What Do Your Choices Reveal?

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 Proverbs 16:18-25 (KJV)

18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20 He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.
21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.
22 Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
25There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

A popular song from the late 1960s talks about someone looking back over his life and proudly proclaiming he did it his way.

Five different times, the unidentified person expresses self-satisfaction about not answering to anyone about his lifestyle or choices.

Though it’s a nice song, the song’s theme is the exact opposite of how God has called believers to live.

As Christ-followers, we are to submit to the Lord and live according to His plan.

How do we live God’s way?

By . . .

• Giving Him our attention. We’re to set aside our agendas and focus instead on our relationship with God and the things that please Him.

• Following His directions. We must obey any steps He has already revealed for our situation. Being confident God will answer, we should continue to ask what the subsequent steps are (Prov. 3:5-6). This requires that we listen attentively to His Word and heed His instructions.

• Accepting God’s provision as adequate. The Lord takes full responsibility for the life that is committed to Him, and He will provide everything we will need for following His instructions. We are to base all of our actions and decisions on this truth(Phil. 4:13), even when our feelings say we have insufficient resources or skills.

What do your choices reveal—that you have chosen to walk God’s way, or that you are singing a song of prideful independence? Consider whether you’ve erected a “hands off” sign over certain areas of your life.

It’s not too late to change your tune to “I Did It God’s Way.”

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Allow Him to Liberate You…

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Luke 4:16-21 (KJV)

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

From some people’s countenance, we judge them to be happy.

Smiles, makeup, and stylish clothing can create an appearance of inner peace. Internally, though, many are in bondage.

In today’s passage, Jesus clarifies His purpose: He has come to set free those in captivity.

Christ was referring to several types of bonds that can imprison our souls.

First, Jesus breaks the chains of sin.

All people have broken God’s law and consequently live apart from Him (Rom. 3:23). But Christ’s death and resurrection free us when we accept His gift of forgiveness and place our trust in Him. Then we can have a relationship with the Lord.

Secondly, He liberates us from persistent sins like jealousy, bitterness, and gluttony.

His Spirit resides within each believer and provides the power to overcome wrong choices that seemed to “own” us. He enables us to do what He desires—by bringing immediate healing or by giving guidance and strength in the ongoing battle.

The Creator of mankind made us with a void in our hearts for Jesus to fill.

Everything we put there—whether it seems like a good thing at the time or an obvious bad choice—will ultimately leave us empty. And we will remain in bondage until God frees us and then provides the only true satisfaction.

Are you one of those people who appear happy and seem to have life figured out, and yet inside feel uneasy and empty?

Jesus Christ is the only One who can redeem you, forgive your sins, and fill the vacant place in your soul.

Allow Him to liberate you today.

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Lasting Value and Fulfillment…

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Matthew 25:34-40 (KJV)

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Stop for a moment and consider the purpose of your life.

Are you living to pursue your own interests or success?

Does your energy revolve around your family members? Perhaps your ambition is to change the world for the better.

All of these aims—even the last one, which sounds so selfless—are futile.

The only goal of lasting value and fulfillment is serving Christ.

As His followers, we should model our life after His. And Mark 10:45 tells us that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” We honor Him by doing likewise.

Yet, sometimes we can feel overwhelmed when we consider the amazing ways that other believers are serving the Lord. With God on His side, King David led great armies into war. Today, there are evangelists who speak to tens of thousands, and many lives are saved. How could anything we do compare to accomplishments like these? And while comparisons may discourage us, Christians use other excuses for not trying—such as a lack of experience or having the wrong personality for the task. But God’s call for each person is unique. He will provide the words, ability, and circumstances so that you can achieve what He wants done.

Remember, our Father is the one who makes the difference.

We are merely tools, and we’re blessed to be used by Him.

Are you demonstrating your love for the Lord by serving others?

Live in such a way that each evening you can tell Him, “Lord, as best I know how, I have attempted to serve Your purpose today.”

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The Needed Changes…

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Matthew 26:36-46 (KJV)

36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

When you are suffering, do you turn to God’s Word?

That is the only source we can count on to bring life, hope, and promise to otherwise hopeless situations. Its principles illustrate how to—and how not to—deal with trials.

When we respond God’s way, the difficulty that threatened to harm us actually enriches our character and enables us to do greater works for Him.

I believe that the most intense suffering ever recorded was that of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

Christ knew that by bearing our sin, He was about to endure not only a gruesome and horrific crucifixion but also the full force of God’s wrath. Even more devastating, He’d be separated from His Father for the first and only time since eternity past.

That’s something no other child of God will ever have to endure, because Jesus’ agony achieved mankind’s redemption. So we know that whatever trial faces us, God will be by our side, supporting us through it.

Let Jesus’ Gethsemane experience be your example in times of trouble.

Our Savior trusted His Father fully and accepted His will. Remember, the Father is in control. He limits the length and intensity of the pain. And, while He hurts to see His children suffer, He loves us enough to allow the difficulty.

There is a beautiful harvest of growth and purpose if we embrace His road for us.

What trial are you facing? Do you trust that God is in control?

Our Father allows pain because He loves us. Only He knows whether hardship or blessing will bring about the needed changes in our lives.

He will spare no experience, effort, or heartache to conform us to His Son’s likeness.

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Our Challenging Circumstances…

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Hebrews 6:13-20 (KJV)

13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Many people in the world—maybe even you—are facing terrible storms in their lives: broken homes, joblessness, loneliness, loss, world crises.

These things slash at the very fabric of our hope in Christ.

It may even seem as though we are lost, adrift at sea in a small boat during a hurricane. How on earth will we be able to reach the shore safely?

The disciples faced this fear as well. While they were crossing a lake in their small ship, the weather took a frightening turn for the worse, endangering the vessel and, the men assumed, their very lives. In desperation, they went to Jesus for help, but were surprised to find Him asleep. They cried out, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matt. 8:25 niv).

When Jesus awoke, He rebuked them for their lack of faith. Then He proceeded to calm the storm.

Through this dramatic demonstration of His power, He showed Himself to be Lord over all creation. It was also a clear lesson about where we are to turn when storms arise in our lives.

Sometimes people think their challenging circumstances mean that God isn’t paying attention.

That’s what the disciples thought—until Christ rose to calm the turbulent waters.

Nothing is beyond the control of our sovereign Lord.

When the world—or even just our own personal “world”—seems out of control, Jesus is still Lord of all. So what should you do when you think He is sleeping? The answer is simple: Thank God that He is in the boat with you.

Then look at your situation through eyes of hope and trust.

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Our Willingness To Obey…

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 2 Chronicles 20:14-25 (KJV)

14 Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation;
15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
16 To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.
18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord.
19 And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a loud voice on high.
20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.
22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
23 For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
24 And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.
25 And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.

“My boss is intolerable, Lord. Please help me find another job.”

“God, this back pain is ruining my life. Have mercy and heal me!”

Christians almost universally agree that God answers prayer.

But many people, if they were honest, would amend the phrase to say, “He answers most prayers, but not mine.”

A believer can fervently call upon God without receiving what he considers a satisfactory answer.

The stumbling block isn’t God’s unwillingness or inability to respond, but rather the word satisfactory.

If we come to God with a preconceived idea of how to solve our problem, we will likely overlook His true resolution.

Suppose King Jehoshaphat had decided that God could answer his prayer only by giving the army extra strength for the forthcoming skirmish. He would have called a war council, arrayed his soldiers in armor, and set up battle lines. God’s solution was entirely unexpected: to send the choir out singing praises and then watch the Lord save Israel. Had the Israelite army attempted combat, they would have lost Jerusalem.

Sometimes we don’t like God’s solution.

We desire freedom from difficulty rather than an extra measure of grace to endure it. Or we want a new job, not a command to ask the boss to forgive our poor attitude.

It is a very human reaction to want the Lord to fix everything without requiring any effort on our part.

But our willingness to obey is a key to answered prayer.

When He tells us how to resolve our problem, we must act just as He specifies, or we’ll never be satisfied.

 

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Learning to Wait…

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Proverbs 16:9 (KJV)

9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

No one likes to wait, but have you ever wondered why?

It’s because delays show us that we are not in control.

Someone or something else is calling the shots. Although we may be able to identify the immediate cause–like a traffic light or the long checkout line–ultimately the One who controls all our delays is the Lord. Since He is sovereign over everything in heaven and on earth, even our time and schedules are in His hands.

This means that in every delay, we are actually waiting for God in one way or another.

You might have thought that the expression “waiting upon the Lord” applies only to seeking guidance from Him or an answer to prayer. But it can mean so much more when you remember that He controls all your day-to-day inconveniences and frustrations.

In the Christian life, learning to wait is vitally important because until you do, you’ll never be able to walk in obedience to God, have an effective prayer life, or experience the peace of resting in His loving sovereignty.

We must learn to trust His judgment–about not just the big events in our lives, but also the trivial ones which cause us to become irritated, impatient, or even angry. If we’re sensitive to His instruction, each delay has a lesson.

The next time you face an unexpected or unwanted wait, remember that it comes as no surprise to God.

He wants to teach you patience and increase your faith. He’s more interested in developing godly character than He is in making sure your schedule runs according to your plans.

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Indulging Your Desires…

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Genesis 3:1-5 (KJV)

1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Satan is so cunning that he was able to deceive Eve into sinning.

Her response to his question (Gen. 3:1-2) reveals that she knew exactly what God had told her. Aren’t we just like that today?

We know precisely what the Word of God says, and yet we often fail to obey Him.

Do you spend more time indulging your desires—even if that sometimes means bordering on sin—than you do meditating on Scripture and praying?

We have an enemy who is not only wily and intelligent but also savage and relentless.

His goal is to alienate you from your Creator, stunt your growth as a believer, and minimize your impact for God’s kingdom. He knows your weaknesses; he also knows how to surprise, lure, and camouflage.

This is why it is imperative for every believer to maintain a strong defense by means of vibrant, abiding fellowship with Jesus Christ. He is our refuge, and His Word is a very effective weapon.

The Lord is holy; Satan is evil.

Learn, therefore, to react to temptation with the understanding that its source is an evil enemy bent on stealing your joy and destroying your effectiveness as God’s child. Then turn to the Lord and ask Him to help you overcome. He is the One who is able—and eager—to give you victory.

Remember: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Develop a reflex to turn to the Lord when Satan throws his darts.

Pray, “Thank You that I am Your child. Please protect me.” And God, who is faithful, will lead you through the way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).

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