living Translation of Matthew 11:29 says “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
    • The New Living Translation of Matthew 20:26-28 says “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Meek (See Matthew 5:5)
    • The New International Version says “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Why do you think this is?
    • “In biblical usage, meekness is that attitude of mind that is opposed to harshness and contentiousness, and that shows itself in gentleness and tenderness in dealing with others.” Rick Reinckens
    • I love how Grady Scott described Meekness:
      • “Many associate meekness with an attitude of allowing everyone to run over you because you are afraid of them. This is not meekness. In fact, some of the strongest men who have ever lived have been meek.  A good working definition of biblical meekness is Strength under control.  Jesus could stand up to the winds and the waves. He also chased the moneychangers out of the temple twice with a whip made out of chords.”
  • Compassionate (see Mark 6:34)
    • Throughout the gospels it says that Jesus “had compassion on them,” or “was moved with compassion for them” regardless of whether he was tired or not, Jesus made time for those in need.
    • “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
    • But if we back up just 3 verses, it says “Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”  He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” (Mark 31:34)
    • To put this in context in Verse 41 of Mark chapter 6, Jesus feeds Five Thousand Men.
  • Loving (see John 15:13)
    • The New Living Translation says “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
  • Forgiving (See Luke 23:34)
    • The New Living Translation says Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.”
    • Regarding the “Character of the New Man”, the New King James Version (NKJV) says “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Now that you have sped through this familiar list of characteristics, go back and look at them again, but first pray for God to show you in what ways you are excelling and what areas you need to work on more.  I will close with this great encouragement from Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible:

“God has chosen the specific era, location, and giftedness with which you would exist for the purpose of serving Him.  You are not a mistake – your strengths, weaknesses, and situation in life are part of His plan to be glorified through you.  Your ministry does not start sometime in the future when your circumstances change. It begins the moment you believe in Christ.  Serve Him obediently with this in view.”

What’s rubbing off on you?  What area do you need to work on?  God can use you wherever you are at, you are not a mistake.  He loves you so much that he gave His Son for you and I to be reconnected with Him…The choice is yours!

92 - Daily Dependence - John Wooden - Choices

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★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★

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

22 - Daily Dependence - FrankensteinI love quirky humor like this!  Much has been said on the Wise Men over the years.  The Bible however only records 12 verses about these significant pieces of the Christmas Story.  We covered 10 verses yesterday, and today we will read the last 2.  Our story picks up after the events of yesterday ★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★ post, where we were first introduced to the Wise Men who followed the star from the East, and their interaction with Herod about where the baby that was born King of the Jews was.  As a refresher from yesterday, Matthew 2:7-8 (NASB) says,

“Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”

In Charles Stanley’s “Life Principles Bible,” he had this commentary on Matthew 2:8 on the cunning nature of Herod…

“Anyone can pretend to love God – but the proof is in a person’s character, and Herod’s was sinfully flawed.  Thankfully, the men were not deceived.  The Lord warned them about Herod, and they returned to their own country without telling him that they had seen Christ.”

That is so true.  Character is everything.  I am reminded of the quote from Abraham Lincoln,

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

A person’s true self will come out in the light eventually which was the case for Herod and for the Wise Men.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will focus on the latter.  I love this play on words…Are you part of the inn crowd or the stable few?”  22 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men - Part of the StableObviously this is muse for today’s title, but it opens the discussion, which are you?  Are you on the periphery of the Christmas story, in a comfortable “Inn,” keeping Jesus at a distance and not allowing the truth of this season to penetrate your heart?  Or are you part of the “Stable Few” that your you are “all in,” that regardless of the adversity, Jesus is the center of your life; and that Christmas is the fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation?

Our passage is from Matthew 2:9-11 (NASB) which says,

“After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  (Emphasis added.)

Charles Stanley’s had this insightful commentary on Matthew 2:11 about the truth of when the Wise Men came to see Jesus contrary what many depictions show…

“The Wise Men probably visited Jesus when he was about two years old.  They came to a house instead of a stable and saw the Child rather than an infant.  Regardless of His age, however, they worshipped Him and acknowledged Him as the Messiah.”

The Wise Men “fell to the ground and worshiped Him,” and then “presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Incredible!

If it is okay, I have one more comic to share…What a great modern adaptation!!  22 - Comic - Wiser WomanBut it raises the issue about these three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  I did a little research on what they were and the representation of each of the gifts.  The gold is obvious, it was for its worth but also to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus.  Everyone is quite familiar with Gold, but what about Frankincense and Myrrh…not as much I suspect…Did you know that both are dried tree saps, or resins.  Frankincense is highly fragrant when burned and often used in worship.  When it was burned, it was done so as a pleasant offering to God, (see Exodus 30:34).  Frankincense is a symbol of Jesus’ holiness and righteousness.  And finally Myrrh has a medicinal, kind of bitter smell and was often used to dress wounds.  Today, it’s still used to prevent and treat gum disease and sometimes shows up in toothpastes and mouthwashes.

The Magi as they were also called were a caste of a wise man specializing in astronomy, astrology, and natural science that came from the East to worship Jesus who was prophesied about over 700 years earlier.  We can learn a lot from them, a couple of adjectives come to mind…steadfastness, driven and passionate.  And at the core the Wise Men were extreme worshipers!  Jimmy Evans made this great point,

“The wise men traveled hundreds of miles and spent an enormous amount of time and money seeking Jesus.  That is the spirit of Christmas.”   

We talked about this on the ★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★ post, that the Spirit of Christmas is all about giving of yourself in service to God and others, and I can think of no other example in the Christmas narrative than Wise Men whose sole purpose was to worship the Messiah, which gives us a great model for how our faith should be.  They were resolute and unwavering in their mission, regardless of whatever stood in their way…whether it was the cost of the trip, the dangers along the way, or an envious King who wanted to stop the fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming Messiah, their belief in the prophecy was so strong that the Wise Men overcame any adversity in order to worship the Savior of the World!  Wow!  The question I have for us…Do we have that kind of faith?  Day 4 of the 121 Advent Bible Reading Plan said,

“Most often our hope wavers because it is rooted in an act of will and therefore lacks a stable foundation…Where is your hope rooted?  What characteristics of God can you rest your hope in today?”

Great questions…Today my prayer is that a stable foundation of faith in the Jesus would be built and that if He is not the center of your life that you would make the decision to follow the Magi’s example!  Hebrews 10:23  (NLT) says,

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

I will close with this last thought…

And it is so true!  When I take my focus off the problem, and place it in the capable hands of the problem solver, EVERYTHING CHANGES!  I am thankful for the model that these “Stable Few” Wise Men have given us to follow.  They journeyed for hundreds of miles through peril and struggle all to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  May this be the posture of our hearts today!

22 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men TravellingWe received a Christmas card this year from good friends of ours with this saying on it…

“The star that led the Wise Men then….Still shines to guide the hearts of men today.” 

To assist in that, here is Elevation Church’s beautiful song “Let Us Adore” from their new album called “Wake Up The Wonder.”

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

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 23 – Reason for the Season – Can Christians Condone Claus? ★

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

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

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★ Day 12 – Reason for the Season – Oh Holy Night ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1O12 - Daily Dependence - Silent Night Lyricsne of my favorite classic Christmas hymns to sing is “Silent Night,”

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin Mother and Child, holy
Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Today’s “Reason for the Season” is focused on the moment that the Israelites longed for, for hundreds of years, the night that the savior of the world was born.  The prophet Isaiah foretold of the coming of Jesus over 700 years beforehand…Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) says,

`”Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

“God is with us” and He sent Jesus to be that connector. Saint Athanasius said,

“He became what we are that He might make us what He is.”

Yesterday in the ★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★ we discussed how perilous the journey to Bethlehem must have been for the pregnant Mary traveling over 100 miles on the back of a donkey.  Something that has always astounded me is that after everything Mary and Joseph went through, when they arrived at Bethlehem it didn’t any easier.  Luke 2:6-712 - Daily Dependence - The Nativity Story Birth of Jesus recalls the Birth of Jesus,

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.  She gave birth to her first child, a son.  She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

Two simple verses in all of scripture that records the most incredible event in human history!  Another classic Christmas song that I love is “Away in a Manger,” which is this lovely, soothing song but do you know what a manger really is?  The Holman Christian Standard Bible translation gives us some insight…Mary “laid Him in a feeding trough.”  Here is the definition of what God’s Son was placed in…

trough  (trôf, trŏf) n.

1.  A long, narrow, generally shallow receptacle for holding water or feed for animals.

The messiah was born in a stable, amongst animals and then placed in a “shallow receptacle for holding water or feed for animals.”  Incredible…Definitely not the idyllic scene that so many paintings and movies depict!  In Charles Stanley’s “Life Principles Bible,” he had this incredible commentary on Luke 2:7,

“Amazingly, God stepped into this world not as the reigning King with pomp and ceremony, but as the humble Child who was wrapped in simple swaddling clothes.  Far from a royal crib, Jesus’ first resting place was a primitive feeding trough.”  

In the movie “The Nativity Story” they showed Joseph frantically running from door-to-door because Mary was in labor, and it may have been that, or it may have been under calm conditions, but regardless at the end a 100 mile journey it must have been heartbreaking and quite frustrating to find that there was no suitable place for them to stay.  Day 3 of the 121 Advent Bible Reading Plan said,

“As His followers, life will be difficult, but our hope is not at the mercy of our circumstances and our perspective is not limited to what is seen, but is wrapped up in the truth of the Gospel for all eternity.  We have hope and can hope because it has been given to us in Christ.”

Life will be difficult…It was for Mary and Joseph, and it most definitely was for Jesus…But our hope is in the baby that was wrapped snugly in strips of cloth and laid in a manger over two thousand years ago.  While I was reading John Piper’s “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,” he addressed what I had always questioned about with the no vacancy signs throughout Bethlehem.

“Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, He surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, he could have.

The question is not what God could do, but what He willed to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake He became poor.  The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake.  (See 2 Corinthians 8:9)”

The way Jesus came into this world was for our sake so that we would have a Savior that understands adversity and any hardship that we may ever experience…Jesus endured it all for our sakes!!  I will close with this additional powerful point from John Piper’s devotional…

12 - Daily Dependence - The Nativity Story and Cross“God rules all things—even motel capacities—for the sake of his children.  The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.”

“Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth.  But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.”

Jesus’ life started in a “silent night, holy night,” but ended in agony and chaos all for our benefit!!  Today I am thankful for that Holy Night that brought into being the hope of my salvation!

Here is my favorite version of “Oh Holy Night” sung Rebecca Pfortmiller…You will be blessed!

12 - Daily Dependence - May the peace and hope of Christ's Birth be with you

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 13 – Reason for the Season – The Nativity Revealed ★

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

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

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★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★

Three weeks ago at this time we were on vacation in beautiful San Diego, marveling at God’ handiwork on display everywhere we went.  What an incredible trip!  Not only did we get (11) people across the country and back safe and sound, we were able to visit many of the hotspots San Diego has to offer, from the Gaslamp Quarter to the San Diego Zoo to Point Loma and also Seaport Village…But the highlight for me was visiting the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla.  You will not find this on the list of the top tourist destinations, but for someone who studied this architectural masterpiece in college and its creator,87 - Daily Dependence - Louis Kahn Louis Kahn it was a dream come true!  In 1992, the Salk received a 25-Year Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and was featured in the AIA exhibit Structures of Our Time: 31 Buildings That Changed Modern Life and was described in the San Diego Union-Tribune as the single most significant architectural site in San Diego.  And that is not exaggeration!  Check out this video I stumbled on that shows how incredible this masterpiece is throughout the day – from sunrise to sunset!

The next paragraph is for the Architects or other people who appreciate architecture and a little history…gleaned from the Salk Institute’s website.  Named after Jonas Salk, MD, the developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine, the vision for the Salk Institute was to be a research facility that would contribute to the betterment of humankind.  In 1960 Salk selected world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn and directed him to create spacious, unobstructed laboratory spaces that could be adapted to the ever-changing needs of science.  The building materials had to be simple, strong, durable, and as maintenance-free as possible.  Jonas Salk summarized his aesthetic objectives by telling Kahn to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.”  87 - Daily Dependence - Salk InstituteKahn’s masterwork sits on a 27 acre site overlooking the Pacific Ocean and consists of two mirror-image structures — each six stories tall — that flank a grand travertine courtyard with cascading waterfalls.  87 - Daily Dependence - Salk Institute Film StripAs you can see these couple of shots, the space is breathtaking…Okay no more details on the Salk Institute, (thank you for indulging me).  I will get back on track and share with you the muse for the Thought for the Day.  As an idealistic young architecture student, I was privileged to tour most of Louis Kahn’s buildings, the few that were constructed on the east coast.  Moving to Texas, I checked off the Kimball Art Museum from my list and now the Salk Institute.  Kahn was a master at mixing materials and creating spaces that you just wanted to spend hours in.  My dream was to work on architectural projects like that!  As I grew up though, I opted for better financial compensation which led me away from job opportunities that would have been more design orientated, to firms that specialized in more utilitarian projects.  Don’t get me wrong, though I would have loved working projects like Kahn did, but I much rather have the life that I have now.  I am happily married and have a close relationship with my daughters and financial stability unlike my architectural idol.

After sharing my experience at the Salk, a co-worker lent me a documentary film that was made by his son Nathaniel Kahn called “My Architect,”  Phenomenally produced, the younger Kahn blended family history with site visits to his father’s buildings and interviews with people who knew and worked with Louis Kahn, in an effort to learn about whom the man was that died when he was just 11 years old in 1973, (just 1 year before I was born!)  Kahn died from a heart attack in Penn Station, NY in a men’s room after returning from a business trip.  Because he scratched off his address on his passport, this word-renowned architect remained in the morgue for 3 days until he was finally claimed.  What I found out through this gut wrenching search from my hero’s son, was that the man who created these incredible masterpieces was half a million dollars in debt at the time of his death, and the father of 3 children, one from his wife, and the others from two mistresses.  I know that you should never put people on a pedestal but I was taken aback by this revelation.  My heart went out to Nathaniel Kahn, a middle-aged man who clearly had deep father wounds from a man who valued work far above relationships, and was quite selfish in how he treated the mothers of his illegitimate children.  If that was not bad enough, in the documentary several times they played a clip of Louis Kahn staying….

"How accidental our existences are, really, and how full of influence by circumstance."
“How accidental our existences are, really, and how full of influence by circumstance.”

Sad…My heart dropped…All I could think of, was how tragic this man’s view of life was.  Believing that his existence was merely accidental was the saddest fact that I learned about him.  This quote has haunted me, because though I looked up to the “architect” Louis Kahn, the man behind the buildings clearly was broken and lost in his view of the meaning of life.

Maybe you share this view of life, and today, with every fiber of my being, I want you to know that is the farthest thing from the truth!  Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says,

“For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Charles Stanley wrote a Life Lesson on this verse in his Life Principle’s Bible which illuminates this verse…

“No one understands you better than God – He knows you far more profoundly than you can even know yourself.  In fact, the Lord knows what you were created to be and all the great things He could accomplish through you if you were to surrender yourself to Him.  He has designed you for a specific, fulfilling purpose, but you cannot find it or achieve it on your own.  Rather, it is only by abiding in Him that it will come to fruition in your life.”

God has a plan for your life and He wants you to know that it’s been planned for a long time…There is nothing random or accidental with God! 

87 - Daily Dependence - Cliff Notes on EstherIn the Old Testament there was girl named Esther who was became queen to King Xerxes.  I will attempt give you the “Cliff Notes” version on her background (but I highly recommend you read the whole book of Esther, incredible history!)  After becoming Queen, her cousin Mordecai warned her to keep secret her family background and nationality since she was a Jew.  Haman was the King’s right hand man, who was higher than that of all the other nobles.  At the time of his promotion, Mordecai refused to bow down to him and give him honor so Haman sought to destroy not only Mordecai but all the Jews.  He convinced the King that the Jews needed to be eliminated and in Esther 3:13a (NIV1984) it says that

“Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews–young and old, women and little children–on a single day”

Mordecai came to Queen Esther for help to beg for mercy so that the King would change this law.  She was in a precarious situation of whether to allow her people to be executed or to go before King Xerxes and risk being killed herself, because at that time there was a law that any man or woman any man or woman who approached the king without being summoned could be put to death unless the king to extend the gold scepter to them to spare their life.  Like anyone in a position like that, fear made Esther waver about whether to heed Mordecai’s request or not.  In Esther 4:14 (NIV1984) Mordecai made this powerful statement.

You can read the whole account between Mordecai and Esther in Esther Chapter 4.  This is such an amazing story that is just as relevant today as it was back when it happened in Mid-to-Late Fifth Century B.C. (464 – 415 B.C.).  You may feel like your life is just a random set of experiences and accidental as Louis Kahn stated, but God wants you to know you are not alone and that He has a plan and a purpose for you!  Just like he used Esther (who did ultimately go to see King Xerxes and convince him to save her people,) God can use you to do great things as well.  In fact who knows, you could be in your current situation to prepare you for the next phase of your life as Esther was!  God created you and I intentionally, not accidentally.  As I wrote in the ★ Thought for the Day – Confidence In Who’s You Are ★, we are the “apple of His Eye!”  I just wish that Louis Kahn had heard this truth.  Stop for a moment and meditate on what Psalms 8:3-6 (NLT) says, 87 - Daily Dependence - Salk Institute - Psalms‬ ‭8-3 - 6

I like how the message translation puts it.

“Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?”

The answer is because we are significant and valuable to God.  No one wastes their time on things that do not matter.  In our last post, ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, we discussed the importance of developing a quiet time with God so that we can center our lives on Him and get to know who His Son Jesus Christ through reading the Bible.  We need to make it a priority to spend time with God because He has already made you and me a priority in His life!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) says,

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Eternity has been planted in your heart!  Let me ask you, what Reminds You of God’s Presence?  Or what is evidence to you of His Handiwork?  For me it is sunsets…Everyday God paints the sky with a beautiful and tangible reminder of His omnipresence.  Going back to Psalms 8:3-5 the writer uses this imagery to describe the majesty of God’s creation…“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers”…God positioned the moon and the stars but yet He took the time to create mankind and to continue to care about us even after being rejected over and over by His children…It is amazing!  The next time you see a beautiful sunset, take notice of His Majesty, God is calling out to you to remind you that regardless of the day you just had, He is ever-present and He loves you!

YOU ARE NOT AN ACCIDENT!

Maybe you are reading this and God is stirring your heart to make a change…

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

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

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

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

If you would like to read the next post, go here…★ Thought for the Day – Begging God For_____? ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Who’s Chasing You? ★

Did this title peak your interest?  A buddy of mine asked me where the ideas come from for the “Thoughts for the Days” that I share…were they just from my quiet time while reading the Bible or from somewhere else.  The answer is yes.  God definitely speaks through His Word as I read in the morning, but they are also are inspired from friends or sometimes through a circumstance I am going through.  Today’s “Thought” is unfortunately a result of the latter.  My situation is not life-threatening but it has inflicted some serious mental stress.  It is amazing how tiring it can be running through different scenarios in your mind to find solutions when you are having conflict and strife with someone.  I previously posted ★ Re|Engage – Conflict ★ about what my wife and I learned from a class on this topic.  I have attempted to implement the principles with this person but sometimes no matter how much you try you can’t stop someone from coming after you.

Recently I have been reading about the prophet Elijah who is such a fascinating Old Testament character.  He had incredible highs and lows in his service to God.  We first meet Elijah when God sends him to challenge the evil King of Israel, Ahab in 1 Kings 17:1 (NLT)…

“…As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!””

God then has Elijah go away for the rest of chapter 17 during the 3-1/2 year drought in which God provides for Elijah in unbelievable ways, (go read it for yourself), but I want to pick up in 1 Kings 18:1 (NLT) when God tells Elijah…

“…Go and present yourself to King Ahab.  Tell him that I will soon send rain!”

If you have never read this story about Elijah facing off with King Ahab, 1 Kings 18:1-46 tells the whole account of one of the most epic showdowns that has ever happened!  In all it’s offerings, Hollywood has never given us a greater one than this in my opinion.  Elijah challenges King Ahab and tells him in 1 Kings 18:19-21…

“Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.”  So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel.  Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow him!  But if Baal is God, then follow him!”  But the people were completely silent.”

81 - Daily Dependence - Cliff Notes on 1 Kings 18Cliff notes version of chapter 18…Elijah challenges 850 false prophets to call down fire to burn up a bull on the altar.  They started at noontime and “they raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response [from their Gods.]”  (1 Kings 18:29 NLT).  Okay now it is Elijah’s turn…He prepared his bull and stacked the odds against God by having (12) large jars of water poured over the bull and wood.  Then in 1 Kings 18:38-39 (NLT) he prays to God in view of all and…

“Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the trench!  And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, ‘The LORD —He is God!  Yes, the LORD is God!'”

81 - Daily Dependence - BamOne request from Elijah and God delivers BIG TIME!  He then tells the people to grab the prophets of Baal and Asherah so that they could be killed…and incredibly they did!!  Wow…talk about a massive triumph!!  Elijah stood up against King Ahab and 850 false prophets in full view of all the people of Israel and trusted God in a mighty way.  But all this is just setting up for what I really want to talk about which is what happens after the mountaintop experience with God.  What happens after you have a spiritual victory…Chapter 18 without a doubt was a huge high point but chapter 19 gives us whiplash as Elijah hits the lowest low ever.  1 Kings 19:1-4 (NLT) says…

“When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal.  So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”  

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life.  He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.  Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day.  He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die.  “I have had enough, LORD,” he said.  “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.””  

These (4) verses have always puzzled me.  How do you go from calling fire down from heaven and ordering 850 false prophets to be slain, only to be running for your life just a few verses later because one person because threatened to kill you?  Now I said “person” instead of woman, because regardless of your gender, you can be threatened by either a man or woman, who could cause you to run away from the issue.  It could be a bully at school, someone at work or a complete stranger.  In Elijah’s case, it was a woman, but before we judge him too harshly, I wanted to give some insight into the type of person Jezebel was.  1 Kings 21:25 (NLT) tells about the influence she had on King Ahab…

“No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the LORD’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel.”

“Under the influence of his wife.”  Now everyone has a choice whether to follow or to be a leader, but obviously Jezebel was quite evil and had significant influence on he husband.  I am not saying that woman or wives are evil, rather this one particular female was.  You have probably heard someone say something like: “That woman is a Jezebel.”  That comparison is a result of King Ahab’s wife; Jezebel has become synonymous with the description of “a wicked, shameless woman.” (Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/jezebel).  Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary had this commentary on Jezebel:

“Jezebel has stamped her name on history as the representative of all that is designing, crafty, malicious, revengeful, and cruel.  She is the first great instigator of persecution against the saints of God.  Guided by no principle, restrained by no fear of either God or man…”

So you can understand that the person chasing Elijah was a pretty nasty individual, (1 Kings has other accounts as well.)  I recently found my answer to how someone could go from “hero to zero” overnight as I have had a “Jezebel” in my life chasing after me.  I think Steven Furtick nailed it when he was speaking of Elijah and said,

“We don’t experience our reality.  We experience our perspective of reality.” 

The answer is perspective!  Not seeing things for what they are.  Just like Elijah lost sight of the fact that God was able to wipe out 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah who opposed him and then allowed one person to scare him so much that the very next day he went on the run; I too lost my perspective and allowed one person’s opinion and harsh words to put me in a tailspin.  Now I did not leave the state and take residency in a cave, but it did completely disrupt my state of mind at work and home.  And why??  Jack Graham gives some great insight for that answer:

“After the spiritual victory, Elijah was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained.  So when word came that Jezebel the queen wanted him dead, he ran for his life.  And here’s the key: Elijah took his eyes off God.”

We cannot take our eyes off of God, not even for a second!  When we do, our perspective gets distorted and we can so quickly get derailed.  We have to always be on the alert that the enemy will use people to being knock you down.  Spiritual warfare is very real and the Devil is always looking to get revenge after you have a spiritual victory!  That is why 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) is so important to remember…

“Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

Elijah is a such a powerful example of the highs and lows we can experience in our walk with God… But we can also use his story as a way to motivate us to persevere and not give up when we are in the lowest valley.  We need to believe what Psalms 24:1–3 says,

“The LORD is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid?  The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?  When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.  Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid.  Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.”

Is is really easy to chant and embrace verse 1…“The LORD is my light and my salvation.”  But I think the end of verse 3 is a whole lot harder to hold fast to…“Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.”  But that is the point, we need to believe in it all…from verse 1 to 3!  God is so faithful, He spoke to me with this verse recently when He prompted my wife to text this verse to me literally right after I had just read it from a “Verse of the Day” email I received that morning!  God speaks, we just need to be listening for that “still small voice!”  In my case, I needed to look up rather than focus on the circumstance or person chasing me.  My perspective was completely flipped…I will no longer be running from my “Jezebel!”  I will not let anybody tear me down anymore, not because I will be fighting them, but because I let God fight for me.  All I need to do is just continue doing the right thing.  I will close with this final thought from Charles Stanley…

Yes everyone wants the Mount Carmel experience but it is in the valley that God will do some of His best work because all we have is Him!!  The Lord will fight for you, you need only trust His faithfulness!

Here is the next post that builds on this thought called…

★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Keeping up with the Joneses? ★ 

I am about to date myself…Do you remember the TV series “Home Improvement?”  It aired from 1991–1999 and was one of the most watched sitcoms in the American market, winning many awards.  Each week, I looked forward to seeing what mess Tim Taylor would get himself in to.  As the clumsy, uncoordinated TV show host of “Tool Time”, Tim Taylor (who was played by Tim Allen,) would get himself into hot water all the time, either with his wife, his kids or the flannel sporting co-host, Al Borland.  After each fight, Tim would find himself in the backyard looking over the fence for his neighbor Wilson to get some sage advice and wisdom.  And all the time, Tim would walk away with a new perspective on the circumstance.  Wouldn’t that be nice to be able to tidy up our mess in the span of 30 minutes?

As we delve into this Thought for the Day, I think many of the messes we find ourselves in, are actually a result of looking over the fence.  Unlike Tim Taylor, when we are looking over the fence at what other people possess, we can set ourselves up for trouble.  When I was in college, any class that I took that dealt with Marketing was always a favorite!  It continually amazes me how a slogan, TV commercial or catchy jingle can move people from not even being aware of a product, to absolutely having to have it…But consumers need to be aware and understand the power that marketing has on our buying decisions.  We need to be wise and avoid “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

68 - Daily Dependence -Keeping up with the Joneses

Let me ask you…Are you content with your life??  Or what I really want to know, are you content with what God is doing in your life?  Let that permeate your spirit for a moment and be honest with yourself.  If you answered no, then you are not alone, I have struggled with this myself so many times; not being content with the speed of paying off debt or building up of my savings or that the process is so hard.  This has led me to get so focused and consumed that at times I lose sight of my peace and joy.  I heard a great message from Dr. Tony Evans a while ago called “Reversing the Financial Curse”, he said:

"The greatest truth I can give you is that God is your source.  No man is my Source, on his best day, he is a resource.  Don't treat the resource like it's the source."
“The greatest truth I can give you is that God is your source.  No man is my Source, on his best day, he is a resource.  Don’t treat the resource like it’s the source.”

We all want to be financially stable and have some margin between us and life.  To be able to have more money at the end of the month than bills and to even be able to enjoy life a little but we need to learn contentment when things do not happen as quickly as we would wish.  Speaking from experience, I want to encourage you that as you are working on achieving Financial Peace, by building some cushion in your finances, a.k.a. an emergency fund, DO NOT let that become your “source” of security.  Remember that God is the source, and the emergency fund is just a resource.  It is important that we build an emergency fund, as financial expert Dave Ramsey teaches, but do not treat God as a resource to get a larger emergency fund…understand that HE is the source.  Trust in Him to be your provider and not on yourself, your bank account or your 401K.  To read more on this, check out a previous post called…★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★

Charles Stanley’s “Handbook for Christian Living” has some about great insight about contentment and trusting in God’s Provisions.  He talked about Paul’s imprisonment and quoted Philippians 4:10-13:

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Charles Stanley put it this way, that “Paul learned the secret of being content in and through circumstances. It wasn’t the secret of changing – or getting God to change – his circumstances.  Paul meant I can endure any circumstance without losing my peace and my joy because of the strength I gain through my relationship with Christ.”

According to Dr. Stanley there are 3 truths to have contentment:

  1. Contentment hinges on what’s happening inside us not around us. When we become discontented, the first two things we lose are our peace and joy.  But the bible teaches that peace and joy are fruits of the Spirit.  As long as our contentment can be destroyed by a change in our environment, we can never be content in any circumstance.
  1. Contentment is need, not want oriented.  God will meet our needs; He is going to take care of us.  Much of our discontentment stems from not getting what we want.  God has not promised to meet our wants but our needs.  He goes on to say, ask yourself this question: Is God meeting my needs?  If the answer is yes, stop and thank Him.  Don’t allow your emotions to attach themselves to your wants.
  1. Contentment is trusting God even when things seem out of control.  Discontentment on the other hand, is really a lack of faith in God’s love and concern for us.  Philippians 4:19 says “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  When things around Paul fell apart, he kept trusting God.  And consequently Paul was content.

He went on to say, if you look at the flip side of contentment that is Dis-contentment. Discontentment clouds our decision-making process, making it almost impossible to wait.”  The emotions that accompany discontentment are so strong that they often override reason.  People in marketing understand this all too well. Just think about it, part of any effective advertising campaign is to make potential customers discontented with their existing product.  These feelings that accompany discontentment are enough to make people buy things they don’t need or can’t afford.  Dave Ramsey made this hysterical statement,

“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.” 

Keeping up with the Joneses is futile and can steal our peace and joy.  Dave Ramsey teaches in his Financial Peace University class that we need to develop the “power over purchase.”

“You can buy FUN but you cannot buy HAPPINESS.  Happiness is contentment where you are right now.”

If we could grasp this, we would be happier, and would have more peace and security.  Sometimes though, it’s not just about wanting as nice of a car as your neighbor, but rather, the fear or anxiety of keeping a roof above your head and food on the table.  Whenever I have seen Hebrews 13:5 quoted, it is always the second half of the verse (see the underlined portion below), but it is interesting to see the first part in context.

“Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.  For God has said,
I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.’”  Hebrews 13:5

Context is everything!  Could God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit be trying to convey a spiritual truth that we can trust Him in our finances?  Most definitely yes!  When we love money and are NOT content with God’s provision, only trouble will result, replacing peace and joy with anxiety and fear.  Philippians 4:6 (NASB) says,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Steven Furtick made this profound statement about this verse…

“One of the reasons we’re so anxious about what’s coming, is because we’re not thankful enough for what we have.  And so Paul says if all you ever pray about is what you need but never stop and thank God for what you have, you’ll always be anxious.” 

Verse 7 of Philippians goes on to say,

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We all want the “peace of God” in verse 7 but to get that, we need to first go through verse 6, and be thankful for what God has provided for us.  It is all about having the right perspective with our priorities aligned with God’s.  Proverbs 30:7-9 (NLT) is one of my absolute favorite verses on this subject.

“O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die.  First, help me never to tell a lie.  Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! 

Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?”  And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”

How different would our lives be if we embraced this wisdom?  Do you know who is the wisest human being that ever lived?  No, it is not our president or any other modern-day leader.  It is not Dr. Phil or Oprah or any other celebrity.  The wisest man who ever lived was King Solomon.  His Wisdom is described in 1 Kings 4:29-30 (NIV1984)

“God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.  Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.”

So if the source of his Wisdom is from God, then he must have some good advice when it comes to contentment right?  Look at what the wisest man has to say Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 (NLT)

“I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards…I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women…I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces…I had everything a man could desire!  So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me.  Anything I wanted, I would take.  I denied myself no pleasure…But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind.  There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”

Wow!  That is an eye opener…Look at that underlined part…Solomon “had everything a man could desire!”  And in the end he concluded that accumulating possessions was “meaningless—like chasing the wind.”

And the reason being is what Howard Dayton said,

No amount of stuff is going to give you contentment or fulfillment.  Do you want to know what is the antidote is to discontentment?  Helping others!  Hebrews 13:16 (NLT)  says,

“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”

So the next time you are looking over the fence, look at how you can help your neighbor, instead of coveting their possessions, because God desires our priorities to be in alignment with His…It’s the people in the big houses that are important not what’s in it.  1 Timothy 6:6 gives us this promise,

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

As you move further along on the journey, keep these thoughts on the sticky side of your brain so that when the enemy rushes in with his lies, you can combat him with the truth which Proverbs 3:5-10 so perfectly reminds us…

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.

Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.”

Keep pressing on and looking up, to “THE ONE” who will help you reach Financial Peace!  God Bless!

If you are interested in learning more about managing your finances God’s way, check out this post called…★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 1 ★.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make this your prayer today:

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

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

 

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

 

★ Thought for the Day – Value in Weakness? ★

When you read the name of this Thought for the Day, what did you think?  I think that there is probably a unanimous belief that weakness is not something to aspire to.  In every aspect of life, this is for the most part a true statement.  But in the Kingdom of God, that is not the case.  The Apostle Paul prayed over and over to be released from the pain in his side, but God’s response was far different than what Paul was expecting…2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10b says,

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me….for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10b are my life verses.  The idea of strength through weakness has always intrigued me.  Grace is such an incredible aspect of God’s love for us, He freely offers all that we need, even though we do not deserve it.  In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible he made this profound statement…

“Regardless of your situation, you can trust this principle: Whatever brings you to your knees in weakness carries the greatest potential for your personal success and spiritual victory.”

“What the world views as strong is really nothing more than weakness under wraps.”

40 - Daily Dependence - What value could there possibly be in weakness
Excerpt from Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible

 

I love that, “What the world views as strong is really nothing more than weakness under wraps.”  but in the Kingdom of God that is the complete opposite.

So what value is there in weakness?  Tremendous value…when your are working in partnership with God!!

 

 

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