Burden Bearing…

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Galatians 6 (KJV)

If you are looking for a way to carry out Christ’s command to love your neighbor, Paul has a suggestion: bear their burdens.

At some point, everyone struggles under the weight of an oppressive situation.

Believers have an obligation to get under that load next to their brothers and sisters.

Jesus sets the pattern for burden bearing.

He calls to Himself all who are heavy-laden and gives them rest (Matt. 11:28-29). Since God predestines believers to be conformed to Christ’s likeness, we must imitate His care and concern for those who suffer. Acts 4:32shows that the early church followed His example.

To lift the load of poverty, they pooled their resources so that no one was in need.

Paul’s letters make clear his concern for the physical and spiritual welfare of growing churches. He fasted and prayed for them and sent missionaries when he could. He felt it was his responsibility to strengthen them, even though he sustained a personal hardship—his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7).

A believer cannot wait until his life is clear of obstacles before reaching out to others, since that day may never come.

Even though we have our own needs, we can do all things through Christ’s strength—including sharing someone else’s adversity (2 Cor. 12:9).

When you’re willing to wade into someone else’s troubles to help that person hold up under the weight, two things happen.

First, he or she receives desperately needed blessings in the form of aid, support, and love. And second, you fulfill God’s command to love a neighbor as yourself. 

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Trusting Credentials….

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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.
14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

Paul was a confident man. During his earlier years, the apostle’s positive attitude came from trusting in his credentials—namely, his background, education, and position.

However, his encounter with the Lord (Acts 9:1-6) caused him to realize those things were worth little.

So what was the source of his new boldness?

Paul’s relationship with Jesus became the new foundation for his life.

Viewing his former ways as a chapter that had ended, he embraced his new life in Christ. Not only did Paul recognize the inadequacy of everything he had previously relied upon—his knowledge, achievement, and authority—but he also relinquished any notion of living independently of God. The apostle became a man of action, who lived his life through total reliance upon the Lord (Gal. 2:20).

Paul’s unwavering trust in God’s faithfulness also played a key role.

He believed God’s promise to strengthen and equip him; to guide him in every situation; to meet all his needs; and never to leave him. In facing trials, Paul experienced the power of the Holy Spirit flowing in and through him. Because he took God at His word, he could meet adversity with boldness.

His confidence was not in himself but in the Lord’s presence, provision, and power; that’s why it remained strong.

Do you see why we can be confident followers of Christ? What matters isn’t who we are, what we believe about ourselves, or what strengths and abilities we have. Developing a wholehearted trust and reliance on Jesus is what brings about confidence.

How much do you trust Him?

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When You Humble Yourself…

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1 Timothy 1:12-13 (KJV)

12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

Some people believe that thinking badly of themselves is a sign of humility.

But Paul is a beautiful example of how we are to approach God.

He does not berate himself and tell God how vile and sinful He is. Instead, Paul talks repeatedly with a spirit of humility about the grace of God. There are seven things we can do to allow the Lord to develop such a humble spirit in our life.

To pursue humility, it is necessary that we die to self.

We must refuse to put ourselves first and instead ask the Lord what is His will for our situation. God wants us to be devoted to other people because He has made us reservoirs of His truth—something those around us greatly need. And when God blesses others, we who follow Christ are to delight in the good things that come to them (Rom. 12:15).

For ourselves, we must wholly depend on God.

If we want to live with genuine humility, we must rely on Him in every circumstance.

The Lord has many good things in store for us. When we direct our thoughts continually to His grace and goodness, our confidence in Him will grow. It is also important that we distance ourselves from whatever appeals to our pride, such as wealth, prestige, applause, or certain relationships—the list is different for every person.

Finally, we must determine to obey God regardless of the earthly consequences.

When you humble yourself before Him, you can mark that day as the beginning of the best part of your life.

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Guidance, Comfort, and Empowerment…

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Luke 24:44-53 (KJV)

44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

The principle we will explore today is basic but so powerful that it determines whether we experience victory in our lives.

You are probably familiar with the book The Little Engine That Could, in which a small engine keeps repeating the words “I think I can.” By using sheer willpower, she pulls an entire train over the mountain. That’s a nice children’s story, but the truth of the Christian life is very different. In the real world, our efforts and determination often fall short.

Only by walking in the power of the Holy Spirit can the godly life be achieved.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s Spirit would temporarily come upon saints for a particular work. However, after Jesus ascended to heaven, He sent the Spirit to dwell permanently within each believer. Consider what this means:

If you’re a Christian, God is living inside of you, available to help all through life by providing guidance, comfort, and empowerment.

Obedience to Christ is too difficult for anyone relying on his own strength.

And discerning what to do in every situation is far too complicated for a fleshly mind. For some reason, though, Christians often try to live life by depending on their own energy and reasoning.

Defeat and failure are unavoidable without His power in our lives.

Do you recognize your need for the Lord? Begin each day confessing your dependence upon Him. Ask to be filled with His Spirit so that all you think, do, and say will be an overflow from Him. Then trust Him to work in mighty ways through you.

Watch what almighty God can do.

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Recognizing Your Worth…

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Galatians 5:13-14 (KJV)

13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

Although a number of places in the Bible contain the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 19:19; Gal. 5:14), Christians often overlook the “as yourself” part.

But did you know that no one can fully love the Lord or anyone else unless he loves his own being?

This means reverencing oneself as a child of God, created for fellowship with Him.

All people are valuable to the Lord.

But the believer’s self-worth is rooted in the fact that we have a relationship with God. We are to care for ourselves, based upon the fact that He has provided for our salvation, given us the Holy Spirit, and developed a unique plan for our life.

Love of self is essential to God’s plan for every believer.

He desires that we exercise care for our own person, which helps us relate to Him. If we dislike ourselves, we may feel unworthy of God’s love and refuse to approach Him as Father. But love teaches us to see ourselves the way the Lord does—as available vessels, each with unique gifts and talents. Then we can offer greater usefulness to the kingdom. Using us to the fullest extent of our God-given abilities is the Father’s goal, and if we have a righteous love for self, that will be our goal as well.

Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances may be, I can tell you something about yourself: God has a special plan for you.

But He cannot set you on the path to achieving His goals for your life until you recognize your worth and learn to love the person He created you to be.

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Considering Ourselves Unworthy…

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1 John 4:7-12 (KJV)

7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Many people simply can’t believe that the Lord loves them.

Others believe that He loves them, but only when they are pleasing Him in some way.

Why is it so hard for us to accept His unconditional love?

One reason is that we have a hard time loving others without condition.

We might say the words “I love you” to our spouse, children, friends, co-workers, or fellow believers but all too often are calculating in our mind whether or not they’ve lived up to our standard.

We sometimes excuse ourselves from loving certain people because their behavior upsets or annoys us.

The fact that we place restrictions on extending favor causes us to wrongly assume that the Lord does likewise.

Another reason is poor self-image.

Considering ourselves unworthy, we refuse to accept God’s love. You know what? None of us are worthy of the heavenly Father’s goodness and mercy—so you can let go of that excuse once and for all. We’re not coming to Him based on our worth. Rather, we’re coming to Him based on His grace, and our position is secure in Christ.

To put yourself down as “beneath His grace” is to trample on His loving, generous gift. God arranged an awesome divine way for us to be reconciled to Him, and His greatest desire is for relationship with each of us.

If you feel unloved or struggle to accept yourself, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of our heavenly Father’s love for you—and to sink it deep into your heart.

Receive the truth that He reveals. It will be a completely different story about your value as an individual.

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Living Under the Canopy…

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Romans 5:6-11(KJV)

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

Scripture tells us that love is the very essence of who God is(1 John 4:7).

So if you don’t believe that He loves you unconditionally, you’ll never really know Him or have genuine peace about your relationship with Him.

How do you define “love”?

It is Jesus unselfishly reaching out to mankind, giving Himself to us and bringing good into our life regardless of whether or not we accept Him. Romans 5:8 tells us that His care and concern are so immeasurable that He laid down His life for us while we were still His enemies. In fact, the Bible says that He first began to express His love toward us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-5).

That means your actions had absolutely nothing to do with His love for you!

God’s commitment to us has absolutely no conditions or restrictions and isn’t based on whether we love Him back. Nor does He have more love for “good” people who may strike us as more worthy. He loves us even in our sin, even when we don’t repent. Does that give us license to disobey? No. It gives us power to live holy lives, walk obediently with Him, and learn to love Him the way He deserves.

To follow Him is to receive the love He has been offering all along.

Every single moment, whether awake or asleep, we all live under the canopy of the Lord’s wondrous, absolute love for us. But to fully experience that love, you must receive it.

Say yes to this amazing gift that God wants to pour out on you. Bask in it, and let it overflow to those around you.

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The Hardened Heart…

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Hebrews 3:7-9 (KJV)

7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

God repeatedly calls to His children, but the condition of each heart determines the result.

Those with soft and tender hearts hear His voice and yield to Him in obedience, but those with hard hearts resist His warnings and instructions. Surprisingly, upon hearing the same voice, believers will have different reactions.

Since hardening is a slow process that is often accompanied by excuses and rationalizations, the danger signs may not be readily recognized.

How do you respond when the Lord speaks to you through His Word, your conscience, or messages based on Scripture? Carefully consider the following characteristics of a hardening heart:

  • Insensitivity or resistance to what the Lord says
  • Refusal to put yourself under His authority
  • Disobedience to what you know God is instructing you to do
  • Justification of sinful conduct
  • Resistance to the reproof of others
  • Preoccupation with the things of this world (career, relationships, possessions)
  • Little interest in spiritual matters
  • Absence of private devotion (Bible reading and prayer)
  • Avoidance of corporate worship (gathering with other believers)

A hard heart does not have to remain brittle.

If you’ve discovered any of the above traits in your life, begin today to return to the Lord. Ask Him to give you a new heart and the desire to know Him (Jer. 24:7).

Remember, He specializes in making all things new (2 Cor. 5:17).

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