★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

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

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

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

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

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

115-daily-dependence-fight-club-card

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

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

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

Fight Clubs can be or Women or Men who want to deepen their relationship with God and with other believers.  For me it obviously revolved building a biblical community with other men, something that I always wanted but had escaped me until June 6, 2016 was when I was first introduced to the idea of a Fight Club.  We formed the first Fight Club I was a part of from the guys in our Lifegroup since we knew each other already.  It was great gathering with these men because it was the beginning of something that I always wanted in my life…to be part of a brotherhood!  We met through the summer until our schedules changed.  Then our group multiplied from 1 to 3 groups as we disbanded and formed new ones.  Since then I’ve been meeting with 1 to 2 other guys on Thursday mornings for breakfast as schedules have permitted.  As we have built biblical community together, I realized the need to reach out to as many men as possible but just did not know how to accomplish within an already busy schedule of balancing my work and home life.

THE UNLIKELY SOLUTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

★ Thought for the Day – Are You Qualified? ★

★ Act Like Men – “Strength To Love” ★

 

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

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

 

 

 

Continue reading

Advertisements

★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 12:3 (NLT) says…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Continue reading

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

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

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

92 - 1 Corinthians 15-33 - Bad Company Corrupts

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

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

In the sermon, he made these four observations…

“When we’ve been WITH Jesus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

92 - Daily Dependence - John Wooden - Choices

Continue reading

★ Day 25 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Isn’t the Destination ★

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

25 - Daily Dependence - Comic - Scrabble - VenisonThis comic has no relevance to anything, but just was hysterical to me about what the down time activity that Santa and the reindeer may engage in.  Today we conclude our 25 Day series of posts, (a first ever!)  I pray you have been blessed and that a new or fresh connection with the Jesus has been established in your life!

“Our understanding of Christ molds and shapes our view of eternity, of hope, and of salvation.  If we have the wrong view of Christ, who He is, who He was, and what He came to do, then it shapes everything we see, it becomes the lens that we look through…How we view Jesus is extremely important.”  Marty Collier, The Church on Rush Creek 

So has your view of Christ changed over the past 25 days?  I hope so; I know it has for me!  Now that Christmas has come and gone, what’s next?  December 25 is not the end…The story continues…Matthew 2:12-18 (NLT) says,

“When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.  After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  

“Get up!  Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said.  “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death.  This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him.  He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.  Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A cry was heard in Ramah—
    weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
    refusing to be comforted,
    for they are dead.”

If you recall in the ★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★ post, we discussed the previous 2 verses, that the Wise Men came in and worshiped Jesus.  It is interesting that after they honored God, by honoring His Son, The Wise Men were warned to go another way because of King Herod.  In ★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★ post that the Wise Men’s interaction with Herod, stirred up the King’s envy which resulted in the heinous acts of verses 16-18.  And as a result, Mary and Joseph, with child Jesus in tow had to flee to Egypt.  Christmas is so much more than the birth of Christ; it’s about allowing God to change you!  Have you been changed?  Or another way to ask it…How can we incorporate Christmas into our lives the rest of the year?  The solution I believe is to MAKE ADVENT A LIFESTYLE!   

25 - Daily Dependence - Make Advent A Lifestyle!Let’s review the lessons we learned from the Advent Wreath:

  • In the ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★ post we discussed the first purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Hope. If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, then share the Hope that is within you with others…Don’t just keep it within you.
  • In the ★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★ post we discussed the second purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Peace. If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, then be a peacemaker and impart to everyone else that peace can happen even in the hardest season of life!
  • In the ★Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★ post we discussed the third candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath, which is the only pink candle, represents Joy.  If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, remember that the “Joy to the World” is not just one day a year but can be every day!  Spread it to all who you come into contact with.
  • In the ★Day 20 – Reason for the Season – The Father’s Love ★ post we discussed the fourth candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Love.  If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, follow the sacrificial example of God sending His Son and be willing to sacrifice for others.
  • And finally in yesterday’s ★Day 24 – Reason for the Season – Best Christmas Gift Ever! ★ post we discussed the he last candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath that represents Jesus Christ, which is the only white candle.  If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, then endeavor to be more like Jesus and be ready to be His hands and feet everywhere you go.

Jesus was sent by God, to earth, to be the greatest gift of love one could ever receive.  Carry that giving spirit all through the year by volunteering and encouraging those around you who are hopeless.  Look for opportunities to give the love of Christ out to a world that is in desperate need of a Savior!  I love this quote from Lysa TerKeurst,

25 - Daily Dependence - Lysa Terkeurst -“Christmas doesn’t end December 25th…Its beautiful reality really should linger a little longer.”  

Amen!!  I will add to that to say Christmas should linger indefinitely!  Jesus gave His disciples, (and now us 2,000 years later,) this instruction in John 13:34-35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love one another…Let your goodwill towards others be evident through your actions…Spread Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Jesus to all those God has placed in your sphere of influence!  I will close with this from 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NLT),

“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ.  And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”

25 - Daily Dependence - Charles Spurgeon - Missionary or ImposterAnd to piggyback that, Charles Spurgeon said, 

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”

God has given each one of us the task to mark an impact on this world…Will you?

I pray that these “25 Days of Thankfulness” has given not only given you a new perspective on the Reason for the Season but a new connection and love for Jesus Christ!!

If you missed any of the series or just want to start from the beginning you can by ★ Clicking Here ★

25 - Daily Dependence - Peace

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

Continue reading

★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★

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

21 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - Lights Too BrightsI hope you have been enjoying all the comics…They bring levity while simultaneously helping raise awareness to a much-needed area to discuss.  A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook the day before Thanksgiving that had 21 - Daily Dependence - Stop Premature Christmas Decoratingme laughing…

“Stop Premature Christmas Decorating”

…but I have to say I agree.  Not sure where you fall in this debate but for me, the day after Thanksgiving is the starting point of the decorating season whether inside or outside…It is not a sin of course if you did it beforehand…this is just my preference, hahaha!  Don’t get me wrong I am not ant-decorating, just pro post-Thanksgiving.  I love seeing all the neighbors decorate their houses, and often times we will slow down to “oh and ah.”  My co-worker was telling me of two house on his block who each year their displays get bigger and bigger due to their neighborly competition… As you can see there is not much lawn left…hahaha!

21 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Lights - Competition with NeighborsHe said they literally grow their display after each person put something else out to outdo the other.  Too funny!  There is a park near my house that rivals these houses for sure and definitely did have to prematurely decorate because there were a total of with 4 million lights to set up along a 2 mile path/drive!  Each year they set up this Holiday Light extravaganza that draws thousands of cars to our area to drive through the incredible displays.  

21 - Daily Dependence - Prairie Lights FilmstripThough I am not a runner to say the least, this year we participated with our lifegroup from church in the “Sneak-a-Peek 5K Run & Walk” the weekend before thanksgiving.  My wife and I walked along the trail with our good friends as our kids blazed passed us…hahaha!  The light show is really something to see, but my favorite for sure is the last picture of the film strip above…The Nativity Scene for sure!  Hard to see amidst all the other decorations, but here is a focused view…21 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Lights - NativityThough I take exception to the depiction of the Wise Men because they were not present that night Jesus was born, (…we will discuss in tomorrow’s ★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★,) this illuminated display sure popped along the pathway because of it brilliance.

Matthew 2:1-10 (NKJV)21 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men will be our passage from the Christmas narrative that centers on the Star that led the Visitors from the East to come to worship the newborn king of the Jews!  Let’s begin with verses 1-2…

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’”

Though we are not told specifically, it is believed that the Wise Men were from the region where Daniel and the other Israelites spent 70 years of captivity, (605-530 B.C.)  Daniel was a powerful prophet of God who spoke of the second coming of the Messiah (which you can study on your own in the book of Daniel, chapters 9 through 12, speak of Daniel’s prophecies about the second Advent or coming of Jesus that will be a conquering King, unlike His first Advent as a humble baby.)  Daniel held a high office in the Babylonian Empire and wielded great influence on the people, and as a result the Wise Men probably learned from Daniel’s teachings about the coming savior of the world.  Let’s pick up the story with verse 3…

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Stop…That verse is so peculiar to me.  But it also is quite revealing, showing the darkside of Herod, (no I will not be making any Star Wars tie-in here…) and the darkness that rested Jerusalem.  This news that the Wise Men brought should have brought great joy as it much-anticipated fulfillment of the prophecies of old but instead, Herod was “troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Very sad…Okay back to verses 4-8…

“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah 5:2]:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” 

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

Herod’s neighborly competitiveness was much greater than trying to have the best light display; he was obsessed with being king over Israel, and was determined to do whatever it took to keep his throne!  (You can read in Matthew 2:16-18 about the level he went to, but that is for another day…)  We finish out today’s narrative with verses 9-10…

“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”

The wise men traveled hundreds of miles, following the star that they saw in the East and when they reached their destination, “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”  Is that your reaction to the coming of December 25?  Or have you become preoccupied with the trappings that this season brings?  I shared this on ★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★ post, but it warrants repeating…

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:14, 16 (NKJV)
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Like the Star for the Wise Men, we too should let our light shine for all to see!  We should be filled with “exceedingly great joy” because of Jesus!

“To let the light of Jesus shine through us and to bring honor and glory to God, we first and foremost have to have Jesus in us.”  Marty Collier

Herod had no room in his heart for the true KING that came in the form of a baby over 2,000 years ago, what about you?  Are you shrouded in darkness and feeling lost?  You don’t have to be…Jesus offers another way.  In John 8:12b (NKJV) Jesus said to the crowd,

“I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Following Jesus and having a relationship with Him will bring you into the light and will give you a hope and future that you WILL NEVER HAVE A PART FORM HIM!  I am thankful not only for the Star that led the Wise Men to Jesus but for the Savior of the World that was found there!  If you want to learn more about how to have a relationship with Jesus, check out our ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★, you will never be disappointed choosing to follow Jesus!  Worship him as the Wise Men did so many years ago!!

21 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men SilhouettesAs 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 “Herod – The Voice of Deception” who was the biggest enemy in the Christmas story!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★

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

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

Continue reading

★ Day 20 – Reason for the Season – The Father’s Love ★

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

Growing up I remember a plaque hanging on the wall called “Footprints in the Sand,” by Mary Stevenson.  It is a beautiful poem that starts off talking about two sets of footprints in the sand, 20 - Daily Dependence - God Never Left Youbut then at the lowest points in life, there is only one set because God is carrying us.  I saw this comic and thought if this is how God feels sometimes.

The Bible says in both the Old and New Testaments that God is always with us regardless of the fear and anxiety we may feel in the face of circumstances.

20 - Daily Dependence - God is Always With Us

What comforting words to know that God is always watching over us!  Life may sometimes feel like just the opposite but feelings are liars.  C.S. Lewis once said this that gives the antidote to our feelings,

“Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.”

We live in a fallen, broken world but God will carry us through any difficulty we will face.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will center on our Father in 20 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 4Heaven and His love for us!  The fourth candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Love.  If you were to sum up the Bible in one word I think it would be LOVE.  From Genesis to Revelation, the pages of this Holy Book speak to the Love of God and the great lengths that He will go through to have a relationship with us.  In the ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★ post, we discussed the one Bible verse that sums up the Bible in a nut shell…John 3:16  (NLT),

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

God gave His son to save you and me!  He loves you more than you can ever imagine and sent Jesus to establish a “relationship” with us… You can read more on this in the ★ Thought for the Day – What Does The Love of God Mean? ★, all this was done so that we could have eternal life with God and Jesus in heaven.  As a father of two lovely daughters, the idea of giving them up to a horrible death is inconceivable to me!  Next to getting married, being a “Daddy” has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember.  My wife and I were married in June of 1999 and by November of 2000 we had our first bundle of joy.  I remember holding her for the first time, marveling at what a miracle she was and thinking how I would NEVER, EVER let anything happen to this precious gift!  The same was true when our second daughter was born in July of 2003. 20 - Daily Dependence - Rick Warren - God's Love It amazes me how much my heart opened up to love these little angels and it makes me think, if I, a broken, sinful man could love my children this much…How much more does my perfect Father in Heaven love me?  And as the stream of consciousness flows, my next thought is…If I would do anything to protect my child from harm, how much more would God have wanted to protect His Son Jesus from the brutality of the cross?  But yet He sent Him to earth on that first Christmas night over 2,000 years ago to do just that!  I love Rick Warren’s comparison…

“God’s love is like an ocean; you can see its beginning but cannot see its end.”

What imaginary and if we could truly fathom that, our lives would be forever changed!  Another symbol that has not beginning and no end is a circle.  My pastor shared this “Circle of Love” diagram two weeks ago to explain how God’s love was designed to operate.  His explained the process as laid out in 1 John 4:7-11 (NLT) 

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.  10 This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other…”

God is the source of love (v.8), and His love flows to us, who are the focus of that love (v.9a).  It then moves through Jesus (vs.9b-10) and then from us (v.11) through compassion (v.11), which is Love in Action.  And then back to God…He said that,

“Love starts and ends with God.  He is the source of Love and when we love we reflect Him.”  Marty Collier

20 - Daily Dependence - 1 John 4-18 - God First Loved UsWhat a beautiful truth!  Just a few verses later in 1 John 4:19 it says,  

“We love because He first loved us.”

For the past 20 days we have been reflecting on the Christmas narrative, but more than that, we have seen The Father’s Love in Action as He has moved Heaven and Earth to fulfill the prophecies of long ago, and to give us a path to eternal life with Him while simultaneously modeling how we ought to love others through His Son.  The Apostle Paul gives us clear instructions in Colossians 3:14-15, 17 (NLT),

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which20 - Daily Dependence - Hello I Am A Representative of Jesus binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

Maybe you are struggling this Christmas season and have been asking God for a sign of His love and commitment.  Well I have good news for you, Genesis 9:12-13, 17 (NLT) has just that,

“Then God said, ‘I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.’  Then God said to Noah, ‘Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.’”

20 - Daily Dependence - God's PromiseThe rainbow is the physical manifestation of God’s love to remind us of the covenant or commitment between Him and us!  Storms will come but there is Hope when you place your life in God’s capable hands.  I will close with this final encouragement from Romans 8:38-39 (NLT) 

20 - Daily Dependence - Romans 8 - 38-39 - God Love“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Christmas embodiment of love…God the Father, who willingly sent His Son to be born in the humblest way imaginable and grow up in similar manner being from Nazareth.  Jesus was wrongly imprisoned, beaten and crucified on a Roman cross so that God could restore the relationship with His creation.  Accept the Father’s love that was given to you and I in the form of the baby in that Palestinian Stable over 2,000 years ago!  God’s Love will never leave us and will always be there to help us through whatever season we find ourselves in, just like any good Daddy would do!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★

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

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

Continue reading

★ Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1Two songs that always get me into the Christmas spirit are “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” By Andy Williams (a classic,) and any version of “Joy to the World,” (most recently I have been enjoying David Crowder Band’s interpretation of the classic hymn.)  I think this picture of these kids crying, 14 - Daily Dependnece - The most wonderful time of the year as the possibility of the perfect Christmas card is becoming more and more remote, captures many people’s view of this season of chaotic schedules and never-ending lists of things to do.  You can hear the sarcasm of people as they make some comment like “oh yeah, it sure is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year as I am exhausted out of my mind and don’t know how I am going to get everything done in time!  The signage of this photo shoot gone badly is the focus of today’s “Reason for the Season.”

14 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 3The third candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath, which also is the only pink candle, represents Joy.  Joy is such an interesting concept.

Yesterday my pastor was preaching on Joy as part of the Advent Sermon Series we are currently in and he discussed the difference between Joy and Happiness.  Often times the two are used interchangeably but they are radically different.  He said,

“You can have joy but not be happy about circumstances.  You can have happiness but not joy.”  Marty Collier

See HAPPINESS is based on circumstances, whereas JOY is based on our faith in God.  I read a devotional this morning called “The Definition of Joy” from Rick Warren based on Kay Warren’s new book, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.

“My problem was my definition of joy.  I thought joy meant feeling good all the time.  That’s impossible!  Even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic, that’s impossible…

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

You’ll find nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because, as we all know, happiness is fleeting and temporary.

Happiness is fleeting, only Joy remains!  The second song that I mentioned that kindles the Christmas spirit in me is Joy to the World.  David Mathis said something very interesting about this song in the preface of John Piper’s “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“The advent primarily in view each December is the first coming of Jesus two millennia ago.  But Jesus’s second coming gets drawn in as well, as the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World” makes plain:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

I was shocked when I read that…I never realized that a song I sang at the top of my lungs during the Christmas season was actually a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant second return, rather than a song celebrating his first coming.  Published in 1719, the words by English hymn writer Isaac Watts and are based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible. Take a look for yourself…Psalm 98:4-9 (NLT).  Powerful imaginary isn’t it?

And that is what I believe God would like us to grab hold of this Advent Season…Not just to look back at the first coming of Christ, (which is good to do no doubt,) but to also have joyful expectation of Jesus Christ’s second coming as the Book of Revelation speaks of!  Steven Furtick made this statement about Joy that I wanted to share…

“I love the scripture that says that weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning.  You know what I found out though morning doesn’t happen when it says AM on the clock.  Morning happens when you wake up and throw the covers off and open your eyes to the goodness of God.  In other words the moment you decide to wake up and look, I bet you’ll see God in the middle of your circumstances. I bet you’ll see God in the middle of your difficulty.” 

In the ★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-mas? – Part 2 ★ post we talked about this year is the 50th anniversary of the classic TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Today’s passage is one in the same with what Linus quoted the Gospel According to Luke, verses 8 through 14 of the Kings James Version so we will read it in that translation as well…

14 - Daily Dependence - Angels Visiting Shepherds Collage“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I am so thankful for Charles Schulz fighting to have those (6) verses included because there is so much power in them!  Can you imagine what that scene was like to be one o those shepherds?  Maybe it was a crisp cool night as the Shepheard’s sat around a campfire…all that could be heard was the sheep shuffling around grazing in the open pasture.  The shepherds probably had very little to do, but to gaze at the stars above when all of sudden “the glory of the Lord shone round them!” I have always thought it comical, that Luke writes in the next line, that the “were sore afraid.”  14 - Daily Dependence - Angel Announcement I bet they were, wouldn’t’ you be?!  But I love the reassurance they received from the Angel…“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  Hundreds of years of waiting for this news, and the recipients of the greatest news event in history was not a King or nobles but lowly shepherds tending their flock in the countryside.  Tomorrow we will dig into “A Shepherd’s View of Christmas” so I will defer that aspect of this event until tomorrow.  Like we discussed in the ★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★ post about the journey to Bethlehem for the census, we can gloss over familiar parts of the Christmas Narrative and miss the wonder like the next part…“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Wow can you imagine what that light show must have been like?  What an unbelievable experience to have that proclamation done in front of you!  I am sure all these images pale in comparison to what it must have been like.  I came across this image that I thought was fascinating in how it shows the events unfolding simultaneously…  14 - Daily Dependence - NativityAs Mary lays the baby Jesus down in the manger, we can see the Angelic Heavenly Host declaring the arrival of the Savior of the World in the distance!  This painting is a great visual representation of the tapestry of events that God wove together the lives of many different people to bring about the fulfillment of His Salvation plan as revealed through the prophecies of Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah, (to name a few…) right down to the very last detail.  Amazing!  I love this quote from Matt Chandler’s sermon called “Advent (Part 2) – Tell of His Coming: The Shepherds and Angels,”

“God is a God who keeps His promises, even the small ones that don’t seem maybe to matter that much…The fact that God keeps His promises to His people should move our hearts towards worship, move our hearts towards gladness and anchor us in confidence.”

I am thankful for a God who is not only a promise keeper but who is also my anchor!  14 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Bring JoyLike the Angels, we need to BRING JOY EVERYWHERE YOU GO.

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

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★

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

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

Continue reading

★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1In the ★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★ we looked into what problems really are…How to avoid being overwhelmed, and more importantly how to overcome them, if you missed it, I highly recommend reading it in tandem with today’s “Reason for the Season” as it has everything to do with Hope.

Christmas can be a really challenging time for people, whether because of loneliness or as a result of losing a loved one or because of some hardship.  For me, this Christmas has been a little difficult because of my mother’s condition.  On December 23, 2010 we had an incredible day with my sister sightseeing in New York City, in which we hit all the hotspots…We saw the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, played the “Big Piano” in FAO Schwarz Toy Store and the kids saw Santa Claus at Macy’s Department Store.  03 - Daily Dependence - NYC SightseeingIt was an incredible day when all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from under us when we got the call that my mom was rushed to the hospital after having a massive stroke that almost killed her.  Nothing prepares you for that call, and let me tell you the train ride back to New Jersey was the longest trip of my life.  The next 5 days in the hospital was a rollercoaster of emotions, filled with extensive praying and tears as one doctor after another rendered a very bleak prognosis of her future.  We went from “what do we do if she flat lines,” to “she may never speak or walk again”…It was a truly gut-wrenching time.  5 years later I am so thankful that not only did my mother survive; she is able to speak and walk and is a living miracle (as there was not an iota of hope that was given by the doctors.)  The reason that this time is a little hard for me is that though my mom is doing well, her life, “the new normal” as they call it after a stroke is radically different.  My mom thoroughly enjoyed Christmas and went overboard to make a magical time for everyone.  Truly my love for the season is a direct result of all that she poured out for everyone else.  As I think back to that time 5 years ago, I am so thankful that we were in town visiting for Christmas when that happened because I could not imagine getting that call and being over 1,500 miles away and I am thankful that God showed up in the way He did because though it was a horrific time, I experienced His Love, mercy and grace in a way I never had before!

Today’s “R03 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Let Hope Ariseeason for the Season” is one that is “a rose-colored glasses” everything is great, peaches and cream viewpoint but rather a call to action that regardless of the hardship, circumstance or doctor’s prognosis…we need to “Let Hope Arise!” I cannot think of a better image than this rose struggling to survive in the cold snow laden ground.  If Christmas is a tough time for you, I pray that God would stir your heart as you read this post and well up in you the truth that there is Hope in every situation when you trust in Him!  We talked on the first day about the Advent Wreath, in which there are 4 candles that are lit each week in the season of Advent and the fifth is lit on the last day.  

03 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 1The first purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Hope.  Advent Wreath.  Day 2 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan says,

“In Scripture, however, hope is void of uncertainty.  In fact, certainty is at its core, because it rests in the stability of God, His character and His will, which are unwavering.  Biblical hope, then, can be defined as, “the confident expectation and desire for something good in the future…Hope is essential to our faith.”

“Hope is essential to our faith!”  If you are feeling alone, hopeless and at the end of your rope, I want to encourage you to change your perspective because God is a miracle working God!  Like in my mother’s condition, He can breathe life back into your situation.  I love what Marty Collier said,

“Hope is our assurance that God will finish all He has started.
Hope is our confidence that He will do all He has promised.”

The Bible is full of stories of God’s promises.  One such story in the Old Testament that comes to mind, is that of Abram (later renamed Abraham,) who God chose to be the Father of the nation of Israel and promised him and his wife that though they were old, and she was barren, they would conceive and have a son (you can read the account in Genesis 17-18).  Sound familiar?  That is the same story from yesterday’s ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★ about Zechariah and Elizabeth.  God loves stacking the odds up against Him, and all we need to do is believe.  Romans 4:18-24 (ESV) describes Abraham’s belief…

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”  But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,”

ABRAHAM BELIEVED AGAINST HOPE!  Regardless of the situation we can have the same unwavering faith!  Day 6 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan talked about Abraham’s hope…

“Abraham’s circumstances seemed humanly impossible.  The promise of an heir was hopeless in the face of old age and barrenness.  But when hope rests on God, who can and does, in fact, do the impossible (Matthew 19:26), the realm of possibility has no bounds.  Our hope abounds in His ability, His goodness and His faithfulness toward us, His children.  We have “full assurance of hope.”

“With God everything is possible!”  You can read more on Abraham in (Romans 4:16-21 NLT).  I share this because this is not some dusty old history lesson but is applicable to you and I today!  Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT) says,

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.”

God’s love for you and me will never end!  He is merciful and faithful.  Problems are going to happen.  We live in a “Fallen World” and Satan is always looking to cause hardships in our life in to discourage us and turn us away from God.  People are going to get sick and bad things will happen but when we persevere and look to God, we can overcome the adversity; and when we do, it will develop and change us, breaking the focus from ourselves and make us more like Jesus so that we can help others!!  Again all we need to do is TRUST GOD in whatever we are going through today and let it transform us! I will close with this beautiful promise that was made in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)…

I am so thankful for this truth and for what God did in my mom and in my heart!!  God has a plan for you and me, to give us a future and a hope, so LET YOUR HOPE ARISE in God today!

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

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here… ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★

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

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

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – The Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★ 

 

Have yo84 - In God We Trustu ever thought about when the phrase, “In God We Trust” and when that first appeared on American currency?  I did a quick search on Google and found that…

“The 84th Congress passed a joint resolution “declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States.” The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, and the motto was progressively added to paper money over a period from 1957 to 1966.”  

I am not old enough to remember a time when I did not see that motto inscribed on the change in my pocket but the sad reality is that in less than 60 years, our country has shifted from “In God We Trust,” to a position that God needs to be removed from our schools, our government and any other aspect of public life because of the “offensiveness” of trusting in a loving creator who wants a relationship with us.

If you live in Texas, you have probably seen Billboards like this one, with the simple invitation to go to exploreGod.com.  84 - Daily Dependence - Explore GodFor the past month (at the time of this post), hundreds of small groups and churches around the Dallas Fort Worth Area have been exploring the big questions we all have about God, faith, and purpose. Questions like, “Does life have a purpose?” “Is there a God?” and “Why does God allow pain and suffering?”  My church has been participating in this as well, which has been incredible!  This past week my pastor answered the question, “Is the Bible Reliable?”  He closed the message with this synopsis of the Bible…

“The Bible is the story of God revealing His glory to humanity and redeeming humanity when it rejected Him.”  Marty Collier  

“Redeeming humanity when it rejected Him.”  WowI  Every one of us at some point has rejected God, which is why I love this exploreGod.com movement that helps to illuminate the “Big Picture” concepts that often are stumbling blocks to people delving into God’s Word, the Bible.  In 2014, the Barna Research Group along with the American Bible Society released their findings for the State of the Bible which stated:

“This year’s research reveals that skepticism toward the Bible continues to rise.  For the first time since tracking began, Bible skepticism is tied with Bible engagement.  The number of those who are skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible — who believe that the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice” — has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in just three years.” 

This 84 - Daily Dependence - Sign to Meditate on God'sskepticism is without a doubt a contributing factor to the expulsion of God from the public sector, resulting in a vacuum that people are filling with anything and everything.  And as people reject God and the Bible, Satan capitalizes on this trend by screaming lies about God faithfulness and love for us because he knows if we tap into that unlimited power source, our lives would be set free..  To continue with the sign theme, here is an incredible message that Satan does not want you to get in your spirit!

“If the lies of Satan consume you, meditate on the Word of God and it’s truth will set you free!”

To build on this truth, Steven Furtick made this great parallel in his book, Crash the Chatterbox …

“We can never hope to cras84 - Daily Dependence - Steven Furtick - Intentionally Feed Your Faithh the chatterbox [Satan’s lies] until the signal (God’s Word) becomes louder in our lives than the incessant noise around us that clamors for our attention and depletes our courage.  Rather than waiting for more faith to magically manifest, we must intentionally feed the faith we already possess by fanning into flame the gift that is in us.  We must eat what God has already cooked up.” 

Don’t miss this point, “we must intentionally feed the faith we already possess!”  We need to be reading and meditating on the Bible daily so that our faith can increase and the chatterbox can be silenced!

2 Timothy ‭4:7-8‬ ‭(NLT‬) says…84 - 2 Timothy 4 - 7-8 Runners Bib

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.  And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

It is all about perseverance, replacing the lies with truth! Here is the inspiration for this Thought for the Day…What is the Unfathomable Payoff of Faith?  Well just look at these incredible promises if we will just trust God from Psalms‬ ‭91:1-9, 14-16 ‭(NLT)…

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD:

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;

He is my God, and I trust him.

For He will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.

He will cover you with his feathers.

He will shelter you with his wings.

His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.

Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.

Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter,”

The LORD says,

I will rescue those who love me.

I will protect those who trust in my name.

When they call on me, I will answer;

I will be with them in trouble.

I will rescue and honor them.

I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Go back and re-read every one of those underlined promises, aren’t these just amazing verses?  I pray that you would make  the decision today to deepen your understanding of God regardless of your past or your current level of faith (or lack of…) God is just waiting for you to take one step towards Him!

Do you want to explore the big questions we all have about God?  Go to exploreGod.com or go to ►►You Opinion Matters… and send me a message and I will help you.

Also if you are interested check out 

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

which digs into the significance of reading the bible.

Continue reading

★ Act Like Men – “Strength To Love” ★

Daily Dependence - Section 5 - Do Everything in LoveReading this “40 Day Devotional to Biblical Manhood,” has been an odyssey to say the least. Lasting much longer than 40 days as obstacles (spiritual warfare), procrastination and just plain busyness got in the way of learning these 5 critical areas from 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 on how to become “a quality man,” which I so desperately want to be for God, my wife and my daughters.  The journey of “Act Like Men” has brought me through a variety of emotions and deeper levels with God than ever before.  Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV) says,

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” 

That is what I pray to be about…walking with Jesus, being built up in Jesus and established in the faith for all my days!  My pastor preached last Sunday on “Spiritual Awakening,” and gave this prayer challengDay 40 - Marty Collier - HUNGER_BROKENNESS_BURDENe to go to God daily in prayer and ask for:

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

Wow!!  Could you imagine what men would be like if we would pray that earnestly everyday?  The whole point of this book is for men to have a spiritual awakening to realize that the 5 pillars contained in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 are critical to be a “quality man of God.”

It is so sad the truth behind MacDonald’s statement,

“Men are checking out at prolific rates because any careful review of the ‘Christian Man’ job description has at the top impossible!”

But I love how he counters that sad statistic with this…

“The Christian life is not, nor was it ever intended to be you as a professional juggler of the latest list of biblical priorities…We have no ability to sanctify (change) ourselves than we have ability to save ourselves. Colossians 2:6 makes this clear: ‘As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.’ Are you doing that?…you have no ability to live the Christian life, no more capacity in yourself to live the gospel then you had to believe the gospel in the first place.”

Day 40 - James MacDonald - Professional JugglerI think that is a major problem with men, and especially myself; I try to handle everything on my own, on my own strength but in the end I fail. I am not a master juggler at all and as MacDonald said, I need to realize that I need Christ daily to renew me, and strengthen me for what I am going to face that day. As he said,

“The Christian life is the life of Jesus in me by the Holy Spirit.  Christianity is not me striving to live like Jesus as a ‘thank you’ for saving me.  Christianity is Christ taking up residence in me by the Holy Spirit living His resurrection life through me.”

Amen!!  It’s amazing how much easier life can be when that perspective is straight in our minds…When we have Jesus in the center of the whirlwind of responsibilities of life, we will have stability just like a metal sign post in the ground.  It is interesting what James MacDonald said about what Jesus will NOT do though…

“Jesus will not wrestle or fight with you; as long as your flesh wants to be in control, it will be.”

Boy that one hurts but we need to “stop juggling and start communing” with God.  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV) says,

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

He will surely do it!!  What a great promise… but how many times do I get that backwards and try to do it on my own?

“God doesn’t just call me to do it; He Himself is the doer, if I will just lean into my constant communion with Him and yield my ‘members as instruments of righteousness.'” (Romans 6:23)

I love the ending prayer, one which I plan to pray as I move forward in my walk with God…

“I so long to gain and maintain clarity on this point of empowering community with You as the foundation of all that I am and do.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me; I can do nothing of eternal value in my own strength.  You have given me Your Holy Spirit, as the power to live in community with others and love them as you would.  I so want to live in the power of Your Spirit, setting aside more and more evidences of the exhausting life that tempts me every day.  I’m relying on Your Spirit to issue piercing warnings each time I stray into that danger zone.  Please get glory for Your name as You empower me to act like a man and lead other men in this worthy calling.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

This is the final installment of the Act Like Men Book.  I hope God has spoken through these posts and that you will read not only James MacDonald’s book but the Bible on what it means to be a Man of God!

If you want to read previous Act Like Men posts click here.

 

Continue reading

★ 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 spent so long on the wrong path I care to admit to, 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 He continually said that He does only what His 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.  One day, King 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 in 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, spouse and 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:

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

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

“People turned their lives over to Christ daily!”

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

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

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

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

66 - John 3-16 Appearances

John 3:16 (NLT) proclaims…

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

And verse 17 goes on to say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some common Excuses for not surrendering…

Don’t know You Are Chosen!  

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t know that there is Value in Weakness!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here I am
Down on my knees again
Surrendering all

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite part by far…

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

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

★ Re|Engage – Humility ★

ReEngage - Lesson 04

“Humility is such an elusive virtue.
Once you think you have it, you don’t,
or you wouldn’t think you did.”
Max Lucado 

Go back and re-read that quote slower…(really…re-read it and think about what it says.)  If you think you are humble, then you really are not!  The main idea of Lesson 4 was:

“Follow the example of Christ until you love yourself less than you love your spouse.  You cannot be a godly spouse if you are focusing on yourself.”

That seems to be obvious but how many couples do you know that are focused only on themselves and thus troubles follow.  So many people have an issue practicing humbleness.  But I love what C.S. Lewis said,

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

Humility is not allowing yourself to be a doormat but it is placing the needs of others above your own.  How different would this world be if spouses did this?  Instead pride gets in the way.  James 4:6 (NLT) says,

“And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

This is repeated over and over throughout scripture (1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 29:23 to name a few.)  Ron Deal made this interesting parallel…

“God opposed the proud and so do spouses.” 

Good point huh?  It doesn’t a rocket scientist to realize that!  Here is the antidote though from Philippians 2:3-4:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The book of Proverbs is a great book to read for wisdom, instruction and direction for life.  One of the most famous verses on Pride is from Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) which instructs that

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty [arrogantly superior and disdainful] spirit before a fall.”

Here is the verse in visual form:Marty Collier made reference to this by making this great point:

“Pride leads to sin and sin equals death.  Notice that “I” is at the center of pride and sin.” 

You see, when you are focused on “I” and not “WE,” that is the root of all of our marital problems.  This fourth lesson made this statement:

“Humility could be defined as having an accurate understanding of who you are, which leads to treating others as more important than yourself.”

I love this quote…

ReEngage - Lesson 04 - Humility is Shy
“Humility is so shy.  If you begin talking about it, it leaves.”  Timothy Keller

As we just celebrated Christmas, and are about to enter into a new year, it’s appropriate to acknowledge the greatest example of humility…Jesus Christ who was the epitome of humbleness as He selflessly layed down His crown and become a man to die for our sins.  The book made this observation:

“Jesus’ life was the ultimate expression of humility and serves as our example. While everyone around him was striving to be great Jesus told his followers that the way to greatness was through humble service.”

Easier said than done!

“Humility is risky. There are times when your humble service will go unnoticed, will be unappreciated or will be used for someone else’s gain. Jesus is not asking us to do anything He Himself did not go through and experience.”

Great point, as we look to act in humility in our marriage it is important to realize that

“Humility doesn’t take something from you; it does something for you.”

And I love this at the end, what will result if you do…

“Embracing humility is one of the quickest ways to change your marriage.”

So let’s make this New Year’s Resolution that as we enter into 2015, we will follow the example of Christ and treat our spouses with Humility!

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

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

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

Continue reading