★ Thought for the Day – God Owns It All! ★

My wife sent me this meme that is just plain hysterical!!

Every year around this time I get so frustrated with the excessive consumerism and rampant disregard of civility.  There are so video clips of people beating one another just to get the hottest Black Friday deal all in the name of saving money!  It got me thinking about this image that I saw from Tony Evans:

“The money you have came from God’s trees.  Everything you have belongs to God.”

Have you ever thought of that $20 bill in your pocket comes from trees that the Creator of Heaven and Earth spoke into existence?  (See Genesis 1:9-13).

I know I haven’t.  This image reminds me a lot of Psalms 24:1 (NASB)…

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”

And as Tony Evans stated it…“fear produces poor stewardship.”  When we fail to understand “Who’s the owner,” we get into trouble and fail to “Be a good steward” which is Biblical mandate!  As I was mulling this over, I got excited to resurrect a post called ★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 3 ★ which was part of a 4-part series to help spouse understand how to have unity in our Finances.  Today I am going to cover the major points of contrasting what are the common views of money that people have vs. God’s view of money.  Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount gives a perfect outline how our finances and possessions should be handled from God’s Perspective.  For simplicity’s sake I will refer to it as “Man’s View of Money,” but obviously that goes for the women as well.

Did you know that there are more than 2,350 verses in the Bible instructing us on how to handle money and possessions that God has placed in our care?  In today’s culture of instant gratification and entitlement.  It seems that ought to learn what the Bible has to say.  So, let’s start off with Matthew 6:19 (NASB) in which Jesus started off the teaching on money and possession saying:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” 

Storing up stuff here on Earth is going in the wrong direction.  Christian financial expert Larry Burkett said

“How we handle money is simply an outside indicator of our internal spiritual condition.” 

 

1.  The first view we are going to look at is Debt and Contentment:

72 - Daily Dependence - Debt & Contentment

The amazing thing is that as we are buying all the stuff on credit, we never realize that we are willingly entering into bondage to the credit card company or the car finance department or the mortgage company The world aggressively markets us that we no longer see debt as a problem which is how fist fights break out in Walmart on the day after we “Give Thanks!”  The key is to be a wise consumer and not try to keep up with the “Joneses.”  The question I have for you is…Are you content with what God is doing in your life?  I Timothy 6:6 (NKJV) says,

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”

In the past I struggled big time with this, I was not content with waiting to have what I wanted and as a result I brought a lot of pressure into our marriage.  As a result of not being content with what we had, my wife and I have accumulated consumer debt that we have had for years because we did not wait to save up.  And I have to say it has frustrated me so much to be limited in what we can do because monthly credit card minimums.  Have you ever thought about what you could do for the kingdom of God if you were not buried under credit card debt or car payments or a mortgage that you really cannot afford?  Proverbs 22:7 is so true, debt really does make us a slave to the lender, this is another great way to view it!

“The Decision to go into debt alters the course condition of your life.  You no longer own it.  You are owned.  Dave Ramsey

Amen?!  Too often we cannot say no to what marketers are selling, think about it, part of any effective advertising campaign is to make potential customers discontented with their existing product.  These feelings that accompany discontentment are enough to make people buy things they don’t need or can’t afford.  And sometimes it doesn’t even need to be a big screen TV or expensive purse it could just be eating out too much.  I love what Dave Ramsey says about debt,

“Debt is not the problem, but a symptom.  Debt is a symptom of overspending and undersaving.”

Debt is just a symptom of a bigger problem that we cannot say no to stuff and Proverbs 17:18 (MSG) puts a fine point on it,

“It’s stupid to try to get something for nothing, or run up huge bills you can never pay.” 

So how do we erase debt?  You have to choose to say no to what you want and focus on what you need.  You need to learn contentment.  Howard Dayton, from Crown Financial Ministries said:

“If you cannot be content with what you have, you will never be content with what you want.” 

How many times have we seen this play out with celebrities who are on top of the world and are still not happy?  The Apostle Paul knew about contentment and trusting in God’s Provisions.  When he was in prison, Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19 (NASB) about God’s Provisions,

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” 

If you look closely verse 19 says “all your needs” will be supplied.  Discontentment ignores the provisions of our needs and focuses on what we do not have and conversely on what we want.  We need to get to a place where our circumstances do not dictate whether we have joy or peace.

 

2.  The second view we will look at is a hot button issue and that is Tithing.

72 - Daily Dependence - Tithing

All of these comments under “Man’s View,” I have thought at one time or another in my life.  Growing up and into adulthood, I have seen a lot of hypocrisy in the church on how they handled the money and how they would badger the congregants to give more and more.  These experiences happened in different denominations, so I know that it is not based on church affiliation but on the human heart.  The simple fact is that Man will always let you down, but the key is not lumping God in the same category as a church or pastor that misrepresented Him by their actions.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:20 (NASB),

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”

God does not need our money, but He wants our hearts to be focused on the Kingdom of Heaven, not on stuff here on earth.  He knew that we would have an issue in this area which is why God made the requirement in the first place so that MONEY would not have a hold on OUR HEARTS.  The tithe or 10% of our income which is actually the minimum required by God.  Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV1984) says it all,

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.  “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.” 

I love this verse because it is the only place in the Bible that God challenges us to “Test” Him.  And if we pass the test, He promises to throw open the floodgates of heaven (or other translations say the “windows of heaven”) and bless us so much that we will not have room enough to store it.  Now that is what I want.  He also promises to prevent pests or the enemy from devouring what we have and that is not just finances and possessions but our marriage, our children and our health.  So, you see we really can’t afford not to give our tithe to the Lord.

Robert Morris made this great point…

“Tithing is believing God can do more with 90% than you can do with 100%.”

Rather than gripping about ““losing”” 10% we should be happy that we get to keep 90%!  Proverbs 3:9–10 (NIV1984) instructs us to,

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” 

One thing that I have noticed is that if I do not make my tithes and offerings a priority there will always be something else that will eat up the money.  When it says “First Fruits” here it means above all things, first and foremost, Honor the Lord with your wealth which He has provided for you.  Robert Morris also:

“It doesn’t take faith to pay all your bills and THEN give to God.  Put the kingdom of God FIRST… and see what happens to your provision!” 

If you do that the blessings will overflow!!  If you are not already tithing, I urge you to start and I promise you will never regret giving the Lord.  In Luke 6:38 (NIV1984), Jesus said,

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Your level of giving will be measured against you on what you receive.  My absolute favorite question is…”Is the tithe based on the gross or the net”?  I have asked this question myself and the best answer I have ever heard was, “What do you want to be blessed on??”  You see it is all about the motive and the heart of the giver and how much you trust God.  Rick Warren said,

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

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV1984) says,

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

If you heart is not in the right place, you will not please God with you giving.  God knew what hold money and possessions would have on our hearts and that is why so much teaching in the Bible deals with this.

 

3.  Stewardship is the next view we will look at. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:

  • the office, duties, and obligations of a steward – I always love how they define a word with the same word, I thought that was not allowed. A Steward (is defined as a fiscal agent or manager). 
  • the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

So, when we talk about Biblical Stewardship, we are talking about management of money and resources for God.  This however is not the conventional wisdom of this age.  Let’s take a look at the different views that exist…

72 - Daily Dependence - Stewardship

We need to understand that it is not our money.  God is the owner and we are His managers entrusted with His affairs and His possessions.  If Jesus spoke so much on the topic, don’t you think it may be important for us to understand what we are expected to do as managers of the resources God allows to come into our hands?  I love how Robert Morris makes the point,

“Many believers aren’t aware of this, but EVERY time you get paid, you are facing a test.”

The test is, whether we can be trusted to be a good manager.  Luke 16:10-11 (NIV1984) says,

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

Okay, so then how do we handle money as faithful managers?  I will give you a hint, it is the B-word of finances….You guess it the “Dreaded Budget”.  Yes, we have finally gotten to the part that you have been dying to get to – NOT!  Hahaha!  The budget is the absolute key to winning at money.  John Maxwell put it this way,

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”  

Dave Ramsey suggests using a “Zero-Based Budget.”

The “Zero-Based Budget” approach which is where the Total Expenses = Total Income.  Every dollar is spent on paper before it is spent.  If done this way, when you work through every category on your budget sheet you should end up with a zero (no extra money left over, or extra money spent). 

It always amazed us when the checking account was empty, and we had no idea where the money went.  Though we did not spend large sums of money on expenses items, we were $20 and $50 ourselves to death.  One of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein is:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Trying to manage your finances without a budget, without a plan is the very definition of insanity because you will never know where the money went and in most cases you will end up with “more month” then there is money to go around and I don’t need to tell you what a breeding ground for conflict that causes.  The budget is paramount to reduce stress and help control you to control your spending.

 

4.  The number four view is Idolatry and Greed.

72 - Daily Dependence - Idolatry & Greed

Money and possessions cannot make you happy or fill the void, it cannot buy happiness.  Jesus furthers the point in Matthew 6:24 (NASB) when He said,

“No one can serve two masters; (the Message translates this as ‘two gods,’) for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.” 

Money can become an Idol and if we are not careful, it can replace God.  And no discussion on greed can be complete without us mentioning one of the most famous scriptures from 1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT),

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 

This is one of the most famous and most misquoted verses.  Many people say, “money is the root of all kinds of evil,” but if you look carefully it says, “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  And that love of money can cause us to wander from the faith and cause many problems in our marriage and finances.  It is all about the heart and until you have that right, you will continually spin your wheels and never please God.

 

5.  Worry is number five.

72 - Daily Dependence - Worry

Some reading this post that have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, so I want to be careful in how I pose this section contrasting Man’s view with God’s view.  But what Jesus is saying here is that we need to put out trust in Him and not be troubled but the nightly news headlines because He is in control.  We need to rely on God and God alone.  Look at this cartoon; 72 - Daily Dependence - The Bible is the Manual To Live ByI love the punch line from the man’s wife,

“Why don’t you stop wondering what is wrong with the world and just read the manual”.

The bible is the one and only manual that will point our lives in the right direction.  As we place our concerns in God’s capable hands, we find a quietness that only He can provide.  God gives peace to those who are quiet before Him as Philippians 4:6 (NASB) says we are to,

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

Boy that is a hard one for me sometimes but the longer I walk with God the more I realize when I just put in his hands (and leave it there), He will take care of my every need.  I am not the provider for my family, God is the provider.

 

6.  The final view we will look at tonight is Legacy.

72 - Daily Dependence - Legacy

I saw this comic, and though it is funny, it is also quite sobering!

72 - Daily Dependence - Mountain of Debt ComicBut Jesus made God’s view clear in Matthew 6:33 (NASB) which says,

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

God should be ahead of everything else, if we do, everything else will be added to us.  It should be a great concern of ours about the debt just continuing to grow with no thought of the future.

1 Timothy 5:8 (NASB) says,

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

If you are not thinking about the legacy you leave, you are considered to have “denied the faith” and are “worse than an unbeliever!”  To add to that thought, Proverbs 13:22 (NIV1984) says,

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.”

How much would people change their spending habits if they thought about providing for their “children’s children”….if they thought generational?  One of Dave Ramsey’s most famous quotes is,

72 - Daily Dependence - Dave Ramsey - Live Like No One Else

How we live now will greatly affect how we will live in the future.  And at the risk of making this post a little longer, I wanted to let you know that applying these principles contained in this post will change your life!  We are living proof of it!  For years now, my wife and I have applying ourselves, being a good steward, tithing consistently and working to eliminate the consumer debt and I am thrilled to report that as of November 19, 2019 we are Debt Free!  (…Everything but the house.)  I cannot tell you how liberating of a feeling it is! 

To go along with that thought, I wanted to share an amazing sermon series called Beyond Blessed, in which Robert Morris unpacks what the “Bible says about the importance of wise stewardship and how it’s God’s perfect plan to overcome all financial stress.”  I would like to close with this final thought…

 “God blesses us because He loves us, and He also blesses us so we can be a blessing. Living beyond blessed isn’t about what we’re able to receive; it’s about what we’re able to give. It’s then that we can truly live beyond blessed.”

I pray that you receive that today and that you will commit to “Be a good steward!”  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  I hope that this post is a springboard for you to start your journey to expand your Biblical Worldview of Money and begin to adopt God’s View of how we handle our Finances and Possessions!  May God richly bless you as you trust in Him completely!

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He replied,

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

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

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

“There are three baptisms in the New Testament:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

  DIG DEEPER

Check out these related posts:

★ Thought for the Day – Candy Land Christianity ★

★ Thought for the Day – When in Rome ★

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

 

 

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus said in John 14:26 (ESV)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★ ★ ★ DIG DEEPER ★ ★ ★ 

Check out this related post:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

★ Back to the Basics – Does God Play Favorites? ★

In preparation for this post I stumbled onto this TIME Magazine Cover with this Tagline: “Why Mom Liked You Most” which I think many people could resonate with.  I know I always thought my brother and sister got the biggest slice of cake!  Hahaha!  In the post called ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★ we talked about how our family of origin can have a serious effect on who we become.  I’d highly recommend you read it first because today’s Thought will build upon that foundation.  In the post I shared how my Family Juggernaut played a significant role in my development and that it was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, adultery, verbal and physical abuse, all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Fast forward 41 years to April 2016, the day after my mom’s funeral when my brother and I had a conversation that would change the trajectory of our lives. But before I delve into that, I wanted to talk some more about Jesus’ Family Situation that we discussed in The Family Juggernaut post.  Last time we examined how Jesus’ brothers did not believe He was the Messiah and what that must have been like for Jesus to not have their support.  Today I want to look at the issues between Jesus and his brothers from their perspective.  I was watching this video clip from Michael Jr. called What if you were a younger sibling of Jesus?” and almost died laughing.

It’s a hysterical parody on what it might have been like for James to live with the Savior of the World and grow up as Jesus’ little brother.  Michael Jr. jested that:

“James had problems.  He would go to his parents and you know what they’d say…‘What would Jesus do?’  Then they gave him a bracelet.” 

Hahaha!  Now I did not grow up with the Messiah, but I am all too familiar with growing up in my big brother’s shadow.  He was always the life of the party, the one that was the center of attention.  Now I may be dating myself here, but have you ever seen the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond?”  Although Raymond was the younger sibling, the comparison is identical to how I felt growing up, that my brother was center of our family just like Raymond was the center of the show.  But in that conversation with my brother I discovered how wrong my perspective was. Though I believed that he was Raymond and everybody’s favorite, he believed that the opposite was true!  His view of our family dynamic was that I was the favored son of our mother. Guess sibling rivalry is alive and well.  But that fateful day just a little over 2 years ago changed our relationship forever!  I am reminded of a quote from Steven Furtick’s book “Crash the Chatterbox”:

“The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.”

See my brother and I listened to the chatterbox (aka Satan), and completely bought into the lies that we are not worthy of our mother’s love as much as the other one was. I had preconceived notions of him and his motives, as he did of me as well.  That day though we were able to clear the air and God began a healing work through that one conversation!

It really is true what Theodore Roosevelt said:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Absolutely nothing good comes from comparing ourselves to others.  It got me thinking about how we view our relationship with our Heavenly Father…Does God play favorites?  What do you think?  Do you think that He values some people over others?  Romans 2:9-11 (NLT) gives some insight…

There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile

10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 

11 For God does not show favoritism.”

Does this seem to be an oxymoron?  How does verse 11 go with verses 9 and 10 when Paul says “for the Jew first and also for the Gentile?”  At first I thought it was showing favoritism that the Jews were over the Gentles but I learned a valuable lesson after I sent this question to my Pastor and some buddies.  You cannot “a la carte” the Bible.  It is very dangerous to grab 2 or 3 verses and develop a belief system from a small passage.  Context is everything!  My pastor responded back with this great insight…

“After doing a little looking at the text.  Romans 2:1-16 is speaking of Gods judgment.  The statement “first for the Jew…then to the Gentile…” is not meant to imply a special consideration or favoritism.  But rather in light of God’s standard of impartiality, it emphasizes that the ENTIRE human race is dealt with by God.  In the way of His judgement both Jew and Greek (all humans) will be dealt with and there will be no favoritism shown.  The Jew would have thought that God may not have judgment on them…the same as everyone else because of they were much more “religious”.  But God is not partial in His judgment…all will be judged equally according to His Word.”

A light bulb went off for me when I read that because I know that God loves all people and that He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent,” (see 2 Peter 3:8-10,) and be with Him in heaven for all eternity.  So if we go back to verse 11, it cannot be any clearer… “For God does not show favoritism.”  Besides not picking and choosing a couple of scriptures to form an opinion from, I also was reminded that before I start down a “rabbit trail” of thought, I must look at the Bible in totality – BOTH Old and New Testament to see what the entire book has to say.  I recently heard Robert Morris say:

“Though the Bible was written by (39) men, it has One Author.”

That author of course being God Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth!  So let’s do some bible drilling…

Deuteronomy 10:17 (NLT) says:

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords.  He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.”

God is supreme above all and has no favorites, nor can He be swayed by anything we may say or do or how much we give to the church.  We cannot buy God’s love or our way into Heaven.  Another Old Testament passage comes from Job 34:19 (NKJV) which is especially poignant as the man Job who was referred to by God as blameless—a man of complete integrity who feared God and stayed away from evil” (see Job 1:1); BUT yet he went through unbelievable trials.  In verse 19 in speaking about God’s character, Job said:

“Yet He is not partial to princes,
Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor;
For they are all the work of His hands.”

We are God masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10) and regardless of our material possessions nothing can separate us from the love of God or make Him love us more!  (See Nehemiah 9:17-20; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Ephesians 3:17-19).  I love how Acts 10:34-36 (NLT) proclaims this truth!

“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.  In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.  This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”

This was a turning point for Peter as Acts 10:9-33 records, he was given (3) visions from God about eating animals that up until that time, the Jewish people held as unclean and taboo to eat.  This was God’s way of telling Peter that the Gentiles (or non-Jews) were worthy to receive the Gospel and that he was to go and minister to a Gentile man named Cornelius.  And in fact the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit for the first time (see Acts 10:37-48).  The Jews were the first to have faith in the One True God, the Gentiles are like the second born into the family to receive salvation.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Titus 2:11 (NLT),

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.”

Unlike how my brother and I viewed each other, God is very clear all through the Bible that we are all worthy to receive the undeserved grace of God.  I told you at the beginning of this post that the trajectory of my relationship with my brother was changed by that one conversation.  God not only healed the hard feelings we held towards each other due to perceived favoritism, but we have grown closer together even though 1,069 miles separate us.  I shared in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ that I host bible studies in my house in Texas, Monday through Friday at 5:00 AM.  Since June of this year after my brother and his family visited and attended those studies, he has continued to participate in the bible studies through the use of technology, joining remotely multiple times a week from North Carolina!  And through that time, God is working a miracle in our relationship to eradicate the damage that the devil did over the past 20 years!  I will close with a passage that my brother and I recently read together from Romans 10:9-13 (NLT):

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

As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.’  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect.  They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him.  For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

I want to encourage you to do an honest self-evaluation about your relationships.  Are you like me, that you have a strained relationship with a brother, or another family member or friend?  Then reconcile it today!  You will not regret it!  I cannot tell you how blessed I feel that after being distant from my brother for so long, today we are closer than ever!  And secondly, if you are far from God, or never accepted Jesus, go back to Romans 10:9-13 confess that Jesus is Lord of your life and accept the free gift of grace that is available to everyone!

If you want to dig in deeper, check out:

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

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

★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

 

 

Continue reading

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

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

106 - Daily Dependence - Mr. Owl Socks

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

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

It seemed like this commercial stayed on the air forever.

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

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

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

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,  

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

 Jesus answered,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Proverbs 19:11 (NIV1984) says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth # 3…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness ★

★ Re|Engage – Forgiveness In Action ★

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – The Pitfalls of Money ★

105 - Daily Dependence - Pitfalls of Money Banner

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

Mo·nop·o·ly
[muh-nop-uh-lee]
Noun

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

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

105 - Daily Dependence - Monopoly Editions

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

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

According to the official rules:

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

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

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

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

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

105 - Daily Dependence - Pitfalls of Money - Discontentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

105 - Daily Dependence - Giving

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

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

Charles Stanley had this great life lesson on this verse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will close with this final thought from Charles Stanley:

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

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

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

$ Building Your Money Muscle $

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Share IT! ★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimately you have to understand that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Romans 3:23 (NLT) says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faith is meant to be more than a formality.

Faith was meant to be more than a feeling.

Faith was meant to be more than a formula.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are so follow-up resources…

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

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

★  “Functional Faith” – Steven Furtick

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

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

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Living A Lasting Legacy ★

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

90 - Daily Dependence - Star Wars - Generational Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my prayer for you…

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

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – A Season for Everything ★

89 - Daily Dependence - Ecclesiastes 3 - 1-8 - A Time For EverythingEcclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV) says,

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible he had this commentary on verse 1…

“In His wisdom and sovereignty, God sets an appropriate time for everything.  At the right time, Christ was born (Galatians 4:4); at the right time, He lifts us up (1 Peter 5:6).  Don’t run ahead of God’s timing!  His blessings are always worth the wait.” 

We just concluded a 25 day consecutive series of post looking into the “Reason for the Season” and why we should be thankful at Christmastime.  If you missed it, you can catch up by ★ Clicking Here ★.  We spent that time delving into the significance of that Season and why it was so important for Jesus to come.  On Day 01 we started off with this quote from John Maxwell,

“Reflection turns experience into insight.” 

Today, as 2015 draws to an end, let’s not get ahead of God’s timing…Before we enter into a new year with fresh opportunities and a clean slate, I thought it appropriate to take moment in this season before January 1, to share with you what I have reflected upon that God spoke to me in the season of “Advent.”  My prayer is that like me, you would gain a new insight!  This will also be an opportunity for those that missed the series to get a sampling of what we posted about through the series.  Below are hyperlinks to each day’s post and one aspect that God really spoke to me about…

★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate? ★

“Christmas is about Jesus being conceived in YOU!  It’s about Jesus growing in you and you delivering Jesus to the world around you.”  Robert Morris Senior Pastor at Gateway Church

★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★

“First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior.  Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.  It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior.”  John Piper

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

“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.”  121 Advent Bible Plan

★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★

“Celebrate Christmas with a spirit of adoration and joy.  Celebrate by stringing up twinkling lights on your front door.  Celebrate by humming the tunes of Nat King Cole and “Silent Night.”  Celebrate by giving to those in need.”  My Daughter, age 14

★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★

“For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  And then the angel left her.  Luke 1:37-38

★ Day 06 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Should Change Us ★

Regardless of whether we are just starting out in life or reaching the end, their example shows that you are never too young or too old to experience God’s promises!”  My wife’s insight

★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★

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

★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-Mas? – Part 2 ★

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

★ Day 09 – Reason for the Season – Who Do You Belong To? ★

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”  C.S. Lewis

★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★

“The beauty of the hope ushered in through Christ and made alive in us through His Spirit, is that it gives us the ability to have abiding hope, that transcends earthly circumstances and uncertainty.”  121 Advent Bible Plan

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

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)

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

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

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

★ Day 13 – Reason for the Season – The Nativity Revealed ★

“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.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT)

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

“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.”  Kay Warren

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

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

★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★

“The true secret of life is to give rather than receive, and no greater gift has been given to us than God   giving His only Son, Jesus, to make a way for us, to bring us hope and salvation.”   Chris Tomlin

★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★

“Want to Keep Christ in Christmas?

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”  Steve Maraboli

★ Day 18 – Reason for the Season – Jesus Is _____ ★

“Without Jesus, Christianity is just another religion among many. After all, He is the very essence of God who came not only to take away the sins of the world, but to reveal the Father to us in the flesh.”  Tony Evans

★ Day 19 – Reason for the Season – Everlasting Gratitude ★

“The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.”  Zig Ziglar

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

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

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

“I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  John 8:12b (NKJV)

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

“Worship will get you through the toughest times in your life, because it shifts your focus from the problem to the problem solver.”  Unknown

★ Day 23 – Reason for the Season – Can Christians Condone Claus? ★

“Santa Claus may be fun at Christmas, but he pales in comparison to the One who reigns forevermore. Jesus can give you what you really need.”  Max Lucado

★ Day 24 – Reason for the Season – Best Christmas Gift Ever! ★

“Status was never important to Jesus but selflessness was…Christ surrendered everything He loved in order that He might serve those He loved.”

“What did Christmas mean to Christ?  It meant giving up heaven, giving up the beauty of His home and selflessly coming to Earth.”  David Jeremiah

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

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


Let start off the New Year by closing out 2015 with a new insight!

 

Continue reading

★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★

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

I have good news and bad news.  The good news…Today is only Day 16 of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series!  The bad news is…There is only 9 Days left to shop ’til Christmas!  16 - Daily Dependence - 9 Days Until ChristmasDid you feel your blood pressure rise with that update?  It’s no wonder as marketers put these types of images with tag lines like “Guaranteed delivery before Christmas Day if you complete your orders by ____.”  The constant bombardment of commercials, advertisements and email flyers cultivates a Spirit of Consumerism and Materialism that I pray will be broken today.  We first introduced this with the ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★ post that was chiefly written by my oldest daughter when she was 14!  Today’s “Reason for the Season” is inspired by her as well, however not for what she wrote, but for how she lives.  But before I jump into that, let’s have some comic relief, and since we haven’t had any for a couple of days, here are two…16 - Daily Dependence - Christmas List and Gift ReceiptI so love these comics because they illustrate two aspects of the same spirit that we need to be very careful about feeding.  One is that you get everything on your list and the other is that needing assurance that the gift can be returned/exchanged if it is not liked.  Now I will put this caveat out there…There is nothing sinful about making a Christmas list or receiving/getting gift receipts, that IS NOT what I am saying at all.  As my wife and I have been raising our now 15-year old and 12-year old daughters, we have tried to impart to them that Christmas is about Jesus and doing for others more than it is about receiving gifts.  Before you think that they never received Christmas gifts, that is the furthest thing from the truth…we just do not spend a thousand dollars on Christmas presents for two reasons…

1.  To stop them expecting and becoming entitled to receive large, costly items…And…

2. For practical reasons, we don’t want to have to work the next 6 months paying off the credit cards to pay for Christmas. 

What I hope to do today is introduce this idea of a “Gift from the Heart.”  A what?  You may ask…You mean I do not receive a gift from you that is on my list but rather that you put thought and effort into coming up with and buying on your own?  I must admit that when my wife and I were first dating, this was a foreign concept and one that needed to adjust to but one that I love!  We still have some items on a list by we have tried hard over the years to put a little effort into the gift exchange.  It was interesting though, as we have had the “Christmas List” discussions with different family members, when we came to our oldest we asked her what she wanted for Christmas and her response was a “gift from the heart,” or money for her to go on a Mission Trip to help others less fortunate.  WOW!  I had two reactions…one of conviction on how selfless that response was and the other unbelievable pride in the maturity and true “Spirit of Christmas” she possesses at the age of 15!  Now I tell you this not to brag but to encourage and show that it is possible to move from a “gimmie attitude” to one of “giving.”  That is the Heart of God and what Jesus came to earth to teach us!  I love what Chris Tomlin said,

“The true secret of life is to give rather than receive, and no greater gift has been given to us than God giving His only Son, Jesus, to make a way for us, to bring us hope and salvation.” 

The Beauty of Christmas is not in the presents but in His presence!!  In ★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★16 - Daily Dependence - Matthew 1-23 - Beauty of Christmas post, I shared about a beloved episode of our family from Little House on the Prairie called “Christmas in Plum Creek” and I wanted to share yet another heartwarming moment of that episode.  In the climactic scene, baby Carrie reminds the family that “there’s one last Christmas gift to open.”  After finding a penny, Carrie went to Olsen’s Mercantile and bought a gift for Baby Jesus…16 - Daily Dependence - Little House in the Prairie Star on the Christmas TreeA shiny star ornament for the top of the family’s Christmas tree.  After all, Christmas is really Jesus’ birthday isn’t it?  Such a beautiful example of sacrifice and I pray that we could all have a heart of giving like a child…To give all we have for Jesus!  And it does not mean give away all your money, it could mean giving up your time or some other resource to help others.  My wife told me of this acoustic from Susie Jennings’ book “31 Days of Mountaintop Miracles” yesterday about how to have True JOY…It is possible to have if we focus on these priorities…

16 - Daily Dependence - True JoyAnd to tie this into our “Reason for the Season,” we can have True Joy in spite of the marketing-induced chaos if we only adjust our focus…Not just for the Christmas S16 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Party for Jesuseason but all year round!  Susie Jennings runs a ministry called Operation Care International which puts on an “ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY FOR JESUS” for the homeless.

If you live in Dallas/Fort Worth, it will be at the Dallas Convention Center this Saturday, December 19 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, if you would like information to attend, volunteer and/or give, click here.

Robert Morris had this interesting point that can help with the refocusing effort,

“We tend to relate God’s blessings to stuff.  But a person who has more stuff than someone else is not necessarily more blessed.  Stuff is just stuff.  And the way you think about stuff will determine whether you have a heart of gratitude or a heart of greed.” 

I want to always have a heart of gratitude and it starts by simple saying thank God for all that you have richly blessed me with…Start big and go small…

  • Thank you for sending Jesus to save me,
  • Thank you for my spouse,
  • Thank you for my children,
  • Thank you for my job,
  • Thank you for my home,
  • Thank you for the clothes on my back,
  • Thank you for my dog!

You get the point…There is so much to be grateful for!  I will close with a picture of my dog and James 1:17 (NIV) which says, 

16 - Daily Dependnece - James 1-17 - Every Good Gift
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★

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

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

Continue reading

★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★

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

This comic really captures the atmosphere in America.

02 - Daily Dependence - Comic - CreationWise - Why I Say Merry Christmas - Offended by ChristmasEveryone is so concerned about offending people that they have no problem trampling on the rights of those who want to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  It used to be that regardless of whether you believed in Jesus or not, the Christmas season was a time that everyone could come together and celebrate a time of peace and good will to all.  As I think about the upcoming Christmas season of decorating, shopping and everything else that come along with it, I would like to take a moment today and think about “The TRUE Reason for the Season” which is so beautifully conveyed in John 3:16-17 (NLT)…

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”

“God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son”stop…You can read that and pass right over the significance of these two words, “He gave.”  When it says that He gave it means that He willingly sacrificed His beloved Son up to die in the most heinous way so that “everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life!”  Jesus was born of a virgin woman over 2,000 years ago to make a way for you and I to be saved.  He was sent “into the world not to judge the world,” as some many believe, “but to save the world through Him.”  Now that is something to celebrate!  John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,” about the first thing we need to do as we enter the Advent Season,02 - Daily Dependence - John Piper - Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight

“First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior.  Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.  It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior.”

Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.”  Wow that is powerful!  I never thought of Christmas in that way before that it that serves to illustrate that we are lost without Jesus and deserve to be condemned because of our Sin.  But John 3:16-17 is the path to acquittal where all formal charges can be dropped!  But we need to make that choice!  People are offended by Christmas because it puts a spotlight on the fact that they have no relationship with Jesus.  1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) says,

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

That was the case for me for sure!  It was not until I was 24 years old that I realized how lost I was and in need of a savior.  Though I had plenty of information about who Jesus was and the events of Christmas and Easter (when Jesus was raised from the dead after being crucified on the cross 3 days earlier,) there was no transformation in my heart.  I did not understand the significance of Jesus and how His birth over 2,000 years ago would change the course of human history and mine as well!!  Ultimately The Cross of Jesus and Christmas is and will remain folly to those perishing until we understand our need for a savior!  And until then this comic will continue to be the reality…

It really is astounding how Jesus has been “X-ed” out of Christmas in the largest Christian Nation.  I love what comedian Michael Jr. said about this,

“Some people are offended by the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ So I just say ‘Merry Jesus Birthday.’”

“Merry Jesus Birthday” sure has a catchy tone!  Hahaha!  I say Merry Christmas because it is a miraculous time and one worthy of recognition, it is NOT intended to offend or make others feel bad but to celebrate the coming of Jesus.  Christmas is a time of miracles, a time to remember Jesus’ birth and a time for renewal in our hearts.  As we discussed in the last post, ★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate? ★, the start of the Christmas story is in Luke 1:5-25 (NLT) that recalls the first miracle of the Christmas Season as the Angel Gabriel announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would conceive a son even though they were well along in years and that he would “prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.” (Verse 17)  Zechariah’s son who would be named John the Baptist, was the forerunner to Jesus, the Messiah to be His herald and do just what the Advent Season that we celebrate each year is intended!  Unfortunately though Zachariah did not believe, verse 18 says,

“Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Circumstances clouded his vision and understanding of the miracle-working God that he was serving in the Temple that very day!  So Zachariah’s unbelief, resulted in Gabriel responding in verse 20,

But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

But my favorite part of the story is that even though Zechariah had a moment of doubt, he did indeed believe as verses 23-24 proves,

“When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home.  Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.”

Like Zachariah, you may have doubts, but I promise you if you open your heart to the truth pf John 3:16-17, you too can be thankful as I am to say Merry Christmas.  I read this quote somewhere that said,

“The most important part about Christmas is the first six letters.”

So I will close this Thought for the Day by saying…          

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

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★

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

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

Continue reading

★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate? ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1John Maxwell once said,

“Reflection turns experience into insight.” 

This simple statement really motivated me to look at the Christmas Story with a new set of eyes and to earnestly seek to explore the “Reasons for Season,” and why I should be thankful.  The muse for this 25 Day Devotional was born from a conversation with y wife as I told her that I want this Christmas to be different from any other.  In her typical motivational nature, she challenged me to write a series of reasons what I am thankful during the Advent Season.  In our last post ★ Thought for the Day – Begging God For_____? ★, we discussed the importance for being thankful and introduced the series that we will be doing for the next 25 Days where we reflect and turn that experience into insight!  Each day we will post daily Reasons for Thankfulness for this Advent Season.  Psalm 136:1, 26 instructs us…

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.  His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” 

A thankful heart will change the bleakest of situations because when shift our focus from the circumstance to the Creator, anything is possible!  We just need to be patient and wait on the Lord which is what the Season of Advent is all about!  For those who may not be familiar with the term of “Advent,” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as:

noun Ad·vent \ˈad-ˌvent

:  the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting

01 - Daily Dependence - Advent WreathAdvent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  Traditionally this has been observed with an Advent Wreath with (5) candles that represents Hope, Joy, Peace, Love and Jesus which would be lit each Sunday.  Interestingly, my church just started a series based on Advent this past Sunday so it is awesome to see how God is spreading His message through different outlets!  Growing up my family celebrated with an Advent Calendar which had small numbered flaps, with a picture and scripture verse 01 - Daily Dependnece - Advent Calendarthat taught a part of the Christmas story for the 25 days leading up to Christmas.  My brother and sister and I always fought to open the last day which had a double flap revealing the baby Jesus, a childhood memory I cherish to this day.  My Aunt has continued the tradition this year by getting my daughters a subscription to an online Advent Calendar which we will be starting today!

Much the same, each day we will look at the Christmas story to better understand the “Reason for the Season” in order to cultivate a true sense of Thankfulness for God sending His Son to be born in a manger.  Psalm 100 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving says,

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him, singing with joy.  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.”

01 - Daily Dependence - Jesus the Reason for the SeasonThere are a lot of action Words – shout, worship and come singing with joy!  My prayer for you, and for me is that the next 25 days will not be a blur filled with “stuff” to check off the obligatory list, but that we would find a new sense of connection to Jesus!  Because to state the obvious,

Jesus the Reason for the Season! 

Come expectant for God to do something in you each day.  Someone who was expectant was the prophet Micah who foretold where Jesus the Messiah would be born over 700 years prior to His birth.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  Micah 5:2 (NIV1984)

To help along with that, I started reading the YouVersion Bible Reading plan called 121 Advent’ (Click here to view).  I highly recommend you do the same.  In today’s devotional content they gave this great description:

The word “advent” is rooted in a Latin word simply meaning, “coming”.  Advent is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ.  This side of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we are able to celebrate this season of advent in two distinct ways.  We look back and identify with those that awaited and longed for the arrival of the Messiah foretold to them.  We do this from a perspective infused with knowing that God, in His faithfulness, provided that Messiah in Jesus, just as the Scriptures prophesied.  We also look ahead, in expectation and longing for the second coming of Christ.  Advent is not a biblical mandate, but a tradition implored among the Christian tradition to set our minds and hearts on the coming of Christ.”

For those who maybe have never read the Christmas Story in totality, here are the major stories:

Or if you want to read it completely through – Luke 1:5-56, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:57 – 2:40, and Matthew 2:1-23.  Robert Morris has this great thought for you to reflect upon on why to celebrate this season…

“Christmas is about Jesus being conceived in YOU!  It’s about Jesus growing in you and you delivering Jesus to the world around you.” 
“Christmas is about Jesus being conceived in YOU!  It’s about Jesus growing in you and you delivering Jesus to the world around you.”

I am thankful that I have a Savior to celebrate and earnestly desire to grow more and more like Jesus!  So as we enter the Season of “Advent,” let’s spend the next 25 days really focused on setting our minds on Christ and reflecting on all the “Reasons for the Season” to cultivate a thankful heart!


If you would like to see the next installment of our 25 Days of Thankfulness series go here…★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★

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 – Stay the Course…Part 2 ★

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

79 - Daily Dependence - Building Your Money Muscle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★★ Stay the Course! ★★★ 

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

 

 

 

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 3 ★

72 - Daily Dependence - Marriage & Money - Part 3

★★★ Attention single people!! ★★★

I know that the title of this is “Marriage & Money,” but whether you have never married, you’re divorced or widowed, every financial principle that we will outline in this post is directly applicable to you!
Please don’t skip what God would speak into your life through this.

Our trilogy of “Marriage & Money” posts comes to an end with the final installment that we will hopefully understand how to have unity in our Finances by looking into People’s View of Money vs. God’s View of Money.  It is also our 100th post as well!!

72 - Daily Dependence - 100th post

As a quick recap:

  • In Part 1, we discussed how not having a plan for how the family finances are going to be handled can cause problems in our marriage if not dealt with quickly.  We also reviewed God’s Plan for Marriage and how Satan attacks marriages.  If you missed it, just click here…★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 1 ★ to get caught up.
  • In Part 2, we discussed the Differences between Men and Women and how Satan exploits those dissimilarities to heap on the stress to cause a wedge in our relationship.  Most importantly, we unpacked how it is paramount to have God as the center of our marriage if we ever want to have unity.  If you missed it, just click here…★ Thought for the Day – Marriage & Money – Part 2 ★ to get caught up.

Now that we have talked about God’s plan for marriage and the enemy’s attacks, we are going switch gears and talk about People’s View of Money vs. God’s View of Money and how this plays into our marriages.  When you and your spouse tied the knot and married each other you became “One Flesh” right?  Well your finances should be unified as well and when they are not all kinds of strife and enmity results.  Financial expert Dave Ramsey said,

  • “In order to have a financially successful marriage, the money has to be ‘ours’…not ‘mine’ and ‘yours’.” 

We have focused a lot of time on marriage but that was to set the foundation for the financial side of things, because every thing that we talked about marriage also applies to money.  Remember they go hand in hand.  We are going to look at People’s view of money and Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount which outlines God’s view of Money.    For simplicity’s sake I will refer to it as “Man’s View of Money,” but obviously that goes for the women as well.

There are more than 2,350 verses in the Bible instructing us on how to handle money and possessions that God has placed in our care.  I have always found it ironic that on back of our money it says “IN GOD WE TRUST”.  That seems to be such a strange statement to be placed on our currency, especially in today’s culture of instant gratification and entitlement.  It seems that “IN DEBT WE TRUST” would be closer to the mark.  Earl Wilson said,

72 - Daily Dependence - Earl Wilson - In Love With DebtThat is a bold statement, but the simple fact is that we love our credit cards.  We are willing to go into tons of debt so that we can live in the best neighborhoods, we will work ourselves to the bone to drive nice cars and to have all kinds of nice things which ultimately leads to money problems if we are not careful.  Now let me be clear, there is nothing wrong having a nice house or cars or having lots of stuff, the key is acquiring these things by handling it God’s way and not trusting in debt.  Jesus taught that in Matthew 6:19 (NASB),

  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” 

Storing up stuff here on Earth is going in the wrong direction.  Christian financial expert Larry Burkett said

  • “How we handle money is simply an outside indicator of our internal spiritual condition.” 

1.  The first view we are going to look at is Debt and Contentment:

72 - Daily Dependence - Debt & Contentment

The amazing thing is that as we are buying all the stuff on credit we never realize that we are willingly entering into bondage to the credit card company or the car finance department or the mortgage company.  I am no different from anyone else.  I grew up poor in a single parent home and once I got married I determined that I was never going to “do without.”  I am the natural spender in the marriage whereas, my wife grew up in a family that saved money so when we got married it was a challenge to say the least for her because she approached our finances as the “saver.”  Ultimately you need to have a little of both because spending everything you have is not good but neither is saving everything you make, you need to have a little fun, just have to find the right balance.  The key is to be a wise consumer and not try to keep up with the “Joneses.”  The question I have for you is…Are you content with what God is doing in your life?  I Timothy 6:6 (NKJV) says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”  See that was my problem, I was not content with waiting to have what I wanted and as a result I brought a lot of pressure into our marriage.  In his book, the ABC’s of Financial Freedom, Barry Cameron said two incredible things in regards to debt,

72 - Daily Dependence - Barry Cameron - DebtHave you ever thought about what you could do for the kingdom of God if you were not buried under credit card debt or car payments or a mortgage that you really cannot afford?  You know when I read that quote about the devil and debt; I could not help but draw the parallel to Proverbs 22:7 about being the lender’s slave which is exactly what Satan wants.  Too often we cannot say no to what marketers are selling, think about it, part of any effective advertising campaign is to make potential customers discontented with their existing product.  These feelings that accompany discontentment are enough to make people buy things they don’t need or can’t afford.  And sometimes it doesn’t even need to be a big screen TV or expensive purse it could just be eating out too much.  I love what Dave Ramsey says about debt,

  • “Debt is not the problem, but a symptom.  Debt is a symptom of overspending and undersaving.”

Debt is just a symptom of a bigger problem that we cannot say no to stuff and Proverbs 17:18 (MSG) puts a fine point on it,

  • “It’s stupid to try to get something for nothing, or run up huge bills you can never pay.” 

So how do we erase debt?  You have to choose to say no to what you want and focus on what you need.  You need to learn contentment.  Howard Dayton, from Crown Financial Ministries said:

  • “If you cannot be content with what you have, you will never be content with what you want.” 

How many times have we seen this play out with celebrities who are on top of the world and are still not happy?  The Apostle Paul knew about contentment and trusting in God’s Provisions.  When he was in prison he wrote in Philippians 4:13 and 19 (NASB) about God’s Provisions,

  • “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” 
  • “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” 

If you look closely verse 19 says “all your needs” will be supplied.  Discontentment ignores the provisions of our needs and focuses on what we do not have and conversely on what we want.  We need to get to a place where our circumstances do not dictate whether we have joy or peace.

2.  The second view we will look at is a hot button issue and that is Tithing.

72 - Daily Dependence - TithingWhen you look at all of these comments under “Man’s View,” I have thought at one time or another.  Growing up and into adulthood, I have seen a lot of hypocrisy in the church on how they handled the money and how they would badger the congregants to give more and more.  These experiences happened in different denominations so I know that it is not based on church affiliation but on the human heart.  The simple fact is that Man will always let you down but the key is not lumping God in the same category as a church or pastor that misrepresented Him by their actions.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:20 (NASB),

  • “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”

God does not need our money but He wants our hearts to be focused on the Kingdom of Heaven, not on stuff here on earth.  He knew that we would have an issue in this area which is why God made the requirement in the first place so that MONEY would not have a hold on OUR HEARTS.  The tithe or 10% of our income is actually the minimum required by God.  It’s comical to think that we own any of our income when you shine the light of Psalm 24:1 (NIV1984) on the issue,

  • “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” 

Rather than gripping about “loosing” 10% we should be happy that we get to keep 90%!  Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV1984) says it all,

  • “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.  “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.” 

I love this verse because it is the only place in the Bible that God challenges us to “Test” Him.  And if we pass the test he promises to throw open the floodgates of heaven (or other translations say the “windows of heaven”) and bless us so much that we will not have room enough to store it.  Now that is what I want.  He also promises to prevent pests or the enemy from devouring what we have and that is not just finances and possessions but our marriage, our children and our health.  So you see we really can’t afford not to give our tithe to the Lord.  Proverbs 3:9–10 (NIV1984) instructs us to,

  • “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” 

One thing that I have noticed is that if I do not make my tithes and offerings a priority there will always be something else that will eat up the money.  When it says “First Fruits” here it means above all things, first and foremost, Honor the Lord with your wealth which He has provided for you.  Pastor Robert Morris said perfectly:

  • “It doesn’t take faith to pay all your bills and THEN give to God. Put the kingdom of God FIRST … and see what happens to your provision!” 

If you do that the blessings will overflow!!  If you are not already tithing, I urge you to start and I promise you will never regret giving the Lord.  In Luke 6:38 (NIV1984), Jesus said,

  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Your level of giving will be measured against you on what you receive.  My absolute favorite question is…”Is the tithe based on the gross or the net”?  I have asked this question myself and the best answer I have ever heard was, “What do you want to be blessed on??”  You see it is all about the motive and the heart of the giver and how much you trust God.  Rick Warren said,

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

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV1984) says,

  • “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

If you heart is not in the right place, you will not please God with you giving, you can read about Cain’s unacceptable offering in Genesis chapter 4.  We don’t have time to go through the story but the very first murder resulted over tithing when Cain killed his brother Abel because God found his offering acceptable and not Cain’s.  God knew what hold money and possessions would have on our hearts and that is why so much teaching in the Bible deals with this.

3.  Stewardship is the next view we will look at. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:

  • the office, duties, and obligations of a steward – I always love how they define a word with the same word, I thought that was not allowed. A Steward (is defined as a fiscal agent or manager). 
  • the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

So when we talk about Biblical Stewardship, we are talking about management of money and resources for God.  This however is not the conventional wisdom of this age.  So let’s take a look at the different views that exist…

72 - Daily Dependence - Stewardship

We need to understand that it is not our money.  God is the owner and we are His managers entrusted with His affairs and His possessions.  So if Jesus spoke so much on the topic, don’t you think it may be important for us to understand what we are expected to do as managers of the resources God allows to come into our hands?  I love how Robert Morris makes the point,

  • “Many believers aren’t aware of this, but EVERY time you get paid, you are facing a test.”

The test is, whether we can be trusted to be a good manager.  Luke 16:10-11 (NIV1984) says,

  • “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

So then how do we handle money as faithful managers?  I will give you a hint, it is the B-word of finances….You guess it the “Dreaded Budget”.  Yes we have finally gotten to the point of the class that you have all been dying to get to.  The budget is the absolute key to winning at money.  John Maxwell said,

  • “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”  

Dave Ramsey suggests using a “Zero-Based Budget.”

  • The “Zero-Based Budget” approach which is where the Total Expenses = Total Income. Every dollar is spent on paper before it is actually spent.  If done this way, when you work through every category on your budget sheet you should end up with a zero (no extra money left over or extra money spent). 

It always amazed us when the checking account was empty and we had no idea where the money went.  Though we did not spend large sums of money on expenses items, we were $20 and $50 ourselves to death.  One of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein is:

  • “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Trying to manage your finances without a budget, without a plan is the very definition of insanity because you will never know where the money went and in most cases you will end up with “more month” then there is money to go around and I don’t need to tell you what a breeding ground for conflict that causes.  The budget is paramount to reduce strife in your marriage and help control you to control your spending.  In his “Financial Peace University” class, Dave Ramsey said…

  • When you agree on your spending…
    • you are agreeing on your value system,
    • you are agreeing on your goals,
    • you are agreeing on your dreams,
    • you are even agreeing on your fears
    • the ‘Budget’ takes all the knots out of your marriage
    • and you will get oneness in your marriage and unity.”

And that is the whole point, right?  For is to have unity in both our marriage and finances!

4.  The number four view is Idolatry and Greed.

72 - Daily Dependence - Idolatry & Greed

Money and possessions cannot make you happy or fill the void, it cannot buy happiness.  Jesus furthers the point in Matthew 6:24 (NASB) when He said,

  • “No one can serve two masters; (the Message translates this as ‘two gods,’) for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.” 

Money can become an Idol and if we are not careful, it can replace God.  And no discussion on greed can be complete without us mentioning one of the most famous scriptures from 1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT),

  • “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” 

This is one of the most famous and most misquoted verses.  Many people say “money is the root of all kinds of evil” but if you look carefully it says “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  And that love of money can cause us to wander from the faith and cause many problems in our marriage and finances.  It is all about the heart and until you have that right, you will continually spin your wheels and never please God.

5.  Worry is number five.72 - Daily Dependence - Worry

In this day and age with unemployment rates at all time highs, there may be some reading this post that have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own so I want to be careful in how I pose this section contrasting Man’s view with God’s view.  But what Jesus is saying here is that we need to put out trust in Him and not be troubled but the nightly news headlines because He is in control.  We need to rely on God and God alone.  Take a look at this cartoon;

72 - Daily Dependence - The Bible is the Manual To Live ByI love the punch line from the man’s wife,

“Why don’t you stop wondering what is wrong with the world and just read the manual”.

The bible is the one and only manual that will point our lives in the right direction.  As we place our concerns in God’s capable hands, we find a quietness that only He can provide.  God gives peace to those who are quiet before Him as Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) reminds us

  • “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

And Philippians 4:6 (NASB) says we are to,

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

Boy that is a hard one for me sometimes but the longer I walk with God the more I realize when I just put in his hands (and leave it there), He will take care of my every need.  I am not the provider for my family, God is the provider.

6.  The final view we will look at tonight is Legacy.72 - Daily Dependence - Legacy

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the National Debt has continued to increase an average of $2.34 billion per day since September 30, 2012.  As of 3-15-2015, the national debt is $1 8 , 1 6 0 , 6 6 6 , 5 5 2 , 0 3 1 . 6 8 !  That is staggering to think of all that we are passing onto future generations!!  I saw this comic, and though it is funny, it is also quite sobering!

72 - Daily Dependence - Mountain of Debt ComicBut Jesus made God’s view clear in Matthew 6:33 (NASB) which says,

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

God should be ahead of everything else, if we do, everything else will be added to us.  It should be a great concern of ours about the debt just continuing to grow with no thought of the future.

1 Timothy 5:8 (NASB) says,

  • “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

If you are not thinking about the legacy you leave, you are considered to have “denied the faith” and are “worse than an unbeliever!”  To add to that thought, Proverbs 13:22 (NIV1984) says,

  • “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

How much would people change their spending habits if they thought about providing for their “children’s children”….if they thought generational?  One of Dave Ramsey’s most famous quotes is,

72 - Daily Dependence - Dave Ramsey - Live Like No One Else

How we live now will greatly affect how we will live in the future.  So what’s next?  Well just like in any trilogy of books or movies, there is always “BONUS” material so click here for some Practical Application!!

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★

67 - Daily Dependence - Where Does Money Come FromWe have all heard the question, whether in real life or see it in a movie, “Mommy/Daddy where do babies come from?”  Then comes an awkward silence and some stalling until either “the talk” is done or in other instances some other reason is told to avoid the conversation until they are older.  Today I want to explore “Where Does Money Come From?”  I saw this comic and it got my creative juices flowing!

67 - Dilbert - Where Does Money Come From

The age old question, if it takes money to make money then how do you get ahead?  But I think that this Dilbert comic nails it!  God is the answer and if we can grasp it, it will forever change our path in our career and financial peace!

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NASB) puts it all into perspective:

“But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…” 

Arguments abound over pride and self-reliance that what success has been achieved is a result of hard work and effort but I love how Deuteronomy cuts to the heart of the matter and sets things straight!  You would not be able to work hard, nor would you have the intelligence or ability if God did not first give it to you.  So you want to have success in your finances then you need to put God first!  Proverbs 3:9–10 (NIV1984) instructs us to,

 “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” 

Don’t get hung up with the agricultural references of crops barns and vats…substitute those for paycheck and bank account.  One thing that I have noticed is that if I do not make my tithes (or 10% of my income) and offerings (above the tithe) a priority in my budget, there will always be something else that will eat up the money.  When it says “First Fruits” here, it means above all things, first and foremost, Honor the Lord with your wealth which He has provided for you.  So the principle is to bring to God the first 10% of what you earn before you pay all the other bills.

I saw a church sign with this message, “Give God what’s right not what’s left.”  

67 - Daily Dependence - Deuteronomy 8-18

I love that and when you overlay the truth of Deuteronomy 8:18, things come into focus a little better, don’t they?  God deserves our best, and to make Him, and the building of His kingdom first in our lives.  If we don’t make our tithe first on the budget that is exactly what will happen, God will get the leftovers, assuming of course there is anything.  Robert Morris said perfectly:
67 - Daily Dependence - Robert Morris
If you do place God first, His blessings will overflow and you will see a radical change in your finances!!

Now before this post gets derailed, I am not talking about “prosperity gospel” where you “give to get,” that is the farthest thing from the truth!!  God is not a vending machine!

67 - Daily Dependence - God is Not A Vending MachineIn His book, “God Is Not A Vending Machine,” Marvin Hinten makes this statement,

“The Pervasive influence of the vending economy has had spiritual repercussions.  While still referring to God as a person, Christians increasingly tend to treat Him as a vending machine.  If they pop in their coins of prayer, Bible study, and church attendance, […I don’t think Mr. Hinten would mind, I would add ‘paying your tithes’ as well,] He is expected to deliver “the goods;” Financial security, popularity and good health.”

If you pay your tithes, it should be because you love Him and want to please God in obeying this requirement. Something to realize is that God does not need our money, but He wants our hearts to be focused on the Kingdom of Heaven, not on stuff here on earth.  He knew that we would have an issue in this area which is why God made the requirement in the first place so that MONEY would not have a hold on OUR HEARTS.  The tithe or 10% of our income is actually the minimum required by God.  It’s comical to think that we own any of our income when you shine the light of Psalm 24:1 (NIV1984) on the issue,

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” 

Rather than gripping about “losing” 10% we should be happy that we get to keep 90%!  Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV1984) says it all,

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.  I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.  “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.” 

I love this verse because it is the only place in the Bible that God challenges us to “Test” Him.  And if we pass the test he promises to throw open the floodgates of heaven (or other translations say the “windows of heaven”) and bless us so much that we will not have room enough to store it.  Now that is what I want.  He also promises to prevent pests or the enemy from devouring what we have and that is not just finances and possessions but our marriage, our children and our health.  So you see we really can’t afford not to give our tithe to the Lord.  I could do an entire post just on these three verses alone, so we are not going to go much deeper in terms of offerings or extravagant giving but just know, the closer you get to God, and the more you love God, the more you will want to give to the building of His kingdom!

I will close with this last quote from Robert Morris,

“Every time you get paid, are you going to believe that God’s Word works, that 90 percent with God’s blessing goes further than 100 percent without? We live in a cursed world, and what God wants to do is redeem our finances out from under the curse, but it takes our cooperation—to give Him the first 10 percent.”

So if you want to see a change in your finances, first change your heart and give your tithe with true appreciation of everything that God has given you.  Believe that 90% with God’s Blessing is far greater that 100% without!


If you are interested in learning more about managing your finances God’s way, check out this post called ★ Thought for the Day – Keeping Up With The Joneses? ★.

Continue reading

★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

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

“People turned their lives over to Christ daily!”

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

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

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

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

66 - John 3-16 Appearances

John 3:16 (NLT) proclaims…

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

And verse 17 goes on to say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some common Excuses for not surrendering…

Don’t know You Are Chosen!  

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t know that there is Value in Weakness!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here I am
Down on my knees again
Surrendering all

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite part by far…

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

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

★ Thought for the Day – God Wants You! ★ 

13 - Daily Dependence - Flag
Happy 4th of July!!  Today is a day we remember the creation of our great nation back in 1776.  The day when The Declaration of Independence was signed and America was set free from the tyranny of an English king.  As we enjoy our fireworks and barbecues today, it is important that we not lose sight of the fact that many lives were lost for the freedom we enjoy, because freedom is not free!
Uncle Sam Wants You
Uncle Sam Wants You

I started to think about the efforts that are expended in order to enlist soldiers to fight for the rights we enjoy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We have all seen some version of J. M. Flagg’s 1917 poster used to recruit soldiers for both World War I and II, which has become and iconic representation for our country.  Just as our country desires to have soldiers to fight in the war for freedom, God also wants to have you and I fight in the war for the salvation of His people.  My cousin used to call it the “God Squad” which always cracked me up…

13 - Daily Dependence - God Squad

But the truth is, when you serve God in ministry, you are going into battle!  And God wants us to enlist and join the fight against the eternal enemy!

A common question people have is…”Can God really use me?”  Many people struggle with feelings of inadequacy when an opportunity avails itself.  The first thought that comes to mind when asked to become a part of a ministry is…”I am not equipped/capable to do that” or “I have never done that before, how could I possibly be of any use?”  Let me tell you from experience, that is the furthest thing from the truth…and a lie from the enemy!  God can use anyone…and I mean anyone!  Within the pages of the Bible, there is story after story of ordinary men and women that were used to do the extraordinary!  I was at a conference once when Jimmy Evans made this profound statement,

“God will turn your mess into a ministry!!!

And boy is that true for me!  All my struggles and past failures have been used by God in so many different ways throughout the years to help people avoid making the same mistakes.  I accepted Jesus as my savior in 1998, and if you told me then, all the things God was going to use me in, I would have just laughed uncontrollably in disbelief…but that solidifies the truth behind what Robert Morris once said,

“You don’t have to have great ability to serve God.  He has all the ability and is simply looking for people of availability.”

If he God could use me, He can use ANYONE.  All you need is a heart to serve!  The next time you feel like GOD can’t use YOU, just remember this list of Biblical Heroes and what God did with them in spite of their inadequacies!

God Can Use You!

Noah was a drunk.
Abraham was too old.
Isaac was a daydreamer,
Jacob was a liar,
Leah was ugly.
Joseph was abused,
Moses had a stuttering problem.
Gideon was afraid.
Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer,
Rahab was a prostitute.
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young.
David had an affair and was a murderer.
Elijah was suicidal,
Isaiah preached naked,
Jonah ran from God.
Naomi was a widow.
Job went bankrupt.
Peter denied Christ,
The Disciples fell asleep while praying,
Martha worried about everything,
The Samaritan woman was divorced more than once,
Zaccheus as too small,
Paul was too religious,
Timothy had an ulcer
… AND Lazarus was dead!

After reading that, you really have no excuse!!  Besides you aren’t the message, you are just the messenger.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NLT) says…

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

I promise you, serving God will bless you MORE than those you are serving!!  Think of yourself as a mentor, which is simply…

“Mentor: Someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.”  – Unknown

I love this definition because it is so true…your hindsight is what helps provide guidance for others.  If you feel unequipped, that’s normal, you just need a heart to serve others and a willingness to share your heart.  I will close by repeating 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 (NLT) once more because it is just that important!

“God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”

 

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

★ Thought for the Day – Are You Qualified? ★

Continue reading