Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prospering Through Pain





Today’s Text Comes from: 



Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.



Today’s Thoughts from the Scriptures


The Apostle Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison cell in about A.D. 61 to the church in Philippi. Joy and gratitude are prevalent themes, and given his situation, we can learn a thing or two about thankfulness from this ancient text.

Paul’s letter was nearing its end as he wrote verse 12, saying,
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

In essence, Paul was revealing a profoundly simple truth: he understood the secret to contentedness, which was Jesus. When Paul faced dismal conditions and ruthless jailers, he was strengthened through Christ. When he had plenty and wasn’t being beaten or starved or shipwrecked, he was again being strengthened through Christ. Paul recognized this, that Christ is infinitely valuable, and therefore, in any situation, he possessed the most prized spiritual joy in the entire universe (2 Corinthians 6:10b).

That means he had everything, he still had nothing compared to Christ. Like mere trinkets set aside a thousand kings’ crowns. And yet, when he was lacking, even to the point of death, he still had everything in Jesus, the source of all life and eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9). Paul prospered through pain or through pleasure because he knew where real wealth resides.

There was never a situation Paul couldn’t face because there was never a situation in which Paul was left to fend for himself. Our God goes ever before us, God is always at work in us, and always has works to bring to completion through us.


Can you prosper through pain as well as pleasure? Do you have a skewed view of prosperity and hardship? Realize today that Christ is our ultimate treasure, and there is nothing that compares to his worth. Its one thing to say that, and another thing entirely too honestly repeat, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Read the book of Philippians today and pray for your mind to be transformed as Paul’s was.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Releasing the Holy Spirit’s Power




Today’s Text is from: 

Romans 8:26-27

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.


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Today’s Thoughts from the Scriptures


The Holy Spirit indwells believers at salvation, which means His power is available from that moment (Eph. 1:13). God created a simple way for us to access that strength every single day.

First, we must accept the truth that within ourselves, we are powerless to live out God’s will. No matter how capable we may be on our own strength and wisdom are insufficient. Sometimes Christians get proud over the good they have done or the number of years they’ve been saved. Imagine how much more we could serve the Lord if we would humbly get out of God’s way and let Him work through us.

Second, we surrender our entire life to the guidance and governing of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we choose to conduct our spiritual walk—as well as our vocation, finances, family, and relationships—as God desires. His Spirit is not going to release supernatural power into a life that is continuing in rebellion.

Third, we exercise faith, which means demonstrating belief and trust in the Lord. Faith is the “switch” that releases the Spirit’s power. It’s like saying, “I believe You’ve got a plan, God, so I’m going to trust You to give me what I need in order to do Your will.” Then He will move heaven and earth to provide for your need, whatever it that may be.

Merely memorizing and reviewing these steps isn’t enough. Instead, commit to these principles as a way of life. Get used to thinking, I can’t but God can through the Holy Spirit— I’ll submit to His will because His plans are for my good and His glory. That’s the kind of life that surges with the Holy Spirit’s power.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

God's Plans


Today’s Text Comes from: 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

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Today’s Notes from the Scriptures


It’s very easy when thinking about God’s plan for our lives to have the attitude: “it’s all about me.”  Yes, it’s true that God cares about every intricate detail in our lives.  In fact, Jesus said that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. 

We can also mistakenly think that God’s plan is always going to be a “feel good” plan with the intent to make us happy. Jeremiah’s message in these verses is actually radically different.  He’s writing to a group of people who are being held captive, and are in exile from their homeland.  He’s writing to let them know that although they’re not where they would have expected, nor where they would have asked God to place them, God has not forgotten them and He still has a plan for their lives. 

Even in the midst of a difficult situation, God wants them to know His plans. 

In the preceding verses we see that a big part of God’s plan is for them to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7).  In other words, God wants them to know that His plans are not just to benefit them personally. God’s also telling them that He’s not removing them from the situation immediately.  He does promise to eventually restore them, but it’s not coming quickly (70 years out when many of them will be dead).  God’s letting them know they can move forward, because in the eternal picture, God’s justice will prevail and everything will even out.

Today, in the midst of difficult situations, God wants us to know He has a plan.  He also wants us to know that as we submit to His plan that He desires to use us to bless the world around us. The key still remains during both good and difficult times: You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.


How does God want you to trust His plan in the midst of life’s daily difficulties? How does God want to use you to be a blessing to others?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sight to the Blind






Today’s Text Comes from: 

Luke 4:18

"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed."



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Today’s Notes from the Scriptures


God sent Jesus so the blind could have their sight recovered. This was both a physical and a spiritual truth. Some people were physically blind or suffered from other physical ailments. Jesus fulfilled this promise when He healed "every disease and sickness among the people" (Matt. 4:23)

 Jesus also came to open our eyes spiritually.

He came to help us grasp the truths of God's Kingdom, to understand His principles, and to have the power to overcome our problems. Jesus came to free us from the hold of sin and release the abundant blessings He's prepared for us in His Kingdom.

He came that we might see the possibility of living by faith and believing God for supernatural breakthroughs. Many Christians are not physically blind, but are crippled by emotional, mental, or spiritual blindness. Their minds are wrapped in a mist. 

Some are puffed up with pride and fail to exercise faith in God. They believe what they see with their natural eyes and reject the truth that, with God, all things are possible. Many simply think like the people around them and don't seek God's wisdom.

Today, ask God to help you see His truths more clearly than ever before. Ask Him to open your eyes to the full potential of His Kingdom. Seek a revelation of His power in your life.

Don't limit God or think like people in the world who don't know Him. Remember that God sent Jesus to help you see the world and your life more clearly. Jesus came to show you the way and help you see life from His perspective.

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PRAYER: Father, open my eyes that I might see more of Your truth. Give me Your perspective on the world and the problems I face. Use me to impact others with the Gospel. In Jesus' name Amen.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jesus Christ, Our Judge



Today’s Text Comes from: 


2 Corinthians 5:6-10

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 

So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.



Today’s Notes from the Scriptures


Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ will judge every person who has ever lived (Acts 10:42). Those who refuse His offer of salvation face the white throne judgment—the unbelievers’ last stop before an eternity of exile from God’s presence. Believers will also stand before Jesus, at which time they’ll finally come to full comprehension of His extravagant grace.

In 1 Corinthians 4:5, Paul asserts that Jesus will disclose the motives hidden in believers’ hearts. Some people have gotten the misguided idea that all their sins will be displayed for everyone to see, but the Bible in no way supports that notion.

Jesus will reveal the true nature of a believer’s heart to him or her. Every rebellious act, wrong attitude, and cutting word will be reviewed. When the Bible says that Jesus will wipe the tears from our eyes, it is referring to this time (Isa. 25:8). 

We’ll be standing in the Holy Savior’s presence, grieving over how undeserving we are of His sacrifice. But the sorrow will last only a moment. On its heels comes the tremendous joy of having received forgiveness and lived a life pleasing to Him. Christ’s judgment is not a punishment; it is a reminder that we are pardoned. At last, we will fully realize the depth and grasp hold of His grace.

Believers need not cower or hang their heads during the judgment. Nor are we to repent—the time for that is past. We will stand before the Lord, clothed in Christ’s righteousness and forgiven of every single sin. And we will at last comprehend how great the love of our God for us is.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Responding to Disappointment



Today’s Text Comes from


Matthew 1:18-25

 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

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Today’s Notes from the Scriptures


To find examples of wise, godly reactions to disappointment, you’re more likely to turn to Psalms than to Matthew. But the very first chapter in the New Testament tells the story of an upright man’s reaction to painful and disheartening news.

Joseph—Jesus’ earthly father—was a righteous person. A godly man wants a wife who shares his desire to honor and obey the Lord, and Scripture indicates that Mary was exactly that sort of woman (Luke 1: 45-55). So imagine how stunned Joseph must have been when Mary returned from a long visit with her relative Elizabeth and told him that she was pregnant. Moreover, she was claiming no man had touched her.

Any way Joseph looked at the situation, it appeared grim. And yet Matthew 1:20 says that he “considered”—in other words, he sought a wise, righteous response. God entered Joseph’s life in a dramatic way to confirm Mary’s story and put a stop to his “quiet annulment” plans.
  
The Lord turned Joseph’s mourning into joy. Mary had told the truth—strange and startling as it was. The couple would bear the intense public censure of an early pregnancy, but Joseph stopped thinking about what others would say. God had blessed work for him: to raise the Messiah alongside a faithful woman. 

Followers of Christ should seek a godly response to disappointments they face. Since the Lord always has a plan, the wisest reaction is to anticipate the good He can do and await His timing. God certainly blessed Joseph for his willingness to “seek first His kingdom” (Matt. 6:33). 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dealing with Disappointment




Today’s Text Comes from: 


Habakkuk 3:17-19

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.



Today’s Notes from the Scriptures


After preaching a sermon on disappointment, several men and women approached me with the same reaction: “I desperately needed to hear those words.” Countless people feel defeated and let down by disappointing situations. But our response can make all the difference. Frustrations can be either an opportunity for spiritual growth or a destructive blow.

A right response to disappointment begins with resisting the natural tendency toward bitterness. If someone else was involved in the situation, don’t be quick to judge his or her conduct. We can’t fully understand what is going on in others’ lives or what motivates them to act as they do. Our second step should be to ask the Lord, “How am I to respond?” God can guide us to a wise and righteous reaction because He has all the facts.

Third, follow His direction, even if it isn’t what you want to do. Oftentimes the Lord’s way contradicts our own desires and the advice of friends. However, His plan is the one that will bring about growth and result in our greatest good.

And finally, keep your focus on God and His higher purpose in your life. People are prone to dwell on their hurts and the harm that comes to them, which is what makes disappointment so destructive.

There is only one healthy method for dealing with letdown—pursue the Lord’s way and His will. Though human plans can be derailed, nothing alters God’s purpose. No matter how deep your hurt goes, He will shepherd you through setbacks and sorrows while growing your faith. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Fear Foe



Today’s Text Comes from: 

Psalm 56:10-11

I praise God for what he has promised; Yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?


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“It's wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky. Behind me and before me is God and I have no fears.” 

—Helen Keller

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I have recently read some Neal Anderson writings. He gave an example of what fear is really all about—the kind of fear that robs us of faith:


     “In order for fear to happen, there needs to be something that we’re afraid of that is both present and potent.”

1. Present It has to be here, now.

2. Potent It has to be a strong threat to something important.

Fear causes us to shrink our faith back into philosophy. It’s the primary reason we choose to not trust God: 

We’re afraid of what God might ask us to do.

• We’re afraid of actually doing it.
  
• We’re afraid of what people might think if we do it.

• We’re afraid of letting go of the things that we know we’re going to have to let go to do it


…we’re just afraid, so we choose not to trust Him fully.  


Check this out: The Omnipotent One, the Omnipresent One, the Omniscient One… The Omni-Everything (All Knowing) One says, “What are you afraid of? I’m more potent than anything that’s come in front of you, and I am always present in you and around you. Besides that, I know about everything and I love you more than you can imagine or understand. TRUST IN ME!

PRAYER: Lord, my heart’s desire as an individual, as a saint, as a child of God is to walk in moment by moment dependence as You live Your life through me. Jesus, enable me to do just that—enable me to trust You. Even faith is a gift from You, Jesus. Please give me that gift too!  So I offer myself to You that I might experience Life in who I really am in union with Christ, the Son of God, and the King of Kings.  I pray these things in Jesus’ precious name.  Amen!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Testing Positive for Growth



Today’s Text Comes from: 

Ephesians 4:14-16

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.


Today’s Notes from the Scriptures


When it comes to spiritual maturity, we can’t simply take for granted that we’re growing. To evaluate personal progress, I’ve compiled a brief inventory of spiritual benchmarks. Check the list for an idea of how you’re doing. But remember, these items are just a place to start; see the Bible for a complete growth chart!

We know we’re growing spiritually when we become increasingly aware of our sinfulness and weakness. As I read biographies of godly saints, it’s clear that they don’t “get better” with age and spiritual maturity. Instead, they become ever more sensitive to their dependence upon the Lord. 

Moreover, progress is apparent when we respond to sin with quick repentance. Failure to deal with sin is rebellion against God. Growing believers turn away from wrongdoing and embrace righteousness. As we live with the good results of dependence and repentance, our desire to obey intensifies, and the attraction of sin lessens.

Growth is also marked by an increase in two things—joy and struggle. Faith is often developed through hardship because living out the principles of trust and endurance help us “get it.” 
So we’ll see maturity in our relationship with God when we view trials and temptations as opportunities of learning, which in turn help us in our growth.

Paul, David, and Daniel prove that adversity can help form spiritual giants. These men recognized sovereign God as the gatekeeper of their lives. We are maturing when we perceive whatever comes our way as being from Him, which also means that He’s working it for good (Rom. 8:28).