References to “crowns”…

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Revelation 4:9-11 (KJV)

9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

 Throughout Scripture, we find references to “crowns.”

Let’s take a look at these eternal rewards for a victorious Christian life and a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.

 The Crown of Victory.

To finish life well, believers need Olympic endurance. Athletes in those ancient games received a perishable circlet of laurel leaves. But when we are effective in our God-given ministry and triumph over sin, we’ll be given an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25-27).

 The Crown of Exultation.

The believers that we had a hand in bringing to Christ will be “our glory and joy” before the Lord (1 Thess. 2:18-20). Just imagine how you will rejoice in heaven upon seeing and talking with the people who recognize your contribution to their spiritual development.

 The Crown of Righteousness.

The Christian life is not easy, but there is great reward for living righteously when facing temptation or hardship. Believers who pursue godliness are always thinking about the life to come and striving to meet God with a pure conscience (2 Tim. 4:5-8).

 The Crown of Life.

Heartache and pain are unavoidable in this life, but we can take heart because much spiritual growth happens in adversity. Hang in there to receive the crown of life that the Lord promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

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If You Could Have Anything…

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Psalms 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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For Greater Service…

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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.

Have you ever experienced a situation that seemed impossible to endure?

Years later, as you looked back, did you realize how that trial prepared you for things to come?

The Scriptures tell us that the Lord will sometimes allow us to be “sifted” for greater service.

In other words, He may give Satan permission to affect an area of our lives. God does this to strengthen our faith and transform us into stronger witnesses for Him.

In today’s passage from the gospel of Luke, Jesus explains this process to Peter: “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

Christ knew what was about to happen over the next few days—He would die on the cross, return to life, and then ascend to heaven. He expected Peter to be the leader of His disciples and to accomplish great things for the kingdom.

But Peter wasn’t ready.

So the Lord allowed Satan to “sift” Peter. In so doing, God separated the “wheat” from the “chaff”—the righteous areas of the disciple’s life from the ungodly areas. Ultimately, Peter grew stronger from the experience, went on to play a key role in spreading the gospel following Christ’s death, and in the end died because of His bold faith.

Had God not allowed this time of sifting, Peter would not have been ready for the events to come.

As you look back on your life, how has God prepared you for difficult times?

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The Valley of Failure…

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 Luke 22:31-62 (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.
35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. 39 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
47 And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
49 When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
50 And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
51 And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
52 Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
53 When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
54 Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.
55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.
57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.
60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

All of us make tracks through the valley of failure.

The question is, How are you going to respond?

Plenty of people give up and exchange a vibrant kingdom-serving life for a defeated existence. But failure need not be an end.

It’s a chance for a new beginning living in Christ’s strength.

Peter had a life-altering failure. Jesus warned that Satan had asked permission to “sift” the disciple like wheat (Luke 22:31)—vigorous shaking is required to separate wheat kernels from debris. The Enemy wanted to shake Peter’s faith hard in hopes that he’d fall away from Jesus like chaff.

Peter fervently believed the promise he’d made to Jesus:

“Even though all may fall away, yet I will not” (Mark 14:29).

But Satan knows a few things about the power of fear. What’s more, he realized that the disciple would be wounded by his own disloyalty. A man with tattered pride can’t help but question his usefulness.

When Satan sifts believers, his goal is to damage our faith so much that we’re useless to God. He wants us shelved far from the action of the Lord’s kingdom. Therefore, he goes for our strengths—the areas where we believe ourselves to be invincible, or at least very well protected. And when the Devil succeeds, we are disappointed and demoralized.

But we don’t have to stay that way.

If we are willing, God can use failure to do spiritual housecleaning. Peter laid down his pride and instead put on the Holy Spirit’s courage. Thereafter, he risked humiliation, persecution, and death to proclaim the gospel.

Failure was the catalyst that brought forth greater faith and true servanthood.

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Living Focused on “SELF”…

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Luke 12:15-21 (KJV)

15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

 Death is inevitable, but at times it surprises us. Perhaps you know someone who died unexpectedly.

Today’s parable is a warning about such situations. It tells of a man who acquired comfort and wealth but thought only of his time on earth. Death came without warning, and he could take nothing with him.

 God called him a fool for living focused on “self.”

Though rich in the world’s eyes, the man had no relationship with God and hadn’t invested anything in Christ’s kingdom. All the treasures he stored here were worthless once he died. What’s worse, without Jesus, he would be separated from God forever. What a tragic waste of life.

 As we think about this person’s choices, two questions come to mind that are important for all of us to contemplate.

First, if you were to die today, would you go to heaven? Salvation is a free gift for those who trust in Jesus as the acceptable sacrifice for our sin. He is the only way–no excuses or even sincere beliefs in other “ways” will work. And Jesus promises that when believers die, they immediately find themselves in His presence (2 Cor. 5:6).

Second, what is your life accomplishing? Are you driven by selfish purposes, storing security and wealth for yourself? Or is your motivation to further God’s kingdom?

 Like the man in this parable, we don’t know when we will die.

We do know, however, that death is inescapable.

Though dying is an unpleasant topic, eternity is a long time and worthy of our attention.

 It’s definitely a wise investment to make sure of your salvation and to invest in God’s kingdom.

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Our Hurried World…

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Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

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.

We have become so accustomed to this hurried world that we’ve begun to demand speed in our spiritual life too.

However, God “acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (Isa. 64:4 NIV).

Wise believers endure until the fruits of His labor appear.

There are three reasons believers are called upon to wait.

First, God may be preparing us to receive His blessings.

Perhaps we need new skills or greater maturity. Sometimes people require fresh spiritual insight before their hands are ready to hold what their hearts desire. For example, David waited years to sit on his appointed throne. But when he did, he was a wise, strong, and battle-tested king.

Second, the Father is often teaching His children to have confidence in Him.

How would believers ever learn faith if God immediately fulfilled their every request? In my own life, the Lord has often said two words: “Trust Me.” And He has never been late to meet my needs. No matter how we justify rushing ahead of God, doing so amounts to saying, “I don’t trust You.”

Finally, the Lord will at times withhold blessing to protect us from harm we can’t see.

We may never find out what caused the delay. But be assured that God examines the object of our desire closely before placing it in our hands.

Waiting is rarely easy, particularly in this instant-everything world.

But rushing ahead of the Lord short-circuits His plan. Believers who do are left unsatisfied, and they often must live with terrible consequences.

Be patient while the Lord works out details. His best is on the way.

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Pursuits of Our Own Choosing…

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Genesis 25:23-34 (KJV)

23 And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

We live in a pleasure-oriented culture that focuses on the present.

God does not want us to sacrifice future blessings for short-term enjoyments.

Let’s take a look at Esau’s story and learn from his mistakes.

As Isaac’s elder son, Esau was facing a secure future in the role of spiritual leader and head of the family. Yet he was blind to what was valuable in life an casually sold his birthright. He apparently cared nothing about his rights as firstborn or his impact on future generations and gave it all up for a bowl of stew.

Some of us are similarly shortsighted.

We spend much of our time working or engaging in pleasurable pursuits of our own choosing. However, God wants our priorities to reflect His purposes—namely, to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love others through a life of service and sacrifice (Matt. 22:37-40).

Esau was ruled by his appetite and emotions.

When he returned from hunting, his thoughts centered on his hunger and the quickest way to satisfy an empty stomach. He agreed to Jacob’s offer without weighing the cost. Giving in to our feelings can be a first step toward trouble and regret.

Emotions that prompt us to act quickly or put ourselves first can lead us astray.

Also, overindulgence can bring poor health, financial pressures, and even addiction.

We can protect our future by yielding to the Spirit’s control and living out what Scripture considers most valuable: knowing God and obediently serving Him.

Make sure that you put Him in charge of your mind, will, emotions, and appetite.

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The Attention Getter….

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Hebrews 12:25-29 (KJV)

25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
29 For our God is a consuming fire.

God wants us to be aware of Him, and He will shake our world—literally and figuratively—to make that happen.

The Old Testament records that to gain mankind’s attention, the Lord moved heaven and earth.

Mt. Sinai quaked before Moses received the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19:18-19). God also told Judah that He would shake things up by overthrowing kingdoms, armies, and nations (Hag. 2:20-22).

God did the same sort of thing in New Testament times.

At the crucifixion, an earthquake signaled destruction of the old way of life and establishment of a new covenant (Matt. 27:51). Shortly afterward, a group of believers were filled with the Holy Spirit, and the ground trembled again (Acts 4:31).

But geological and societal turmoil aren’t simply tactics of the past.

God still shakes the world today.

Every nation on earth “trembles” with concerns about the environment, health, famine, and its economy. Yet current issues will seem mild compared to the disasters and epidemics that will take place during the tribulation (Rev. 6).

At that time, judgments of all kinds will be unleashed on the earth in order to get people’s attention.

God is sending the world a message: Mankind is not in control.

Because He loves us, our Father will remove anything that we’ve trusted instead of Him—until we ultimately seek security only in our unshakable Lord.

Does God have your attention?

Don’t wait for Him to take drastic measures.

Be sure to give Him your undivided attention each day.

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