YOUR TRIAL IS PRODUCING MATURITY

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10

Saw an article which read as follows: “My friend…spent months job-hunting, and as leads failed to pan into paychecks she became discouraged. Yet…she refused to anesthetize the waiting ache…She fasted from TV, believing God had given her this time to reflect on where she was headed. Through those agonizing months God showed up in ways more profound than a job offer. She looked for a way to support herself; He taught her a new level of dependence on Him. As she waited for a potential employer’s call, God spoke into her soul…She searched for a ‘genie-god’ to instantly meet her needs; God blew her away by revealing He’s bigger than she ever dreamed. Eventually she landed a job and was grateful…but she was even more grateful to learn how God meets us through waiting in ways beyond those we can ask or imagine…Sometimes in the bleakest moments, His intervention manifests itself…we receive the perfect job, the physical healing, the necessary funds, and the wait is over. Other times He does the miracle in us.”

 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Gold only becomes valuable when the impurities have been removed in the fire, and God uses tough times like a refining process to bring out the best in us. He controls the heat, because His goal isn’t to destroy you but to develop you. He tailors the trial to the area in your life that needs work, and as you mature He ups the intensity. Athletes start out training with light weights, and as they grow stronger they progress to heavier ones. As you grow in Christ, obstacles that once seemed overwhelming will be par for the course.

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STANDING ON GOD’S PROMISES

“As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No….but in Him it is always yes.” 2 Corinthians 1:19

Ever had a friend break a promise? The check doesn’t come, the repairman doesn’t show, your date doesn’t call? Count on it, people will let you down. But God won’t, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

Knowing that enables you to keep walking by faith while you wait for them to be fulfilled. James MacDonald says: “It’s the not-knowing that crushes us. We doubt…worry… despair…falter and fail…If we knew how this was going to play out we’d be okay. We can take a bad day…month…year…or decade…as long as we know how it ends. A health crisis…a question about your marriage…uncertainty over a child…we all have areas we need to hold on to what God said…He knows what He promised, He can’t lie, and He can’t forget. He’ll deliver on time. Who else can make a promise like that? Now I wish I could tell you it always figures out perfectly in our lifetime, but I’d be lying…You can’t make sense of God’s promises with this life only. You must factor in the reality of eternity…Eternity brings it all together…eternal life…and the assurance of heaven are what make His promises so precious.”

Victor Frankl, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, said, “A weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes, whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”

A Sunday school class was memorizing Psalm 23 and little Tommy couldn’t get beyond the first verse. On the big day he stepped up to the microphone, grinned at the audience and announced, “The Lord is my Shepherd – and that’s all I know!” And it’s all you need to know for now.

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YOU’RE ON A MISSION!

“Go! I am sending you.” Luke 10:3

Jesus sent His disciples out on a mission saying, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” Luke 10:4

Observe three things He emphasized:

  1. “Carry no moneybag” – no hoarding! God will bless the man or woman who says, “Every penny you give me above my needs, Lord, I’ll use to fulfill your purposes.”

Imagine standing at the judgment seat of Christ with your riches uninvested, your assignment unfulfilled, and your sphere of influence unreached for Christ. What could you possibly say?

  1. “No knapsack ” – no excess baggage! God’s Word says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1

Whatever can get your attention can influence you, and whatever can keep your attention can master you. Satan dreads the completion of your assignment, so you must fight to keep your focus.

  1. “Greet no one on the road” – don’t waste time! Question any relationship that doesn’t contribute to your destiny. Paul was single-minded on this issue: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14

The hour is too late and the need too great. In the old days, in certain agricultural states in America they closed the schools for a few weeks and everyone was sent into the fields to gather the harvest. Why? Because to wait is to be too late!

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BE HUMBLE!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master,
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
John 13:16

One of the reasons God chose John the Baptist as Jesus forerunner is because he was humble. He’s introduced simply as a voice…crying in the wilderness, (Mark 1:3), no pretentious preambles or highfalutin titles. Many notable saints came before John, but Jesus said,

“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11

John had no hidden agenda or overblown ego; his message was:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

John Barnett says: “Pride is the sin of competing with God…it makes you self-reliant, self-absorbed, self-deceived, self-confident, self-conscious, self-sufficient, self-satisfied, self-focused, self-centered and self-driven. It makes you unreliable, because nobody can tell you what to do…unloving, because you won’t sacrifice for others…unteachable, because nobody can correct you…competitive, because you’ll always try to outdo others.
Humility means not always having to be asked, reminded and recognized…you go around looking for ways to serve.”

Somebody asked Hudson Taylor, “Are you conscious of the way God has prospered you in the China Inland Mission? I doubt any man has had greater honor.” Taylor replied, “I don’t see it like that. I think God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough to use so that all the glory might be His…and He found me.”

Bottom line:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

Or as Kenneth Taylor puts it in The Living Bible paraphrase…“God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets Himself against those who are proud” (1Peter 5:5 TLB).

SO, BE HUMBLE!

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Ready to Give an Answer

“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.”
  1 Peter 3:15

We are commanded to be sure to have an answer for anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope we have in Christ. I read this devotion this past week from the late Pastor Adrian Rodger and I wanted to share it with you. I trust this will be an encouragement to your hearts.

Pastor Rodgers wrote…

Sometimes during an interview a reporter may ask me, “Do you think a Jew without Jesus is lost?” If I say, “Yes,” then I will look like a racist or a bigot. If I say, “No,” then, I have dishonored the Lord Jesus Christ who died for the sins of all people. So, how do I answer?

I say, “Friend, I believe that one of my own children without Jesus would be lost. It doesn’t matter whether he’s a Jew or a Gentile. You see, God demands absolute perfection and none of us can provide it. That’s why we need the gospel. We need Jesus. We need the
righteousness of God that comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What would you say if someone asked you that question? Ask the Lord to prepare you.

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How To Find True Joy In Loving Others

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7

One of the responsibilities when you are a pastor is having the opportunity to counsel couples who are preparing for marriage. And when I talk with them, I always give them what I believe is the biblical definition of love: two givers trying to out-give one another.

That’s because if we enter marriage thinking about what we’re going to get out of it, we’re never going to be satisfied. But if we see our marriage as an opportunity to give instead of get, our love for one another will grow and we’ll find deep and lasting satisfaction in our relationship with our spouse.

Love is giving yourself daily to another person in your life. It’s not some cheap, shallow emotion or feel-good moments of warm fuzzies. The love described in the Bible is fervent, forgiving, and forever-enduring. That kind of love never fails.

So where do we find a pattern for that kind of love? By looking at Jesus. Jesus didn’t die for us because of some momentary sentiment. Jesus died because He loved us all the way to death.

Love others – your spouse, first and foremost – with that kind of love.  This also applies to us within the church of Jesus Christ. We need to stop looking for ways “the church” can serve us, and start looking for ways to serve the church by serving one another.

Focus on giving instead of getting and you’ll find true joy in all of your relationships!

EXPERIENCE TRUE JOY IN ALL YOUR RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH LOVING OTHERS
BY GIVING INSTEAD OF GETTING.

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THE DOMINO EFFECT OF PRAISE – Part 2

“My mouth is filled with Your praise…all day long.” Psalm 71:8

In 2007, after battling leukemia, pianist/song-writer Roger Bennett died. He thought he was in remission but the disease returned with a vengeance. He wrote on his website: “Our enemy stalks us exactly the way the Bible describes, as a roaring lion. He hides in the bushes waiting for any sign of weakness. Then he strikes. He didn’t strike me physically. He struck a more critical part—my joy…confidence…and hope. Every thought I turned towards heaven bounced back like it was made of brass. Every time I tried to look on the bright side, I ended up imagining a dark future. Then he threw his most effective dart—doubt. You call yourself a Christian. What a hypocrite! You’re more afraid than ever…more filled with despair, ‘So much for your faith, Mr. Gospel Singer!’

I believed everything he said. I tried everything I knew to pull out of it…l thought if I dozed off it would pass…but the clock seemed to move in slow motion. Sleep was nowhere near. I tried to lose myself in the Bible, but the words blurred and I couldn’t make sense of them.” 

Then Bennett had an epiphany, as he thought about Paul and Silas in prison. “They didn’t despair,”” he wrote. ‘They sang praises and that became their weapon. One after another old songs came to me and I sang them to my empty room. It wasn’t a great performance, but it may be the most powerful blessing I’ve received.”

This is what Psalm 71:14-16 speaks of…praises filled with hope…

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.  Psalm71:14–16

The Psalmist also wrote, “My mouth is filled with Your praise…all day long.” 

Try it. It’s a strategy that works!

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THE DOMINO EFFECT OF PRAISE – Part 1

“I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71

Don’t limit yourself to worshiping God in church. Be like the Psalmist: “l will bless W the Lord at all times” (Ps 34:1). When you don’t feel like praising God but you do it because you want to please Him, that’s called “the sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:15). And when praise becomes a lifestyle it has a domino effect (that’s where one change causes another, which in turn causes another).

When you tell God how wonderful He is, how much you love Him and want to spend time with Him, you’re more likely to find your mate telling you how wonderful you are, how much they love and enjoy being around you. Over time your family and friends start to feel the effect.

On the other hand, when you withhold from God the praise He deserves, you deprive yourself of what you need in your own life. God inhabits [occupies, sets up house in] the praises of His people (See Ps 22:3). David said,

“Magnify the Lord with me…let us exalt His name together” Psalm 34:3

“Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.”
 
Psalm 30:4

When you tell Him, “You’re wonderful, there’s no problem You can’t solve and no need You can’t meet. I’m casting all my care on You. I know You love me and I’m not going to give in to depression and defeat. I’m trusting You to conquer my enemies, break down the doors that are locked and give me victory,” God sends angels to fight and win the battle on your behalf (See Heb 1 :14).

No wonder David said, “I will praise you more and more.”
It works! Isn’t it time you started thinking along the same lines?

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Father of the Century

“As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him”
Psalm 103:13

Today being Father’s Day, I wanted to share the following inspiring story of a father and son and their relationship.

Fifty-five years ago, Dick Hoyt’s son experienced a tragedy at birth: he was strangled by the umbilical cord, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

Dick was told that his son, Rick, would be non-responsive all his life and should be put in a home. Dick didn’t believe it; he noticed how Rick’s eyes followed him around the room.

As early as 1972 — long before the digital age — the Hoyts developed a system of communication that enabled Rick to control a computer by tapping a curser with his head. One day Rick told his Dad that he wanted to participate in a five-mile charity run for an injured class mate.

To do this, Dick would need to push his son in his wheel chair,
running behind him. Dick was not in any shape to run five miles, but he tried. Later, his son told him, “Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore.”

Dick decided to do all he could to give Rick that feeling as often as possible. They began running in races and marathons — they even qualified to run in the Boston Marathon together.

Now, forty years later, they’ve completed more than a thousand races and more than 200 triathlons, including four 15 hour Ironmans and 30 Boston Marathons. All these were done with Dick pushing and/or pulling his son along during the event.

Amazingly, they finished the Boston Marathon one year only 35 minutes away from a world record. (Keep in mind, as Rick Reilly at Sports Illustrated notes, the world record was a set by a man who wasn’t pushing a wheel-chair while he ran.)

“No question about it,” Rick Hoyt types on his computer, “My dad is Father of the Century.”

Happy Father’s Day!

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Biblical Perspective On Giving

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

I once heard a story of a traveling circus which featured a strong man who performed a well-known trick of placing a lemon inside the bend of his elbow and flexing his bicep until every single drop of lemon juice was gone. He would then ask for volunteers from the audience to see if anyone could get another drop out of that lemon.

One day, three men came to the front. The first man was average size, but couldn’t get a drop out no matter how hard he tried. The second was a huge man, but couldn’t get a drop out either. The third man was a scrawny fellow. He began to squeeze and drop after drop began coming out of the lemon.

The strong man was amazed. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “Tell us about yourself. What do you do?”

The little fellow chuckled and said, “Well, I’m a church treasurer. I do this all the time!”

Whether you believe it or not, most churches aren’t after your money. Yes, there are some churches and ministries out there just looking to make another buck. But the vast majority of churches simply want to do the ministry to which they’ve been called with the resources God provides.

Sometimes people will ask how they should give to a church or ministry. How much, what percent of their income, weekly/monthly, etc. The above verse in 2 Corinthians 9:7 speaks to our motivation when giving to God’s ministry here on earth.

  1. It’s a personal decision, no one should dictate how much you should give or to whom.
  2. It’s a willing decision, you should not give out of guilt a feeling of compulsion.
  3. It’s a cheerful decision, when the first two points are covered, both God and the giver are blessed.

So, when it comes to giving to any church or ministry, do whatever the Spirit leads you to do. Give cheerfully as an act of worship and you’ll partner with churches and ministries to boldly advance the Kingdom of God.

GIVE CHEERFULLY AND PARTNER WITH CHURCHES AND MINISTRIES TO ADVANCE GOD’S KINGDOM.

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