Time, The Most Valuable Commodity…

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Ephesians 5:15-17 (KJV)

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Time is a most valuable commodity.

Since it’s irreversible and irreplaceable, we ought to give careful consideration to how we spend our days—and even our minutes. Time is a gift from God.

That means we are not owners but stewards and will one day be held accountable for how we used what was entrusted to us.

According to verse 15, there are only two possible ways to live: wisely or foolishly.

Let’s first consider what is involved in using our time wisely.

Those who realize that their days belong to God are careful how they live. Their goal is to understand the Lord’s will and align their schedules and activities with His purposes. As they seek guidance each day through intimate fellowship with Him in the Word and prayer, their spiritual eyes are opened to discern which opportunities are from the Father and which are not a part of His plans for them.

But those who are foolish do not give adequate thought to the way they live.

Some become unproductive and lazy, living for their own pleasures while missing out on God’s purpose for their lives. However, others may be very busy and extremely successful by worldly standards, but if their days are occupied with activities that aren’t God’s will for them, they’re wasting their time.

To make the most of your opportunities, begin each day with the Lord, submitting to His will and asking that He direct your activities.

After all, none of us want to get to heaven and discover that even though we’ve been busy spending our time, we have failed to invest it for eternity.

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He Came to Serve…

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Luke 19:1-9 (KJV)

1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

When Jesus left His home in heaven, He didn’t come to earth to be a superstar. He came to serve.

As His disciples, we’ve been left here on earth to follow His example and serve a lost and hurting world. The story of Zacchaeus shows us some Christlike qualities that we need to develop in order to serve as the Lord did.

Awareness:

Although surrounded by a crowd, Jesus stopped and took notice of one particular man perched in a tree. Zacchaeus was hated and rejected because he was a tax collector. Although he was rich, there was something missing in his life, and Christ recognized his need. There are people all around us “hanging in trees”–needy, empty, and searching for hope. But too often, we’re preoccupied with our activities and don’t even notice them.

Availability: 

Jesus was heading to Jerusalem to carry out the most important act in human history: our redemption. Yet He stopped to have a meal with a spiritually needy man. What could be so important that it keeps you too busy to give others what they need most–your time?

Acceptance:

Although Zacchaeus was a notorious sinner, Jesus didn’t say, “Clean up your act, and then I’ll come to your house.” We’re called, not to fix people but to share the transforming gospel of Christ.

How are you doing at serving those around you?

Maybe it’s time to slow down and open your spiritual eyes to see all the needy people. God places opportunities all around us, but if we’re not attentive, we’ll miss them.

Sometimes you just have to look up to see who’s in the tree.

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Exerting Our Rights…

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Matthew 5:38-48 (KJV)

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

We talk a lot about rights these days.

Yet the attention given to human entitlements hasn’t brought about corporate or personal freedom. Instead, most people are prisoners of jealousy (you have greater rights than I do!), greed (I deserve more!), or bitterness (my rights have been violated!).

Instead of focusing on the privileges due us, we should take the biblical perspective of loving enemies and forgiving persecutors (Matt. 5:44).

Believers lay down their rights so they can take up the cause of a holy kingdom. That doesn’t mean that we let people trample on us. Rather, we offer a proper response according to biblical principles.

In short, believers should be more concerned about showing God’s love to those who do wrong than about demanding their rights.

Maybe you’re thinking, But he doesn’t know how I’ve been mistreated. Indeed I do not. But what I do know is how Jesus Christ, our example, reacted to terrible abuse. He was betrayed by His friends, persecuted by His people, condemned by His peers, and crucified for our sins.

Yet He said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).

Before assuming that Jesus’ capacity for forgiveness and love is out of reach for mere human beings, remember: His Spirit dwells in believers.

We can choose to give away our rights and let God’s love work through us.

Luke 6:29 says to turn the other cheek and give up more than is asked because expressing love outweighs exerting our rights. You can’t lose when you show others the boundless care of the Lord.

You gain His blessing, and, hopefully, someone will be saved because of your example.

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The Peace That Is Available To You…

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Philippians 4:4-13  (KJV)

4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

 

In today’s reading, the apostle Paul says he has learned the secret of experiencing contentment in all circumstances, good or bad.

Does it surprise you that he wrote this when he was in prison, unsure of his future?

We’re often discontent even when all is going well.

Consequently, we wonder how it’s possible to be truly content during our most difficult trials, especially when there’s no end in sight. So what is genuine contentment? Paul is speaking of a freedom from worry and frustration about everything in life–even unfulfilled desires.

It’s usually when we cannot control or change our situation that we feel discontentment.

As long as our satisfaction depends on whether certain things actually work out, we’ll allow circumstances to cheat us out of peace. I’m not saying there’s some spiritual stage where you will never again experience anxiety or frustration. But what matters is how we respond when those feelings grip us.

This is something that the apostle had to learn. Paul endured amazing suffering, from shipwrecks and hunger to unjust imprisonment and beatings (2 Cor. 11:24-30). He had gone through countless situations that were uncertain, extraordinarily painful, and seemingly hopeless.

But he finally discovered that contentment could not be dependent upon his circumstances.

How do you respond when circumstances are out of your control? Do you get angry? Do you try to escape? Does despair make you want to give up? Paul chose to give his anxieties to Jesus in exchange for peace that “surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7).

That same peace is available to you!

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The Shield of Faith…

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Ephesians 6:14-17 (KJV)

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

The apostle Paul wrote about spiritual warfare so we might know our enemy and how to fight him.

He compared the armor and weapons God has given us to the outfitting of a soldier: a helmet to protect our minds, a breastplate to cover our hearts, special shoes to help us stand firm, a belt of God’s truth to encircle us, the mighty sword of the Spirit, and the protective shield of faith.

Roman soldiers carried large rectangular shields, which covered the entire body. When facing an attack of flaming arrows, the warriors would stand shoulder to shoulder, with neighboring shields touching. Then, as the enemy’s arrows flew toward them, they would kneel in unison with their shields held above them, still in contact with the ones on either side.

Nothing could pierce that defense.

This is a picture of how we are to fight when Satan sends flaming darts our way. They enter our life in the form of temptations, doubts, or anxieties—the devil’s combatants shoot these silently and swiftly towards us in the hopes of finding a vulnerable spot. When we maintain our shield of faith in an upright position, the attack fails.

However, if we should lower it or fail to stand together as the body of Christ, the missiles penetrate.

Our heavenly Father has provided all we need for life on a battlefield.

He has secured the victory through Jesus Christ, canceled sin’s power over us, and given us armor to wear. Our part is to walk by faith, believing God moment by moment.

Remember that your faith is your shield. Keep it in good order.

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Are You A “What’s In It For Me?” Christian?

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John 6:22-27 (KJV)

22 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one where into his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;
23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)
24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Which interests you more—who Jesus is or what He can do for you?

I’m afraid that too many of us are more concerned about what He can give us than we are about getting to know who He is.

But this is nothing new—Jesus had this problem when He walked on earth.

The crowds often sought Him out for what He could do for them. Even though their needs were quite often legitimate, Christ knew their motives.

There is a fine line between selfishly trying to use the Lord to get what we want and humbly coming to Him with our needs and struggles.

Some of the issues we bring to Him are so pressing and urgent in our minds that our desire for Him to take action in the way we want becomes greater than our willingness to submit to His will.

At times, what we call “faith” is really a demanding spirit.

We must remember that our needs will come to an end, but Jesus Christ will remain forever.

If our prayers have dealt only with presenting our requests to the Lord, we’ve missed a great opportunity to get to know the One with whom we’ll spend eternity. Let’s invest time in pursuing intimacy with Christ. Then we can enjoy the benefits of that relationship forever.

How much of your communion with God is devoted to your needs—even legitimate ones?

Are you spending any time getting to know the Lord? Although God delights in our prayers and tells us to pray about everything,

He also wants us to come to Him just because we enjoy being with Him. 

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Bearing One Another’s Burdens…

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Romans 15:1-2 (KJV)

1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

The Bible instructs Christians to bear one another’s burdens.

Doing this effectively requires three things.

• Awareness. 

If you’re not sensitive to the struggles of those around you, how can you help them? Every Sunday you sit in church, surrounded by people who hurt intensely. The Lord knows the depth of their suffering and desires to release them from bondage, but He often works through His children. Thankfully, we have His Spirit to sensitize us to needs in our midst.

• Acceptance. 

We are not to bear burdens on the basis of how we feel about the other person. Jesus doesn’t discriminate about whom to love or help. If we want to be like Christ, we must be willing to share in the pain of others, no matter who they are. Does this describe you? Or do you limit your support to family and friends?

• Availability. 

Christians sometimes relegate the work of caring for others to their pastor, figuring, That’s his job, after all. Yet he, too, has burdens. Your pastor wants to help everybody in all possible ways, but if he’s the only one available to offer support for the congregation, both he and the church will crumble. A faith community thrives when people bear each other’s burdens. Ask yourself if there’s a way you can help carry the load.

Scripture tells us the whole law is fulfilled in one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal. 5:14).

Next to loving the Lord with all your heart, this is the second greatest command (Matt. 22:39).

Therefore, when we share another person’s heartache and burdens, we fulfill a great law of God.

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Vulnerability to Stumbling…

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1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (KJV)

12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Some Christians see a fellow believer fall into sin but fail to acknowledge that they, too, could stumble.

That’s dangerous.

Satan has them right where he wants them: deceived by a false sense of confidence. Three enemies are constantly at work trying to bring us down: the Devil, his world system, and our own treacherous flesh.

Even though believers have a righteous standing before God, we must each, like Paul, acknowledge an internal problem: “sin which dwells in me” (Rom. 7:20).

Satan takes full advantage of this weakness, luring us with fleshly and worldly temptations.

He stokes our pride so we’ll be blinded to our own vulnerability to stumbling.

Christians need to be continually on guard.

Since ignorance–of the nature of sin, the strategies of the Enemy, and our own areas of weakness–sets us up for failure, we cannot afford to be careless in our thinking. Anytime you find yourself excusing, redefining, or rationalizing sin, you’ve lost your sensitivity to the Lord. God’s Word must always fill our minds and direct our steps.

If you’ve drifted from the Lord, turn back to Him by acknowledging your sin and accepting full responsibility for it. 

Repentance simply means changing your mind and going in a different direction–toward God instead of away from Him.

The next step is harder.

Respond with gratitude for the Lord’s chastisement.

Every time believers fall into sin, God lovingly works to bring them back into a fellowship with Him.

His discipline may be painful, but it’s always good because it brings us to our senses and reconnects us with our Father.

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