In Valleys of Hardship…

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Psalm 138:7-8 (KJV)

7 When I am surrounded by troubles,you keep me safe.
You oppose my angry enemies and save me by your power.
8 You will do everything you have promised;
LORD, your love is eternal.Complete the work that you have begun.

David was a man who walked through trouble on a regular basis.

His psalms express the struggles and disappointments he faced, yet in the end, he always turned his focus back to God.

 The key to his victorious attitude was his strong faith in the Lord.

David was confident in God’s purpose. That’s why he could say, “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me” (v. 8).

The only way we can walk through trouble and not be defeated is by keeping our focus on the Lord and His purpose. He has promised to do a good work in our lives, but sometimes the only way He can complete it is in valleys of hardship.

 He relied on the Lord’s power.

When troubles arise, we, too, can trust God to deliver us, but it may not be by escape. Sometimes He sustains us through the difficulty, walking with us every step of the way.

 David believed the promises of God.

Throughout these two verses, he repeatedly reminds himself what the Lord will do. We also need to have some specific promises from Scripture that will anchor us in times of trouble. The truths of the Bible are our most valuable possession when the storms of life assail us.

Self-reliance or advice from others will never equal the help God’s Word offers us.

God assumes responsibility for accomplishing what concerns you in times of trouble. Your job is to believe that He will fulfill His purpose, His power is adequate, and He’ll keep every promise. When the trial has achieved His goal, He’ll remove it.

 Until then, keep walking with your eyes on Him.

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The Source of Our Light…

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James 1:23-25 (KJV)

23 For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror;
24 For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like.
25 But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).

God is not one to speak in generalities.

When He whispers from the pages of Scripture or confronts through a friend’s words, the Father directly addresses issues in His children’s lives. With that in mind, let’s look at His three goals for communicating with believers—namely, for us to:

1. Comprehend the truth.

God wants us to learn His ways and principles, to recognize our own frailty, and to identify the needs of others. He does more than offer this as head knowledge—He makes truth applicable to our lives. For example, the Lord assured Paul that His strength was sufficient to carry the apostle through anything (2 Cor. 12:9). Circumstances taught the apostle that God’s Word was true.

2. Conform to the truth.

Our lives are shaped by our belief system. What we hold as true influences our thinking. In turn, how we think affects our character, conduct, and conversation. God is determined to mold His children into Christlikeness so that they reflect His gospel to the world.

3. Communicate the truth.

Every child of God is called to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). Believers can know the Lord and walk in His light but still fall short of this expectation. We must share the gospel by sharing God’s truth with others and explaining how His words played out in our lives.

Notice that each goal builds on the one preceding it.

Christians are a light reflecting God’s glory to this world. We shine brightly by being attentive to God’s voice and following His will.

And when someone takes an interest in the source of our light, we are prepared to share the good news of Christ.

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“Why can’t I change?” …

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2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (KJV)

8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

Because we desire to be more like Jesus, we make resolutions, ask Him to help us, and try to behave differently.

Yet despite our best efforts to do things God’s way, we slide back into old habits. Frustrated, we may ask Him, “Why can’t I change?” The reason is, overcoming sinful attitudes and behaviors starts with genuine repentance, which has three aspects.

Conviction.

The Holy Spirit will reveal the areas in which we’ve sinned and convict us of wrongdoing. Through Scripture, the Spirit shows us God’s standard and what needs to change. Repentance begins with understanding where we have gone astray.

Contrition.

The next step–grieving over our iniquity–is followed by confession to the Lord. Genuine sorrow arises from the knowledge that we’ve sinned against Him. In contrast, human unhappiness often comes from being caught misbehaving. Other times we are miserable because of where our choices led us, or feel shame that people know about our sin. True contrition is followed by humble confession.

Commitment to Act.  

Real repentance is complete when we wholeheartedly pledge to turn from our old behavior and move toward righteous ways. God knows we won’t live perfectly, but He looks for a surrendered heart that diligently seeks to obey Him.

Paul used strong language when telling us to turn from iniquity:

“Put to death… whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5 niv). What sin are you struggling to overcome? Have you genuinely repented, committing to turn from it permanently?

Let the Holy Spirit empower you to change.

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Understanding The Choice…

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Psalm 119:25-32 (KJV)

25 I lie defeated in the dust; revive me, as you have promised.
26 I confessed all I have done, and you answered me;teach me your ways.
27 Help me to understand your laws,and I will meditate on your wonderful teachings.#
28 I am overcome by sorrow; strengthen me, as you have promised.
29 Keep me from going the wrong way, and in your goodness teach me your law.
30 I have chosen to be obedient; I have paid attention to your judgements.
31 I have followed your instructions, LORD; don’t let me be put to shame.
32 I will eagerly obey your commands, because you will give me more understanding.

“My soul clings to the dust… My soul melts from the heaviness” (Ps. 119:25,28).

Have you ever felt like that?

Are you feeling desolation of a raging storm in your life today?

Believers have a choice about how they will respond to life’s tempests.

Either they can cast blame while becoming resentful and bitter, or they can turn to the Lord and ask, “What is Your purpose?”

Since recognizing God’s purpose and plan is the way that faith grows, Christians may be tempted to ask, “Why?”

However like a child grasping new concepts, we learn step-by-step that God is faithful and will always do just as He promised.

For instance, in the Old Testament, King David made destructively wrong choices for which God allowed cleansing storms into his life.  The leader of the nation had wandered off the right path, but painful experiences drove him back to the center of the Lord’s will.

We might consider the divine method cruel, but David would disagree. He wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word….It is good for me that I been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes” (Ps. 119, 67,71).

Returning believers to right fellowship is only one of God’s purposes for a life storm.

Some difficulties are meant to blow away all distractions so we can focus our attention on the Lord. Other tempests break our worldly mold so that we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

Our personal pleasure is not the top priority.

God’s primary concern is to shape a wise and obedient servant who loves Him.

When a storm rages into your life, understand that the Lord is already planning how to turn destruction into good. Seek His objective and work with Him to achieve it.

Because as we are promised in Romans 8:8; “We know that all things work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

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The Spirit of Truth…

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John 14:16-18 (KJV)

16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you for ever.
17 He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you.
18 “When I go, you will not be left all alone; I will come back to you.

Most of us don’t like being alone for extended periods of time. 

In fact, we are not designed to live in isolation.

Even at the very beginning, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). But sometimes situations in life leave us separated from others. Or perhaps we simply feel lonely, even though we live with our mate or family.

But whatever your situation may be, if you are a believer, you’re never alone.

Knowing His followers could feel abandoned after His crucifixion and ascension, Jesus promised to send them a Helper who would never leave them—

The Spirit of truth…

The same One who came to them at Pentecost still abides within every believer. He has been sent to walk alongside us as our comforter, enabler, and guide.

The Holy Spirit, unlike human companions, is perfectly adequate to meet our every need.

Since He knows us intimately, He can comfort us in pain and loss when no one else can. Anytime we find ourselves in a quandary, He knows exactly what we ought to do. Since the future is laid bare before His eyes, He’s aware of all the details that concern us. What’s more, He promises to guide us each step of the way, calming our fears and overcoming our inadequacies.

Because we were created for God, only through His Spirit are we made complete.

He is the ultimate solution to man’s aloneness: He’s always available and will never forsake or forget you.

When others let you down, the Comforter is present to lift you up with the reminder that you’re not alone.

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The Deceptive Viewpoints of Modern Culture…

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1 Timothy 1:3-7 (KJV)

3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

 

God gave every person the capacity to discern right from wrong.

For each person, this gift–known as a conscience–is programmed with a distinct belief set and, therefore, functions differently from everyone else’s. From the moment we begin processing instructions and warnings, our conscience is developing a code of conduct by which we will live.

Whether the authority figures in your life offered sound life principles and fair consequences or provided little guidance of real value, your conscience collected the data.

As children grow to adulthood, they pay attention to the words and actions of others.

Both positive and negative results are added to the program. People who disappoint us teach just as much as those who impress. The programming continues throughout life, so every situation we encounter has the capacity to affect our decisions and actions.

The conscience is a flexible tool; it can absorb new data and adjust a person’s values and perspective.

That’s good news for those who begin with poor programming but find valuable biblical guidance later on. Yet flexibility is potentially bad news for those who expose themselves repeatedly to falsehood and vain philosophies.

If they ignore wisdom and truth, they will assimilate the deceptive viewpoints of modern culture.

The conscience isn’t a wholly reliable resource, but it’s a tool of the One who is completely trustworthy. The Holy Spirit works in conjunction with our inborn moral compass.

He gives direction when the conscience blares a warning and interprets God’s Word when the conscience is hurting.

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Overcoming Impure Desires…

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2 Peter 2:9-18 (KJV)

9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

  God warns us against misguided desires, because sinful passions can lead to emptiness, suffering, disappointment, pain, and even death.

Wise believers let the Father direct their yearnings–and then make changes if necessary.

 Impure desires have been part of the “flesh” nature since the fall of man, and they can be hard to see in ourselves.

Instead of obvious things like theft, drugs, or immorality, they often involve more subtle attitudes and behaviors, like hoping for a rival’s downfall, despising authority (2 Peter 2:10), obsessing about wealth (1 Tim. 6:9), or even speaking arrogant and vain words. Since worldly passions can cause great damage (2 Peter 2:18), believers are to deny them (Titus 2:11-12).

 But we can’t overcome these desires on our own.

Submitting to God’s Spirit is the only way to live righteously.

 The Lord knows what we really desire–and more importantly, what we need–even when cloudy judgment leads us astray.

And He understands honest mistakes. When a believer misinterprets the Spirit’s guidance or receives bad advice from a friend, God looks at the heart. He may allow the consequences of a poor choice to play out, but He won’t shame His children for an honest mistake. He can turn a bad situation into something good (Rom. 8:28).

God can save us from worldly desires, but we must be willing to commit ourselves to Him and trust that His response is the best thing for us.

 When we put our lives entirely in the Father’s hands, we can claim the wonderful promises He has for us and then rest in His grace.

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The Desires of Your Heart…

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Psalm 145:17-21 (KJV)

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.#
18 The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
19 He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
20 The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.
21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?

Your answer reveals a lot about who you are. The psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). There is nothing wrong with desires–they motivate us to achieve great things. But not all of our yearnings come from God.

Consider your aspirations and what they say about who you are:

Do you hope for a position of authority in order to be in control?
Longing for personal advancement in order to manipulate others reveals a lack of integrity, whereas a godly person craves righteousness.

Do you dream about wealth and fame?
Perhaps there’s a void in your spirit that you’re trying to fill. But only God can meet the insatiable needs of the human heart.

Are you afraid to ask the Lord for what you want?
Maybe you think He won’t listen, but God tells us to approach His throne with boldness and confidence (Heb. 4:16).

If the Lord doesn’t respond affirmatively to your prayers, ask Him to make your desires conform to His will.

Whatever you do, don’t take matters into your own hands and go after what you want. There is always a high price to pay for rebelling against God.

God cares for us bountifully, but that doesn’t mean we can expect Him to deliver whatever we want, whenever we want it.

Only when our dreams align with His plan for our lives does He fulfill them.

The thoughts that preoccupy us are an accurate barometer of the state of our relationship with Christ.

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