★ 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

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★ “Back to the Basics” – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★

74 - Daily Dependence - Religion Vs RelationshipThis is the first installment of our new segment called “Back to the Basics,” where we are looking into the fundamentals of Christianity, and getting back to the roots of our faith.  Though this is titled “Part 2,” you are not crazy, you have missed the one that was specifically titled “Part 1.”  Rather this is an extenuation and building upon of our very first blog post which is called ★Thought for the Day – Religion vs. Relationship ★ that really captures what “Daily Dependence” is all about!!

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods.

“What majestic trees!  What powerful rivers!  What beautiful animals!” he said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him.  He turned to look. He saw a 7 foot grizzly charging towards him.  He ran as fast as he could up the path.  He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him.  He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer.

He tripped and fell on the ground.  He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out: “Oh my God!”

Time stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky:

“You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don’t exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident.  Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament?  Am I to count you as a believer?”

The atheist looked directly into the light and said, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps could you make the BEAR a Christian?”

“Very well,” said the voice.

The light went out.
The sounds of the forest resumed.
And then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together and bowed his head and spoke: 

“Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord Amen.”

74 - Daily Dependence - Lord Bless This Food

I love that joke for two reasons.  The first, for the zinger of a punch line.  The second reason is for how telling it is of human nature.  Just like that atheist, aren’t we the same way?  It’s only when were in trouble that we call on God.  Well this post is  going to dig into the roots of our faith.  Religion vs. Relationship…This is very personal for me because there is so much ambiguity between these too seemingly opposing words which has wreaked havoc in my life.  I would like to break them apart and talk about one at a time.  Religion is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a…

“Belief in and worship of God or gods. A specific system of belief or worship, etc., built around a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, etc.”

Let’s define Religious as well.  Religious is defined by the same dictionary as:

  1. Devout; pious,
  2. Of or concerned with religion,
  3. Conscientiously exact; scrupulous.

So religion can be a belief system based on a code of ethics or a philosophy.  It can also be the catalyst for wars, such as the Crusades, (in the Middle Ages) which were expeditions undertaken, to “deliver” the Holy Places from Mohammedan (or Islamic) tyranny.  Or it can be the fuel for hatred and the cause of much pain when misused.  Jonathan Swift once said,

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“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

“Religion” often times is a big turn off to the “unchurched” or non-church attendees.  Now when I am talking about religion here, I am referring to the system; the organization, and policies that have been established by human beings.  Adjectives such as “Holy Rollers”, “Hypocrites” and “Gossips” are often used to describe churchgoers.  Why is that?

James 1:26-27 gives us God’s reasoning…

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Religion has a way of altering people’s way of thinking and how they interact with unchurched people.  And whether an unchurched person misinterprets it or not, “religion” can turn someone off from getting to know the “reason” for the “religion” or should I say the source of the religion.  I know this well because I used to be one of them.  I grew up going to church and saw people not living the way they pretended to be, acting all high and mighty, gossiping about other people, when in reality they were far worse than those they spoke about.  I also had bad experiences with the church leaders being greedy for money.  So I decided religion is nothing that I wanted to be a part if it means that you turn into a hypocrite or become “money hungry.”  I blamed God and I walked out on Him and didn’t look back for many years.  See at that time I didn’t have a “relationship” with God, I only had “religion” and didn’t understand things as I do now.  I went to church on Sundays and attended a parochial school, but that was it.  I had set those church leaders on a pedestal, holding them to a higher standard, and let me tell you whenever you do that, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment because they are just human, just like I am, and just like you are; and humans make mistakes.  Do you know what is the saddest thing about being hurt by some form of religion?  The ultimate loser in the deal is God.  He is the one who is hurt the most.  You may not believe that but it is true.  Not only does God feel our pain but also the hurt that comes from our blaming Him for what man does to us.  Mark Twain said it perfectly,

          “God:  The most popular scapegoat for our sins.”

Isn’t that the truth?  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that religion is bad.  I am not putting down any religion in particular.  Religion is good, but in it’s the proper context.  There is a huge difference between having religion (or beliefs) and being religious (or self-righteous).  I firmly believe that you must have a set of beliefs or doctrine that is Christ centered and that you should belong to a church that you regularly attend for accountability sake, because it is nearly impossible to live righteously on your own, without some form of support and teaching.  What is critical to realize is that “religion” is there to facilitate our relationship with God, not to be ritualistic or for appearances.

In Mark 2:27-28, the Pharisees were accusing Jesus’ disciples of breaking the law by picking grain on the Sabbath.  Jesus replied and said to them,

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” 

In other words, don’t get hung up on technicalities, man was not created to serve the day, but the day was made for man to honor God.  Or another way to look at it, don’t focus on the day, focus on the “One,” who the day was created for to honor!

Religion can come in many different forms and deep down, whether people want to admit to it or not, everyone has a need to believe in something…And the reason why is because we were all created with a “God-sized hole in our heart,” that only God can fill.  Here is the point; all people have a need to believe, not in a “religion” but in a relationship, a relationship with God, our creator and father in heaven.  Take a look at the definition of relationship.

Noun: Relationship

– A state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection).

Now let’s insert “God” into that definition.

Relationship: A state of connectedness between people “and God” (especially an emotional connection).

God desperately wants to be connected with you and me.  He wants it so bad that He sent His son to Earth to show us the way.  (See John 3:16). When Jesus walked on this earth He spent all His time preaching about love, not about religion.  He talked about the love that God has for His children and what we need to do to see the father in heaven.  One day, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus responded in Matthew 22:37-40 saying,

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Notice He did not say to keep the Sabbath holy or not to commit adultery or not to commit murder.  You see if you love God with all your heart, soul and mind you will honor His day.  And if you love you neighbor as yourself, there is no need to say do not commit adultery or murder because it naturally would not happen.  Jesus had an uncanny way of cutting through all the bureaucracy, all the ritualism, all the hypocrisy, to get to the heart of the matter.  Essentially, He said to stop thinking so provincially…just keep these two commandments and you will keep all the rest.  Obviously with a radical teaching like this, Jesus faced a lot of opposition.  He continually had problems with the Pharisees trying to thwart His ministry.

The name Pharisee in Hebrew means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were also known as Chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God, which is extremely ironic in view of the fact that during this time, the Pharisees were the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus Christ and His message.

In chapter 23 of the book of Matthew, Jesus made it very clear what his feelings were about the Pharisees.  Starting in verse 6-7, He said that the Pharisees:

“Love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them `Rabbi.’”

In verse 27-28:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”    

Now those are some harsh words and these are just the tip of the iceberg; within the same chapter and in other parts of the bible Jesus has much more to say.  I have one more definition for you…Webster’s dictionary defines the word Pharisee as:

\Phar”i*see\ (f[a^]r”[i^]*s[=e]), n.

One of a sect or party among the Jews, noted for a strict and formal observance of rites and ceremonies and of the traditions of the elders, and whose pretensions to superior sanctity led them to separate themselves from the other Jews.          

A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.

Note the last part of that definition…“A self-righteous or sanctimonious person, preaching not practicing.”  It is clear that Jesus’ statements and their frequent citations through the bible have resulted, in the word “Pharisee” becoming a synonym in the English language for “hypocrite.”

Jesus, himself, hated “Religion” when it was twisted and misused as in the case of the Pharisees.  The lesson to learn from the Pharisees’ example is that self-righteousness is not righteousness, and that God’s true people are to live according to all of God’s Word, not just certain parts that are most convenient or to one’s liking.  Jesus preached about having a relationship with the God, the father in heaven, not about lifeless rules or empty religious traditions.  But rather a relationship whereby we can pray to God saying Abba, Father which loosely translated means daddy.  God is our daddy in heaven with outstretched arms just waiting for us to take one step in His direction.       

In his book Reading between the Lines, Gene Edward Veith explains:

“That the heart of our religion is a relationship with God – and relationships thrive on communication.  We can’t know people intimately by merely being in their presence.  It takes conversation to share thoughts and personalities.”

We need to work, to cultivate our relationship with God.  It is not something that just suddenly happens.  Just like our earthly relationships, we need to put in the time and effort.  If we don’t we could fall away from the faith.

Christianity is real; it’s alive and anything but boring.  A relationship with Jesus is personal.  He’s there for you and me, just waiting to hear from us.  He is the forgiver of sins and our deliverer.  God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins so that we could have everlasting life.  Jesus was the sacrificial lamb for our sins.

There is a bridge in Portland, Oregon that spans the wide Willamette River, called the Marquam Bridge.  It was built-in the mid-1960s; and was designed to accommodate a freeway that was still on the drawing boards at that time, which was to be called the Mount Hood Freeway.  But the freeway was never built.  Oregon voters opted for a light rail line instead, and plans for the highway were scrapped.  If you drive to the east side of Portland over the Marquam Bridge on the upper deck of that two-decker freeway, you can catch a 74 - Daily Dependence - Marquam Bridgeglimpse of the exit that drops off into empty space.  It juts out just a bit from the bridge structure, and then it is cut off as though sliced by a giant knife.  The “exit,” permanently blocked, now goes nowhere, except into the waters of the Willamette far below.  You can see Mount Hood in the distance…but you can never reach the high slopes via the Mount Hood Freeway, because the freeway doesn’t exist.  That’s the picture of man’s relationship with God ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.  We might understand that there is a God and even yearn to reach Him but that is impossible because of the distance between Him and us due to Sin.  That separation between man and God is too great to make it across by ourselves.  But God provided a way to bridge the gap over 2,000 years ago, through the death of Jesus on the cross.  He came to show us the way to heaven and only through Jesus Christ can we cross that gulf to God the Father.

74 - Daily Dependence - The Importance of Jesus

All you need to do is…

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  James 4:10

Today is the day is to establish or reestablish the relationship that all of us need with our creator.  Open the eyes of your heart and see what God is offering.  Maybe you have lost your way or maybe you are like me and have been hurt by “religion” and you are far from God right now  or maybe you are like that atheist walking in the woods never having sought God before.  Well today can change all of that.  If you are backsliding, you can rededicate your life to Christ.  There is nothing that could stop God from forgiving you and taking you back.  If you fall into the “damaged goods” category from being hurt by religion, I pray that your heart would be opened and that you would break the cycle of blaming God for the sins of man.   And finally, if you are sitting here tonight and you do not have a relationship with God listen to that voice you head, that tugging on your heart by the Holy Spirit and enter into the greatest relationship you could ever have by dedicating your life to Jesus.  Regardless of where you stood with your relationship with God when you started reading this post, you don’t have to stay the same way.  Humble yourself and give up the control of your life to the Lord so He can lift you up!

I want to extend the offer to anyone who does not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  If you don’t know what I mean it’s easy.  Give up the control and give your heart to Him.  All you need to do is accept the forgiveness that is available through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

All you need to do is acknowledge that you are sinner and in need of a savior and truly sorry for your sins.  Today start anew and trust in Jesus who was the payment for our sins.  Just pray this simple prayer…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.
I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart.
I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins.
Please take my life I freely give it to you.

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

74 - Daily Dependence - New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5-17 - New Creation

Here is the next installment of the “Back to the Basics” series, called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★, I pray you will be blessed!

★ Thought for the Day – got fear? ★

After a long day at work handling the pressures and demands of the job, then coming home and juggling the kid’s schedules, then dinner…then the bedtime ritual with them (whatever that looks like in your house)….you collapse into bed without a single ounce of energy left.  But instead of drifting off to a much-needed 8 hours of sleep, you lay awake thinking about the mistakes of the day, things that have to be done tomorrow, and every other possible problem that exists or could possibly happen.  Why does this happen?  I think that it is from fear!

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Linda Godsey put it this way

“Did you know that behind every fear there is a lie?  I once heard someone say that the letters of the word fear stand for…In other words, fear comes from believing lies.”

I love acrostics and I love the advice here…when we are not grounded in the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, then we are open to attack from the Devil who will scream lies to cloud your mind which leads to fear.
23 - Daily Dependence - Fear is a Liar

Here are some truths for your stand on:

“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”  Psalms 56:3-4 (NLT)

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43:1b-3a (NLT)  

The truth in both of these powerful scriptures is that:

  • WE WILL have fear.
  • WE WILL go through difficult situations.
  • WE WILL face heat in our lives
But the answer to all of these realities is to TRUST GOD and KNOW THAT WE ARE HIS and that no mater what the oppression, God will be there with us.
“Fear can keep you up all night, but faith makes one fine pillow.”
“Fear can keep you up all night, but faith makes one fine pillow.”

And I will close with Psalms 4:8 (NLT) that puts this “Thought for the Day” to bed…pun intended.

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” 

Tonight if you can’t sleep, start to pray and ask God for His peace to come over you and quiet your anxious thoughts.

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

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Crippled By Doubt ★

The other night I was testing my daughter for her U.S. History test and it brought me back to when I was in eighth grade.  History was always one of my favorite subjects in school, next to recess that is, hahaha!  The time period around the 1930’s through the 1940’s was always interesting to me.  There was so much conflict and change going on from the Great Depression to the “New Deal” Programs to World War II.  One of the most influential figures of that time was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also know as FDR.  As the 32nd President of the United States (from 1933-1945), he is best known for leading the U.S. through the Great Depression via his New Deal, and for playing a significant role in a grand coalition that defeated Nazi Germany, Italy and the Empire of Japan in World War II.Roosevelt was both loved and hated in his day, but regardless of what people may have thought of him, much was achieved during the 4 terms that he served as50 - Daily Dependence - Franklin Delanor Roosevelt in wheelchair president.  As I looked into this iconic president, I was surprised to find out these facts as well: FDR was the first President to make full use of the radio, the first to fly in a plane, the first to appoint a woman to his Cabinet, the first to appoint a Press Secretary, and the first to leave the country in a time of war upon his death in 1945.  And was part of creating the United Nations.  Through all the turmoil of his presidency, coupled with a debilitating disease that placed him in a wheelchair, do you think he ever had doubts?  Without a doubt!  Hahaha!

50 - Daily Dependence - Artist J. Howard Miller - We Can Do ItI have always loved this “work-incentive poster” from Artist J. Howard Miller that he did for the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company…”We Can Do It!”  This poster has become one of the most famous icons of World War II and really captures the strength of the America Spirit.

Regardless of economic hardships, political conflicts and personal physical limitations FDR overcame them all.  At the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.’s National Mall, this bold proclamation from 1945 is etched in stone for all to see:

 

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”  

50 - Daily Dependence - The only limit are the doubts of today

This truly is a capstone quote for a man who faced great adversity in both his presidency and his personal life.  FDR had a strong and active faith which was demonstrated in numerous speeches, inaugural addresses, his “Fireside Radio Chats,” and even he wrote a personal prologue to a special edition of the New Testament, which was distributed to millions of U.S. soldiers.  It is amazing when you have a “I Can Do It” attitude and the faith to combat the doubts in your mind…the extraordinary can be achieved!  Someone once said:

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will!”

This is so true!  Today’s thought “Crippled by Doubt” is all about overcoming the battle in your mind, but how do you do that?  The answer is found in the last part of FDR’s quote…a “strong and active faith.”  That is the key.  I saw this comic and it made me laugh so hard because it is so indicative of how our faith can be so weak.  This reminds me of Matthew 14:27-33 (NLT) about what happened when Peter took his eyes of Jesus…50 - Daily Dependence -Sometimes we just miss the point

“But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.

But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,”Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.”

Doubts are going to come.  Circumstances will be bleak, there will be financial hardships, conflict with those around you, and physical impediments but what will you anchor yourself to and trust in?  Something as useless as an inner tube to keep you afloat or “someone” who promises to never leave you or forsake you?  (See Deuteronomy 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5).  What our 32nd President knew and what we need to realize is the God is in control, and if we just take captive every thought that comes in our mind, anything is possible!  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV1984) says:

50 - Daily Dependence -Take Captive Every Thought“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

How different would our life be if we did that?  If we did “take captive every thought?”  Not only pushing out the negative thoughts, but also holding onto the life affirming, positive thoughts that will build us up and not tear us down.  I  quote this all the time from John Wooden because it is so profound…

“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.”

The choice is yours…will you be crippled by doubt?  Or will you take captive your thoughts and with a strong and active faith believe that you can do it!

 “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”  William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

 

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

★ Thought for the Day – Mastering Fear ★

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make this your prayer today:

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

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

 

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

 

★ Thought for the Day – Value in Weakness? ★

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Childlike Humility ★ 

Have you seen the movie “HEAVEN IS FOR REAL”?  It is based on the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world.  IT WAS INCREDIBLE!

There is much debate on the validity of whether Colton really went to Heaven or not…this Thought for the Day is not intended to open that discussion but rather to explore the idea of Childlike Humility which I think we can all agree our culture desperately needs to develop.
The film showed how Todd Burpo went through every imaginable storm a person could go through…financial, personal illness and injury and worst of all almost losing his four-year-old son, Colton who claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience.  Todd and his family are then challenged to examine the meaning from this remarkable event.  The movie realistically depicted the struggle that they all went through to process this extraordinary experience of their little boy’s trip to heaven and back.  Well worth the price of admission!  My kids said the book is even better!  I love this quote from the book that describes what childlike humility is:

38 - Daily Dependence - Tod Burpo - What is childlike humility

 “What is childlike humility? It’s not the lack of intelligence, but the lack of guile. The lack of an agenda. It’s that precious, fleeting time before we have accumulated enough pride or position to care what other people might think. The same un-self-conscious honesty that enables a three-year-old to splash joyfully in a rain puddle, or tumble laughing in the grass with a puppy, or point out loudly that you have a booger hanging out of your nose, is what is required to enter heaven. It is the opposite of ignorance—it is intellectual honesty: to be willing to accept reality and to call things what they are even when it is hard.”

I think that Todd Burpo nailed it!!  The debate may go on whether Colton really went to heaven or not but it is for sure that Heaven is for Real!!!  And the scriptures are clear that we need to have “faith like a child” which is the key to eternal life!  In Matthew 18:3 (NASB) Jesus said,
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Be humble enough to accept that God is so much bigger than you and that you will never “know everything”…just have faith and trust Him, for God loved you so much that He sacrificed His own son Jesus so that you and I would have eternal life in heaven!  Embrace childlike humility and accept Jesus as your savior.