Grace In Marriage
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2Co 12:9 NIV
Who in the Bible would you say had the best marriage? Adam and Eve started in Paradise, and it all went downhill from there. Abraham lied and said his wife, Sarah, was his sister, then impregnated her servant, Hagar. Isaac and Rebekah spent much of their marriage battling because he favored Esau and she favored Jacob. Jacob had children by two different wives, and the wives’ servants. All we know of Moses’ wife is they had an argument over circumcising their son and she called Moses a “bridegroom of blood” (Ex 4:26 NIV). David was a disaster as a husband, and Solomon was worse. When Job’s life got hard, his wife told him, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 NIV). In fairy tales, life is a difficult adventure until you get married—then you live happily ever after. But nowhere in the Bible does a couple get married and then live happily ever after. Marriage doesn’t save anyone, only Jesus does. Yet how often in churches do couples sit in silent agony? They have an image of spiritual success to project, but they don’t enjoy intimacy. Or there is abuse going on. Or their young daughter is pregnant, and they have no idea what to do. Or one of them is a closet alcoholic. Or they’re facing bankruptcy. Frequently people who need help the most receive it the least, because they would have to step down from their pedestal. But what if real people could be as truthful as the Bible about marriage? In Scripture, marriage is a place where we learn, receive God’s grace, and grow together in love.
Sensing And Seeing God
“But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” 1Co 2:10 NKJV
The Bible says, “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (vv. 9-10 NKJV). The Holy Spirit compensates for our sensory limits by enabling us to conceive things we cannot perceive with our five senses. Think of Him as a sixth sense. That sense must be cultivated, matured, and fine-tuned. And that can only happen when we spend time meditating in the Scriptures and fellowshipping with God in prayer. Until we are awakened by the Holy Spirit, we are unaware of our need for God, of the spiritual warfare that is being waged all around us, and of what God is doing all around us. One night Jacob had a dream in which God appeared to him and said, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (Ge 28:15 NKJV). When he awakened the next morning, Jacob said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Ge 28:16-17 NKJV). Jacob went to sleep and woke up in the same place, but he woke up a different person. After his wake-up call, Jacob saw God everyplace he looked. Today ask God for a spiritual epiphany. Pray, “Lord, show me what you want me to see, teach me what you want me to know, lead me step-by-step in the path of your perfect will.” That’s a prayer God will answer!
Stop And Ask For Directions
“The Spirit of truth…will lead you…and …tell you what is to come. Jn 16:13 NCV
Making decisions without seeking God’s guidance is like trying to fly without radar and a compass. You can do what makes sense based on your past knowledge and experience, but what “looks right” can end up destroying what’s most important to you. The Bible says even the most profound human thinking is foolish to God (See 1Co 1:18-20). He alone knows the way, and He wants to go ahead of you. It’s a mistake to assume that every opportunity that comes along is from God. Paul says, “Satan changes himself to look like an angel of light” (2 Co 11:14 NCV). And while his invitations are packaged to look like he has your best interests at heart, his way invariably leads to ruin (See Jn 8:44). God’s Word was designed as “a lamp for [your] feet and a light for [your] path” (Ps 119:105 NCV) to guide you in the ways of righteousness. That’s why it can be fatal to pursue a path that seems right to you without first consulting Him. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words, but…only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come” (Jn 16:13 NCV). The truth is that most of us don’t naturally seek God. It’s only as His Spirit speaks to our hearts that we start desiring His will. Take time to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction. Trust Him. He understands the ramifications of your choices. He will show you “the big picture” and help you stay on the right road.
Growing Through Criticism
“If you accept correction, you will be honored.” Pr 13:18 NLT
Solomon said, “If you accept correction, you will be honored.” Charlie Shedd gives us ten ways to grow through criticism: (1) Criticism is often a compliment. The barbs in daily life strike only those who raise their heads above ground level. Jesus said, “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down…it means that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable” (Lk 6:22 MSG). (2) Accept that you have faults which are open to censure. Stay humble, and criticism won’t rattle you. (3) “The words of the godly save lives” (Pr 12:6 NLT). Invite criticism from friends; then when it comes from your enemies, you will be broken in. (4) Let criticism make you better. When you burn with anger, you destroy the passport to your own improvement. “When you do right and suffer for it…take it patiently” (1Pe 2:20 RSV). (5) Some criticism should be ignored, especially if it stems from false motives. Never give unhappy people the key to your happiness. (6) Keep it in perspective. Everybody hasn’t heard. Most people don’t care. One bad word doesn’t cancel the good in you. (7) Let criticism make you kinder. Remind yourself that you have criticized others too. Is this a boomerang that started in your own heart? (8) Pray for your critics. It will improve them and neutralize your bitterness. Hate destroys your health and steals your happiness. (9) Check with the Master Critic. What does God say? How do things look deep in your soul? (10) When you have checked to make sure you’re right, move ahead. In quiet confidence finish what you started, because God’s promises are to those who endure (See Heb 6:12).
Don’t Be Afraid Of Getting Old (1)
“My chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.” Isa 65:22 NIV
We live in a fickle society where a few wrinkles can devastate your self-worth. But you don’t have to be a victim of that value system. “As the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands” (v. 22 NIV). Someone said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!” So: (1) Build a strong relationship with God. Spend time talking with Him and reading His Word. “Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying” (Pr 3:1-2 NLT). (2) Come to grips with the reality of aging. Face it; you have been aging from the moment you were conceived. In fact, on the day of your birth, you were already nine months old. Therefore, fretting about getting older is as fruitless as worrying about the sun going down each day. Instead of worrying about the length of your life, maximize every day of it. Each morning look in the mirror and announce, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it” (See Ps 118:24). (3) Always have a goal. It doesn’t have to be something big in the eyes of the world, just something to look forward to doing with your hands and your mind. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.” Read, grow, contribute, stay involved, live until your last breath!
Are You Dealing With Relationship Problems?
“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” Pr 24:16 NLT
When it comes to handling relationships, we all have our pluses and minuses, strengths and weaknesses. So to survive and flourish in a relationship, we must learn to persevere. Even when we have done the best we can to lessen our potential for failure, we must still be ready for it. If we stay mired in self-defeat, guilt, and shame over missed chances and incorrect choices in one particular relationship, we will never encounter the freedom to sustain our other relationships. One pastor says: “To counter that, I allow myself a 10 percent ratio for failure in a relationship to work out the way I thought it would.” That’s good advice! So with that in mind, promise yourself that no matter what circumstances occur, or which relationships fail miserably, you will survive. You will arise, learn from them, draw closer to God, and if nothing else, thank Him for the blessings that still remain in your life. And when you consider them, you will notice many! When you think about the long list of gifts that remain in your life even in the middle of difficulties, losses, and frustrations, you’re better able to see the big picture and not just the current trouble in front of your eyes. Gratitude is a sure remedy for self-pity and despair. Thanksgiving lifts you back to a position of seeing your relationships and life more clearly. Question: Do you really want this relationship to work? If so, commit to praying for the other person, loving them unconditionally, and investing in them. When you do that, trust God to do the rest!
“He will command his angels…to guard you in all your ways.” Ps 91:11 NIV
In Scripture there are over three hundred references to angels, and they’re described in two words: many and mighty. But it took only one angel to shut the mouths of lions for Daniel and bring Peter out of prison the night before he was due to be executed. And do you remember Elisha’s servant? When an enemy army surrounded the city of Dothan, Elisha asked God to open his servant’s eyes: “And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2Ki 6:17). If God opened your eyes today, what would you see? Angels escorting your children to school? Protecting you from drunk drivers? Guiding the hand of the surgeon? Guarding you while you sleep? One Bible teacher says, “If you’re a believer, expect powerful angels to accompany you in your life’s experience.” Does everybody have an angel looking out for them? No, the Bible says, “All angels [are] ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14 NIV). When you reject Jesus, you forfeit the ultimate security, but when you accept Him as Lord and Savior, you get around-the-clock protection because “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him” (Ps 34:7 NIV). Note, your angel doesn’t just wave as he flies past; he pitches his tent, lingers, and keeps vigilance. You can rest secure beneath the shadow of his wings—if that doesn’t lower your anxiety level, nothing will! The fact is, some of the wealthiest people on the planet don’t have it that good! How blessed we are.
Blind Chance Versus God’s Command (2)
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Heb 11:3 NIV
Speaking of our amazing bodies…what about DNA? Each human cell (up to 100 trillion) contains a database larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica! Could all that have originated by chance? English physicist Paul Davies makes this comparison: “It’s rather like exploding a stick of dynamite under a pile of bricks and expecting it to build a house. You may liberate enough energy to raise the bricks, but without coupling the energy to the bricks in a controlled way, there’s little hope of producing anything other than a chaotic mess.” Clearly it requires more than a pile of bricks to build a house. The intelligence of the architect and the skill of the builder are key components. And it’s the same with all the complexities of a human being. The odds are zero that all the required elements necessary to initiate human life just happened to assemble themselves in the same spot on earth at the same time. And even if we did accept that notion, blind chance couldn’t put those 100 trillion cells together in the order required to produce life. Prominent scientist Francis Crick wasn’t noted for his faith, but even he said, “The origin of life seems almost to be a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” And what’s the miracle? The psalmist said, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:13-14 NIV). That’s the miracle!
How To Deal With Difficult People
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Mt 5:41 NIV
Jesus said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Roman soldiers were permitted to force a Jew to carry a burden a mile for them. They treated Jews as tools to be used. However, in those days, a Roman soldier was likely to be very young, a stranger in the city, poor, and deeply resented by the locals. So, what would you do in that situation? Jesus invites you to take the high road. When you carry someone’s burden and finish the first mile, say, “You look tired. Can I help you some more? Can I carry your burden another mile?” Can you imagine doing that? But it’s what you’re called to do. Often when someone takes advantage of you, you want to think of them as unlikable instead of a real person with their own story. It’s said that a friend offered to introduce English essayist Charles Lamb to a man whom Lamb had disliked for a long time. “Don’t make me meet him,” Lamb said. “I want to go on hating him, and I can’t do that to a man I know.” Understand this: You can give the gift of empathy. You can remember that the person you don’t like is also a human being. You can put yourself in his place. You can take the time to imagine how he feels, what he has been through, and how life has treated him. When you do that, your problem becomes an opportunity to practice the Christ life. Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what you signed up for in the first place?
What You Will Do In Heaven
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’” Rev 21:1 NIV
Perhaps the reason many of us are not as excited about heaven as we should be is because of what we have been told; that we will stand around playing harps, singing songs, and worshiping God forever. Think about it. When the singing and prayers in the average Sunday-morning service last longer than fifteen minutes, many get bored. So when we hear we will be doing this nonstop, twenty-four hours a day, forever in heaven, you understand why we can’t comprehend it or celebrate it. But there is more than one way of worshiping God. Astronomers approximate the existence of hundreds of billions of galaxies, more than ten galaxies for each person alive today! So, you won’t run out of things to do in heaven, and it certainly won’t be boring. It has taken thousands of years for billions of humans to explore a single tiny planet, and we have barely scratched the surface. Exploring the marvels of the new heavens and the new earth will keep us intrigued forever. And our love for God will grow infinitely bigger as a result. So, we will never cease to worship Him. Jesus told the woman at the well that God is looking for those who “worship…in the Spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23 NIV). If you worship out of ignorance, worship is empty. God doesn’t just want you to worship Him; He wants you to know who you are worshiping and why you are worshiping Him. Worship is twofold; “in the Spirit and in truth.” So, learning the truth about God will keep you busy, excited, satisfied, and fulfilled for all eternity.
God And Your Work (2)
“Those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” 1Co 4:2 NIV
Most adults spend about half their waking lives at work. Your work is a huge part of God’s plan for your life. He designed a specific vocation just for you in which you should find personal fulfillment, meet the needs of your family, and help to perpetuate His purposes in the earth. The fourth commandment covers all seven days of the week, not just the Sabbath. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work…for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth” (Ex 20: 9,11 NIV). Sometimes you hear sermons designed to make you feel guilty about not keeping the Sabbath, but have you ever heard a sermon designed to make you feel guilty about not honoring the six-day workweek? The point is that just as God made and loves the Sabbath, He also made and loves work. The Bible says, “The kingdom of God is in your midst” (Lk 17:21 NIV). Whether you’re a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, you’re required to demonstrate integrity in the workplace. It’s embarrassing when nonbelievers say, “I’ll never do business with a Christian again.” The Bible says, “O Lord…how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Ps 8:1). You should strive to be “excellent” in your work. Tardiness, clock-watching, goofing off, watercooler gossip, flirting, speaking evil about your boss—these things should have no place in your life. The Bible says, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” You should go to work praying, “Lord, today I want to do a good job and bring credit to your name.”
Is Your Business Struggling?
“God is…always ready to help in times of trouble.” Ps 46:1 NLT
When your business is failing, you can lose your sense of security, your peace of mind, and your ability to sleep. It even affects your family. If that’s where you are today, read these words: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Clear your mind for a moment and think about this: Everything you have belongs to God, including your business, right? He is the owner, and you’re the manager. So when trouble comes, you have the right (and the responsibility) to go to Him for help and expect Him to turn things around for you. When nobody else was catching fish, Jesus told the disciples where to find a boatload of them. The Bible says that there is nothing too hard for God (See Jer 32:27), and that includes the problem you’re facing and the situation you are in right now. The writer of Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Pr 3:5-6 NLT). And He can guide you through the advice of a friend who is succeeding where you’re failing: “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (Pr 15:22 NLT). Sometimes this calls for changing your policies, products, or personnel—and that takes courage and commitment. But if you have built your business on a foundation of integrity, fairness, quality products, and good service, you have the right to go to God in times of trouble, ask for His help, and expect to receive it.
Try to be more flexible
“The wisdom from above is…willing to yield to others.” Jas 3:17 NLT
Flexible people are happy people. They experience a lot less stress than the rigid types who insist on things always being done a certain way. One of the reasons inflexibility is so stressful is that we have to achieve our goals through thinking human beings who often have their own ideas, ideas different from ours. If you’re not the type who is receptive to new ways of doing things because you view them as a personal rejection of your own ideas, ask Jesus the Great Physician to perform some corrective surgery on you. The Pharisees were the epitome of perfectionism and inflexibility. When they accused Jesus of not keeping the Sabbath, He said, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27 NLT). Question: How flexible are you? Are you so specific at home that your family stays on edge for fear of violating one of your endless preferences? Must the towels always be folded in a certain way? If plans need to be changed, does it send you into a tailspin or do you stop and consider that God may have a different plan? Don’t try to justify your behavior by hiding under the cloak of “excellence.” Yes, you would like to see things done in the best manner possible; however, seek to understand when your behavior leaves the realm of being excellent and begins to border on being an inflexible perfectionist who not only creates stress for yourself but for others as well. The word for you today is—relax. Bend a little. Try going with the flow.
Armed for spiritual warfare (2)
“Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” Eph 6:13 NLT
Let’s look at the next three pieces of spiritual armor God has provided for us to live victoriously: (1) “You will need faith as your shield” (v. 16 TLB). For what? “To stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan” (v. 16 TLB). Do you remember in the old western movies the battles between Native American Indians and the settlers? The settlers circled the wagons, and the Indians shot flaming arrows into them. They both understood that you can’t fight fires and fight foes at the same time; flaming arrows are a distraction. Satan uses the same tactic. But faith (focusing on God’s Word) snuffs out those flaming arrows. (2) “Put on salvation as your helmet” (v. 17 NLT). This helmet protects your mind. When Satan whispers, “If you were really a Christian, you wouldn’t have…,” you repel his attacks by knowing your identity in Christ—a blood-bought, totally forgiven, seen-as-righteous, heaven-bound child of God. (3) “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17 NLT). “The word of God” referred to here isn’t logos (the written word) but rhéma, which means “utterance.” It calls for speaking God’s Word to defeat Satan; utilizing the right Scripture at the right time to deal with the problem. That’s why Satan fights you so hard over Bible reading. Three times he attacked Jesus in the wilderness, and three times Jesus answered, “It is written” (Mt 4:4-10). He demolished Satan with Scripture! The devil can outargue you, but he has no defense against the Word of God. So, memorize the Scriptures, and use them as a weapon to defeat him.
“Will the real Jesus please stand up?”
“Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn 13:35 NRSV
Have you seen the poster depicting three men, each representing a different version of Jesus? The first looks like an uncouth mountain man, the second is tanned and athletic, the third is a slight, meek-mannered character. The caption underneath says, “Will the real Jesus please stand up?” In John 13, the real Jesus stands up. He tells us what He is all about and what He wants us to be all about—and it’s love! In the upper room, Jesus recognized that His time was short. The cross was looming, Judas was about to betray Him, and He had to prepare His disciples to continue without Him. It’s like asking a pastor, “If you had one last sermon, what would it be?” Or asking a teacher, “What great truth would you most like to convey to your students?” Or asking parents, “If you could tell your kids only one thing, what would it be?” Jesus spells it out: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (vv. 34-35 NRSV). Like a last will and testament, Jesus’ final message is important not only because of its content but because of its tone and timing. It sums up His life and our responsibility to God and to others—to love them! Now, since love isn’t what you say but what you do—today go out and find practical ways to express God’s love to those you meet. They will feel good, and you will too.
Prayer Gives Us A God’s-Eye View
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Col 4:2 NIV
The word “watchful” is a throwback to the Old Testament-era practice of sitting on a city wall and keeping watch. Watchmen were the first to see attacking armed forces or traveling merchants. They had the optimal vantage point. They saw what nobody else saw. They saw them sooner than others saw them. That is exactly what happens when we pray. We see what nobody else sees, and we see them sooner than others see them. Why? Because prayer provides us with a God’s-eye view; it enhances our awareness and gives us a sixth sense that allows us to perceive spiritual realities. In their classic book Geeks and Geezers, business gurus Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas make an interesting observation about a common denominator among successful leaders in every field. Bennis and Thomas call them first-class noticers. “Being a first-class noticer allows you to recognize talent, identify opportunities, and avoid pitfalls. Leaders who succeed again and again are geniuses at grasping context. This is one of those characteristics, like taste, that is difficult to break down into its component parts. But the ability to weigh a welter of factors, some as subtle as how very different groups of people will interpret a gesture, is one of the hallmarks of a true leader.” Prayer turns us into first-class noticers. It helps us to see what God wants us to notice. The more you pray, the more you notice. The less you pray, the less you notice. It’s as simple as that. Here is a Bible formula for success in any area of life: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Read The Signals With Your Children
“My children, listen as I teach you to respect the Lord.” Ps 34:11 CEV
Smithsonian magazine once featured a master stonecutter from England named Simon Verity. He restored thirteenth-century cathedrals in Great Britain. As the authors watched him work, they noticed something fascinating. “Verity listens closely to hear the song of the stone under his careful blows. A solid strike, and all is well. A higher-pitched ping, and it could mean trouble. A chunk of rock could break off. He constantly adjusts the angle of the chisel and the force of the mallet to the pitch, pausing frequently to run his hand over the freshly carved surface.” Verity understood the importance of his task. He knew one wrong move could be devastating, causing irreparable damage to his work of art. His success was rooted in his ability to read the signals his stones were sending. Parent, you need to hone your skills at listening to your children, especially during times of discipline and guidance. It takes a great deal of patience and sensitivity to interpret your child’s responses. But if you listen carefully, they will tell you what they’re thinking and feeling. And God will help you to do it: “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season” (Isa 50:4). Each changing season in your child’s development raises different questions, calling for different answers. To have the right answer, you must be tuned in to the question they’re asking at the time. Not only will you be imparting to them the wisdom they need at that time, you will be teaching them how to do it with their own children.
Guard Against Envy And Jealousy
“Let us have…no envy of one another.” Gal 5:26 RSV
Paul cautioned the early church about envy, and it’s still a problem. Your coworker gets a raise, a friend’s kid wins a scholarship, a neighbor takes a dream vacation. Do you rejoice with them, or force a tight smile? We’re human; an occasional flicker of envy is normal. But beware of harboring a chronic sense of being shortchanged. Tacitus said, “When men are full of envy, they disparage everything…good or bad.” When somebody else prospers, before you ask, “Why not me?” ask yourself if you would be responding the same way if some tragedy had befallen them. Jealousy is like a moth; it nibbles away at clothes until they’re ruined, except envy destroys irreplaceable things like relationships and families. One author reminds us: “When we’re…in the valley, it is human to envy those…[on] the mountaintops. It is easy to forget [they] didn’t fall there—they climbed there. Behind the success story is always a courageous decision and a gallant action…If we want to reach them…we have to…climb. Inspiration from someone else may get us started, but the success is in the climbing.” Imagine a runner striding out; he is fast, focused, and ahead of the pack. Then he starts looking at the competition. Before long he stumbles, loses his momentum, and drops out. That’s what happens when you let jealousy distract you from completing the course God mapped out for you. Paul writes, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Gal 5:7 NIV). Keep your eye on the prize, and don’t get distracted by what others have and don’t have. That’s none of your business.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Getting Old (2)
“They shall still bear fruit in old age.” Ps 92:14 NKJV
Does the thought of getting older depress you, make you anxious, or make you fatalistic in your outlook? If so, read this: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (vv. 13-14 NKJV). Here is how to stay “fresh and flourishing” as you grow older: (1) Guard your health. Studies show that good health is the number-one factor in determining the level of happiness in old age. Eat healthy, and exercise often. Drink lots of water, take your daily vitamins, and get regular medical checkups. These efforts will not guarantee you more time, but they will determine the quality of your time here on earth. (2) Look your best. Dress stylishly at every age, as your budget will allow. When you look good, you feel good—and inspired. But keep your quest for attractiveness in balance. Think twice and do your homework before you submit to cosmetic surgeries. Some can be downright dangerous. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise” (Pr 31:30-31 NLT). (3) Look for someone to help. Mother Teresa said, “We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love.” You will be amazed at the sense of strength, self-worth, and satisfaction you feel when you meet the needs of others. An unknown poet wrote, “It’s loving and giving that makes life worth living!”
What It Means To “Love” Someone
“As we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” 1Jn 4:17 NLT
In today’s culture, the word “love” means different things to different people. You can love your husband or wife, your country, your dog, your new cell phone, and your car. But you don’t love your husband or wife the same way you love your cell phone or your car, right? The television and tabloid kind of love where you fall in and out of love at the drop of a hat isn’t real love, it’s selfishness and immaturity. The Bible word “agape” (God’s love) is an unconditional commitment to love that’s rooted in an unchanging decision. It always gives, and doesn’t change whether the love is returned or not. It’s a decision of your heart to seek the other person’s highest good, no matter how they may respond. When the King James Bible translators came upon the Greek word “agape,” in addition to using the English word “love” to translate it, they often chose the word “charity.” This was meant to reinforce the idea that love is a selfless, unconditional, giving love. And as such, it directs kindness, respect, and loyalty toward the loved one. “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect” (vv. 16-17 NLT). What causes us to stand out from the world isn’t our words but our love for one another. When we can overcome our differences, when we can cross lines of denomination, race, and culture and truly love one another, the world is drawn to Christ and it pays attention to what we say (See Jn 13:35).
The Gift Of Confession
“Walk in love as Christ also has loved us.” Eph 5:2 NKJV
Spiritual healing takes place when you’re able to confess your problem to someone mature enough to handle it and committed enough to not give up on you. What does it mean to “walk in love?” (a) To be confident of God’s unfailing love toward you. (b) To show His love to others. (c) To be able to accept their love in return. Only then can you become spiritually whole. You can only be loved to the extent that you’re known. When you keep part of your life a secret, others may tell you they love you, but deep inside you think, “If you knew the whole truth about me, you wouldn’t love me.” So, you’re unable to receive and be strengthened by their love. Sin isolates us, and sin and isolation will make us sick in our soul, and even our body. Confession and then prayer, connectedness to each other and to God, ushers in the Spirit and promotes healing. To be fully known and fully loved is the most healing gift we can give to each other. The Bible says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (Jas 5:16 NAS). We’re all forgiven, recovering sinners, and no one can be secure in a relationship if they’re loved only because they’re intelligent, strong, pretty, or successful. One Bible teacher says: “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find it is those who instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
Work On Improving Your Communication Skills
“When the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.” Pr 21:11 NKJV
Whether in your personal life or your career, learning how to communicate with others is essential to success and happiness in a relationship. Apart from obtaining facts, communication should deliver a way to gain some understanding into the heart and mind of another person. And good communication calls for translation. Really, you’re learning that other person’s language. We all use the same words, but we have unique languages when it comes to love. What you mean when you say, “I need someone to be here for me,” might not be what the other person means when they say, “I will be here for you.” You need to learn their language without prior assumptions and incorrect projections weighing you down. Such interpersonal literacy will serve you well for years to come. It will stop you from treating her as though she is simply you in a different shape, or imagining that he is just like your best girlfriend, etc. We all need to love and be loved, but we use different means of communication to express our desires. Don’t be fearful of checking terms and comparing definitions to make sure you’re both singing from the same song sheet. A respected Bible teacher puts it like this: “Often in my own conversations, I will say, ‘Let me tell you what I heard so I can see if that is what you meant.’ I am shocked at how many times I hear something totally different from what is intended!” Lasting happiness doesn’t come from owning things, it comes from having good relationships. So, work on improving your communication skills. It’s well worth the investment!
Blind Chance Versus God’s Command (1)
“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous.” Ps 139:14 NLT
Could life as we know it—plant, animal, and human life—have spontaneously happened by chance? Could our amazing solar system be the result of an accident? The more advanced science becomes, the more evidence there is for a Master Designer. Researchers continue to uncover the divine order in each tiny human cell. American biochemist Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, writes, “We have always underestimated cells; undoubtedly we still do…Cells are the basic unit of life…indeed the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of different protein machines in defined positions.” The psalmist David wasn’t a scientist, yet he recognized that each of us is a complex product of God’s amazing hands! “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb…You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion…woven together in the dark of the womb…How precious are your thoughts about me…They cannot be numbered!…And when I wake up, you are still with me!” (vv. 13, 15, 17-18 NLT). The average human heart beats 115,000 times a day. Our blood travels 12,000 miles every day (four times the distance across America coast to coast!). Adults take an average of 18,000 to 30,000 breaths a day, and for the most part, all these functions take place without our awareness. Amazing! Today, stop and take a few minutes to acknowledge and thank your Creator for the amazing things He did with that first clump of dirt.
“David gave…Solomon…the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the…temple of the Lord.” 1Ch 28:11-12 NIV
The first Jewish temple ranks as one of the architectural wonders of the ancient world. Built in the tenth century BC, the project’s scope was so massive that Solomon employed thirty thousand loggers and eighty thousand stonecutters. More than three thousand foremen managed the seven-year project. The temple was the epicenter of Judaism. It was the place of sacrifice. It was the place of worship. It was the place of pilgrimage. But like everything else, the temple was once a figment of the imagination. The cumulative history of the Jewish temple can be traced all the way back to an idea in the mind of King David. But it wasn’t David’s idea. “David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord.” We have no idea how God downloaded the plans to David. JPEGs? PDFs? Mental images? Detailed drawings? One thing is sure: The plans for the temple were not manufactured in David’s mind, they originated with the Spirit of God. The temple wasn’t just a good idea, it was a God idea. So, ask God for an idea. Pray for a plan. Why? Two reasons. First because the Bible says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4 NIV). Second, when something is conceived by God’s Spirit, it is sure to succeed.
God And Your Work (3)
“I have chosen Bezalel.” Ex 31:2 NIV
The first person in the Bible who was said to be “filled with the Spirit of God” was Bezalel. And if his name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because he wasn’t a prophet, priest, king, or apostle. He was a craftsman, skilled in design. He had an eye for color and a flair for management, and when it came time for building the tabernacle, he oversaw the job. Here is what God said about him: “I have chosen Bezalel…and…filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts” (Ex 31:2-5 NIV). Imagine being Bezalel. From your youth you loved to work with your hands. You don’t know God is involved in this—but He is! He actually placed these desires within you. When you’re working, the joy you feel is actually the presence of God. You have certain strengths; you were born with them. They will always be your strengths, and you delight in them. Wonderful things happen when you discover those strengths, put them to use, and focus on improving them. Trying to develop in an area where God hasn’t gifted you is like trying to instruct a rabbit to swim or a snail to run. When you’re in your God-given slot, working with your God-given strengths, you’re at your best. When that happens, you are blessed, and so is everybody around you. The point is, in God’s plan, Bezalel was every bit as important as Moses. So, take heart; what you do matters!
God And Your Work (1)
“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecc 9:10 NLT
In the Bible, you will notice that everybody works! And most of its heroes had secular vocations. Isaac developed real estate, Jacob was a rancher, Joseph served God best by staying in his well-paying government job rather than starting a nonprofit, faith-based organization to do charity work. Daniel was an immigrant who attended Babylon’s version of Oxford and grew to be prime minister. Lydia was a profitable businesswoman in textiles. Conceivably the ultimate expression of how much God values work is Jesus the carpenter. More than three-quarters of His life, He occupied Himself in the building profession, creating benches and tables, and was probably engaged in construction. The word we translate “carpenter” comes from the Greek word tektón, from which we get our word technology, and would contain the capability to do stone or masonry work. The Bible was penned by workers, about workers, and for workers. Work was God’s idea. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Ge 2:15 NIV). The first man, Adam, was a landscaper. By identifying what you have been called to do in life and giving yourself fully to it, you are as “ordained” as any pastor who stands in a pulpit. It’s a pity we use the word secular when it comes to any kind of work other than church work, because God doesn’t see it that way. All honest work earns His smile of approval. When it comes to work, the thing He requires from you is wrapped up in these words: “Whatever you do, do well.”
God’s First Commission To Us
“Fill the earth and govern it.” Ge 1:28 NLT
The first thing God told Adam and Eve to do was “fill the earth and govern it.” Because Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden doesn’t mean they were limited to the Garden of Eden. God told them to “fill the earth and govern it.” Stop and think about it. God was inviting Adam and Eve to explore. Everything outside Eden was uncharted territory. They could travel 24,759 miles in any direction and never see the same landscape twice. There were 196,949,970 square miles of virgin territory to explore. One way we glorify God is by exploring and educating ourselves about everything He has created. One author explains: “The astronomer who charts the stars, the geneticist who maps the human genome, the researcher who seeks a cure for Parkinson’s disease, the oceanographer who explores the barrier reef, the ornithologist who studies and preserves rare bird species, the physicist who tries to catch quarks, the chemist who charts molecular structures, and the theologian who studies God have one thing in common. All of them are explorers. They are fulfilling the Genesis commission. And their exploration honors God if it’s done for the right reasons and results in the right response: to know Him and to worship Him.” There will always be some scientists who arrive at atheistic conclusions. But rather than abandon science, we have been called to reclaim it. If God created everything, then everything carries His holy fingerprint. All truth is God’s truth. Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!’”
Armed for spiritual warfare (3)
“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” Eph 6:18 NLT
Your spiritual armor must be put on correctly so that all the pieces fit; otherwise, you’re vulnerable to defeat at Satan’s hands. So, how do you do that? Paul tells us how: “Pray in the Spirit at all times.” Your clothes closet is where you find what you need to wear in the natural realm, and your prayer closet is where you find what you need to wear in the spiritual realm. Only through prayer do you become clothed for spiritual warfare, so don’t go into battle undressed. Paul writes, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Ro 13:14 NIV). That’s one of the most effective verses in Scripture when it comes to winning over temptation. Professionals who train dogs to listen and obey their commands no matter what, start by throwing a piece of red meat in front of the dog. The untrained dog immediately goes for it, but eventually the trainer teaches the animal to give him its undivided attention regardless of what’s put in front of it. When the training process is complete, the dog will not take its eyes off its master even when temptation is right under its nose. There is an important lesson here for you. If you keep your eyes on Jesus, it won’t matter what kind of lie or temptation Satan throws your way. Every now and then you may want to “go for it,” but if you stay focused on Jesus and listen to His voice alone, you will be victorious in the fight.
Armed for spiritual warfare (1)
“Put on all of God’s armor.” Eph 6:11 NLT
Every day you live, you will battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. In order to be armed for spiritual warfare, Paul gives us six specific pieces of spiritual armor. Here are the first three: (1) The sturdy “belt of truth” (v. 14 NLT). During World War II, a plane flew many miles past its destination. Why? Because the crew, not realizing there were such strong tailwinds, refused to believe the cockpit instruments. As a result, everyone on board perished. Yet when the plane was found years later, the instruments were still in perfect working order. You can depend on God’s Word to guide you right. Read it daily and believe it no matter what your mind or emotions tell you. (2) “The body armor of God’s righteousness” (v. 14 NLT). Note, it is God’s righteousness, not yours. You’re not saved by trusting your own performance but by trusting Christ’s performance on the cross. When you know that, God’s righteousness becomes the breastplate that protects your heart from doubts about your salvation (See 2Co 5:21). (3) “For shoes, put on…peace” (Eph 6:15 NLT). Shoes indicate you’re going somewhere, so don’t expect to hear from God if you’re determined to remain frozen in the same spot. When you start moving ahead, He confirms the rightness of your direction by giving you a sense of peace (See Col 3:15). You “know in your knower” that you’re on the right track. When you don’t have peace about it, seek God for direction. This is particularly important if you’re a self-starter who loves what you do. God wants you to have an abiding sense of His peace—so, don’t go without it.
Start living on purpose
“Those who help others are helped.” Pr 11:25 MSG
One of the best ways to keep your life in balance and stay on track spiritually is to pass on what you know to others. The Bible says, “Those who help others are helped.” As you pass along your insights, you will get more insights from God. Paul challenges Timothy, “Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others” (2Ti 2:2 CEV). If you know people who haven’t discovered their God-given purpose in life yet, it’s your job to share with them what has been shared with you. For example, don’t just read this devotional and keep it to yourself, share it with your friends. The more you know, the more God expects you to use that knowledge to help others. That’s how things are supposed to work in His kingdom. James writes, “Anyone who knows the right thing to do, but does not do it, is sinning” (Jas 4:17 NCV). In other words, increased knowledge brings increased responsibility. Passing along the purpose of life to others is more than just an obligation; it’s one of our greatest privileges. Imagine how different the world would be if everyone knew their calling. That’s why Paul writes, “If you teach these things to other followers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus” (1Ti 4:6 CEV). Not only does God want us to live out His purposes, He wants us to help others do the same. That is what assignment-centered living is all about. Regardless of your age, the rest of your life can be the best of your life if you will do this one thing—start living on purpose!