★ Thought for the Day – True Shalom ★

This week is quite significant for many reasons.  Yesterday was Palm Sunday that is the official kick-off to “Holy Week.”  Which you may recall was when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Growing up I always liked this weekend because Palm branches would be handed out at church which we then made a cross with it to keep around the house.  At the time I did not understand the significance of the tradition nor how important Holy Week is.  Friday is of course the day when we remember the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins when He was nailed to the cross.  And smack dab in the middle of the week between Jesus entering Jerusalem and subsequent death on a Roman cross, is the Jewish celebration of Passover is on Wednesday which is the remembrance of when the Israelite people were spared when the angel of death “passed over” their homes in Egypt because they put the blood of a scarified lamb over the doorway.  Besides the religious significance, this week according to the Surgeon General “is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment.”  As I turned on the TV this morning, news report after news report warns that the USA is facing the worst week of the Covid-19 outbreak.  As we have been “social distancing,” (which I have to say I cannot stand hearing that phrase, I prefer “physical distancing” but I digress), the most repeated thing that I have asked, or have been asked, is “how are doing in quarantine?”  So, I will tell you, I am doing good.  Like so many, it has been (3) weeks now that we have self-quarantined.  In these difficult and confusing times, it’s been comforting to be with my wife and (2) daughters, facing this together.  Each of us have been “finding our new normal.”  I have commandeered the dining room as my work space, while our daughters have each found their own place to attend classes online.  One blessing of being quarantined with my family is enjoying having lunch together and then 3 pm coffee time with my wife.  I think the most interesting change is that I am now the one hitting Costco, Kroger or Walmart just trying to find the essentials.  As I got ready yesterday and folded up my bandanna with some of my wife’s hair ties to create a makeshift mask, I felt a little like this guy…

Hahaha!  And I am happy to report that yesterday I hit “pay dirt!”

The media has created such a frenzy with non-stop coverage of empty shelves, the number of infected and sadly the death toll.  There is without a doubt a reason to be concerned and take precautions, but we need to not allow our lives to be driven by fear!  I was reading this YouVersion Easter reading plan called ‘Risen’ by Ray Johnston, and he had this great insight:

“Fear is the darkroom where negatives develop.”

Fear will cause us to act irrationally like hording toilet paper and can open the door to the enemy’s attack.  After I came home yesterday from Winco with my precious paper products, mind you I have not had paper towels in 3 weeks…talk about first world problems…I then gathered with my family to stream the church service.  And the ironic part, the sermon was called “Overcoming Fear” by Jimmy Evans.  This timely message was all about God wanting us to have peace, not fear!  He shared that:

“Fear is a prophet spirit from hell, sent to give us a negative report about the future that will upset us and cause us to make a fear-based decision that God will not honor.” 

That is so, so powerful!  How many fear-based decisions are being made right now?  The enemy loves to use fear as a weapon against us but 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) tells us:

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

Jimmy Evans also said that:

“God never uses fear!  He uses peace!” 

That got me thinking about the Jewish celebration of Passover this week and the word that they use for peace… “Shalom,” which as you may have guessed, is the inspiration of this post.  I asked a friend of mine who has a lot of knowledge about Judaism what is a trusted definition of the word Shalom and he said:

The basic definition is peace for sure.  But that peace, is a peace that goes beyond just peace with others, but peace with self, circumstances, emotions, etc.  More like the peace of a new born babe in his/her mother’s arms.  Like that.  Where things may be happening but finding that security in God.” 

What a powerful image right?  We can find peace in God like a baby has in its mother’s arms.

This past February, my wife and I went to the XO Marriage Conference and heard Dave and Ashley Willis talk about “Finding Peace in Marriage Conflicts.”  They shared this great definition for Shalom:

“Breaking the authority established by chaos.” 

That is what I believe many of us need to do!  We need to break the authority that we have allowed chaos to have over our lives.  Satan is the author of confusion and it is only when we take captive our thoughts that we can have True Shalom.  1 Corinthians 14:33a (NLT) reminds us…

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (“of Shalom” – see the Tree of Life Translation).

I just reading John chapter 14 in which Jesus comforted His Disciples about the end times.  He book-ended the chapter with an offer of peace.  John 14:1 (NLT) start off:

““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”” 

I love the comfort found in John 14:1.  This image reminded me of my many times in detention back in High School where the Dean had me write over and over “I will not _____ .” (Fill in the blank with whatever my offense was that day).  Hahaha!  I hated this punishment, but you know there is something about repetition that helps us learn the lesson.  The same is true for our Life…Jesus gave us the key to ANY situation…“Trust in God, and trust also in [Him].”  There is no better cure for anxiety than praying to the ONE who can comfort, heal and provide for us!

He meant this so much that at the end of the chapter, Jesus made this statement:

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27

So the question is, do you want to trust in the nightly news or the ONE who created you?  The ONE who is your true provider!  Jesus will provide much more than what your physical needs are, He with give you “peace of mind and heart!”  All you need to do is ask Him for it today.

Pray…Stay Safe in Quarantine…and of course wash your hands!

 

★★ Want to dig deeper? ★★ 

Here are a couple of articles about the Meaning of Shalom:

Check out this sermon called I’m Still Scared by Steven Furtick.

Here are additional posts on fear, doubt, and anxiety that I wrote over the past (6) years if you are interested in reading more on this topic…

  1. ★ Thought for the Day – Mastering Fear ★

  2. ★ Thought for the Day – Crippled By Doubt ★

  3. ★ Thought for the Day – got fear? ★

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

  5. ★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★

  6. ★ Thought for the Day – Fair-Weather Faith ★

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Consistency Compounds ★

Well we are 18 days into 2020, any revelations?  Do you have a Word for the New Year?  Or maybe I should say, have you asked God for one?  For those of you who may not have done this in the past, let me just pause a moment and explain.  Since 2015, as the year draws to an end, and a new page of the calendar is about to be flipped, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me a Word for the year.  Sometimes it has been a phrase and other times a single word.  Here are the past “Words/Phrases” so you can get an idea of what I mean:

If you are interested, just click on the link and you can read the associated post.  There have even been times that it comes before I even ask, as was the case this year.  It was December 29, 2019, and we were at my in-laws’ church in South Carolina that I felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me the word “CONSISTENCY” as my Word for the new year.  I heard John Maxwell at the Gateway Church Legacy Conference talk about consistency in a way I never heard before.  He said that it is the most underrated word in the dictionary which is not sexy or even something that you would love to be called but, in the end, CONSISTENCY COMPOUNDS.

When I think of “compounding,” my 401k comes to mind, and how the interest on the money over time gains momentum and produces a good return on my investment.  Well the same is true when you consistently apply yourself in an area of your life, whether that is committing to a daily quiet time with God, scheduling time at the gym to stay healthy or being intentional with cultivating genuine community with the people in your life.  It all comes down to discipline!  Something that I struggled with for most of my life, but I have come to realize that it is absolutely necessary in order to be consistent.  As Hebrews 12:11 (HCSB) reminds us:

“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

As I was looking into my Word for 2020, I came across this Minute With Maxwell called “A Non-Sexy Word That Leads to Greatness,” in which John Maxwell made this powerful point:

“Consistency is the ability to continually do the right thing every day regardless of whether the odds are for you, or the circumstances are favorable.  If you want to go to greatness, don’t go to greatness, go to consistency.  Practice it, that’s the path that will lead you to greatness.”

“Consistency is the ability to continually do the right thing every day!”  I love that!  And just like the verse in Hebrews, we must “practice it!”  No meaningful change happens without work and unfortunately it never happens overnight!  I read somewhere this quote that puts it perfectly…

Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”  John Maxwell

2020 is going to be the year that this will be true of me!  I want to be known as a man who is CONSISTENT in ALL areas of my life:

  • SPIRITUALLY…that my walk with Christ would be stronger than ever as I grow in my daily dependence on the Holy Spirit.
  • PHYSICALLY…that my health would be the best that it ever has been.
  • AND EMOTIONALLY…that my relationships with my wife, two daughters, friends and co-workers would be better than ever and life-affirming.

I am not going to grow in my relationship with Jesus and exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) unless I connect daily to follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of my life.  I wish after my workouts I would instantly see a difference in the mirror, but I don’t.  My target weight will only be achieved after months of effort.  The same is true for my relationships.  Unless I reach out and put in the effort to show the people in my life that I care and am invested in what matters to them, the connection will be surface level at best.

Over the past 20 days since I received my Word, I have been ruminating over this and looking for an example of someone who has modeled this in their life.  So here goes…

SPIRITUAL MODEL: DAVID.

Now you may be thinking, why would he not choose Jesus?  After all He is the only perfect person who ever lived!  While that is certainly true, I landed on David because he is the only human who is described as “a man after god’s own heart” in the Bible (see 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22).  David is a complex person and you may remember in our “Temptation Series,” that I used him as the example of what not to (see the post ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Lust (Part 3b) ★,) but even so, the scriptures are clear that David consistently chased after God with his whole heart!  As a main contributor to the Book of Psalms, you see the love, trust and devotion he had for the Father.  David said in Psalms 119:5 (NLT):

“Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!”

I want that to be true in my life!  That everything that I think, say or do would reflect God’s Word.  I read a commentary from David Guzik on Psalm 119:5 in which he said:

“This is not only a pious wish; it is also a prayer for the ability to obey God’s Word.  We received God’s commands understanding our lack of ability to keep those commands, apart from His work in us.”

To achieve this I know, I must have a consistent quiet time with God where I daily pray, read the bible and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life.  I have also found that Bible Studies with other believers have strengthen me as Proverbs 27:17 says.

PHYSICAL MODEL: MY WIFE.

Now before you start groaning and judging me that this is some self-serving sucking up, there is no one I know who has consistently made her health a priority in her life.  If you have been on this blog before, you no doubt have seen me post pictures from her Facebook page Fit Family in which she integrates her 3 loves – Faith, Family, and Fitness.  I have been married to her for over 20 years, and she has shown me day after day what it means to live a healthy life, one which is balanced with exercise and proper diet.  Not dieting, BUT good choices with correct portions.  My wife, who is very healthy and loves to workout, made this point to me in the past that the Holy Spirit just brought back to me remembrance, she said:

“You are so disciplined in your quiet time with God, why can’t you be disciplined in your health as well?”

Great question huh?  Now you may think this was rude, but it honestly said in love because she wants to keep me around for as long as possible!  Hahaha!   When she met me, working out and watching what I ate was NOT me at all.  I never exercised and I was a “biggie” size consumer, that the larger the portions, the better.  Through her example I have learned what a balanced life looks like, and over the years I have improved but I am far from consistent.  It is funny that what my wife challenged me with, is actually found in scripture!  I was just reading 3 John 1:2 (NLT) last week in which John offered this greeting to his friend Gaius:

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”

So, though I desire first and foremost, to be consistent in my spiritual walk, I realized that I need to be consistent in EVERY part of my life so part of my prayer for 2020 is that I am “as healthy in body as [I am] strong in spirit!”  Last year I hit 45, and with my mom dying from a stroke in 2016, it’s time that I commit to a consistently work at improving my health!

EMOTIONAL MODEL: FRED ROGERS.

Some may be thinking, who is Fred Rogers?!  Others may only know him only as Mr. Rogers, the much-loved host of the TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which was a permanent fixture on TV sets across the country, airing on PBS from 1968 to 2001.  Last Saturday we went to see the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” for the second time, and as I watched again Tom Hanks brilliantly portray the caring man who was so invested in helping kids understand the world, I was mesmerized all over again and thought this would be the perfect example of emotional consistency!  Interestingly enough, it was not until the credits that I discovered that the movie was based on the 1998 Esquire article called “CAN YOU SAY…“HERO”? by Tom Junod.

I looked up the article and was amazed to see the tag line under the title:

“Fred Rogers has been doing the same small good thing for a very long time.”

That is perfect!!  Both in the movie and in real life, Fred Rogers reached out to everyone and worked to connect on an emotional level that made you feel so special.  The author of the article was jaded by the world and in need of someone to care for him.  As I read the Esquire article, I was moved to tears to read story after story of how profoundly affected people were by this meek man of God who made a simple offer every time “Will you be my neighbor?”  One part that hit me really hard was this:   

“The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is!”  Amen?  Jesus made this clear in Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT) when answering the question from one of the experts in religious law who asked him which is the most important commandment?

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

The third part of my pray for 2020 is that I will consistently pursue a deeper connection with those in my life as modeled by Fred Rogers and to love my neighbor as much as I love myself!

So, I close with my original question…What’s your Word for 2020?  I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit for one, it is a great way to center your year as you delve into the Bible in 2020.

 

  DIG DEEPER

If you want to read more about the importance of Developing a Daily Quiet Time with God check out this post called:

★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★

If you want to read more about Discipline, check out this post called:

★ Thought for the Day – The Benefit of Discipline ★

If you want to read more about developing impactful relationships, check out this post called:

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

 

 

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★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 3 ★

We have been in a series unpacking the significance of the Holy Spirit, The Unsung Hero of the Trinity.  If you have missed the previous posts you can start here ★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 1 ★ in which we looked at the significance of not only reading the Bible but also asking the Holy Spirit to help reveal what God’s Will and purpose is contained within the pages.  In Part 2, we saw all the benefits that the Holy Spirit can bring to our lives and that through a relationship with “HIM,” how we can become more like Jesus.  At the end of that post, under the DIG DEEPER section, I shared a powerful sermon series called the “God I Never Knew” by Robert Morris.

Here is the series description to help you make the decision to watch them:

“The most misunderstood person in the Trinity is the Holy Spirit.  Many people don’t know how to interact with the Holy Spirit or what His presence offers us. In this six-week series, The God I Never Knew, Pastor Robert Morris clearly explains that the Holy Spirit’s chief desire is for relationship—to offer us the encouragement and guidance of a trusted friend.  He moves beyond theological jargon, religious tradition, and cultural misconceptions to clarify what the Holy Spirit promises to do in your life.”

I tell you all of this because I have never heard a more biblically sound, straight forward teaching on the Holy Spirit.  If you are struggling to wrap your mind around who I have been referring to as “The Unsung Hero of the Trinity” then this 6-week series is a must see!  I personally have watched it 3 times!  In addition to all that, I wanted to be upfront that I will be sharing a lot from Robert Morris in this post because of its applicability.  So far, we have talked about “WHY” we should desire a relationship with the Holy Spirit, today we will unpack “HOW” this happens.  I pray that God will open the eyes of your heart (Ephesians 1:18-19) to hear the heart cry of God to accept not only Jesus BUT also the Holy Spirit!  I believe that part of the trouble people have with this concept of building a relationship with the Holy Spirit is because the interaction with Him is from the inside.  Whereas there are numerous accounts all through the Old Testament where God spoke audibly to human beings (see ★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★ post where we looked at this); and obviously we have the (4) Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) of Jesus’ time here on earth as well as in Acts of the Apostles 1:4-9 (NLT) where the final instruction from Jesus is recorded…

“Once when He was eating with them, He commanded them,

“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift He promised, as I told you before.  John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. 

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him,

“Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied,

“The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  

After saying this, He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see Him.”

The very last words that Luke records here in the book of Acts revolves around the relationship that so many people ignore or are afraid of!  That is unbelievable to me which is why I am so passionate about the truth of Bible being taught.  I’d like to focus now on the two red underlined portions of that passage as they are the linchpin to our faith.  In the message “Does He Baptize?” Robert Morris covered that there are (3) scriptural baptisms and unpacks where each one it one is located in scripture.

“There are three baptisms in the New Testament:

The Holy Spirit baptizes us in Jesus;
(
1 Corinthians 12:13)
the disciples baptize us in water;
(
Matthew 28:19) and
Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit.
(
Matthew 3:11)”

I don’t think that there is a more divisive topic than the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Some people don’t believe that it is real, and others refuse to even consider it because of abuses they have experienced by Christians or Churches who have said or done things in the name of the Holy Spirit.  But when you read Matthew 3:11 (NLT), it is clear that it is real as John the Baptist made this declaration to everyone about Jesus:

“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God.  But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals.  He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

This was not to the (12) disciples but to everyone who was around as John was calling people to repentance and baptizing them.  Robert Morris made this point that since the Gospel of John covers the last year of Jesus’ life, while  Matthew, Mark and Luke cover first (2) years of Jesus’ ministry, there are very few things that are in all (4) Gospels.  In fact, there are only (4) stories in common:

  1. The Death of Jesus. (Matthew 27:45-56, Mark 15:33-41, Luke 23:44-56, and John 19:28-42)
  2. The Resurrection of Jesus. (Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10)
  3. The Feeding of the 5,000. (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-20, and John 6:1-15)
  4. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 and John 1:33)

Isn’t it interesting that The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is so significant that it is only 1 of 4 stories that mention that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Now if this is the case don’t you think that we should do everything possible to develop a relationship with Him.  Recently I read 1 John 4:4 in the New Living Translation (NLT) and my eyes were opened!  1 John 4:4 (NLT) says:

“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”

Notice the capital “S” which is for the Holy Spirit and then the second reference with the lowercase “s” which represents the satanic forces that are coming against us daily.  I had misunderstood this verse because in other versions it says “He” so I thought it was referencing Jesus but as I have always said context is everything – Take a look at John 1:1-4, it is clear that the passage is referencing the Holy Spirit!

I truly believe we are living in the end days (which you can read about the post ★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★) and if we are going to win the war we’re in then we must change our approach in our defenses!  And if you want to know how to defeat Satan and his minions, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit!!

I have always loved 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT) which says…

“Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

But just recently I noticed verse 19 which I think cannot be discounted:

“Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.”

Could it be that if we “stiff-arm” the Holy Spirit we jeopardize the ability to follow God’s will for us to be joyful, praying and thankful in all circumstances?

I will close with this prophetic passage from Joel 2:28-29 (NLT) about The Lord’s Promise of His Spirit which was penned 800 years before Jesus was born:

“Then, after doing all those things,
    I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your old men will dream dreams,
    and your young men will see visions.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    even on servants—men and women alike.”

Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on verse Joel 2:29…

“We live in the great day when God has poured out His Spirit on all believers in Christ, filling them and empowering them to serve Him in holiness and great joy.  (Romans 8:11).  God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us in full measure at the point of salvation.  However, a Spirit-filled believer is one who has surrendered himself or herself completely to the control of the Holy Spirit.  We permit the Spirit to empower us in greater measure by submitting to God in obedience.  Are you allowing the Lord to fill you today?”

So, do you see Holy Spirit having a vital role in your life and if not, will you make a change today?  The power of the Holy Spirit is available for all believers in Jesus Christ.  You can tap into the limitless resources of God, all you need to do is ask.  I want to challenge you to ask God to activate the Holy Spirit in your life so that the “Fruit” will be evident and the gifts of the Spirit will be released in your life to put feet to your faith and to minister to those people that are in your life!

  DIG DEEPER

Check out these related posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★

★ Thought for the Day – When in Rome ★

Robert Morris wrote a book called The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life

 

 

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★ Back to the Basics – The Unsung Hero of the Trinity – Part 2 ★

In yesterday’s post, I shared John Piper’s article and sermon “The Holy Spirit: Author of Scripture” in which he said that:

“The Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture.  If this doctrine is true, then the implications are so profound and far-reaching that every part of our lives should be affected.”

I wholeheartedly believe that there should be evidence in your life that you are pursuing God.  Another way to refer to it is “fruit.”  If we are truly pursuing God and trying to be more like Jesus, then we should see The Fruit of the Spirit manifested in ever-increasing amounts.  Galatians 5:22-25 (NASB) says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

Each weekday I have the privilege to be a part of Bible Studies in which I try to challenge the men at the table to press in and seek to gain knowledge about the faith that they profess.  I have been having conversations with them in the past 6 months asking, “What do you think of the Holy Spirit?”  The answers have been quite amazing and revealing on how the devil has blinded believers in regards to the Holy Spirit’s role in our life.  God has been stirring in my heart that belief in the Trinity is paramount to the health of the church and the growth of each believer.  I recently finished a devotional from Max Lucado in which he made this point about the Holy Spirit:

“If you want to see believers hem, haw, and search for words, just ask, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” Most believers understand the Father and the Son, but they are perplexed about the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  It’s as if they’ve settled for a two-thirds God.”  (From the YouVersion reading plan ‘Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives On The Promises Of God’.)

What do you think?  Do you believe 2 out 3 is enough?  “Are you settling for a two-thirds God,” that loving God and accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is enough??  It’s almost like people are living with an understanding of 1 Corinthians 8:6 (NLT) only:

“But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live.  And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.”

While belief in the Father and Son is critical, we must learn that about the 3rd person in the Trinity who is equally important.  In the post called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Whose Body Are You A Part Of? ★, we unpacked that the church is ONE body and that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body, (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).  The Holy Spirit is part of the Triune or Trinity; consisting of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who are all omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (ever-present always).

It would be good to read that post in tandem with this one as we will not cover the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” at all as we covered that already in that post, other than to say how important it is that we operate in them!  (See 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 for the list of gifts available).  But I think that there are many who claim to know the Holy Spirit yet are living a life of powerlessness.  Francis Chan referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Forgotten God.”  He said:

So, the first question I have for you…Do you know that the Holy Spirit is a person?  He is not some vapor or an “it,” as were some of the responses to my question.  Some guys straight out said they did not know much about the Holy Spirit at all.  And some beliefs expressed were not biblically based but rather what a denomination taught them.  The Holy Spirit really is the Unsung Hero of the Trinity.  Now you may think that that is a leap but by the end of this series I pray that your mind will be opened to how amazing the He is.  There are so many instances that the Holy Spirit does not receive the praise for all that He does in our lives and worse than that, He is oftentimes called an “it” or stiff-armed or rejected as something “weird” and to be avoided.  The funny thing is, if people just opened the Bible, they would see how many references that clearly show that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person.  For me, I love John 14:15-17 (NLT) when Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to the His Disciples:

“If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.  The world cannot receive Him, because it isn’t looking for Him and doesn’t recognize Him.  But you know Him, because He lives with you now and later will be in you.” 

Look at how many times Jesus references the Holy Spirit as “He” or “Him.”  I was just reading the first book of the Bible and look at WHO is mentioned in verse 2!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”  Genesis 1:1-2 (NLT)

I have read those verses over and over and until now I have never noticed that the Holy Spirit is mentioned at the very beginning of The Account of Creation!  And then in Genesis 1:26a (NLT) it says:

“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in OUR image, to be like us.””

I have always read verse 26 as God and Jesus, BUT how can you ignore that the Holy Spirit is mentioned long before Jesus is.  We are made in the image of the Holy Trinity, including the Holy Spirit.  When we push away the Holy Spirit or refuse to invite Him into our life, it is just like rejecting God the Father or God the Son because we were made in God the Holy Spirit’s image too!  Why is this important?  Because when we push away Holy Spirit, we are disconnecting ourselves from the power source.  In Acts 1:8 (NLT), just before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He said to the disciples:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Holy Spirit is a gift to us from God the Father for us to help us to tell everyone about Jesus to spread the Good News.  Before Jesus left He also said in John 16:7-14 (NLT)…

“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come.  If I do go away, then I will send Him to you.  And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.  The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.  Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever He receives from me.”

Advocate means “a person who pleads on someone else’s behalf.”  The Holy Spirit intercedes and works on our behalf to help understand God’s Will for our life.  Robert Morris said it this way:

Jesus said in John 14:26 (ESV)…

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

The Holy Spirit offers so much to anyone who will just ask.  Unfortunately, so many Christians are ignorant of all that He can provide and have believed the lie that then enemy saturated the church into believing that you should stay as far away as possible because the Holy Spirit is “out there” for those crazy believers.

Jesus taught about prayer in Luke 11:1-12, after His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  Part of that teaching is a prayer referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” which is a great model prayer for every believer to go to the Father.  Interestingly though as we have seen time and time again, the Holy Spirit is quickly mentioned right after Jesus concludes with the prayer in Luke 11:13 (ESV)…

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Right there it shows that we need to Go to God the Father and ask for the Holy Spirit in our life!  I will close with this last thought.  If you were to survey Christians with this question, “What is your purpose here on Earth?”  Some common responses may be:

  • To glorify God in all that I say and do.
  • To seek first His righteousness above all else!
  • To become more and more like Jesus.
  • To make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

I dare say that all of that can be can be accomplished by asking the Holy Spirit to be a vital part of your day to day life.  My word for 2019 that I felt impressed upon me was “Transformed.”  As we were going through 2 Corinthians in December with one of the Bible Studies, we came up Chapter 3 verses 17-18 (NLT)

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  So, all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.  And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

That is so good!  What great insight to see the significance that the Holy Spirit plays in accomplishing God’s Will while honoring Him and witnessing to the world.  Do you want to know how we become more like Jesus?  Well the Apostle Paul just showed us, though the Holy Spirit!  My prayer for 2019 and I hope yours to is to be changed more and more into His glorious image!  I want the faith I have in God to spread far and wide!  Lord may I be a useful conduit of your love, grace and forgiveness to flow to everyone I encounter!  Holy Spirit please give me power to be more and more like Jesus!  Amen!

Click Here for Part 2 for the culmination of our series into the Holy Spirit and what we must do!

★ ★ ★ DIG DEEPER ★ ★ ★ 

Check out this related post:

★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Plug or a Conduit? ★

 

To help you grow in your knowledge of the Holy Spirit check out this 6-part series called the “God I Never Knew” by Robert Morris along with the description.

Who Is He? | Sermon 1 | The God I Never Knew Series | Robert Morris

Pastor Robert begins The God I Never Knew series with a message titled, “Who Is He?” where he teaches us about the character of the Holy Spirit.

Is He a Person? | Sermon 2 | The God I Never Knew Series | Robert Morris

Pastor Robert continues The God I Never Knew series with a message titled, “Is He a Person?” where he shows us through Scripture that the Holy Spirit has a mind, will, and emotions.

Is He Pentecostal? | Sermon 3 | The God I Never Knew Series | Robert Morris

Pastor Robert continues The God I Never Knew series with a message titled, “Is He Pentecostal?” where he defines the word “Pentecostal” and explains what happened on Pentecost.

Is He Charismatic? | Sermon 4 | The God I Never Knew Series | Robert Morris

Pastor Robert continues The God I Never Knew series with a message titled, “Is He Charismatic?” where he describes the different gifts of the Spirit.

Does He Baptize? | Sermon 5 | The God I Never Knew Series | Robert Morris

Pastor Robert continues The God I Never Knew series with a message called “Does He Baptize?” where he covers the three scriptural baptisms.

Does He Speak in Tongues? | Sermon 6 | The God I Never Knew Series | Robert Morris

Pastor Robert concludes The God I Never Knew series with a message called “Does He Speak in Tongues?” where he explains the scriptural basis for having a prayer language.

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – The End is Near…? ★

Today we are going to off ramp from our Temptation Series and take a look at what the Bible has to say about “The End Times.”  For those who may not know what I am referring when I say “The End Times,” let me give you the Cliff Notes overview from a Christian perspective or worldview.  You may have also heard of it referred to as the end of time, end of days, last days, final days, or Armageddon.  It is a future time-period described in the last book of the Bible called Revelation.  John, the last surviving disciple of Jesus Christ was visited on the Island of Patmos by Jesus Himself.  He was given a unique glimpse of what future events will come to pass.  Within the 22 chapters of this book of prophecy, John is shown some terrifying judgments for the people left behind after the Jesus “raptures” or takes up His Church.  People who do not believe in Jesus at the time He returns will go through what is called the Tribulation, a 7 year period of judgement and great suffering.  This will precede the second coming of Christ which is spoken about in Chapter 19 of Revelation.  In the final battle between good and evil, Jesus will throw down the Antichrist along with his power structure and usher in the Kingdom of God with His Millennial reign (a thousand years of peace.)  This doctrine is called “Premillennialism.”  Here is a chart I found that is a great visual to help understand the timeline.

Even though we are pausing from the Pitfalls of Temptation, one could say that many of the signs that we are living in the End Times is indicative of the rampant immorality and yielding to carnal desires.  So do you think we are living in the End Times?  I saw this comic which made me chuckle…

In my teenage years and early 20’s, I was in NYC often whether for recreation or attending college.  I have seen people on the street corner and subway station with a sandwich board or sign proclaiming loudly this message that “The end is near!”  Many passerby’s, inducing myself avoided eye contact but you have to admit when you turn on the nightly news or check your twitter feed, the similarities are undeniable.  Jesus said in Luke 21:8-11  (NLT) in response to His disciples of what will be the signs that the “End Times” are near:

“He replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and saying, ‘The time has come!’  But don’t believe them.  And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic.  Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.”  

Then He added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.”

Sound familiar?  Sounds a lot like that “crazy guy with the sandwich board,” but more importantly it is what CNN is reporting daily.  Before you start to think that I have gone off the deep end, I want to assure you that if you call yourself a Christian or Christ follower there is nothing to fear because Jesus will come back and Rapture [or take up] His Church to Heaven before all the terrifying events occur that the Book of Revelation tells of, (see Luke 17:26-35.)

Typically there are two positions that people take towards “End Times” prophecy and reading the Book of Revelation…either they will avoid it at all costs because of fear or because of the complexity.  Or they will embrace it and try to learn and understand this elusive book.  I fall in the discovery category myself and recently I have been spending a lot of time studying the subject.  In full disclosure, I am far from an expert on the subject matter but I have in the course of my walk with God I have listened to great teachings from:

  • Kevin Brennan, (my Pastor from our old church in NJ who led me to Christ in 1998.)
  • Woodrow Kroll, (the former radio host of “Back to the Bible” and a spiritual giant in my development as a Christian after I was saved.)
  • And most recently Jimmy Evans (who you may know from Marriage Today.)

My resurgence in to studying the Book of Revelation was actually fueled by my 13-year-old daughter who asked to read it with her.  When I asked her out all the books to read, why Revelation?  She responded:

“Because it is a complicated book and I want to understand it!”       

At first I was hesitant because I felt unqualified to lead her in the readings but in the end we read it together along with the Charles Stanley Life Principles Study Bible and it was incredible!  I am also a firm believer of what Revelation 1:3 (ESV) says:

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

So if you are fearful or reluctant to read this mysterious book of prophecy, I want to encourage you to start reading it for yourself along with a good study Bible from with a respected teacher.  As I have been taking in as much End Times teaching as I can to share with my daughter, I listened to an incredible series from Jimmy Evans who preached from 5 different vantage points that demonstrate how we could very well be living in the End Times.  (I have copied the links below if you want to check out for yourself.)  As I was listening to one of the messages, Jimmy Evans shared 2 Timothy 3:1-8 (ESV) which talks about the “Godlessness in the Last Days”…

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be

1.    lovers of self,
2.    
lovers of money,
3.    proud,
4.    arrogant,
5.    
abusive,
6.    
disobedient to their parents,
7.    
ungrateful,
8.    
unholy,
9.    
heartless,
10.  
unappeasable,
11.  slanderous,
12.  
without self-control,
13.  
brutal,
14.  
not loving good,
15.  
treacherous,
16.  
reckless,
17.  
swollen with conceit,
18.  
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
19.  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. 

Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.”

I “bulletized” or restructured this passage to go along with the observation Jimmy Evans made about how the Apostle Paul uses (19) different measures of the immorality in the End Times.  Jimmy Evans said:

“Why does he use 19?  It explains the full spectrum of immorality.  Immorality isn’t just about sexuality.  Immorality is about our character.  And when a person becomes immoral, it affects every fiber of their character.  It’s like cancer.  Once you become immoral it just goes into every area of your being…Immorality destroys people’s lives.”

2 Timothy was written circa A.D. 66-67, so when you read this list it is quite interesting to see how much our culture, almost 2,000 years after these words were penned, perfectly reflects this passage!  Immorality is all about our character and we must be very careful about the compromise we allow into our lives.  I wholeheartedly agree that immortality is like a cancer that will eat us away if we do not keep up our defenses.  Jimmy Evans broke down these (19) measures into (4) categories:

1.  Exultation of Self and Narcissism
2.  Rejection of Authority
3.  Rejection of Moral Standards
4.  Disloyal, Unloving and Verbally Viscous  

Before Jesus Christ intersected my life in August 1998, I must confess that many of these categories were true in my life.  As I shared with you in the last post ★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding the Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs (Part 2) ★, my life was full of unrighteous behaviors and as we unpack all the pitfalls or traps we can find ourselves from the various temptations that Satan lays out in front of us, every one of them can fall into one of these (4) categories.  Psalm 14:1 (ESV) says:

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”

BUT for those who know they are a sinner and believe in God’s plan of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, you will see that there is hope though the restorative work of Jesus in us!  This week on the Church calendar is called “Holy Week,” which is the remembrance of all the events that led up to Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, death, burial and resurrection.

It started on:

For the believer this is a special week as we remember the brutal sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross as part of God’s rescue plan for humanity.  John 3:16 says:

Praise God that He made a way for us to have eternal life!  I love this graphic that illustrates our need perfectly…

The matter is black and white.  SIN is the PROBLEM and JESUS is the ANSWER!  Our choices, the temptations we decide to indulge in will lead to sin, which then in turn separates us from God.  We can try all kinds of things to bridge the gap from doing “good deeds” or trying to be “religious” or deceiving ourselves that we are moral because we haven’t done ______ (fill in the blank) like he/she has.  BUT hear me in this; NOTHING can help us cross the divide except faith in Jesus!  2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) 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.” 

All past, present, and future sins that anyone will ever make was paid once one and for all on the cross when Jesus took our place.  Every person that will ever call on Jesus is covered by His redemptive blood and is available to anyone who asks (see Ephesians 2:8-9.)

If you are reading this and have never made the choice to follow Jesus, I want to encourage you accept God’s salvation plan through the death and resurrection of His Son.  All you need to do is pray to God to receive eternal life.  Below is a simple 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.

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!)  You can contact me at DailyDependence@gmail.com if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ; I would love to discuss your decision more.

Now for those who are believers in Christ and you have the truth in you so the second coming of Jesus should not be something to worry about, nor should reading the book of Revelation be something to fear or dread.  As believers in Christ, (including those of you who may have just prayed that prayer to receive Christ…) we will not experience any of the frightening imaginary that John speaks of.  I believe it is important to study Bible prophecy because though the cross and resurrection is critical to remember and be thankful for, even more importantly is the fact that Jesus is now on His throne in Heaven making intersection between us and God the Father (see Romans 8:32-34.)

The cross is the emblem for the Christian faith but He’s not on it anymore and ultimately unless we study prophecy we will not know the signs and the times of His Second coming.  We must not be ignorant of the future.  Revelation 16:15 (NLT) says:

“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief!  Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.”

Jesus used similar language in Luke 12:37-40 when He warned everyone to be ready for His Second Coming.  The Apostle Paul also described the second coming of Christ as “a thief in night” 1 Thessalonians 5:2.  And in 2 Peter 3:10, the Apostle Peter also said the same thing “the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief.”  The enemy wants you scared but the only people who need to be afraid are those who are not following Jesus.  Read the verse again “Blessed are all who are watching for me.”  We should all be eager for His return. 

Many people question “why do bad things happen to good people” and “why do good things happen to bad people.”  The answer…Sin.  We live in a broken and fallen world and just like those (19) measures of Godlessness that we read earlier in 2 Timothy, there is without a doubt evil in this world but take heart, judgement is coming for all those who commit unspeakable acts and refusing to repent and turn to God.  Revelation 19:11-16 (NKJV) gives a vivid picture of Christ’s return on a White Horse:

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

This imaginary could be disturbing but if you are a believer in Jesus, there is nothing to worry about.  I love what Woodrow Kroll said:

“The book of Revelation is a great book of encouragement if you are on the right side.  You have to be on the victory side.”

And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the victory side is with Jesus!  Revelation 11:15 (ESV) says:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Jesus is coming back for all His followers and then will judge the world after the 7 year tribulation has ended.  I want to ask one more question for those who still are undecided on whether to accept Jesus as your savior or not…

If you were to die today, would you be ready to meet Jesus?  Are you right now ready to stand before Jesus? 

I urge you not to wait until it is too late.  Like Jimmy Evans, I too believe we are living in the End Times and the last thing you want to do is to delay the decision to follow Christ and be left behind when Jesus returns for His Church! 

The Choice is yours, what will you do with this truth you received today?

 

Today’s post covered a lot of ground so to help you in your development; here are several different resources…

If you would like to read more about God’s restorative power check out:

★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★

Though we are halfway through I made a Holy Week Reading Plan to read in my own devotion time if you would like to follow along with the last week of Jesus’ last week on Earth.

If you want to catch up on our Temptation Series you can check out these

★ Thought for the Day – Avoiding a Whole “LOT” of Trouble ★

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

If you would like to study more on the End Times here are the resources that I mentioned earlier:

  • Back to the Bible broadcasts from Woodrow Kroll called:

Journey through Revelation

  • Sermon series from Jimmy Evans on the End Times called:

 Israel at a Tipping Point

 Truth at a Tipping Point

Technology at a Tipping Point

Time at a Tipping Point

Morality at a Tipping Point

 

Continue reading

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

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

106 - Daily Dependence - Mr. Owl Socks

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

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

It seemed like this commercial stayed on the air forever.

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

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

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

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,  

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

 Jesus answered,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Proverbs 19:11 (NIV1984) says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,  I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

Truth # 3…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness In Action ★

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – What’s On The Inside? ★

Have you ever participated in a white elephant gift exchange?  I know Christmas is over but as I was thinking about this Thought for the Day I could not help but think about the popular gift-giving experience where people contend with one another to walk away with the best present. Though there are many different options on how to conduct the exchange, everyone brings a gift to contribute to a common pile, in which participants draw names or numbers to determine what order they will go in.  As each person makes their choice and discovers what they have gotten, each subsequent person has the opportunity to steal it away.  It never fails, even though I try to size up what is on the inside of the mystery gift, I always chose the wrong present and no one ever steals what I end up with.  Hahaha!

At the top of the year I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – Living A Lasting Legacy ★, which was about making the most out the “brief time on earth,” to make an impact on the future generation, not just for my children, but for my children’s children!  Today’s Thought will build upon this idea of a Living A Lasting Legacy to give some practical application.  If you have a pulse, you should be thinking about what kind of impact you are making on the relationships in your life whether it is with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or even strangers.  God has put these people into our lives for a reason, and it is our responsibility not to waste the opportunity.  I love what Marvin J. Ashton said,

“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.” 

“Leave people better than you found them.”  I am a firm believer of that way of living.  Just a couple days ago I was listening to a podcast from Louie Giglio called “The Piñata and the Iceberg,” in which he contrasted the decorative cardboard and paper mache animal containing candy, and the significance of the large floating mass of ice.  In the message, he made this powerful point:

“The Piñata is a picture of the culture we live in.  We live in hollow days.  Richard J. Foster said it this way,

91 - Daily Dependence - Richard J Foster - Superficiality is the Curse of Our Age
‘Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.’

It is a difference to being a piñata in the world or being an iceberg in the world…An iceberg is what it is because of the substance that you cannot immediately see.  It’s what is below the surface that makes an iceberg something of substance.”

That is what I want to be, a man of substance.  A man who has depth and always on mission as Paul stated in Acts 20:24 (NLT)… 

91 - Daily Dependence - Acts 20-24 - Tell Others About Grace of God“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

After sharing this with the guys in my life group, there was some great conversation on what it means to be a Man of Substance.  One of threads from the group text was this great listing that I just have to share in its entirety because it’s just that good…

“There is more to being a Man of Substance than just holding everyone accountable to just the spiritual side.  I believe it’s a balance with a lot of different aspects.  This is what we as men need to work on if we are going to do this.  

Areas of Concern:  

  1. 91 - Daily Dependence - James 1-22 - Just Do ItAlone time with Christ.
  2. Alone time with wife.
  3. Alone time with kids.
  4. Alone time with yourself. 
  5. Alone time with guys only.

Non-Negotiables as Men:

  1. Provider of family – Full Time Job.
  2. Financial steward of money – Tithe
  3. Physical activity – Exercise. 
  4. Protector of family – Boundaries. 
  5. Spiritual leader of home – Modeling. 

I believe Jesus’s brother James nailed it when he said, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  James 1:22. 

We not need to “Just Do It!”  Otherwise we are just fooling ourselves!  What a great list of how to be a Man or Substance…and I dare say you could extrapolate that list to be a guide for how to be a Woman of Substance as well.  I truly believe that these items are exactly what God wants for us, and are practical stepping stones to move us away from the “piñata culture” of superficiality and hollowness to a life as an iceberg that has great depth.

91 - Daily Dependence - Matthew 6-33Jesus’ gave this command in Matthew 6:33 (ESV)…

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

If God is not a priority, and if we are not chasing after Him with all our heart, then the chances of getting the rest correct on that list is slim to none in my opinion. I love that list, and I completely agree with everything on it…Balancing all the aspects of life is essential…but God MUST BE FIRST and once that is case, all the other aspects will begin to fall into place.

Here are some suggestions that will help you to center your life on God and seek after His Kingdom and His righteousness. These are strategies that I learned and implemented from Todd McIntyre, the Men’s Pastor at Gateway Church which has helped me greatly develop in my spiritual maturity:

  1. Daily quiet time (usually before my family gets up,) filled with prayer, journaling and reading scripture (sometimes a reading plan and other times a section of a book of the Bible.) You can read more about this in the post ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, which is all about developing your Spiritual Maturity.
  1. Fast and pray from sundown to sundown once a week for sanctification and revival in my life, (usually on Monday.)
  1. Meditate on, and write a “Thought for the Day” once a week that God has been speaking into my spirit and heart. This was not from Pastor Todd by was a natural outflow from my quiet time, and ultimately that is how this Blog was born!

I don’t share this to brag but rather to give a model of what has worked for me to develop my spiritual fitness and deepen my walk with God.  I certainly don’t always get this right, or do it all perfectly but I try…and these habits have resulted in “Becoming a Glacier” as Louie Giglio described in the sequel to the “The Piñata and the Iceberg.”  To become a glacier is a slow, purposeful process over a prolonged period which is synonymous with steadfastness or sanctification that will lead to becoming more and more like Jesus.  The key is patience…

“Impatience is the nemesis to habit.”  Louie Giglio   

So the choice is yours, what will you decide?  Continue down the path of superficiality or will you heed Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:33 and dig deeper?  I will close with this quote that I read somewhere…

“Faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if GOD hands you a shovel.”

It is going to take work and time but it’s worth it, I promise you!

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Living A Lasting Legacy ★

90 - Daily Dependence - Star Wars The Force AwakensThree weeks ago, as part of the “25 Days of Thankfulness” series I shared about my experience seeing Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in the ★ Day 18 – Reason for the Season – Jesus Is _____ ★ post. and promised no spoilers at that time.  Well…The Force Awakens’s current box office totals worldwide have reached $1.73 billion (at the time of this post,) placing it third on the all-time list so I feel like it is safe to share a major SPOILER, especially since #HanSoloDies was a trending topic the weekend the Hollywood blockbuster opened up.  Yes it’s true, a major anchor to the Star Wars Universe has been killed off in one of the worst ways imaginable…by his own son,  Patricide is not a new phenomenon by any stretch, throughout history and in the Bible records of this heinous act, but I think there is a powerful lesson played out from Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and it’s sequel that is now breaking box office history.

90 - Daily Dependence - Star Wars - Generational Curse

In the climax of the 1983 trilogy film (Return of the Jedi,) Luke Skywalker helps his father take off his mask so that he can look on his son with his own eyes.  In a beautiful moment of redemption, Anakin Skywalker ceases to be the Evil Darth Vader and finds peace in the sacrificial act of saving Luke from being killed by the Emperor.  Fast forward 32 years…The Force Awakens shows a powerful scene of Kylo Ren speaking to the charred remains of Darth Vaders infamous mask while donning one of his own.  Unlike his Uncle Luke, there is not a battle raging within pulling him to the Dark Side, but rather to the Light Side.  In the moment that Kylo Ren (aka Ben Solo), kills his father Han Solo, the last emotional tie is severed ushering him to fully join the Dark Side.  To me this was great depiction of the warning between God and Moses when the second set of the Ten Commandments was completed.  Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV) records,

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Luke may have escaped of his father’s iniquity or sin but the generational curse continued to his grandson Kylo Ren who embraced the Dark Side and followed in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Last year we kicked off the year with this ★ Thought for the Day – Unstoppable Determination for God’s Holiness ★, which was all about stripping away the unnecessary junk in our lives and pursuing God in every area including reading His Word, the Bible.  This year, God has been speaking this into my Spirit about “living out a lasting  legacy.”  I read this a long time ago and it has always remained with me…

“You didn’t bring anything into this world and you won’t bring anything out.  What will you leave?”

Legacy is not a new concept to me…it has always been part of my DNA markup, but this year I felt the nudge from the Holy Spirit to devote myself even more to it.  If you have been following this blog, you may recall that 2 part series that we posted called ★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course ★ about learning from King Solomon’s failure to overcome temptations and 90 - Daily Dependence - 2015 Washed Away★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course…Part 2 ★ about handling money God’s way.  If you are starting this year out like most people, making resolutions, whether it is going back to the gym to lose weight or committing to living on a budget, both these “Thoughts” can be an encouragement to motivate you to that end.  Today’s “Thought for the Day” however is going in a different direction.  I want to delve into the opposite of generational curses…to focus on how we can have a positive impact on others…If you will indulge me for one more Star Wars parallel…how to avoid Kylo Ren’s downward spiral to the Dark Site and embrace the Light Side as Luke Skywalker did.

As a husband and father of two daughters, I can tell you that “providing” for my family is a top priority in my life.  We have been blessed that my wife has been able to be a stay-at-home mom, (…which I might add is a much tougher job then mine…) but that obviously has resulted in sacrifices that we have made being a single income family.  There is also another force that comes against us, (Star Wars pun intended,) which is the continual comparison or pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses.”  I would be lying if I said that it did not bite us every now and then.  The spirit of “Mammon” or devotion to wealth building pervades our culture and no matter how content we are with what God has provided it does not make us immune to the effect the Spirit of Mammon can have on us all.  People spend so much time working hard to climb the corporate ladder, to live in the right neighborhood, to drive a nice car, to be a success…but should that be our focus?  Robert Morris spoke about this in the sermon called “Breaking the Spirit of Mammon“…

“Jesus said, ‘You can’t serve God and mammon!’  What is mammon?  It’s the prideful, arrogant spirit that rests on money that hasn’t been submitted to God; but money that is submitted to and serves God is blessed by God!”

If you want to delve deeper into how to handle your finances God’s way, check out the posts we have group together called “Building Your Money Muscle.”

Regardless of your age or gender, we all have the same amount of time in a day to set our priorities and decide how it will be spent…Will it be spent on self-centered activities whether it be on social media, gaming or working 60-70 hours a week to get that promotion…OR will it be spent on things that really matter?  The people in our life should be or focus.  I read this quote the other morning and thought it was not only great insight on what legacy is but also a great visual!

"Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.  A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you."   Shannon L. Alder 
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.  A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”   Shannon L. Alder 

Having proper time management is key!  It reminds of this great 1998 country song from Billy Ray Cyrus called “Busy Man,” which had this powerful hook in the song…

“Have you ever seen a headstone with these words
If only I had spent more time at work”

This is something that I wrestle with all the time!  Balancing the demands of work and making sure that my family does not pay the price.  I shared this quote in the ★ Thought for the Day – What Does Your Schedule Look? ★ from Bill Hybels that really brings it home for me…

“My schedule is far less about what I need to get done and more about what I want to become.” 

I could not agree with that more!  We all have to decide for ourselves, what will our schedule look like, because in the end what you choose to allow to dominate your schedule will affect everything and everyone in your life whether you are teenager, married or an empty nester.  The time you take, your example and character can forever change a life and your family’s legacy forever!

“Your legacy is the influence you leave behind.  Will you be missed?  Don’t waste your life, invest it!”  Jack Graham

That is so powerful…“Your legacy is the influence you leave behind.”  I also love what Andy Stanley had to say on the subject…

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.” 

My constant prayer is to be an Ephesians 5:25 husband, a Deuteronomy 11:18-19 father and a Colossians 3:12 servant to all!  I want to love my wife better…love my children better…and love others better.  Until I am on the other side of heaven there will never be a point that I am not working on becoming a better man.  I fully believe what Mark Batterson said in his Draw the Circle devotional…

“The greatest legacy a person can leave is a complete surrender of their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ. If we don’t hold out on God, God won’t hold out on us. Take God at His promises as expressed by the psalmist: “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” [Psalm 84:11]  And these good things will pass from generation to generation and become great things.”

As we kick off this new year, just 13 days in, I want to encourage you to put God first and foremost!  Then your family next and after that all the people in your life…friends, co-workers, acquaintances…”Be present” and involved in their lives and I promise you will leave the lasting legacy that really matters!  No this is not “popular,” or “normal” in our culture or in the workplace, but press on nonetheless and you will never be disappointed!  Psalms 39:4-7 (NLT) has some great insight of setting the right priorities!!

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.  You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.  We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.  We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you.”

My hope and prayer is that I am making the most out of my “brief time on earth,” that I will make an impact on the future generation, not just for my children but my children’s children!  I want to be a “real man” in God’s eyes rather than the world’s eyes!  I will close with this thought from John Maxwell…

“We can choose today what we want people to say about us tomorrow at our funeral…If you want to really visualize your legacy tomorrow, value it today…Do the things today that you want them to say about you tomorrow because today determines that. What’s wonderful about your legacy is that… You can start working on it this very moment.”

What Will Your Legacy Be?  What has God been speaking into your spirit?

Here is my prayer for you…

“[I] pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9b-10 (ESV)

 

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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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★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas vs. X-mas – Part 2 ★

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

08 - Daily Dependence - Christmas or X-masLast year we posted ★ Thought for the Day – Christmas or X-Mas? ★ where we looked at the evolution of the word Christmas to its abbreviated form of “X-Mas” and how Jesus has been “X-ed” out of Christmas.  08 - Daily Dependence - X-ing Christ OutI highly recommend you read the original post for the context//background as I plan to build upon it, (not repeat the content.)  The main idea is how do you “X” Christ out when “Christmas begins with Christ?”

08 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Begins With Christ

This year is the 50th anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which today is still my favorite cartoon to watch!  It is amazing to me that back in 1965, when it first aired, how pervasive materialism must have been to inspire the TV special.  If you have not seen it, the main character Charlie Brown is struggling with depression and trying to understand the meaning of Christmas as everyone around him is focused on themselves and what they can get.  I wonder how creator Charles Schulz would feel about today’s atmosphere.  There was a special on TV the other week commemorating the golden anniversary which gave some interesting insight into Schultz’s insistence that the crux to the show was Linus quoting the Luke 2:8-14 of the Kings James Version in which the scene lasted 51 seconds!  08 - Daily Dependence - Linus - For Unto You is Born a SaviourBig investment and gamble but it paid off!  And at the end of that near minute recitation Linus concluded with the simple statement that,

“ . . . And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,”

At the time, CBS executives saw the final product and were horrified, believing the special would be a complete flop and wanted to “X” it out but 50 years later, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” continues to air every season that is a testimony to God’s Word having tremendous power, even with how hostile the culture is towards Jesus!  (If you missed it, we delved into this a little more in the ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★.)

Today we will build upon this reality of “X-ing” Christ out of the Christmas by contrasting it with a man whose followers tried to set him up as the Messiah which was the first attempt to “X” or replace Jesus.  The next part of the Christmas story that we are going to look at is the Birth of John the Baptist as recorded in Luke 1:57-66 (NLT).  When we last left Zachariah in ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★, the Angel Gabriel disciplined his disbelief by rendering him mute until the events that he foretold came to pass.  After John was born and they went to the temple to circumcise and name the baby “John,” Elizabeth was met with opposition because no one in the family was named that and insisted that he be named after his father Zechariah.  Luke 1:63-66 (NLT) records Zachariah’s atonement and restoration for His faith,

“He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.

Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills.  Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’  For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.”

That last part is very interesting… “‘What will this child turn out to be?’  For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.”  God set the stage for John the Baptist to be the forerunner for his cousin Jesus to “Prepare the Way,” calling the people to repent of their sins and ready their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.  When you read the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,) you learn much about this mighty man of God and how there was indeed a special anointing on John the Baptist.  In John 1:19-23 (NLT), John the Baptist testified about who he was,

“This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said,

“I am not the Messiah.”

“Well then, who are you?” they asked.  “Are you Elijah?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”

“No.”

“Then who are you?  We need an answer for those who sent us.  What do you have to say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,

‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”

Regardless though, John the Baptist had many disciples, and converts coming every day, but when Jesus’ ministry began to flourish, people flocked to Him instead causing John’s disciples to complain to him.  But here is what we need to grab hold of…Instead of puffing up with pride, John the Baptist embraced “being second” and did not try to replace Jesus.  He responded to the critics with this powerful statement:

“He [ Jesus ] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” of John 3:30 (NLT) 

08 - Daily Dependence - I Am Second - John 3-30

See John the Baptist understood what his purpose was, that he was not the star or hero…Jesus was!  No one or anything should replace Jesus.  He was the original the “I AM Second” spokesman!   And it is clear that his attitude of humility lead to the Son of God, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ to say that John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived, (see Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28) and that was because he knew his place and accepted it!   (If you are interested you can read more on this topic from the post ★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Settle For First Place! ★.)

I will close with this final thought from Mark 10:43b-45 when Jesus said,

“…and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

I am so thankful that gave me an example like John the Baptist that being second to Jesus is not a bad thing but rather the right think which He holds in high esteem!!

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 “John the Baptist – The Voice of Preparation.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the John the Baptist’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 09 – Reason for the Season – Who Do You Belong To? ★

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 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 107 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - Stable HomeI love the cheesy humor in this comic.  I resonate with this pun from Joseph consoling Mary as he tries to make the best out things after finding out there is “no room in the inn,” as this is how I tend to bring levity to bad situations.  But today I want to look into the life of a man who does not get much coverage in the Christmas story but yet his influence was great.  When you think of the major characters in the Christmas Story, who comes to mind, other than Jesus of course…The Angel Gabriel?  The Virgin Mary?  The Angel’s announcement of the Birth of the Messiah to the Shepherds?  Or perhaps the Wise Men from the East? What about Joseph?  You know Mary’s husband…In all the Hollywood movie adaptations, Joseph does not get very much attention and so we will remedy that and be focusing on the character of this mighty man of God.

Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT) is told from Joseph’s point of view about Mary’s Immaculate Conception.  (If you missed ★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★ we looked into Luke 1:26-38 which is Mary’s point of view.)  As a husband and father of two daughters, I would have found it very difficult to be in Joseph’s position.  Not only trusting that the child is indeed from God but also to endure the daily judgement and speculation of who’s the “real” father’s identity is that must have been pervasive in the small town of Nazareth.  Gossip isn’t a new thing and you know how news spreads in a small town…everyone knows everybody else’s business.  Joseph was a man who clearly thought of others above Himself.  When faced with the betrayal of Mary’s pregnancy, before the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm the truth (see Matthew 1:20), but right before that verse 19 gives us some insight to his character…

“Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”

Amazing!  “He decided to break the engagement quietly,” and by deciding to do that, Joseph would have never ended the scrutiny or dispelled the rumors of whose child it was.  You know it would be one thing to make that decision after the dream, but to decide that beforehand shows what an incredible amount of integrity Joseph possessed.  In Matthew 1:22-25 (NLT) it says,

“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.  And Joseph named him Jesus.”

This furthers the point that Joseph was a man above reproach, because not only did he have an unwavering acceptance to being part of God’s plan for Jesus’ arrival on Earth, and took Mary as his wife, but he abstained from having sexual relations with “his wife” until AFTER Jesus’ birth.  Joseph was an ordinary man who trusted God so much that he was willing to believe the extraordinary and walked it out!  He is a model of integrity and I pray that we would all grab hold of this attitude to accept whatever God’s Will is.  I had heard a sermon some years ago from David Smith, one of Gateway Church’s Elders and he said this about integrity…

“Integrity is when your behavior matches your beliefs … when what you SAY and what you DO aren’t separate … it’s an INTEGRATED lifestyle.  Integrity will bring you peace.  Trust, Respect, Honor and Influence will happen for you if you walk with integrity.” 

It is certain that long before the news of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was already living that “INTEGRATED lifestyle” in which he had peace in his life and was probably a trusted, respected, honored man who had influence within the community that made him the ideal candidate to participate in God’s plan…To be the stepfather of the Son of God.  Joseph must have had unparalleled confidence and trust in God to walk the path that was laid out before him, which could have only resulted from knowing His character and understanding God’s love for Joseph and the children of Israel.  We posted recently this ★ Thought for the Day – Confidence IN WHOSE You Are ★, if you want to learn more about how you are the Apple of God’s Eye, just like Joseph was!  God will take you and me exactly how we are (see Romans 5:1-8 for further evidence!)  I saw this image and it got me thinking…

07 - Daily Dependnece - What I Want for Christmas“What I Want for Christmas is someone to say ‘come as you are’ and mean it.” 

Every one of us wants to be accepted regardless of the baggage we have from past mistakes.  Today I want to speak on behalf of God and say there is unwavering acceptance from your heavenly Father; He will accept you just the way you are!  And if you have accepted Jesus as your savior but you still feel unworthy because of the lies of Satan, Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) says,

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

That is the truth that Joseph walked in as well!  Though he probably received much condemnation from the people around him when he chose to take Mary as his wife and be the father of Jesus, Joseph was confident in whose he was and that was enough.  Tony Evans talked about what is available to you if you have faith in God, he said,

“God will often wait to do His big thing until you have done what He has asked you to do.  He does this because He wants us to see Him in a way we’ve never seen Him before.  He wants us to experience Him in a way that we’ve never experienced Him before.  He wants us to see the connection between our act of faith and His deliverance.  He wants to be more than just a Cosmic-Santa Claus with a pocketful of miracles to throw down.  God wants a relationship with you.”

Amen?  If you are reading this and you have not trusted Jesus to be your savior, you can develop a relationship with God through Jesus today!  Go to ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★, which will lead you on how to make that decision today.  I am so thankful that God uses ordinary people to do the extraordinary and for Joseph’s example to spur us on to have unwavering acceptance of God’s providence in our lives!  And if you too want for “someone to say ‘come as you are’ and mean it,” then here it is from Jesus who said in Matthew 11:28 (NASB)…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I will close with this song from Crowder that echoes this truth, aptly names “Come As You Are.”

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 “Joseph – The Voice of Reason.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Joseph’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here… ★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-Mas? – Part 2 ★

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

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

 

Here is a follow post on the life of Joseph called: 

★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Harden Your Heart ★

 

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

In part 1 called ★ Thought for the Day – Stay the Course ★ we discussed the importance of maintaining our integrity and persevering in our walk with God regardless of the physical temptations that we face daily. Today we are goign to delve into what it means to Stay the Course with our Finances.  If you look at the top of the webpage there is link called $ Building Your Money Muscle $ which is all about handling our finances God’s way.

79 - Daily Dependence - Building Your Money Muscle

This is a passion of mine that has been fueled by two sources: 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, possessions and the hold it can have on our hearts.  Robert Morris wrote an incredible book called “The Blessed Life” which really opened my eyes to a whole new viewpoint on finances!  It is a really easy read (and for me that is saying a lot…) that unlocked the secrets of living a blessed life both financially and spiritually.  Dave Ramsey’s FPU class is a practical, step-by-step class which teaches you and your family how to get out of debt, stay out of debt, and build wealth in a God honoring way.  This class revolutionized our lives and we still apply what we learned 7 years later!  If you are interested in taking the class, click the FPU Class Finder to locate one near you.

Okay, enough background on me, onto our Thought for the Day…In Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT) Jesus started off His teaching about Money and Possessions with this polarizing statement:

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 

Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

“Store your treasure in heaven!”  This is a critical point to catch because if your singular focus is on gaining and maintaining wealth instead of what God is interested then your heart will always be divided.

I love what Robert Morris said in “The Blessed Life” book:

“When you get to heaven, will you look back on this earth and regret how much treasure you laid up here instead of sending it on ahead to heaven?” 

79 - Daily Dependence - Matthew 6-24Jesus continued in Matthew 6:24 that…

“No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”

Handling your finances God’s way is more about getting your priorities straight then being able to balance a checkbook.  It is deciding in your heart that “no matter what God, I will serve you first and foremost!”

So how do we get to that place?  We need to go to the instruction manual…The Bible…and reading about what God’s Word has to say.  It is also about making changes in how you spend your money and not continuing to make poor financial decisions.  We need to learn from the past and make new choices that will benefit the future.  Dave Ramsey once said:

“My goal is for you to learn from my past stupidity not your future stupidity!”

79 - Daily Dependence - Dave Ramsey - Let My Hindsight Be Your ForesightOr another way of saying it is to…let my hindsight be your foresight.  Learn from others, whether from a mentor or pastor, a class like FPU or family and/or friends who have a biblical worldview on handling their finances.  Let other’s hindsight on their mistakes lead/guide you in a new direction, one which looks UP rather than INWARD.  Rick Warren made this great parallel:

“God’s BLESSING on you is always in proportion to your DEPENDENCE on Him.  Great anointing is the fruit of great trusting.” 

How much do you trust God to provide for your needs?  Now notice I did not say “wants,” I said “needs.”  That is a hard one for sure, one which I have to keep reminding myself on.  The Bible is full of truths about God’s faithfulness in this area…see Malachi 3:10-12 for just instance.  I could go on for hours on how I have seen this play out in my life!  Times when I tried to do it on my own strength and failed miserably…But then when I stopped, prayed and depended on Him, how God then opened the doors to opportunity and freedom!

The key is to stay the course.  “Stay the course” is a phrase used in the context of a war or battle meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism.  You may remember it used by Presidents George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan.  Don’t let the enemy or anyone knock you off this path to handling you finances God’s way.  The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:9 that he was going to stay in Ephesus to do God’s will “because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”  Opposition will always come when we try to do the Lord’s work or to do things that honors God because it eliminates the enemy’s hold on you.  But I encourage you to press on through and stay the course because if you trust in God, He is faithful to work in and through whatever situation your poor decisions/choices have led you into!  But with that said you will need to make sacrifices.  One of the fundamental quotes from Dave Ramsey is:

“Winning at money is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge.  Most of us know what to do, but we just don’t do it.”  
“Winning at money is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge.  Most of us know what to do, but we just don’t do it.”

This is not rocket science, which is good because I’m not that smart.  It is simply saying no to the “wants,” and start going in a new direction…A direction with a new heart and new way of thinking.  There are so many promises from God that He will take care of our needs.  But we have to do our part as well.  It really boils down to behavior modification and not giving up!  I love this quote from Thomas Edison, he said:

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” 

Could you imagine what the world would be like if Thomas Edison gave up!  Be strong and persevere.  The journey to getting out of debt and attaining Financial Peace will have setbacks and difficulties but I promise with God on your side and with a resolute “will” that you are not going to give up, you will reach the prize that we all want…true Financial Peace with God’s blessings!

On “A Minute with Maxwell,” the Word that John Maxwell spoke about was “Will.”  He said that:

“Will comes out of a passionate desire to accomplish something.  We often hear the expression ‘where there is a will there is a way’…that’s true.   Basically the WILL makes the WAY.”

Get that in your spirit, “The WILL makes the WAY.”  That could not be any more evident than in the life of Jim Ryun who ran the mile in 3:51.1 (that’s minutes not hours!)  Now that is an indomitable spirit, Jim Ryun once said:

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.” 

So are you going to form new habits and change your legacy and family tree, or are you going to keep running your finances into the red?  I will close this from Zig Ziglar.

"People often say that motivation doesn't last.  Neither does bathing, that's why we do it daily." 
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last.  Neither does bathing, that’s why we do it daily.”

Everyday you need to immerse yourself in God’s Word to get a fresh outlook on life, a clean slate and renewed mind for your walk with Him and the direction for your finances!

★★★ Stay the Course! ★★★ 

If you would like to delve into more, you can check out a previous post called ★ Thought for the Day – Keeping Up With The Joneses? ★

 

 

 

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

You have heard the expression before that,

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  Charles Caleb Colton 

I have tried telling my daughter that when her sister is echoing everything that she does but to no avail…hahaha!  But whether we realize it or not, we are imitating someone…it could be the latest pop sensation, or a Hollywood movie star, or the newest offering from the fashion runway…We are continually influenced by the culture around us. The question of the day is…Who is that?  And to further the thought…Is it good for us?  1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV1984) says,

“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.””

This is a principle that I have tried to pour into my daughters’ spirit throughout their lives.  That they need to decide now whether they will be a leader or a follower?  I love this quote from Tom Lane,

77 - Daily Dependence - Leader or Follower
“You’re either an influencer or you’re being influenced.”

The people you surround yourself with WILL, NOT MAYBE, influence you to go down one of two paths, the one that leads to destruction or the one that leads to life.  77 - The Path to Life or DestructionToo dramatic?  Maybe, but also true nonetheless.  Experience has taught me that if you don’t set standards up beforehand of the people you will associate with, when the time of decision comes whether to take that first sip of alcohol as a teenager or that first experimentation with illegal drugs, you will be in no position to make the right choice. It is hard enough to resist temptation but when you surround yourself with the wrong people, compromise will always follow.  Perry Noble made this great statement,

“The first step away from God is always a small one.”

I can vouch that this is the truth!  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.  Jesus referred to the two possible paths or gates in Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)…

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

I barreled through that wide gate and spent so much time on the wide path to destruction, but let my hindsight be your foresight…Who you hang out with is critical!!  Ephesians 5:1-2 (HCSB) gives us the direction to follow,

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah [Jesus Christ] also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah [Jesus Christ] also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”

“Be imitators of God.”  Not really a bumper sticker you see is it?  But imitating God, being more like Jesus Christ, and less like the world around us will keep us of the path that will lead to life.  I love this image of a son imitating his father moving the lawn. The same is true with Jesus.  When He was here on earth, Jesus continually said that He does only what He has has seen His Father doing.  One reference (out of many), is found in John 5:19 (NLT)…

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”

Jesus Himself imitated God the Father and so should we.  Let’s look back at the last portion of verse 2 of Ephesians 5…Jesus “gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”  Could there be something in sacrifice that could unlock the key to happiness?

One of the most famous Kings of all time was Solomon. Son of King David, Solomon is known for being the wisest man who has ever lived…but do you know how that came to be?  It wasn’t from any human effort of exhaustive learning, but from an act of humility and reverence to God.  At the beginning of his reign as King of Isreal, Solomon had presented an extravagant offering to God.  1 Kings 3:5 (NLT) says,

“That night the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want?  Ask, and I will give it to you!””

Stop…What would your answer be?  Money, power, fame, you fill in the blank ______.  My guess it would be something that would bring happiness to your life right?  I am no different, I highly doubt it would not have been so selfless as Solomon’s…1 Kings 3:7-9 (NLT) records his answer,

“Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.  And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted!  Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.  For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 

Wow!!  That is amazing!  What an example for us today!  How many of us would like to be presented with a “blank check” like that from God?!  How many of us would answer like Solomon with such humility and self-awareness of his shortcomings?   Look at the result in 1 Kings 3:10-14 (NLT).

“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 

If we get our priorities right, God’s favor and blessing will follow!  And once that happens who knows where God will take you?  You and I know about the wisdom of Solomon as a result of his humility and obedience, or you could say his imitation of God.  Now as you read 1 Kings, Solomon made his fair share of mistakes but by all accounts Solomon was a world changer!  Lysa TerKeurst said in her book, ‪”The Best Yes”…

77 - Daily Dependence - Lysa TerKeurs - Humility“Humility opens the door of opportunity. In hard conversations, if I truly want to be heard I must humbly approach the conversation.” 

Like Solomon, to be a world changer, humility is key!  Even though he was king, Solomon realized his need for wisdom to govern the people and look at the opportunities that followed!  If we want to be on the path of life, to be a positive influence to the people around us, our friends, our spouse and/or children…to be a world changer, then we must make sure that we are imitating the “One” who created everything and approach people in humility!  When you do, your happiness will not come through imitating culture, but through service to the One person that really matters, Jesus Christ!

I will close with this last thought from Marty Collier,

"The path to happiness is holiness." 
“The pathway to happiness is holiness.”

When you imitate God, you will be on the path of life which will lead to holiness and will bring you far more happiness than anything else in the world!

If you would like to read more on this topic, here is something I posted that you may like, called:

 

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