What an Overwhelming Assignment!

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Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

When a lawyer asked which commandment was greatest, Jesus’ answer was, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

He also quoted a second one: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt.22:37, 39). What an overwhelming assignment!

In our own strength, none of us can live up to this obligation, but God has provided a way for Christians to do the impossible.

The indwelling Holy Spirit works to produce His fruit in us, and first on the list is love (Gal. 5:22). In fact, the other eight qualities are really just descriptions of its expression.

Whenever we demonstrate kindness, patience, or gentleness, we see the Lord’s love at work through us, especially when the other person has been unkind and doesn’t deserve such pleasant treatment.

This fruit is not produced by trying harder to muster good will toward someone who is irritating or hard to get along with. Instead, think of the process more like sap running through a branch on a grapevine. The branch doesn’t make grapes; the sap does.

In the same way, the Spirit flows through us, producing God’s love in us so that we, in turn, can pass it on to others.

Agape—or divine love—is the reason we are able to care for someone who mistreats us; it’s God’s doing, not ours.

Even the adoration we offer the Lord is not something that we can produce in our own heart apart from His assistance.

Though the command to love is enormous and weighty, God’s grace is enough to make it possible.

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Failure, the Excellent Learning Tool…

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Luke 22:31-34 (KJV)

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

The disciple Peter was a man of great faith and bold action.

But as readers of the New Testament know, his brash style sometimes led him to make humiliating mistakes. More than once, this disciple had to wear the label of “miserable failure” rather than that of “obedient servant.”

We can all relate when it comes to falling short of expectations.

Obedience to God is a learning process, and failure is a part of our development as humble servants. When we yield to temptation or rebel against God’s authority, we realize that sin has few rewards, and even those are fleeting.

Failure is an excellent learning tool, as Peter could certainly attest.

Through trial and error, he discovered that humility is required of believers (John 13:5-14); that God’s ways are higher than the world’s ways (Mark 8:33); and that one should never take his eyes off Jesus (Matt. 14:30). He took each of those lessons to heart and thereby grew stronger in his faith. Isn’t that Romans 8:28 in action?

God caused Peter’s failures to be put to good use as training material because the disciple was eager to mature and serve.

God doesn’t reward rebellion or wrongdoing.

However, by His grace, He blesses those who choose repentance and embrace chastisement as a tool for growth.

We would probably all prefer to grow in our faith without ever making a mistake before God’s eyes, but we cannot deny that missteps are instructive.

Failure teaches believers that it is much wiser and more profitable to be obedient to the Lord. That’s a lesson we all should take to heart.

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His Rightful Place…

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 Philippians 2:5-11 (KJV)

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Whether you’ve been a believer for many years or just recently trusted Christ as your Savior, there’s one crucial thing you must settle in your heart.

Many Christians understand that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. But who is He today?

Scripture tells us that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God who took on flesh and entered our world in the form of a servant. He came to walk among us and make it possible to know Him. Then after His death, burial, and resurrection, He was exalted back to His rightful place as Lord and sovereign Ruler.

It’s essential that every believer understand the person and position of Jesus Christ.

We often call Him “Lord,” but what does that mean? The answer is that as Lord and Creator, He made and sustains all things (Col. 1:16-17). And by trusting in the Savior, we accept His rightful place in our life.

As Lord, He has authority over every single element of our daily lives.

We are sheep, and who should follow the Shepherd; going our own way, we’d fall off the mountain and end up destroyed (John 10:2-15). Won’t you acknowledge that He has the right to determine what you do and where you go? You can trust that His way always results in fullness of life. Jesus is not some distant, judgmental ruler; He’s your awesome, supportive Lord, who loves you and has gone before you, having lived a human life and suffered unimaginably.

So when He says, “Follow Me; I’ll make your life count,” you can be confident that He is trustworthy every step of the way.

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Walk Through the Open Doors…

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2 Corinthians 2:12-13 (KJV)

12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.

In today’s passage, Paul wrote about open doors—he used the figure of speech to signify great opportunities to preach the gospel.

Those “doors” were important because physical, technological, and geographical limitations hampered his work considerably.

Just think about how different things are for evangelistic efforts today.

 We’re living in the most opportune time to reach the entire world for Jesus.

We have the technology to penetrate every country and impact every culture.

In times like this, we should be asking where we personally fit into God’s plan.

It’s inappropriate to sit back and act as if this job were intended only for preachers and missionaries. There may be all kinds of reasons why we consider ourselves unqualified, but it is time we got past our excuses. All of us can read and study the Bible and then begin to share it with others.

If you have trusted in the Savior, then you’ve received eternal life from Him and are indwelt by His Spirit. So you should be able to talk about Him.

This is the time to impact the entire world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can no longer think in terms of just “my workplace,” “my city,” or “my country”; the whole world matters.

We begin at home but are not to stop until we’ve reached all people groups on earth.

Jesus died to purchase men from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Don’t discredit yourself or count yourself out.

You can walk through the open doors God has placed before you and have a significant part in reaching the world with the good news of Christ.

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A Vibrant Personal Relationship…

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John 3:1-21 (KJV)

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Faith isn’t something we can lay claim to because we were born to believing parents or have citizenship in a Christian country.

Nor can we attain it by attending or even teaching Sunday school, though I’ve often heard such incorrect assertions. Instead, the following should be true of genuine believers.

A clear understanding of the gospel is essential for a person to believe and receive the good news of Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was the only sacrifice required to remove our sins.

God offers His grace as a gift to anyone who will receive it.

A definite decision at a particular point in time serves as a sort of landmark of the heart and mind. People do not just slip into Christianity; faith in Jesus must be chosen.

Believers are those who have made a deliberate decision to trust the Lord and follow in His ways.

A definite decision follows the clear-cut decision so that believers can be certain of their salvation.

God wants confident, assured children (1 John 5:13).

A visible symbol of what happens when someone receives the Savior–namely, baptism–illustrates dying to one’s old ways and rising to new life in Christ Jesus.

Believers are to take this step as a public way of identifying with Him (Matt. 28:19).

A man or woman of faith chooses to surrender to Christ, embraces the Word of God, and lives fully for the Lord.

True believers no longer muddle through the practices of religion out of habit, but instead worship and rejoice in a vibrant personal relationship with the Lord.

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Childhood Influences…

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Isaiah 61:1-3 (KJV)

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

No one’s childhood is perfect.

What we experienced during those years has a profound impact, even into adulthood.

Things we saw, heard, felt, and even things we did not feel can affect us later in life.

As one might expect, external influences do help to shape our personality.

However, the result is not always predictable.

For example, early years full of painful experiences leave deeps wounds in some, but in others, they contribute to the development of depth and perseverance.

Whether your younger years were joyful or painful, it can be valuable to consider what their impact was, back then as well as in the present.

You might start by exploring your responses to key childhood events.

Next, identify traits that you appreciated in your parents and others–qualities you’d like to nurture in your own life.

Finally, think about people with characteristics that impacted you negatively.

Ask God for healing and freedom from the patterns you may have developed in response. Then shift your focus to godly attributes you want to exhibit instead, such as peace, grace, and gentleness.

The heavenly Father wants to free you from any negative trends that took root early in life.

He can break any unhealthy pattern and replace it with hope and deep satisfaction in Him.

As you explore the effects of childhood experiences, pray to see through a lens of truth.

When you recognize ways that others negatively influenced you, pray for strength to forgive and God’s help in mending areas of brokenness–whether spiritual, emotional, relational, or mental.

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Patterns for Effective Prayer…

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Colossians 1:9-14 (KJV)

9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

If someone should ask the question, “How can I pray for you?” would you be able to give a clear answer?

Oftentimes we simply do not know what to say. The same thing can happen when we ask that question of friends—frequently we get only a vague answer. Learning to pray for one another does not come naturally; we must be taught.

That is why the Bible includes many patterns for effective prayer.

One is found in Paul’s epistle to the saints at Colossae. He prayed that they would be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will” (Col. 1:9). The fact that the apostle prayed this means we can come to know what God is doing in our lives. When we understand His will, that knowledge is both satisfying and precious.

Paul’s prayer also included additional requests on behalf of the Colossians.

He asked the Lord to bless them with an understanding of what is right.

What’s more, he prayed they would walk in a manner worthy of Christ and be strengthened with all power (vv. 10-11). Often, when that happens in the life of a believer, onlookers are attracted by what they see. Some may even come to recognize the Lord at work as a Christian displays the Father’s power to forgive sins and walks before Him in holiness.

These are the specific requests you should make when praying for others.

In fact, you would be wise to ask the same things for yourself.

And you can count on this powerful prayer being answered, because it is in accordance with the will of God.

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Our Very Limited Human Wisdom…

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Romans 11:33-36 (KJV)

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Most of us enjoy feeling in control of our own schedule and grow frustrated when things don’t go according to plan.

Yet if we truly desire to walk in the center of God’s perfect will, we must become willing to cooperate with His time frame.

Consider how you pray about situations in your life.

Without realizing it, you may be demanding that God follow the schedule you’ve constructed according to your very limited human wisdom.

Yet if we believe He is who He says He is, how can surrendering to His way not be to our benefit? Think about His unique, praiseworthy qualities:

  • His all-encompassing knowledge.

Unlike us, the Lord has complete awareness about our world and the details of every individual life–past, present, and future.

  • His complete wisdom.

God understands man’s every motive, whereas none of us are able to accurately discern people’s intentions. We make choices based on partial information, whereas He has the wisdom to take action based on truth.

  • His unconditional love.

Our Creator is always motivated by love and constantly has our best in mind. Unless we trust His heart, our view of reality will be distorted.

  • His perfect sufficiency. 

At just the right time, God will provide us with everything we need to carry out His plan.

Submitting to God’s timetable requires faith and courage. Believe in the goodness of His heart and His plans–and determine to wait until He gives the signal to move forward.

Then, as you follow His schedule, you’ll experience the joy of watching Him make all things beautiful in His timing.

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