Monday, December 22, 2008

The Morning Watch

He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God has opened my ear. - Isaiah 50:4-5

"Each day has 1,440 minutes. Do you value your relationship with God enough to spend a few of those minutes with Him? He wants to spend them with you.

As you consider your plans for the day ahead, organize your life around this simple principle: God first. When you place your Creator where He belongs-at the very center of your day and of your life-the rest of your priorities will fall into place.

Each new day is a gift from God, and if you're wise, you'll spend a few quiet moments each morning thanking the Giver. It's the best way to start the day."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Purposeful Living

"God made everything with a place and purpose." - Proverbs 16:4
Life is best lived on purpose, not by accident-the sooner we discover what God intends for us to do with our lives, the better. But the search to find meaning and purpose is seldom easy. Sometimes we wander aimlessly in a wilderness of our own making. And sometimes we must try-and fail-many times before we discover our life's work.
Mother Teresa said, "We are all pencils in the hand of God." And author Willa Cather noted, "This is happiness: to be dissolved in something complete and great." How true.
Today is a wonderful day to dissolve yourself in something important. You can do it-and if you get busy, you will.

Monday, November 24, 2008

God's Lessons

Proverbs 1:7
" Start with God-the first step in learning is bowing down to God."

When it comes to life's lessons, we can learn them the easy way, or we can learn them the hard way. The easy way can be summed up as follows: when God teaches us a lesson, we learn it-the first time. Unfortunately, too many of us catch on much more slowly than that.

When we resist God's instruction, He continues to teach us, whether we like it or not. Our challenge, then, is to discern God's lessons from the experiences of everyday life. Hopefully, we learn those lessons sooner rather than later-because the sooner we do, the sooner the Heavenly Father can move on to the next lesson, and the next, and the next...

"True learning can take place at every age of life, and it doesn't have to be in the curriculum plan."
-Suzanne Dale Ezell-

Monday, November 10, 2008

Closer to You, Lord

Proverbs 3:11-12

Early in his life, John Donne, one of England's great poets, was known for his controversial poetry and satarical criticism of religious denominations. However, Donne did not remain antagonistic toward God.
After joining the Church of England and marrying Ann Moore, Donne experienced immense suffering. He and Anne lost five of their 12 children and lived in despondent poverty. Donne continually struggled with depression and physical affliction. One would think that the suffering would have driven Donne farther from God.
However, the exact opposite is true. During this time, Donne studied God's ways with fervor. Donne wrote: "Batter my heart, three person'd God; for you/ As yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend.../Take me to you, imprison me, for I / Except you enthrall me, never shall be free."
Donne understood that all his trials brought him closer to God. As Proverbs 3:12 says, "Whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights."
If you are suffering greatly, do not think that God has abandoned you. Rather, like Donne, God is making your life into a sweet sonnet. Donne was not only one of England's great poets, but also one of its greatest preachers. God is making something phenomenal of your life too. As W.L. Watkinson wrote, "The rarest souls have been tested with high pressures and temperatures, but Heaven will not desert them."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

God's Best For Your Life

Proverbs 3:5-10

This verse is a godly compass for your life. It does not make any difference who you are, what you do, where you live, or what your vocation is-this concise, trustworthy compass will help you find God's best for your life.
  • The first point of this spiritual compass is centered upon your trusting God (Prov. 3:5).

    Friend, here is the most important key to finding God's best for you: You must have faith in the Lord God for every area of your life. He is Omniscient (knows all things), Omnipotent (all powerful), and He loves you perfectly, which means that He can and will arrange every circumstance of your life to work out for your best if you'll trust Him with all your heart. It all begins with centering your trust in Him.

  • The second point of this spiritual compass helps you understand God's 3 requirements for you (Prov.3:5-7).

    1. You are to rely upon God only-and not upon your own wisdom or understanding. You see, there are some things that you will never be able to understand with your limited knowledge. Therefore, you must rely upon God's profound wisdom for your life.

    2. You are to respect Him as your God. You should stand in awe before Him, worship Him, and obey Him. Friend, if you do not respect and honor God, you cannot expect to be wise. You see, wisdom starts with fearing Him (Prov.9:10). He is the only one who has the authority to govern every area of your life.

    3. You are to reject evil. Everyone face evil at one point or another, and you are going to be tempted to sin. God will not eliminate your temptations, trials, heartaches, burdens, or defeats. Rather, you must trust Him to help you flee from all evil.

  • The third point of this spiritual compass is everything that God promises (Prov.3:6-10).

    1. God will make your path straight. In other words, God will guide you and make your life easier. That doesn't mean you won't have any obstacles along the way; rather, it means that God will either remove them or enable you to overcome them.

    2. God will bring health to your body. Now, not everyone who is sick is living in sin. However, most of us would admit that sometimes we disobey God by using our body unwisely-and that often results in sickness. Therefore, trust His clear guidance to lead you to better health.

    3. God will bless you with plenty. You must obey Him in every area of your life-even with your finances. God is your source, and He wants to bless you with plenty. However, first you must honor Him with what you have.

    Friend, if you want your life to be the very best it can be, you must put your full trust in God, you must honor Him as your Lord, and you must obey Him in every area of your life. That is what godly living is all about-the heart of living life at its best. And as you put your full trust in Him with all your heart-you can anticipate God's direction, better health, and financial blessing. So trust Him; He has the answer to your every need.

Friday, October 24, 2008

MATTHEW: Leaving It All Behind

Matthew 9:9-12

After years of counting out coins, writing out customs receipts, and collecting Roman taxes from his Jewish countrymen, Matthew finally heard an offer he could not refuse. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and he left all, rose up, and followed Him" (Luke 5:28).

Matthew left everything (see Matt.9:9). The taxes. The extorted excess. The receipts. He left it all-except, praise God, his gift of accurate record-keeping!

Before his conversion, his name had been Levi, the son of Alphaeus (see Mark 2:14). But after he came to Christ, he received a new name, Matthew ("Gift of the Lord"). When Luke and Mark refer to Matthew, they call him Levi. But in Matthew 10:3, he refers to himself as "Matthew the tax collector"-a pointed reminder of a past he had given up.

What "old life" did you leave behind in order to fully follow the Son of God?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our Intimacy With God

God's highest priority for our lives determines the impact of our lives.

Genesis 1:26

One of the greatest needs is to know that we are loved. Each one of us has to feel certain, deep down in our heart, that someone loves us, cares for us, and has our best interests at heart.

That is how God designed us. He wants us to know that He loves every one of us with a passionate intensity too deep for words.

God created human beings with fellowship in mind-first with Himself and then with others. But we cannot fully love one another until we have ourselves experienced the love of God. We experience His love when we willingly surrender to His call to be our Savior, Lord, and Friend.

There are at least 3 reasons God seeks our surrender:
  1. He loves us and desires our fellowship and worship. - So long as we hold something back from God, we cannot know Him completely or fully experience His love. When we surrender to Him, we get all of Him.
  2. He wants our service for Him to be effective and fruitful. - The more we know and love Jesus, the more effective our service will be. The closer we draw to God, the more impact our lives will have. The more energetically we nurture our relationship with the Lord, the greater the positive mark we will leave behind.
  3. He waits for the freedom to bless us. - God is omnipotent, but He will not violate His own principles. He draws us to Himself so we can experience His love and forgiveness. He asks for our willing surrender so that He can give us the best blessings He has to offer.

    So why do we resist? With all this in mind, why does anyone resist surrendering to God? Pride is the key reason most people resist surrender. They think they know better than God and that they can handle their life better than He can, so they keep Him at arm's distance.

    Others do not surrender because they fear what God will do (or not do) for them. They think that if they give Him control, He'll make them do exactly what will make them most miserable.

    Still others refuse to surrender to Christ because they believe Satan's lie, which tells them that God is judgemental and will punish them for their mistakes.

    All of this is completely false! God always has our best in mind. He will refuse us no good thing when we gladly submit to His will (see Rom.8:32). He tells us, "I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope". (Jer.29:11)

    It only makes sense to surrender to God, because when we do, we grow close to Him-His highest priority for us-and we begin to have an impact on our world.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

ABRAHAM: The Man of Endurance

Genesis 21:1-3

Call Abraham not only a man of faith (see Gal. 3:9), but a man of endurance. The starting gun sounded when God promised Abraham a son in his old age, and Abraham "believed in the Lord" (Gen. 15:5,6). But a year came and went, and no child arrived.

Abraham kept running. Two years flashed by, and still no child. Still Abraham kept running. Despite a stumble at mid-race (Gen.16), Abraham kept running. For 25 years he kept running, until at last, at age 100, he and his wife, age 99, had a son (Gen.21:1-3).

Why the long wait? Apparently, God wanted Abraham (and us)! to learn the connection between waiting, trust, and hope (Ps.33:20). And that hope, the apostle Paul reminds us, prompts us to wait on God "with perseverance" (Rom.8:25).

Even if that means running the longest marathon of our life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Admirable Quality of Kindness

Proverbs 3:1-4

What does it mean to bind kindness around our neck and write it on the table of our heart? It means that kindness should be a deep, central part of our life. Unfortunately, kindness doesn't automatically become one of our characteristics when we accept Christ as our Savior. We have to work at it-we must deliberately take responsibility for our actions and attitudes towards others, and choose to act compassionately toward others. So what are some things we should do to develop kindness?
  • First, we should realize that even though we don't immediately become kind at salvation, we do have the potential to exhibit kindness because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit develops the quality of kindness in us (see Gal.5:22).
  • Second, we must eliminate those characteristics, actions, and attitudes within us that stops us from being loving, tenderhearted, and useful. We cannot be selfish. Rather, we must lay aside the characteristics that do not fit who we are as believers in order for kindness to flow out of our life (see Eph. 4:31-32).
  • Third, we must focus on the needs of other people. As long as we are focused on ourselves-our needs, wants, desires, and plans-we are not going to be very kind. Yet, when we focus on others, we will become sensitive to who they are and what they need in life (see Col. 3:12-13).
  • Fourth, we must ask God to teach us to be kind. We must look to God to make us sensitive to the situations that need a special touch of kindness and to express His kindness through us. We do so with the hope that people will be attracted to Jesus Christ as their Savior (see Matt. 5:16).
  • Fifth, if we want to learn to be kind, we must practice kindness. Every day, we should ask the Lord, "Father, please show me at least one person I can be kind to today". We should look for opportunities to be kind and praise God whenever we find them, knowing that God is working through us whenever we show kindness to others.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How Can We Become a More Obedient Child of God?

Genesis 12:1
Obedience is a major characteristic of a person who is mighty in spirit. Generally speaking, obedience characterized the faith of Abraham from his first encounter with God until his death.
  1. All obedience begins with faith in the sovereignty of God.

    If we fail to believe in God's sovereignty, we will find it difficult to obey Him. Abraham based his relationship with God on his confidence that God would do what he had promised (see Rom. 4:20, 21). Until we study and meditate on God's Word, we will never learn to trust Him. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and responding in confident trust (see Rom. 10:17).
  2. We grow in obedience by waiting for God's timing.

    God is very time conscious-not in terms of minutes and seconds, but in regard to our acting in obedience according to His schedule. Throughout the Scriptures, we find Him moving in "the fullness of time" (see Gal. 4:4). He is neither early nor late. Ever.
  3. We continue to grow in obedience by refusing to subject God's plan to "common sense" or the reasoning of the world.

    Some things that God requires look rediculous from a human perspective. God told Abraham he would have a son through whom He would bless the entire world. Yet He allowed Abraham's obedience to be severely tested-first by requiring him to wait nearly a quarter of a century before providing the promised provision, and later by requiring him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. When God saw the obedience of Abraham's heart, He provided a ram in Isaac's place.
  4. The final step: prompt obedience.

    If you long to obey god, you will not hesitate when He tells you to do something. Many times we fail to obey God because we fear the consequences. Yet He never requires us to do anything outside His will for our lives. Our responsibility is to obey; God's responsibility is to take care of the consequences of our obedience.

    Our sensitivity to God's will increases as we obey Him. Along the way, He provides glimpses of the blessings waiting for us. God always blesses obedience. You can trust Him, obey Him, and be blessed. or you can disobey Him and spend the rest of your life wondering what He would have done had you obeyed Him. Once you glimpse the blessings of obedience, however, the consequences no longer matter.