Your Spiritual Health…

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 1 Samuel 13:5-14 (KJV)

5 And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Beth–aven.
6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits.
7 And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
8 And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
9 And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.
10 And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.
11 And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;
12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.

Bitterness is never a proper response for a child of God.

It poisons the mind, emotions, and spirit. When did this resentful attitude take root in Saul? Let’s look at two events in his life for clues.

Saul couldn’t go to battle until Samuel arrived to offer the burnt sacrifice as God had commanded. Before the prophet arrived, though, Saul’s men became scared of the enemy and started to leave, so the king took action and made the sacred offering himself. He may have thought, This has to be done right away. Why shouldn’t do it? He failed to see the necessity of obeying divine commands to the letter. God saw this as a serious act of rebellion, which brought judgment: Saul’s kingdom wouldn’t endure.

God would one day appoint someone else to take over as ruler instead of Saul’s descendants. Imagine Saul’s reaction to hearing the kingdom would not belong to his family.

During the war against the Amalekites, King Saul once again failed to follow the Lord’s instructions fully.

When Samuel confronted him about his misdeed, he lied and claimed that he had obeyed. Later, however, Saul attempted to justify his disobedience. His unrepentant heart grieved the Lord and resulted in further judgment: he, the king, was now rejected by God (1 Sam. 15:10-11, 26).

I believe Saul’s descent into bitterness began with the news that his disobedience would cost him the kingdom.

Be sure to take your disappointments and anger immediately to the Lord. Pour them out before Him, and ask that He help you let them go.

Your spiritual health depends on it.

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Men and Women of Principle…

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Revelation 2:12-17 (KJV)

12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

We all admire men and women of principle who are ready to pay a heavy price  for what they believe.

At the same time, we do well not to trust everyone who displays conviction. As we see all too often in the news, it is possible to have unsound beliefs that are not based on Scripture.

Even as Christians, we have to be careful, or we could easily mistake personal preferences for convictions.

We cannot afford to build our life’s foundation with any materials that are not totally scriptural. The apostle Paul told us that the quality of each man’s work will be tested by fire (1 Cor. 3:13), and that includes what we believe.

Such a test came to a church in a little town called Pergamum in Asia Minor. It was a foul place—Jesus even said that Satan’s throne was there. Evil men were disseminating the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans throughout the local church. A man named Antipas, however, felt strongly that this teaching was wrong and should be confronted. So he stepped forward to oppose it, at the cost of his life.

Yes, Antipas was killed, but listen to the tribute the Lord Himself gave: He referred to this saint as “My witness, My faithful one.” And He commended the church in Pergamum with these words: “You hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas” (Rev. 2:13).

Thank God that the trial of our faith, even though tested by fire, will “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

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Peace, Joy, and Contentment…

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Nehemiah 2:1-8 (KJV)

1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,
3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.
5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.
6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;
8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Discouragement can rob peace, joy, and contentment.

But I have great news if you feel disheartened: You’re not stuck!

I’ve known people who appeared to be in an impossible situation. A few years later, however, they were in a terrific place, either in terms of their circumstances or their emotions.

The reason?

They never gave up. Instead of sulking in self-pity, they chose to believe God, they step out in faith, and climb out of the emotional pit.

Nehemiah is a good example. He had every reason to feel defeated, because his people were in trouble. After receiving news that the city wall had been destroyed, this man of God acknowledged profound disappointment and grieved. Though pain flooded his soul, he didn’t allow himself to stay in that low place. Instead, Nehemiah cried out to God, seeking direction.

Sadness in the presence of royalty was punishable by death. But the Lord answered Nehemiah’s prayer with amazing power, prompting the king to notice his servant’s sad countenance and then toask what he could do to help. This miracle led to the rebuilding of the wall and the redemption of God’s people.

The Lord can take an impossible situation—no matter what it is—and move in ways mightier than you can imagine.

Do you live in eager expectation of what the Lord will do? Or have you chosen to linger in the depths of despair? Like Nehemiah, turn your disappointment into a petition for God’s help.

He can restore your hope and prevent negative emotions from gaining a stranglehold on your life.

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Confident About Salvation…

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 Colossians 2:5-14 (KJV)

5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

If you are to stand firm against Satan’s schemes, it is necessary to clear up any confusion you might have regarding your coming to faith in the Savior.

Therefore, let’s consider three crucial steps that characterize the conversion process:

1.You must know something. 

You can never fully appreciate the significance of your conversion until you grasp what your condition was, apart from the Savior. Ephesians 2:1 makes it perfectly clear that, left to ourselves, we were all spiritually dead. If the Father had not provided our salvation through His Son, there would be no eternal life for any of us.

2.You must believe something. 

The good news is that the Lord did not leave us to our own devices. He provided a means of salvation that is open to all people. Ephesians 2:4-9 explains that our loving heavenly Father, of His own initiative, provided the means by which we can be free of our sin debt and dwell with Him forever.

3.You must receive something. 

In order to own any gift, you must first open your hands and receive it. The Father is reaching out to mankind, offering His free gift of salvation. Once you have received what He offers, it’s yours to keep—forever (Rom. 10:9-13).

Are you a believer who is empowered by God’s Spirit and specifically gifted to do a certain work?

. . . who goes about the task which the Lord has assigned? . . . and who is completely confident about salvation?

Then you are a force to be reckoned with!

If you have known, believed, and received God’s gift of salvation, take your stand today.

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The Way We Respond…

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Habakkuk 1:2 (KJV)

2O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

Do you feel stuck in discouragement? If so, you are not alone.

At some point everyone experiences dashed hopes. Disappointment—an emotional response to a failed expectation—is the normal initial reaction. But allowed to linger, it can turn into discouragement, which hovers like a dense cloud. When that’s the case, there is no sense of joy or contentment, no matter what you do.

The circumstances that trigger these emotions may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice.

We can either let sadness overwhelm our souls or face the situation with courage and bring it before the One who can help us.

Living in discouragement will divide the mind, making it hard to focus on anything besides our pain. Then as anger becomes habitual, we’ll look for someone to blame—whether God, people around us, or ourselves.

Frustration that isn’t handled well may develop into depression, which in turn can estrange us from others—people do not enjoy the company of someone who’s bitter and defeated. This isolation leads to a low self-esteem. Finally, in a fog of discouragement, we can make poor decisions based on crushed emotions instead of truth.

Obviously, choosing this self-destructive path is not God’s best for our lives.

Though we’ll all face disappointment from time to time, believers are not to wallow in it. Instead, God wants us to trust Him with everything—even our unmet expectations and deepest sadness.

Remember, there is divine purpose for everything He allows to touch His children’s lives (Rom. 8:28). 

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Does It Matter How We Act?

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 Psalm 101:1-4 (KJV)

1 I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing.
2 I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
4 A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.

Once we have the favor of God through salvation, does it matter how we act?

The Bible responds with an emphatic “Yes!” and gives us numerous examples of godly lives to consider.

• Noah responded to God by walking with Him daily. And our Father responds positively to those who walk closely with Him, live by His Word, and listen carefully to His Holy Spirit. For those of us who believe, that means not only making Scripture a vital part of our lives but also learning who God is and what He likes. How well do you know Him?

• Moses, despite initial protests, chose to obey the divine call and live life God’s way. The Lord favors followers who choose His preferences over their own—that is, those who think about their life in terms of pleasing Him. This requires learning to think as He does. How closely do your thoughts align with His?

• Paul, after his conversion, lived with the single-minded focus of serving Jesus. He sought to do his best by means of inward and outward obedience. The Lord favors those whose hearts are bent toward Him. Do others see that your life is centered around Christ?

• Mary responded with trust and did not doubt when the angel announced that she would give birth to the Messiah. God extends His blessings to those who choose to believe even when evidence says otherwise. How much do you trust the Lord?

We find favor with our heavenly Father through believing minds, responsive hearts, and obedient spirits.

Won’t you let this increasingly describe you?

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Our Top Priority…

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 Luke 10:38-42 (KJV)

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

While heading to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped in Bethany to spend some time with friends He loved—Lazarus and his two sisters.

As Martha was rushing around preparing a meal, Mary sat listening to the Lord.

In those days, culture dictated that a woman served the men in the house. By resting at Jesus’ feet, Mary was defying her society’s conventions.

But this was a woman who cared more for her Lord than for doing what was culturally appropriate. When Martha complained, Jesus gently explained that her sister was making the right choice.

The number one priority was to spend time with Him.

What was true for Mary and Martha is true for us today. Every believer needs to carve out personal time with God. There are many Christians who think that they prove their love for the Lord by going to church, tithing their income, and sharing the gospel. All these things are important, but actions are empty unless we are connecting with God personally on a regular basis. Doing so demonstrates how much we value our relationship with Him, since the people we spend time with are those we love most.

Believers often rationalize by saying they are too busy.

We tell ourselves, I just need to finish a few things, and then I’ll pray and read the Bible, but there always seems to be a new task to replace each completed one. We must choose to make time for the Lord.

Changing our schedule to give God His rightful place can be difficult.

But no other relationship in life equals what we have with the Lord when we make Him our top priority.

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The Schemes of The Enemy…

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Genesis 3 (KJV)

Listening to God is not a onetime event.

We must continually keep His Word before us, or we’ll begin to listen to the wrong voices.

In Genesis 2:16-17, the Lord gave a command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

But Eve began to listen to another voice and did not hold firmly to her Creator’s words. All that Satan had to do was plant a single doubt about God’s integrity and offer Eve one appealing advantage of doing things her own way—and she fell for it. He mentioned wisdom, but using her own reasoning, Eve added two more benefits to the temptation: the fruit is good for food and a delight to the eyes.

The schemes of the Enemy have not changed.

He still whispers lies and twists truth to convince us that a) God cannot be trusted and b) His ways are not the best. In every temptation, there is a deception about the character and motive of God, plus an attractive promise of a better way.

The world is filled with voices that vie for our attention and influence our thoughts and actions.

Throughout the day, consider the messages that are sent your way through the media and people. Consciously begin to compare them to what Scripture says about God and His ways.

Remembering what God says in the Bible is our safeguard against deception and temptation. Daily devotions won’t protect us if they’re quickly forgotten during the day.

Follow Christ’s example: be ready with truth in your mind and on your tongue whenever temptation strikes (Matt. 4:1-11).

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